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.
Renowned ambassador Sarek–Spock’s father–is dispatched to the Enterprise to start of negotiations with a notoriously difficult species. The moment he boards, however, it seems things are wrong. Emotions run high aboard the ship and even Sarek appears to be hampered by emotions. As the crew investigates, it turns out that these may be coming from Sarek because of a rare disease. The only way to continue negotiations is to have Picard take on the burden of Sarek’s boiling emotions, which he does. The negotiations are successful and both Picard and Sarek are changed by the event.
Patrick Stewart. Patrick Stewart. Patrick Stewart.
What an amazing actor. The scene in this episode in which he is taking all the pain and emotion from Sarek must go down as one of the greatest scenes in television history. I mean that seriously. The acting by Stewart sells a scene that could have been silly and makes it into an awesomely emotional and stirring moment.
The episode starts off very slowly. Sarek shows up, there appears to be something ailing him. The crew experiences increasing tension. The connection is made. It’s not much of a mystery. We can see the clear link between Sarek and the anger long before any of the main characters have, but the payoff we get from this episode is all about how Picard is able to step in and take on a situation which could destroy him. It’s moving in a way that few TV episodes manage to be.
I wish we’d been able to see whatever species it was that wanted to sit in the weird pool in the darkness, but again that’s not what this episode is about. It’s all about getting we, the viewers, to see Picard handle an emotional roller coaster. It’s that moment which sells this episode. Everything else is fluff. That could be a bad thing, but in “Sarek” you won’t mind. It’s just that good.
Grade: A- “Slow out the gate, but a stirring episode that impacts the audience as few others have.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “Despite a slow beginning, Picard gave an amazing performance.”
“Menage a Troi”
A conference is being held on Betazed and the Ferengi are among the invited species. One Ferengi, Damon Tog, is infatuated with Lwaxana Troi and the monetary prospects of having her as a mate. He kidnaps Lwaxana and Deanna Troi along with Riker. As these three try to manipulate the situation, they are thwarted. Ultimately, Lwaxana volunteers to stay behind but is saved by a clever false love spat between herself and Picard.
What can I say? So much goes wrong in “Menage A Troi” (the title, for one) that it is hard to pick a place to begin. First, it forced me to type the line “infatuated with Lwaxana Troi” which is a phrase that must never be uttered. Second, oh my goodness what a paper-thin plot. I get it in a way: it is supposed to be a way to feature a set piece of the Troi family’s interacting with Riker and kind of a get to know everybody moment. Riker gets a chance to prove himself, right? Well, no, not really. That may have been the intent but the product is quite different as Lwaxana is split from the other two upon the kidnapping and then is forced to carry her own part of the episode.
Let me tell you this: if Lwaxana Troi has to carry an episode in any part, that episode will be awful. Honestly, the actress does a decent job, assuming her job is to be an insufferable character. The problem is that Lwaxana is utterly insufferable on any conceivable level.
But even the parts of the episode that don’t have Lwaxana in them are pretty bad. The Enterprise is dispatched on some random mission that keeps them from helping. Riker and Deanna have barely any time to try to salvage what’s left of the episode, and the whole thing just feels totally forced.
There is one scene which isn’t atrocious: Picard forced to pretend he likes Lwaxana and reciting love poetry to her. It is a really funny sequence, but after being force-fed garbage for so long, it hardly makes an impact. I should also note (here I am trying to not some positives, look how good I am at this!) that the set for Betazed was decent. The Ferengi ship having random beds and torture devices was weird but at least made the ship seem clearly different from other ship sets. Oh, and I suppose that Star Trek Chess has always been cool. Does it seem like I’m grasping at straws here? I am. This is an irredeemably bad episode.
Side note: I think this is the new biggest spread in the score between my wife and myself.
Grade: F “If there must be a silver lining, at least it is now easy to select the worst episode of the season for our season review.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “The Ferengi-Betazoid interactions were funny.”
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