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.

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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: “Power Play” and “Ethics”

ethics

Oh, what are we up to now? Casually casting aside centuries of medical ethics and practice, are we?

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.

“Power Play”

Plot

The Enterprise investigates a distress call only to have O’Brien, Troi, and Data taken over by alien energy beings. They attempt to hijack the ship in order to bring aboard more of their beings, but their initial attempt fails, only to have them instead take hostages in Ten Forward. As the hostage situation continues, the crew attempts to find ways to thwart the aliens, which largely only infuriate them more. Ultimately, Dr. Crusher finds a way to put the beings in stasis, just in time to save the ship.

Commentary

“Power Play” is a pretty intense episode based on a premise we’ve seen plenty of times before: foreign entities attempt to take over the ship. The reasons it managed to avoid feeling like a major case of deja vu were first, by involving secondary characters deeply in the drama and danger; second, by making tertiary characters more central; and third, by having just enough twists to keep viewers interested.

It was a great decision to make Chief O’Brien and Ensign Ro deeply involved in the plot, because it made the episode feel fresh despite having a plot that has largely been done before. Moreover, involving characters like Keiko O’Brien in the danger as well, because this made it feel as though someone might actually be in danger. Again, we know that unless an actor decides to leave, no main character is going to die off in TNG, so when characters who might recur show up and get in danger, it feels more real than when Riker gets in trouble for the hundredth time.

The plot itself is straightforward, but having the twist where the aliens weren’t actually what they claimed to be–marooned Starfleet people–was a bit unexpected and made it seem all the more genuine.

Also, here’s an epic quote:
Data: “Lieutenant, I must apologize for my inadvertent misconduct toward you.”
Worf: “No apology necessary.”
Data: “Your restraint was most remarkable.”
Worf: “You have no idea.”

“Power Play” is the kind of episode that could have gone very poorly, but featured enough unique plot points to rehash a similar story without feeling old or overdone.

Grade: B+ “Engaging and foreboding, ‘Power Play’ is enough to keep viewers entertained.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “I really enjoyed the suspense of figuring out who was possessing their bodies and the problem-solving that the crew went through. Also, Dr. Crusher saves the day!”

“Ethics”

Plot

Worf gets severely injured and may have permanent paralysis. This leads to his decision to try to end his own life, because for a Klingon, his life may as well be over. As the crew struggles to come to grips with this decision, Dr. Crusher has a showdown with Dr. Toby Russell, a neurological specialist, over whether to try a risky procedure that could regrow Worf’s spine. When tested methods fail to satisfy Worf, he makes the decision to ask Riker to help end his life. Riker argues that Worf must instead ask Alexander and explain it to his son. Dr. Russell, however, intervenes and suggests the risky surgery to Worf, who accepts. After apparently dying in surgery, Worf pulls through and it appears his functions will return to normal. Dr. Russell receives a stern lecture from Dr. Crusher.

Commentary

There are lots of lectures and even tongue-lashings in this episode, which was largely an exploration of ethical problems related to medicine and euthanasia. Despite this focus on the ethical questions the episode raised, there is a solid amount of plot here, even acknowledging the mostly throwaway side plot of a rescue mission the Enterprise is taking on. Sure, it’s not full of action, but the plot here centers around the characters, and the amount of investment the series has put into these characters shows through.

See, I think it must have been a tough sell to say “Let’s make an episode in which most of the main characters spend the whole time talking.” But, it weirdly works. Riker’s reservations about helping Worf were spot on. Picard’s insistence on maintaining respect for different cultural norms was also in character, though perhaps a bit more heated than one might expect. Dr. Crusher’s insistence on thoroughness and her scathing critique of Dr. Russell is probably the highlight of the episode. At the end, she acknowledges that the risk saved Worf, but her lines about the need for medical procedure and testing in environments with less risk was both in character and also on point.

The acting throughout is also great, which it would have to be if we’re supposed to believe the people are actually struggling with the issues being raised. Even Worf’s interactions with Alexander were touching.

