Star Trek: TNG Season 7 “Lower Decks” and “Thine Own Self”

lower-decksI’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.

“Lower Decks”

Synopsis

The episode follows the story of a human ensign Sam Lavelle who is being considered for a new tactical slot alongside Bajoran ensign Sito Jaxa. As Riker and Troi look at evaluations and think on who might be the best fit, a civilian named Ben who works at Ten Forward learns and spreads gossip. Nurse Ogawa and a Vulcan, Taurik, begin to see there is more going on than just a crew evaluation. A Cardassian is on board and the Enterprise is working to get him back as a positive influence on Cardassians more generally. Ultimately, Picard sends Sito on the mission, but she is killed in the process. Worf mourns with the junior officers. (Fuller plot summary here.)

Commentary

“Lower Decks” is full of genius. First, the look the episode gives us at characters outside the bridge is phenomenal. Second, they used this perspective to increase the mystery quite well. Third, it builds suspense and mystery. Fourth, the main characters were utilized well.

Throughout this episode, it felt as though you as a viewer were sharing the perspective of those junior officers. It made the episode take on a very different “feel” from many others. Normally, we’d know right away exactly what is happening with the Cardassian on board. Here, however, the narrowed sphere of knowledge the junior officers has is our window into what’s happening, and it makes us have to think about what might be going on in a way that is so rarely the case in TNG.

Another astonishing thing about this episode is that it actually manages to introduce several new characters and develop them enough that I cared about them by the time it was over. Having the main characters interact with them helped, but they did a great job picking a diverse cast that played their roles well. Moreover, killing of Sito–yes, actually!–was a surprising move that made the episode even more emotionally impactful than it would have been otherwise.

Finally, the juxtaposition of poker games about halfway through the episode–that was an awesome scene. Well done all around.

Grade: A+ “A surprisingly deep look at life on the ‘other side’ of the Enterprise.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It was fun to have parallel lives, ensign edition.”

“Thine Own Self”

Synopsis

Data is sent to recover radioactive material from an inhabited planet it crashed on, but his memory is overloaded by an accident and he shows up in one of the local villages, with radioactive material in hand. As the locals interact with the radioactive material, they start getting sick. Data and Talur, the local scientist/healer work on trying to heal people while the village people blame Data for the illness. Ultimately, Data solves the problem and puts the cure in the well just before he is “killed.” He is rescued some days later by Riker and Crusher, but doesn’t remember what transpired.

Commentary

A certain kind of terror is evoked by this episode. It’s not the terror of a straight up horror story. Instead, it is the terror of, as a viewer, knowing something is desperately wrong, but realizing that no one can fix it. When we see Data carrying a box labeled “radioactive,” we know something is wrong. But then we learn that he has apparently lost his memories, and then people begin to open up the box and finger the radioactive contents, going so far as to make jewelry out of the contents… and we realize that we can only watch as people get sick.

Talur, the local scientist and healer, is skeptical of any notion that Data might be a demon, but ironically he becomes one, in a way, through the impact of the radioactive material on everyone. Indeed, there is a kind of tongue-in-cheek self-criticism of anyone who would throw out any notion of faith or spirituality, because Talur’s own skepticism is accompanied by basic misunderstandings of reality, including Aristotelian science.

All of this makes for a fascinating episode, but then we have Data somehow cure everyone, without a single loss. That simple solution takes away the force of the narrative and the impact it could have had. Moreover, Data doesn’t remember what happened or how. That makes the whole episode effectively a wash as far as impact on the world is concerned–though surely Data helped import some new inventions and scientific rigor. But imagine if he remembered how his mistakes had almost killed off an entire village through radiation poisoning! It would give the episode a completely different feeling at the end.

Grade: A- “An introspective episode that didn’t quite take its premise as far as it could have.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was kind of weird, but had many good moments.”

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 7 “Homeward” and “Sub Rosa”

sub-rosa

This isn’t weird or anything.

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.

