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 Enterprise encounters an ancient object floating through space, which, when interacted with, begins to take over the systems of the ship… and Data. The problem can only be solved by acting out the ritual beliefs of the people who built the object, using Picard and Data as stand-ins for the Sun and Moon.
Someone had a blast making the standard sets across the ship look completely changed by the pseudo-Mesoamerican invasion. I wonder how much of the special effects budget was blown on this episode making stuff look like ancient ruins and the like. Mesoamerica is one of the places I have focused study on in my non-fiction, non-philosophy/theology reading, and it was a delight to see the many nods to those cultures in this episode.
The main problem with “Masks” is how utterly uneblievable it was. I mean I get that replicators are a thing, but could they really have the resources and power to transform the whole ship? And wouldn’t there be some kind of failsafe–turn everything the hell off–type of thing? Or maybe just a manual reboot to reset everything to defaults? I don’t know, it’s tough to swallow that if they can bring people back from the dead with a transporter, they wouldn’t have thought through some of the implications of that.
Another issue was that this didn’t feel very much like a TNG episode at all. That’s not always a bad thing, but this was just… strange. It wasn’t one of those episodes where it worked as well as it should have. I enjoyed it, probably more than I should have, but I had to acknowledge it felt a little bit overdone… and underdone.
On a side note, this episode terrified me when I was a kid. Having Data–one of my favorite characters in any show–turn so fiendishly bad and creepy haunted me for a long time afterwards.
Grade: B- “An intriguing premise is marred by poor execution.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “It wasn’t bad, it was just creepy and weird.”
“Eye of the Beholder”
A crew member kills himself, and soon after in the same place Troi experiences some kind of psychic trauma. She begins to deteriorate, experiencing things that she couldn’t have known, and thinking that people are out to get her or hate her. Eventually, she manages to solve a mystery disappearance that goes back to the construction of the Enterprise.
Troi being manipulated by psychic trauma! We haven’t done that one before, have we? Wait… oh well, let’s do it again.
This one was another really strange episode. Somehow we’re to believe that having something bad happen somewhere left behind a trace that Troi picked up? Why hasn’t that happened about a trillion times before? And why doesn’t it continually destroy telepaths capacity for interacting with society? I’m sure we could figure out some deus ex machina reason to explain this, but it seems easier to just say “Oh well,” and go along for the ride in the episode.
The sense of foreboding in this one was quite well done, and the way they approached solving the mystery by intertwining events that happened years before with those events happening in the present was intriguing. Again, it was an episode I didn’t hate, but it falls apart on closer examination. A really strange TNG episode overall.
Grade: B “It was really weird.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was a very interesting episode, but suffered from the mega plot-hole of being the first time we ever encounter ‘psychic residue.'”
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