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.
Worf returns from a bat’leth tournament (something I’d like to witness) to a surprise birthday party, much to his chagrin. Things start changing, however, almost immediately. His cake flavor is different, but that is just the first indication things are changing. As the episode continues, larger and larger changes happen, with Worf entering universes farther from his own. Ultimately, Worf must go in a Shuttle among a horde of different Enterprises in order to seal the rifts between the worlds.
Alright, let’s get this out of the way. “Parallels” relies a lot on what has come before. It serves up a heaping helping of fan service. The plot itself is pretty interesting, but only because we care so much about the characters. Now, if you cheat and scroll down to see the grades I give, you’ll be wondering why I’m saying this given the score I awarded it. The simplest answer is because… it’s a heaping helping of fan service and I want to eat it whole.
How many times do Star Trek fans sit around saying “what if…”?
The opening is fabulous. Surprise party for Worf, just when he thought he was safe. It was delightful to see his reaction as well as the gifts people brought for him. The final scene is also done very smartly. Worf has learned from his experience, and one of the things he’s learned is that Troi could be more than a friend to him. It is possible, in a literal sense (this sentence is not nonsensical if you watch the episode). So, what does he do? Bust out the champagne, baby! Gotta love it.
Grade: A+ “Give me more Worfs.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “Aside from a few plot inconsistencies, it was quite good.”
Admiral Erik Pressman takes the Enterprise on a top secret mission to try to recover technology from the Pegasus, Riker’s first ship. It turns out things aren’t as cut-and-dried as they seem, however, as Riker has second thoughts about his siding with Pressman so many years ago when the crew of the Pegasus mutinied. The Enterprise races a Romulan Warbird to find the Pegasus, and finally discovers it half entombed in stone. It turns out that they were testing a cloaking device that allowed for shifting through solid matter as well, in direct violation of a treaty with the Romulans. Ultimately, Pressman is called out for his violation of this treaty and it seems severe repercussions will follow. The true story of the Pegasus will be told.
The main problem with this episode is how hard it is to believe. First off, the crew of the Pegasus mutinied for what reason, exactly? The answer seemed to be because of the experiment with this hyper-dangerous cloaking device. But then as the episode went on it morphed into being about the ethical problem of the treaty with the Romulans. If the mutiny was for the latter reason, then it is interesting how easily fixed that problem was this time. If for the former reason, it is surprising how easily the Enterprise used the cloaking device not even intended for it. That raises the second difficulty: how exactly does a cloaking device that is designed for one ship (and failed) magically work for an entirely different ship and class 12 years later? What?
Despite these difficulties, the overall plot was pretty phenomenal. It allowed us to plumb Riker’s past and learn just how complex a character he is, while also maintaining serious suspense in the here-and-now. Particularly poignant was Riker’s own reflection on how much he has changed since his tour of duty on board the Pegasus and how he has come to realize he probably made the wrong decision. That’s a big thing to address, and for Riker to realize that must be an enormous weight. The episode also does a good job balancing the ethical questions it raises with more pragmatic concerns.
I liked the episode a lot, but it would have been better if they’d managed to make the core premise more believable.
Grade: A- “I enjoyed the intensity of this one, even if it stretched credulity a bit much.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It was a solid episode with some good ethical dilemmas. Riker was great.”
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