Star Trek: DS9 Season 3 “Through the Looking Glass” and “Improbable Cause”/”The Die is Cast”

Improbable Friendship?

I’ve completed my re-watch of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Now it’s time to start Deep Space Nine! I am much less familiar with this show, though I’m pretty sure I’ve seen about 80-90% of episodes. It’s been so long that I’m sure it will all feel brand new. My wife has never seen the show. She and I will go through, review every episode, and give commentary and a grade from A-F. There are SPOILERS for each episode below. Without further adieu, here’s:

“Through the Looking Glass”

Synopsis

O’Brien comes over from the mirror universe first discovered in “Crossover” and kidnaps Sisko, bringing him back to the utterly different universe in which Cardassians, Bajorans, and Klingons work together to conquer the galaxy. He specifically grabbed Sisko because the Sisko in the mirror universe was killed in action rebelling against this coalition. He needs the “real” Sisko to take his counterpart’s place long enough to unite the rebellion and lure his wife (who is alive in this universe) back to the rebels. After some haranguing, Sisko agrees, and he succeeds at getting Jennifer away from the Alliance. His mission complete, he returns to the “real” universe, somewhat saddened by what could have been.

Commentary

When I saw “Crossover,” I assumed it’d be a one-off with no relevance going forward. That’s obviously not the case, though I don’t know if the mirror universe will show up again. This was, I thought, a superb use of the story of the previous episode that managed to avoid some of the flaws of “Crossover” while also strengthening Sisko as a character.

That, perhaps, is the real story of this episode: Sisko’s character development. We all don’t care much about the Mirror Universe–at least I didn’t–because we know it’s not “real” in the sense of the perspective of our characters. Thus, having Sisko go there and really get put through the ringer–his wife showing up alive and on the other side was genius–made me get invested in this episode in a way that “Crossover” couldn’t manage because it was too busy establishing the differences of the Mirror Universe. Here, we get Sisko struggling to deal with his own feelings of guilt, sorrow, and loss while also experiencing some hope. There is an intensely bittersweet taste to the whole thing at the end, with Sisko thinking on what could have been.

The plot of this one is solid too. It’s nothing special, but it is action-packed and exciting enough to get me as a viewer involved in the struggles of parallel characters in that Mirror Universe.

Grade: A-“It was cool to get another look at the alternative universe, and the story was fairly strong.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: 

“Improbable Cause” and “The Die is Cast”

Synopsis

A two-parter episode. Garak’s shop explodes and Odo investigates, leading to both becoming embroiled in a Romulan plot to kill Garak. As they pursue this lead, they are captured by Romulans who happen to have on board Garak’s former intelligence boss, Enebran Tain. It turns out the Cardassians and Romulans have decided to collaborate to try to end the Dominion threat by destroying the Founders. They bring a combined fleet through the Wormhole and Sisko et al. pursue in the Defiant. Drama ensues when a security officer sabotages the Defiant‘s cloak under orders from a Starfleet admiral, who is trying to let events play out. Meanwhile, Garak is forced to interrogate Odo, leading to a kind of torture in which Odo isn’t allowed to turn back into his liquid state. Garak finds out nothing useful, but begs Odo to let him stop the torture. The Cardassian-Romulan fleet attacks the surface of the Founder’s world but discovers it is a trap, and the fleet is annihilated by a huge number of Dominion ships. Garak goes to save Odo and is assisted by another changeling who reveals the whole thing was a plan by the Founders to end the threat of the Romulans and Cardassians. They escape, and back on DS9 Odo and Garak begin to repair their relationship by meeting for lunch.

Commentary

There is a ton here. First, I want to address the scenes with Garak and Odo. My goodness. It was brutal. To me, it seemed a bit implausible that Odo would turn around and immediately extend the olive branch to Garak after these scenes, but they sold it as a kind of thing with Odo knowing Garak did not wish to harm him. Though that feels a bit tenuous, it also speaks to how brutal reality can sometimes be.

