Star Trek: TNG Season 7 “Gambit, Part II” and “Phantasms”

How strange.

How strange.

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.

“Gambit Part II”

Plot

Khan, I mean Arctus Baran, continues doggedly attempting to track down some unknown artifact. He attempts to pit Picard and Riker against each other, not knowing that they are actually allies from the Enterprise. Picard finds the artifact that Baran is looking for,  but is suspicious about its nature. The crew of the mercenary ship gets on board the Enterprise to steal another piece of the artifact, then flees toward Vulcan, where the artifact is supposed to work. Once there, however, Picard is able to overcome the device’s power as a weapon by remaining serene.

Commentary

Okay, there is way more to the plot than that but I figured I should probably not have the summary take up half of this post. The Vulcan weapon is surprisingly… logical. (Sorry.) But really, it kind of makes sense for them to have created a weapon which would only act against hostile enemies. It also was neat to get another piece of history about the Vulcans, who have been largely untapped in their potential throughout TNG.

The climactic confrontation between Picard and the Vulcan/Romulan (I can’t remember which, it was all too convoluted) was a little silly, though. Yes, the weapon makes sense for a Vulcan to have made it, but the way the scene was portrayed was much campier than TNG tends to do.

This is an episode that would fall apart if pressed on the edges too hard. There are several parts that don’t make a lot of sense, but it is also one of those episodes that manages to be so much fun to watch that as a viewer I didn’t much care about the holes. I mean, these are basically space pirates, right? But they’re not just space pirates; they are space pirates who go about seeking out booty that is archaeology. I was a social studies major in college and I gotta say it doesn’t get much cooler than that.

Grade: A “An all-around enjoyable episode.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “With a Khan-lookalike and a triple-timing Vulcan, what could go wrong?”

“Phantasms”

Plot

Data is having dreams again, and they are getting weirder and weirder. Indeed, they begin to impinge on everyday reality for him. There doesn’t appear to be any explanation for these nightmarish turns in his dreams, and he goes to the holodeck to talk to Sigmund Freud about them. It turns out that there was no help there, either. It turns out that the nightmares and Data’s odd behavior were caused by some correlation between creatures that were clinging to the different crew members.

Commentary

I gotta admit that part of the reason I didn’t enjoy this episode as much as I may have otherwise was Sigmund Freud. I think he was a bit of a quack, myself. Of course, this episode makes him look a little bit like a quack, so maybe I should have liked that part more… and hey he did help develop psychology as it stands today. Oh well, I still thought that part was just weird.

Weird? Yeah, this episode was surreal. It was never creepy, and it didn’t really push the boundary so far as mystery was concerned either. It just felt… strange. That was the main problem with this episode, really. There wasn’t enough here to get a strong feeling of mystery, nor was there as real a sense of foreboding as there has been in other episodes that focus so much on the strange. I don’t know if I’m conveying this as well as I would like in this review. It’s one thing to be weird in order to have it shrouded in mystery, or to throw the viewer off and make them uncomfortable in a kind of horror type experience. But this was just off-putting. Especially Troi as a cake.

It did, however, give a sense that there are probably more awful things out there in the universe that the crew of the Enterprise has yet to encounter.

It was surprising to me to see the wide grade difference between my wife and I. Apparently she liked the weirdness more than I did.

Grade: C “Data’s dreams are weird.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was quite enjoyable, though a bit strange. It didn’t quite feel like Star Trek.”

Links

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!

SDG.

Star Trek: TNG Season 7 “Interface” and “Gambit, Part I”

KHHHAAAAAANNNNNN!!!!

KHHHAAAAAANNNNNN!!!!

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.

“Interface”

Plot

La Forge’s mom–a Starfleet captain–is missing, but La Forge presses on to complete a mission in which he controls a drone through an interface that hooks up to the same place his visor does. The mission is to recover some information from a wrecked Starfleet vessel. Yet, as La Forge goes through the derelict, he sees his mother asking him to lower the ship to the surface to save the missing crew. Ultimately, La Forge and Data work together to do so, but it turns out that some sort of flame being was masquerading as La Forge’s mother, and she is still missing–though he did save the fire beings.

Commentary

LaVar Burton picked up this episode, strapped it onto his shoulders, and carried it across the finish line. I say this because it was pretty much his acting alone which saved this episode from the garbage heap. It was only because I felt that La Forge was experiencing a real struggle that I could even begin to suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy the great character portrayal he put forward. And he sure nailed it. I can’t say enough for how well-acted this episode was on Burton/La Forge’s end, because without it, we would have had a poor episode at best.

