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

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

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

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

“Half a Life”

Plot

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Host”

Plot

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

Links

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

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

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

SDG.

Star Trek: TNG Season 4, “First Contact” and “Night Terrors”

"Lwaxana Troi is coming back to another episode? NOOOO!!!!!"

“Lwaxana Troi is coming back to another episode? NOOOO!!!!!”

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.

“First Contact”

Plot

William Riker is captured on a mission in which he and other Starfleet personnel were trying to learn more about a people they were going to make first contact with on behalf of Starfleet. The crew of the Enterprise attempts to initiate contact and get Riker back, but factions within the planet’s people themselves try to prevent the change that they are afraid of. Finally, Riker is involved in an altercation as an alien tries to fake his own murder and blame it on Riker. Riker is rescued and the man treated, but ultimately the people decide not to enter the wider universe yet.

Commentary

Wow, at some points this really felt like an episode of The Original Series. The alien coming on to Riker, the campy overall feel of several scenes, each hearkened back to TOS. This can be a good thing, but here it felt deeply out of place in an episode that needed to be taken more seriously in order to really reach the heights it aspired to. The campiness takes away from what is a serious premise and insight into the way Starfleet operates in making contact with others.

Frankly, it is the latter part that really carries the episode. It’s such a fascinating look into the comings and goings of Starfleet life. We knew generally that of course they made contact with other peoples, but never before (at least in TNG), have we seen this in action. It was so interesting to see this that it, again, felt very jarring when the tone was changed from serious to tongue-in-cheek and campy. However, even with the occasional difficulties, this was a great way to experience Starfleet life in a way we hadn’t really seen before.

What did you think of the campy parts? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments.

Grade: B+ “A solid episode about the way Starfleet makes contact.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “The pace was a little off in some places but overall it was a great episode showing the first interactions with a new people.”

“Night Terrors”

Plot

The Enterprise investigates the scene of another Starfleet ship which has been stuck adrift. Everyone on board other than one Betazoid is dead, but there is no apparent explanation. Unfortunately, the Enterprise also finds itself stuck adrift and as the crew tries to get underway again, they also start to experience hallucinations, erratic behavior, and fear. Dr. Crusher finds that they aren’t having dreams–except for Troi. Troi’s dreams turn out to be a message and she works with Data to set up a way to escape from the situation.

Commentary

It’s hard for Star Trek to do horror, but “Night Terrors” shows that TNG is capable of at least maintaining a very strong sense of foreboding throughout an episode. There are some moments that are creepy, and apart from some cheap attempts at thrills–like the snakes in Riker’s bed–most feel genuinely intense–like the scene with Crusher in the morgue. It’s an impressive effort made even more noteworthy because it could have gone so poorly. It could have been very cheesy, and it wasn’t. Kudos!

The main plot is fairly thin–the Enterprise must get unstuck. But that doesn’t really undermine how thrilling the episode was overall. A very cool episode, even if it is a throwaway plot.

Grade: A- “A real sense of foreboding accompanied by an intriguing problem make this episode memorable.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “A Great premise and good acting.”

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 4- “Data’s Day” and “The Wounded”

Data, this might not be the right kind of dancing for a wedding...

Data, this might not be the right kind of dancing for a wedding…

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.

“Data’s Day”

Plot

Data is recording his day aboard the Enterprise in order to send it on to Starfleet to study the observations of an android. The day involves Chief O’Brien’s marriage to Keiko, Romulans and a potential diplomatic emergency, and the standard routines of Data’s day. It turns out the ambassador the Enterprise is ferrying is actually a Romulan spy that is now returned to them, and Data acts as father of the bride in Keiko’s marriage to O’Brien (after some ups and downs).

Commentary

An episode narrated by Data! What could possibly go wrong?

Well, actually, not much. It’s a very solid episode that introduces Keiko–O’Brien’s fiancee/wife–along with following Data throughout a day. The Romulan subplot (more on this below) is introduced to add suspense. Data’s breaking of the news regarding Keiko’s decision to cancel the wedding with Miles O’Brien was hilarious. The integration of humor throughout the episode helped keep it from ever getting bogged down. Data learning to dance with Dr. Crusher was another fun and very believable bit of the story.