Many other issues regarding the suspension of disbelief could be brought up from these episodes. I mean, seriously, how did the Cardassians and Romulans decided to work together and do so–taking entire fleets–with their overarching bodies allegedly not knowing about it at all? I am quite skeptical. Moreover, if the Dominion is really so powerful that they can just decimate a joint fleet like this, why not just swarm through the Wormhole and take everything over? I’m sure some of this is a setup for later intrigue, but it seems like the Dominion is pretty overpowered at this stage.

Garak’s character continues to have depth, though it’s always frustrating to lose out on how much of the background we get may or may not be true. I do think he got some strong development here, however.

Overall this is a strong two-part episode with some jarring and emotionally disturbing scenes.

Grade: A- “Deeply emotional and exciting, but the episode suffers from some serious implausibility issues.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment:

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: DS9– 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.

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Star Trek: TNG Season 7 “Parallels” and “The Pegasus”

ParallelsI’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.

“Parallels”

Synopsis

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.

Commentary

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.”

“The Pegasus”

Synopsis

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.

Commentary

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.”

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 “Birthright, Part II” and “Starship Mine”

I smell DEAD ROMULANS!

I smell DEAD ROMULANS!

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.

“Birthright, Part II”

Plot

Worf has been captured by Romulans in what is ostensibly a prison planet. But it turns out the Klingons held here are staying willingly, and have integrated with the Romulans who are there captors. Indeed, some have even intermarried and had Klingon-Romulan children! After causing some trouble, Worf is placed under guard, but he continues to work to try to instruct the young Klingons in the ways of their people. He gets through to young Toq, who had been assigned to guard him, after a hunting outing. Toq comes back singing and translating a Klingon hymn. Tokath, the Romulan commander, decides he must execute Worf, but the young all go to stand with him and he must relent, allowing several to leave with Worf to return to the Klingon Empire.

Commentary

Klingon-Romulan Children, Batman!? WHAT?

That was about Worf’s reaction, too. He had a similar negative reaction when he saw Toq using a Klingon spear to till soil.

I loved the scene in which the Klingon hymn was passed along from person to person–something which had apparently become a lullaby was suddenly infused with much cultural meaning. The development of Toq’s character was fascinating, and it provided a great way to see the conflict that was playing out on a smaller scale.

What makes this episode particularly fascinating is the competing moral themes found therein. On the one hand, can you truly fault a Romulan who wants to have peaceful coexistence with Klingons, and helped forge his own vision of that peace in a part of the Romulan Empire? On the other hand, should that peace be based on deception–or at least withholding truth? These aren’t easy questions to answer, and the episode largely just leaves them hanging out there. We are clearly supposed to side with Worf and truth, but on the other hand we can’t help but sympathize with the desire for peace.

I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for Klingon culture, so this one was just a slam dunk for me all around. The one thing I think it may have missed out on was developing the story we got in part I regarding Data a bit more. Otherwise, this episode did everything right.

Grade: A+ “Epic exploration of recovering lost culture.” 

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It was a good exploration of the Klingon identity.”

“Starship Mine”

Plot

The Enterprise is docked for repairs, but when Picard goes back on board to retrieve his saddle, he discovers a plot to steal highly dangerous material off the ship. He thus works to thwart the perpetrators as much as he can, ultimately managing to destabilize the material such that it explodes just after they escape.

Commentary

Okay, so my plot summary left out the scenes in which the crew had to deal with small talk (oh no!) and try to figure out how to mess with their captors back on the surface, but this one really has very little plot overall. It’s all about Picard stopping the plot to steal explosive crap from the ship. It’s not bad, but it isn’t great either. It’s kind of ho-hum, really.

It was great seeing Data adapt himself to small talk. I mean, seriously, the scene in which he and “Hutch,” the Starfleet commander on the surface are going back and forth endlessly with their banter was just fantastic. I laughed out loud (not lol’d, but in reality).

Once again we run into the very real problem of stretching the suspension of disbelief beyond the limits. How is it that they wouldn’t actively be scanning to make sure Picard came back to the planet? Why wouldn’t they just beam him back, thus preventing him from interfering with the capture of the materials? Why even let him go back to the Enterprise? Clearly, the plot had help from the top levels, so they could have easily just said that the scan was in progress and Picard couldn’t return to the ship. Problem solved, right? But no, they don’t do that. Oh, and by the way, they also didn’t bother to put in any failsafes on the system such that if it were about to, I don’t know, kill somebody, it would stop automatically and send a warning back to the control console. All of this makes this a tough episode to swallow.

