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.
A badly injured man is the lone survivor of a wreck that the Enterprise goes to aid. He has remarkable healing powers and over time he and Dr. Crusher develop a working relationship that perhaps goes beyond that. However, he does not remember his past or what happened to him. His healing powers continue to increase and it turns out that he is actually the next stage in evolution for a local race of humanoids. They try to hunt him down due to fear, but he transcends their existence and ceases the mounting conflict in the process. He departs from the Enterprise as a being of seemingly pure energy.
The premise of this episode isn’t terribly original: someone with amnesia is rescued by the Enterprise and a mystery develops around figuring them out. Mysterious powers are another well-worn path for TNG and Star Trek generally. However, the mystery throughout this episode is combined with an interesting element of elapsed time. The episode takes place over some indeterminate period of time which seems to be at least several weeks. This gives “Transfigurations” a feeling of development not just in the character of “John Doe” but also in the characters around him.
The side stories in this one don’t seem to add enough to the plot to keep it as compelling as it could be. Geordi’s sudden confidence bestowed by John Doe is tacky, and the developing relationship between Dr. Crusher and John Doe is awkward at best.
Despite the unoriginal plot, it is a main story that at least stays interesting as the tension mounts while John Doe starts to remember portions of his past and what happened to him. The revealing of his powers is a pretty cool moment, though it feels a little bit extreme.
It’s a decent but unremarkable episode.
Grade: B “An intriguing story that doesn’t quite do enough to push the episode to the next level.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “It was an interesting premise but not ultimately compelling as a story.”
“The Best of Both Worlds, Part I”
The Borg have shown up again as a Starfleet colony disappears. A Commander Shelby, an expert in Borg technology, is dispatched to help the Enterprise deal with the threat. The Borg come for Picard and end up capturing him, assimilating him into the Collective. Meanwhile, the crew of the Enterprise and Shelby must work to try to outwit not just the Borg but Picard. The episode ends on a cliffhanger as Riker decides to open fire on the Borg Cube that has Picard on board.
“I am Locutus of Borg.”
Those words still terrify me. When I was younger it was because the Borg felt so real and I would fear they might come after me some day–I am J.W. of Borg! As an adult, the notion that the untouchable Picard could be corrupted, possibly for good, is a very scary thought. Realistically, we know that he’s not going to be permanently Borg, but it still is a fearsome moment and an awesome cliffhanger ending. What makes the episode more powerful is that one gets the feeling Picard really will be scarred by this even if (when) the crew manages to save him. It simply is not something someone can go through without having deep scarring occur. How might this impact his sense of self going forward? How might we feel in the same situation–manipulated into attacking those we love?
The interplay between Shelby and Riker is also interesting, as it gives us time to reflect on how Riker’s character really has matured throughout the series. He continues to turn down his own ship, and the pressure to take on his own command, combined with a mirror image of his younger self in Commander Shelby, makes for a fine subplot to carry into the next season.
The plot is interesting, and the Borg have been carefully crafted into perhaps the most malicious threat in the Star Trek universe. Great way to end the season, unlike some seasons (here’s looking at you Shades of Gray).
Grade: A “An epic development in the persistent story of the Borg on TNG.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It was very compelling and I want to know what happens next.”
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