Star Trek TNG Season 7: “Firstborn” and “Bloodlines”

firstborn

Father and son, together 4evah!

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.

“Firstborn”

Synopsis

Worf’s son, Alexander, is uninterested in becoming a Klingon warrior. He decides to take Alexander to a Klingon celebration, and Alexander begins to enjoy some of his heritage. However, an assassination attempt on Worf while the two are visiting leads Alexander to realize that he prefers to avoid the violence inherent in much of his cultural background. Meanwhile, K’mtar, a Klingon who has the credentials to prove he is to be trusted as a member of the family, arrives to try to help instruct Alexander. As he pushes Alexander to become a warrior, it becomes clear to K’mtar that Alexander will not be shaped in that fashion. He decides to kill Alexander, only to be thwarted by Worf. K’mtar reveals that he is Alexander and came back in time to try to get himself on a path that would save Worf’s life in the future. Worf notes that K’mtar has already changed Alexander’s fate and that they can go on a path that pursues peace rather than war. The father and future-son embrace.

Commentary

Wow, that summary made the episode seem a bit more straightforward than it was. This was complex episode, and one that had much going for it. Sure, it was unbelievable in many ways (don’t ask too many questions about time traveling or what happened to K’mtar after the episode), but the core plot was enough to carry this one in ways recent episodes haven’t been.

There’s something particularly touching about seeing a son driven to the heights that K’mtar was to try to change his destiny and the life he and his father would live. Moreover, the way that Worf acknowledged that K’mtar had already helped change… himself?… was touching in a way that you wouldn’t really expect a Klingon-centered episode to be. I admit I didn’t really mind the bit of lacking closure, in which K’mtar and Worf just hug and peace out, though it would have been nice to have some sense of what happened to K’mtar after this episode. The main issue is that right after this, Worf and Alexander’s interaction isn’t so much “Hey, Alexander, I affirm what you want to do/be” as it is “Hey, we don’t need to do crazy try to kill each other stuff right now.” Oh well, baby steps.

Let’s also acknowledge I’m heavily biased towards Worf-centric episodes. I love them. Worf is awesome. Please make a Captain Worf Star Trek series! Moving on…

Grade: A- “A bit of a rush at the end but overall this was a very strong episode.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was good acting and a good plot but it lacked something to make it remarkable.”

Mother-in-Law’s Grade and Comment: B+ “I appreciated the interwoven plot and action, but I wanted more suspense or foreshadowing.”

Father-in-Law’s Grade and Comment: B+ “More foreshadowing would be good, and the end was a bit of a letdown–future-Alexander just walks away. What happens to him?”

“Bloodlines”

Synopsis

DaiMon Bok is back and he threatens to kill Picard’s son. Wait, what? Yes, apparently Picard has–unbeknownst to him–a son, and the Enterprise goes to try to protect him. As Picard and his son, Jason Vigo, interact, Bok continues to make threats that he can, apparently, make good on. Picard’s son starts to have unexplained seizures, and Dr. Crusher investigates. Ultimately, Bok kidnaps Jason but when Picard confronts Bok, he reveals that Crusher discovered Bok manipulated DNA to make it appear Jason was his son, and the other Ferengi realize that the whole situation is unprofitable, abandoning Bok to his fate.

Commentary

I didn’t mention the very end, where Picard gifts a prayer stick to Jason that the latter had said was basically worthless before. It has new worth now, and that sums up what this episode has going for it. From the start, it seemed pretty clear Jason wouldn’t be Picard’s son. Illegitimate child with Picard? I think not. But the fact that Picard made such efforts to bond with Jason, despite the latter’s “disappointing” qualities, made this a great character-building episode. It was great to see Picard introduce his archaeological collection to his “son,” only to have Jason dismiss it as worthless. It shows that what we value is often highly subjective, and that relationships are complex. Not only that, but Jason’s character was also developed remarkably well over the course of the episode.