There are a lot of problems with this one. First, how the heck is a probe that looks like a floating cylinder in any way parallel to a human walking around and interacting with the environment? Okay, I get it, they used tractor beams. But then, why do they need to have him walking up stairs or adjusting the interface so he can control his limbs? Am I supposed to believe that they just have tractor beams that work like limbs for some reason? That would seem incredibly limiting. Second, why is La Forge so gullible about his mother? I get that he is experiencing grief, but clearly something more was going on, and he just went with it.

So I suppose my final verdict would be: great La Forge acting; weak plot and execution.

Grade: B “La Forge was as epic as ever, but the episode is an assault on the credulity of the viewer.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “Geordi’s acting was really good, but it didn’t make up for an underwhelming plot.”

“Gambit, Part I”

Plot

Picard is missing and the crew finds a witness who says he was vaporized–and Troi says he’s telling the truth. Riker is filled with anger and decides to try to track down those who did Picard in. They appear to be some kind of pirates or mercenaries who are raiding archaeological sites. Riker is captured at one of these sites and brought on board the mercenary ship, implanted with a pain inducer, and forced into service of the crew. Yet, it turns out that Picard is there… alive of course! Picard has infiltrated the crew and tells Riker to go along with it. The episode ends with Riker taking shots at the Enterprise.

Commentary

Let’s get this out of the way: Arctus Baran, the commander of the mercenary ship, is Khan. He looks just like him. Seriously! Okay, so he isn’t supposed to be Khan, but I could totally see them just saying it is him. Oh well.

This is a great opener for a two-part episode. There’s plenty of action and mystery here, which is what two-part episodes often need to keep viewers hooked. I like the archaeology in the episode–it helps give a sense of robust history behind the show that isn’t always there. Baran makes a solid villain, even if he isn’t actually Khan. The motivation goes beyond a typical X-is-evil shtick, so that makes it intriguing as well. Sure, he is motivated by money, but there is more going on behind the scenes in this one than some episodes have had.

The scene in which Data dresses down Worf is particularly poignant. It shows the tension that could be in place on board a ship that has lost some senior officers. It was a great scene that illustrated how seriously Data took his position, and how Worf reacted to the changes as well. I loved it.

The opener was also a great scene, as the various crew members attempted to get information at Mos Eisley Canti… I mean, a random space bar. It had just the right mix of cheese and seriousness that happens when the actors are firing on all cylinders.

Grade: A “KHAAAAAAANNNN!!! Oh wait, wrong series.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was a good plot with surprises revealed at appropriate times throughout.”

Links

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!

SDG.

Star Trek: TNG Season 7 “Descent, Part II” and “Liaisons”

Klingon Diplomacy

Klingon Diplomacy

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.

“Descent, Part II”

Plot

Lore and Data are working together towards Lore’s dream: creating a pure race of non-biological life. Lore happened upon the Borg ship that Hugh returned to in I, Borg and gave them this purpose. However, Hugh is also on the surface and is leading a band of renegade Borg who oppose Lore. Riker and Worf work with Hugh to rescue the imprisoned members of the crew. Ultimately, Data must make a choice about whether to assist Lore to keep his emotional capacity or fight him and choose his friends. He ends up deactivating Lore permanently.

Commentary

Well, we’ve finally taken care of Lore. It’s about time! It’s unfortunate that Data’s brother had to be so bad, but it has been equally unfortunate that they haven’t already deactivated and dismantled him. Although, I wonder how Starfleet felt about dismantling an android–which is supposedly a person, after all. Let’s just go ahead and dissect this person who could just be reactivated. Was there a trial? Does Starfleet have the death penalty? Are my speculations getting out of hand?

ANYWAY… “Descent Part II” is an enjoyable episode. Hugh showing up again was a great treat, though they clearly had too much going on to explore his character as much as I would have liked. What happens to Hugh next? I’d love to see a follow-up episode. The story was great too–it is always fun to see Lore and Data interact. However, the same problem that plagued the last episode is in this one: it is difficult to believe Data would just turn on his own people in any serious way over emotions.

Overall a solid way to start the season.

Grade: A- “We stopped Lore at last!”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “I only wish Hugh had had a larger part to play.”

