Star Trek: TNG Season 6 “Tapestry” and “Birthright, Part I”

Blue shirt? Kill me now.

Blue shirt? Kill me now.

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.

“Tapestry”

Plot

Picard dies and meets Q in the afterlife. Q challenges him on how he got the artificial heart and offers the possibility of avoiding the same mistakes by reliving his life as a young Picard. Picard accepts after some debate and is thrust back into himself at a younger age. As he reverses his decisions that led to him getting an artificial heart (and that he thinks are blemishes on his past), he discovers that the long-term consequences are great. Fast forward and Picard is a science officer on board the Enterprise, with little ambition or drive. He demands that Q take him back and let him die. Q instead restarts his heart in the real world and Picard recovers fully.

Commentary

“Picard dies and meets Q in the afterlife” – that’s a surefire set up for something that will end up going either extraordinarily poorly or very well. Thankfully, it was the latter. This is really an endearing look at Picard. It fills out his back story, while also giving us a glimpse into what he views as most important. We see a young Picard who is more foolish and boisterous than the Picard we know, but it fits the persona of the “real” Picard. You can see how he could have developed out of the character they showed.

The story isn’t the most epic–it’s really just three Starfleet officers hanging out. What makes it work is the premise. You have to be willing to stick with the characters because you like Picard so much. It was a smart choice to leave Picard as Patrick Stewart instead of giving us a different perspective on the young Picard–it keeps us engaged with the character in a way that might have been more difficult with a different actor (though it worked in “Rascals”). Q is really great in this one as well. Nothing too crazy, but still very in character. Loved it.

My favorite part of this episode is when Picard discovers he is a science officer. Rather than being content to live, he decides the only thing he should do is immediately go back and die. Picard just can’t handle being the little guy, and I find that hilarious at the same time as it is telling. It’s great.

Grade: A “A great episode that provides insight into Picard’s younger self, while also giving all kinds of opportunity for comedy and reflection.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was interesting to see the way history might be changed, but it lacked something special to make it great.”

“Birthright, Part I”

Plot

The Enterprise is docked at Deep Space Nine, a Starfleet-run space station. As the crew mingles with those aboard the station, Worf is approached by an alien who claims his father is still alive and a prisoner of the Romulans. While Worf struggles to discern whether he wants to pursue the information, Data experiences some feedback that leads him into having dreams, which awaken a new level of neural development for his Android brain. Ultimately, Worf tracks down the information broker, lands on the planet, and is captured by Romulans.

Commentary

What? We get to see Deep Space Nine in this one! I can’t wait to start going through that series again, and that glimpse really whetted my appetite for it.

It was cool to see Data having dreams and coming into discovery about himself. As Picard said, he’s a culture of one, and so he can explore meaning and the like within his own context. I wonder about how it is supposed to work, exactly. Allegedly the tinkering done around Data actually triggered the dream portion of his neural net a little early. Does that mean he will have trouble adapting to it? Or will it bring him to the next level more quickly?

The plot that follows Worf is vastly different, though you can see some parallels. Both Data and Worf are trying to seek out real aspects of themselves–for Data it is an encounter with his “father” in a dream world; for Worf, it is the sudden possibility that his father might have lost his honor after all. Each traces back their origins.

It will be fun to see how Worf gets out of this one–and how it develops, because it seems like the Klingons aren’t necessarily captives in a traditional sense.

Grade: A- “An interesting setup for more discovery of Worf and Data’s background.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “I particularly enjoyed the Data dream sequences.”

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 6 “Schisms” and “True Q”

Just gettin' my 8th Grade Science Experiment on.

Just gettin’ my 8th Grade Science Experiment on.

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.

“Schisms”

Plot

Riker is having problems sleeping, and it begins to creep into his working life on board the Enterprise. He and others convene to share some of the strange experiences and discover they’ve been having the same “dream” that features some disturbing content, suggesting they might be kidnapped each night. La Forge, Dr. Crusher, and Data work together to find a way to track the people who disappear, and when Riker does, he wakes up and thwarts the aliens who have been abducting people from the Enterprise.

