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.
William Riker is captured on a mission in which he and other Starfleet personnel were trying to learn more about a people they were going to make first contact with on behalf of Starfleet. The crew of the Enterprise attempts to initiate contact and get Riker back, but factions within the planet’s people themselves try to prevent the change that they are afraid of. Finally, Riker is involved in an altercation as an alien tries to fake his own murder and blame it on Riker. Riker is rescued and the man treated, but ultimately the people decide not to enter the wider universe yet.
Wow, at some points this really felt like an episode of The Original Series. The alien coming on to Riker, the campy overall feel of several scenes, each hearkened back to TOS. This can be a good thing, but here it felt deeply out of place in an episode that needed to be taken more seriously in order to really reach the heights it aspired to. The campiness takes away from what is a serious premise and insight into the way Starfleet operates in making contact with others.
Frankly, it is the latter part that really carries the episode. It’s such a fascinating look into the comings and goings of Starfleet life. We knew generally that of course they made contact with other peoples, but never before (at least in TNG), have we seen this in action. It was so interesting to see this that it, again, felt very jarring when the tone was changed from serious to tongue-in-cheek and campy. However, even with the occasional difficulties, this was a great way to experience Starfleet life in a way we hadn’t really seen before.
What did you think of the campy parts? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments.
Grade: B+ “A solid episode about the way Starfleet makes contact.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “The pace was a little off in some places but overall it was a great episode showing the first interactions with a new people.”
The Enterprise investigates the scene of another Starfleet ship which has been stuck adrift. Everyone on board other than one Betazoid is dead, but there is no apparent explanation. Unfortunately, the Enterprise also finds itself stuck adrift and as the crew tries to get underway again, they also start to experience hallucinations, erratic behavior, and fear. Dr. Crusher finds that they aren’t having dreams–except for Troi. Troi’s dreams turn out to be a message and she works with Data to set up a way to escape from the situation.
It’s hard for Star Trek to do horror, but “Night Terrors” shows that TNG is capable of at least maintaining a very strong sense of foreboding throughout an episode. There are some moments that are creepy, and apart from some cheap attempts at thrills–like the snakes in Riker’s bed–most feel genuinely intense–like the scene with Crusher in the morgue. It’s an impressive effort made even more noteworthy because it could have gone so poorly. It could have been very cheesy, and it wasn’t. Kudos!
The main plot is fairly thin–the Enterprise must get unstuck. But that doesn’t really undermine how thrilling the episode was overall. A very cool episode, even if it is a throwaway plot.
Grade: A- “A real sense of foreboding accompanied by an intriguing problem make this episode memorable.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “A Great premise and good acting.”
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