Star Trek: TNG Season 4 “The Mind’s Eye” and “In Theory”

"Computer, let's play a game." "Okay, Knock-Knock!" "Who's there?" "Romulan Warbird!" "Romulan... wha!?"

“Computer, let’s play a game.”
“Okay, Knock-Knock!”
“Who’s there?”
“Romulan Warbird!”
“Romulan… wha!?”

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 Mind’s Eye”

Plot

Geordi La Forge is heading to a vacation and seminar when his shuttle is intercepted by Romulans and he is captured. They brainwash him and program him to perform whatever tasks they want. Meanwhile, a Klingon planet is experiencing a rebellion and it is suspected that the Federation is aiding the rebels. The Enterprise is dispatched with a Klingon ambassador to investigate. Much evidence points to the Federation being involved, and Geordi’s mind control also leads him to send more evidence, but the timeline is forced forward as the non-brain-controlled Geordi and crew push the investigation. Geordi is ordered to kill the Klingon governor, but some quick thinking by Data saves the day.

Commentary

I was blown away by this episode from the great opening getting to see Geordi at leisure and then getting kidnapped all the way through the great ending.

There are two primary things that make this a superb episode (namely, a Geordi-centric episode that uses the strength of his character and a very strong main plot), but it also gets all the details right. Those details include the ongoing investigation Data is doing into the strange emissions which makes his detective work at the end of the episode out to be part of that rather than a kind of deus ex machina ending, great use of secondary characters, continuity with the broader plot happening throughout the conflict with the Romulans, and good music.

The plot itself is excellent, as it both ties in with the storyline of the Romulan-Klingon-Federation timeline and helps expose the notion that the Federation-Klingon alliance is not exactly airtight. There is real tension here as viewers wonder whether another step towards alienation between the two governments might be taken. The focus on Geordi is a smart move as his character is quite lovable but also rarely gets treatment apart from a string of failed love interests.

I also need to comment on the ending. This is how you end an episode! The closing scene opens with a close-up of Geordi adamantly arguing with Deanna Troi: “But I remember!” as he points to his head. After he describes some of his memories, Troi takes him back to the shuttle and leads him into it by saying “The first thing you did when you saw the Romulan ship was…” [I paraphrased here] and he just completes the sentence, then realizes this conflicts with his other “memories.” It’s a revelatory moment for him and one which just ties the episode off with just enough closure and ambiguity to get viewers’ minds racing. It is also a great moment for Troi, as she demonstrates her capacity as counselor in the most convincing way yet.

“The Mind’s Eye” is just a phenomenal episode and one that deserves a place among the all-time greats.

Grade: A+ 

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It had a great premise and an excellent character-driven plot.”

“In Theory”

Plot

The Enterprise explores a Nebula which leads to some strange occurrences with dark matter. Meanwhile, Data and another officer, Jenna D’Sora enter into a relationship after D’Sora comes to realize that Data is “perfect” due to his thoughtfulness and kindness (and Data’s questioning the crew about whether it might be a good idea). As the strange occurrences increase, the Enterprise is caught in a struggle to escape–led out of the Nebula by Picard in a shuttle. D’Sora ultimately realizes that Data’s lack of emotions is a greater rift to cross than she realized. They break up, but the ship is safe.

Commentary

Here’s a strong episode that doesn’t quite do enough. The main plot about the Nebula is mostly a backdrop for the drama between Data and D’Sora. It’s a nice touch to have the two of them working on the Nebula so that it doesn’t seem totally like two episodes thrown together, but the relationship is the star of the episode.

Data’s interactions with D’Sora are suitably hilarious, with his comments ranging from unintentionally insightful to blatant howlers. It’s a great way to explore Data’s character on the level of human relationships, even if it is just a bit hard to believe that D’Sora would think such a relationship could work. My wife and I both laughed quite a bit in this one, and it is a pretty fun episode.