Commentary

Okay, let’s just throw this out there (probably again): how the heck do they not just have a monitoring system on board the Enterprise that lets security know when someone just disappears off the ship or when someone comes on board? Seriously. They are able to track people at all points on board. How is this not a basic safety feature both for individuals and the ship’s security? Not having this stretches credulity quite a bit in many episodes, and this is one of the more blatant ones. It’s just hard to believe something like this could actually happen.

The scene in which the people who have been taken away describe their experience on the holodeck is also super weird in a number of ways. The weirdest thing is the unannounced and un-introduced random woman who is there. We know the other people, but who the heck is she? Why doesn’t she have a uniform? Or a name? We never find out. Oh well.

All of that said, there is a strong sense of creepy foreboding surrounding this episode that makes it somehow not terrible despite the aforementioned problems. Is it impossible to believe that this could actually happen? Yes. Is it still enjoyable? Yes.

Grade: B- “It’s pretty weird and it relies too much on me not thinking about it.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “There was nothing wrong with it, it just wasn’t that great.”

“True Q”

Plot

Amanda is a young woman who has been offered the chance to join Starfleet and have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to trial run it on the Enterprise. However, she keeps making things happen, and it turns out Q is involved in testing her. She is actually one of the Q Continuum, and she must either decide to take on her identity as Q or give up her powers forever under penalty of death. Ultimately, she struggles mightily with the decision, but cannot give up her powers in the face of people who have needs. She goes to join the Q.

Commentary

What would you do when faced with a decision like this? Give up the life you live and everything you thought was real and wanted to do in exchange for near-omnipotence? It sounds obvious that you’d pursue the omnipotence, but “True Q” makes a solid case for how difficult the decision would actually be.

It helps that Amanda was solidly acted. It would be hard to believe this was a dilemma at all if the actor hadn’t pulled it off, but she did. Q was his usual ridiculous self, and I also noticed yet again how uncomfortably close he gets to everyone. Is it necessary for him to creep so closely to Amanda as he trains her? Why are his hands always on Riker or Picard? He’s very touchy-feely. Maybe that’s what all Q are like. Weird.

I used to really not like Q episodes because I found him so annoying, but I’ve discovered as I watch these in order, several of the Q episodes are quite good. This is another entry in that string of success. It is well-written and well-acted.

Grade: A- “An interesting look at facing an extremely difficult choice.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “I liked the way they dealt with Amanda’s self-discovery and personality, but Q was kind of a creep.” 

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 5 “The First Duty” and “Cost of Living”

Well, this is awkward to watch.

Well, this is awkward to watch.

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 First Duty”

Plot

The Enterprise is headed to earth and as they are inbound they discover that Wesley was involved in a training accident. He’s going to recover, but one of the five members of his flight crew was killed and an investigation is launched. As the inquiry continues, it turns out that the four remaining members have agreed to conceal their attempt to perform a highly dangerous maneuver and have instead appealed to the dead member making a pilot error that led to his death. Geordi and Data, however, discover that plasma ignited at the same time as the inquiry reveals a picture of the training craft in an unreported formation. Picard confronts Wesley and tells him that if he doesn’t come out with the truth, he will. Wesley does tell the truth, which leads to the leader of the flight crew being expelled and permanent reprimands on the rest of their records.

Commentary

The approach taken with the plot of this episode was thought out very well. As observers, we can tell something is wrong with Wesley, and as we see the pressure being put on him and the rest of the team by their flight leader, we can see that there is more to the story than meets the eye. But we don’t find out exactly what happened until about the time Picard reveals his own knowledge of it to Wesley following the investigation run by Geordi and Data.

Thus, we can understand Dr. Crusher’s concern and confusion regarding the situation and how the picture that demonstrates the falsehood of the flight crew’s story must be mistaken. There doesn’t seem another explanation. But the explanation is simple: they’re lying. It’s something that seems to go beyond the bounds of what we normally expect from Star Trek’s normally squeaky-clean world.

“The First Duty” is uncomfortable in that it makes us see things from both sides of a tragic event. The manipulative comments from the flight leader add to this discomfort. Picard’s epic tongue-lashing of Wesley seems both appropriate and well-deserved and it fits into the conversations Picard had with the groundskeeper.

