Star Trek: TNG Season 4 “The Mind’s Eye” and “In Theory”

"Computer, let's play a game." "Okay, Knock-Knock!" "Who's there?" "Romulan Warbird!" "Romulan... wha!?"

“Computer, let’s play a game.”
“Okay, Knock-Knock!”
“Who’s there?”
“Romulan Warbird!”
“Romulan… wha!?”

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 Mind’s Eye”

Plot

Geordi La Forge is heading to a vacation and seminar when his shuttle is intercepted by Romulans and he is captured. They brainwash him and program him to perform whatever tasks they want. Meanwhile, a Klingon planet is experiencing a rebellion and it is suspected that the Federation is aiding the rebels. The Enterprise is dispatched with a Klingon ambassador to investigate. Much evidence points to the Federation being involved, and Geordi’s mind control also leads him to send more evidence, but the timeline is forced forward as the non-brain-controlled Geordi and crew push the investigation. Geordi is ordered to kill the Klingon governor, but some quick thinking by Data saves the day.

Commentary

I was blown away by this episode from the great opening getting to see Geordi at leisure and then getting kidnapped all the way through the great ending.

There are two primary things that make this a superb episode (namely, a Geordi-centric episode that uses the strength of his character and a very strong main plot), but it also gets all the details right. Those details include the ongoing investigation Data is doing into the strange emissions which makes his detective work at the end of the episode out to be part of that rather than a kind of deus ex machina ending, great use of secondary characters, continuity with the broader plot happening throughout the conflict with the Romulans, and good music.

The plot itself is excellent, as it both ties in with the storyline of the Romulan-Klingon-Federation timeline and helps expose the notion that the Federation-Klingon alliance is not exactly airtight. There is real tension here as viewers wonder whether another step towards alienation between the two governments might be taken. The focus on Geordi is a smart move as his character is quite lovable but also rarely gets treatment apart from a string of failed love interests.

I also need to comment on the ending. This is how you end an episode! The closing scene opens with a close-up of Geordi adamantly arguing with Deanna Troi: “But I remember!” as he points to his head. After he describes some of his memories, Troi takes him back to the shuttle and leads him into it by saying “The first thing you did when you saw the Romulan ship was…” [I paraphrased here] and he just completes the sentence, then realizes this conflicts with his other “memories.” It’s a revelatory moment for him and one which just ties the episode off with just enough closure and ambiguity to get viewers’ minds racing. It is also a great moment for Troi, as she demonstrates her capacity as counselor in the most convincing way yet.

“The Mind’s Eye” is just a phenomenal episode and one that deserves a place among the all-time greats.

Grade: A+ 

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It had a great premise and an excellent character-driven plot.”

“In Theory”

Plot

The Enterprise explores a Nebula which leads to some strange occurrences with dark matter. Meanwhile, Data and another officer, Jenna D’Sora enter into a relationship after D’Sora comes to realize that Data is “perfect” due to his thoughtfulness and kindness (and Data’s questioning the crew about whether it might be a good idea). As the strange occurrences increase, the Enterprise is caught in a struggle to escape–led out of the Nebula by Picard in a shuttle. D’Sora ultimately realizes that Data’s lack of emotions is a greater rift to cross than she realized. They break up, but the ship is safe.

Commentary

Here’s a strong episode that doesn’t quite do enough. The main plot about the Nebula is mostly a backdrop for the drama between Data and D’Sora. It’s a nice touch to have the two of them working on the Nebula so that it doesn’t seem totally like two episodes thrown together, but the relationship is the star of the episode.

Data’s interactions with D’Sora are suitably hilarious, with his comments ranging from unintentionally insightful to blatant howlers. It’s a great way to explore Data’s character on the level of human relationships, even if it is just a bit hard to believe that D’Sora would think such a relationship could work. My wife and I both laughed quite a bit in this one, and it is a pretty fun episode.

The best part about the episode, though, is the ending, which turns the episode on its head from being a kind of lighthearted romp into a serious look at Data’s continued struggles. Data’s response to the breakup is just to query whether the relationship is over and then say that he will delete the relevant file. After D’Sora leaves, Data holds spot and calmly pets him while he blows out the candle. It’s a totally bleak ending that shows just how much work Data has to do yet to realize his goal of becoming “human” in a more relevant sense. His lack of emotions means that on a fundamental level he cannot connect to (or even genuinely care about) humans, and–in an almost dark twist–doesn’t even register the problem that this is.

Fun side note: this was apparently the first episode directed by Patrick Stewart (Picard).

Grade: B+ “An intriguing look at Data’s ‘humanity’ with a suitably bleak ending.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “The two plot issues were both interesting but didn’t work together.”