The best part about the episode, though, is the ending, which turns the episode on its head from being a kind of lighthearted romp into a serious look at Data’s continued struggles. Data’s response to the breakup is just to query whether the relationship is over and then say that he will delete the relevant file. After D’Sora leaves, Data holds spot and calmly pets him while he blows out the candle. It’s a totally bleak ending that shows just how much work Data has to do yet to realize his goal of becoming “human” in a more relevant sense. His lack of emotions means that on a fundamental level he cannot connect to (or even genuinely care about) humans, and–in an almost dark twist–doesn’t even register the problem that this is.

Fun side note: this was apparently the first episode directed by Patrick Stewart (Picard).

Grade: B+ “An intriguing look at Data’s ‘humanity’ with a suitably bleak ending.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “The two plot issues were both interesting but didn’t work together.”

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 4 “Legacy” and “Reunion”

Worf's father-son training culminates in: "This is how you cut some fools!"

Worf’s father-son training culminates in: “This is how you cut some fools!”

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.

“Legacy”

Plot

A Federation vessel sends a distress call from Turkana IV, birthplace of Tasha Yar. The Enterprise goes to investigate, discovering the crew has been captured by a faction on the planet. When an away team beams down, they further discover that Tasha Yar had a sister, Ishara, who is deeply entrenched in one of the factions. Picard and crew–particularly Data, interact with Ishara throughout the episode, learning more about her and Tasha (and finding many parallels) in the process. They also plan a rescue of the captured Federation personnel. After taking out a tracking device in Ishara used by the factions to keep balance, Ishara uses the rescue mission to try to bring down the security system of the rival faction. She is discovered by Data, whom she threatens to kill before he manages to stun her and halt disabling of the system. Ishara is beamed back to Turkana IV after a brief discussion with various crew members.

Commentary

Whew that was a long summary. The episode has a lot going on, but to the writer’s credit, it never feels disjointed or too convoluted. You knew you were going to run into something related to Tasha when the planet was announced, but to find a sister was an interesting twist. Moreover, the best part of the episode was seeing how Ishara manipulated the crew, who had the best intentions but each projected their own desires onto Ishara. It serves up a great commentary on human nature and the way we often do try to see things the way we want them to be rather than as the way they are.

Data’s parting line to Ishara is epic. After a heartfelt mini-speech from her about how she felt Data could be a friend, he just says “Energize.” Data has no time for betrayal! His brief conversation with Riker afterwards adds to the interest of his character in the episode.

Grade: B+ “It’s pretty amazing that the series can make an episode about a character who’s been gone for three seasons without her even being in it and make it good!”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was a neat way to get some backstory for Lieutenant Yar.”

“Reunion”

Plot

The Enterprise is approached by a Klingon warship with Ambassador K’Ehleyr–Worf’s earlier fling–aboard. Turns out Worf has a kid! The Klingon Chancellor is dying and has selected Picard to determine who will be the next Chancellor because he fears betrayal in the Empire. Gowron–a seemingly shady Klingon willing to bribe/threaten–and Duros–the one whose family betrayed the Empire and Worf took the fall for in “Sins of the Father” are contending for the title. Picard arbitrates the meeting as an investigation into various acts continue and Worf becomes familiar with his son while also

Commentary

“Reunion” was another episode that had a ton of plot points happening. Many more are summarized here.

K’Ehleyr’s line to Gowron- “You talk like a Ferengi!” Oh my goodness that was an epic line.

But the epic lines weren’t all that went right in this episode. The entire plot was phenomenal, as we got to experience more of Klingon culture with the right to lead the Klingon High Council up for grabs. Worf hunting down Duros after he assassinates K’Ehleyr and fighting him to the death is a fitting end for the traitor. It was also surprising becuase I definitely thought that someone would stop him in the act. Having Picard issue an official reprimand was totally in character as well.