Also, did “Hutch” actually die in this? I don’t remember it being stated definitively, but he was a really fun side character and it’s sad he got dispatched so quickly. It would have been great to have him continuing his small talk banter after being captured!

What I did like, apart from “Hutch,” was seeing the ways Picard came up with to thwart the people on the ship. It was fun seeing all the Jefferies Tube scenes with him crawling all around everywhere and setting up traps. It made the episode more compelling than it would have been otherwise.

Not a terrible episode, but not up to the standard I’ve come to expect either.

Grade: C+ “It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t compelling.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B- “Not as interesting as other episodes, but still was fun to see Picard going all around the ship.”

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 “Aquiel” and “Face of the Enemy”

Time to kick some Romulan butt.

Time to kick some Romulan butt.

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.

“Aquiel”

Plot

The Enterprise investigates an interstellar com station when it goes quiet, but there is no one left aboard other than a dog… and an ominous looking pile of genetic goop. Geordi La Forge works to access the visual files of Aquiel, one of the two stationed on board, as Dr. Crusher examines the goop. Meanwhile Picard and gang interact with some Klingons who may have had contact with the station recently. Just after La Forge manages to get through Aquiel’s file, it turns out she’s alive and had been captured by the Klingons. Her story is tough to reconcile with the evidence as well as the previous records of both her Starfleet career and that of the man stationed with her, who appears to have been killed. Ultimately, it was actually a body-snatching crazy gelatinous beast that killed her coworker earlier, and then her dog… and tried to kill Geordi.

Commentary

Yep, that last sentence isn’t creepy at all. We’ll set that aside until later. For now, let’s focus on what works here. The mystery was sustained throughout the episode, in particular as you as the viewer learn, through accompanying Geordi, that Aquiel seems pretty normal and even personable. Then, you discover that she might be lying about some things and even distorting the truth, and her service record isn’t great; whereas the man she is saying started the violence has a stellar record. Seeing it through Geordi’s perspective gives it some credence of holding mystery for longer.

The biggest problem here is really hard to get over: it is extremely difficult to believe. Some random body-snatching/eating alien entity that is itself not really intelligent manages to take on not just the appearance but also the entire personality and job of the beings it consumes? Just by observing it for some period of time? It’s too much to take seriously.

Another problem was La Forge getting reverted to the inept male lead character. He’d done so well! But now, he falls in love with a video before he even meets the woman recording them. Alas.

“Aquiel” is not a bad episode, it just fails by providing a too easy (and too weird) solution to the questions it raises.

Grade: B- “An intriguing mystery that stretches the suspension of disbelief just a bit too much.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was an interesting episode, but some of Geordi’s actions in particular and the investigation seemed to be far-fetched.”

“Face of the Enemy”

Plot

Troi wakes up as a Romulan. Apparently she’s been captured by N’Vek, a Subcommander on a Romulan Warbird, and altered to help assist several high-ranking Romulan officials escape and seek asylum in the Federation. She is masquerading as a member of the Tal Shiar, the Romulan intelligence agency. As the Captain of the Romulan Warbird presses Troi, not quite believing her story, the plan starts to fall apart. Eventually, Troi takes the plan over, demanding to be given a say lest she blow the top off. She is able to coordinate with N’Vek to get herself and the defectors onto the Enterprise, but not before N’Vek is struck down.

Commentary

Maybe I’m a little inconsistent here, but I’m a bit more forgiving on this one regarding the “believable” factor. There is, I think, real reason to doubt that Troi would be able to pull off any kind of realistic imitation of a Romulan. Sure, they added in the device of her being “Tal Shiar” and so she wasn’t really to be questioned, but it seems like it would be extraordinarily difficult to, without warning, just step in to a role as an intelligence officer.