Perhaps the biggest issue with the episode is one hinted at in the previous episode: as a viewer, you pretty much know Worf will pull through. I mean I knew this because I’ve seen the series and Deep Space Nine, but even before, you always knew the main characters would somehow make it out. I’m not sure if this episode would have worked if they had chosen a secondary or guest character to be the focus of the episode, but it would have been more dramatic as a viewer to have someone to whom something like paralysis or death could actually be permanent.

Overall, though, the episode was intriguing and emotionally powerful. It wasn’t the most exciting episode, but it was good to watch.

Grade: B+ “Lots of lecturing, but the questions it raised were deep, and the drama centering on Worf was very solid.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “‘Ethics’ featured some excellent acting but the story suffered from unexplained canister collapse and too many monologues.” 

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 “Disaster” and “The Game”

Most exciting [take that word as innuendo-laden] game ever!

Most exciting [take that word as innuendo-laden] game ever!

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.

“Disaster”

Plot

A quantum thingy (that’s the technical term) disrupts the Enterprise’s power, stranding crew members across the ship and leading to not a few injuries and deaths. Picard is stuck with some children in a turbolift; Worf is in Ten Forward coordinating the treatment of injured crew members on the deck; Geordi and Dr. Crusher are stuck in a storage bay with a plasma fire raging; Troi is the senior officer on the bridge and in charge, though Ensign Ro is skeptical of her command ability; Data and Riker seek to gain access to Engineering and possibly take control of the ship from there; and I think I caught all the main plots. All of these race to the finish as the ship nears cataclysmic explosion, from which a decision by Troi ultimately saves them all.

Commentary

“Disaster” is an episode that is ultimately far more than the sum of its parts. And, as you can see from my plot summary, there’s a whole lot going on. It’s quite a bit like “Data’s Day” in that it presents different views across the ship, but here instead of being the “mundane” of a standard day, it is the presentation of what the crew does all over the ship when a disaster strikes.

Each plot thread is actually really interesting, and the sense of tension throughout the episode is real, despite the fact that viewers generally know the main characters are pretty much invincible. You know that Geordi and Dr. Crusher aren’t going to both die, but the tension remains there because it’s well written; moreover, several guest characters (like the kids with Picard) mean that there are stakes so far as saving the lives of these side characters. It’s well done and it’s entertaining.

Worf’s dialogue as he delivers a baby is also superb. “Congratulations, you’re dilated to 10 centimeters. You may now deliver the baby!” Genius line. He has a number of good ones in this episode.

If there’s anything that makes this episode falter, it is just that some of the problems and resolutions seem to simple and too easily wrapped up. Overall though, this is a really fun episode that I’m more than happy to watch again (and again).

Grade: A- “Worf delivers a baby. ‘nough said.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “Overall it was a good idea and had good stories but a bit too complicated to do due diligence to all of the plot lines.”

“The Game”

Plot

Riker is introduced to an addictive game while on vacation and brings it back. As it spreads through the ship, Wesley–stopping by the Enterprise for a visit–and Robin Lefler are the only ones who think something might be up and act to try to stop it. Ultimately, even they are captured and forced into the game, but Wesley managed to get Data revived just in time to save the ship.

Commentary

“The Game” isn’t terrible, it’s just silly. It’s really hard to believe that everyone on board the ship would be sucked into a game, particularly with such personalities as Worf, Picard, and Troi on board. Moreover, it’s hard to believe that the game could so radically alter people’s entire belief system and loyalty in such a short time. It seems like it takes but a few seconds and you’re done for.

Also, if the game is so effective, why even bother to use the crew of the Enterprise at all? Just give the game to some of the most powerful people in the galaxy and you win. “Game” over. Okay, maybe that’s not so easy; but why not just make huge amounts of it and send it all over the place, then? Not everyone will have a Data to save the day. Subjugate a few planets and live like royalty for the rest of your lives. Anyway…

To be fair, though, the episode does a good job building a real sense of foreboding as what seems innocent at first becomes more and more ominous. The solution with Wesley being captured only to discover that he was just acting as a diversion for the off-camera action of Data is a smart way to tie the episode up. I liked the episode despite really not wanting to. That’s gotta say something, right?