Can we finally get rid of DaiMon Bok? I don’t know. At least he makes it seem like the Ferengi may need to be taken somewhat seriously. The early seasons of TNG didn’t do any favors in that regard.

Grade: A “It had the right mix of suspense and feels. I liked it a lot.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It’s hard to go wrong on episodes that center around Picard.”

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.

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Star Trek: TNG Season 6 “Rascals” and “A Fistful of Datas”

A dream come true: Star Trek: The Ancient West.

A dream come true: Star Trek: The Ancient West.

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.

“Rascals”

Plot

A strange transporter incident leads to Ensign Ro, Captain Picard, Guinan, and Keiko O’Brien to have their bodies turned into those of children. As the crew tries to adjust, a treacherous Ferengi trap leads to the Enterprise being taken over. The bite-sized crew members have to work with children to take the ship back over, and succeed in the nick of time.

Commentary

I found this an absolutely charming and delightful episode. Seeing how each individual struggled with their new body was hilarious, but also at times endearing or even sad (as in Keiko’s case). Picard, of course, had a lot of trouble simply because he doesn’t like children. My favorite part was watching young Picard throw a fit and hug Riker, his “dad.” It was hilarious and advanced the plot.

The Ferengi are always a bit hard to take seriously as a major threat, but they did a good job here of making them more threatening by taking over others’ ships and being craftier than usual. Too often, they’re portrayed as just being stupid or greedy (or both), but “Rascals” cashed in on them being more nefarious and cunning.

I remember hating this episode when I was a kid. After all, why would I want to watch what kids were doing when I could see the cool adults solving all the problems? But now, adult perspective has made me think this episode is just quite a bit of fun to watch.

Grade: A “Surprisingly fun, ‘Rascals’ was a treat to watch.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It was delightful. Also, ‘A+’ to whoever got the same actor to play little Whoopi that played her in Sister Act.”

“A Fistful of Datas”

Plot

The Enterprise has a few days to wait for a rendezvous and as they do so, Geordi and Data attempt to make Data into a backup of the computer system. Meanwhile, Worf and Alexander are joined by Troi as they go to the holodeck to enjoy a Wild West (as they call it, “ancient West”) adventure. Data’s interfacing with the computer, however, leads to his neural network weirdly integrating with parts of the recreational systems on the ship, including the holodeck. As systems on the ship go haywire, Worf, Alexander, and Troi are put in terrible danger as Datas begin to take over the holodeck simulation. Ultimately, they manage to play out the story of the ancient West and Geordi/Data get Data’s brain out of the computer.

Commentary

Genre-blending can sometimes go terribly… TERRIBLY! Other times, it is awesome. Here, we have a mash-up of science fiction and wild west and it goes quite well indeed (of course, I would be remiss to mention Firefly around as another example done right).

First, the opening was hilarious. Picard just trying to relax while the whole crew comes to him with various requests… then Worf trying to get out of the time in the West with Alexander.

It was funny to see Data taking over various personages in the holodeck simulation–the amount of outfit changes he must have had to do for this episode! I laughed out loud a couple times as the transition continued. It feels like a generic shootout set-up (though with strong tones of the movie Tombstone, which is fantastic), but you don’t mind because having it mixed in with the science fiction elements just makes it all work together smoothly–or at least more smoothly than one might expect.

The episode comes full circle at the end when Worf tells Alexander the Ancient West needs its sheriff and deputy. It’s just so fun.

Grade: A “Who wouldn’t want to mix Wild West adventure with Star Trek?”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It also was delightful!” 

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 5 “The First Duty” and “Cost of Living”

Well, this is awkward to watch.

Well, this is awkward to watch.

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 First Duty”

Plot

The Enterprise is headed to earth and as they are inbound they discover that Wesley was involved in a training accident. He’s going to recover, but one of the five members of his flight crew was killed and an investigation is launched. As the inquiry continues, it turns out that the four remaining members have agreed to conceal their attempt to perform a highly dangerous maneuver and have instead appealed to the dead member making a pilot error that led to his death. Geordi and Data, however, discover that plasma ignited at the same time as the inquiry reveals a picture of the training craft in an unreported formation. Picard confronts Wesley and tells him that if he doesn’t come out with the truth, he will. Wesley does tell the truth, which leads to the leader of the flight crew being expelled and permanent reprimands on the rest of their records.