“Liaisons”

Plot

Three Iyaaran ambassadors visit the Enterprise, on missions to come to mutual understanding with Starfleet and learn more about each other’s culture. Two remain aboard the ship, while another departs with Picard and crashes on a planet en route. On board the ship, one Iyaaran appears only interested in eating yummy food, while the other continues to jab at Worf. On the planet, Picard discovers a woman who has been stranded for 7 years. Worf and the Iyaaran get into a fight, which remarkably ends when the Iyaaran thanks Worf for showing him anger. The one whose been feasting the whole time thanks Troi for showing the nature of pleasure. Picard figures out the “woman” was actually the third Iyaaran in disguise, and that he was trying to experience love. The diplomatic encounter is successful, though it leaves everyone a bit nonplussed.

Commentary

I loved this episode when I was a kid, which I’m sure influenced how much I liked it now. Really though, this is a fun episode. The plot is fairly thin, yes, but it is full of hilarious moments. Worf’s interactions with the Iyaaran were particularly epic (more on that later), but Troi also had her moments. The mystery surrounding Picard’s circumstances was also highly interesting, and it is fun to see him figure out what’s going on. You can tell he’s suspicious almost right away, which contributes to me believing the episode is possible. Picard isn’t an idiot, so it was good they didn’t portray him as such. But he didn’t figure out what was actually going on until much later.

Worf had some epic lines in this one. “I will take him by the throat and rip out his esophagus” was probably my favorite. But yeah, Worf’s first stint as diplomat did not go so well. Or, maybe it went supremely well because he did exactly what the alien wanted him to do. Yeah, let’s go with that.

Overall, I’d say I was right to enjoy this episode when I was a kid. It’s just fun all around.

Grade: A “I find this episode delightful.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was pretty good, but quite strange.”

Links

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!

SDG.

Star Trek: TNG Season 6 “Timescape” and “Descent, Part I”

Are you okay?

Are you okay?

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.

“Timescape”

Plot

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.

Commentary

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”

Plot

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.

Commentary

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.”

Links

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!

SDG.

Star Trek: TNG Season 6 “Rightful Heir” and “Second Chances”

I shall call him, Mini Me. No wait, "Riker, Junior Grade."

Red: “I shall call him, Mini Me. No wait, ‘Riker, Junior Grade.'” – Yellow: “I prefer Thomas.”

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.

“Rightful Heir”

Plot

Worf is bothered by some religious angst and is released by Captain Picard to go on an existential quest to find his faith. He goes to Boreth, a place where Klingons often have experiences of Kahless, their mythic warrior-figure. After some disappointing times, Kahless appears to Worf, but it turns out he is more than a vision–he is real! He claims the rights due to Kahless as the returned demigod/deity of the Klingons, but some–including Worf–are skeptical. After Gowron, the current head of the Klingon Empire, issues a challenge which Kahless passes, the stakes are raised even higher. However, Gowron later defeats Kahless in combat, undermining the notion of Kahless being the greatest warrior of all time. It turns out Kahless is, in fact, a clone that was given many of the memories of the true Kahless. The threat of civil war looms because Kahless has already attracted a large following. To avert this, Worf calls Gowron to make Kahless the kind of moral leader over the Klingons while Gowron retains civil authority. Gowron and Kahless agree. Worf is left wondering whether his faith in Kahless was misplaced or whether it could remain genuine.

Commentary

I pretty much loved this episode. If you’ve been following my reviews, you’ll know I’m a sucker for Worf episodes and Data episodes. This is clearly a Worf episode, but there are some great discussions about the nature of faith and belief with Data sprinkled in.

The plot is quite strong–there’s a sense of mystery surrounding Kahless. As the viewer, you are almost expected to be skeptical, but you are taken on a ride of evidence right alongside Worf–one which involves eventually believing Kahless might be vindicated as the real deal. Only, it turns out Kahless is a clone. What does that do to the faith Worf and others placed in Kahless? The question is left pretty much open-ended.

Kahless goes on to be the moral compass of the Klingon people–something that is an intriguing look into the needs of the Klingon Empire. Kahless himself notes that they are floundering in need of the realization that to be Klingon is to go beyond mere fighting for fighting’s sake. There is honor involved–joy, even. It’s a fascinating insight into Klingon culture that we’ve been developing quite a bit throughout TNG. I love it.

Overall, this is a super-solid episode. I forgot to mention the scenery paintings were really neat too. I liked every set as well. Just awesome.

Grade: A+ “Look, it was just awesome. Klingons. Awesome.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was a very interesting premise, though it seemed a strange direction for Worf’s character.”

