I’m going through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and reviewing every episode, complete with commentary and a grade from A-F. Here, we’re in season 2 and discussing episodes eleven and twelve. I’ve also included a score and comment from my wife, who has never seen the show before. There are SPOILERS for each episode below.
The Enterprise is infected with a millenia-old virus that threatens to tear the ship apart, while also being pursued by a Romulan Warbird. Picard manages to save the day with his knowledge of archaeology, while Data plays interpreter. Starfleet and Romulus avoid war again.
This was definitely an entertaining episode. I love the fact that Picard has a side interest in archaeology. It fits his character beautifully and was seamlessly interwoven into the episode. The focus around an ancient alien race was a great premise, and the fact that they were able to maintain the mystery of that race while still putting forward a compelling episode is something to be credited. Adding the Romulons to spice up the plot with some added tension was a wise choice as well.
All that said,”Contagion” is not without a number of flaws. The “believability” factor strikes in a number of places. It took too long for the crew of the Enterprise to figure out what was happening with their computer, for one. They’re instantly racing to the alien planet when they are near a cloaked Warbird undermines much of the credibility for wanting to “keep the technology” away from the Romulons. Blowing up one base on the planet’s surface was great, but who’s to say there wasn’t far more technology that was missed on the way?
Overall, it was a very solid episode, just not as well realized as it could have been.
Grade: B “A fun, interesting, and flawed episode. Picard wins again.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was entertaining and kept me guessing.”
Data, Worf, and Riker beam down to the surface of a planet in a zone which is inexplicably safe for humans. There’s a building, the Hotel Royale, which they explore, only to find they cannot leave until they have figured out how to bring the plot of a novel which it was based on to its culmination. Data rolls the dice, wins enough to buy the hotel, and they leave.
The premise of this episode isn’t all that awful, but then as it continues I realized that the notion the whole world is based on this B-rate novel doesn’t help it at all. It turns out that the episode is just as boring as its inspiration. Cliche’s are strewn throughout, the characters in the casino never progress beyond cardboard cutouts, even the “big reveal” of discovering the NASA crewman is delivered in a ho-hum fashion.
Deanna Troi’s capacity to read other’s emotions comes to the front a couple times in this episode, and it seems fairly inconsistent. In some episodes, all she gets are vague “That person is happy” while in others she can say “oh they’re definitely lying”; in “The Royale,” she goes so far as to say that Riker has a feeling of being trapped like in a box. Maybe we can credit that to her knowing Riker better, but it just doesn’t cohere as well as it should. Her character continues to serve as one with a lot of promise, but little delivery.
The only thing to save this episode from all-time worst levels is the entertainment of watching Data gamble throughout. His fixing the dice at the end is genius, and the way he quickly engages the crowd is charming and so Data. I almost considered upgrading my overall score more, but even Data’s best efforts can’t salvage this yawn-inducing episode.
Grade: D “Just as exciting as one would expect a B-rate novel which drove the premise of the episode would be, which is to say ‘very boring.'”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “It was entertaining but dragged and was somewhat predictable.”
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