Star Trek TNG Season 7: “Genesis” and “Journey’s End”

journeys-end

Hey, let’s put this plot in the middle of a potentially great episode and ruin it? K? K!

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.

“Genesis”

Synopsis

Picard and Data chase a photon torpedo that veered off course, only to return to find the crew of the Enterprise has been turned into a bunch of animals. Apparently some disease infected them, which led to them “de-evolving” into lower forms of life. Ultimately, Data manufactures a retro-virus and while Picard distracts an angry Worf with pheromone sprays from Troi [!?] the crew gets better.

Commentary

Okay, this was a weird episode full of all kinds of problems. First off, devolve is a word… why did they have to keep using de-evolve? Is it because people might not get the concept? I don’t get it. Second, given that the whole crew has “de-evolved” into lower forms of life, how is it that pretty much no one except one crew member manages to end up dead? I’m pretty sure that the Worf-beast had some buddies of other sorts… how was this not a major incident involving the death of half the crew? That certainly seems much more likely than having everyone but one get better, naming a disease after Barclay, and high-fiving all around. Plus, why is everyone so cheerful given that one crew member, it seems, did die? They usually freak out when even one is in danger. Suddenly one crew member kills another in de-evolved state and no one cares? Come on.

Plausibility of this episode? Off the charts on the implausible side. What the heck? How could such a disease even happen? How could people just randomly turn into approximately human-sized animals? How could a cat turn into an iguana? What are Troi pheromones? It’s as silly as an old horror movie.

On the plus side, there was a serious sense of foreboding throughout the episode, enhanced by the weirdness of it all. The costumes and modification of various crew members was done well. It wasn’t a terrible episode… but it wasn’t great either.

Grade: C “They turned me into a newt. I got better.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “I thought it was an interesting premise but the short episode length left many questions unanswered.”

Mother-in-Law’s Grade and Comment: C “While I appreciated the premise, I would have liked them to have allowed actual engagement with the ‘de-evolved’ crew members to create obstacles along the way.”

Father-in-Law’s Grade and Comment: C- “Several things: the crew should have been able to recognize that something was happening and started some analysis or communicated with the missing Captain; then there’s the whole conservation of mass thing- where does all the extra hair and bone come from and where did it go?” 

“Journey’s End”

Synopsis

The Cardassians and the Federation have reached a way to ensure peace for some time, but it involves trading certain planets and colonies back and forth. One such colony has been inhabited by Native Americans–called “Indians” throughout the episode–and Picard is unwilling to remove them forcibly, as he is ordered to do if no other option presents itself. Meanwhile, Wesley is visiting and is super cranky, but he finds his answer to what he is supposed to do in the Traveler, who posed as a Native American in order to show him the next steps on his journey. Ultimately, the Native Americans decide to stay on the planet, basically staying in the Cardassian territory at their mercy, but working out some kind of deal with them to be allowed to stay.

Commentary

Okay, it’s obvious too much is going on in this episode. Moreover, it seems this is some kind of attempt to show the wrongs that have been done to Native Americans at the hands of Europeans, but it fails. It fails first, because they keep referring to Native Americans as Indians, which seems strange. It fails also because the Traveler is the most “spiritual” of all the Native Americans, and turns out he’s not one at all–he’s just some super-powerful being co-opting a narrative that should have been about other people.

It is really tough to figure out how I feel about this episode. I enjoyed much of it, but there was too much going on for any one aspect of it to shine. The concept was good–what happens when the Cardassians and Federation make peace but have to compromise–but the execution was poor.

Grade: B- “I’m not really sure how to take this one.

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “It was a good idea… it would have been better if they left Wes and the Traveler out of it.”

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 “Masks” and “Eye of the Beholder”

masks

Try sleeping soundly now, children!

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.

“Masks”

Synopsis

The Enterprise encounters an ancient object floating through space, which, when interacted with, begins to take over the systems of the ship… and Data. The problem can only be solved by acting out the ritual beliefs of the people who built the object, using Picard and Data as stand-ins for the Sun and Moon.

Commentary

Someone had a blast making the standard sets across the ship look completely changed by the pseudo-Mesoamerican invasion. I wonder how much of the special effects budget was blown on this episode making stuff look like ancient ruins and the like. Mesoamerica is one of the places I have focused study on in my non-fiction, non-philosophy/theology reading, and it was a delight to see the many nods to those cultures in this episode.