“Second Chances”

Plot

The Enterprise is trying to recover some data from a lost outpost. Riker leads an away team down and, well, there’s another Riker there! Turns out the transporter fluke that got Riker out 8 years ago actually managed to copy him and leave one copy on the planet’s surface… alone… for 8 years. Riker 2 [the double, Thomas Riker] tries to integrate with the crew while Riker 1 continues to try to operate as normal. Ultimately, Riker 2 rekindles his relationship with Troi, but has to leave to go elsewhere to continue his Starfleet career.

Commentary

Surprise! We have two Rikers! But only for one episode… for now (eerie music). Google it if you’re curious, but you’ll spoil the fun like I did. Anyway, I quite enjoyed this episode. There are a lot of moments for pondering “what ifs” here that are worth thinking about. Most importantly: What if William Riker wasn’t so dumb about Troi and they just got back together! Come on!?

Thomas Riker should have killed Will Riker and replaced him. Apparently that’s what the writers thought too. The Star Trek: The Next Generation 365 book (which is excellent and should be required reading for TNG fans) told me so. Apparently, even Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi) thought that’s how the plot should have gone, to allow for a continued romance between, well, Riker and Troi. Alas, instead we have to deal with the continued, constant sexual tension between the two until Star Trek Nemesis, but that’s a different story.

Anyway, another what if is whether you would make the same choices twice. Obviously this isn’t the exact same scenario for each Riker, but Thomas has a kind of fresh chance to repeat the same path William took–or not. It’s an intriguing look at free will and how character can help determine the choices people make.

An enjoyable episode that is really just dragged down a little by some of the same suspension-of-disbelief problems and lots of continuity difficulty. I mean if they can do things like this with a transporter, how would they let anyone stay dead? Oh well. It’s TV, not real life.

Grade: A- “Thomas Riker, you poor man.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “An intriguing exploration of what could go wrong with the transporter in an alternate universe within our own universe. Whoa.”

Links

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!

SDG.

Star Trek: TNG Season 6 “Frame of Mind” and “Suspicions”

Riker is having a rough day.

Riker is having a rough day.

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.

“Frame of Mind”

Plot

The episode opens with Riker apparently in an insane asylum, being told that he needs more treatment because he apparently hurt someone. Turns out he is just practicing for an upcoming play on board the Enterprise. However, he wakes up later and it appears he is actually in an asylum that looks exactly like the set back on the Enterprise. As he tries to figure out what is going on, he continually shifts back and forth between the Enterprise and the asylum, trying to piece together what is real. He becomes convinced that the asylum is real, but then is apparently rescued by Dr. Crusher and Worf. Even this reality breaks down under investigation, time and again, until he finally awakens in the middle of some kind of brain surgery and manages to signal the Enterprise to rescue him.

Commentary

This one is like an episode of “The Twilight Zone.” It’s all over, with layer after layer of reality being peeled away throughout the episode until it is difficult to keep up. But it is never overwhelming, nor does it ever falter. “Frame of Mind” is a truly intense episode throughout.

There doesn’t seem to be a lot to actually comment on here, because the greatness of this episode is found in the suspense it carries through, not in any kind of depth of plot or characters. Riker, however, carries this episode quite well. It is not difficult to imagine become disillusioned with one’s own reality under the kinds of pressure that are shown being applied to his mental life in this episode.

So…. yeah not a lot to say but this is great viewing.

Grade: A “A great mystery that kept unveiling new layers in such a way as to keep the plot moving.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It was very well done.”

“Suspicions”

Plot

Dr. Crusher talks with Guinan about her attempts to facilitate scientific discussion between a Ferengi scientist who has attempted to develop shield technology to allow travel much closer to stars than ever before possible. However, in the process one scientist apparently dies in a test flight, and the Ferengi turns up dead himself, apparently in a suicide. Crusher attempts to further her investigation, but is thwarted at every turn, including by a direct order not to perform an autopsy. Guinan convinces Crusher to keep up the investigation, which leads to Crusher commandeering a shuttle to see if the Ferengi’s theory works. It does, but the scientist who apparently died in the test flight isn’t dead… and attempts to kill Crusher, who takes him down and manages to return to the Enterprise.

Commentary

The narrative that Dr. Crusher gives to Guinan as she describes her efforts as a scientific diplomat makes this episode have a little bit of a noir feel, and I love that. The plot itself is pretty strong, too, as we have not just the mystery of whether a specific invention might be viable to deal with but also a possible murder mystery.

