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.
Captain Picard, Counselor Troi, Commander Data, and Lieutenant Commander La Forge are on a runabout (fancy shuttle) heading back to the Enterprise when they notice something is wrong: they are experiencing strange temporal distortions that shift between stopping/slowing time and speeding it up. They eventually make it to the Enterprise, but it seems to be trapped in time in a battle with Romulans. As they explore the ship, they see various members of the crew in situations that appear to be under attack. However, as they look more closely, it appears the Enterprise is attempting to assist the Romulans, not under attack by them. It turns out that the Romulans managed to get some time-travelling babies in their warp core, which led to all the distortions. The four crew members work together to set everything aright.
Beth, my wife, pointed out that the people selected are basically the top 4 that you would want to have solve problems. Picard is just an all-around problem solver with lots of general knowledge; Data has lots of concrete knowledge, though perhaps doesn’t score so highly on “street smarts”; Troi would give you insight into people’s states and the ability to sense life forms, along with counseling issues and figuring out people; La Forge is, well, a genius and basically will MacGyver any problem. You could argue that trading Picard out for Crusher might not be a bad idea, because they have enough general knowledge with Data to offset the loss of Picard, but his leadership might be missed. Anyway, long story short this is a great set of four characters to drive an episode.
What makes this episode particularly compelling is the way that we as viewers are made to evaluate the situation from the perspective of Picard and crew. We enter into their shoes, trying to discern what’s going on alongside them. We do, however, have the advantage of knowing the Enterprise was responding to a distress signal from the Romulans. Although Worf doubts that they should help, we have little reason to think that they turned around and attacked the Enterprise.
The main place this went astray was in just a little bit too much of deus ex machina. The episode didn’t actually need some kind of weird beings from another time-space continuum. It could have just as easily had something get generated accidentally by the Romulans’ ship, and then we wouldn’t have had to deal with the strangeness of the solution that was ultimately offered. Oh well. It was still a fun episode to watch.
Grade: A- “It was an exciting episode that put together some of the best characters to solve some problems, but it just had a little too much going on.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was fun to see the characters problem-solve, but it felt like there was a little too much crammed into one episode.”
“Descent, Part I”
The Enterprise investigates an outpost only to find that the Borg have attacked. When they fight, they see the Borg displaying emotions–and even Data experiences some emotions. They manage to capture one of the Borg, who challenges Data to confront his own pleasure in the emotion of anger and his desire to do anything just to get any emotion whatsoever. They trace the Borg ship back to a planet, trailing behind its trans-warp jump. When they investigate the planet, however, La Forge, Picard, and Troi are captured by the Borg, who are now working with Data… and Lore.
The hardest part to believe about this episode isn’t the crazy Borg behavior, rather, it is how readily Data embraces the lust for violence just so he can have feelings. It just doesn’t go along with what we know about his character, and given that they’ve worked so hard to convince us he is a person, it is difficult to think that his past decisions and perspectives could so easily be overturned by manipulation of emotions. Sure, he’s not had emotions to deal with, but it is still difficult to swallow how completely he is willing to toss everything out the window.
This is a good set-up episode, though, clearly putting a bunch of balls in the air. Any time the Borg are involved there is a serious question about whether they’ll be stopped–and to have them act erratically ups the tension a bit. How many yellow-shirts will be killed in the two-parter (and have yellow-shirts become the new red-shirts)? Has Data really gone over to the dark side? Why is Lore the worst? Finally, will we at last get to see the phaser rifle get used? The question is whether they’ll be able to wrap it up in any kind of satisfactory fashion.
Also, can we take a moment of thanks for the fact the writers are taking Troi more seriously? Her discussion with Data about emotions was about the best conversation she’s had in the entire series.
Grade: B+ “There’s a lot to swallow here regarding how different the Borg are behaving, and with how easily Data was manipulated.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was fun to see Lore back in action.”
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!
Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!
Star Trek: TNG– For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!