I really loved this episode. Wesley has come into his own.

When my wife came up with a good score, but I gave it a super high score, I explained my reasoning to her thus: “It was like we got to witness all at once the threads that were put in place for Wesley’s development blossom and turn him into a beautiful flower, but then we watched it whither, only to be revivified in greater, but tarnished glory by Picard.”

Yep, that’s about how I feel about this episode. It was phenomenal.

Grade: A+ “It initially made Wesley suck, but then made him surprisingly admirable. Well done.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was interesting but it lacked the gravitas of better episodes.”

“Cost of Living”

Plot

Lwaxana Troi comes to the Enterprise to get married. As she struggles to deal with the implications of an arranged marriage, she tries to guide Alexander in his own path to self-awareness and freedom. They play around on the holodeck as tensions increase between Troi and her betrothed. Finally, she realizes that, like she did for Alexander, she needs to be herself. She shows up to the wedding in traditional Betazoid fashion: naked. The wedding is called off as her betrothed and his adviser are horrified and leave.

Commentary

This is an all-around weird episode. The interactions on the holodeck are a bit whimsical but also kind of creepy. The way that Lwaxana Troi tries to take over parenting of Alexander from Worf is left largely without comment. But there are a few things to like here as well. Troi becomes just a little bit less awful here–something it’s hard for me to admit–as she tries to realize her own needs alongside navigating Alexander towards his. There’s a kind of endearing sadness to Troi’s situation that makes you sympathize with her. Seeing her betrothed and his adviser absolutely flipping out about every little piece of protocol only added to the sympathy that was generated for Troi.

But really, having Alexander walk around saying random nonsense was a bit too much for me. Just stop it. Also, mud bath awkwardness. Just a weird episode.

I was surprised by the score difference between my wife and I here. She really liked it. I thought it was okay. I suppose my deep dislike of Lwaxana Troi might have contributed, but I just thought the episode was super weird.

Grade: C+ “Lwaxana Troi only barely ruins an episode. But seriously, this had some touching moments that were marred by a sense of strangeness and a throwaway side-plot.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It did a nice job exploring the challenges of responsibility and carefree living. It also had some very fun visuals in holodeck-land.”

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 5 – “The Outcast” and “Cause and Effect”

...We need to talk.  Never has that sentiment been more ominous.

…We need to talk.
Never has that sentiment been more ominous.

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 Outcast”

Plot

The J’naii are an androgynous people who don’t experience gender. Soren, one of the J’naii, works closely with Riker to solve the mystery of a few of their people who have disappeared into what appears to be null space. The two discuss human and J’naii sexuality and the various aspects of the same, and Soren reveals that she is gendered, which is dangerous because the J’naii brainwash and recondition those who express being gendered. Back on the J’naii’s planet, the two kiss, but the sexuality of Soren is discovered and she is captured. Riker and Worf try to rescue her, but it is too late–she has already been reconditioned.

Commentary

The episodes in which TNG explores moral issues are usually quite interesting, and “The Outcast” is no different. It’s a tough topic and it touches on highly relevant issues for today. Questions of gender identity and gender dysphoria are at the forefront today, and it looks like TNG was looking ahead in this regard for bringing up issues of sexuality. That said, it seemed the episode didn’t do a very good job of presenting the complexity of the issue on either side. The J’naii are portrayed as uniformly terrible in regards to the issue, with hardline views that allow for no compromise. On the other hand, Riker and others go to the opposite extreme. Sure, it has to all fit into one episode, but a less black-and-white picture of the discussion would have been appreciated.

That said, it’s a pretty good episode with plenty of intrigue and some genuinely hard moments. The ending was particularly rough on Riker, who has really unfortunate things happen to his love interests very often. Poor Riker.

Probably the biggest problem with the plot of this one is how compressed it is. I get that TNG needs the Enterprise to keep moving, and it wouldn’t necessarily make much sense to have the episode take place over a longer period of time, but it really felt like Riker and Soren’s romance was contrived. It’s hard to take Riker seriously when he talks about how important Soren is to him and how he’s willing to throw away his Starfleet career because of this person he met just a few days before. I know that such whirlwind romances are common in TNG, and apparently sometimes in “real life,” too, but it’s just really hard to take it seriously.