The addition of Alexander–Worf’s son–to the cast, I know, has implications later, but for now it was a unique device that ties Worf more intricately into a broader storyline of his own development riding the line between civilizations. I would also be remiss not to mention the introduction of the Bat’leth–the Klingon weapon (seen in picture)–and the cultural background of the Klingon Empire added into this episode. It’s just awesome.

So much happens in this episode that is awesome. It’s hard to even try to list everything. There is also enough ambiguity to keep viewers absolutely enthralled waiting for the next plot entry. Sure, Duros is dead, but what will happen with the Klingon Empire now that it is lead by someone willing to resort to bribery (and who really did work with the Romulans)?

Grade: A+ “An epic episode with great acting, a sweet plot, and some truly amazing moments.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “The whole story was compelling and the acting was great.”

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 “Sins of The Father” and “Allegiance”

Nothing like good ol'-fashioned a shaming ceremony to brighten a day.

Nothing like good ol’-fashioned a shaming ceremony to brighten a 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.

“Sins of the Father”

Plot

Worf’s father is accused of treason, and his heretofore unknown brother comes to ask Worf to defend against this charge. Unfortunately, it turns out the whole thing is a political move as a prominent family was really the one guilty of treason, but Worf’s family is smaller and the Klingon hierarchy thought he wouldn’t care. The secret is discovered, but Worf agrees to suffer the dishonor of shunning in order to both allow for the political out and give himself time to discover a way to bring the truth to light.

Commentary

There is an enormous amount of development which happens in a small space in this episode, but it balances everything so well that it just adds to the greatness of viewing it. Unfortunately, it does mean my plot summary above is inadequate. There are many scenes I simply skipped entirely, and many of these directly impact the story. It’s a testament to how great this episode is that it feels like we as viewers have suddenly been exposed to how enormous the universe really is and how different things are happening beyond the Enterprise.

I just want to highlight some awesome points for the sake of keeping this readable. The exposure to more of Klingon culture is done in a believable fashion, as we discover more major cultural differences between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. By exploring these issues directly through Worf and Picard, the episode is able to make it more intense while also grounding it in familiar enough territory that we never feel lost. The mystery as the crew tries to track down what really happened on Khitomer is balanced well with Worf/Picard/Kurn’s own investigations on the surface. Making Picard Worf’s second is as believable as it is awesome, and it gives a sense of how Worf has been integrated into the crew of the Enterprise.

The large variety of sets and the exposure to the Klingon homeworld make the episode feel even larger than it is. By introducing us to a new center around which to operate, “Sins” both widens the galaxy and makes it seem less like random wanderings through disconnected places. Worf’s brother provides both comedy and added drama, particularly in the early part of the episode while he’s not yet revealed himself.

Finally, there’s the shocking ending. I don’t think anyone really expects Worf to take the fall when they first see this one, but to have Worf accept massive dishonor–when honor is clearly so important to him as a character–in order to bow his head to the needs of the time is just an ingenious move. It’s both believable and surprising. Here is where Worf really comes into his own, and it shows that TNG is fully capable of carrying episodes with characters other than the central ones. “Sins of the Father” is a reminder of why we watch television, with its intense drama, but it also serves a major reason to watch TNG specifically. It’s one of the all-time great episodes.

Grade: A+ “One of the all-time great episodes, with mystery, suspense, and an absolutely thrilling  and tantalizing conclusion.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “There was good suspense, but some of the story didn’t make very much sense.”

“Allegiance”

Plot

Picard is kidnapped and put in a room with three other captives while he is replaced by a body double. His double runs around acting strangely while Picard tries to coordinate with the other captives to escape. Ultimately, it turns out that he is just part of an experiment by a more advanced species wanting to explore the concept of leadership. Picard and crew are able to convince the species what they did should not be repeated.

Commentary

“Allegiance” has some great elements in it, but they never seem to come together. The biggest difficulty with this episode is that it doesn’t do enough with the drama it could have generated. Body-double-Picard is so clearly not Picard that the crew immediately notices it. All the intensity that could have been built up is thus drained because everyone, not just the viewer, knows something is up.

