6.05.2013

Captain's Blog pt. 27: The Next Generation (Season 3)

It's remarkable to consider TNG's third season was of the same TV landscape that featured Who's the Boss, 21 Jump Street, Murder She Wrote, and ALF. Nothing against those shows, just that TNG has aged so gracefully in comparison.

Here is where the costumes, the camera angles, and the music cues were streamlined and where the template of all that follows (and was considered strained by 2005) first comes clearly into view.

Besides the visuals and acoustics, the most significant change was Roddenberry's (or rather Maizlish's) being sidelined and Michael Piller stepping in as showrunner.

Michael with wife Sandy. RIP, sir.
In addition to Piller, 3 other folks who would prove quite important to the franchise were brought into the writer's room:

1. Ronald D. Moore: "I was living in Los Angeles, trying to be a writer. I was a messenger, I did personnel, and I worked at an animal hospital. Basically, I had started dating this girl, who had a connection to TNG. She found that I was a Star Trek fan because I had this big Captain Kirk poster in my apartment, and she said, "I know people who work on TNG, and I can probably get you a tour of the sets. I was like 'Oh my God, please!"'

Something about the combination of the Captain Kirk poster and the odd jobs mentioned warms my heart. This is a guy whose set of circumstances is pretty familiar to a lot of Trek fans, I'd wager. (Maybe minus the Kirk poster, but bless him for that.) That Moore could start here to become not just a significant force in the Trekverse but also preside over BSG is... well, it's certainly inspiring, but it's exponentially more frustrating, as the era of fan-submitted scripts and slush piles as entryway to-Trek-and-beyond seems well and truly over. But, couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

2. René Echevarria: Make that two nicer guys. Another hero of the slush pile. In addition to his considerable number of scripts, he eventually became a supervising and executive producer of both TNG and DS9

and 3. Ira Steven Behr, the godfather of DS9. He was asked by Maurice Hurley to join the staff as early as Season 2, but when Hurley pitched it to him, he was less than enthused:

"He was telling me about the show, and by the time he was done, I said "Thank you, but no thank you." Because it sounded like a complete and utter horror show. They were firing writers left and right; the one that killed me was you're not allowed to go down to the set as a writer/ producer, because it's not allowed. I said that I'd never heard that anywhere before! And there's a lawyer who goes around looking through desks at night to find things that they wrote about Gene Roddenberry, because he was Gene's lawyer, and it was like, "Is this serious?!" 

Although Behr would end up leaving TNG due to conflicts with Roddenberry, (see "Captain's Holiday," below) he'd return to the fold and eventually, as aforementioned, assume control of DS9 and leave a lot of much beloved Trek in his wake. 

Season 3 "class photo."
Before I get to my rankings, let me just say these are only my personal favorites. When I sat down to re-watch these and sort out my rankings, I realized there are some episodes that I can't objectively call "great" episodes (see "The Royale," from last time around) but that have had considerable staying power and sway over my imagination and that those are the ones I want to honor/ focus on here. (I have the same problem with TOS. I love "Spock's Brain," what can I say? I recognize so many others are better episodes, but I'll stop everything to watch a little "Spock's Brain.") As this is a personal-reflection sort of series and not the sort of Trek Omnibus one finds at Memory-Alpha or Trekcore or the kind of in-depth re-watch one finds at Tor or the AV Club, I'm okay with that.

In case you were curious as how to the other episodes fell into place in my McRankings: 25. Tin Man (holy crap is Tam Elbrun annoying; the actor returns for some good Enterprise episodes, though) 24. The Bonding, 23. The High Ground, 22. The Hunted, 21. Menage a Trois, 20. Sarek (Frankly, this should be higher. It's an important episode to Trek mythology, but it just makes me uncomfortable, so I never watch it when it comes on cable. Terribly unfair of me, I know. See "Spock's Brain.") 19. The Most Toys, 18. The Defector, 17. The Vengeance Factor, 16. Evolution, 15. The Price, 14. Transfigurations, 13. The Enemy, 12. Booby Trap, 11. Deja-Q, and without further ado:

10.