Grade: B “Difficult questions raised in a compelling fashion, but the ‘believability’ quotient was low.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was pretty good. There were some abrupt plot jumps that brought the quality of the story down.” 

“Cause and Effect”

Plot

The Enterprise is caught in a time loop with only a few indications of what is going on for the crew to try to figure out in a very short time period. They race through each day trying to discover what’s happening and eventually manage to send a message, via Data, to warn themselves. Ultimately, they are able to change the decision that gets the ship destroyed and re-loops time, thus also saving the crew of another Starfleet ship… which was trapped 80 years ago.

Commentary

The plot summary doesn’t really grasp how delightfully complex this episode was. Having the same scenes shot from different angles with very minor differences was a genius way to illustrate what’s happening, and the fact that it never really feels repetitive shows the mastery the director had in filming it.

I found myself looking for the most minute details to see if I could figure out what was going on and how to solve it ahead of the crew, and episodes that keep you guessing like this are great. Trying to figure out what the clue sent through Data meant was a blast, and although it felt a little bit forced, it was still an exciting way to solve the problem.

The ending is pretty bleak, which anyone who’s kept up on these posts will know I like. Nothing like a smack of reality in the face at the end of an episode. Picard basically says “We need to talk…” and it ends. I really wonder how that conversation went. “Sorry, everyone you know is dead… you’re 80 years in the future and stuck here.”

That would be something to chew on for a while.

Grade: A “A great mystery episode with a tough-crap ending. Fantastic drama.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “There was a good plot and good acting throughout. Well done Star Trek!”

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 5: “Power Play” and “Ethics”

ethics

Oh, what are we up to now? Casually casting aside centuries of medical ethics and practice, are we?

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.

“Power Play”

Plot

The Enterprise investigates a distress call only to have O’Brien, Troi, and Data taken over by alien energy beings. They attempt to hijack the ship in order to bring aboard more of their beings, but their initial attempt fails, only to have them instead take hostages in Ten Forward. As the hostage situation continues, the crew attempts to find ways to thwart the aliens, which largely only infuriate them more. Ultimately, Dr. Crusher finds a way to put the beings in stasis, just in time to save the ship.

Commentary

“Power Play” is a pretty intense episode based on a premise we’ve seen plenty of times before: foreign entities attempt to take over the ship. The reasons it managed to avoid feeling like a major case of deja vu were first, by involving secondary characters deeply in the drama and danger; second, by making tertiary characters more central; and third, by having just enough twists to keep viewers interested.

It was a great decision to make Chief O’Brien and Ensign Ro deeply involved in the plot, because it made the episode feel fresh despite having a plot that has largely been done before. Moreover, involving characters like Keiko O’Brien in the danger as well, because this made it feel as though someone might actually be in danger. Again, we know that unless an actor decides to leave, no main character is going to die off in TNG, so when characters who might recur show up and get in danger, it feels more real than when Riker gets in trouble for the hundredth time.

The plot itself is straightforward, but having the twist where the aliens weren’t actually what they claimed to be–marooned Starfleet people–was a bit unexpected and made it seem all the more genuine.

Also, here’s an epic quote:
Data: “Lieutenant, I must apologize for my inadvertent misconduct toward you.”
Worf: “No apology necessary.”
Data: “Your restraint was most remarkable.”
Worf: “You have no idea.”

“Power Play” is the kind of episode that could have gone very poorly, but featured enough unique plot points to rehash a similar story without feeling old or overdone.

Grade: B+ “Engaging and foreboding, ‘Power Play’ is enough to keep viewers entertained.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “I really enjoyed the suspense of figuring out who was possessing their bodies and the problem-solving that the crew went through. Also, Dr. Crusher saves the day!”

“Ethics”

Plot

Worf gets severely injured and may have permanent paralysis. This leads to his decision to try to end his own life, because for a Klingon, his life may as well be over. As the crew struggles to come to grips with this decision, Dr. Crusher has a showdown with Dr. Toby Russell, a neurological specialist, over whether to try a risky procedure that could regrow Worf’s spine. When tested methods fail to satisfy Worf, he makes the decision to ask Riker to help end his life. Riker argues that Worf must instead ask Alexander and explain it to his son. Dr. Russell, however, intervenes and suggests the risky surgery to Worf, who accepts. After apparently dying in surgery, Worf pulls through and it appears his functions will return to normal. Dr. Russell receives a stern lecture from Dr. Crusher.