“Homeward”

Synopsis

Worf must work with his adoptive brother, Nikolai Rozhenko, to try to save a primitive people on a planet that is being destroyed. However, Nikolai has other plans than letting them die and instead forces Worf–and the crew of the Enterprise–to help him by simply beaming them on board.  He does so, however, in a carefully prepared holodeck deception such that he can prepare the people for transplanting to a new planet. One of the people discovers what has happened, but commits ritual suicide. Finally the rest of the group is transported to a new planet and Nikolai stays behind to help them adapt to the new planet.

Commentary

I wanted to like this one more than I did, but the plot holes were gaping. How do you transplant a whole people from one place to another–not just one place, but different planets–without major rehabilitation of how they live and breathe and move, etc.? How could the Enterprise really have so many difficulties maintaining the holodeck that it would start breaking down systems? How could Nikolai not be subject to any kind of discipline? I don’t know!

The interplay between Worf and Nikolai was pretty great. Basically all of Worf’s family from any species is amazing drama. It was great to see the brothers interacting and how that played out through the episode. It was really the interplay between these two that carried the episode and made me more willing to ignore the plot holes. Sure, it doesn’t make sense, but at least you get to see more dynamics of Worf’s family. The guy who played Nikolai did a great job selling his character and the backstory for him as well.

It’s not a terrible episode, it’s just very difficult to take the central premise seriously.

Grade: B “Intriguing character dynamics are marred by an unbelievable plot.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “The premise was interesting, but the plot as many holes as a screen door.” 

“Sub Rosa”

Synopsis

Dr. Crusher returns to her home to bury her grandmother, when she meets her grandmother’s lover. Turns out he is a good age for Beverly as well, and he is extremely charming, so she begins to fall for him too. However, when Picard comes to visit, he asks questions of Crusher’s new lover, Ronin. As Ronin evades Picard’s inquiries, he casts a web around Crusher that tightens ever more, ultimately revealing he is non-corporeal himself. When he is threatened with exposure by Geordi and Data, he attacks, and Beverly vaporizes him.

Commentary

I feel like I experienced this plot elsewhere before. The work I’m thinking of is a Clive Barker novel, Galilee. I admit I only vaguely remember that one, but what I do remember is some kind of dude who seduces all the ladies in a family over time. Of course, this episode was aired four years before the publication of that novel, but I read the novel more recently than I saw this episode, so it felt strange to me. Also, I’m pretty sure this was one of the episodes that my parents ultimately banished my sister and I from watching as it aired back in the day, because it is creepy.

Anyway, this was a strange episode. It is one of those that really does not feel like Star Trek at all. It’s like something from Edgar Allan Poe. What’s interesting is when you search this episode online, you see it popping up on a number of “worst of Trek” lists, but also a few “best of Trek” lists. Clearly this is a divisive episode for the fans.

It’s hard for me to see Crusher falling for Ronin so easily, but maybe he has more powers than the episode said such that he was able to seduce her very quickly. But… ew.

Grade: B- “Uh… What?”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “While not a standard Star Trek plot, it was a pretty good story. Penalty for continued use of female characters primarily for romantic subplots.”

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 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 “Lessons” and “The Chase”

I love everything about this picture.

I love everything about this picture, except that I couldn’t find a better quality version of it.

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.

“Lessons”

Plot

There is a new transfer aboard the Enterprise shaking up the science departments,  Lieutenant Commander Nella Daren. When Picard confronts her, he figures out she is up to the challenge, and a skilled, intriguing woman as well. He starts to interact with her more and more, discovering that she is more interesting than he had imagined. It quickly becomes apparent that Picard and Daren are falling in love, and it is a poorly kept secret on board the ship, causing some tension. Meanwhile, they are preparing to attempt a rescue mission on a planet with raging firestorms. Lieutenant Commander Daren is assigned to one of the teams, and initially it seems she was lost on the mission, causing Picard much grief. She turns up alive, however, but Picard realizes he can’t be on board the Enterprise with someone he cares so much about. They decide to part ways, hoping to find each other again in the future.

