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.
There is a new transfer aboard the Enterprise shaking up the science departments, Lieutenant Commander Nella Daren. When Picard confronts her, he figures out she is up to the challenge, and a skilled, intriguing woman as well. He starts to interact with her more and more, discovering that she is more interesting than he had imagined. It quickly becomes apparent that Picard and Daren are falling in love, and it is a poorly kept secret on board the ship, causing some tension. Meanwhile, they are preparing to attempt a rescue mission on a planet with raging firestorms. Lieutenant Commander Daren is assigned to one of the teams, and initially it seems she was lost on the mission, causing Picard much grief. She turns up alive, however, but Picard realizes he can’t be on board the Enterprise with someone he cares so much about. They decide to part ways, hoping to find each other again in the future.
“Lessons” as an episode that does exceptionally well introducing a new character (Lieutenant Commander Nella Daren), building up her story, and having her make an impact on a main character in a noticeable way. It helps, of course, that they chose Captain Picard as the character to fall for Daren. Riker would have been too predictable, but to see Picard fall for her was unusual enough to be intriguing. Not only that, but the way she clearly complemented Picard so well made us root for the relationship as the audience.
Another major plus is that Patrick Stewart acts so well! The hesitancy with which he approaches the relationship, the embarassment he clearly displays when he realizes pretty much the whole ship knows, and his interactions with Riker about Daren are all portrayed exactly as we might expect from Picard. The side story of the rescue mission is clearly just an add-on to make drama with Daren go down, but I didn’t mind it because it made sense for the plot: what would Picard do if he had someone he loved–really loved–on board? The decision to part ways was painful, though expected. As a viewer, you know that it can’t possibly continue–they’re not just going to add a main character midway through the 6th season–but it still made me feel badly for them.
Also, the firestorm had some cool special effects and problem solving. Often, when something like that is just added on to make drama, the set isn’t that interesting or it might just occur entirely off-camera. This time, they really made their money’s worth on it.
Grade: A “Right in the feels, Captain. Right in the feels.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “The plot and acting were both quite good, but the pace of the storytelling seemed off.”
Professor Richard Galen shows up on the Enterprise with a marvelous archaeological gift for Picard. He wants Picard to join him on a quest to finish his life’s work, but he is very secretive about it. When Picard turns him down, he leaves to do it on his own but his ship is attacked and destroyed by an information dealer. Picard is determined to track down the reasons behind what his old professor was doing and chases the information trail around the quadrant. It turns out he’s not the only one looking into it, however, as there are also Cardassians and Klingons searching for the same finds. Ultimately, they manage to trace the information back to one planet, where they are trapped by Romulans. In the ensuing confrontation, Picard and Dr. Crusher unwrap the last layer of the mystery, which turns out to be that an alien race long ago seeded the various worlds in this galaxy for life like their own. Hence the reason all the aliens look alike. The people exploring the region leave, largely disgusted, but the Romulan commander reaches out to Picard in hope for eventual reconciliation.
The opening of this episode set the stage to be completely awesome, and it stored up enough good will for me to overlook some of the insanity that followed. I absolutely love when Picard gets all geeked out over archaeology stuff, probably because I also get nerd excitement from it. The opening with a description of how the artifact Galen gifted to Picard was just perfect, and it revealed enough mystery for me to want to know more.
The overall plot wasn’t bad either. Having the ultimate reveal be that some alien seeded life all over to look like themselves was kind of neat, and it retroactively explains why so many advanced aliens in the Star Trek universe look alike. I wonder if it ever gets referenced again.
What was difficult to accept was the insane amount of hand-waving over details throughout. How did all of these other peoples manage to have chunks of information that was relevant to the main quest? Scientific discoveries of their own? Well, the episode hints that they bought the information, but how did they get it so quickly and how did they break the code without the intimate knowledge of genetics that Dr. Crusher brought to the table? It just didn’t make a lot of sense. Moreover, when would Picard suddenly allow a Cardassian diplomatic access to his ship and then cart her around to help solve the mystery? Did he forget he was just tortured by the Cardassians not too long ago? Or did he also forget that they’re basically enemies? Why were the Klingons so hostile? The reason given was they wanted the “weapon” coming from the research, but that’s not really how alliances work, is it?
There was a lot of silliness and craziness in this episode, but it mostly seemed to work. I didn’t mind it all that much, because the mystery was exciting enough to keep me interested throughout. “The Chase” is one of those episodes that I feel like I enjoyed probably more than I should have given its quality. But why apologize for liking something more? I won’t! See the grade!
Grade: A- “Some ridiculous moments and a too-fast conclusion don’t completely undermine the careful groundwork laid at the beginning.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “Finally we understand why all the aliens are upright-walking bipedal humanoids.”
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