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.
La Forge’s mom–a Starfleet captain–is missing, but La Forge presses on to complete a mission in which he controls a drone through an interface that hooks up to the same place his visor does. The mission is to recover some information from a wrecked Starfleet vessel. Yet, as La Forge goes through the derelict, he sees his mother asking him to lower the ship to the surface to save the missing crew. Ultimately, La Forge and Data work together to do so, but it turns out that some sort of flame being was masquerading as La Forge’s mother, and she is still missing–though he did save the fire beings.
LaVar Burton picked up this episode, strapped it onto his shoulders, and carried it across the finish line. I say this because it was pretty much his acting alone which saved this episode from the garbage heap. It was only because I felt that La Forge was experiencing a real struggle that I could even begin to suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy the great character portrayal he put forward. And he sure nailed it. I can’t say enough for how well-acted this episode was on Burton/La Forge’s end, because without it, we would have had a poor episode at best.
There are a lot of problems with this one. First, how the heck is a probe that looks like a floating cylinder in any way parallel to a human walking around and interacting with the environment? Okay, I get it, they used tractor beams. But then, why do they need to have him walking up stairs or adjusting the interface so he can control his limbs? Am I supposed to believe that they just have tractor beams that work like limbs for some reason? That would seem incredibly limiting. Second, why is La Forge so gullible about his mother? I get that he is experiencing grief, but clearly something more was going on, and he just went with it.
So I suppose my final verdict would be: great La Forge acting; weak plot and execution.
Grade: B “La Forge was as epic as ever, but the episode is an assault on the credulity of the viewer.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “Geordi’s acting was really good, but it didn’t make up for an underwhelming plot.”
“Gambit, Part I”
Picard is missing and the crew finds a witness who says he was vaporized–and Troi says he’s telling the truth. Riker is filled with anger and decides to try to track down those who did Picard in. They appear to be some kind of pirates or mercenaries who are raiding archaeological sites. Riker is captured at one of these sites and brought on board the mercenary ship, implanted with a pain inducer, and forced into service of the crew. Yet, it turns out that Picard is there… alive of course! Picard has infiltrated the crew and tells Riker to go along with it. The episode ends with Riker taking shots at the Enterprise.
Let’s get this out of the way: Arctus Baran, the commander of the mercenary ship, is Khan. He looks just like him. Seriously! Okay, so he isn’t supposed to be Khan, but I could totally see them just saying it is him. Oh well.
This is a great opener for a two-part episode. There’s plenty of action and mystery here, which is what two-part episodes often need to keep viewers hooked. I like the archaeology in the episode–it helps give a sense of robust history behind the show that isn’t always there. Baran makes a solid villain, even if he isn’t actually Khan. The motivation goes beyond a typical X-is-evil shtick, so that makes it intriguing as well. Sure, he is motivated by money, but there is more going on behind the scenes in this one than some episodes have had.
The scene in which Data dresses down Worf is particularly poignant. It shows the tension that could be in place on board a ship that has lost some senior officers. It was a great scene that illustrated how seriously Data took his position, and how Worf reacted to the changes as well. I loved it.
The opener was also a great scene, as the various crew members attempted to get information at Mos Eisley Canti… I mean, a random space bar. It had just the right mix of cheese and seriousness that happens when the actors are firing on all cylinders.
Grade: A “KHAAAAAAANNNN!!! Oh wait, wrong series.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was a good plot with surprises revealed at appropriate times throughout.”
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