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

firstborn

Father and son, together 4evah!

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

“Firstborn”

Synopsis

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Bloodlines”

Synopsis

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

Links

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

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

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

SDG.

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Star Trek: TNG Season 7 “Dark Page” and “Attached”

My face while I watched this episode.

My face while I watched 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.

“Dark Page”

Plot

Lwaxana Troi is having psychological difficulties. Initially, they appear to be linked to her attempts to communicate telepathically with a new race of telepaths–with potentially nefarious consequences–but it turns out that it is really Lwaxan’s own attempts to suppress a memory which are causing her distress. Deanna must enter into her mother’s mind to rescue her from the prison in which she has encased herself. She does so, thus revealing the truth of Lwaxana’s lost child.

Commentary

Ouch. This was a surprisingly thoughtful and emotional episode, starring Lwaxana Troi of all people.

I enjoyed it, but I also felt a little bit scared and uncertain afterwards. I wanted to run to check on my sleeping child to make sure he was okay. “Dark Page” preys upon that part of parents’ psyche: the knowledge that no matter what we do, something could always go wrong. No matter how much preparation, watching, and the like we engage in, something terrible could happen.

But then, the episode doesn’t just leave it at that. Instead, it turns to how we deal with great loss. It doesn’t offer an easy, stupid one-size-fits-all solution. Instead it just leaves the emotions raw and unchecked. With loss, we must not avoid the feelings we experience. That is what this episode tells us, and it hurts quite a bit to see it or even contemplate it.

There’s my analysis. As far as the actual details of the episode, I don’t think they matter much. This was an episode that was all about struggling with sorrow, and the plot was less important than the ideas it conveyed.

This is an episode that will hit you right in the gut, and leave you thinking for a while afterwards. Well done.

Grade: A “Right in the feels, there, Star Trek.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It was a remarkable and touching exploration of Deanna’s relationship with her mom.”

“Attached”

Plot

The Enterprise is dispatched to check out a planet that is petitioning for entrance into the Federation. Once there, they beam Crusher and Picard down to the surface. But wait! During transport, the two are intercepted and imprisoned by a rival faction who believe the Enterprise is at their planet to give military assistance to conquer them. They implant something into Crusher and Picard which is supposed to let their thoughts be read to see if they’re telling the truth, but when the two escape, they start to hear each other’s thoughts and experience agony if they stray too far from one another. Eventually, as Riker deals with leaders from each faction, Picard and Crusher manage to escape, ending the potential conflict… and the chances for the planet’s entrance into the Federation (for now).

Commentary

Can we just agree that Crusher and Picard need to just get married already. They love each other. They effectively admitted that to each other in this episode. There is so much sexual tension happening that it is ridiculous. And why not? Huh? Well, probably because they both love the position they’re currently in and neither wants to transfer or move for the sake of a relationship. At some point though, they have to realize they’re basically letting their chances for happiness over a longer period of time slip away! It’s driving me crazy.

As far as the rest of the episode goes, I think it was pretty entertaining. It’s a pretty fun concept: show what happens when someone is petitioning to enter the Federation who is actually insane. Yep. This is a planet full of madness, and they manage to put just enough of a facade of normalcy forward to lure the Enterprise into having to come see if they might be considered for entry. This does not go well for them.

I particularly enjoyed Riker’s bemused expression as representatives of the two factions were countering each other with ever-increasing levels of paranoia. You could just tell the thought that was going through his head: “Yeah… not recommending these crazies for entrance into the Federation.” Of course, he gave voice to that very thought shortly thereafter, which was just as enjoyable.

“Attached” is full of characterization as well. We learn more about Picard and Crusher’s backgrounds in ways that are touching and revealing.

The complaint I have is that we keep getting more and more relationships that seem like they should just be a thing, but instead are put off for whatever reason (see also Troi/Riker). Look, we’re in the 7th season of this series. Can we just have the people who are obviously made for each other get together? I like resolution, so it is starting to drive me bonkers.

Another complaint: how is it so easy to just intercept a transport in progress? Basically every time that’s happened before this, people end up dead. Here’s another of the endless examples where technology is used in a very inconsistent fashion throughout the series.

