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 Enterprise is set up for some war games to test her crew’s military prowess with a Starfleet observer on board. Riker gets to hand pick a crew to pilot a derelict ship to challenge Picard. He also gets wrecked by Kolrami in Stratagema. Riker picks the crew and sets up the ship with some surprises. After Data is also defeated by Kolrami in Stratagema and the In the middle of the simulated combat, the Ferengi show up and demand the “valuable” derelict. Picard pretends to blow it up and Worf makes a sensor shadow of a Starfleet warship and they flee. Then, in Data’s rematch he plays to draw and Kolrami leaves in frustration. Win?
The moment I saw Kolrami I said “Yes!” quietly to myself because although I couldn’t remember the exact details, I remember this one being an episode I’ve enjoyed multiple times. It turns out there are good reasons to support that confidence. The plot centers around Riker’s command ability, but seamlessly wove in Data’s self-doubt which sets up Picard for a great and reassuring line: “You can do everything right and still lose.”
Kolrami is easy to hate, but I honestly appreciate him in some ways because he stuck to his character so well. There was no compromise there, and he only grudgingly offers a “favorable” report after Riker and Picard (and Worf!) manage to clear the Ferengi threat.
The episode as a whole clearly reflects the whole crew’s abilities rather than purely on Riker’s ability to lead. Riker’s leadership is a valid starting point, but Geordi, Wesley, and Worf ultimately are the ones who save the day with their ingenuity (and cheating!). Both Troi and Pulaski’s interactions with Data brought up some good dialogue and thoughtful reflection: what would it be like to try to counsel a machine, after all? It’s a great episode that develops many characters in positive directions, something hard to do in 45 minutes.
Data’s decision to play to draw at the end is a fitting conclusion for a really excellent and genuinely thoughtful episode of TNG.
Grade: A “Great development of several characters combined with a fun premise and just the right mix of drama make this episode one of the greats.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “There was much excellent character development and I liked the showing up of the snooty guy.”
“Shades of Gray”
Riker gets attacked by an alien plant and his condition rapidly deteriorates. Finally, Pulaski tries to fight the illness by triggering a bunch of memories in Riker. The worse the memory, the better they fight the toxin. The worst memories are triggered. Riker recovers.
I had forgotten this episode entirely, and for good reason. It’s entirely forgettable. After a rather interesting opening, we are treated to 30 minutes of flashbacks from earlier episodes while Pulaski and Troi give updates on Riker’s condition. Snore city. I read in my ultra-cool TNG book that apparently a writer’s strike had caused them to not have plot-lines set up for this point in the season, and “Q Who” had apparently drained funding. Thus, we get this.
The unfortunate thing is that I feel as though Riker could have carried this episode on his own to at least the middling range. His one-liners to the medical staff are great, and the intro was compelling enough to make me think it would be a decent episode. But no, we have an episode that’s 85% flashbacks.
Or, to sum up, my brother-in-law (here to visit for the weekend) put it this way: “Alien bug is just as sick of flashbacks as we are.”
Grade: F “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought I was watching a new episode.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: D+ “The only impressive thing about this episode was the fact that Riker was still able to have emotions while strapped to a hospital bed and unconscious.”
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