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 thirteen and fourteen. 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 discovers its own shuttle from 6 hours in the future, complete with Picard. They scramble to find out what went wrong as the ship’s destruction is imminent. Picard is forced to kill himself (?) in order to stop the time loop and prevent the continuation of a cycle of death for the Enterprise.
TNG has become famous for its time-travel episodes, and “Time Squared” is another great reason why. A sense of impending doom and mystery pervaded throughout the whole episode, as they raced against the clock to discover how to save the Enterprise. The sense of mystery is never fully resolved, either, which adds to the compelling nature of the episode. How long had the loop been going for? How many times had Picard made the wrong choice? Was it only once? Could they have been stuck in the loop for thousands of times? If future-Picard was killed, does that impact an alternate universe? These questions, and more, are raised by the episode.
The discussion between Pulaski and Troi over Picard’s potential lack of capacity for command was a great use of both characters as well. They took a concern for the safety of the ship to the forefront and delivered on a great character-building conversation.
I should briefly mention the fun intro scene in which Riker makes a eggs for his friends. The humans all think they are disgusting, but Worf pounds them down and his only comment is “Delicious.” Love it. Worf is so awesome.
Overall, this is one of the better episodes in a solid season.
Grade: A- “Another awesome time-travel episode to add to TNG’s list.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: C “It was interesting but there didn’t really seem to be a reason for any of it.”
“The Icarus Factor”
Riker is given the chance to promote and has to meet his dad to discuss the aspects of his possible new assignment. Pulaski apparently was in love with Riker’s dad. Meanwhile Worf is mad for some reason. Wesley helps solve the issue by giving Worf a Klingon-pain festival, while Riker solves his daddy issues through future-martial arts. Ultimately, Riker turns down the promotion and it’s business-as-usual on the Enterprise.
This episode suffers from a bit of “too much of a good thing” complex. There really is enough going on in this episode for 2-3 episodes, and it shows as no aspect is given the screen time it deserves. Worf’s character is always interesting, and it seemed to undercut his character to have his tension so cheaply resolved by a trip to the holodeck. The love-tension between Riker’s dad and Pulaski is another interesting facet to Pulaski’s character, but is left essentially unresolved at the end.
There is a decent amount of gender essentialism in this episode which drove me up a wall. According to Troi, despite our evolution as a species, there are still things that each gender must hash out in their own ways. Troi and Pulaski then shake their heads collectively at all men-folk. This concept of having each gender specifically acting out in certain ways is largely shattered by simple observation, but it also makes one wonder about men who do not fulfill such stereotyping now (i.e. I am not a martial artist and have not been in a fistfight… therefore I solve problems in a less manly way?). For a show that is supposed to be set in the future, it sometimes looks into the past with its comments on gender.
The “Ultimate Evolution” of martial arts is hilarious and awesome at the same time. Where did they think of this? Blindfolding combatants and having them find each other with staffs that make sounds when they find the adversary is genius and fun to watch. I hope we make this into a real thing someday.
Riker’s change of heart over accepting the promotion would have been shocking if it weren’t obviously going to happen. His explanation is simple, but one has to wonder whether he did it to rebel against his father or to follow Troi or simply because he wanted to learn more.
It’s not at all a bad episode, it just has far too much going on to really get on board with any one of the many threads throughout.
Grade: C+ “Too many plot threads and gender issues bring down this otherwise compelling episode.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “It was good character development but very busy.”
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