The best part of the episode is how it simply shows what Data does throughout a day. People who have watched the series this long are necessarily drawn to learning more about the “mundane” activities of the ship, and “Data’s Day” is simply fantastic at showing some of these details. One is the way the ship powers down the lights for the “night watch”–a nod to a potential human need to experience “night” even aboard a ship going all over the galaxy. Little tidbits like these are welcome and infuse TNG with some reality that is totally endearing.

Perhaps the only real shortcoming of the episode is that it tries just a little too hard. The Romulan plot is frankly superfluous. Though interesting, the episode could (should) have jettisoned it without any loss. Simply following Data’s life throughout one day would have been enough without the attempt to add suspense to the situation.

That said, “Data’s Day” is just a really fun episode that blends a conspiracy, a wedding, and a standard day into one. The insights into life on board the Enterprise was welcome and surprising. It’s so fun to see the show succeed at an episode that could have gone terribly wrong. Well done!

Grade: A- “A pretty awesome blend of three episodes that actually works.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was a fun change of pace from the normal episode structure and Data was delightful.”

“The Wounded”

Plot

A Cardassian ship attacks the Enterprise, claiming the Federation has violated the treaty with the Cardassians and that they are at war. After tensions are calmed momentarily, Picard is instructed by Starfleet to investigate and the Enterprise brings aboard some Cardassians as they explore the possible misunderstanding.

Commentary

Miles O’Brien gets even more screen time in this episode and that is a very good thing. He really does not like the Cardassians, though through the episode he seemed to be in denial of this fact. Finally, he comes to realize he hates his own confrontation with killing and the atrocities of war. He integrates this into his discussion that convinces the renegade Captain Maxwell to stand down in a frankly stirring scene reflecting the loyalty bought by side-by-side struggles. O’Brien is just spectacularly acted by Colm Meaney and I can’t wait to see more of him. The ascent of O’Brien in TNG has come to glorious fruition and to see him carry an episode in many ways was just fantastic.

The moral questions found in the episode related to war are also worth mention. Retaliation is not justice, and the episode does a fantastic job of introducing this concept through its narration of events and the use of Captain Maxwell. The increasing tension as we watched Maxwell blow away Cardassians on-screen was done really well simply by showing red blips disappear. It was a great juxtaposition of simplicity–blips representing ships–and reality–those ships were 650 deaths. Questions of the morality of these actions were not overdone and the subtlety with which they were conveyed was done quite well.

The Cardassians themselves are an intriguing race. Seemingly warlike, but not tempered by the same concepts of honor that the Klingons have or the subtlety of the Romulans, they present what feels like a more imminent threat than some others introduced in the series.

The final conversation between Picard and Gul Macet was a great way to close out the episode and show that some ambiguity remains in the relationship between the Federation and the Cardassians.

“The Wounded” is an impassioned narrative that deserves its place among the great episodes of TNG.

Grade: A “The introduction of the Cardassians to the universe is a stirring story of conspiracy, morality, and loyalty.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was fun to meet a new race and the storyline was very good.”

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 4 “Remember Me” and “Suddenly Human”

You're crazy! Why would we not have at least 5 seats on the bridge for a crew of 2?

You’re crazy! Why would we not have at least 5 seats on the bridge for a crew of 2?

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.

“Remember Me”

Plot

A friend of Dr. Crusher’s comes aboard ship, but promptly disappears without a trace–even a paper trail. Wesley was apparently doing some warp field experiment around the time it happened. Time goes on and more and more crew members disappear, without anyone having any memory or any record of them ever existing. As the crew dwindles down more and more, Dr. Crusher races to figure out what’s happening. However, it turns out she’s actually the one trapped inside the warp field and Wesley and others are trying to rescue her. Finally, she manages to put her trust in the notion that “her” universe is not the “real” one and jump through a closing portal to safety.

Commentary

Once again, TNG proves it is capable of carrying episodes purely on individual character on the crew. Dr. Crusher is marvelous in this episode, as she deals with the sense of impending doom and possible insanity as people continue to disappear with only her realizing it. We as viewers know right away that it is almost certainly due to Wesley’s experiment (which, by the way, he never gets in trouble for–can we ever get some consequences for this guy’s mad scientist experiments?), but the twist of having Beverly being the one who is taken rather than the others is what makes the episode really hit home. She has to figure out what’s going on from the perspective not of preventing it–her instinct–but of being the one trapped. That’s what keeps “Remember Me” going throughout, and it’s a great ride.