Grade: A- “Just get married already!”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “Yet again, Picard demonstrates his extraordinary ability to stay out of a relationship with Beverly Crusher.”

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 “Frame of Mind” and “Suspicions”

Riker is having a rough day.

Riker is having a rough day.

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.

“Frame of Mind”

Plot

The episode opens with Riker apparently in an insane asylum, being told that he needs more treatment because he apparently hurt someone. Turns out he is just practicing for an upcoming play on board the Enterprise. However, he wakes up later and it appears he is actually in an asylum that looks exactly like the set back on the Enterprise. As he tries to figure out what is going on, he continually shifts back and forth between the Enterprise and the asylum, trying to piece together what is real. He becomes convinced that the asylum is real, but then is apparently rescued by Dr. Crusher and Worf. Even this reality breaks down under investigation, time and again, until he finally awakens in the middle of some kind of brain surgery and manages to signal the Enterprise to rescue him.

Commentary

This one is like an episode of “The Twilight Zone.” It’s all over, with layer after layer of reality being peeled away throughout the episode until it is difficult to keep up. But it is never overwhelming, nor does it ever falter. “Frame of Mind” is a truly intense episode throughout.

There doesn’t seem to be a lot to actually comment on here, because the greatness of this episode is found in the suspense it carries through, not in any kind of depth of plot or characters. Riker, however, carries this episode quite well. It is not difficult to imagine become disillusioned with one’s own reality under the kinds of pressure that are shown being applied to his mental life in this episode.

So…. yeah not a lot to say but this is great viewing.

Grade: A “A great mystery that kept unveiling new layers in such a way as to keep the plot moving.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It was very well done.”

“Suspicions”

Plot

Dr. Crusher talks with Guinan about her attempts to facilitate scientific discussion between a Ferengi scientist who has attempted to develop shield technology to allow travel much closer to stars than ever before possible. However, in the process one scientist apparently dies in a test flight, and the Ferengi turns up dead himself, apparently in a suicide. Crusher attempts to further her investigation, but is thwarted at every turn, including by a direct order not to perform an autopsy. Guinan convinces Crusher to keep up the investigation, which leads to Crusher commandeering a shuttle to see if the Ferengi’s theory works. It does, but the scientist who apparently died in the test flight isn’t dead… and attempts to kill Crusher, who takes him down and manages to return to the Enterprise.

Commentary

The narrative that Dr. Crusher gives to Guinan as she describes her efforts as a scientific diplomat makes this episode have a little bit of a noir feel, and I love that. The plot itself is pretty strong, too, as we have not just the mystery of whether a specific invention might be viable to deal with but also a possible murder mystery.

It was fun seeing the plot develop and keep getting more and more interesting. I for sure thought that the Vulcan and/or her husband were responsible for the Ferengi’s death, so it managed to throw me off the scent despite having seen the episode before (hey, it was a long time ago, so I didn’t remember, okay?). The pulpy feel along with the complexity of the actual mystery are paid off pretty well with an ending that doesn’t feel too contrived. It’s just a really solid episode with some excellent work by Dr. Crusher. Plus she gets to roundhouse kick an alien in the face. How epic was that?

All of the positive feelings aside, there are some problems with this one. For one, how the heck does the apparently dead alien scientist manage to keep leaving the morgue without anyone noticing he’s walking around on board the ship? For another, if the Enterprise constantly monitors people’s condition and where they are on the ship, why have they still not integrated some sort of security system into that? Why doesn’t Crusher have more severe consequences (like getting thrown in the brig) for her clear disobedience and insubordination at points?

Ultimately, my answer to these questions was “Who cares?”  because the episode was too fun to let myself get bogged down with these concerns about plausibility.

I’ve been reading through the Star Trek TNG 365 book, which is excellent, by the way, and apparently the authors and the writers of the episode itself thought this one wasn’t very good. Well, you can probably tell from my comments–and our grades below–that we loved it.

Grade: A “Some hard to believe moments don’t do much to drag this one down. Another suspenseful episode.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “I enjoyed it. Crusher was a fun detective, but it felt a little odd for a Star Trek episode.”

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 5 “I, Borg” and “The Next Phase”

the-next-phase

The needs of the many… wait a second!

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.

