Monday, July 25, 2011

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season Seven

Well, here's my thoughts on the final season. This one took us a little bit longer because we're reading A Dance with Dragons and, well, this season... It's like the entrenched group of writers just aren't feeling it anymore. They're all anxious to move on to Deep Space Nine and Voyager and leave this flawed place behind. I think it's in this final season where it's more obvious than ever that the great weakness of TNG is their lack of continuing story arcs. In a way, it becomes sort of anti-character development. As in the previous season, a lot of stuff gets repeated here or just seems to happen and then get forgotten. It actually becomes a little frustrating.

1. Descent: Part II (my rating: 2 out of 5)
I don't know why I just didn't connect on this one. I like Lore and Data, and the final scenes (and final confrontation between the two) are very good. But watching Data torture his best friend is just too much, and I don't find the individualized Borg very interesting. Again, I like the continuing evolution of Data, but this was another cliffhanger-resolving disappointment.

2. Liaisons (2/5)
Cliched, but fitfully interesting. I think it's amusing that with this episode both George and Susan Francisco from Alien Nation have been on the show. I enjoyed the bits on the ship with the Lyraan ambassadors (the one who loved desserts was hilarious), but the stuff with shipwrecked Picard was pretty obvious.

3. Interface (2/5)
I just... don't care about Geordi. I don't. I like Madge Sinclair and Ben Vereen, but I just didn't connect here, either.

4. Gambit: Part I (3/5)
Fun, kind of different from the usual episode, and Patrick Stewart is great. Fun filler.

5. Gambit: Part II (2/5)
A disappointing conclusion. Stewart and Frakes are quite enjoyable, but the twists and turns are all obvious, and the great Vulcan mind weapon is actually risible: they basically defeat her with the Starfleet version of the Care Bear Stare.

6. Phantasms (4/5)
Data's dreams are much more interesting here, and the alien presence is very interesting. As far as the constant series of time shifts, mind rapes, alternate realities and disturbing dreams go, this is one of the more interesting this season.

7. Dark Page (4/5)
Another of the more interesting mind/psychology episodes, and one that adds a lot more depth to Lwaxana Troi in her final appearance. It deepens Deanna, too, a character so often underused on this show, although I'm sure the sister she lost as a baby will never be mentioned again, because that would be character development. I enjoyed seeing little Kirsten Dunst, too. Good performances by Marina Sirtis and Majel Barrett.

8. Attached (4/5)
Good, but frustrating. I love that we finally get some real, meaty interplay between Picard and Dr. Crusher, and the actors are both terrific here, even if the premise seems a little over-familiar. It doesn't matter, since the situation is just an excuse to get Jean-Luc and Beverly into one another's minds and bring some unresolved feelings to the surface; it's like they finally realized how shitty "The Arsenal of Freedom" was back in the first season and decided to really get into the unrequited love between the characters. And then, when they've finally got everything out of the way and we're in a position to move forward with the Picard-Crusher love story they've been setting up since literally the first episode of the entire series... they drop it. They decide they can't pursue it. Thanks for nothing. What a letdown.

9. Force of Nature (1/5)
Next Gen finally gets to the preachy environmental episode. Putting the brakes on warp capability--giving them a speed limit of warp 5--is like just giving up in a way that Star Trek is supposed to be better than. Putting the message before the story on this one.

10. Inheritance (4/5)
An interesting look at not only family relationships (one of many such examinations this season), but in the essential differences between reality and how we perceive it. I like Data's "mother," and I think their relationship is fascinating, especially Data's final decision. It's a much better look at the faith of others and how it may sustain them than last season's preachy "Rightful Heir."

11. Parallels (5/5)
Worf randomly shifting between realities is tantalizing. It's a well this show goes to an almost unconscionable amount, but this is a good one. The relationship in some realities between Worf and Troi makes surprising sense; they should've started pursuing it back in season five, after the House of Mogh was sort of settled. Worf got a little lost in the shuffle there after, and I would've been more interested in seeing him deal with family issues of his own--Alexander, Deanna--rather than a lot of the Klingon culture stuff we got. This is terrific.

12. The Pegasus (3/5)
What are they putting in the water at Starfleet Command? Terry O'Quinn is always good, but how many insane admirals have we seen now? An interesting Riker episode, but it's familiar ground.

13. Homeward (2/5)
I like Paul Sorvino as Worf's human brother, but it's all pretty predictable. And all this endless talk of the Prime Directive... what a plot contrivance the Prime Directive has always been.

14. Sub Rosa (3/5)
Beverly Eyre dreams of Manderly. Dr. Crusher's grandmother dies on Planet Scotland, where it's apparently always 1740, and leaves her a house, a ghost, and the opportunity to live the plot of The Turn of the Screw. Silly as hell, just really dumb, but Gates McFadden really goes for it ("it" sometimes meaning writhing in orgasmic ecstasy while crackling ghost energy molests her).

15. Lower Decks (4/5)
An interesting episode focusing on junior officers and showing us the command crew through their eyes. It really is a good idea to let us see what life must be like for the junior officers hoping to be promoted, even if most of the actors aren't that good...

