Star Trek: DS9 Season 2 “Rules of Acquisition” and “Necessary Evil”

necessary-evilI’ve completed my re-watch of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Now it’s time to start Deep Space Nine! I am much less familiar with this show, though I’m pretty sure I’ve seen about 80-90% of the episodes. It’s been so long that I’m sure it will all feel brand new. My wife has never seen the show. She and I will go through, review every episode, and give commentary and a grade from A-F. There are SPOILERS for each episode below. Without further adieu, here’s:

“Rules of Acquisition”

Synopsis

The Grand Nagus, Zek, shows up on DS9 and enlists Quark to be a kind of ambassador for the Ferengi to the Gamma Quadrant. Quark’s new waiter, Pel, shows himself (but wait, there’s more!) to be an excellent advisor, and Quark brings Pel along to help with negotiations. The Grand Nagus keeps changing exactly what he wants Quark to acquire, while Quark continues to struggle with the people from the Gamma Quadrant he’s trying to buy from. Pel, a female Ferengi who has, in fact, covered up her sex in order to participate in wider Ferengi affairs, falls for Quark and after she reveals herself to him, the Nagus and Quark both must keep her identity secret while also giving her some of the prophets of their Gamma Quadrant findings. Pel leaves Quark with both wondering if they could have been more.

 Commentary

It’s pretty amazing to me how well the DS9 writers have acclimated themselves to writing the Ferengi as a genuine, interesting people group. On TNG they were never more than a kind of annoying mosquito to be swatted–along with some really silly episodes–but on DS9 they’ve been developed into fully realized aliens with a complex system of beliefs and culture. It’s great. This episode contributes well to that growing body of intrigue.

Pel’s character is particularly fascinating, because it shows the low status of women among the Ferengi, as well as how some Ferengi females would try to break out from the strictures of their society. I’m hoping we see more of this going forward–I honestly don’t remember much of DS9 at all, apparently.

The episode also does a great job highlighting the strangeness and excitement of the Gamma Quadrant, with aliens that are aggressive, interesting, and full of opportunity (yes, that’s a nod to the Ferengi). I quite enjoyed the ending, with Quark realizing (?) his own thirst for profit and his adherence to strict codes of behavior among the Ferengi could have just cost him big time on the personal relationships front.

Grade: A “An intriguing look into the politics of the Ferengi is accompanied by an exciting look into the Gamma Quadrant.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “I thought it was quite enjoyable with the return of the Grand Nagus and the unexpected lady Ferengi.”

“Necessary Evil”

Synopsis

The episode jumps back and forth between what happened on DS9 as Odo first is convinced by Gul Dukat of the Cardassians to take on a job investigating crimes and the present as someone attempted to kill Quark in a kind of burglary/heist gone wrong. In the past, we see Odo investigating a murder in which the (then) newly-arrived Kira was a prime suspect, finding him to be constantly thwarted in his investigation. In the present, the item that was stolen in the violent encounter with Quark was a list of names, apparently of people that Pallra, the woman who initiated the sequence of events and the wife of the murdered man in the past, has recently blackmailed. Odo manages to capture the Bajoran who has come back to try to kill Quark (again), but then realizes that Kira had lied to him in the past and had, in fact, committed the murder he investigated so many years ago. The episode ends with Kira and Odo contemplating their relationship.

Commentary

Wow, this was awesome. We get a huge amount of insight into the past of not just Kira and Odo, but also of Deep Space 9 and the Bajoran-Cardassian conflict. There’s so much to it that I am not going to just type it all up. Watch the episode for all of it! The highlights, though, are seeing how much more militaristic the station was, what kind of conditions the Cardassians kept on the station, and more.

The particular excitement of this episode, though, is found in the skipping back-and-forth between the past and present trying to solve two mysteries at once. It’s a great way to hold tension through the episode, and was handled with such deftness that it came off wonderfully. I can’t imagine trying to write two mysteries across two time periods, connecting them, and pulling it all off, but it was done incredibly well here.

The ending is, like the previous episode, rather bleak. We are left wondering whether Kira/Odo can ever have true trust between them again. It’s the kind of outro that I love in Star Trek episodes. Well done.

Grade: A “A bleak look back at the origins of Odo/Kira’s relationship that basically just makes them both even more awesome.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “I enjoyed getting the backstory for Odo and Kira and the Cardassian occupation, but it didn’t quite grasp my attention the way I hoped it would.”

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: DS9- 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: Deep Space 9 Season 1 “The Nagus” and “Vortex”

Well... he's not _that_ heavy!