Grade: C+ “‘The Game’ is a really silly episode that does enough to avoid being terrible as well.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “‘The Game’ had a good plot with a good balance of suspense and storytelling.”

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- “Ensign Ro” and “Silicon Avatar”

Opinionated barber is opinionated.

Opinionated barber is opinionated.

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.

“Ensign Ro”

Plot

The Enterprise is dispatched to try to deal with a Bajoran–a people persecuted by the Cardassians–terrorist who allegedly destroyed a Starfleet colony. Ensign Ro is assigned by Admiral Kennelly to assist with this quest, fresh out of prison. The crew is as unimpressed by her as she is by them at first, and they try to track down the Bajoran terrorist. Ro is revealed to be working with Kennelly to try to help the Cardassians, and after a conversation with Guinan she decides to fess up to Picard. It turns out, however, that the Bajorans didn’t commit this act at all; in fact, it seems it may have been a Cardassian ploy to try to get Starfleet to clean up their mess for them. Picard commends Ro and tells her Kennelly is likely to be court martialed.

Commentary

At last we are introduced to the Bajorans. I admit I had forgotten they showed up at all in the TNG universe and thought them limited to Deep Space 9. How (happily) mistaken I was! This is a great episode that not only sympathetically introduces a race of people but also seamlessly interweaves them into already existing storylines. It is easy to believe that the Cardassians would do such injustice because that is the persona given to them: warlike and most concerned with their own survival as opposed to anything else. The introduction of the Bajorans adds another layer of complexity over that storyline, and this episode does it very well.

Guinan also had another scene! Yay! I enjoy her character quite a bit, and the apparent rapport behind the story of Picard and her continues to offer tantalizing hints.

This is an all-around good episode with plenty of intrigue, interesting plot, and solid characterization.

Grade: A “A great blend of political backstabbing, buildup, and action. Give us more Bajorans!” 

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “I enjoyed Ensign Ro’s character development and the intrigue of the mission.”

“Silicon Avatar”

Plot

The Crystalline Entity which destroyed the colony from which Data hails shows up at another Starfleet colony to reduce it to rubble. The crew of the Enterprise set off in pursuit, aided by a xenobiologist, Dr. Kila Marr, whose son died on a colony that the Crystalline Entity destroyed. As Data and Marr try to work together despite Marr’s suspicion of Data, they piece together a way to perhaps try to communicate with the Entity. Meanwhile, Dr. Marr finds out Data has her son’s memories and even voice pattern in his memory banks and seems to believe that it may be her son. When the Enterprise finally encounters the Entity, she manages to use their form of communication to destroy it through resonance. Saying she did it for her son, she turns to Data for affirmation. Instead, Data argues it is not what her son would have liked at all.

Commentary

This is a decent episode with a great opening and several impactful scenes. The sense of foreboding surrounding the Crystalline Entity is well done, and some of the drama between Dr. Marr and Data is pretty interesting.

What makes this episode hard is really two aspects of the same problem: the notion that Data could be so gullible and oblivious and the quick descent into seeming madness that Dr. Marr experienced. I get that Data isn’t human and sometimes really can’t figure humans out, but seriously, he had a real rough time predicting the craziness of Dr. Marr here. Moreover, it’s hard to believe he wouldn’t have noticed her locking out the console to make sure the Entity was destroyed.

The episode also drags a whole bunch in some parts. A lot of filler with Dr. Marr and Data just sitting around talking to each other. It’s not awful, but it does make it slow down a ton.

It was nice to see the Entity show up again, as we keep having some interesting continuity with the series pop up at unexpected moments. It’s a testament to how well the universe was established in the earlier seasons that we can go back and visit concepts to learn more about them. This wasn’t a terrible episode; indeed it was pretty decent. But it was just that; decent.

Grade: B- “Some good emotional impact is marred by a quick descent to madness… and some sloth-like moments.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was overall good, but I have a hard time believing that Data is so inept at interpreting people… still.”

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.