The hostages back in the inescapable room keep some of the drama going, and the greatly different characters give some interest, but again the mystery just doesn’t seem to be there.

It’s not a terrible episode, and it the premise is really interesting. After all, with all the godlike beings out there, at some point you’re going to run into some weird experiments with seemingly inexplicable goals. But the drama just doesn’t build like it needs to to keep viewers engaged.

Grade: C+ “It was too slow to keep me engaged with the interesting premise.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was an interesting premise and it was fun to see fake Picard ‘do his thing.'”

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 “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and “The Offspring”

I can see the family resemblance.

I can see the family resemblance.

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.

“Yesterday’s Enterprise”

Plot

The Enterprise crew unwittingly stumbles into a time rift which sets in motion an alternative future in which war has persisted with the Klingons for many years. The only one who notices anything is different is Guinan, who tries to figure out how to revert things to the past. Meanwhile, the future-Enterprise encounters a ship from its own parallel past, the Enterprise C. It seems that because C came to the future through a time rift as well which has disrupted this future because the C would have fought Romulans and perhaps prevented this long war. Ultimately, the C is sent back to its doom, along with Tasha Yar who will die in the line of duty instead of senselessly being murdered.

Commentary

It’s a convoluted plot, and I apologize for having to take so long to explain it, but it is a good one! The sense of wrongness about seeing the Enterprise as a warship instead of a vessel of exploration is exacerbated by having Tasha Yar in the flesh once more. Guinan knows something is wrong, and of course the viewer knows it too, but the way it develops unfolds a mystery that is both fun and compelling.

Showing off the alternative-future Enterprise is a lot of fun, and it is also interesting to see how the war with the Klingons may have developed had peace not instead been reached. It is particularly surreal to see the bridge crew armed at all times and watch the Enterprise function as a warship.The explanation of having the C die defending the Klingons (ultimately to no avail!), thus showing the honorable nature of the Federation to the Klingons is genius and also provides a lot of great background information.

The only major downfall of “Yesterday’s Enterprise” is its continued moralizing to the extent that it seems a bit like getting the questions the episode raises rammed down viewers’ throats. Is war okay? Is a death in one fashion better than one which is senseless? Is sacrifice of the few for the many good? Should we mess around with time travel anyway? Etc., etc. I normally like the moral questions TNG raises, but the massive number of questions so intentionally raised and dangled past viewers here was just overdone. Overall a solid episode, but just hampered by too much reflection. This is one that could stood by just having the action continue.

Grade: A- “A great episode with just a little too much moralizing.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “I enjoyed the concept and it was pretty well acted, plus it was fun to see Lieutenant Yar again.”

“The Offspring”

Plot

Data creates another android he refers to as his child. The android picks gender as a female human and her given name is Lal. Admiral Haftel comes to investigate and argues Lal should be given to Starfleet to raise her, but Data counters that he is the most experienced one to do this task. Data’s creative skill is so good that she surpasses him, and as the Federation tries to decide what to do with her, she short-circuits. Haftel tries to help Data but ultimately she succumbs and she suffers a total failure of her cognitive net. She dies saying that she loves Data and will feel enough love for both of them.

Commentary

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this one, as I remember in the past being bored by it. Maybe it’s the fact that I have a child on the way (well, by the time this publishes I’ll have a newborn!), but this hit me right in the gut. It’s an incredibly touching episode made all the more impressive by the fact that it is headlined by the character without feelings, Data. This was a smart choice by the writers as they were able to utilize the emotional roller coaster of the episode to make Data’s own striving for humanity and emotions all the more interesting.

The mounting drama between Picard and Haftel over the fate of Lal is done very well. Picard, despite chastising Data for his project (to which Data humorously responds that no other crew members have to discuss their procreation with the Captain), sticks up for his own in a fashion that we have come to expect from him. Having Haftel turn from antagonist and villain to co-operator when trying to save Lal is another genius move as it makes him a more realized character while also adding to the emotional gravity of the moment. Haftel’s description of Data continuing to work despite the fact that hope was being lost was gripping.

