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.

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

Are you okay?

Are you okay?

I’m going through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and reviewing every episode, complete with commentary and a grade from A-F. I’ve also included a score and comment from my wife, who has never seen the show before. There are SPOILERS for each episode below.

“Timescape”

Plot

Captain Picard, Counselor Troi, Commander Data, and Lieutenant Commander La Forge are on a runabout (fancy shuttle) heading back to the Enterprise when they notice something is wrong: they are experiencing strange temporal distortions that shift between stopping/slowing time and speeding it up. They eventually make it to the Enterprise, but it seems to be trapped in time in a battle with Romulans. As they explore the ship, they see various members of the crew in situations that appear to be under attack. However, as they look more closely, it appears the Enterprise is attempting to assist the Romulans, not under attack by them. It turns out that the Romulans managed to get some time-travelling babies in their warp core, which led to all the distortions. The four crew members work together to set everything aright.

Commentary

Beth, my wife, pointed out that the people selected are basically the top 4 that you would want to have solve problems. Picard is just an all-around problem solver with lots of general knowledge; Data has lots of concrete knowledge, though perhaps doesn’t score so highly on “street smarts”; Troi would give you insight into people’s states and the ability to sense life forms, along with counseling issues and figuring out people; La Forge is, well, a genius and basically will MacGyver any problem. You could argue that trading Picard out for Crusher might not be a bad idea, because they have enough general knowledge with Data to offset the loss of Picard, but his leadership might be missed. Anyway, long story short this is a great set of four characters to drive an episode.

What makes this episode particularly compelling is the way that we as viewers are made to evaluate the situation from the perspective of Picard and crew. We enter into their shoes, trying to discern what’s going on alongside them. We do, however, have the advantage of knowing the Enterprise was responding to a distress signal from the Romulans. Although Worf doubts that they should help, we have little reason to think that they turned around and attacked the Enterprise.

The main place this went astray was in just a little bit too much of deus ex machina. The episode didn’t actually need some kind of weird beings from another time-space continuum. It could have just as easily had something get generated accidentally by the Romulans’ ship, and then we wouldn’t have had to deal with the strangeness of the solution that was ultimately offered. Oh well. It was still a fun episode to watch.

Grade: A- “It was an exciting episode that put together some of the best characters to solve some problems, but it just had a little too much going on.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was fun to see the characters problem-solve, but it felt like there was a little too much crammed into one episode.”

“Descent, Part I”

Plot

The Enterprise investigates an outpost only to find that the Borg have attacked. When they fight, they see the Borg displaying emotions–and even Data experiences some emotions. They manage to capture one of the Borg, who challenges Data to confront his own pleasure in the emotion of anger and his desire to do anything just to get any emotion whatsoever. They trace the Borg ship back to a planet, trailing behind its trans-warp jump. When they investigate the planet, however, La Forge, Picard, and Troi are captured by the Borg, who are now working with Data… and Lore.

Commentary

The hardest part to believe about this episode isn’t the crazy Borg behavior, rather, it is how readily Data embraces the lust for violence just so he can have feelings. It just doesn’t go along with what we know about his character, and given that they’ve worked so hard to convince us he is a person, it is difficult to think that his past decisions and perspectives could so easily be overturned by manipulation of emotions. Sure, he’s not had emotions to deal with, but it is still difficult to swallow how completely he is willing to toss everything out the window.

This is a good set-up episode, though, clearly putting a bunch of balls in the air. Any time the Borg are involved there is a serious question about whether they’ll be stopped–and to have them act erratically ups the tension a bit. How many yellow-shirts will be killed in the two-parter (and have yellow-shirts become the new red-shirts)? Has Data really gone over to the dark side? Why is Lore the worst? Finally, will we at last get to see the phaser rifle get used? The question is whether they’ll be able to wrap it up in any kind of satisfactory fashion.

Also, can we take a moment of thanks for the fact the writers are taking Troi more seriously? Her discussion with Data about emotions was about the best conversation she’s had in the entire series.

Grade:  B+ “There’s a lot to swallow here regarding how different the Borg are behaving, and with how easily Data was manipulated.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was fun to see Lore back in action.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: TNG– For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.

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

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

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

I’m going through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and reviewing every episode, complete with commentary and a grade from A-F. I’ve also included a score and comment from my wife, who has never seen the show before. There are SPOILERS for each episode below.

“Rightful Heir”

Plot

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Second Chances”

Plot

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: TNG– For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.

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

I love everything about this picture.

