Saturday, July 09, 2011

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season Three

This season is the strongest so far (well, the second half is), so I'm getting right to it. Oh, and thank christ Beverly Crusher is back and Dr. Pulaski is long gone, never to return...

1. Evolution (my rating: 3 out of 5)
Surprisingly interesting; it pulls out a lot of the cliches of your standard science-scare story, but I like the plateau of understanding that's reached. One episode in, and Wesley's back to nearly killing everyone with his experiments... I have to hand it to Wil Wheaton and the producers and writers, though: after the first season, they really did tone down Wesley's arrogance. I don't have a problem with him from season two on.

2. The Ensigns of Command (1/5)
Boring. I found Data's proto-love story ineffective, but I did like some of the back and forth between Captain Picard and the Sheliak. I get the point--how do you convince someone when logic isn't enough--but the episode doesn't find the dramatic possibilities.

3. The Survivors (3/5)
I thought this was rather lovely and, ultimately, very sad. Rather unique. I don't have much to say about it, but I like it.

4. Who Watches the Watchers (4/5)
I admit, as this was starting, I was certain I wasn't going to like it, but it's a very effective episode that, interestingly enough, argues that religion is harmful to society, particularly when it begins to supplant ration and reason. Strong performances in the guest cast, most notably Ray Wise.

5. The Bonding (4/5)
The first episode of this show, chronologically, that has had me in tears. Granted, part of it is the story's theme of losing a loved one (Ellen was immediately in my mind), but Wesley confronting Picard with unresolved feelings over his father's death was very moving. Good to see an episode about how dangerous this job can be, even though it cheats a little by using the death of a character we've never seen before, and the effects only last for one episode before the character's grieving son is shuffled out of the way (the great weakness of Star Trek at this point is the lack of continuing storylines and the unwillingness--coming from the top levels, from what I've read--to continue developing things that are instead only the focus of a single episode). Worf is great in this episode.

6. Booby Trap (1/5)
Terrible. And Geordi carrying on a holodeck romance with a virtual version of an actual person is kind of creepy and sad... though oddly realistic. Let's face it, most of us would just be in that thing porking Marilyn Monroe all the time. Here, Geordi is basically falling in love with a personification of the Enterprise. A boy and his car.

7. The Enemy (2/5)
A hoary old premise done... so-so.

8. The Price (1/5)
This episode honestly just creeped me right the fuck out. Matt McCoy as Ral is just a creepy con man who practically bullies Deanna into sleeping with him repeatedly. Uncomfortable all around, though Frakes has some good moments.

9. The Vengeance Factor (1/5)
Dull; Riker's wolfishness is so over the top in this episode. Riker beds a girl, she cooks for him, and then he's forced to kill her... was dinner that bad?

10. The Defector (5/5)
Excellent, tense, and appropriately grim. This is a great exploration of the Federation's enemies, and the nobility of sacrifice. And the cruel twist stings, but never feels cheap. Excellent political science fiction.

11. The Hunted (3/5)
First Blood in space. It's an interesting allegory to returning Vietnam vets, who had been turned into weapons only to find it hard to assimilate into society. And it handles it better than the cop-out ending of First Blood. Some very good fight scenes, too, on a show that doesn't always handle action scenes well.

12. The High Ground (1/5)
Dreadful. Beverly Crusher kidnapped by the handsome terrorist leader whom she experiences Stockholm Syndrome with... it's practically a romance novel. The show raises a lot of questions about terrorism as an agent of change that it's not remotely prepared to examine thoughtfully. What's the point? The climax is particularly cheesy. One of the worst episodes of this show.

13. Deja Q (5/5)
Easily my favorite Q episode; it manages to be utterly hilarious while commenting on the nature of humanity, and John de Lancie outdoes himself. Perfection.

14. A Matter of Perspective (2/5)
I think an impartial judge might have thrown out that final bit of evidence that exonerates Riker. The first two-thirds are pretty tense, though.