The plot is really thin, but the mystery of it allows it to carry through the whole episode without ever feeling slow or boring. It’s a compelling episode that really only suffers from having perhaps too few elements. It’s great to finally have a really solid episode under the belt for Dr. Crusher. I enjoyed this episode immensely.

Grade: B+ “See? Dr. Crusher can totally carry an episode too!”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “While it didn’t really explain the situation, it was very interesting to see Dr. Crusher’s character respond over the course of the episode.”

“Suddenly Human”

Plot

The Enterprise comes upon a distress call from a Talarian ship. The Talarians are a warlike people, but Picard decides to mount a rescuing mission. One of the five people rescued, Jono, is a human and the grandson of a Starfleet Admiral.  The crew starts trying to integrate Jono into human life, but he is resistant and insists that he is the son of a Talarian leader, Captain Endar. Endar shows up and demands to have his son returned, threatening to escalate to violence if needed to recover him. Finally, Picard decides to peaceably return Jono because he clearly feels he is part of Talarian, not human, society.

Commentary

The moral question of what to do with a young man who was kidnapped at a young age and raised in a different society was one of great interest, I thought. The episode interestingly conveys several different aspects of the problem while never trying to browbeat a point into the viewers, which is appreciated.

It was great to watch Picard and Jono interact. Picard also hilariously said that people might not be aware that he’s uncomfortable around children. No, really? It probably won’t help that this child tried to stab him to death in his sleep.

There are some flaws in the episode, as it is hard to believe people like Picard, Troi, and Riker who are supposed to be great diplomats would be so ignorant when it comes to thinking that this boy, Jono, could just be immediately placed in a different context and succeed. The plot also suffers from either too few or too many elements. That doesn’t make sense? Well what I mean is that either they needed to up the suspense further and perhaps have the Admiral speaking to Jono or some other ways to build the interest or they needed to really hone in on some of the specifics of the plot more. Nonetheless, this was an episode with many areas of interest and it explored a serious moral question in such a way as to make readers think further, which is always a positive.

Grade: B “A solid premise with some minor flaws.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “It presented an interesting dilemma for Picard and company.”

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 4- “The Best of Both Worlds Part II” and “Family”

family

Time for some tough love, Picard!

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 Best of Both Worlds Part II”

Plot

Picard remains a Borg as the Enterprise attempts to keep stride with the Borg cube heading towards Earth. The Borg use Picard’s knowledge as Locutus of Borg to massacre Starfleet at Wolf 359, but Riker formulates a plan to recapture Picard by sending an away team in under cover of sci-fi magic. Data integrates himself into the collective and discovers that he can input a code into the collective. The order to sleep is integrated into the Borg and the self-destruct, causing Picard to return to his humanity in the process.

Commentary

Look, TNG can do two-part episodes that end well! Seriously, though, this is a phenomenal episode. There is all kinds of awesome action with the chase of the Borg Cube and the destruction of the (pathetic) Mars defense perimeter (seriously, we need better defense for Earth, people!). The action, however, really serves only as a drive for the drama, which is found throughout. The continued tension between Shelby and Riker is interesting, but the real star is once again Picard.

There are two scenes which really show how incredible Picard’s character is. There is a scene that shows Picard still on the Borg ship and they are adding components to him. A single tear goes down the side of his face. That tear does more emotionally than many speeches could have done. The investment that TNG has placed into its viewers through Picard’s continued characterization pays in dividends in scenes like this. We, as viewers, can intuitively sense what’s happening in Picard’s mind at this point, knowing that he is feeling great remorse but is being controlled.

The scene at the end also brings Picard’s character into focus powerfully. We leave him staring into the vastness of space, surely a man who has been changed forever.

This is a great episode, and one which deserves its place among the fan favorites. It’s a reminder of what makes Trek so great.

Grade: A “The episode has an incredible narrative with the right mix of action, drama, and characterization.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It was a compelling conclusion to last season’s cliffhanger.”

