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.
“Chain of Command, Part II”
Picard is tortured by his Cardassian captors as they try–and fail–to get any of the Starfleet plans of defense against Cardassia. Then, the torture turns to just being torture for the sake of torment. Picard initially seems to be breaking, but then he realizes that his tormentor was himself tormented and Picard begins to think of him as a lost, small, scared little boy. Ultimately, Captain Jellico’s bold maneuver to put mines around the Cardassian ships saves the day and Picard is released.
For a fuller plot summary, see Memory Alpha.
Patrick Stewart’s acting sells this one hard, but it’s not just that. This episode was fantastically written. The torture scenes are truly tough to watch, but you can’t help but watch, hoping that Picard doesn’t break under the pressure. After Picard is released and he’s talking to Troi, he admits that he not only wanted to see five lights, but he was convinced for a moment there were five. It’s a tough perspective on how we can learn to fool ourselves under pressure–or indeed, even without pressure.
Meanwhile, Captain Jellico is off being his crazy self and trying to hardball the Cardassians. As a viewer, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to root for Jellico or not. When Jellico had to go ask Riker to pilot the shuttle that laid the trap against the Cardassians, it was sweet to watch Riker sit back, smile, and say “Ask me.” More evidence of great writing. It was also nice to see Data in red. I’d love to see a spin-off series with Data as a Captain. Or, you know, any new Star Trek TV series. I can dream, right?
The Cardassians are turning into a formidable opponent to Starfleet, and I’m excited to re-watch Deep Space Nine once we’ve gone through TNG entirely.
Grade: A+ “A stunning performance by Patrick Stewart with a strong plot.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “Overall it was very good, especially the excellent performance by Patrick Stewart.”
“Ship in a Bottle”
Don’t SPOIL this one!
Remember way back in Season 2 when there was an episode in which La Forge tried to foil Data on the holodeck with a Sherlock Holmes mystery he couldn’t solve (“Elementary, Dear Data“)? Yeah, and remember how Moriarty was promised they would try to find a way for him to walk around outside the holodeck? Yep, that happened. Well, Data and La Forge were back at it and they–and Barclay–accidentally reactivate Moriarty. Moriarty walks off the holodeck himself, and he demands that Picard and crew get the love of his life off it as well. As they scramble to do so, a nearby planet and star are colliding, putting the Enterprise in danger. Ultimately, Data realizes the whole thing is just a ploy and Picard, Barclay, and Data manage to trap Moriarty in a smaller memory capsule while still allowing him to think that he is free.
The plot twist in this was great, and I confess I didn’t remember it at all. To suddenly find out that Picard, Barclay, and Data are actually trapped in a broader holodeck program made by Moriarty was just stunning. More importantly, it didn’t seem at all contrived. Sure, you have to suspend some disbelief in how Moriarty was able to reprogram the computer, but it still seems to fit in with how the holodeck has been treated in the past.
Think how crazy it would be if you were trapped in a similar situation! How would you ever trust reality again? Barclay does a good job showing this as he calls for the computer to end the program at the very end. But of course that doesn’t solve anything- he could still be trapped! AS COULD WE ALL!? (Cue creepy music.)
But seriously, this was a great mystery episode that I thought I had figured out. Then, BAM, you don’t know what hits you, but you realize that you’re not as smart as you thought you were.
This was a surprisingly great episode that helped tie up a loose thread in epic fashion.
Grade: A “A great way to conclude a loose thread, with a super-epic plot twist towards the end… what more could you ask?”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “Moriarty is a fun opponent for Picard and Data, but the episode lacked something to make it really great.”
J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!
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