Commentary

There are lots of lectures and even tongue-lashings in this episode, which was largely an exploration of ethical problems related to medicine and euthanasia. Despite this focus on the ethical questions the episode raised, there is a solid amount of plot here, even acknowledging the mostly throwaway side plot of a rescue mission the Enterprise is taking on. Sure, it’s not full of action, but the plot here centers around the characters, and the amount of investment the series has put into these characters shows through.

See, I think it must have been a tough sell to say “Let’s make an episode in which most of the main characters spend the whole time talking.” But, it weirdly works. Riker’s reservations about helping Worf were spot on. Picard’s insistence on maintaining respect for different cultural norms was also in character, though perhaps a bit more heated than one might expect. Dr. Crusher’s insistence on thoroughness and her scathing critique of Dr. Russell is probably the highlight of the episode. At the end, she acknowledges that the risk saved Worf, but her lines about the need for medical procedure and testing in environments with less risk was both in character and also on point.

The acting throughout is also great, which it would have to be if we’re supposed to believe the people are actually struggling with the issues being raised. Even Worf’s interactions with Alexander were touching.

Perhaps the biggest issue with the episode is one hinted at in the previous episode: as a viewer, you pretty much know Worf will pull through. I mean I knew this because I’ve seen the series and Deep Space Nine, but even before, you always knew the main characters would somehow make it out. I’m not sure if this episode would have worked if they had chosen a secondary or guest character to be the focus of the episode, but it would have been more dramatic as a viewer to have someone to whom something like paralysis or death could actually be permanent.

Overall, though, the episode was intriguing and emotionally powerful. It wasn’t the most exciting episode, but it was good to watch.

Grade: B+ “Lots of lecturing, but the questions it raised were deep, and the drama centering on Worf was very solid.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “‘Ethics’ featured some excellent acting but the story suffered from unexplained canister collapse and too many monologues.” 

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 5 “A Matter of Time” and “New Ground”

Surprise! I'm dropping your son off with you with no notice!

Surprise! I’m dropping your son off with you with no notice!

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.

“A Matter of Time”

Plot

On the way to try to resolve an environmental disaster on a nearby planet, the Enterprise encounters a time distortion. It turns out to be an apparent time traveler in a super advanced ship. The traveler, Berlinghoff Rasmussen, claims to be a historian and wants to observe the crew of the Enterprise going about daily routines. Things are not as they seem, however, as it turns out a major planetary crisis is developing on Penthera IV. Not only that, but Rasmussen appears to be taking things. After Picard tries to enlist Rasmussen’s help in making a decision, a major risk manages to save the planet and all the lives thereon. Rasmussen decides to leave, but is confronted and exposed for stealing various items from the Enterprise. It turns out he is, in fact, from the past and not the future but stole the vessel from a traveler in the future. The ship disappears and Rasmussen is stuck in his future.

Commentary

Boom! Plot twist! That was a great ending in an episode that made me think I had it pretty much all figured out. From the start I was suspicious of Rasmussen’s story, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. By the end, I thought that he was either actually from the future but not a historian or a straight fraud. But to have him be from the past and in a ship from the future? That’s the kind of twist that both surprised me and made me think it totally fit the episode.

Rasmussen’s character is well-acted as well, with enough mix of eccentricity and annoying traits to make a convincing character. When the twist is sprung at the end, it seems entirely believable for his character to be so underhanded.

The scene in which Picard tries to get Rasmussen to help make a decision to save millions of lives was intense. Picard’s response to Rasmussen saying it would be a shame if all the people died is perfection: “Yes, it would be. It would be quite a shame.” The false smile he has plastered on his face with the delivery just proves again that Patrick Stewart is a phenomenal actor. Well done!

This isn’t  in the all-time great tier of episodes, but it is a solidly-acted episode with a great twist and good plot. I don’t really have anything to complain about. Another winner on the time-travel front from TNG.

