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.
Picard is convinced to take a vacation and he goes to Risa, a luxurious vacation planet (apparently?) to take some time by the beach/pool and read some lengthy books. Life has different plans for Picard and he encounters Vash, an archaeologist who is being pursued by a Ferengi and trying to find the Tox Uthat (hereafter TU), a weapon from the future. Meanwhile time-travelers are also pursuing the weapon. Picard and Vash team up and go to find the TU but after encounters with the future-peeps and Ferengi fail to find it. Ultimately, Vash is confronted by Picard and is forced to reveal she already had the TU, which Picard destroys to the chagrin of all.
Look, this episode is like a lost Indiana Jones movie (a good one, not one of the even ones) with Patrick Steward as the lead playing Jean-Luc Picard. Need I say more? No? Well I’m going to anyway.
This is one fun episode. The beginning of the episode is great, as a conspiracy to get Picard to take a vacation unfolds. Riker encourages Picard to go to Risa for the women, resulting in this funny exchange: Riker: “Have I mentioned how imaginative the Risian women are, sir?” Troi: “Too often, Commander.” Dr. Crusher asks Picard to give his own prognosis and cure: vacation. Troi mentions her mother might be stopping by (DISCLAIMER: LWAXANA TROI IS NOT IN THIS EPISODE!). Picard ultimately must give in.
But the fun only gets started in the introductory scenes, as the premise of Picard taking the role of Indiana Jones and going off on an adventure to find a lost future weapon is just fantastic. Maybe it is my inner archaeologist speaking, but I love that Picard is into archaeology, and to finally have an episode feature this aspect of his character rather than just use it as an explanation for how he knows something is great.
The episode has many twists and turns which are at times a little over-the-top but in general are, I think, delightful. It’s like a pulp adventure translated to television, and it just works. This ranks among my most-enjoyed, and it gets there through its tongue-in-cheek narrative and winking the whole time while also showing off Picard’s character more than he has been in a while.
Also, on a side note, I think this was my biggest score-difference with my wife in an episode yet.
Grade: A “Indiana Jones…. in SPA-A-A-A-A-A-CE!”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: C+ “It was just unbelievable.”
A strange living ship has been discovered and the Enterprise must race Romulans to reach it. The Enterprise is also acting as diplomat transport to bring Tam Elbrun, a Betazoid with powerful empathic abilities, to try to communicate with the ship. Ultimately, Tam goes aboard the ship and stays, finally finding peace from his empathic dissonance.
Here’s an episode that makes a dramatic turnaround. When viewers first encounter Tam, it seems we’re about to get another obnoxious character episode that–at least in the past–leads to some half-hearted attempt to garner sympathy. Here, however, Tam’s character experiences genuine development. Troi and Tam have a past, and their discussions about empathic ability adds great depth to both characters without seeming contrived. Tam is well-acted and he is able to make the character feel real in developing through the episode.
The Data/Tam sub-plot is also great, as Data’s lack of feelings means Tam cannot sense him, which ironically makes Data the ideal companion for a man constantly haunted by the minds of others. It is a great dynamic to add to the episode. Having Data round it off by pointing out that he “belongs” on the Enterprise is a fitting end to an episode about finding one’s place in the universe.
Grade: A- “Initially off-putting, the episode sucks viewers in with a solid plot and developed character.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “I enjoyed Tam’s character and the Tin Man resolution to the problem.”
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