“I, Borg”

Plot

An injured Borg is brought aboard the Enterprise, causing all kinds of chagrin among various members of the crew. As Dr. Crusher treats the Borg’s injuries, the crew tries to come up with a way to turn the Borg into a kind of silent bomb that would introduce a virus into the collective. They discover, however, that the Borg has learned identity as Hugh and “I.” The Borg, in other words, has in some way un-assimilated. Ultimately Picard and crew decide not to have him used to destroy the entire collective but rather hope that his re-assimilation will possibly share individuality with the Borg.

Commentary

You will be assimilated!

But seriously, this one is about a Borg’s assimilation into non-Borg society (see?). It’s quite compelling to see how the Borg act outside of being simply single-minded assimilation machines. Guinan’s character provided some balance to the other side, pointing out that the Borg show no sympathy and simply will continue unless impeded for all time. However, once she herself confronts Hugh, she seems not quite as ardent about the need to utterly wipe all Borg off the face of the universe.

What makes this episode so surprising is that it actually gets you as the viewer to empathize with a Borg. That is a true feat that is worth mentioning. It is hard to not still feel as though the smart thing would have been to eliminate the Borg, however.

Hugh turned to Geordi at the end, indicating that even after his reintegration into the Borg, he seemed to possess some sense of individuality. It will be interesting to see whether that impacts any future episodes at all or whether it is ever brought up. I can’t honestly recall it having any impact in Voyager or later in TNG, but I’ll try to keep my eyes open now that I’m watching them all in order.

The main complaint I had about this one is how hard it was to swallow the speed of the transition. Hugh is almost too human at points and it is surprising how quickly the transition takes place–and the crew’s buying into the transition is just as speedy. It’s a TV show so these things have to happen quickly, but it still felt rushed.

Grade: A- “I felt sorry for a Borg. Well done.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “I enjoyed it very much, but they could have done more with the crew’s response to having a Borg on board.”

“The Next Phase”

Plot

As the Enterprise assists a Romulan vessel that had an explosion, a transporter accident leads to the “death” of Ensign Ro and Geordi. The two crew members, however, are not dead but rather “phased” into a different level of existence. They are able to walk around ships, but also through walls. They are invisible to the crew. As they try to figure out what happened, they uncover Romulan subterfuge that would potentially lead to the destruction of the Enterprise. On a race to get themselves phased back into normal existence, they are pursued by a Romulan crew member who also suffered the same fate. Ultimately, they manage to send the Romulan hurtling through space and reappear at their own memorial service, saving the lives of everyone aboard the Enterprise.

Commentary

Wow, this one came out of left field! I remembered really not enjoying this episode before, and I think it is because of the dialogue between Ro and Geordi. Some time ago when I saw it, I interpreted it as an attack on religious sensibilities. I, being very religious, was offended.

Now, I being still very religious, realized that it was more a thoughtful discussion of the interplay between religious beliefs and their correspondence with reality. It was an interesting angle that was explored through Ro’s beliefs, and it actually seemed like it strengthened or reawakened her faith rather than jettisoning it.

The mystery surrounding the episode is very intriguing. Even without the raised stakes of the Romulans trying to destroy the Enterprise, there is plenty of suspense here. What would it be like to not be able to talk to anyone around you? What would you feel like if you just passed through everything and no one ever could interact with you? What would you do? The questions aren’t really explored, but I can’t help wondering about them. It’s part of what made this episode so good.

The race to save the Enterprise alongside being “phased” back into existence was great, and the scene in which Geordi tries to get Data to realize what is happening was absolutely delightful. The writers were able to mix some humor into the seriousness of the episode, while never losing the urgent tone. It’s a really awesome episode.

Also, can we officially say that Geordi has massively stepped it up? He’s had some good episodes in the past, but now it’s like every episode he has a major role in is fantastic. Way to go La Forge!

Grade: A “A surprisingly strong episode that reflects on some of the dangers of technology gone awry.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It had good action and characterization as Geordi and Ro dealt with their predicament.”

Links

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

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

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

SDG.

Star Trek: TNG Season 5 “The Perfect Mate” and “Imaginary Friend”

the-perfect-mate

Excuse me, but you random people all over Ten Forward need to back off.