Commentary

The approach taken with the plot of this episode was thought out very well. As observers, we can tell something is wrong with Wesley, and as we see the pressure being put on him and the rest of the team by their flight leader, we can see that there is more to the story than meets the eye. But we don’t find out exactly what happened until about the time Picard reveals his own knowledge of it to Wesley following the investigation run by Geordi and Data.

Thus, we can understand Dr. Crusher’s concern and confusion regarding the situation and how the picture that demonstrates the falsehood of the flight crew’s story must be mistaken. There doesn’t seem another explanation. But the explanation is simple: they’re lying. It’s something that seems to go beyond the bounds of what we normally expect from Star Trek’s normally squeaky-clean world.

“The First Duty” is uncomfortable in that it makes us see things from both sides of a tragic event. The manipulative comments from the flight leader add to this discomfort. Picard’s epic tongue-lashing of Wesley seems both appropriate and well-deserved and it fits into the conversations Picard had with the groundskeeper.

I really loved this episode. Wesley has come into his own.

When my wife came up with a good score, but I gave it a super high score, I explained my reasoning to her thus: “It was like we got to witness all at once the threads that were put in place for Wesley’s development blossom and turn him into a beautiful flower, but then we watched it whither, only to be revivified in greater, but tarnished glory by Picard.”

Yep, that’s about how I feel about this episode. It was phenomenal.

Grade: A+ “It initially made Wesley suck, but then made him surprisingly admirable. Well done.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was interesting but it lacked the gravitas of better episodes.”

“Cost of Living”

Plot

Lwaxana Troi comes to the Enterprise to get married. As she struggles to deal with the implications of an arranged marriage, she tries to guide Alexander in his own path to self-awareness and freedom. They play around on the holodeck as tensions increase between Troi and her betrothed. Finally, she realizes that, like she did for Alexander, she needs to be herself. She shows up to the wedding in traditional Betazoid fashion: naked. The wedding is called off as her betrothed and his adviser are horrified and leave.

Commentary

This is an all-around weird episode. The interactions on the holodeck are a bit whimsical but also kind of creepy. The way that Lwaxana Troi tries to take over parenting of Alexander from Worf is left largely without comment. But there are a few things to like here as well. Troi becomes just a little bit less awful here–something it’s hard for me to admit–as she tries to realize her own needs alongside navigating Alexander towards his. There’s a kind of endearing sadness to Troi’s situation that makes you sympathize with her. Seeing her betrothed and his adviser absolutely flipping out about every little piece of protocol only added to the sympathy that was generated for Troi.

But really, having Alexander walk around saying random nonsense was a bit too much for me. Just stop it. Also, mud bath awkwardness. Just a weird episode.

I was surprised by the score difference between my wife and I here. She really liked it. I thought it was okay. I suppose my deep dislike of Lwaxana Troi might have contributed, but I just thought the episode was super weird.

Grade: C+ “Lwaxana Troi only barely ruins an episode. But seriously, this had some touching moments that were marred by a sense of strangeness and a throwaway side-plot.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It did a nice job exploring the challenges of responsibility and carefree living. It also had some very fun visuals in holodeck-land.”

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 5: “Power Play” and “Ethics”

ethics

Oh, what are we up to now? Casually casting aside centuries of medical ethics and practice, are we?

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.

“Power Play”

Plot

The Enterprise investigates a distress call only to have O’Brien, Troi, and Data taken over by alien energy beings. They attempt to hijack the ship in order to bring aboard more of their beings, but their initial attempt fails, only to have them instead take hostages in Ten Forward. As the hostage situation continues, the crew attempts to find ways to thwart the aliens, which largely only infuriate them more. Ultimately, Dr. Crusher finds a way to put the beings in stasis, just in time to save the ship.

