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 First Duty”
The Enterprise is headed to earth and as they are inbound they discover that Wesley was involved in a training accident. He’s going to recover, but one of the five members of his flight crew was killed and an investigation is launched. As the inquiry continues, it turns out that the four remaining members have agreed to conceal their attempt to perform a highly dangerous maneuver and have instead appealed to the dead member making a pilot error that led to his death. Geordi and Data, however, discover that plasma ignited at the same time as the inquiry reveals a picture of the training craft in an unreported formation. Picard confronts Wesley and tells him that if he doesn’t come out with the truth, he will. Wesley does tell the truth, which leads to the leader of the flight crew being expelled and permanent reprimands on the rest of their records.
The approach taken with the plot of this episode was thought out very well. As observers, we can tell something is wrong with Wesley, and as we see the pressure being put on him and the rest of the team by their flight leader, we can see that there is more to the story than meets the eye. But we don’t find out exactly what happened until about the time Picard reveals his own knowledge of it to Wesley following the investigation run by Geordi and Data.
Thus, we can understand Dr. Crusher’s concern and confusion regarding the situation and how the picture that demonstrates the falsehood of the flight crew’s story must be mistaken. There doesn’t seem another explanation. But the explanation is simple: they’re lying. It’s something that seems to go beyond the bounds of what we normally expect from Star Trek’s normally squeaky-clean world.
“The First Duty” is uncomfortable in that it makes us see things from both sides of a tragic event. The manipulative comments from the flight leader add to this discomfort. Picard’s epic tongue-lashing of Wesley seems both appropriate and well-deserved and it fits into the conversations Picard had with the groundskeeper.
I really loved this episode. Wesley has come into his own.
When my wife came up with a good score, but I gave it a super high score, I explained my reasoning to her thus: “It was like we got to witness all at once the threads that were put in place for Wesley’s development blossom and turn him into a beautiful flower, but then we watched it whither, only to be revivified in greater, but tarnished glory by Picard.”
Yep, that’s about how I feel about this episode. It was phenomenal.
Grade: A+ “It initially made Wesley suck, but then made him surprisingly admirable. Well done.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was interesting but it lacked the gravitas of better episodes.”
“Cost of Living”
Lwaxana Troi comes to the Enterprise to get married. As she struggles to deal with the implications of an arranged marriage, she tries to guide Alexander in his own path to self-awareness and freedom. They play around on the holodeck as tensions increase between Troi and her betrothed. Finally, she realizes that, like she did for Alexander, she needs to be herself. She shows up to the wedding in traditional Betazoid fashion: naked. The wedding is called off as her betrothed and his adviser are horrified and leave.
This is an all-around weird episode. The interactions on the holodeck are a bit whimsical but also kind of creepy. The way that Lwaxana Troi tries to take over parenting of Alexander from Worf is left largely without comment. But there are a few things to like here as well. Troi becomes just a little bit less awful here–something it’s hard for me to admit–as she tries to realize her own needs alongside navigating Alexander towards his. There’s a kind of endearing sadness to Troi’s situation that makes you sympathize with her. Seeing her betrothed and his adviser absolutely flipping out about every little piece of protocol only added to the sympathy that was generated for Troi.
But really, having Alexander walk around saying random nonsense was a bit too much for me. Just stop it. Also, mud bath awkwardness. Just a weird episode.
I was surprised by the score difference between my wife and I here. She really liked it. I thought it was okay. I suppose my deep dislike of Lwaxana Troi might have contributed, but I just thought the episode was super weird.
Grade: C+ “Lwaxana Troi only barely ruins an episode. But seriously, this had some touching moments that were marred by a sense of strangeness and a throwaway side-plot.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It did a nice job exploring the challenges of responsibility and carefree living. It also had some very fun visuals in holodeck-land.”
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