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.
“Time’s Arrow, Part II”
The crew continues to pursue some mysterious aliens who are going back in time on Earth to take the life energy of humans for their own sustenance. Mark Twain thinks the crew members of the Enterprise have come from a different time or place to try to destroy his own time period, and gives pursuit. As he confronts the crew, the aliens make an appearance and the crew gives chase, leaving Picard and Guinan behind. Ultimately, the threat is ended when the alien locale is destroyed and Twain is returned to his own time period.
I vividly remember this two-part episode from when it first aired and I was little. It has stuck with me because of Mark Twain, I think, but also the weirdness and mixture of genres and ideas. Sometimes this is good, and sometimes it’s not so great.
I quite enjoyed the setting and the ways that Picard and crew tried to play things off like they were a crew preparing to put on a Shakespearean production. Those scenes were delightful, and it was also fun to see how they tried to cope with the challenges of a different era. On the other hand, there are plenty of question marks throughout the episode. It’s hard to accept the notion of an alien race that relies entirely on eating the life energy of humans to survive. How have they continued for any amount of time? Mark Twain was really annoying again, in my opinion, though he did manage to redeem himself somewhat by the end.
Also, when did Guinan-Picard become a weird “maybe more than friends, but unsure what that means” type of relationship? They’ve talked a few times, yes, but although it seems clear Picard takes her advice as rather weighty, it has never seemed suggested that they go beyond that. It just felt a bit weird to have this dynamic suddenly introduced.
It’s weird, and if I recall, a two-parter that is largely disliked by fans, but I didn’t think it was too bad to be honest. It was cool to see how the time loop got tied off and how Data’s head ended up in the past alongside some other objects.
Grade: B “Lots of weirdness and it is at times difficult to suspend disbelief, but this one is still interesting enough.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was very good, plus old-timey costumes make an enjoyable episode.”
“Realm of Fear”
Lieutenant Barclay is afraid of transporting, and after he finally convinces himself to get transported over to work on a problem with La Forge and others, he is seemingly attacked while in mid-transport. It turns out that he isn’t just hallucinating, despite his own conviction that he might be suffering some kind of mental disorder, and something really was in the matter stream with him. He ends up rescuing a few crew members that were stuck in mid-transport.
“Realm of Fear” has a different feel than the episodes that have come along recently. It’s… campy. There is also a lot of fake techno-babble, as I tried to convey in the caption of the picture shared here.
I like Barclay. I think he’s a fun character, but it seems like they never quite know how to use him. He’s so normal that the writers must feel some perceived need to make everything around him abnormal to make up for it. But the story of having just a Joe Schmoe on board the Enterprise and trying to make do is enough. It would be great to see an episode kind of like “Data’s Day” for Barclay, but again with less drama happening around it. What is it like to not be the super-person that all the rest of the main characters seem to be? That’s the Barclay episode I want to see.
This episode is just kind of weird. Alongside the slew of fake-techno-babble, we have the transporter working very differently from any way it has been portrayed before. The way that transporters work is never really explored in depth, but the amount of discussion already given it seems to work against the way it is conveyed here.
We do, however, get to see how far along Geordi has come. He really does demonstrate his mettle as a strong leader, assigning teams to do things that he can delegate, supporting those who are struggling (i.e. Barclay), and the like. He’s come a long way from being used as a recurring attempted-love-interest joke. It’s good to see how well he is utilized now.
Grade: B- “Too many made up science-sounding words and I’m pretty sure transporters don’t work like that elsewhere.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “Fun development of a side character.”
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