Lieutenant Barclay, an introverted diagnostic engineer, is having difficulties dealing with his fantasies.

Directed by TV vet Cliff Bole (who also directed one of my favorite X-Files, "Bad Blood,") and written by Sally Caves (the pen name of Sally Higley, whose a fairly big fish in the small(ish) pond of constructed languages) this is the episode that introduces Dwight Schultz's Reginald Barclay.


I'm both a Schultz and Barclay fan, so this episode is lots of fun for me. Here's what Keith DeCandido has to say: "Poor Broccoli. This episode got mixed responses when it aired 20 years ago, as many of the nerdier Sta Trek fans viewed it as a satire of, well, them. Both director Cliff Bole and executive producer Michael Piller deny it - Piller went so far as to say that Barclay was a pretty good analogue for Piller himself, he was just lucky enough to get paid for his wild imaginings - but those denials are a bit disingenuous. Barclay is a fairly standard recluse, but the Venn diagram of that and the stereotypical Trek fan has significant overlap. The thing is, it doesn't matter, because the episode never once makes fun of Barclay or makes him ridiculous. In the end, he even saves the ship! (...) The episode's ahead of its time. Every 3rd show on TV now has at least one geek character - not to mention the fact that The Big Bang Theory is one of the most popular sitcoms on the air."

I personally never considered Barclay to be coded contempt for the show's audience. Basically, the near-autistic "nerd" has simply been a part of the cultural landscape for decades now, and this is an intelligent projection of that into the Trekverse (and one of the most sympathetic portrayals of such.) And while I think that Barclay certainly is made to look a little ridiculous, it's his degree of ridiculousness, attention to detail, and grandiose fantasy that gives meaning to the crew's coming together to help him through it.


Nerdbait or no, this episode has many fine moments, most of which take place in the fantasy world of Barclay's imagining. We see him punch out Riker, romance Troi, etc., and the cast does a great job as their holodeck counterparts. A word of caution to any who play the TNG Technobabble drinking game: this episode will knock you straight out if you try and do it shot-for-shot.

A few commentators have noted the apparent lack of privacy available to Holodeck users; both LaForge and Riker both simply barge in (albeit with good reason) on his private fantasyland. And while that does seem a bit un-24th-century-like, it's also a public pool of sorts, isn't it? If each crew member's quarters had a private holodeck, I'd hope the rules governing intrusion better protected privacy, but if the whole crew shares one holodeck,  I think it's probably an unwritten rule that Hey, you can do what you want, but don't be surprised if Riker comes barging in to find you; be discreet.

9.
Directed by Cliff Bole, Written by Melissa Snodgrass
Data must convince a colony of 15,000 people to evacuate before the aliens who own the planet arrive.

The aliens in question are the Sheliak Corporate, a visual recall of the Imperious Leader from the original Battlestar Galactica.

Or maybe it's "The Savage Curtain" from TOS.

Phil Farrand writes of this one that at episode's end we see both "a girl thing" and "a guy thing."

"The Girl Thing:" When Ard'rian (what is it with aliens and unnecessary apostrophes... I was amused by Roberto Orci's jettisoning of the Klingon homeworld's se've'ral un'nec'essary apos'trophes in Into Darknes) expects Data to have an emotional reaction despite knowing he is an android who is incapable of emotion.
"The Guy Thing:" No colonists listen to Data despite his well-reasoned argument and their assured destruction until he whips out a phaser and starts firing it and blowing stuff up.
The 14th Dalai Lama and his entourage visited the set during the filming of this episode and apparently all wanted pictures with Brent Spiner. It's amazing that TNG counted among its fans Ronald Reagan, Stephen Hawking, and the incarnation of the Avalokiteśvara himself; anyone who needs further persuasion that Trek should be considered més que un show need look no further than that.

Humans probably can't agree on many things, but I bet Trek could unite the world, if our homegrown Sheliak would get with the freaking program and if Data was around to shoot at us from time to time.

