Star Trek: TNG Season 4 “Half a Life” and “The Host”

"Don't ruin this for me, Lwaxana. I want to be in a halfway decent episode."

“Don’t ruin this for me, Lwaxana. I want to be in a halfway decent episode.”

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.

“Half a Life”

Plot

The Enterprise is to help the people of Kaelon II try to rejuvenate their sun and so continue surviving. Dr. Timicin, a leading scientist from the reclusive people, comes aboard. As he conducts experiments, Lwaxana Troi, aboard for other reasons, quickly falls for him (and he for her). However, after the experiment ultimately fails, Dr. Timicin is recalled. It turns out he is to die, because he has reached the traditional age at which the people of Kaelon II euthanize the eldest generation. After seeking asylum, Dr. Timicin is ultimately convinced by his daughter (and others) to return home, despite not having finished his life’s work. Lwaxana Troi disagrees with the custom but utlimately returns with him.

Commentary

The first line of this episode is from Deanna Troi and ends with: “My mother is on board.” It is at this point I knew this episode would probaby be super hard to watch. But honestly, the shortcomings (i.e. the continued existence of Lwaxana Troi) are in part overcome by the episode itself.

The problem is that this is the kind of story which the writers apparently think is the only possible one for Lwaxana Troi–a parade of failed love interests. I caught myself thinking: Oh look, Lwaxana Troi throws herself at another man and something causes an epic failure in the relationship. 

Yeah, big surprise right? It’s unfortunate because if the previous episodes with the elder Troi had been able to establish any kind of decent rapport with her character as opposed to being utter drivel, it would be easier to sympathize with her and perhaps overlook the rehash of her story.

The main plot, however, is intriguing enough to cover some of the sins of the character. Indeed, Troi looks downright gracious when she finally gives in and goes down to the planet alongside her latest love interest in an act of solidarity. The episode really ends up being an intriguing look at the topic of euthanasia and the ethical quagmire that can be brought up around it. Dr. Timicin is a decent guest character with a pretty solid backstory and enough rapport with viewers to make us care what happens to him.

And heck, making Lwaxana Troi somewhat more likeable is an epic feat on its own. Not a great episode, but amazingly not terrible. The best moment: Picard trying to slowly worm his way around to avoid Lwaxana at the beginning of the episode, only to be caught. Hilarious!

Grade: B- “Performs a miracle: It makes Lwaxana Troi slightly less atrocious.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “It dealt with some difficult issues but overall was not super exciting.”

“The Host”

Plot

An ambassador the Enterprise is shuttling around, Odan, has hit it off with Dr. Crusher. However, when a militant faction causes an injury, it turns out that the body that Crusher had known was merely the host for a parasite that was the real intellect behind the man. They implant the Trill parasite in Riker for the negotiations, which leads to much akwardness as Riker’s body is guided by Odan’s mind and still loves Crusher. The negotiations succeed, and Odan gets a new host–a woman! Crusher can’t handle the craziness of changing bodies and the two depart on friendly terms.

Commentary

It seems we again tread familiar ground with a female character. Haven’t we seen Beverly Crusher get swept away by some random guy before? Well kind of. But parts of this episode seem to also mirror Deanna Troi in episodes like “The Price.” Here, it is Troi giving Crusher knowing looks and random insights about being in love. It’s almost like it’s the same dialogue/scenes just with the characters reversed. Very strange.

Speaking of strange, there are just too many plot holes here to take the premise itself as seriously as it needs to be taken. Where do the Trill get hosts? What of the host bodies? Did no one really consider the possible damaage to Riker? Who became first officer? What would have happened if the Trill took sensitive Starfleet data from Riker’s mind? The questions multiple interminably. Granted, this is science fiction–and Star Trek at that–so the suspension of disbelief is expected. However, that suspension can only be pushed so far.