Commentary

“Lessons” as an episode that does exceptionally well introducing a new character (Lieutenant Commander Nella Daren), building up her story, and having her make an impact on a main character in a noticeable way. It helps, of course, that they chose Captain Picard as the character to fall for Daren. Riker would have been too predictable, but to see Picard fall for her was unusual enough to be intriguing. Not only that, but the way she clearly complemented Picard so well made us root for the relationship as the audience.

Another major plus is that Patrick Stewart acts so well! The hesitancy with which he approaches the relationship, the embarassment he clearly displays when he realizes pretty much the whole ship knows, and his interactions with Riker about Daren are all portrayed exactly as we might expect from Picard. The side story of the rescue mission is clearly just an add-on to make drama with Daren go down, but I didn’t mind it because it made sense for the plot: what would Picard do if he had someone he loved–really loved–on board? The decision to part ways was painful, though expected. As a viewer, you know that it can’t possibly continue–they’re not just going to add a main character midway through the 6th season–but it still made me feel badly for them.

Also, the firestorm had some cool special effects and problem solving. Often, when something like that is just added on to make drama, the set isn’t that interesting or it might just occur entirely off-camera. This time, they really made their money’s worth on it.

Grade: A “Right in the feels, Captain. Right in the feels.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “The plot and acting were both quite good, but the pace of the storytelling seemed off.”

“The Chase”

Plot

Professor Richard Galen shows up on the Enterprise with a marvelous archaeological gift for Picard. He wants Picard to join him on a quest to finish his life’s work, but he is very secretive about it. When Picard turns him down, he leaves to do it on his own but his ship is attacked and destroyed by an information dealer. Picard is determined to track down the reasons behind what his old professor was doing and chases the information trail around the quadrant. It turns out he’s not the only one looking into it, however, as there are also Cardassians and Klingons searching for the same finds. Ultimately, they manage to trace the information back to one planet, where they are trapped by Romulans. In the ensuing confrontation, Picard and Dr. Crusher unwrap the last layer of the mystery, which turns out to be that an alien race long ago seeded the various worlds in this galaxy for life like their own. Hence the reason all the aliens look alike. The people exploring the region leave, largely disgusted, but the Romulan commander reaches out to Picard in hope for eventual reconciliation.

Commentary

The opening of this episode set the stage to be completely awesome, and it stored up enough good will for me to overlook some of the insanity that followed. I absolutely love when Picard gets all geeked out over archaeology stuff, probably because I also get nerd excitement from it. The opening with a description of how the artifact Galen gifted to Picard was just perfect, and it revealed enough mystery for me to want to know more.

The overall plot wasn’t bad either. Having the ultimate reveal be that some alien seeded life all over to look like themselves was kind of neat, and it retroactively explains why so many advanced aliens in the Star Trek universe look alike. I wonder if it ever gets referenced again.

What was difficult to accept was the insane amount of hand-waving over details throughout. How did all of these other peoples manage to have chunks of information that was relevant to the main quest? Scientific discoveries of their own? Well, the episode hints that they bought the information, but how did they get it so quickly and how did they break the code without the intimate knowledge of genetics that Dr. Crusher brought to the table? It just didn’t make a lot of sense. Moreover, when would Picard suddenly allow a Cardassian diplomatic access to his ship and then cart her around to help solve the mystery? Did he forget he was just tortured by the Cardassians not too long ago? Or did he also forget that they’re basically enemies? Why were the Klingons so hostile? The reason given was they wanted the “weapon” coming from the research, but that’s not really how alliances work, is it?

There was a lot of silliness and craziness in this episode, but it mostly seemed to work. I didn’t mind it all that much, because the mystery was exciting enough to keep me interested throughout. “The Chase” is one of those episodes that I feel like I enjoyed probably more than I should have given its quality. But why apologize for liking something more? I won’t! See the grade!

Grade: A- “Some ridiculous moments and a too-fast conclusion don’t completely undermine the careful groundwork laid at the beginning.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “Finally we understand why all the aliens are upright-walking bipedal humanoids.” 

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.

Robotech: The Macross Saga – 30+ years late review

Super cool art!