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

I’m going through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and reviewing every episode, complete with commentary and a grade from A-F. I’ve also included a score and comment from my wife, who has never seen the show before. There are SPOILERS for each episode below.

“Lessons”

Plot

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

“The Chase”

Plot

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: TNG– For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.

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

Time to kick some Romulan butt.

Time to kick some Romulan butt.

I’m going through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and reviewing every episode, complete with commentary and a grade from A-F. I’ve also included a score and comment from my wife, who has never seen the show before. There are SPOILERS for each episode below.

“Aquiel”

Plot

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Face of the Enemy”

Plot

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

Grade: A “Troi rocked Romulus.”

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

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: TNG– For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.

Star Trek: TNG Season 6 “The Quality of Life” and “Chain of Command, Part I”

Get your motor running... head into the Jeffrey's tube... Lookin' for adventure...

Get your motor running… head into the Jeffrey’s tube… Lookin’ for adventure…

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 Quality of Life”

Plot

The Enterprise is on hand to evaluate some kind of particle stream technology at a space station to see if Starfleet will back it. The project seems to have everything going wrong, but an experimental robot–the Exocomp–appears to be doing great work on catching up. Then, they start malfunctioning. As Data, Geordi, and Dr. Farallon–the lead of the project on the space station–try to figure out what went wrong, Data begins to suspect the Exocomps may be alive. Work on the station is slowed down as Data performs a few tests and appears to be mistaken. However, as he goes back over the problem, he discovers the test did not actually reveal what he thought, and the Exocomps are alive. They are to be deployed as sacrifices to save Captain Picard and La Forge, who were trapped on the station , but Data interferes and the Exocomps save the day anyway, by sacrificing one of their own.

Commentary

Lots of plot to try to summarize here, but it’s a fairly straightforward episode despite all that. There are machines that, on close examination, appear to have attained some kind of self-preservation functionality. Are they alive? Data says yes, everybody else appears to say no. Ultimately Data is apparently proved to be correct.

There are some questions to be asked here, and the episode occasionally touches on them. One is the definition of “life” and what constitutes a life form. Others that weren’t touched go around the question of artificial intelligence. Is self-preservation really the best criterion for establishing that something is life? Could not an AI program generate self-preservation as part of its accomplishment of assigned tasks? Is life emergent or sui generis? These questions are barely even hinted at in the episode, but they keep popping up in my mind.

That’s what undermines the core of the episode: the execution just isn’t quite there. It skirts over some tough issues (those hit upon in episodes like “The Measure of a Man”) to make its point, but it gets their both too quickly–by ignoring questions–and too slowly–by having too much of the plot consumed by one question. It’s certainly not a bad episode, but it left a strange feeling afterwards. It wasn’t quite satisfactory.

Grade: B- “Not a bad episode, but a bit too roundabout in its execution.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “The premise was good, but the execution was lacking.”

“Chain of Command, Part I”

Plot

The Enterprise is handed over to Captain Jellico and Picard is relieved as he, Worf, and Crusher are sent on a secret mission into Cardassian territory. Tension has been rising along the border and Starfleet believes that the Cardassians are developing a biological weapon. Jellico clashes with the crew–particularly Riker–as his hardlined get-crap-done style goes against the more deliberative way the crew has been operating.

Commentary

This episode is intense! The Enterprise has a different captain, Picard and team are training for a secret mission, the Cardassians are putting on the heat, and the crew is struggling to deal with the swirl of changes around them.

Troi had a good scene when she went to Jellico and attempted to convince him that he was a bit over-the-top. She was roundabout enough to not get in direct confrontation, but also pointed enough to get her thoughts across. The scene just revealed how big a jerk Jellico is. One major question that remains in my head (and I suspected it wouldn’t be resolved in the next episode) is how such a hard customer as Jellico managed to be a Captain of some pure science vessel like the Excelsior class. I mean maybe it helps them get exploration done more quickly but wow he needs to take a chill pill.

Although the infiltration scenes were a bit of a stretch (the three of the crew kept talking in normal voices–even crying out at times–in a situation in which they would have needed absolute silence), they were still exciting. To discover that it was a trap was a thrill, even though I’d seen the episode multiple times before.

Overall this was a great Part I. A huge question is left wide open: What happens to Picard!?

Grade: A “The plot thickens! Traps are laid! Picard captured!

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was pretty good, but some of the things didn’t make very much sense, like the way they did the change of command. Also, why is he so annoying?”

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 “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.