The main problem with “Masks” is how utterly uneblievable it was. I mean I get that replicators are a thing, but could they really have the resources and power to transform the whole ship? And wouldn’t there be some kind of failsafe–turn everything the hell off–type of thing? Or maybe just a manual reboot to reset everything to defaults? I don’t know, it’s tough to swallow that if they can bring people back from the dead with a transporter, they wouldn’t have thought through some of the implications of that.

Another issue was that this didn’t feel very much like a TNG episode at all. That’s not always a bad thing, but this was just… strange. It wasn’t one of those episodes where it worked as well as it should have. I enjoyed it, probably more than I should have, but I had to acknowledge it felt a little bit overdone… and underdone.

On a side note, this episode terrified me when I was a kid. Having Data–one of my favorite characters in any show–turn so fiendishly bad and creepy haunted me for a long time afterwards.

Grade: B- “An intriguing premise is marred by poor execution.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “It wasn’t bad, it was just creepy and weird.”

“Eye of the Beholder”

Synopsis

A crew member kills himself, and soon after in the same place Troi experiences some kind of psychic trauma. She begins to deteriorate, experiencing things that she couldn’t have known, and thinking that people are out to get her or hate her. Eventually, she manages to solve a mystery disappearance that goes back to the construction of the Enterprise.

Commentary

Troi being manipulated by psychic trauma! We haven’t done that one before, have we? Wait… oh well, let’s do it again.

This one was another really strange episode. Somehow we’re to believe that having something bad happen somewhere left behind a trace that Troi picked up? Why hasn’t that happened about a trillion times before? And why doesn’t it continually destroy telepaths capacity for interacting with society? I’m sure we could figure out some deus ex machina reason to explain this, but it seems easier to just say “Oh well,” and go along for the ride in the episode.

The sense of foreboding in this one was quite well done, and the way they approached solving the mystery by intertwining events that happened years before with those events happening in the present was intriguing. Again, it was an episode I didn’t hate, but it falls apart on closer examination. A really strange TNG episode overall.

Grade: B “It was really weird.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was a very interesting episode, but suffered from the mega plot-hole of being the first time we ever encounter ‘psychic residue.'”

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 “Lower Decks” and “Thine Own Self”

lower-decksI’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.

“Lower Decks”

Synopsis

The episode follows the story of a human ensign Sam Lavelle who is being considered for a new tactical slot alongside Bajoran ensign Sito Jaxa. As Riker and Troi look at evaluations and think on who might be the best fit, a civilian named Ben who works at Ten Forward learns and spreads gossip. Nurse Ogawa and a Vulcan, Taurik, begin to see there is more going on than just a crew evaluation. A Cardassian is on board and the Enterprise is working to get him back as a positive influence on Cardassians more generally. Ultimately, Picard sends Sito on the mission, but she is killed in the process. Worf mourns with the junior officers. (Fuller plot summary here.)

Commentary

“Lower Decks” is full of genius. First, the look the episode gives us at characters outside the bridge is phenomenal. Second, they used this perspective to increase the mystery quite well. Third, it builds suspense and mystery. Fourth, the main characters were utilized well.

Throughout this episode, it felt as though you as a viewer were sharing the perspective of those junior officers. It made the episode take on a very different “feel” from many others. Normally, we’d know right away exactly what is happening with the Cardassian on board. Here, however, the narrowed sphere of knowledge the junior officers has is our window into what’s happening, and it makes us have to think about what might be going on in a way that is so rarely the case in TNG.

Another astonishing thing about this episode is that it actually manages to introduce several new characters and develop them enough that I cared about them by the time it was over. Having the main characters interact with them helped, but they did a great job picking a diverse cast that played their roles well. Moreover, killing of Sito–yes, actually!–was a surprising move that made the episode even more emotionally impactful than it would have been otherwise.

Finally, the juxtaposition of poker games about halfway through the episode–that was an awesome scene. Well done all around.

Grade: A+ “A surprisingly deep look at life on the ‘other side’ of the Enterprise.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It was fun to have parallel lives, ensign edition.”

“Thine Own Self”

Synopsis

Data is sent to recover radioactive material from an inhabited planet it crashed on, but his memory is overloaded by an accident and he shows up in one of the local villages, with radioactive material in hand. As the locals interact with the radioactive material, they start getting sick. Data and Talur, the local scientist/healer work on trying to heal people while the village people blame Data for the illness. Ultimately, Data solves the problem and puts the cure in the well just before he is “killed.” He is rescued some days later by Riker and Crusher, but doesn’t remember what transpired.