Grade: A “Just enough of a mystery to keep me interested all the way through.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was pretty good. The Rasmussen character kept me guessing until the end.”

“New Ground”

Plot

As the Enterprise participates in a test for a new technology to facilitate Warp Speed traveling, Worf’s mom shows up with his son, Alexander, for a visit. It turns out she has decided Alexander needs to stay with Worf. As the experiment with Warp goes awry, Worf must struggle with the difficulties of relating to a son he hardly knows and who appears to have some discipline problems. Worf decides to send him to Klingon School, but an emergency cuts off their fight over the issue. When the Enterprise takes damage, Worf and Riker must try to save Alexander before Picard has to pull the trigger to save a colony. Worf, with parental adrenaline, saves Alexander and decides he can stay on the ship with him.

Commentary

First off, there is a really awesome scene here with Geordi getting all pumped up about making scientific history while Worf and Data are completely not pumped. Geordi tries his best to get them excited, but their deadpan deliveries of their lines was hilariously appropriate. Poor Geordi. I thought it was a cool scientific moment!

Anyway, this episode does a great job combining the plot points in a way that the main plot–Worf learning about parenting–is never overshadowed nor drowns out the secondary plot–new Warp technology. This is a pretty deep episode when you think about it at all, because Worf hasn’t really taken the time to get to know his son (his inability to tell the teacher Alexander’s birthday was a poignant reminder of this). That’s a pretty tough flaw to swallow for a character who is one of my favorites, but the story of “New Ground” helps vindicate him a bit.

Worf continually tries to make what he thinks are the best decisions regarding his son’s health and life, but it seems like he hasn’t always succeeded. The increasing tension from the secondary plot allows us to explore this dimension with some real consequences and tension. The involvement of seemingly the whole crew in Worf’s struggle was contrived at points, but still helpful. Troi’s interest, in particular, seemed genuine and touching. When Worf finally decides to let Alexander stay with him, viewers can breathe a sigh of relief and feel that confidence in Worf is not ill-placed.

Finally, when I was little I loved this episode because of the field trip. I thought it was so cool to get insight into what field trips would look like in the future. Weirdly, they look an awful lot like they do today, but with cooler animals. Who knew?

Grade: A “A surprisingly deep look at the struggles of parenting.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It showed us characters in ways we hadn’t seen before and the varying plot points worked together nicely.”

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 5 “Disaster” and “The Game”

Most exciting [take that word as innuendo-laden] game ever!

Most exciting [take that word as innuendo-laden] game ever!

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.

“Disaster”

Plot

A quantum thingy (that’s the technical term) disrupts the Enterprise’s power, stranding crew members across the ship and leading to not a few injuries and deaths. Picard is stuck with some children in a turbolift; Worf is in Ten Forward coordinating the treatment of injured crew members on the deck; Geordi and Dr. Crusher are stuck in a storage bay with a plasma fire raging; Troi is the senior officer on the bridge and in charge, though Ensign Ro is skeptical of her command ability; Data and Riker seek to gain access to Engineering and possibly take control of the ship from there; and I think I caught all the main plots. All of these race to the finish as the ship nears cataclysmic explosion, from which a decision by Troi ultimately saves them all.

Commentary

“Disaster” is an episode that is ultimately far more than the sum of its parts. And, as you can see from my plot summary, there’s a whole lot going on. It’s quite a bit like “Data’s Day” in that it presents different views across the ship, but here instead of being the “mundane” of a standard day, it is the presentation of what the crew does all over the ship when a disaster strikes.

Each plot thread is actually really interesting, and the sense of tension throughout the episode is real, despite the fact that viewers generally know the main characters are pretty much invincible. You know that Geordi and Dr. Crusher aren’t going to both die, but the tension remains there because it’s well written; moreover, several guest characters (like the kids with Picard) mean that there are stakes so far as saving the lives of these side characters. It’s well done and it’s entertaining.

Worf’s dialogue as he delivers a baby is also superb. “Congratulations, you’re dilated to 10 centimeters. You may now deliver the baby!” Genius line. He has a number of good ones in this episode.