Moreover, I wish that we could get more episodes that made better use of Crusher (like “Remember Me”). I get it, she’s a female doctor, so she apparently must have a love interest for her. But really? Do we? Pulaski got some episodes where she got to be an epic doctor as a doctor (like “Unnatural Selection“) so why can’t Crusher? And to make it worse, we know TNG can do it because it has done it before. I expect better, but maybe that’s a testament to how good season 4 has been.

Grade: C “Rehashed plot with a whole bunch of holes.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “Overall a good episode but not outstanding.”

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 3 “Captain’s Holiday” and “Tin Man”

Picard's outfit in this episode leads to images which will never be forgotten....

Picard’s outfit in “Holiday” leads to images which will never be forgotten….

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’s Holiday”

Plot

Picard is convinced to take a vacation and he goes to Risa, a luxurious vacation planet (apparently?) to take some time by the beach/pool and read some lengthy books. Life has different plans for Picard and he encounters Vash, an archaeologist who is being pursued by a Ferengi and trying to find the Tox Uthat (hereafter TU), a weapon from the future. Meanwhile time-travelers are also pursuing the weapon. Picard and Vash team up and go to find the TU but after encounters with the future-peeps and Ferengi fail to find it. Ultimately, Vash is confronted by Picard and is forced to reveal she already had the TU, which Picard destroys to the chagrin of all.

Commentary

Look, this episode is like a lost Indiana Jones movie (a good one, not one of the even ones) with Patrick Steward as the lead playing Jean-Luc Picard. Need I say more? No? Well I’m going to anyway.

This is one fun episode. The beginning of the episode is great, as a conspiracy to get Picard to take a vacation unfolds. Riker encourages Picard to go to Risa for the women, resulting in this funny exchange:  Riker: “Have I mentioned how imaginative the Risian women are, sir?” Troi: “Too often, Commander.” Dr. Crusher asks Picard to give his own prognosis and cure: vacation. Troi mentions her mother might be stopping by (DISCLAIMER: LWAXANA TROI IS NOT IN THIS EPISODE!). Picard ultimately must give in.

But the fun only gets started in the introductory scenes, as the premise of Picard taking the role of Indiana Jones and going off on an adventure to find a lost future weapon is just fantastic. Maybe it is my inner archaeologist speaking, but I love that Picard is into archaeology, and to finally have an episode feature this aspect of his character rather than just use it as an explanation for how he knows something is great.

The episode has many twists and turns which are at times a little over-the-top but in general are, I think, delightful. It’s like a pulp adventure translated to television, and it just works. This ranks among my most-enjoyed, and it gets there through its tongue-in-cheek narrative and winking the whole time while also showing off Picard’s character more than he has been in a while.

Also, on a side note, I think this was my biggest score-difference with my wife in an episode yet.

Grade: A “Indiana Jones…. in SPA-A-A-A-A-A-CE!”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: C+ “It was just unbelievable.”

“Tin Man”

Plot

A strange living ship has been discovered and the Enterprise must race Romulans to reach it. The Enterprise is also acting as diplomat transport to bring Tam Elbrun, a Betazoid with powerful empathic abilities, to try to communicate with the ship. Ultimately, Tam goes aboard the ship and stays, finally finding peace from his empathic dissonance.

Commentary

Here’s an episode that makes a dramatic turnaround. When viewers first encounter Tam, it seems we’re about to get another obnoxious character episode that–at least in the past–leads to some half-hearted attempt to garner sympathy. Here, however, Tam’s character experiences genuine development. Troi and Tam have a past, and their discussions about empathic ability adds great depth to both characters without seeming contrived. Tam is well-acted and he is able to make the character feel real in developing through the episode.

The Data/Tam sub-plot is also great, as Data’s lack of feelings means Tam cannot sense him, which ironically makes Data the ideal companion for a man constantly haunted by the minds of others. It is a great dynamic to add to the episode. Having Data round it off by pointing out that he “belongs” on the Enterprise is a fitting end to an episode about finding one’s place in the universe.

Grade: A- “Initially off-putting, the episode sucks viewers in with a solid plot and developed character.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “I enjoyed Tam’s character and the Tin Man resolution to the problem.”

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.