I’m going through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and reviewing every episode, complete with commentary and a grade from A-F. 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 Samaritan Snare”
Picard has to travel with Wesley to a starbase because his heart is giving out and he doesn’t want to lose face. Meanwhile, Riker and the Enterprise respond to a distress signal, which turns out to be a trap to try to capture a crewman from the ship. Geordi is kidnapped and eventually freed by tricking the aliens into lowering their shields, while Picard’s condition in surgery plummets. Dr. Pulaski is flown in and able to save Picard. High fives all around.
Another episode with lots of elements, but this time they got put together in a cohesive and believable way. The background for Picard’s character, told through a dialogue with Wesley on the way to the starbase, was interesting and gave Picard’s character even more depth. It also says something about Patrick Stewart’s acting ability that he’s able to essentially deliver a monologue about his past and keep the audience in rapturous interest without any flashback scenes. Well done!
The main (or side?) plot with Geordi being kidnapped was a good premise, though the aliens couldn’t have been any dumber. It’s like they have an intelligence score in D+D of 3 or so (if you get that, you’re awesome). Anyway, it was resolved through some clever trickery, making light of a rather suspenseful situation (I mean, Geordi was basically tortured!), but not in a dismissive way. It was pretty well-executed.
The episode is not without flaws: the aliens are almost unbelievably stupid and one-dimensional, which makes it hard to believe they even managed to make it out of their beds, let alone off their planet. The fact that Riker doesn’t immediately act on Troi’s words telling him Geordi was in danger was really hard to comprehend, particularly since Worf concurred. As my wife said, and I agree, “When the Betazoid and Klingon agree on something, you’d better do it.” I mean seriously, your psychic counselor and warrior-man each say Geordi’s in danger! Time to act now Riker! Also, Pulaski’s bedside manner continues to be ridiculous.
Overall, though, it was a fun episode with elements of humor and some awesome character building for Picard. I thought about scoring it lower than I did, but I enjoyed it too much to be realistic with anything lower.
Grade: B “Patrick Stewart’s acting ability brings an average episode into the ‘good’ range.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “I enjoyed the character development but the Geordi kidnapping adventure was strange.”
“Up the Long Ladder”
The Enterprise responds to a distress signal and beams up a bunch of displaced 19th century Irish people (okay they actually left Earth to try to live a simpler life, but whatever). As they try to figure out what to do with them, they go to a second colony which apparently is populated entirely by clones. The latter colony faces a crisis of genetic breakdown as their clones continue to deteriorate in genetic quality. They steal Riker and Pulaski’s DNA but are thwarted. Ultimately, the solution is to lump the Irish with the clones so they can have a broader genetic base and learn from each other.
Okay, let’s just get this out of the way quickly: this episode is made up of two episodes. Halfway in you’re thinking it’s about the weird struggle of coping with some Irish people, then the rest of the episode follows the drama of the clones. It’s as though the writers just put two episodes with the same premise together and then hack-jobbed an ending onto it. First half is an episode about trying to find a way to deposit the Irish, and, of course, Riker’s latest affair. Second half is a more intense episode about clones desperate for aid. Then, the ending is put forward to try to tell you that, oh yeah, we decided to make this one episode. It’s too crazy.
I should note the intro scene with Worf’s interaction with Pulaski was just awesome. Seriously, Pulaski still has a lot of growing up to do, but she delivered a great scene with Worf and the whole tea ceremony was epic. I absolutely loved it.
Random comments: Can I just question why it took Starfleet a month to respond to the distress signal? I mean seriously, what if everyone were dead? Also, how many women has Riker been with at this point in the series? A lot. I know he and Troi aren’t officially a thing, but come on! Show some restraint!
Anyway, the episode just seemed like two episodes that the writers decided to jumble together because they had similar premises. It just didn’t work. The ultimate solution–breeding with at least 3 different people–was absurd on its face both on the side of the clones and the Irish. Whatever happened to the Prime Directive, or does it not apply to human colonies? Moreover, how could Picard (and Troi, for that matter) sanction the “shotgun wedding” taking place (yes, that term was used)? It was just absurd. A roller-coaster ride of an episode with brilliant moments marred by lots of garbage time.
Grade: C- “Two completely different episodes + the need to put them into one episode = one deus ex machina (read: “absurd”) ending.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B- “The divergent colonists made for an interesting dilemma but the solution involved a lot of people acting out of character.”
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