What makes up for it is the strength of the suspense and the tension. You can just–barely–believe that it is possible, because Troi manages to deflect the pointed questions leveled at her by the captain. And really, this episode is Troi’s time to shine. She kicks some major butt all over the place, giving orders, setting out demands, smacking down subordinates, and the like. She comes into her own in the role that was thrust onto her. This isn’t the Troi that we see too often: the Troi who is purely a victim of circumstance to be pitied. Instead, here, she takes the reins and drives her own ship.

The plot is pretty good in its own right. There is a great tie-in to Spock’s work on Romulus in the two-parter Unification. It is easy to believe that some would get disenchanted with the harsh rule of the Romulans–even those within the system themselves.

Overall, a great episode that finally gave Troi a chance to shine.

Grade: A “Troi rocked Romulus.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was a compelling story but suffered from once again, Troi being the victim of circumstances beyond her control. Though she did rise to the occasion admirably.”

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 “I, Borg” and “The Next Phase”

the-next-phase

The needs of the many… wait a second!

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.

“I, Borg”

Plot

An injured Borg is brought aboard the Enterprise, causing all kinds of chagrin among various members of the crew. As Dr. Crusher treats the Borg’s injuries, the crew tries to come up with a way to turn the Borg into a kind of silent bomb that would introduce a virus into the collective. They discover, however, that the Borg has learned identity as Hugh and “I.” The Borg, in other words, has in some way un-assimilated. Ultimately Picard and crew decide not to have him used to destroy the entire collective but rather hope that his re-assimilation will possibly share individuality with the Borg.

Commentary

You will be assimilated!

But seriously, this one is about a Borg’s assimilation into non-Borg society (see?). It’s quite compelling to see how the Borg act outside of being simply single-minded assimilation machines. Guinan’s character provided some balance to the other side, pointing out that the Borg show no sympathy and simply will continue unless impeded for all time. However, once she herself confronts Hugh, she seems not quite as ardent about the need to utterly wipe all Borg off the face of the universe.

What makes this episode so surprising is that it actually gets you as the viewer to empathize with a Borg. That is a true feat that is worth mentioning. It is hard to not still feel as though the smart thing would have been to eliminate the Borg, however.

Hugh turned to Geordi at the end, indicating that even after his reintegration into the Borg, he seemed to possess some sense of individuality. It will be interesting to see whether that impacts any future episodes at all or whether it is ever brought up. I can’t honestly recall it having any impact in Voyager or later in TNG, but I’ll try to keep my eyes open now that I’m watching them all in order.

The main complaint I had about this one is how hard it was to swallow the speed of the transition. Hugh is almost too human at points and it is surprising how quickly the transition takes place–and the crew’s buying into the transition is just as speedy. It’s a TV show so these things have to happen quickly, but it still felt rushed.

Grade: A- “I felt sorry for a Borg. Well done.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “I enjoyed it very much, but they could have done more with the crew’s response to having a Borg on board.”

“The Next Phase”

Plot

As the Enterprise assists a Romulan vessel that had an explosion, a transporter accident leads to the “death” of Ensign Ro and Geordi. The two crew members, however, are not dead but rather “phased” into a different level of existence. They are able to walk around ships, but also through walls. They are invisible to the crew. As they try to figure out what happened, they uncover Romulan subterfuge that would potentially lead to the destruction of the Enterprise. On a race to get themselves phased back into normal existence, they are pursued by a Romulan crew member who also suffered the same fate. Ultimately, they manage to send the Romulan hurtling through space and reappear at their own memorial service, saving the lives of everyone aboard the Enterprise.

Commentary

Wow, this one came out of left field! I remembered really not enjoying this episode before, and I think it is because of the dialogue between Ro and Geordi. Some time ago when I saw it, I interpreted it as an attack on religious sensibilities. I, being very religious, was offended.

Now, I being still very religious, realized that it was more a thoughtful discussion of the interplay between religious beliefs and their correspondence with reality. It was an interesting angle that was explored through Ro’s beliefs, and it actually seemed like it strengthened or reawakened her faith rather than jettisoning it.

The mystery surrounding the episode is very intriguing. Even without the raised stakes of the Romulans trying to destroy the Enterprise, there is plenty of suspense here. What would it be like to not be able to talk to anyone around you? What would you feel like if you just passed through everything and no one ever could interact with you? What would you do? The questions aren’t really explored, but I can’t help wondering about them. It’s part of what made this episode so good.