8.
Directed by Winrich Kolbe, Written by Richard Manning and Hans Beimler
Captain Picard and three other people are abducted and imprisoned by an unknown force and replaced by duplicates.

Another thing I noticed about my personal tastes when getting these things together was how highly I rank pretty much any episode where the crew is replaced/ acting differently/ drugged. It's fun to see the actors hit different notes from time to time.

Says Kolbe of Patrick Stewart: "Patrick is like Itzhak Perlman with a Stradivarius. You have to compare the Stradivarius to the Joe Schmuck violin. To the untrained ear, they're no different. But they are different, very different. Patrick played the good guy and the bad guy so close at times, but it was different, and it was right."
The Bolians were named after director (though not of this episode) Cliff Bole.


Picard's and Beverly's Sam-and-Diane-ness is never really brought up in the films, though in at least one future timeline, they are married (and then divorced.) But McFadden and Stewart's onscreen chemistry is fun to watch evolve over the course of the next few seasons.

 
 

I've never seen it mentioned anywhere, but both the alien design and general aliens-testing-humans plot remind me enough of The Outer Limits episode "Nightmare" to wonder if this was meant as a tribute. Anyone know?


7.
Directed by Cliff Bole, Written by Ed Zuckerman
When Riker is charged with the murder of a prominent scientist, each side uses the holodeck to show their side of the story.

Keith DeCandido's review of this one is pretty scathing. Pretty much any longrunning show does this sort of episode at some point, but I don't hold that against it. As Diet High Fructose Rashomon, it works for me.


Michael Piller thought of it as a failure, as well, lamenting that "had we Lana Turner in the role of the wife, maybe it would have worked."

Interesting that he picked Lana Turner. I'd have thought Barbara Stanwyck. 

6.
Directed by Jonathan Frakes (his first,) Written by René Echevarria

Data attracts new scrutiny from Starfleet when he decides to build a child.


This has one of the sadder endings in all of TNG and always hits me like a hammer. And the title is broad enough to make it all even sadder and more profound. This isn't just the story of Lal in all her awkward glory nor Data's inability to correct her system failure; it's about death imbuing all we do with senseless poignancy and the relationship between eternity and procreation. I like how the other characters react to the predicament and rally round Data. Granted, it takes a little time for the Captain to come around to the idea, but when he does, he doesn't disappoint:

"There are times, sir, when men of good conscience cannot blindly follow orders. You acknowledge their sentience but ignore their personal liberties and freedom. Order a man to turn his child over to the state? Not while I'm the Captain."

Data's homage to Piet Mondrian, an artist with whom Data must have felt a natural affinity.
"Mondrian reduced his shapes to lines and rectangles and his palette to fundamental basics pushing past references to the outside world toward pure abstraction."
5.
Directed by Les Landau, Written by Michael Wagner
The Enterprise investigates 2 survivors living on the only undamaged patch of land on a devastated planet.


John Anderson (who plays Kevin, the all-powerful Duowd) was able to bring some unfortunate texture to the role, as his real-life wife had recently died prior to filming this episode. Both he and Anne Haney deliver powerful performances.


"We leave behind a being of extraordinary power... and conscience. I am not certain if he should be praised or condemned. Only that he should be left alone."
"Good tea. Nice house."
4.
Directed by Les Landau, Written by Ronald D. Moore, W. Reed Moran, and Drew Deighen
Worf is plunged headfirst into the politics of the Klingon Empire when his deceased father is accused of treason.


Nearly all the seeds of future Klingon storylines are sown in this episode. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, as Ron Moore wrote or co-wrote most of them. This was our first glimpse of the still-unnamed Klingon homeworld (it became Qo'nos in Star Trek VI, which is to my knowledge the first time in canon that it was so named) and into Klingon politics and command structure. 


It was notable for me at the time it originally aired as one of the first time we see Captain Picard as an action hero, when he's jumped by three Klingons and gets to swing some fists. Patrick Stewart was apparently always clamoring for Picard to be more physical.