It was fun seeing the plot develop and keep getting more and more interesting. I for sure thought that the Vulcan and/or her husband were responsible for the Ferengi’s death, so it managed to throw me off the scent despite having seen the episode before (hey, it was a long time ago, so I didn’t remember, okay?). The pulpy feel along with the complexity of the actual mystery are paid off pretty well with an ending that doesn’t feel too contrived. It’s just a really solid episode with some excellent work by Dr. Crusher. Plus she gets to roundhouse kick an alien in the face. How epic was that?

All of the positive feelings aside, there are some problems with this one. For one, how the heck does the apparently dead alien scientist manage to keep leaving the morgue without anyone noticing he’s walking around on board the ship? For another, if the Enterprise constantly monitors people’s condition and where they are on the ship, why have they still not integrated some sort of security system into that? Why doesn’t Crusher have more severe consequences (like getting thrown in the brig) for her clear disobedience and insubordination at points?

Ultimately, my answer to these questions was “Who cares?”  because the episode was too fun to let myself get bogged down with these concerns about plausibility.

I’ve been reading through the Star Trek TNG 365 book, which is excellent, by the way, and apparently the authors and the writers of the episode itself thought this one wasn’t very good. Well, you can probably tell from my comments–and our grades below–that we loved it.

Grade: A “Some hard to believe moments don’t do much to drag this one down. Another suspenseful episode.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “I enjoyed it. Crusher was a fun detective, but it felt a little odd for a Star Trek episode.”

Links

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!

SDG.

Star Trek: TNG Season 6 “Lessons” and “The Chase”

I love everything about this picture.

I love everything about this picture, except that I couldn’t find a better quality version of it.

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.

“Lessons”

Plot

There is a new transfer aboard the Enterprise shaking up the science departments,  Lieutenant Commander Nella Daren. When Picard confronts her, he figures out she is up to the challenge, and a skilled, intriguing woman as well. He starts to interact with her more and more, discovering that she is more interesting than he had imagined. It quickly becomes apparent that Picard and Daren are falling in love, and it is a poorly kept secret on board the ship, causing some tension. Meanwhile, they are preparing to attempt a rescue mission on a planet with raging firestorms. Lieutenant Commander Daren is assigned to one of the teams, and initially it seems she was lost on the mission, causing Picard much grief. She turns up alive, however, but Picard realizes he can’t be on board the Enterprise with someone he cares so much about. They decide to part ways, hoping to find each other again in the future.

Commentary

“Lessons” as an episode that does exceptionally well introducing a new character (Lieutenant Commander Nella Daren), building up her story, and having her make an impact on a main character in a noticeable way. It helps, of course, that they chose Captain Picard as the character to fall for Daren. Riker would have been too predictable, but to see Picard fall for her was unusual enough to be intriguing. Not only that, but the way she clearly complemented Picard so well made us root for the relationship as the audience.

Another major plus is that Patrick Stewart acts so well! The hesitancy with which he approaches the relationship, the embarassment he clearly displays when he realizes pretty much the whole ship knows, and his interactions with Riker about Daren are all portrayed exactly as we might expect from Picard. The side story of the rescue mission is clearly just an add-on to make drama with Daren go down, but I didn’t mind it because it made sense for the plot: what would Picard do if he had someone he loved–really loved–on board? The decision to part ways was painful, though expected. As a viewer, you know that it can’t possibly continue–they’re not just going to add a main character midway through the 6th season–but it still made me feel badly for them.

Also, the firestorm had some cool special effects and problem solving. Often, when something like that is just added on to make drama, the set isn’t that interesting or it might just occur entirely off-camera. This time, they really made their money’s worth on it.

Grade: A “Right in the feels, Captain. Right in the feels.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “The plot and acting were both quite good, but the pace of the storytelling seemed off.”

“The Chase”

Plot

Professor Richard Galen shows up on the Enterprise with a marvelous archaeological gift for Picard. He wants Picard to join him on a quest to finish his life’s work, but he is very secretive about it. When Picard turns him down, he leaves to do it on his own but his ship is attacked and destroyed by an information dealer. Picard is determined to track down the reasons behind what his old professor was doing and chases the information trail around the quadrant. It turns out he’s not the only one looking into it, however, as there are also Cardassians and Klingons searching for the same finds. Ultimately, they manage to trace the information back to one planet, where they are trapped by Romulans. In the ensuing confrontation, Picard and Dr. Crusher unwrap the last layer of the mystery, which turns out to be that an alien race long ago seeded the various worlds in this galaxy for life like their own. Hence the reason all the aliens look alike. The people exploring the region leave, largely disgusted, but the Romulan commander reaches out to Picard in hope for eventual reconciliation.