Commentary

A certain kind of terror is evoked by this episode. It’s not the terror of a straight up horror story. Instead, it is the terror of, as a viewer, knowing something is desperately wrong, but realizing that no one can fix it. When we see Data carrying a box labeled “radioactive,” we know something is wrong. But then we learn that he has apparently lost his memories, and then people begin to open up the box and finger the radioactive contents, going so far as to make jewelry out of the contents… and we realize that we can only watch as people get sick.

Talur, the local scientist and healer, is skeptical of any notion that Data might be a demon, but ironically he becomes one, in a way, through the impact of the radioactive material on everyone. Indeed, there is a kind of tongue-in-cheek self-criticism of anyone who would throw out any notion of faith or spirituality, because Talur’s own skepticism is accompanied by basic misunderstandings of reality, including Aristotelian science.

All of this makes for a fascinating episode, but then we have Data somehow cure everyone, without a single loss. That simple solution takes away the force of the narrative and the impact it could have had. Moreover, Data doesn’t remember what happened or how. That makes the whole episode effectively a wash as far as impact on the world is concerned–though surely Data helped import some new inventions and scientific rigor. But imagine if he remembered how his mistakes had almost killed off an entire village through radiation poisoning! It would give the episode a completely different feeling at the end.

Grade: A- “An introspective episode that didn’t quite take its premise as far as it could have.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was kind of weird, but had many good moments.”

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 “Parallels” and “The Pegasus”

ParallelsI’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.

“Parallels”

Synopsis

Worf returns from a bat’leth tournament (something I’d like to witness) to a surprise birthday party, much to his chagrin. Things start changing, however, almost immediately. His cake flavor is different, but that is just the first indication things are changing. As the episode continues, larger and larger changes happen, with Worf entering universes farther from his own. Ultimately, Worf must go in a Shuttle among a horde of different Enterprises in order to seal the rifts between the worlds.

Commentary

Alright, let’s get this out of the way. “Parallels” relies a lot on what has come before. It serves up a heaping helping of fan service. The plot itself is pretty interesting, but only because we care so much about the characters. Now, if you cheat and scroll down to see the grades I give, you’ll be wondering why I’m saying this given the score I awarded it. The simplest answer is because… it’s a heaping helping of fan service and I want to eat it whole.

How many times do Star Trek fans sit around saying “what if…”?

The opening is fabulous. Surprise party for Worf, just when he thought he was safe. It was delightful to see his reaction as well as the gifts people brought for him. The final scene is also done very smartly. Worf has learned from his experience, and one of the things he’s learned is that Troi could be more than a friend to him. It is possible, in a literal sense (this sentence is not nonsensical if you watch the episode). So, what does he do? Bust out the champagne, baby! Gotta love it.

Grade: A+ “Give me more Worfs.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “Aside from a few plot inconsistencies, it was quite good.”

“The Pegasus”

Synopsis

Admiral Erik Pressman takes the Enterprise on a top secret mission to try to recover technology from the Pegasus, Riker’s first ship. It turns out things aren’t as cut-and-dried as they seem, however, as Riker has second thoughts about his siding with Pressman so many years ago when the crew of the Pegasus mutinied. The Enterprise races a Romulan Warbird to find the Pegasus, and finally discovers it half entombed in stone. It turns out that they were testing a cloaking device that allowed for shifting through solid matter as well, in direct violation of a treaty with the Romulans. Ultimately, Pressman is called out for his violation of this treaty and it seems severe repercussions will follow. The true story of the Pegasus will be told.

Commentary

The main problem with this episode is how hard it is to believe. First off, the crew of the Pegasus mutinied for what reason, exactly? The answer seemed to be because of the experiment with this hyper-dangerous cloaking device. But then as the episode went on it morphed into being about the ethical problem of the treaty with the Romulans. If the mutiny was for the latter reason, then it is interesting how easily fixed that problem was this time. If for the former reason, it is surprising how easily the Enterprise used the cloaking device not even intended for it. That raises the second difficulty: how exactly does a cloaking device that is designed for one ship (and failed) magically work for an entirely different ship and class 12 years later? What?