The Klingons add Crazy Horse's battle cry to their repertoire here ("Today is a good day to die") expanding their repertoire of appropriated Earth phrases beyond Tallyrand and Shakespeare

3.
Directed by Chip Chalmers, Written by Ira Steven Behr
Picard takes a much-needed vacation on Risa, but unwelcome events keep interfering with his rest.

Sometimes the brevity of those Memory-Alpha plot descriptions amuses me. Among the unfortunate events are the Captain's first onscreen romance: 

   
  
 crazy fish-historians from the future: 
Ferengi in the future's version of Hawaiian tourist shirts:

and an Indiana-Jones-style race to find a maguffin.

The story had a tumultuous time getting to the screen, according to its writer, Ira Steven Behr: 

"Piller liked it, everyone on the staff liked it. Then it got slammed dead by Gene; it was my big 'Gene meeting,' where he slammed me down with all kind of pronouncements about what Star Trek is and is not. And then, even after it was dead, I had to meet with Patrick and even though the show was dead, Patrick made sure I knew that he would never do it, even though there was nothing to be done."

This story he describes is not the one we know as "Captain's Holiday" but his initial idea:

"I created this planet called Risa, which was a pleasure planet. The Captain was stressed out and needed a vacation. He went on this vacation, and there was a holodeck there. It said "Face Your Greatest Fear!" and it was like a carnival place. It wasn't what it became, this sensual, open-sexuality place - Gene turned it into that. It was like this carnival atmosphere place, a true vacation resort. (...) And he goes into the holodeck, and it was all about being promoted to Admiral and losing the Enterprise. (...) Though we never really hit on the head, it's about growing old. Not to grow old, but your time of life changing and suddenly you're not going to be the guy going off on adventures, you're going to be sitting at a desk somewhere. That's his greatest fear.

"Gene went stark raving mad. It was like, 'Picard fears nothing! If it's time for him to grow old, to become an admiral, he becomes an admiral! He would not think about that AT ALL! Picard is John Wayne!' I said, 'Well, John Wayne had all kinds of fears and guilts and angers and bitterness in his best movies.' 'NO. John Wayne is a hero, Picard is a hero, we are not doing this episode.'

"(...) But Michael loved it, and it was gonna happen, and Rick was saying, "Look, there's nothing we can do." And that's when Gene sat there, "...but I LOVE the pleasure planet. Let's get the Captain laid. Patrick wants to get laid; he doesn't fuck and fight enough, you gotta get him laid." Suddenly, it turned into sexual fetishes, and we were going to have women making love to women in the background, men kissing men, and I'm thinking I have entered into some kind of Phantom Zone.



"I walked out of Gene's office, and I turned to Rick and (he says) "Don't listen to anything Gene says. Write a story where the Captain gets laid and has some fun." And it was like, that was it. No discussion. If that's the show... and I wrote it, because I'm a whore! And you know, it was okay, but it wasn't what it set out to be. And that's ultimately why I left."


I think the show as it was shot/ what it became is more than just okay; it's a fantastic episode. It's funny to think it started off as a sort of "The Inner Light" episode for Picard (widely considered to be Patrick Stewart's finest moment on TNG) and went through so many "Get the Captain laid" revolutions, though.

2. 
Directed by David Carson, Written by Trent Christopher Ganino, Eric A. Stillwell, Ira Steven Behr, Richard Manning, Hans Beimler, and Ronald D. Moore.
A temporal rift opens, and the Enterprise-C emerges, changing the timeline into a reality where the Federation is in a bitter war with the Klingon Empire. The only person on the Enterprise-D who realizes that something is not right is Guinan, and she must help return the out-of-date starship to its proper time, and its inevitable destruction, in order to re-set the timeline.
I wrote a bit about the first time I saw this in the first Captain's Blog and how indelibly it imprinted itself upon my imagination, so I'll restrict my comments here to aspects of the production itself. Succinctly, this episode is a masterpiece.