If there’s anything that makes this episode falter, it is just that some of the problems and resolutions seem to simple and too easily wrapped up. Overall though, this is a really fun episode that I’m more than happy to watch again (and again).

Grade: A- “Worf delivers a baby. ‘nough said.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “Overall it was a good idea and had good stories but a bit too complicated to do due diligence to all of the plot lines.”

“The Game”

Plot

Riker is introduced to an addictive game while on vacation and brings it back. As it spreads through the ship, Wesley–stopping by the Enterprise for a visit–and Robin Lefler are the only ones who think something might be up and act to try to stop it. Ultimately, even they are captured and forced into the game, but Wesley managed to get Data revived just in time to save the ship.

Commentary

“The Game” isn’t terrible, it’s just silly. It’s really hard to believe that everyone on board the ship would be sucked into a game, particularly with such personalities as Worf, Picard, and Troi on board. Moreover, it’s hard to believe that the game could so radically alter people’s entire belief system and loyalty in such a short time. It seems like it takes but a few seconds and you’re done for.

Also, if the game is so effective, why even bother to use the crew of the Enterprise at all? Just give the game to some of the most powerful people in the galaxy and you win. “Game” over. Okay, maybe that’s not so easy; but why not just make huge amounts of it and send it all over the place, then? Not everyone will have a Data to save the day. Subjugate a few planets and live like royalty for the rest of your lives. Anyway…

To be fair, though, the episode does a good job building a real sense of foreboding as what seems innocent at first becomes more and more ominous. The solution with Wesley being captured only to discover that he was just acting as a diversion for the off-camera action of Data is a smart way to tie the episode up. I liked the episode despite really not wanting to. That’s gotta say something, right?

Grade: C+ “‘The Game’ is a really silly episode that does enough to avoid being terrible as well.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “‘The Game’ had a good plot with a good balance of suspense and storytelling.”

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 5 “Redemption Part II” and “Darmok”

Let's Darmok this, Shaka arms wide Temba. Sort that out for me!

Let’s Darmok this, Shaka arms wide Temba. Sort that out for me!

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.

“Redemption, Part II”

Plot

The Klingon Civil War continues as Romulans try to influence it through the Duras family. Picard gains permission to form a task force to prevent Romulan supplies from getting through to the Duras faction as Worf continues to fight for his honor among the Klingons. Data is assigned to captain one of the ships and his first officer doesn’t trust him to succeed. As Picard and the Romulans, led by the apparent daughter of Lieutenant Yar, play a chess game to see who will outsmart whom, Gowron and his forces attack several Duras bases, pressing them to the limit. Data’s decision to disobey an order in order to prevent the Romulan fleet from breaking through saves the day, and the Duras family is defeated. Worf, however, spares the life of the young Duras child and returns to duty.

Commentary

As with almost every one of the Klingon story arc episodes, this is jam-packed with story. There’s so much going on that I just will pick out a few highlights. First- Data: “I understand your concerns… request denied.” – In response to his first officer’s request to transfer. Epic.

Worf’s character is, in my opinion, one of the more complex ones in the series now. The writers have done well by putting forth his balanced loyalties and cultures sometimes face off against each other as he paves his own way between human and Klingon. His ultimate decision not to kill Toral–the Duras child–was just such an excellent moment. It really showed how he has come into his own rather than doing what is expected of him.

The way the heat was turned up during this Civil War arc over several episodes is also impressive, and seeing it come to fruition was great. I think having the Romulan commander be Tasha Yar’s daughter was unnecessary, and there are all kinds of questions we could ask over Worf’s leave of absence, resignation, and reinstatement, but none of that mars what is a simply phenomenal conclusion to a major story arc. The fact that they left it just open enough by sparing Toral and leaving Worf to develop further was also brilliant.

Grade: A+ “An overarching plot is brought to an epic conclusion with enough left open to continue it if desired. Worf’s back!”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “A satisfactory conclusion to the Worf Saga.”