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 Perfect Mate”

Plot

The Valtese and Kriosians have long been enemies despite sharing mutual origin. The Enterprise is tasked with hosting a diplomatic endeavor between the two, but it is discovered through some Ferengi interference that part of the negotiation is to be the gift from the Kriosians to the Valtese diplomat of an empathic metamorph–someone who can mold herself to a man’s every whim and desire. As Picard and crew–especially Dr. Crusher–struggle with the linkage to human trafficking, the metamorph herself, Kamala, begins to cause problems among males on board who are drawn instinctively to her. She, however, is drawn to Picard and after multiple interactions, imprints herself on him instead of the Valtese diplomat. Picard hands her off to the diplomat knowing that her interests and patterns are made after him instead, but that the diplomat cares little for Kamala.

Commentary

Whew, that plot summary took more than I thought it would!

Anyway, “The Perfect Mate” has some good acting in it from Kamala and Picard, and the concept is pretty interesting. How might the crew of the Enterprise deal with something that truly does confront the morality of Starfleet in a very blatant fashion. Kamala is effectively a sex-slave being gifted to another person, but she wants to be that herself. How to balance the possible Stockholm syndrome with the Prime Directive and the like?

Dr. Crusher is really the only one who evinces this concern to any high degree, and that made the episode a bit harder to believe. All the men are busy drooling over Kamala, which seems to be not only uncomfortable but sexist. Much of the concept is itself thinly-veiled sexism, as the thought is what man wouldn’t absolutely try to gain control over a woman who would imprint herself upon him? Self-control apparently goes out the window, and a scene in Ten Forward really highlights this as the crew’s men and some passengers all try to gain Kamala’s attention.

Picard is the only one who seems capable of exercising any self-control and even his resolve wains over time as Kamala continues her attempts to entice him.

Honestly, it’s all a bit weird and off-key. It doesn’t seem to fit with TNG and the concepts of the Prime Directive and the like we’ve had for the last several seasons.

Grade: C “Plenty of thinly-veiled sexism and a heaping helping of weird drag this intriguing concept down.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “The acting and the premise were both pretty good, though there were a few weird parts, especially the scene in Ten Forward.”

“Imaginary Friend”

Plot

As the Enterprise is exploring a region of space, a mysterious energy being enters the ship, ultimately passing itself through the mind of a little girl, Clara, on board and manifesting itself as her imaginary friend, Isabella. Clara’s father is concerned and she’s been seeing Counselor Troi. When her friend suddenly becomes much more real, things start to go wrong on the ship as it seems something keeps hitting the shields and slowing the ship down. Isabella seems keen on not being discovered, but ultimately attacks Counselor Troi. More mysterious beings are going to attack, but Picard manages to convince the being on board that they are not actually a cruel people.

Commentary

Welcome to the Twilight Zone, dear readers. That’s what “Imaginary Friend” feels like–a mystery that keeps you guessing while feeling a bit freaked out the whole time.

We all know there’s nothing creepier than possessed children–it’s the antithesis of innocence and darkness that is so off-putting. This episode banks on that and the girl who played Isabella did pretty well at being just creepy enough to not be silly.  This could have gone very awry, but instead it was pretty solid.

The whole time as viewers, you know kind of what’s going on but the adults are totally unaware and you know that you’d react largely the same way. It isn’t until Troi gets attacked that Clara is taken seriously, and this actually feels a bit like a possible calling out of adults to listen to warnings from their children.

Picard’s resolution of reasoning with Isabella before the ship gets taken over was really the only downside to the episode. It makes sense in a way, because Isabella is obviously not actually a child and Picard has great diplomatic skills, but it also seems odd that they’d send him and not someone who is better with children. It seemed a little bit deus ex machina, but not nearly as much as some other episodes have had, and not enough to ruin anything. It works, but only just.

Grade: A- “Surprisingly disturbing, ‘Imaginary Friend’ was an edge-of-the-seat ride.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B- “It was exciting and mysterious, but the ending with Picard seemed out of place because he doesn’t like kids.”

Links

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

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

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

SDG.

Star Trek: TNG Season 5 “The First Duty” and “Cost of Living”

Well, this is awkward to watch.

Well, this is awkward to watch.

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

“The First Duty”

Plot

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Cost of Living”

Plot

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

Links

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

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

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

SDG.