15. Yesterday's Enterprise (5/5)
Masterful. I love that this episode just starts right up, throwing itself into its situation and just trusting the audience to catch up instead of spending too much time on explanations. It's nice to get into the story without too much infodump. An alternate reality story that really works on every level, and I really liked Captain Rachel Garrett. The romance between Castillo and Tasha Yar was nicely pulled off, and this episode hits the undo button on the dreadful "Skin of Evil" and gives Tasha a much more meaningful death (even if no one on the Enterprise will actually remember it).

16. The Offspring (5/5)
A nice reprise of "The Measure of a Man," this time with Data creating his own daughter and experiencing parenthood. Hallie Todd is fine as Lal, and the story is quite moving. Once again, we see Starfleet is keen on enslaving androids, as they demand Lal be removed from the Enterprise for study. Patrick Stewart is excellent in his assertion of "To order a man to hand over his child to the state... not while I'm captain." Unashamedly sentimental, but who cares? It works.

17. Sins of the Father (5/5)
Episodes like this make the Klingon culture truly fascinating for me. It's interesting how they were basically portrayed as the Federation's Soviet counterpart in the 1960s, but on TNG became the remnants of a Viking-like culture. I love Tony Todd on this episode (I love Tony Todd in everything), and the down ending comes from a mature viewpoint.

18. Allegiance (2/5)
Insubstantial and predictable, but occasionally interesting.

19. Captain's Holiday (3/5)
Cute, but at times irritating, take on Romancing the Stone. I remember seeing this when it was originally on and my Mom loving it. This is kind of the episode everyone's Mom dug, because it turned Picard into a romantic action hero. Vash is the kind of cliched character I just never like.

20. Tin Man (2/5)
An interesting premise muddied by fatal miscasting.

21. Hollow Pursuits (5/5)
Tremendous. It's nice to get a sense of how our main characters might appear to a Starfleet officer who isn't as perfect and capable as they're usually portrayed. Dwight Schultz is perfectly sympathetic as Reg Barclay, giving him just the right amount of pathos to stop him from being a total buffoon. This episode also raises an important point: how much is Deanna Troi really helping people be at ease when she counsels them in those sexy little bunny suits? Having gone through several years of social anxiety and agoraphobia, this episode is especially refreshing to me now, watching Barclay attempt to work out his feelings dealing with a smug Geordi, an arrogant Wesley, and a particularly imperious Riker. I want to note, too, that the humor is self-deprecating and universal, as opposed to the Pakleds back in "Samaritan Snare," which really feels like a dig at the fans. One of my favorite episodes.

22. The Most Toys (4/5)
I actually expected to hate this episode, but I really enjoyed it. One of Brent Spiner's best performances as Data, especially in the end. The episode tries to play for murkiness--did Data really intend to kill Fajo?--but I think it's clear that Data was going to do it. Saul Rubinek is fantastic as Fajo, giving a performance that's not as mannered as the acting on this show can sometimes be. He could have easily been a fool, but there's a very dark edge to him that makes him dangerous.

This was the episode David Rappaport was filming when he attempted to kill himself (later, he would succeed--the loss of a favorite actor of mine). I would dearly love to see the footage he shot. Not to take away from Rubinek's performance, though, which I really liked.

23. Sarek (5/5)
An Alzheimer's allegory that is made more powerful by showing it through Ambassador Sarek. It's sad to see a character of great dignity begin to deteriorate through something he has no treatment for; doubly so for a Vulcan who has spent his life repressing his emotions and who comes dangerously close to losing control over them. Wonderful dialogue, and Mark Lenard and Patrick Stewart are excellent. "A mind meld can be a terrible intimacy." Excellent.

24. Menage a Troi (4/5)
I always love Lwaxana Troi. Inconsequential, I guess, but very funny and played completely for laughs.

25. Transfigurations (3/5)
Somewhat of a predictable outcome, but I enjoyed the emergence aspect. The episode plays a little too much like the crew is present at the birth of Christ. But it does remember that the Enterprise is devoted to exploration.