16. Thine Own Self (4/5)
I think the two plots here--basically Data as Frankenstein vs. Deanna Troi taking her test to become a bridge officer--don't sit as well together as they should. They're both good, but they don't quite get the room to breathe that I'd have liked. For this episode to really have the impact it wants, though, Data should've just died at the end of the episode. I mean, really, in the end it's what's wrong with this show: there's not a lot of impact because everything goes back to status quo and life-altering events don't really alter anyone's lives. They could've made a really interesting point about the effects of exploration and tampering with another culture and the entrenched fear of society to new things, but in the end Data just gets to go off to the next adventure. It kills some of the drama when you know there aren't really any consequences.

17. Masks (1/5)
You know, this episode just sucks. It's just bad.

18. Eye of the Beholder (5/5)
So, the Worf and Troi romance that's obvious to everyone that works on this show only really happens in alternate realities? Disappointing that the writers won't just let it happen. This is a fantastic episode, too, even though it's basically another Deanna mind-rape episode, but I like the way it keeps the audience in the dark and lets the mystery unfold.

19. Genesis (4/5)
Genuinely moody and scary episode, though it kind of gets crazier and crazier. The dark atmosphere really works here, and de-evolved Worf is terrifying. Great suspense.

20. Journey's End (2/5)
Wesley is a little shit on this episode. Just a smug asshole. I know he's supposed to be sullen with the weight of expectation and all that, but it doesn't make for pleasant drama. And all of the stuff about the Native Americans just seems patronizing to both sides. I do appreciate seeing that Starfleet Academy isn't the only option in the future, but it's such a smarmy episode for Wesley to go out on.

21. Firstborn (5/5)
A fantastic final Worf/Alexander episode. I love the Alexander from the future. There are some good scenes, particularly the conversation between Alexander and his younger self. I also like the way it shows us how hard Worf tries, but how clueless and uncomfortable he really is as a father. His confrontation with Future-Alexander is a surprising and fascinating way for the conflict to be resolved. A more mature episode than I was expecting. I love the Klingon Festival, too; very different than what we've seen.

22. Bloodlines (2/5)
I don't care about the Ferengi or DaiMon Bok at this point. Why a retread of a weak first season episode so late in the game? The con job is obvious, but I like some of the scenes where Picard tries to come to terms with being a father. Too bad the actor playing his false son is so unappealing. Anyway, you knew he wouldn't really be Picard's son, because that would be character development and require continuity.

23. Emergence (1/5)
Flat out ridiculous and, at times, unintelligible. I am beyond sick of the holodeck going haywire to make hacky stories work.

24. Preemptive Strike (2/5)
Less of a TNG episode and more of a set-up for Voyager, this episode is pretty unsatisfying. It doesn't help that the main character is Ro Laren, someone we haven't seen for over a year. I wish she'd just stayed on the show and been fleshed out, then her Electra complex wouldn't just come out of nowhere and been the focus of the whole episode. Since it's a character not fully established and familiar, her betrayal of Starfleet doesn't have much impact. I'm amazed Ro wasn't in the Maquis already, anyway. Imagine her having to confront Picard that way instead of the wishy-washy morality play about terrorism we get here. By the way, the Maquis are the most uncharacteristically jovial terrorists I've ever seen. It's kind of creepy. The Stepford Terrorists.

25. All Good Things... (5/5)
Well, this may have had more urgency if the crew weren't stumbling through time every third episode, but this is one hell of a great finale. It's cinematic in scope, and actually better than the four Next Gen films are. Everyone has a chance to shine, and rather than just being situational (though it's quite epic), it also explores the effect of time on relationships and the idea of friendship in a way that is weaved in organically to the plot. John de Lancie is tremendously welcome as Q, especially as something of a voice for the viewer. This is a beautiful way to wrap up the series, with a lovely coda at the card table that isn't cloying or cutesy. Too bad the Troi/Worf relationship doesn't get to flower until this final episode, but we do get Yar and O'Brien back for a little while. One of the best series finales in television.

And there it is. I think this show lost its passion a bit in this season and the previous one. But I love the characters and I'm glad to finally have watched it in its entirety.

I'm not sure what's next. I think I need a bit of a break from Star Trek, just a little while, but Netflix will be streaming Deep Space Nine starting in October. I'm still reluctant to pursue Voyager, because every time I've seen it I've hated almost every single character... So who knows?


Caffeinated Joe said...

Good reviews. You hit on the way I feel about most of these. I loved "Attached" since I had waited so long for some movement in the Jean-Luc/Beverly romance. Just wish they had, like you said, carried on. Back when I watched this originally, I never thought much on the lack of arcs, but now I see what you mean. The show would have been so much deeper had things mattered and changed.

Ah well.

And yeah, that finale was freaking AWESOME! I loved it. Was so depressed when it was over and TNG was gone. :(

Semaj said...

Preemptive Strike: I liked this episode. It is actually more of a set up for DS9. The Maquis woman that is teamed up with Ro shows up again in the DS9 episode “Defiant”. It is a nice little touch. I can see Ro joining the Maquis.

The Pegasus: I guess we know where John Locke really ended up after turning the donkey wheel…into the 24th century. I actually like this episode a lot. I like the conversations Picard has the Romulan commander.

Lower Decks: I liked this one too. It gives us an insight into the background people on the show. People that almost never see the bigger picture, but have something to say. B5 did a similar episode too, which was also good. They actually planned on bringing Sito Jaxa back for a DS9 episode where she had to cope with being in prison for many years. Shannon Fill really didn’t do much acting after TNG, which is sad because I thought she was a good actress.

I'd watch the seasons 3 and 4 of Enterprise and perhaps all the Earth based VOY episodes...the ones that deal with VOY making contact with Earth.