Commentary

The opening of this episode set the stage to be completely awesome, and it stored up enough good will for me to overlook some of the insanity that followed. I absolutely love when Picard gets all geeked out over archaeology stuff, probably because I also get nerd excitement from it. The opening with a description of how the artifact Galen gifted to Picard was just perfect, and it revealed enough mystery for me to want to know more.

The overall plot wasn’t bad either. Having the ultimate reveal be that some alien seeded life all over to look like themselves was kind of neat, and it retroactively explains why so many advanced aliens in the Star Trek universe look alike. I wonder if it ever gets referenced again.

What was difficult to accept was the insane amount of hand-waving over details throughout. How did all of these other peoples manage to have chunks of information that was relevant to the main quest? Scientific discoveries of their own? Well, the episode hints that they bought the information, but how did they get it so quickly and how did they break the code without the intimate knowledge of genetics that Dr. Crusher brought to the table? It just didn’t make a lot of sense. Moreover, when would Picard suddenly allow a Cardassian diplomatic access to his ship and then cart her around to help solve the mystery? Did he forget he was just tortured by the Cardassians not too long ago? Or did he also forget that they’re basically enemies? Why were the Klingons so hostile? The reason given was they wanted the “weapon” coming from the research, but that’s not really how alliances work, is it?

There was a lot of silliness and craziness in this episode, but it mostly seemed to work. I didn’t mind it all that much, because the mystery was exciting enough to keep me interested throughout. “The Chase” is one of those episodes that I feel like I enjoyed probably more than I should have given its quality. But why apologize for liking something more? I won’t! See the grade!

Grade: A- “Some ridiculous moments and a too-fast conclusion don’t completely undermine the careful groundwork laid at the beginning.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “Finally we understand why all the aliens are upright-walking bipedal humanoids.” 

Links

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!

SDG.

Star Trek: TNG Season 6 “Birthright, Part II” and “Starship Mine”

I smell DEAD ROMULANS!

I smell DEAD ROMULANS!

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.

“Birthright, Part II”

Plot

Worf has been captured by Romulans in what is ostensibly a prison planet. But it turns out the Klingons held here are staying willingly, and have integrated with the Romulans who are there captors. Indeed, some have even intermarried and had Klingon-Romulan children! After causing some trouble, Worf is placed under guard, but he continues to work to try to instruct the young Klingons in the ways of their people. He gets through to young Toq, who had been assigned to guard him, after a hunting outing. Toq comes back singing and translating a Klingon hymn. Tokath, the Romulan commander, decides he must execute Worf, but the young all go to stand with him and he must relent, allowing several to leave with Worf to return to the Klingon Empire.

Commentary

Klingon-Romulan Children, Batman!? WHAT?

That was about Worf’s reaction, too. He had a similar negative reaction when he saw Toq using a Klingon spear to till soil.

I loved the scene in which the Klingon hymn was passed along from person to person–something which had apparently become a lullaby was suddenly infused with much cultural meaning. The development of Toq’s character was fascinating, and it provided a great way to see the conflict that was playing out on a smaller scale.

What makes this episode particularly fascinating is the competing moral themes found therein. On the one hand, can you truly fault a Romulan who wants to have peaceful coexistence with Klingons, and helped forge his own vision of that peace in a part of the Romulan Empire? On the other hand, should that peace be based on deception–or at least withholding truth? These aren’t easy questions to answer, and the episode largely just leaves them hanging out there. We are clearly supposed to side with Worf and truth, but on the other hand we can’t help but sympathize with the desire for peace.

I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for Klingon culture, so this one was just a slam dunk for me all around. The one thing I think it may have missed out on was developing the story we got in part I regarding Data a bit more. Otherwise, this episode did everything right.

Grade: A+ “Epic exploration of recovering lost culture.” 

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It was a good exploration of the Klingon identity.”

“Starship Mine”

Plot

The Enterprise is docked for repairs, but when Picard goes back on board to retrieve his saddle, he discovers a plot to steal highly dangerous material off the ship. He thus works to thwart the perpetrators as much as he can, ultimately managing to destabilize the material such that it explodes just after they escape.

Commentary

Okay, so my plot summary left out the scenes in which the crew had to deal with small talk (oh no!) and try to figure out how to mess with their captors back on the surface, but this one really has very little plot overall. It’s all about Picard stopping the plot to steal explosive crap from the ship. It’s not bad, but it isn’t great either. It’s kind of ho-hum, really.