26. The Best of Both Worlds (5/5)
The best episode up to this point. The Borg are even scarier in their second appearance, and the cinematic scope lends so much to the proceedings. I like how the conflict with the Borg plays out as a sort of extension of Riker's crisis of confidence and his feelings for Captain Picard as a great mentor. And what a powerful cliffhanger! Astounding.

With that cliffhanger, you have to jump on the fourth season right away. I notice some more of my favorites this season, including my all time favorite TNG episode.


Caffeinated Joe said...

I watched Next Gen from episode one, even though I had never been a Star Trek fan before. I fell in love with this show and watched til the end, loving them all. But the show really got great for me from the 3rd season on.

The first season was new and I was getting used to the cast as they were getting used to it all, too.

Season two was ... uncomfortable for me. Just off, I guess. And Pulaski was too harsh. I was a Beverly fan and hated that she was gone. So, obviously, I was elated when she was back and she went on to win my heart. Best Trek character, for me.

Kal said...

Great bullet point reviews that remind me of all the great and not so great episodes. I see you as a genius now but how will I react when you bash DS 9, my favorite of all the STAR TREK series.

"You must let him go, Riker. It's the only way to beat him. The only way to save him." - Guinan to Riker - Best of Both Worlds Part 2 (my all time favorite scene in STTNG)

Bob said...

I used to spend weekends with a group of around a dozen people over at a friend's house, playing music and cards, smoking too much pot, and generally having way too much fun.

We always made sure to be relatively sane at 7pm on Saturday, so we could gather in the den and watch Star Trek. I will never forget watching "Yesterday's Enterprise". When it was over we all looked around, somewhat dazed, and were just... "Holy shit, that was incredible." From that episode on, this show was fantastic (not every minute or even every episode, but... dayum).

Tallulah Morehead said...

Except for a few of their Borg episodes (I love The Borg, absolutely my favorite ST villains), I haven't looked at a Next Generation episode since it left the airwaves, which takes a little doing now that it's running on BBC AMERICA constantly, where it has no business being.

Regarding Ménage à Troi, the Ferengi, DaiMon Tog, who falls for L'Roxanna was played by Frank Corsentino, who was a dear friend of mine back in the 1970s and '80s. We acted together in two different productions of Shakespeare's TWELFTH NIGHT, in 1972 and 1974. A picture of us together is on my living room wall. I remember calling him after this epside originally aired to congratulate him on it, and tell him how funny I'd thought he'd been in it, and we chatted a bit about backstage stories of that episode.

He was a lovely man, and a tremendously effective comic actor (though his other Star Trek appearances were as menaces rather than comic roles), who passed away in 2007, and is missed by this old friend.

Semaj said...

Again good reviews. We are also seeing continuity being used among the episodes too.

The Defector: I love the twist with the three Klingon ships at the end. You're right it was a good episode and ties into earlier Romulan episodes

Who Watches the Watchers: I love the scene with the old woman dying and the leader and Picard watching in the background. Picard keeps that gift they give him all the way to last movie I believe. It is a nice touch. I barely recognized Pamela Segall in her early role.

The Price: I do like the various aliens and this is kind of a backdrop for DS9. There is a sequel to this episode in Voyager...

The Hunted: I like that both Worf and Data are successful in outsmarting the main guy. This goes back to Worf being written better and better

I'll have more soon.

But, I had one of the main writers for Yesterday's Enterprise drop in on my review of that episode and give me a hat tip. It was very nice of him. Man, that was years ago.

SamuraiFrog said...

Caffeinated Joe: I never warmed to Pulaski; they chose to go with her prejudice towards Data early and often, and in other instances they just made her Dr. McCoy. I'm really glad Beverly's back.

Kal: Ha, I guess we'll find out in October. Like TNG, I stopped watching DS9 pretty early, so it'll be very interesting to me to sit and watch what I missed.

Bob: Now that all sounds like fun.

Tallulah: That's a very nice story.

Semaj: Pamela Segall was on some Fox series around that same time, which is what I used to remember her from. Now I just try not to hear Bobby Hill too much!