Super cool art!

I received the complete series box set of Robotech for Christmas in 2014. I had been wanting to watch a new anime, as I hadn’t done so in, well, too long. I figured I’d go back to the roots and check out Robotech because I always thought it looked so cool. Here, I’ll offer a review of Season 1, also known as “The Macross Saga.” There will be 30 year-old SPOILERS in what follows.

The Macross Saga starts in a fairly dramatic fashion: some alien warship crashed into Earth (said warship is later named the SDF-1) and humans prepare to meet whatever threat might be following it by adopting its “Robotech” (robo-technology- get it?) as their own. The aliens, the Zentraedi [or Zentradi, depending which corner of the internet you ask to spell it for you], show up to collect the crashed ship, thus setting off a war with humanity. There is plenty more plot where that came from, but that sets up the basis for the rest of the season.

Frankly, the plot isn’t anything spectacular. What makes the show worth watching are the characters, who have surprising depth and undergo significant development throughout the series. I say it is “surprising” because this is largely a show for kids, and I wasn’t expecting much in the way of character development. Thus, I was pleasantly delighted by how much depth several of the characters had. Towards the end of the season, there develops a complex love quadrangle between Lynn Minmei (pop singer and movie star), Lynn Kyle (her cousin–it’s Japan, folks!), Lisa Hayes (officer on board the SDF-1), and Rick Hunter (fighter pilot and main character). I had a lot of fun watching this develop and it is quite well-written. Lynn Kyle is a major jerk, by the way–his verbal abuse of Minmei was enough to have me yelling at the TV screen a couple times.

I said the plot isn’t spectacular, but that’s not because it is overly-predictable. It has a few twists which I didn’t see coming, not because they were well-disguised but because I wouldn’t have guessed exactly how they’d play out. The Zentraedi ultimately are converted to human culture through the singing of Minmei, one of the female protagonists. Yep. That happens. Epic pop music is humanity’s secret weapon, so you better be thankful for all the Biebers and T-Swifts out there. But seriously, it was actually kind of cool to see how this played out as the Zentraedi were exposed to more and more human culture and discovered they, well, kind of liked it!

That insight brings me to some criticisms of the show. First, the singing of Minmei isn’t actually that great, despite the fact that she’s supposed to be this major pop sensation. The songs are catchy, but her delivery left something to be desired. I think I’ll always remember the songs, though. I can hear them playing in my head right now, actually. The ridiculous way some of the plot plays out is another strike, like the above pop-stars conquer all motif. There are also way too many flashbacks. I get that it’s a show largely for kids so summary is a good idea, but there is one episode that is just the captain going back over previous episodes the whole time. It’s just too much.

Robotech: The Macross Saga is a great anime. It is fun and flies past, just like a great TV show should. I enjoyed it, and I think if I were about two decades younger, it would have been on my all-time favorites list. As it stands, it is a very solid anime. I recommend it.

The Good

+Surprisingly deep love story
+Great animation of fight sequences
+Interesting look at the impact of culture
+Good music
+Developed characters

The Bad

-The singing isn’t great
-Plenty of silliness
-Too many flashbacks

The Verdict

Grade: A- “Robotech’s first season has plenty to critique, but it also has plenty of heart and some totally awesome scenes.”

Robotech was a lot of fun to watch, and actually got better as the season went on. I’m looking forward to the next season.

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!

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 6 “The Quality of Life” and “Chain of Command, Part I”

Get your motor running... head into the Jeffrey's tube... Lookin' for adventure...

Get your motor running… head into the Jeffrey’s tube… Lookin’ for adventure…

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 Quality of Life”

Plot

The Enterprise is on hand to evaluate some kind of particle stream technology at a space station to see if Starfleet will back it. The project seems to have everything going wrong, but an experimental robot–the Exocomp–appears to be doing great work on catching up. Then, they start malfunctioning. As Data, Geordi, and Dr. Farallon–the lead of the project on the space station–try to figure out what went wrong, Data begins to suspect the Exocomps may be alive. Work on the station is slowed down as Data performs a few tests and appears to be mistaken. However, as he goes back over the problem, he discovers the test did not actually reveal what he thought, and the Exocomps are alive. They are to be deployed as sacrifices to save Captain Picard and La Forge, who were trapped on the station , but Data interferes and the Exocomps save the day anyway, by sacrificing one of their own.

