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 5 “The Inner Light” and “Time’s Arrow, Part I”

Welcome to your new home, where you will spend the rest of your life only to wake up and realize it's all a dream kind of.

Welcome to your new home, where you will spend the rest of your life only to wake up and realize it’s all a dream kind of.

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 Inner Light”

Plot

A strange probe is found in the middle of space and when the Enterprise draws near, it seems to attack Picard. As the crew tries to figure out what happened to him, Picard wakes up in a completely different world, complete with a wife and a society in which he exists. Initially perturbed, he attempts for years (!) to figure out what happened, and slowly comes to integrate himself into the agrarian society. Meanwhile, only minutes are passing on the Enterprise as they track the probe’s flight path back to a system devoid of life–apparently a star went nova, burning out any life forms in the area. Picard in the other world grows old, has children and even a grandchild, and then is asked to come see a rocket launch. It turns out the rocket was launching the probe that has passed on the memories of the system’s people and society to Picard because they knew they would all be destroyed. Picard wakes up back on the Enterprise having lived a lifetime elsewhere.

Commentary

The sheer scope of the episode is astounding, as it tells the story of the culture and people in snippets that make one envious of the way they’ve organized society. Thinking about the episode makes it really tough to think that anyone other than Picard could have taken the overwhelming mental toll that living an entire life in minutes could take on him. Do the memories continue to haunt him forever? How real are they to him? How does he sort out the real from the complete other life he lived?

Patrick Stewart puts this episode on his shoulders like Samson put the city gate of Gaza on his back and carries it in the most epic possible way. The episode was absolutely sold by Stewart throughout, as viewers are sucked in by his performance. He never seems to fully give up the notion that his real life was indeed his real life, but he ultimately settles into his alien life–as any of us would.

The society created for the episode seems utopic, but not over-the-top. It is easy to see how Picard eventually could have felt comfortable settling in. The characters are all robust enough to make you care about them, even if you know they are all just one-offs. It’s just really well-done.

The final scene in which we see Picard get delivered the flute and begin to play with it–a nod to the fact that he has just experienced an entire lifetime of an alternate universe–was both hopeful and terribly sad. Perfection.

“The Inner Light” is, in my opinion, one of the best pieces of television out there. It is just absolutely phenomenal.

Grade: A+ 

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was a fairly touching but frankly bizarre way for the alien people to record their history.”

“Time’s Arrow, Part I”

Plot

Data’s head is discovered in a dig site on Earth–from hundreds of years prior to the “current” time in Star Trek. The crew discovers temporal distortions that lead them to believe some malevolent time travellers are going back in time on Earth. They try to protect Data but he is the only one capable of spying on the different time period and then inadvertently gets sent back to San Francisco in the 1800s. There he finds that Guinan is among the literary elite–but it is actually Guinan several hundred years ago so she isn’t cognizant of everything that is happening. As Data and the crew try to reunite, Mark Twain spies on them, thinking they are part of an alien plot.

Commentary

If I recall correctly, this two-parter is hated by many TNG fans. Frankly, I didn’t think it was awful. It was just ridden with plot holes and unexplained things. Well, plenty of things were attempted explanations but the answers to “why” and “how” questions provided were not very satisfactory. How does the crew so easily go back in time when before only Data could handle it?

And why is Mark Twain so annoying? I’m going to sidetrack here for a second and say that when I was young my family would visit my Grandma in Quincy, Illinois and cross the border to Hannibal, Missouri every year to visit the various Mark Twain tourist locations that were available. It was a great time that involved all kinds of fun with caves, sluicing for rocks, and literature. I fell in love with Twain and the lore around him on these trips. All of that said, I can honestly say that if he was this annoying in real life he was a real twit! Goodness, they did not really pull out any stops!

There is also a bit of difficult, in my opinion, with the overall plot. It just seems a bit strange that the aliens would pick the time they went back to out of all times in human history to eat humans. Maybe some of the weirdness will be cleared up in the next episode.

Grade: C+ “An intriguing concept with more holes than Swiss cheese.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “Great suspense and use of plot devices.”

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.