Despite these difficulties, the overall plot was pretty phenomenal. It allowed us to plumb Riker’s past and learn just how complex a character he is, while also maintaining serious suspense in the here-and-now. Particularly poignant was Riker’s own reflection on how much he has changed since his tour of duty on board the Pegasus and how he has come to realize he probably made the wrong decision. That’s a big thing to address, and for Riker to realize that must be an enormous weight. The episode also does a good job balancing the ethical questions it raises with more pragmatic concerns.

I liked the episode a lot, but it would have been better if they’d managed to make the core premise more believable.

Grade: A- “I enjoyed the intensity of this one, even if it stretched credulity a bit much.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It was a solid episode with some good ethical dilemmas. Riker 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.

Star Trek: TNG “Force of Nature” and “Inheritance”

Don't worry, we can ignore all of this after this episode.

Don’t worry, we can ignore all of this after this 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.

“Force of Nature”

Plot

Look, this plot is pretty convoluted so you can read a really lengthy summary here. Basically, some scientists work to show that high levels of warp are causing some kind of distortions across the universe, which are bad. In the end, the solution of limiting warp speed across the board was offered and accepted, and the Federation shares its findings with other people groups.

Commentary

Subspace emissions telescoping emitter proceed along the warp flux capacitor field.

I have now summarized a large portion of the episode. Seriously. It is insanely full of technobabble to the point where it just becomes completely meaningless. Yes, it was meaningless to begin with, but at least most episodes put the technobabble to some kind of purpose. Here, it seemed clear they knew they were talking about a charged topic (climate change) and decided to layer over it with so much obfuscating nonsense talk and hand-waving that they could appeal to the silliness of it all to say they didn’t mean it.

Another poor choice was to come to the conclusion that all ships would limit themselves to Warp 5 going forward. The moment they said this, you as a viewer knew it would never stick. It was the kind of one-off writing choices that seems epic at the time but cannot be consistently applied to the universe. Indeed, as I looked up the episode in the fantastic book Star Trek: The Next Generation 365 (a book that covers every single episode with plenty of backstory about how they were made and insights from writers, etc.), I find that the writers themselves discovered that it was the ideal driving the story rather than the story leading to the conclusions.

It’s not a bad thing to have current issues imported into a science fiction show, however, and the core of the episode is actually pretty enjoyable. It was a journey of scientific discovery, however incomprehensible it was made behind the nonsense words. And, realistically, isn’t that what Star Trek is supposed to be all about? It’s weird because this is an episode that is, on its own, solid. As a one-off, it wouldn’t have been too bad. But it just doesn’t fit into the rest of the Star Trek universe. It’s a misfit, but one that was ultimately more enjoyable than it probably should have been.

Grade: B- “Technobabble. Climate change. Technobabble.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “The premise of warp destabilizing subspace seemed a bit out of left field, but the crew’s solution was good.” 

“Inheritance”

Plot

Juliana Tainer and her husband come aboard the Enterprise. Juliana claims to be Data’s “mother,” having helped Noonian Soong (there are at least 3 common spellings of this name on the internet, by the way), her husband, construct him. Data is initially skeptical, but she seems to have memories only someone with such intimate knowledge could have, and her story seems to check out generally. However, Data’s suspicions are confirmed, in part, when it turns out she’s an android. She doesn’t know this, however, as a holochip from Soong explains to Data. Data must decide whether to tell her or not, and he decides against it, allowing her to achieve a humanlike life he can never fully attain.

Commentary

Data has a mom! …and she’s been turned into an android to support a mad scientist’s desire to perpetuate his wife’s existence with artificial life.

Family issues.

Seriously, though, this was quite an enjoyable episode. It created a genuine sense of foreboding–you felt the whole time Data’s “mom” had a larger story to her–but it took it a different direction from the nefarious plots or galaxy-changing revelations that have become the norm at this point in the series. Instead, it turns out that the only thing that is amiss is that the woman is an android made by a lonely genius.

The episode also played upon the moral issues that might come up with just such a scenario. Would you tell her that she’s an android? Is it right to do so? Is commitment to truth a higher good than the mental comfort of others?

These are not easy questions to answer, and Data’s answer is, ultimately, to conceal the truth. Interestingly, this may have been the most compassionate thing he could have done–a truly human action. Data’s character growth, again, shines in this episode.

Grade: A- “Frankenmom.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was a good character-development episode for Data, but lacked a sense of urgency for the story.”

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 “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.