Commentary

Lots of plot to try to summarize here, but it’s a fairly straightforward episode despite all that. There are machines that, on close examination, appear to have attained some kind of self-preservation functionality. Are they alive? Data says yes, everybody else appears to say no. Ultimately Data is apparently proved to be correct.

There are some questions to be asked here, and the episode occasionally touches on them. One is the definition of “life” and what constitutes a life form. Others that weren’t touched go around the question of artificial intelligence. Is self-preservation really the best criterion for establishing that something is life? Could not an AI program generate self-preservation as part of its accomplishment of assigned tasks? Is life emergent or sui generis? These questions are barely even hinted at in the episode, but they keep popping up in my mind.

That’s what undermines the core of the episode: the execution just isn’t quite there. It skirts over some tough issues (those hit upon in episodes like “The Measure of a Man”) to make its point, but it gets their both too quickly–by ignoring questions–and too slowly–by having too much of the plot consumed by one question. It’s certainly not a bad episode, but it left a strange feeling afterwards. It wasn’t quite satisfactory.

Grade: B- “Not a bad episode, but a bit too roundabout in its execution.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “The premise was good, but the execution was lacking.”

“Chain of Command, Part I”

Plot

The Enterprise is handed over to Captain Jellico and Picard is relieved as he, Worf, and Crusher are sent on a secret mission into Cardassian territory. Tension has been rising along the border and Starfleet believes that the Cardassians are developing a biological weapon. Jellico clashes with the crew–particularly Riker–as his hardlined get-crap-done style goes against the more deliberative way the crew has been operating.

Commentary

This episode is intense! The Enterprise has a different captain, Picard and team are training for a secret mission, the Cardassians are putting on the heat, and the crew is struggling to deal with the swirl of changes around them.

Troi had a good scene when she went to Jellico and attempted to convince him that he was a bit over-the-top. She was roundabout enough to not get in direct confrontation, but also pointed enough to get her thoughts across. The scene just revealed how big a jerk Jellico is. One major question that remains in my head (and I suspected it wouldn’t be resolved in the next episode) is how such a hard customer as Jellico managed to be a Captain of some pure science vessel like the Excelsior class. I mean maybe it helps them get exploration done more quickly but wow he needs to take a chill pill.

Although the infiltration scenes were a bit of a stretch (the three of the crew kept talking in normal voices–even crying out at times–in a situation in which they would have needed absolute silence), they were still exciting. To discover that it was a trap was a thrill, even though I’d seen the episode multiple times before.

Overall this was a great Part I. A huge question is left wide open: What happens to Picard!?

Grade: A “The plot thickens! Traps are laid! Picard captured!

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was pretty good, but some of the things didn’t make very much sense, like the way they did the change of command. Also, why is he so annoying?”

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 3 “Hollow Pursuits” and “The Most Toys”

hollow-pursuits

“I sense you feel awkward. Here, let me turn down the lights and get closer to increase that feeling.”

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.

“Hollow Pursuits”

Plot

Reginald Barclay is a “Joe Schmo” engineer on board the Enterprise who is a klutz. He’s always late for everything (except for every meal?), he messes up on the job, he’s socially awkward. No one likes him. Picard, however, decides that Geordi (among others) must make an effort to integrate Barclay into the crew. This turns out to be harder than everyone may realize as Barclay’s social awkwardness comes to the forefront. Moreover, a series of problems occurs aboard the Enterprise which leaves everyone on the brink of destruction. Barclay and crew attempt to figure out what is wrong, and Barclay ultimately figures it out with a rather unorthodox suggestion right in the nick of time.