Worf's only in the opening and a few shots at episode's end, but he nearly steals the show just the same. I've never been able to think of prune juice as anything but "a warrior's drink," ever since.
Denise Crosby's return is handled perfectly; this is Yar's best episode, hands-down. And it's probably the finest performance Denise Crosby (seen here with Shooter McGavin) has given in her career, all around.
The grim look and feel of the alternate future is conveyed quite well.
 
And this simple one-line request from Guinan to Geordi to tell her about Tasha Yar is a finer coda for the character than what we got in "Skin of Evil." As Ron Moore has said, "(This) was an opportunity to kill her right." And it opened the way - admittedly, a comic book/ soap opera way - to return the actress to the franchise as Sela in "Redemption" and "Unification."
In any normal universe, this show would be considered not just the best of the 3rd season but probably the best of the entire series. (Eric Stillwell certainly felt so, writing a book about this episode's production - how many shows have books written about the making of only one episode? Trek has several. Crazy.) But then came:


  1.
Directed by Cliff Bole, Written by Michael Piller
The Borg begin an invasion of Federation space much sooner than was expected. With the Enterprise unable to affect them, the Borg capture Captain Picard and turn him into one of their own.


Technically, this is the season finale of season three and the first episode of season four. The cliffhanger season ending was a much bigger deal in those days. Patrick Stewart has said he knew the show was finally catching on when he was driving in California and came to a stop light and the woman in the car next to him started pelting him with questions about how it would end. (I imagine him speeding away after this, chased by Beatlemania-esque crowds, laughing to himself, saying "Set Course for Love, Number One...")

Is it too much to say that this isn't just one of the best TNGs, if not the best, but one of the best Treks overall? Is it even crazier to say this is one of the best two-parters in TV history itself? I don't think it is.  


Elizabeth Dennehy does a great job as Commander Shelby, foil for Riker/ Borg-expert.
As much as this story is about the ultimate stakes for a starship (protect Earth from invasion after Starfleet is all but wiped out) and the mystery of the Borg and Captain Picard's experience as Locutus, it's also a good arc for Riker, whose career dilemma and first command of the Enterprise are compelling counterpoint to all the above. Says Michael Piller: "The character's situation mirrored my own situation. As I was writing this script, I found myself in the position of Riker, who was trying to decide whether he wanted to leave the ship or not. Much of what happened in Part One was about what was going on in my head. (...) When Riker is talking to Troi about why he hasn't left, that was really me speaking through him."

In Piller's never-published (but available for legal and free download on the internet) Fade-In, he discusses "the Roddenberry Box" and how he struggled to work with it throughout season 3.

Coincidence? Perhaps. If you believe in such things.
As cool as the whole story is, it is the very ending that truly elevates it to the next level. Picard, finally alone, is unable to relax after his whole ordeal, and he stares out into space, haunted. 



Masterful stuff.

NEXT: Season Four, of course, but before I get there, I'll be re-opening the King's Highway for at least one blog, perhaps as many as three. Here's a little weirdness to tide you over 'til we return:

14 comments:

  1. It strikes me that the holodeck is one of those things what will be obviated by real-world technology before it comes to pass. We'll likely have our own personal holodecks in our individual living spaces. I also imagine that spacecraft on long-term voyages will make each crewman's quarters the same thing, in order to provide for R&R without having a port to stop in or the necessity of a large, open space on the vessel.

    Best of Both Worlds was pivotal for me when it came to NextGen. Part One's cliffhanger was breathtaking; Part Two's immediate reveal that the big last-ditch weapon was a dud thoroughly sucked the excitement out of the whole thing for me. From that point on, I never felt as much excitement for NextGen as I had the first three seasons. My reaction when the fizzle happened and the Enterprise's weapon proved ineffective was: "Oh, fuck you, TNG writers and producers. Fuck. You." I became less and less enamored of NextGen as the seasons went along, until, by the time it left the air, I was ready for big screen excitement. I figured a movie version would be just the ticket to revive my love for NextGen (little did I know how underwhelmed I would be by NextGen's first foray into movieland).

    It's taken me years to recover affection for NextGen. I think I'm just about ready to give the entire show another go. I think your pointing out behind-the-scenes goings-on for episodes will help me put them in some kind of context.

