Monday, July 18, 2011

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season Six

I'm going to be honest: this season, the episodes are running together just a little bit. It seems like every episode the writers are messing with time or the perception of time or the minds of the crew or reality itself, and it's starting to feel more and more like slight variations on the same theme. Jonathan Frakes was pretty vocal about how the real money was being spent on the first season of Deep Space Nine instead of TNG, and it kind of shows. Now it does feel, on some level, like the writers aren't as interested in the characters.

But I still like the characters. I don't want to give up on the show yet. But I am kind of glad there's only one season left after this one, because it's getting a little fastidious here.

1. Time's Arrow, Part II (my rating: 2 out of 5)
Fun, but there are plot holes in this thing big enough to fly the Enterprise through. I guess when you have an episode like this it's more fun to give Mark Twain dialogue than it is to bother with explanations. Probably more fun to watch, too.

2. Realm of Fear (4/5)
Transportation is taken for granted on Trek, so it's nice to see that some people might have a perfectly natural fear of it (not a cartoony gruffness towards it, like Dr. McCoy or Dr. Pulaski). The sequences inside the transporter itself are fascinating--definitely a view we've never seen before--and as always Dwight Schultz is tops. Colm Meaney is great on this episode, too.

3. Man of the People (1/5)
So frigging ridiculous. Basically it's another Deanna mind-rape story, only with her ridiculous growth into a cougar and then more of that terrible old-age makeup. To quote my old mentor, why isn't Michael Westmore on welfare where he belongs? It tries to wrap itself up in terms of being a story about the greater good, but it's silly and self-righteous in the worst ways. And the solution to this puzzle is beyond ridiculous.

4. Relics (3/5)
It is nice to see Scotty again, but I wish it had been something more. You almost didn't need the action subplot here; it was interesting just to see Scotty interact with the crew, even though they're kind of dicks to him most of the time. Geordi is particularly insufferable here. I like that the episode manages to hold off from being overly sentimental; just hearing the ambient noise of the original Enterprise bridge on the holodeck was touching enough. Also, Scotty doesn't seem to bothered that everyone he knows is dead... Good callback to Scotty's "It's green" in "By Any Other Name."

5. Schisms (2/5)
Another episode with the crew being abducted by aliens. It's more chilling than "Clues" (they cut Riker's damn hand off and reattach it!), and there's some real suspense, but the ending just goes nowhere. Were they trying to leave it open for the return of the aliens, or did they just not come up with anything?

6. True Q (3/5)
Olivia d'Abo is always beautiful and I love Q; I find it hard not to enjoy his appearances. It's nice that we get two Q episodes and two Barclay appearances this season, since neither of them appeared in season five. I like the references to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and d'Abo's crush on Riker is cute.

7. Rascals (3/5)
Well, it does seem to me that this is the kind of episode you do when you're running out of ideas and losing interest fast. It's very cute, though, and I like the angry kid version of Ro. I also like Alexander being involved with the action, and they handle the Ferengi invasion without doing too much of a Home Alone rip-off. The boy playing Picard--also the boy who played Rene Picard on my favorite episode, "Family"--is perfect, even duplicating Picard's cadence. This almost, almost made me want to watch a series for kids about the kids onboard the Enterprise. It would be like TNG's version of The Sarah Jane Adventures.

8. A Fistful of Datas (3/5)
From the "they-turn-into-kids" episode to the "takes-place-in-the-Old-West" episode. Fun, and well-directed, and I got a kick out of Deanna as Durango, the Mysterious Stranger. And I really do like Alexander. But I don't know why anyone even goes on the holodeck, since all it does is malfunction and nearly kill everyone.

9. The Quality of Life (2/5)
It's interesting to see what lengths Data is willing to go to in order to protect what he thinks may be a nascent life form, but it also feels like covering old ground. I don't think this episode is anyone's favorite.

10. Chain of Command, Part I (5/5)
Cinematic in scope, and the fragile peace with the Cardassians is really explored here. I love Ronny Cox as Captain Jellico; a very military sort of guy, but one who isn't wrong, even though he runs the Enterprise his own way and clashes with others. The break in to the Cardassian lab is something I was less interested in, but the cliffhanger is amazing.

11. Chain of Command, Part II (5/5)
One of the most powerful episodes any Star Trek show has ever done. The interplay between Patrick Stewart and David Warner is too compelling to look away from, and the torture is almost too realistic to take. Ending on a note of uncertainty instead of wrapping everything up... we're a long way from Captain Kirk here, and it's fascinating.

12. Ship in a Bottle (5/5)
Finally, we have the return of Professor Moriarty. They turn him into a bit more of a super-villain in this episode, but the labyrinthine twists and turns--holodecks within holodecks within holodecks--are astonishing and fun. It's more of a mystery than the new Sherlock Holmes movie is going to have... The final twist is great; I like the way they let Moriarty think he's won and go along rather than discussing him into defeat. And Barclay's final line is note-perfect.