Really, this episode could be summarized as “All the feels.” An excellent episode, and one which improves upon re-viewing.

Grade: A “An amazingly emotional episode centered around some awesome questions.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was a very good exploration of personhood and development… and Data.”

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, “Unnatural Selection” and “Matter of Honor”

unnat-select

First one to lift their hands loses!

I’m going through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and reviewing every episode, complete with commentary and a grade from A-F. Here, we’re in season 2 and discussing episodes seven and eight. 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.

“Unnatural Selection”

Plot

A Federation ship is found with the whole crew aboard dead… of old age. The crew of the Enterprise traces it back to Darwin Station, where they discover some disease has taken hold. Pulaski dives in to try to solve it but ultimately ends up contracting it herself. Ultimately, all is saved when the Enterprise uses the transporter to reconfigure people to their old DNA.

Commentary

Wow. I had forgotten how good this episode is. The plot actually kept me guessing. I’d seen it before of course but it’s been years and I couldn’t remember all the twists and turns. It was a great feeling of mystery and discovery. Pulaski’s voiced-over commentary at the end was interesting and having her commentary on human discovery and how it came at a cost juxtaposed over the destruction of the ship that had been completely killed off by the “disease” was poignant and well-delivered. It’s the kind of monologue-type thing that probably wouldn’t make muster in today’s television but sets apart TNG as a great show with (sometimes) awesome commentary.

The character development for Dr. Pulaski was also excellent. She finally got a chance to shine in her role and remind of why I came to like her character. She apologized to Data (!), had some good interactions with Picard, and overall kicked some butt and took some names throughout the episode.  The way she took charge, was willing to take risks for herself, but ultimately unwilling to risk the health of the entire ship just to save her finally painted her as a strong personality rather than simply an obnoxious one. Picard and Pulaski’s attempts to discover more about each other made the episode feel like it had bigger implications than just a one-off.  This is one of the best episodes so far.

Grade: A-

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was good character development and a not wholly-expected plot.”

“Matter of Honor”

Plot

Riker is sent to serve aboard a Klingon Warbird, Pagh, as part of the Federation officer exchange program. A biological threat emerges attacking both the Enterprise and the Pagh and the captain of the Klingon vessel sees it as a threat. Meanwhile, Mendon, an alien ensign, is struggling to learn his own way aboard the Enterprise and attempts to discover how to fix the issue. In the end, Riker takes over the Pagh, Mendon figures out how to rid both vessels of the biological threat, and high-fives are given all around–one of them in the form of a backhand to Riker’s face.

Commentary

I think this episode is the kind that TNG thrives on. It’s fun, it has a fast-paced, high-risk plot, and it allows individual characters to shine. Mendon’s struggles aboard the Enterprise aren’t as painful as they could have been and it’s actually interesting to see his character develop. I don’t remember if we see him ever again, but I wouldn’t mind a reprisal later. Riker aboard a Klingon vessel is genius. He fully embraces the role, eating still-living Klingon food, joking with those aboard the Pagh, beating up other officers, all in a day’s work on a Klingon ship! Some of the one-liners in this episode are just great, and Worf gets his own share of them in when interacting with Mendon: “You may impress me” (followed by look-of-death).

All of that said, the pace starts to bog down towards the end and that’s what prevents this episode from being on the list of true “greatest” episodes for the show. Some scenes seem to just take too long, and while the comedy mixed throughout the episode helps keep it entertaining, there are points where it just felt like filler.  The resolution is interesting but expected, though Riker sitting as Captain and ordering Picard to surrender is quite fun. Overall, a good but not great episode.

Grade: B+

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “Riker’s exploration of the Klingon traditions was entertaining.”

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!