“Family”

Plot

The Enterprise is set for some maintenance and shore leave on Earth is granted. Picard goes to visit his family while Beverly Crusher recovers some items from her deceased husband. Worf’s family comes to the ship to visit. Picard and his brother don’t get along. One of his friends from Earth tries to get him to join a development project. Dr. Crusher finds a recording of her husband intended for Wesley, while Worf deals with balancing his shame from his Klingon lineage with his human lineage. Picard and his brother fight, leading to reconciliation.

Commentary

Wow. I gotta say I’m blown away by how excellent this episode is. I always thought it was super boring, but I haven’t seen this one since I was probably around 13-14 years old and the impact of it didn’t have the force it does now. (Well, that makes me sound old!) This time watching “Family” was an just an incredibly impactful experience.

Worf’s family is delightful. His parents dote on him, which is just the opposite of what one may have expected for people who would adopt a Klingon. To see Worf’s father get so excited over the Enterprise and have him talk about how he read all the manuals is just a great touch, and his mother’s understanding alongside his father’s rambunctiousness is just a perfect balance. His interaction with them also brings in threads from earlier (like Sins of the Father) and provides viewers with reflection alongside great character development. I don’t honestly remember if his parents show up again in the series (I’m pretty sure they do), but I’m hopeful. They’re great.

Picard once more carries the episode, however, as his struggles with his brother, indecisiveness about his future, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (never called that) all come into play. The scene in which Picard finally snaps and starts beating down Robert after being pushed into it is one of the most amazing moments in the series so far, as he breaks down and cries; “I should have been stronger.” His brother’s reaction is unexpected, but perfect: he basically just says “Deal with it. It will be hard, but deal.” Although they are harsh words, the implication, however, is that Robert will be there for Picard. They don’t like each other, but they do love each other.

Wesley’s side plot is also worth a mention as he learns more about his father through a holo-recording. It’s a touching moment that stands on its own right.

“Family” is one of the best episodes so far in TNG. At this point, that’s really saying something. TNG shows, with this episode, that it is fully capable of standing purely on the strength of its characters’ stories.

Grade: A+ “A stunning achievement of a completely character-driven episode which remains utterly compelling throughout.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It offered insights into the background of Picard, Worf, and Wesley.”

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 3 “Transfigurations” and “The Best of Both Worlds Part I”

Yep, that's the spot! Right there!

Yep, that’s the spot! Right there!

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.

“Transfigurations”

Plot

A badly injured man is the lone survivor of a wreck that the Enterprise goes to aid. He has remarkable healing powers and over time he and Dr. Crusher develop a working relationship that perhaps goes beyond that. However, he does not remember his past or what happened to him. His healing powers continue to increase and it turns out that he is actually the next stage in evolution for a local race of humanoids. They try to hunt him down due to fear, but he transcends their existence and ceases the mounting conflict in the process. He departs from the Enterprise as a being of seemingly pure energy.

Commentary

The premise of this episode isn’t terribly original: someone with amnesia is rescued by the Enterprise and a mystery develops around figuring them out. Mysterious powers are another well-worn path for TNG and Star Trek generally. However, the mystery throughout this episode is combined with an interesting element of elapsed time. The episode takes place over some indeterminate period of time which seems to be at least several weeks. This gives “Transfigurations” a feeling of development not just in the character of “John Doe” but also in the characters around him.

The side stories in this one don’t seem to add enough to the plot to keep it as compelling as it could be. Geordi’s sudden confidence bestowed by John Doe is tacky, and the developing relationship between Dr. Crusher and John Doe is awkward at best.

Despite the unoriginal plot, it is a main story that at least stays interesting as the tension mounts while John Doe starts to remember portions of his past and what happened to him. The revealing of his powers is a pretty cool moment, though it feels a little bit extreme.

It’s a decent but unremarkable episode.

Grade: B “An intriguing story that doesn’t quite do enough to push the episode to the next level.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “It was an interesting premise but not ultimately compelling as a story.”

“The Best of Both Worlds, Part I”

Plot

The Borg have shown up again as a Starfleet colony disappears. A Commander Shelby, an expert in Borg technology, is dispatched to help the Enterprise deal with the threat. The Borg come for Picard and end up capturing him, assimilating him into the Collective. Meanwhile, the crew of the Enterprise and Shelby must work to try to outwit not just the Borg but Picard. The episode ends on a cliffhanger as Riker decides to open fire on the Borg Cube that has Picard on board.