Well… he’s not _that_ heavy!

I’ve completed my re-watch of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Now it’s time to start Deep Space Nine! I am much less familiar with this show, though I’m pretty sure I’ve seen about 80-90% of the episodes. It’s been so long that I’m sure it will all feel brand new. My wife has never seen the show. She and I will go through, review every episode, and give commentary and a grade from A-F. There are SPOILERS for each episode below. Without further adieu, here’s:

“The Nagus”

Synopsis

Grand Nagus Zek, leader of the Ferengi business empire, visits Quark’s and asks to convene a meeting of the Ferengi higher ups. As the meeting goes on to discuss ways to exploit the Gamma Quadrant, Sisko fights with Jake over the influence Nog is having on him. Jake resolves to remain friends with Nog despite the difficulties their friendship faces, and Sisko, discovering that Jake is teaching Nog to read, realizes what a good influence they’re having on each other and relents. Meanwhile, Zek names Quark the future Grand Nagus, just before his own apparent death. As Quark takes on the role of leading the Ferengi, a plot to take the position of Grand Nagus is exposed, and Zek shows himself just as Quark is about to be killed by Quark’s brother, Rom and Krax, Zek’s son. He notes that Krax still has much to learn, but Quark commends Rom for his nefarious plot and makes a new role at the bar for his brother to fill.

Commentary

I think this is a great example of how to make an episode fun. There was character development for Quark even as he stuck to his role. There was a great deal of humor without ever taking away from the seriousness of the plot–difficult to do. Most importantly, it made the Ferengi much less of a joke than they have been so far in the Star Trek universe. This was a pretty fascinating episode, even if some aspects of it were hard sells.

Quark’s role came to the forefront and it is made clear here that his character alone is capable of carrying an episode. That’s an important thing for a show like DS9 to learn early and to succeed at- realizing that individual characters are perhaps just as important as the overarching narrative. Here, the show succeeded dramatically in a funny, breakthrough episode for one of the stars. Making it a clear reference to The Godfather in many ways–including the hilarious scene where Quark mimics Don Corleone from the movie–was an added touch that really sold the whole concept.

Grade: A- “A vastly entertaining episode that is maybe just a little too hard to buy.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was just so fun to see the Ferengi culture. It was also hilarious.”

“Vortex”

Synopsis

When Croden, a newly arrived alien on DS9, gets in a fight with two Maradorns and kills one of them in the ensuing firefight, he is taken into custody by Odo pending trial. However, when Sisko and Kira make first contact with Croden’s homeworld, they demand his immediate return and basically say to leave them alone. Sisko orders Odo to return Croden to his home, where he will certainly be executed. Meanwhile, Croden has been telling Odo he knows more about changelings, giving a name to Odo and hope of the existence of more like him that heretofore he knew nothing about. As Odo transports Croden back home, they are attacked by Ah-Kel, the surviving Maradorn. To escape, Croden takes the controls, ladning them inside the vortex that he hinted Odo might find more of his people. However, there are no more changelings, just Croden’s daughter who had been hidden away in stasis after his family was killed for his alleged crimes. Odo is hurt as they try to flee, but Croden gets him back to the runabout. They manage to destroy Ah-Kel’s ship in the vortex, and are hailed by a Vulcan vessel, to whom Odo gives Croden and his daughter as refugees he found in the vortex.

Commentary

Odo’s character got a ton of development here, and it is the first episode that shows how much potential his character has for the rest of the series. What are changelings? Are there more like Odo? How did he get separated from them? Will they be friendly? These are just a few of the questions that come up in this episode that it would have been difficult to even formulate earlier in the season, because there wasn’t enough that we knew about Odo to ask these questions.

To be fair, there are some real stretches here–how can Odo make himself into a glass that gets broken apart (presumably light enough to carry on a tray) and then have Croden complain about how heavy he is? Where does all that mass go? Answer: don’t ask questions! But I don’t mind those stretches as much when they’re fairly superfluous to the plot.

The plot is the star here, too. Odo is shown to be more than just a hardhearted mean policeman on the station. He has feelings about right and wrong, and a strong sense of justice that transcends laws even among species. Croden’s people are an intriguing aside, but according to the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion by Terry J. Erdmann with Paula M. Block, they never show up again. Oh well. By the way, get that book if you want some really cool facts about the show as we go along.

With “Vortex,” we get hints of how interesting DS9 could shape up to be. Will it pay out dividends or just sink under expectations? We’ll have to keep watching!