Commentary

It is a testament to a show like TNG when it can make episodes about sub-characters which are even a bit compelling. “Hollow Pursuits” is really quite interesting as it reminds viewers that everyone has struggles, even in the sometimes pristine perfection of the future in Trek. And, really, as a viewer you have to feel sorry for Barclay. As mentioned above, he’s got a lot of problems. He even  has a nickname, “Broccoli,” from Wesley Crusher. Seriously!? Low blow!

Barclay is a relatable guy, and the episode does a good job making him such. His struggles are ones we often endure, like the fear of fitting in, “where to hold our hands,” and the like. But…

I wanted to give this episode a higher score, but I just found the main characters acting so out of character that it became really quite bothersome at points. Picard orders Geordi to become Barclay’s best friend? Really? I’m not surprised that the Captain would want his crew to make every effort for individuals, but Picard’s character also seems like one that demands the absolute best out of his crew, and when one is continually not hitting the grade reports of everyone else, there may just be a weakest link. Troi’s own behavior as counselor was unacceptable in a number of places, particularly her insistence that they intrude on Barclay’s private mental life on the holodeck.

Of course, all of these out-of-character moments are intended to make us relate more to poor ole Barclay, and at times they do work. The problem is that they are just so unbelievable it makes it difficult to buy into the episode as much as one like this needs you to in order to get the most out of it. It’s a solid premise with poor execution.

Grade: C “It was unbelievable and out of character for many of the main characters, but Barclay did a competent job carrying the episode just out of the ‘bad’ range.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “Barclay was an interesting character and I thought that they managed the plot and characters well.” 

“The Most Toys”

Plot

Data is captured by Mr. Fajo, a man who collects rare objects, and coerced into becoming part of his collection. As Data resists, Fajo ups the ante and threatens lives of others in order to get Data to comply. Meanwhile, the Enterprise, thinking Data dead, rushes off to help a colony deal with a water problem. The crew of the ship realizes that the facts are just a bit too convenient and head off looking for Data. Data attempts an escape which leads to his partner’s death by Fajo’s hand, and the Enterprise rushes back to save the day, but not before Data made a hard choice to kill Fajo which was only interrupted by the transporter.

Commentary

Here’s an episode that has stuck with me throughout time. I’ve always remembered this one, because there is such a feeling of wrongness about it. When I was younger, I was enthralled by the cool idea of a guy who traveled around the galaxy trying to build up the greatest collection of interesting things, and as I got older I realized there was more complexity to this issue than meets the eye.

Once more, viewers are forced to consider the question of whether Data is property or a person. In the back of our minds, having watched the show straight through to this point, episodes like “The Offspring” or “The Measure of a Man” spring to mind to point us in the direction of thinking that Data is a person and this whole thing is one awful mistake. Fajo’s character sells this episode big time. He is nefarious, greedy, but also very thoughtful. He just wants “the most toys.” Is that too much to ask? Data insists it is and even comes to the tipping point where he makes a calculating–not enraged–decision to kill Fajo to prevent the cycle from continuing. It’s an epic moment f or Data’s character, as the viewers know it is not a decision based on emotion. This theme is reiterated when Fajo–his life spared only because Data was transported mid-firing–is confronted by Data who points out that it does not bring him pleasure to see Fajo contained. Yet as the credits begin to roll and Fajo is shown still standing in his cell, viewers are left with the distinct impression that Data, not Fajo, is the moral being. It’s a great point, and another poignant moment in an increasingly awesome season.

The only real problem with this episode is that it does drag on at points. The juxtaposition of the race to save a planet’s water supply with Data’s own struggle was solid, but it also made the episode feel a bit elongated. Many of the scenes on the Enterprise felt like filler, particularly because of the great drama in the scenes with Data. I downgraded it a bit because of this, but really this has always been an episode I enjoyed quite a bit. It’s a great premise with lots of moments of excitement. I give it an “A” in the enjoyability category, but stick with my final overall grade.

Grade: B+ “A bit of a drag at times, but an awesome premise and exciting execution.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B- “The plot felt a little contrived and the villain looked like an elf from the Santa Clause movie.”

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.