It was great seeing Data adapt himself to small talk. I mean, seriously, the scene in which he and “Hutch,” the Starfleet commander on the surface are going back and forth endlessly with their banter was just fantastic. I laughed out loud (not lol’d, but in reality).

Once again we run into the very real problem of stretching the suspension of disbelief beyond the limits. How is it that they wouldn’t actively be scanning to make sure Picard came back to the planet? Why wouldn’t they just beam him back, thus preventing him from interfering with the capture of the materials? Why even let him go back to the Enterprise? Clearly, the plot had help from the top levels, so they could have easily just said that the scan was in progress and Picard couldn’t return to the ship. Problem solved, right? But no, they don’t do that. Oh, and by the way, they also didn’t bother to put in any failsafes on the system such that if it were about to, I don’t know, kill somebody, it would stop automatically and send a warning back to the control console. All of this makes this a tough episode to swallow.

Also, did “Hutch” actually die in this? I don’t remember it being stated definitively, but he was a really fun side character and it’s sad he got dispatched so quickly. It would have been great to have him continuing his small talk banter after being captured!

What I did like, apart from “Hutch,” was seeing the ways Picard came up with to thwart the people on the ship. It was fun seeing all the Jefferies Tube scenes with him crawling all around everywhere and setting up traps. It made the episode more compelling than it would have been otherwise.

Not a terrible episode, but not up to the standard I’ve come to expect either.

Grade: C+ “It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t compelling.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B- “Not as interesting as other episodes, but still was fun to see Picard going all around the ship.”

Links

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!

SDG.

Star Trek: TNG Season 6 “Tapestry” and “Birthright, Part I”

Blue shirt? Kill me now.

Blue shirt? Kill me now.

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.

“Tapestry”

Plot

Picard dies and meets Q in the afterlife. Q challenges him on how he got the artificial heart and offers the possibility of avoiding the same mistakes by reliving his life as a young Picard. Picard accepts after some debate and is thrust back into himself at a younger age. As he reverses his decisions that led to him getting an artificial heart (and that he thinks are blemishes on his past), he discovers that the long-term consequences are great. Fast forward and Picard is a science officer on board the Enterprise, with little ambition or drive. He demands that Q take him back and let him die. Q instead restarts his heart in the real world and Picard recovers fully.

Commentary

“Picard dies and meets Q in the afterlife” – that’s a surefire set up for something that will end up going either extraordinarily poorly or very well. Thankfully, it was the latter. This is really an endearing look at Picard. It fills out his back story, while also giving us a glimpse into what he views as most important. We see a young Picard who is more foolish and boisterous than the Picard we know, but it fits the persona of the “real” Picard. You can see how he could have developed out of the character they showed.

The story isn’t the most epic–it’s really just three Starfleet officers hanging out. What makes it work is the premise. You have to be willing to stick with the characters because you like Picard so much. It was a smart choice to leave Picard as Patrick Stewart instead of giving us a different perspective on the young Picard–it keeps us engaged with the character in a way that might have been more difficult with a different actor (though it worked in “Rascals”). Q is really great in this one as well. Nothing too crazy, but still very in character. Loved it.

My favorite part of this episode is when Picard discovers he is a science officer. Rather than being content to live, he decides the only thing he should do is immediately go back and die. Picard just can’t handle being the little guy, and I find that hilarious at the same time as it is telling. It’s great.

Grade: A “A great episode that provides insight into Picard’s younger self, while also giving all kinds of opportunity for comedy and reflection.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was interesting to see the way history might be changed, but it lacked something special to make it great.”

“Birthright, Part I”

Plot

The Enterprise is docked at Deep Space Nine, a Starfleet-run space station. As the crew mingles with those aboard the station, Worf is approached by an alien who claims his father is still alive and a prisoner of the Romulans. While Worf struggles to discern whether he wants to pursue the information, Data experiences some feedback that leads him into having dreams, which awaken a new level of neural development for his Android brain. Ultimately, Worf tracks down the information broker, lands on the planet, and is captured by Romulans.

Commentary

What? We get to see Deep Space Nine in this one! I can’t wait to start going through that series again, and that glimpse really whetted my appetite for it.

It was cool to see Data having dreams and coming into discovery about himself. As Picard said, he’s a culture of one, and so he can explore meaning and the like within his own context. I wonder about how it is supposed to work, exactly. Allegedly the tinkering done around Data actually triggered the dream portion of his neural net a little early. Does that mean he will have trouble adapting to it? Or will it bring him to the next level more quickly?

