Star Trek: TNG Season 6 “Chain of Command, Part II” and “Ship in a Bottle”

HOW MANY LIGHTS!?

HOW MANY LIGHTS!?

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.

“Chain of Command, Part II”

Plot

Picard is tortured by his Cardassian captors as they try–and fail–to get any of the Starfleet plans of defense against Cardassia. Then, the torture turns to just being torture for the sake of torment. Picard initially seems to be breaking, but then he realizes that his tormentor was himself tormented and Picard begins to think of him as a lost, small, scared little boy. Ultimately, Captain Jellico’s bold maneuver to put mines around the Cardassian ships saves the day and Picard is released.

For a fuller plot summary, see Memory Alpha.

Commentary

Patrick Stewart’s acting sells this one hard, but it’s not just that. This episode was fantastically written. The torture scenes are truly tough to watch, but you can’t help but watch, hoping that Picard doesn’t break under the pressure. After Picard is released and he’s talking to Troi, he admits that he not only wanted to see five lights, but he was convinced for a moment there were five. It’s a tough perspective on how we can learn to fool ourselves under pressure–or indeed, even without pressure.

Meanwhile, Captain Jellico is off being his crazy self and trying to hardball the Cardassians. As a viewer, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to root for Jellico or not. When Jellico had to go ask Riker to pilot the shuttle that laid the trap against the Cardassians, it was sweet to watch Riker sit back, smile, and say “Ask me.” More evidence of great writing. It was also nice to see Data in red. I’d love to see a spin-off series with Data as a Captain. Or, you know, any new Star Trek TV series. I can dream, right?

The Cardassians are turning into a formidable opponent to Starfleet, and I’m excited to re-watch Deep Space Nine once we’ve gone through TNG entirely.

Grade: A+ “A stunning performance by Patrick Stewart with a strong plot.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “Overall it was very good, especially the excellent performance by Patrick Stewart.”

“Ship in a Bottle”

Plot

Don’t SPOIL this one! 

Remember way back in Season 2 when there was an episode in which La Forge tried to foil Data on the holodeck with a Sherlock Holmes mystery he couldn’t solve (“Elementary, Dear Data“)? Yeah, and remember how Moriarty was promised they would try to find a way for him to walk around outside the holodeck? Yep, that happened. Well, Data and La Forge were back at it and they–and Barclay–accidentally reactivate Moriarty. Moriarty walks off the holodeck himself, and he demands that Picard and crew get the love of his life off it as well. As they scramble to do so, a nearby planet and star are colliding, putting the Enterprise in danger. Ultimately, Data realizes the whole thing is just a ploy and Picard, Barclay, and Data manage to trap Moriarty in a smaller memory capsule while still allowing him to think that he is free.

Commentary

DAT TWIST!

The plot twist in this was great, and I confess I didn’t remember it at all. To suddenly find out that Picard, Barclay, and Data are actually trapped in a broader holodeck program made by Moriarty was just stunning. More importantly, it didn’t seem at all contrived. Sure, you have to suspend some disbelief in how Moriarty was able to reprogram the computer, but it still seems to fit in with how the holodeck has been treated in the past.

Think how crazy it would be if you were trapped in a similar situation! How would you ever trust reality again? Barclay does a good job showing this as he calls for the computer to end the program at the very end. But of course that doesn’t solve anything- he could still be trapped! AS COULD WE ALL!? (Cue creepy music.)

But seriously, this was a great mystery episode that I thought I had figured out. Then, BAM, you don’t know what hits you, but you realize that you’re not as smart as you thought you were.

This was a surprisingly great episode that helped tie up a loose thread in epic fashion.

Grade: A “A great way to conclude a loose thread, with a super-epic plot twist towards the end… what more could you ask?”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “Moriarty is a fun opponent for Picard and Data, but the episode lacked something to make it really 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 6 “Time’s Arrow, Part II” and “Realm of Fear”

In the matter-antimatter plexing of the stasis phase inducer, we noticed a set of distortion wave theorems that mixed into the containment field.

In the matter-antimatter plexing of the stasis phase inducer, we noticed a set of distortion wave theorems that mixed into the containment field.

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.

“Time’s Arrow, Part II”

Plot

The crew continues to pursue some mysterious aliens who are going back in time on Earth to take the life energy of humans for their own sustenance. Mark Twain thinks the crew members of the Enterprise have come from a different time or place to try to destroy his own time period, and gives pursuit. As he confronts the crew, the aliens make an appearance and the crew gives chase, leaving Picard and Guinan behind. Ultimately, the threat is ended when the alien locale is destroyed and Twain is returned to his own time period.

Commentary

I vividly remember this two-part episode from when it first aired and I was little. It has stuck with me because of Mark Twain, I think, but also the weirdness and mixture of genres and ideas. Sometimes this is good, and sometimes it’s not so great.

I quite enjoyed the setting and the ways that Picard and crew tried to play things off like they were a crew preparing to put on a Shakespearean production. Those scenes were delightful, and it was also fun to see how they tried to cope with the challenges of a different era. On the other hand, there are plenty of question marks throughout the episode. It’s hard to accept the notion of an alien race that relies entirely on eating the life energy of humans to survive. How have they continued for any amount of time? Mark Twain was really annoying again, in my opinion, though he did manage to redeem himself somewhat by the end.