Commentary

“I am Locutus of Borg.”

Those words still terrify me. When I was younger it was because the Borg felt so real and I would fear they might come after me some day–I am J.W. of Borg! As an adult, the notion that the  untouchable Picard could be corrupted, possibly for good, is a very scary thought. Realistically, we know that he’s not going to be permanently Borg, but it still is a fearsome moment and an awesome cliffhanger ending. What makes the episode more powerful is that one gets the feeling Picard really will be scarred by this even if (when) the crew manages to save him. It simply is not something someone can go through without having deep scarring occur. How might this impact his sense of self going forward? How might we feel in the same situation–manipulated into attacking those we love?

The interplay between Shelby and Riker is also interesting, as it gives us time to reflect on how Riker’s character really has matured throughout the series. He continues to turn down his own ship, and the pressure to take on his own command, combined with a mirror image of his younger self in Commander Shelby, makes for a fine subplot to carry into the next season.

The plot is interesting, and the Borg have been carefully crafted into perhaps the most malicious threat in the Star Trek universe. Great way to end the season, unlike some seasons (here’s looking at you Shades of Gray).

Grade: A “An epic development in the persistent story of the Borg on TNG.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It was very compelling and I want to know what happens next.” 

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 3 “The Hunted” and “The High Ground”

"Now I'm creeped out...."

“Now I’m creeped out….”

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 Hunted”

Plot

As the Enterprise visits a potential member of the Federation–Angosia III, a fugitive tries to escape, leading the ship on a brief but difficult pursuit. It turns out the fugitive is actually a soldier created by the members of Angosia III and then cordoned away along with many other created warriors on a prison planet (with some comforts) once war was eliminated. This is why he is so dangerous, and as Troi continues to learn more about him, Picard must decide whether to turn him back over to the authorities or not. Ultimately, the fugitive escapes and leads a rebellion which culminates in Picard telling the leadership of Angosia III they must deal with their own self-inflicted difficulties.

Commentary

Troi. Boom. I said it. Finally, at long last, we have an episode in which Troi is neither target for uncomfortably-close-to-assault lust nor an awkward “we need a mind reader” point. In “The Hunted,” Troi is just… Troi. She is compassionate, caring, but also powerful and, well, counseling! It was an awesome use of a character I’ve always liked. Her interactions with the fugitive feel real rather than contrived, as well, and they lead to a logical, but fun ending featuring Picard.

There’s really not much wrong with this episode, as the premise is interesting, the “big reveal” of finding out Angosia III’s secrets was well-done, and it finally features a lead character–Troi–in a role that does not seem to compromise her as a person. The only real complaint I have is that it seems they recycled scenes by having the fugitive break out so much. It’s not a bad thing at all, but it felt like they were using the escape to fill space.

Grade: A- “A fun episode with a great balance of mystery and action.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It had good action scenes and interesting characters.”

“The High Ground”

Plot

The Enterprise is providing aid to the inhabitants of a planet embroiled in civil war when Dr. Crusher is kidnapped by the rebels. As Riker tries to coordinate efforts to rescue her with the local police force, Crusher realizes that the rebels are being destroyed by their own technology. She tries to help them, but they ultimately attack the Enterprise as well. Finally, Wesley manages to track their movements and Riker works with the local authorities to rescue Crusher and Picard. During the rescue, the police chief kills the rebel leader, hoping to end the violence, and is almost killed by a boy who Wesley talks down. The possibility for conversation is thus opened.

Commentary

There’s a lot going on in this episode, and much of it is great. The juxtaposition of different viewpoints as we first see the local authorities, then the rebels gives a picture of conflict as more complex than “good guy” and “bad guy.” Riker’s relationship with local authorities has much of interest. The increasing tension as the conflict embroils the crew of the Enterprise ever more deeply was done well, and the ambiguous ending caps it off with some thoughtful moments.

Unfortunately, not everything goes right. In particular, the rebel leader’s creepy stalker-ish behavior around Crusher is weird. He keeps drawing pictures of her which the episode makes feel like a clumsy attempt to endear him to the audience (it doesn’t work). In fact, his character overall is off-putting despite clear attempts to make him add to some of the moral ambiguity throughout the episode. He’s just not that relatable but rather aloof and creepy.