The plot that follows Worf is vastly different, though you can see some parallels. Both Data and Worf are trying to seek out real aspects of themselves–for Data it is an encounter with his “father” in a dream world; for Worf, it is the sudden possibility that his father might have lost his honor after all. Each traces back their origins.

It will be fun to see how Worf gets out of this one–and how it develops, because it seems like the Klingons aren’t necessarily captives in a traditional sense.

Grade: A- “An interesting setup for more discovery of Worf and Data’s background.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “I particularly enjoyed the Data dream sequences.”

Links

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!

SDG.

Star Trek: TNG Season 6 “Aquiel” and “Face of the Enemy”

Time to kick some Romulan butt.

Time to kick some Romulan butt.

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.

“Aquiel”

Plot

The Enterprise investigates an interstellar com station when it goes quiet, but there is no one left aboard other than a dog… and an ominous looking pile of genetic goop. Geordi La Forge works to access the visual files of Aquiel, one of the two stationed on board, as Dr. Crusher examines the goop. Meanwhile Picard and gang interact with some Klingons who may have had contact with the station recently. Just after La Forge manages to get through Aquiel’s file, it turns out she’s alive and had been captured by the Klingons. Her story is tough to reconcile with the evidence as well as the previous records of both her Starfleet career and that of the man stationed with her, who appears to have been killed. Ultimately, it was actually a body-snatching crazy gelatinous beast that killed her coworker earlier, and then her dog… and tried to kill Geordi.

Commentary

Yep, that last sentence isn’t creepy at all. We’ll set that aside until later. For now, let’s focus on what works here. The mystery was sustained throughout the episode, in particular as you as the viewer learn, through accompanying Geordi, that Aquiel seems pretty normal and even personable. Then, you discover that she might be lying about some things and even distorting the truth, and her service record isn’t great; whereas the man she is saying started the violence has a stellar record. Seeing it through Geordi’s perspective gives it some credence of holding mystery for longer.

The biggest problem here is really hard to get over: it is extremely difficult to believe. Some random body-snatching/eating alien entity that is itself not really intelligent manages to take on not just the appearance but also the entire personality and job of the beings it consumes? Just by observing it for some period of time? It’s too much to take seriously.

Another problem was La Forge getting reverted to the inept male lead character. He’d done so well! But now, he falls in love with a video before he even meets the woman recording them. Alas.

“Aquiel” is not a bad episode, it just fails by providing a too easy (and too weird) solution to the questions it raises.

Grade: B- “An intriguing mystery that stretches the suspension of disbelief just a bit too much.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was an interesting episode, but some of Geordi’s actions in particular and the investigation seemed to be far-fetched.”

“Face of the Enemy”

Plot

Troi wakes up as a Romulan. Apparently she’s been captured by N’Vek, a Subcommander on a Romulan Warbird, and altered to help assist several high-ranking Romulan officials escape and seek asylum in the Federation. She is masquerading as a member of the Tal Shiar, the Romulan intelligence agency. As the Captain of the Romulan Warbird presses Troi, not quite believing her story, the plan starts to fall apart. Eventually, Troi takes the plan over, demanding to be given a say lest she blow the top off. She is able to coordinate with N’Vek to get herself and the defectors onto the Enterprise, but not before N’Vek is struck down.

Commentary

Maybe I’m a little inconsistent here, but I’m a bit more forgiving on this one regarding the “believable” factor. There is, I think, real reason to doubt that Troi would be able to pull off any kind of realistic imitation of a Romulan. Sure, they added in the device of her being “Tal Shiar” and so she wasn’t really to be questioned, but it seems like it would be extraordinarily difficult to, without warning, just step in to a role as an intelligence officer.

What makes up for it is the strength of the suspense and the tension. You can just–barely–believe that it is possible, because Troi manages to deflect the pointed questions leveled at her by the captain. And really, this episode is Troi’s time to shine. She kicks some major butt all over the place, giving orders, setting out demands, smacking down subordinates, and the like. She comes into her own in the role that was thrust onto her. This isn’t the Troi that we see too often: the Troi who is purely a victim of circumstance to be pitied. Instead, here, she takes the reins and drives her own ship.

The plot is pretty good in its own right. There is a great tie-in to Spock’s work on Romulus in the two-parter Unification. It is easy to believe that some would get disenchanted with the harsh rule of the Romulans–even those within the system themselves.

Overall, a great episode that finally gave Troi a chance to shine.

Grade: A “Troi rocked Romulus.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was a compelling story but suffered from once again, Troi being the victim of circumstances beyond her control. Though she did rise to the occasion admirably.”

Links

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!

SDG.