Grade: A “Hey, Odo is a character!”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It was really impressive character development for Odo along with an interesting plot to keep things moving.”

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: DS9- 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 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.

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 “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.

Star Trek: TNG Season 3 “Sarek” and “Menage a Troi”

Deanna is also unimpressed by this episode.

Deanna is also unimpressed by 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.

“Sarek”

Plot

Renowned ambassador Sarek–Spock’s father–is dispatched to the Enterprise to start of negotiations with a notoriously difficult species. The moment he boards, however, it seems things are wrong. Emotions run high aboard the ship and even Sarek appears to be hampered by emotions. As the crew investigates, it turns out that these may be coming from Sarek because of a rare disease. The only way to continue negotiations is to have Picard take on the burden of Sarek’s boiling emotions, which he does. The negotiations are successful and both Picard and Sarek are changed by the event.

Commentary

Patrick Stewart. Patrick Stewart. Patrick Stewart.

What an amazing actor. The scene in this episode in which he is taking all the pain and emotion from Sarek must go down as one of the greatest scenes in television history. I mean that seriously. The acting by Stewart sells a scene that could have been silly and makes it into an awesomely emotional and stirring moment.

The episode starts off very slowly. Sarek shows up, there appears to be something ailing him. The crew experiences increasing tension. The connection is made. It’s not much of a mystery. We can see the clear link between Sarek and the anger long before any of the main characters have, but the payoff we get from this episode is all about how Picard is able to step in and take on a situation which could destroy him. It’s moving in a way that few TV episodes manage to be.

I wish we’d been able to see whatever species it was that wanted to sit in the weird pool in the darkness, but again that’s not what this episode is about. It’s all about getting we, the viewers, to see Picard handle an emotional roller coaster. It’s that moment which sells this episode. Everything else is fluff. That could be a bad thing, but in “Sarek” you won’t mind. It’s just that good.

Grade: A- “Slow out the gate, but a stirring episode that impacts the audience as few others have.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “Despite a slow beginning, Picard gave an amazing performance.”

“Menage a Troi”

Plot

A conference is being held on Betazed and the Ferengi are among the invited species. One Ferengi, Damon Tog, is infatuated with Lwaxana Troi and the monetary prospects of having her as a mate. He kidnaps Lwaxana and Deanna Troi along with Riker. As these three try to manipulate the situation, they are thwarted. Ultimately, Lwaxana volunteers to stay behind but is saved by a clever false love spat between herself and Picard.

Commentary

What can I say? So much goes wrong in “Menage A Troi” (the title, for one) that it is hard to pick a place to begin. First, it forced me to type the line “infatuated with Lwaxana Troi” which is a phrase that must never be uttered. Second, oh my goodness what a paper-thin plot. I get it in a way: it is supposed to be a way to feature a set piece of the Troi family’s interacting with Riker and kind of a get to know everybody moment. Riker gets a chance to prove himself, right? Well, no, not really. That may have been the intent but the product is quite different as Lwaxana is split from the other two upon the kidnapping and then is forced to carry her own part of the episode.

Let me tell you this: if Lwaxana Troi has to carry an episode in any part, that episode will be awful. Honestly, the actress does a decent job, assuming her job is to be an insufferable character. The problem is that Lwaxana is utterly insufferable on any conceivable level.

But even the parts of the episode that don’t have Lwaxana in them are pretty bad. The Enterprise is dispatched on some random mission that keeps them from helping. Riker and Deanna have barely any time to try to salvage what’s left of the episode, and the whole thing just feels totally forced.

There is one scene which isn’t atrocious: Picard forced to pretend he likes Lwaxana and reciting love poetry to her. It is a really funny sequence, but after being force-fed garbage for so long, it hardly makes an impact. I should also note (here I am trying to not some positives, look how good I am at this!) that the set for Betazed was decent. The Ferengi ship having random beds and torture devices was weird but at least made the ship seem clearly different from other ship sets. Oh, and I suppose that Star Trek Chess has always been cool. Does it seem like I’m grasping at straws here? I am. This is an irredeemably bad episode.

Side note: I think this is the new biggest spread in the score between my wife and myself.

Grade: F “If there must be a silver lining, at least it is now easy to select the worst episode of the season for our season review.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “The Ferengi-Betazoid interactions were funny.”

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 2 “Peak Performance” and “Shades of Gray”

Still a better love story than Twilight.

Still a better love story than Twilight.

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.

“Peak Performance”

Plot

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?

Commentary

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”

Plot

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.

Commentary

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.” 

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.