“Darmok”

Plot

The Enterprise comes into contact with the Tamarians, a people who have tried to connect with Starfleet in the past but have failed due to an apparently incomprehensible language barrier. Picard is kidnapped by the captain of the Tamarian ship–Dathon–after another failure in communication, and as he delves into the motivation behind Dathon’s motivations, Riker and crew try to rescue him. Ultimately, Picard begins to realize the Tamarians are communicating in metaphor, and after Dathon is injured by a strange beast on the planet, tells the story of Gilgamesh to him. Dathon dies, and the crew of the Enterprise rescues Picard, who manages to forestall any conflict with the Tamarians by conversing with them via metaphor.

Commentary

Here’s an amazing idea for an episode: how do you create a language barrier for a people who has a “universal translator” at their disposal? Make the language entirely dependent on metaphor–references to things beyond the words and even grammar themselves. The universal translator can make the words, but cannot convey information it doesn’t have about what the metaphors mean.

Sure, this idea starts to break down the more you think about it (after all, to have metaphor, you have to be able to tell other people what the metaphors are about; or, as one friend said: “You can’t build starships with metaphors”), but that’s beside the point. The point of “Darmok” is that moment of connection, the transcendence beyond language when two people are able to come to an understanding of each other. And that’s where “Darmok” excels.

Viewers will probably figure out the metaphor angle faster than the crew/Captain did, but that doesn’t take away from the journey the episode takes as Picard struggles with Dathon to come to a mutual understanding. When Picard finally figures it out and then has his attempt to fight with Dathon interrupted by getting partially beamed up, his frustration is palpable: it’s just at the wrong moment! Then, when he tells the story of Gilgamesh to Dathon as Dathon is dying, it’s a beautiful scene which required the investment of time before it to be pulled off.

“Darmok” is such a memorable episode that it sticks with you for years afterwards. It’s one of the only episodes with a name I have memorized, and its impact is undeniable. Sure, you can’t push the premise too hard without finding some cracks in the edifice, but you don’t want to. It’s just that great.

Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra!

Grade: A+ “One of the most unique and satisfying episodes in the series.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “They did a great job imagining a different culture with its own language and the challenge of communication.”

Two A+ this week means this episode-combo can only be tied for the highest grade ever awarded!

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 “Redemption, Part I”

*Sniff* - See you later, buddy!

*Sniff* – See you later, buddy!

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.

“Redemption, Part I”

Plot

The crew of the Enterprise, and in particular Worf and Picard, are thrust directly into a potential civil war building up in the Klingon Empire. Gowron seeks to take his place as the head of the High Council, but the Duras family claims a newly found child should instead take the place of the Klingon leader. Meanwhile, Worf–prompted by Picard–seeks a way to clear his father’s name and restore his family’s honor. Gowron is reluctant to give Worf’s family their honor back for the little support Worf can offer, but ultimately, after Worf’s brother saves Gowron, does restore Worf’s honor. However, the split in the Klingon Empire–revealed to be prompted by the Romulans, remains wide.

Commentary

Watching TNG all in a row makes you much more cognizant of the continuous storylines that are threaded throughout. There are the stories of Data’s development towards humanity, Wesley’s growth, and Troi/Riker’s past, among others. Worf’s Klingon background, however, is one of the hardest-hitting themes of the series.

We have seen Worf enduring much hardship for the last season and a half or so, with his family’s name dishonored among all Klingons due to his decision to take the fall for the Duras family due to the political pressures building in the Klingon Empire. To have him finally seek to clear his father’s name is a wonderful premise for this episode to go along with the real tension of the possibility of a new Klingon-Romulan alliance.

Gowron’s restoration of Worf’s honor was an awesome moment, finally clearing Worf’s family’s name. But even more epic was Worf resigning from the Federation after Picard chose to maintain a strict non-interference policy related to the Civil War. The final scene, in which Worf leaves the Enterprise with the whole crew honoring him on the way to the transporter room, seals the deal on this excellent episode.

Also, let’s not forget the scene with Guinan schooling Worf in phaser tag.

Grade: A “Worf’s family is redeemed, but at what cost?”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “This episode was chock full of intrigue and featured an exciting cliffhanger.”

Okay, I accidentally managed to review an episode twice this season, so this single-episode review wraps up season 4! Next we’ll have the Season 4 awards post, and then dive into season 5!

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.