Overall, though, this is another solid entry. The action is great, and the intensity of the episode almost never lets up. Although the rebel leader is not great, Crusher’s performance makes up for it a bit. A good but not great episode.

Grade: B+ “Great juxtaposition of viewpoints, but a few oddities keep it from all-time greatness.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It had solid characters in ways we don’t always get to see them and a compelling plot.”

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 3 “Evolution” and “The Ensigns of Command”

"I sure hope this won't escape and threaten the lives of everyone on the ship!"

“I sure hope this won’t escape and threaten the lives of everyone on the ship!”

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.

“Evolution”

Plot

The Enterprise is ferrying a scientist with a pet project to a star that will only allow the study every 200 years or so. The ship has difficulties caused by nanomachines Wesley unwittingly released. Eventually, Data is able to communicate with the ever-evolving nanos and brings about a peace treaty. The science experiment(s) succeed.

Commentary

My enjoyment of this episode rapidly deteriorated as it got more and more absurd. The premise isn’t awful; runaway nanos (or other technology) seem like a legitimate threat, and the way it initially played out wasn’t bad. The problem is the amount of suspension of disbelief involved in thinking that some nanomachines programmed to aid in medicine were somehow able to evolve to eat computer parts and then manipulate them, then communicate, enter Data to communicate in English, and ultimately decide they wanted their own planet. Yeah, that happened! I mean I found this whole train just absurd.

It doesn’t help that the scientist–Dr. Stubbs– was unbearably annoying. Frankly, I was on Troi’s side when she lectured the heck out of him. Also, where did Pulaski go? I get that Crusher is back–and I think Dr. Crusher is a strong character–but what explanation is there for where Pulaski went? She was just growing on me, too.

The Wesley storyline was bearable, but it also makes me question, yet again, why there are no consequences for any characters. Wesley nearly killed everyone on the ship! Dr. Stubbs massacred a large portion of a sentient species (though I actually would have been on his side in this–they’re machines and also ridiculous!)! Yet they both walk away without any consequences.

Anyway, the whole thing is too unbelievable for me. Decent premise, poor execution. Great special effects in this one, though!

Grade: C- “My brain shut down from the amount of suspension of disbelief involved in this episode.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “The premise was very interesting, but a few things didn’t make sense, like the lack of consequences for the characters involved in the nano-crisis.”

“The Ensigns of Command”

Plot

An alien race contacts the Enterprise with instructions to remove a human colony per their treaty with Starfleet. The evacuation would be impossible in the time allotted, but the aliens are unwilling to negotiate. Meanwhile, Data must convince the colonists to evacuate. Picard scours the treaty for a loophole, while Data ultimately goes angry-android on the colonists to show them the military might headed their way. Ultimately, Picard finds the loophole and all is saved.

Commentary

The juxtaposition of the developing drama between the situation on the planet with Data and Picard’s struggles to delay the destruction of the colony makes for a genuinely suspenseful episode at several points. The added dimension of factions developing on the planet also heightened the suspense. Ultimately, however, the episode was carried by Data, and it shows how strong his character has become in TNG at this point.

First, the intro scene with his playing the violin (and Picard walking out to deal with the crisis) was a good opening to set up for the struggles with his (lack of) humanity later on. Then, the way the colonists rejected his advice merely because he was an android set up a nice obstacle for him to overcome. Later, his decision to follow the maxim that “actions speak louder than words” sets up an epic and cold-blooded scene in which Data mows down several guards and then attacks the aqueduct. Finally, the close with Picard arguing with Data to show that even in mimicry, he was making individualized choices created a compelling finish to close out the episode developing Data’s self-image.

Again, set alongside what is a genuinely interesting main plot, with some awesome scenes from Picard, this episode really shines. Some fun with Geordi and O’Brien in the transporter gives just enough comic relief in between the serious parts to keep it going. Troi also gets a major nod as she comes up with an excellent analogy for the difficulties of communication, leading Picard into some head scratching which ultimately unleashes Picard’s passive aggressive fury as he checks for dust around the bridge of the Enterprise before allowing the aliens a reprieve.

This is a fantastic episode with little to interfere with its superb storytelling.

Grade: A “The episode has a solid main plot with good side stories and is nicely bookended by the opening and closing about Data’s violin.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was fun to see Data struggle to succeed at the mission.”

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.