Also, when did Guinan-Picard become a weird “maybe more than friends, but unsure what that means” type of relationship? They’ve talked a few times, yes, but although it seems clear Picard takes her advice as rather weighty, it has never seemed suggested that they go beyond that. It just felt a bit weird to have this dynamic suddenly introduced.

It’s weird, and if I recall, a two-parter that is largely disliked by fans, but I didn’t think it was too bad to be honest. It was cool to see how the time loop got tied off and how Data’s head ended up in the past alongside some other objects.

Grade: B “Lots of weirdness and it is at times difficult to suspend disbelief, but this one is still interesting enough.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was very good, plus old-timey costumes make an enjoyable episode.”

“Realm of Fear”

Plot

Lieutenant Barclay is afraid of transporting, and after he finally convinces himself to get transported over to work on a problem with La Forge and others, he is seemingly attacked while in mid-transport. It turns out that he isn’t just hallucinating, despite his own conviction that he might be suffering some kind of mental disorder, and something really was in the matter stream with him. He ends up rescuing a few crew members that were stuck in mid-transport.

Commentary

“Realm of Fear” has a different feel than the episodes that have come along recently. It’s… campy. There is also a lot of fake techno-babble, as I tried to convey in the caption of the picture shared here.

I like Barclay. I think he’s a fun character, but it seems like they never quite know how to use him. He’s so normal that the writers must feel some perceived need to make everything around him abnormal to make up for it. But the story of having just a Joe Schmoe on board the Enterprise and trying to make do is enough. It would be great to see an episode kind of like “Data’s Day” for Barclay, but again with less drama happening around it. What is it like to not be the super-person that all the rest of the main characters seem to be? That’s the Barclay episode I want to see.

This episode is just kind of weird. Alongside the slew of fake-techno-babble, we have the transporter working very differently from any way it has been portrayed before. The way that transporters work is never really explored in depth, but the amount of discussion already given it seems to work against the way it is conveyed here.

We do, however, get to see how far along Geordi has come. He really does demonstrate his mettle as a strong leader, assigning teams to do things that he can delegate, supporting those who are struggling (i.e. Barclay), and the like. He’s come a long way from being used as a recurring attempted-love-interest joke. It’s good to see how well he is utilized now.

Grade: B- “Too many made up science-sounding words and I’m pretty sure transporters don’t work like that elsewhere.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “Fun development of a side character.”

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 4 “Identity Crisis” and “The Nth Degree”

"Who am I? Your worst nightmare!"

“Who am I? Your worst nightmare!”

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.

“Identity Crisis”

Plot

Geordi’s fellow members of a mission that he was on some time ago have suffered transformations into unknown entities. When a fellow member of that mission, Susanna Leijten, also goes ill during the investigation, the mystery deepens as La Forge and crew try to figure out what is happening. It turns out that some parasitic organism is reproducing by taking over people over a long period of time. Dr. Crusher finally figures out a treatment for Leijten and Leijten talks Geordi’s transformed self into coming back to get treatment.

Commentary

“Identity Crisis” is another episode that relies upon an sense of mystery throughout, and it does pretty well. The writers and directors have clearly begun mastering this formula for keeping a mystery going without making it seem obviously forced. There is a real concern built up for Geordi throughout even though it felt as though he would inevitably get infected. How would he be saved?

The episode has some up and down moments, and one part that seemed really dragged out was the continued look at the same footage from the mission. It relied a bit too much upon that to try to sustain the episode length and would have been nice to see some other investigative tools. The hardest part to believe was pointed out by my wife: how could any species sustain itself through parasitic activity that takes years to kick in?

Despite these points, “Identity Crisis” is another solid mystery episode that manages to stay interesting throughout. That’s not easy to do!

Grade: B+ “A palpable sense of mystery sustained well throughout.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was fun to see Geordi and the others solve such a puzzling dilemma.”

“The Nth Degree”

Plot

Lieutenant Barclay is knocked out by an alien probe and begins to exhibit signs of extraordinary genius, insight, and strength of character that had not been manifest before. Soon, in his fervor to save the ship and extend its mission, he takes over the Enterprise and leads it to a distant place which turns out to be a race of people who explore by bringing others to them. After that, Barclay goes back to his normal, awkward self.

Commentary

I admit I like Barclay but it seems like TNG still hasn’t quite figured out how to use the concept of a guy who doesn’t quite fit in. So far ever episode featuring him has seemingly been an attempt to “fix” him. It would be interesting to see an episode that allowed him to just be himself–a normal, awkward guy–and see how that integrated into the life of the crew.

Anyway, this latest “fix” was yet another episode sure to give Barclay nightmares for the rest of his life, as his personality is completely flipped and he takes over the ship due to his super genius and drive to succeed. It’s a fun concept that has been used perhaps a bit too many times. But anyway, having the endpoint be another race that is exploring with much the same mission as Starfleet was interesting and kind of a fun spin on the “godlike being” stereotype.

“The Nth Degree” is by no means bad. Indeed, there was a good amount of comedy therein and a real sense of foreboding that was cleverly turned about in the final scene. However, we still await a really worthy use of Barclay’s character.

Grade: B- “Barclay gets a moment to shine. It’s engaging, but gets more and more weird as time goes on.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “The Enterprise encounters another civilization with their same goal through an elaborate kidnapping scheme. It was very engaging and unexpected.”

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.