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 Enterprise is ferrying a scientist with a pet project to a star that will only allow the study every 200 years or so. The ship has difficulties caused by nanomachines Wesley unwittingly released. Eventually, Data is able to communicate with the ever-evolving nanos and brings about a peace treaty. The science experiment(s) succeed.
My enjoyment of this episode rapidly deteriorated as it got more and more absurd. The premise isn’t awful; runaway nanos (or other technology) seem like a legitimate threat, and the way it initially played out wasn’t bad. The problem is the amount of suspension of disbelief involved in thinking that some nanomachines programmed to aid in medicine were somehow able to evolve to eat computer parts and then manipulate them, then communicate, enter Data to communicate in English, and ultimately decide they wanted their own planet. Yeah, that happened! I mean I found this whole train just absurd.
It doesn’t help that the scientist–Dr. Stubbs– was unbearably annoying. Frankly, I was on Troi’s side when she lectured the heck out of him. Also, where did Pulaski go? I get that Crusher is back–and I think Dr. Crusher is a strong character–but what explanation is there for where Pulaski went? She was just growing on me, too.
The Wesley storyline was bearable, but it also makes me question, yet again, why there are no consequences for any characters. Wesley nearly killed everyone on the ship! Dr. Stubbs massacred a large portion of a sentient species (though I actually would have been on his side in this–they’re machines and also ridiculous!)! Yet they both walk away without any consequences.
Anyway, the whole thing is too unbelievable for me. Decent premise, poor execution. Great special effects in this one, though!
Grade: C- “My brain shut down from the amount of suspension of disbelief involved in this episode.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “The premise was very interesting, but a few things didn’t make sense, like the lack of consequences for the characters involved in the nano-crisis.”
“The Ensigns of Command”
An alien race contacts the Enterprise with instructions to remove a human colony per their treaty with Starfleet. The evacuation would be impossible in the time allotted, but the aliens are unwilling to negotiate. Meanwhile, Data must convince the colonists to evacuate. Picard scours the treaty for a loophole, while Data ultimately goes angry-android on the colonists to show them the military might headed their way. Ultimately, Picard finds the loophole and all is saved.
The juxtaposition of the developing drama between the situation on the planet with Data and Picard’s struggles to delay the destruction of the colony makes for a genuinely suspenseful episode at several points. The added dimension of factions developing on the planet also heightened the suspense. Ultimately, however, the episode was carried by Data, and it shows how strong his character has become in TNG at this point.
First, the intro scene with his playing the violin (and Picard walking out to deal with the crisis) was a good opening to set up for the struggles with his (lack of) humanity later on. Then, the way the colonists rejected his advice merely because he was an android set up a nice obstacle for him to overcome. Later, his decision to follow the maxim that “actions speak louder than words” sets up an epic and cold-blooded scene in which Data mows down several guards and then attacks the aqueduct. Finally, the close with Picard arguing with Data to show that even in mimicry, he was making individualized choices created a compelling finish to close out the episode developing Data’s self-image.
Again, set alongside what is a genuinely interesting main plot, with some awesome scenes from Picard, this episode really shines. Some fun with Geordi and O’Brien in the transporter gives just enough comic relief in between the serious parts to keep it going. Troi also gets a major nod as she comes up with an excellent analogy for the difficulties of communication, leading Picard into some head scratching which ultimately unleashes Picard’s passive aggressive fury as he checks for dust around the bridge of the Enterprise before allowing the aliens a reprieve.
This is a fantastic episode with little to interfere with its superb storytelling.
Grade: A “The episode has a solid main plot with good side stories and is nicely bookended by the opening and closing about Data’s violin.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was fun to see Data struggle to succeed at the mission.”
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