    Yesterday's Enterprise is one of my favorite Trek episodes. It handles the time travel element - one of the things I carp on the most when it comes to NextGen - superbly. I'd watch a show set in that dark timeline.

    I wonder what the timeline would look like had Picard decided to go through with the plan from I, Borg.

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    1. I've been trying to articulate my confusion at your reaction to BoBW pt. 2, but I guess it's just one of those different-strokes-for-different-folks moments. I didn't have that reaction at all, suffice it to say. I stared at your comment in the same way Wesley and Geordi stared at Data's paintings in that video mash-up...

      But I agree 1000% on "Yesterday's Enterprise."

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    2. It was just a huge let-down. I waited months to finally see the Enterprise cut loose with its wave-motion gun, only to see it produce the equivalent of the Coyote's pop-gun jutting out its little "bang" flag. If the fizzle had been the cliffhanger, with that big build-up, and the sudden realization it meant nothing, hitting crew and viewer alike, waiting all summer until the fall premiere would have had me wracking my brains to figure out how they were going to get out of it. Instead, I'd waited all summer to see the fireworks that were promised, only to have them immediately rained out.

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    3. I've never understood the "part 2 sucks" contingent. Can you imagine if Twitter had existed back then?

      As regards the failure of the big weapon right at the beginning of the episode, doesn't it make complete sense that that's how it played out? The Borg have the entirety of Picard's knowledge; Picard knew about the weapon; the Borg know about the weapon and obviously can now defend against it.

      I don't think it lessens the impact of the cliffhanger a bit, either. One thing that doesn't get talked about enough is how this two-parter is basically a big character piece for Riker. And I find his steely-eyed determination to fire weapon, despite the fact that it will almost certainly kill his former captain, to be pretty doggone compelling. Some of Frakes' best work, even.

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    4. I couldn't agree more, BB. (Not to dis ya, Jeff - to each his own, of course!)

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  2. I love that screencap of Troi gaping in outrage at what Barclay has done on the holodeck...with Riker grinning like a fool at the same time. Moments like that are part of what makes this my favorite Trek series.

    Strange to think of Roddenberry disliking "Captain's Holiday." Strange to think of ANYONE disliking "Captain's Holiday," really...that one is a classic. A little goofy, sure, but a little goofiness on Star Trek is permissible. (By the way, I happily acknowledge how strong a guiding hand Ira Steven Behr has had on Trek, but I kinda can't stand that guy. Anyone who dyes their goatee purple has adopted one affectation too many for me.)

    Having recently had the opportunity to watch "The Best of Both Worlds" on the big screen at a movie theatre, I can say without hesitation that it still works 100%. My only complaint about it is that the show never brought Shelby back.

    That video at the end...man...I don't even know what to say. I downloaded that sucker. Not quite AS great as "The Picard Song" or "Star Trek Meets Monty Python," but pretty great.

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    1. haha - yeah that video is insane. I LOVE BEING STRONG slays me.

      Good point on the dyed goatee - to quote the late Ernie "Coach" Pantuso: (shrugs) Showfolk...

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  3. "The Best of Both Worlds" is, hands-down, the greatest TNG episode ever. It has to be in the top 3 best TV two-parters ever, as well. In all of Trek, it's second only to "The Doomsday Machine" for me. I remember watching "TBoBW" when it first aired and when the dreaded "To Be Continued..." came up, I actually shouted, "NO!" That summer was grueling for me.

    One major screw-up about "Yesterday's Enterprise": At the end Guinan goes to LaForge and asks him about Tasha Yar. Geordie is still wearing the alternate reality uniform in that scene. It's even in your screencap.

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    1. I go back and fourth over whether "BoBW" is better than "Yesterday's Enterprise." Both were truly outstanding and would have made great movies (they certainly blow away Generations, Insurrection, and Nemesis). Season 3 of NextGen was such a huge improvement over what had come before (with the exception of isolated cases such as "Q Who"). It's really when diehard TOS fans started coming aboard in droves, and accepting TNG as legitimate Trek (the Sarek appearance also helped tremendously).