The race to save the Enterprise alongside being “phased” back into existence was great, and the scene in which Geordi tries to get Data to realize what is happening was absolutely delightful. The writers were able to mix some humor into the seriousness of the episode, while never losing the urgent tone. It’s a really awesome episode.

Also, can we officially say that Geordi has massively stepped it up? He’s had some good episodes in the past, but now it’s like every episode he has a major role in is fantastic. Way to go La Forge!

Grade: A “A surprisingly strong episode that reflects on some of the dangers of technology gone awry.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It had good action and characterization as Geordi and Ro dealt with their predicament.”

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: “Unification Part I” and “Part II”

Data wants in on that action.

Data wants in on that action.

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.

“Unification Part I”

Plot

Ambassador Spock has gone to Romulus and the security risks are huge. Picard and Data are dispatched to investigate and recover Spock while the Enterprise is sent to track down some missing ships and suspicious activity surrounding them. Picard and Data have to co-opt a Klingon starship to get to Romulus, and they encounter a good deal of resistance. Meanwhile, Riker and crew discover there is something untoward happening with the disappearing ships. After Picard and Data arrive on Romulus, they are captured, only to discover they have found Spock! Oh, and Sarek dies.

Commentary

This is a pretty solid set up for a two-part episode. The stakes feel pretty high as it is understandable that if Spock is capture, all kinds of important information might be extracted from him. Many of the scenes are high-impact as well, such as the pretty cool scene with the junkyard dog and Troi. Look! The episode can use irony to combat the objectification of women!

The initial scenes with Sarek and Picard trying to discern Spock’s intent reveal some real depth of character for both Sarek and Spock that wasn’t there before, and that alone makes this episode worthwhile. But there is much more, such as the interesting concept of political movement in Romulus towards reform, the need to compromise, and some really neat political intrigue.

I have to wonder, though, what’s going on with the Klingons. I suspect we’ll see some interesting flare-ups happen with them again, because they really seem anti-Starfleet all of a sudden.

Overall, Part I is a fun watch with some really great moments. Can’t wait to watch the next part!

Grade: A- “A great beginning that has me excited for the conclusion.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “An intriguing beginning, I look forward to seeing what happens next!”

“Unification Part II”

Plot

Spock is working to try to reform Romulus from within, but it seems that elements in the hierarchy are moving at a too-convenient pace. Meanwhile, Riker and crew work to trace the path the missing Vulcan ships took. As Spock and gang are captured and seemingly forced to watch while the Romulans destroy the Vulcans, Riker’s suspicious nature saves the day. Picard and Data manage a great escape while Spock stays behind to try to work further towards reform.

Commentary

The range of sets and scenes in the episode was really impressive. I particularly enjoyed the alien bar with the four-handed piano player. It had just enough flare and fun to keep me smiling the whole time without ever seeming to overdo it. Romulus’ various sets were pretty awesome, too, and watching the Enterprise range all over the place was pretty neat. The production values across the board were great.

The plot is exciting, too. As betrayals are unveiled and the stakes are continually raised, it never feels like it is overly forced. The Romulans just seem cunning enough that they just might try to pull something like this off, and Spock and gang aren’t overly gullible about what’s happening. It was a great way to balance the buildup to betrayal with necessary skepticism of the good guys.

Seeing Spock talk about his father has the emotional impact it should and Picard giving him his father’s love is a touching scene. Spock’s decision to stay behind seems to exactly fit his character as well.

This is a two-part episode I’m genuinely shocked I didn’t remember. Maybe I only managed to watch it once before or something, but this thing has impact. Weirdly, I discovered from reading some comments online that it apparently doesn’t sit well with many hardcore Trekkies because they feel it was a desperate movie tie-in. But neither I nor my wife felt that way about what is, really, a great episode. Are some things too convenient? Sure, but that’s just par for the course in TNG.

Grade: A “A few flaws don’t mar what is otherwise a pretty awesome episode.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “The follow-through on the first episode’s beginning was very good, but it lacked a little something awesome.”

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.