13. Aquiel (1/5)
And creepy Geordi the creeping stalker is back. Terrible.

14. Face of the Enemy (4/5)
Interesting to a point. I love the interplay between Deanna-as-a-Romulan and the Romulan commander. Marina Sirtis is so good in this episode you feel bad she's had so little to do for the previous five years.

15. Tapestry (5/5)
My second favorite episode of Next Gen, and even though I think I said before that "Deja Q" was my favorite Q episode, this is really it. It's a fabulous episode for Picard, my favorite character, and I love that we see the story he told Wesley about way back in "Samaritan Snare." Just a perfect episode.

16. Birthright: Part I (2/5)
The inevitable crossover with DS9. I had forgotten all about Dr. Bashir's existence, I'll be honest. I liked Worf on this episode, but his story here isn't that interesting, and I found Data's dream even less interesting. That seemed like filler in order to stretch this to two parts. And hey, didn't Worf used to have a kid? For an episode so centered on Worf's family history, it seems strange not to have him around.

17. Birthright: Part II (2/5)
Boy, I really wanted to like this one, because I find the Klingons so interesting. What do you think: black Muslims? I read something the other day where the Klingons in TNG moved from the original series' Soviet counterpart to black separatists who needed to be confronted from within instead of from without. I think TNG has missed the mark a little on trying to confront the issue of racism with the Klingons, and this episode tries too hard. Worf is like an unforgiving racist in this episode. He destroys peace in a community of Klingons and Romulans simply because it's his culture's tradition to be racist about it. Sadly, it's completely in character for Worf, but he never really, really has to confront that racism. It's like he refuses to accept Klingons who don't adhere to his vision of traditional Klingon culture. The show is completely uninterested in pursuing how Worf himself must strike the balance between his culture and his duties as a Federation officer, but instead just forgives him his fascist streak on this episode.

18. Starship Mine (5/5)
Refreshingly unpretentious and straightforward action thriller, which Picard is more than game for.

19. Lessons (4/5)
I usually prepare for a dull episode when Picard falls in love, but I thought this one was very in-character and poignant. I wasn't a fan of "The Inner Light," but the existence of that episode adds so much depth to this one, as Picard touches on the same feelings he lived and is able to express it not just through his music, but by joining his music to someone else's. It's all very lovely. Of course, Picard wasn't going to be allowed to remain in a relationship, but the way this relationship is taken apart is very organic, mature, and realistic.

20. The Chase (1/5)
It's like they just did this episode to explain why nearly all of Michael Westmore's alien designs look like humans with forehead rashes. After the build-up--during which Nu'Daq is hilarious--the end feels like an anticlimax.

21. Frame of Mind (5/5)
This episode takes some of the overdone themes on this show of how we perceive reality and the capabilities of the mind and really makes a great episode out of them. Frakes is excellent in this episode, and each twist and turn is truly suspenseful.

22. Suspicions (1/5)
Nothing about this episode works for me. And why is Beverly Crusher leading a science symposium? Geordi or Data, sure, but a medical doctor?

23. Rightful Heir (2/5)
I love Kahless, but I don't like the message of this episode. I think it's patronizing about religion, and it almost feels like an apology for the staunchly atheist message of "Who Watches the Watchers." See, we're not against your religion. Kahless is like Klingon Jesus or Klingon Mohammed, and we all have to respect that because it's Klingon culture and tradition and so on. The argument for faith and spirituality feels especially contrived at the end; when Kahless gives his parting speech to Worf it feels like an argument against rationality and for nonsense.

24. Second Chances (4/5)
Frakes is very, very good on this episode giving two performances as two different versions of himself. It's brave of the show to basically throw into doubt whether or not the Riker we've known all these years is "real" or not. And it's a brave, interesting ending, too. I like the point being made that the "real" version of ourselves is made from experiences and choices. This is another episode where they do it right.

25. Timescape (5/5)
I love the mystery aspect of this episode: that Picard, Data and Troi beam aboard the Enterprise to discover what looks, stuck in time, like a Romulan attack on the ship, only to discover the truth of the incident while trying to deal with a causality that keeps repeating itself. Also, I like how we see more and more peace being made possible between the Federation and the Romulans.

26. Descent (3/5)
This season's cliffhanger is a bit underwhelming, which is a shame since it figures rogue Borg, the return of Lore, and the repercussions of letting Hugh go back to the Borg after reclaiming his individuality last season. I did find Data's sudden development of emotions very organic, but I wasn't so involved in the story. And why beam 99% of the command crew on an away mission?

Well, one more season left. I think I've seen almost none of the episodes. Looking forward to it, but cautiously so.


Bob said...

"There. Are. FOUR. Lights." Best line of the whole series?

Caffeinated Joe said...

Some good episodes this season. "Time's Arrow" brings me back in time to when I was younger and made sure to be in front of the TV Saturday nights at 7:00 pm. Also love "Timescape". Amazing story premise, to me.