Commentary

“Power Play” is a pretty intense episode based on a premise we’ve seen plenty of times before: foreign entities attempt to take over the ship. The reasons it managed to avoid feeling like a major case of deja vu were first, by involving secondary characters deeply in the drama and danger; second, by making tertiary characters more central; and third, by having just enough twists to keep viewers interested.

It was a great decision to make Chief O’Brien and Ensign Ro deeply involved in the plot, because it made the episode feel fresh despite having a plot that has largely been done before. Moreover, involving characters like Keiko O’Brien in the danger as well, because this made it feel as though someone might actually be in danger. Again, we know that unless an actor decides to leave, no main character is going to die off in TNG, so when characters who might recur show up and get in danger, it feels more real than when Riker gets in trouble for the hundredth time.

The plot itself is straightforward, but having the twist where the aliens weren’t actually what they claimed to be–marooned Starfleet people–was a bit unexpected and made it seem all the more genuine.

Also, here’s an epic quote:
Data: “Lieutenant, I must apologize for my inadvertent misconduct toward you.”
Worf: “No apology necessary.”
Data: “Your restraint was most remarkable.”
Worf: “You have no idea.”

“Power Play” is the kind of episode that could have gone very poorly, but featured enough unique plot points to rehash a similar story without feeling old or overdone.

Grade: B+ “Engaging and foreboding, ‘Power Play’ is enough to keep viewers entertained.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “I really enjoyed the suspense of figuring out who was possessing their bodies and the problem-solving that the crew went through. Also, Dr. Crusher saves the day!”

“Ethics”

Plot

Worf gets severely injured and may have permanent paralysis. This leads to his decision to try to end his own life, because for a Klingon, his life may as well be over. As the crew struggles to come to grips with this decision, Dr. Crusher has a showdown with Dr. Toby Russell, a neurological specialist, over whether to try a risky procedure that could regrow Worf’s spine. When tested methods fail to satisfy Worf, he makes the decision to ask Riker to help end his life. Riker argues that Worf must instead ask Alexander and explain it to his son. Dr. Russell, however, intervenes and suggests the risky surgery to Worf, who accepts. After apparently dying in surgery, Worf pulls through and it appears his functions will return to normal. Dr. Russell receives a stern lecture from Dr. Crusher.

Commentary

There are lots of lectures and even tongue-lashings in this episode, which was largely an exploration of ethical problems related to medicine and euthanasia. Despite this focus on the ethical questions the episode raised, there is a solid amount of plot here, even acknowledging the mostly throwaway side plot of a rescue mission the Enterprise is taking on. Sure, it’s not full of action, but the plot here centers around the characters, and the amount of investment the series has put into these characters shows through.

See, I think it must have been a tough sell to say “Let’s make an episode in which most of the main characters spend the whole time talking.” But, it weirdly works. Riker’s reservations about helping Worf were spot on. Picard’s insistence on maintaining respect for different cultural norms was also in character, though perhaps a bit more heated than one might expect. Dr. Crusher’s insistence on thoroughness and her scathing critique of Dr. Russell is probably the highlight of the episode. At the end, she acknowledges that the risk saved Worf, but her lines about the need for medical procedure and testing in environments with less risk was both in character and also on point.

The acting throughout is also great, which it would have to be if we’re supposed to believe the people are actually struggling with the issues being raised. Even Worf’s interactions with Alexander were touching.

Perhaps the biggest issue with the episode is one hinted at in the previous episode: as a viewer, you pretty much know Worf will pull through. I mean I knew this because I’ve seen the series and Deep Space Nine, but even before, you always knew the main characters would somehow make it out. I’m not sure if this episode would have worked if they had chosen a secondary or guest character to be the focus of the episode, but it would have been more dramatic as a viewer to have someone to whom something like paralysis or death could actually be permanent.

Overall, though, the episode was intriguing and emotionally powerful. It wasn’t the most exciting episode, but it was good to watch.