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: The Next Generation Season 2, “The Child” and “Where Silence Has Lease…”

star-trek-tng-enterpriseStar Trek: The Next Generation is my favorite television show of all time. That doesn’t mean it is completely without flaws. It just means that I love watching it, no matter what episode, no matter what’s happening. I have been getting the Blu Ray seasons and I figured why not go through the series,  a la AV Club (great reads on every episode, there), and talk about my thoughts? Maybe you’ll enjoy them. I’d love to read what you have to say on an episode-by-episode basis, as well!

I’ll give a reflection to each episode, and then I’ll give it a grade like we’re in school (A-F) based on what I thought overall. Yes, that’s copied off of AV Club, and I acknowledge their influence here. I’m starting in Season 2 because that’s where I am. I will one day go back to season 1, if demand is there!

There are SPOILERS in what follows, of course!

“The Child”

Plot

Flying energy-star thing impregnates Troi because it wants to experience what it’s like to live as a human (and betazoid, apparently). Wesley Crusher has to decide whether to stay with the Enterprise or leave to join his mom who is now heading some medical thing in starfleet. Speaking of the doctor, we now have Doctor Pulaski who is mean to Data. The Enterprise is transporting some volatile bacteria or somesuch, which is influenced by energy-starchild, so energy starchild immediately decides to die, thanks Troi, and takes off. Crusher decides to stay.

Commentary

Honestly, this was the episode in which I came to the awareness that I don’t completely 100% hate Wesley Crusher. Yes, that does mean I do not like his character, but I “get” the concept. I was watching and realized that although I knew Wesley wasn’t going to leave (having seen the whole series a few times, but never straight through), I actually kind of wanted him to stay. I don’t know if that’s masochism or because watching the series straight-through gives me a better idea of his overarching plot, but that’s the only reason this episode doesn’t get an “F.”

On that note, this episode is terrible. The scene in which Counselor Deanna Troi is being ignored by all the guys sitting around talking about what she should do with her baby actually has some poignancy to it as their words echo over her zoomed in face as they consider what she can or should do. I think there’s some attempt at a commentary there on how too often women’s voices are ignored, and the fact that Troi speaks up to ultimately make her decision (and Picard immediately says that settles it) is a near-nod to the show’s attempts to have gender equality, but against the backdrop of the whole episode, it falls flat.

There is no real acknowledgement of the notion that this alien creature violated Troi. Yes, it ultimately leaves her without a trace physically of its presence, but what of the mental scars from having an alien impregnate you, growing quickly to love it like your own child, and then watching it die in the space of two days? The episode is silent on this, and I find that pretty astounding.

Also, Dr. Pulaski is introduced in the most extremely obnoxious fashion possible. She’s completely dismissive of Data and scorns him for being concerned with how to say his name, and her bedside manner is just ridiculous. I think I remember her growing on me but wow this is a terrible start.

GRADE: D-

Where Silence Has Lease

Plot

There’s a “hole” in space that is neither matter nor energy. The curious crew of the Enterprise goes to explore it only to be enveloped by it. After some probing and an away team of Worf and Riker which has some spooky moments of exploring a sister ship of the Enterprise and the away team seeing themselves in two places, the crew discovers they are essentially being toyed with as if they were rats in an experiment. A godlike being reveals itself and demands to know more. It is curious, particularly about death, and kills a redshirt (sorry redshirt!). Then it decides to know more and wants to kill about 1/3 to 1/2 of the Crew. Picard will have none of it and decides to blow the ship. With only seconds left, the godlike being releases them, Wesley is pumped about the “bluff” Picard pulls while Riker points out he doesn’t think it was a bluff. Godlike being converses with Picard, the latter of whom notes they share curiosity.

Commentary

You know, when I started watching this with my wife, I initially groaned internally, because I remembered really not enjoying this episode very much. But I also had forgotten the plot, and as I watched it with seemingly fresh eyes, I realized it was actually a pretty interesting episode. Sure, it has the same godlike-being tampering with random human ship plot we’ve seen a bunch in Star Trek, but the way it plays out is really fun.

Worf/Riker exploring the ship is actually pretty spooky at points because you know something is wrong but can’t quite put a finger on it. The big reveal in which the godlike being is not as ridiculous as it is in other “godlike being” episodes, and it actually is put off long enough to allow the mystery to develop. Picard’s reaction is so awesome, too: “No, I’m not going to let you experiment on my crew, we’re gonna blow ourselves sky high instead!” (Not actual quote.) Seriously, very in-character for him. You’d think that there’d be a bit more of a protest, however, and that negatively impacts the believable factor of this episode.

Just an aside: I’m not saying “believable” is something that can be applied to “The Next Generation.” It’s sci-fi, there is major suspension of disbelief throughout. However, the way characters act through the show and our own experiences about how people react to situations is what allows us to have some sort of notion of “believable” (or not) when it comes to certain things. That’s what I’m saying above when I say it isn’t as believable as it may have been.

Overall, a pretty fun episode with a few flaws, including the really weird look of the godlike being.

Grade: B-

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!