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    2. Insurrection is probably one of my favorite Trek films, so I disagree pretty hard, there. But I certainly don't take anything away from YE or BoBW, which are both just fantastic.

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    3. Not to quibble, Joe, but I don't know if the wardrobe screw-up there would be what I'd call a "major" screw-up. There are so many moments like that throughout the series, and it's fun to point them out, of course, but on my personal scale of affronts to continuity, it's pretty harmless. Certainly worth mentioning, sure.

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  4. Season 3 was definitely where it all started to get good, after moments and glimmers of promise in the first two years.

    I've always felt a connection to Rene Echevarria. We're both Cuban kids from Miami. We went to the same high school, though many, many years apart. Both Dolphins fans. Both of us love spy stuff; if I ever wrote a spec script, it'd be something very much like Rene's Manchurian Candidate-like "The Mind's Eye."

    I agree with you totally about the Offspring. I still get choked up every time Data went on to the bridge and announced "my daughter, Lal, is dead." The Onion AV Club made the observation that Data is interesting in circumstances where someone else would feel an emotion, like that episode where he has to help a newly mortal Q around.

    I'm surprised you didn't rank "The Enemy" more highly. It had the plot structure of a Twilight Zone episode, in that it was proposal-argument-conclusion. The proposal: is it possible Romulans and humans will ever get along despite mutual distrust? The argument came in the form of seeing what scary, supremacist bastards the Romulans were; one, while dying, demanded to spend his last moments with his hands around Worf's throat. Another, younger one, had Geordi at gunpoint. Worf refused to give blood and save the Romulan. Finally, at the end, we had the resolution: we had a crewman and Geordi earning each other's trust working together to save themselves. It would have made a good Twilight Zone.

    As for Barclay, I always liked him because he was a Star Trek crewman who wasn't a perfect person (which I think was the original idea behind inexperienced womanizer Julian Bashir). Barclay was shy and tremendously imaginative. I always thought all of Barclay's problems were due to him being excessively imaginative, like his transporter anxiety. He is not an all-round basketcase the way a lot of comics and other fiction presented him.

    I really liked the Roshomon episode, because it was using the holodeck in a way other than the usual Holodeck malfunction episode. I always had a feeling when Tracy Tormey dies, his tombstone will say, "here likes Tracey Tormey, who created both Sliders and the concept of the Holodeck malfunction." Holodeck malfunctions, along with the "crazy admiral" story, being TNG's greatest well of stories.

    I never cared for Brennan Braga scripts much. He seemed to have his greatest strength as a writer telling "brain bending" stories told out of linear order, like that episode where Riker was in an insane asylum, or that Voyager episode where the Doctor found himself the last person on Voyager, unable to remember where everybody else was.

    I was never that impressed with that type of storytelling. I always attributed the popularity of that to people being impressed with very obvious things. For instance, a lot of people think a great actor is someone who can do accents and cry on command. Same thing with writers: a lot of people are very impressed by 1) twist endings, 2) brain-bending mind-screws.

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  5. As great a respect as I have for the incredible stories written by Ron D. Moore, I always felt he did such great work on TNG because in collaboration, other writers held back his idiosyncrasies, and when he got his own shows, no one held him back.

    For instance, I always heard a story that Ron Moore kept on pitching a story in TNG, shot down by everyone else as very un-Trek, where "Data has a religious experience."

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    1. "I always heard a story that Ron Moore kept on pitching a story in TNG, shot down by everyone else as very un-Trek, where "Data has a religious experience." "

      I think we all know where THAT led!

      That description actually describes the first part of "Birthright" pretty well.

      Good stuff here, thanks. You're absolutely right on "The Enemy." If it were a true "Best of Season 3" list, I'd feel obliged to move that one up a bit. But it's just never been as much of a personal favorite as the others for me.

      I did a Twilight Zone re-watch a few months before I started this blog. Had I had it going at the time, "Proposal-Argument-Conclusion" would've made a good title, or at least frame, for an overview.

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