Grade: B+ “Lots of lecturing, but the questions it raised were deep, and the drama centering on Worf was very solid.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “‘Ethics’ featured some excellent acting but the story suffered from unexplained canister collapse and too many monologues.” 

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 4 “Legacy” and “Reunion”

Worf's father-son training culminates in: "This is how you cut some fools!"

Worf’s father-son training culminates in: “This is how you cut some fools!”

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.

“Legacy”

Plot

A Federation vessel sends a distress call from Turkana IV, birthplace of Tasha Yar. The Enterprise goes to investigate, discovering the crew has been captured by a faction on the planet. When an away team beams down, they further discover that Tasha Yar had a sister, Ishara, who is deeply entrenched in one of the factions. Picard and crew–particularly Data, interact with Ishara throughout the episode, learning more about her and Tasha (and finding many parallels) in the process. They also plan a rescue of the captured Federation personnel. After taking out a tracking device in Ishara used by the factions to keep balance, Ishara uses the rescue mission to try to bring down the security system of the rival faction. She is discovered by Data, whom she threatens to kill before he manages to stun her and halt disabling of the system. Ishara is beamed back to Turkana IV after a brief discussion with various crew members.

Commentary

Whew that was a long summary. The episode has a lot going on, but to the writer’s credit, it never feels disjointed or too convoluted. You knew you were going to run into something related to Tasha when the planet was announced, but to find a sister was an interesting twist. Moreover, the best part of the episode was seeing how Ishara manipulated the crew, who had the best intentions but each projected their own desires onto Ishara. It serves up a great commentary on human nature and the way we often do try to see things the way we want them to be rather than as the way they are.

Data’s parting line to Ishara is epic. After a heartfelt mini-speech from her about how she felt Data could be a friend, he just says “Energize.” Data has no time for betrayal! His brief conversation with Riker afterwards adds to the interest of his character in the episode.

Grade: B+ “It’s pretty amazing that the series can make an episode about a character who’s been gone for three seasons without her even being in it and make it good!”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was a neat way to get some backstory for Lieutenant Yar.”

“Reunion”

Plot

The Enterprise is approached by a Klingon warship with Ambassador K’Ehleyr–Worf’s earlier fling–aboard. Turns out Worf has a kid! The Klingon Chancellor is dying and has selected Picard to determine who will be the next Chancellor because he fears betrayal in the Empire. Gowron–a seemingly shady Klingon willing to bribe/threaten–and Duros–the one whose family betrayed the Empire and Worf took the fall for in “Sins of the Father” are contending for the title. Picard arbitrates the meeting as an investigation into various acts continue and Worf becomes familiar with his son while also

Commentary

“Reunion” was another episode that had a ton of plot points happening. Many more are summarized here.

K’Ehleyr’s line to Gowron- “You talk like a Ferengi!” Oh my goodness that was an epic line.

But the epic lines weren’t all that went right in this episode. The entire plot was phenomenal, as we got to experience more of Klingon culture with the right to lead the Klingon High Council up for grabs. Worf hunting down Duros after he assassinates K’Ehleyr and fighting him to the death is a fitting end for the traitor. It was also surprising becuase I definitely thought that someone would stop him in the act. Having Picard issue an official reprimand was totally in character as well.

The addition of Alexander–Worf’s son–to the cast, I know, has implications later, but for now it was a unique device that ties Worf more intricately into a broader storyline of his own development riding the line between civilizations. I would also be remiss not to mention the introduction of the Bat’leth–the Klingon weapon (seen in picture)–and the cultural background of the Klingon Empire added into this episode. It’s just awesome.

So much happens in this episode that is awesome. It’s hard to even try to list everything. There is also enough ambiguity to keep viewers absolutely enthralled waiting for the next plot entry. Sure, Duros is dead, but what will happen with the Klingon Empire now that it is lead by someone willing to resort to bribery (and who really did work with the Romulans)?

Grade: A+ “An epic episode with great acting, a sweet plot, and some truly amazing moments.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “The whole story was compelling and the acting was great.”

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.