6.16.2013

Captain's Blog pt. 31: Next Generation (Season 5)

While the production staff and crew stayed more or less the same in Season 5, Michelle Forbes joins the cast as recurring character Ensign Ro Laren.


She's been in just about every tv series since then:

24, True Blood, Homicide: Life on the Street, to name just a few, and of course...

 Like you needed me to tell you that.

This was also the year the Great Bird of the Galaxy shuffled off his mortal coil.


I seem to only bring Gene up when I'm commenting on how he shot down a great idea or went off the rails in some way. He was of course so much more than that, so let's gather a few laurel leaves. Without Gene (and, as was pointed out in the comments several blogs ago, without the specific tension generated between Gene and the studio/ network) Star Trek would not exist, nor would it have endured, nor would it continue to inspire. And when the final roll call is taken for our species, Gene Roddenberry will be on the list of people who managed to touch the world in a deeply relevant way.



Chapeau, sir. His remains were shot into space (along with his wife's, when she died some 15 years later) and as we speak may even be in the museum of some alien species who picks up our television broadcasts. His son is doing a good job keeping up the family legacy over at Mission Log. (Which when it runs its course will have covered every Trek story ever filmed: a true Taj Mahal in the making.) He's also involved in Phase 2 and other projects.

Let's just jump right in from here. My favorites of Season 5, least to most:

24. Ethics Not only is this one of those over-used tropes in serialized drama, be it of the page or of the screen, i.e. the "He's crippled! Now he's not! WHEW," it's one I find particularly cruel. But I'll be perfectly honest - this one bugs me not for that reason but for the "Now we can replicate a Klingon spine" business. Like the transporter, the replicator should probably not be used to resolve plot conflicts; it opens the door to far too many unanswerable questions. That said, it's still not a bad episode, so let's keep that in mind: even the worst s5 ep is still a bit of all right.

23. Violations Does Marina Sirtis' contract come with a "Psychic Rape" clause? Seriously, all the way up through Nemesis, this keeps happening. Are these the Betazoid equivalent of STDs?

22. Imaginary Friend  

21. The Outcast I admire the attempt, here, but let's all just admit it's a flawed execution that raises more problems than it addresses.

20. The Masterpiece Society

19. Hero Worship Phil Farrand notes in his Nitpickers guide to this episode: "Data visits Timothy, who is alone in his quarters, but that's standard Starfleet procedure for children who have lost their parents, right? See "'The Bonding.'"

Walk it off, Timothy.
18. A Matter of Time This has the dubious distinction of having the single-most irritating performance in all of TNG in Matt Frewer's Rasmussen.


 
Frewer is a constantly-employed character actor who has turned in some spot-on eccentric performances elsewhere, but he's not a personal favorite. As Rasmussen, though, if I'd directed this episode, he would have been phasered and kept unconscious in Sick Bay the entire time. Day seized.

It's a cool enough idea, but it's got some problems: 1) Rasmussen's scheme (steal technology from the future and bring it to the past to make his fortune) would never work, would it? I mean, maybe that's the point, but it'd have been nice if someone brought up the considerable flaws in his plan, only one of which is design incompatibility: it'd be hard enough to reverse-engineer integrated circuitry in an age of tube electronics, never mind the problems Rasmussen would immediately face with Trek tech... come to think of it, I probably should have mentioned this when I did my Voyager overview, re: "Future's End." This may be the geekiest line of inquiry I've ever followed, and I... grow... fatigued... 2) Among the "items of the future" he wants to bring back is a daqtagh:


i.e. a Klingon dagger. Presumably for that non-existent 22nd century collectors market of Klingon Goods and Antiquities. Or because citizens of the next century will be really wowed by knives. 
and 3) Geordi can detect deception in humans (he even refers to it as "pretty foolproof") in "Up the Long Ladder." Everyone seemed to abandon the idea rather than figure out a way to work it into the scripts. I wish real life was like that. That aspect of so-and-so is inconvenient; let's just never mention it again.

17. Silicon Avatar

16. I, Borg I like Seven of Nine, and I like most aspects of First Contact. But I don't really like the Borg after a certain point in TNG; by this point in the series, they'd peaked for me. I don't hate what they did with the race or what they do with Hugh here and likewise this isn't a terrible episode or anything, just personal preference.

15. Ensign Ro

14. Cost of Living Some nice moments in this one. The community of the Enterprise is well-established by this point, and one of TNG's ongoing strengths. This recalls both "The Omega Glory" and "Return to Tomorrow" of TOS while putting its own stamp on things.

13. The First Duty Did Wesley and the gang think they'd get away with it if they pulled off the banned maneuver? Wouldn't they still get tried and expelled or otherwise punished? It's exactly the sort of thing brash young cadets might try to do, of course, and perhaps with no fatality/ cover-up to it, they'd have gotten off with only a "Oh you kids" sort of review. Still. I like Boothby and his friendship with Picard.


12. Power Play

11. New Ground
10.
Directed by Corey Allen, Written by Susan Sackett, Fred Bronson, and Brannon Braga
Wesley Crusher visits the Enterprise only to see everyone behaving strangely on account of an addictive, mind-controlling game.



Man oh man do people hate on this episode. I admit, it's premises are a bit strained. (Everyone tries the game? On the whole ship? Worf and Picard? But not Wesley? I mean, that's it, one guy? (Two, I guess - two lone teenagers, drunk with hormones, are our only hope. We can only assume there is resistance we do not see.) And what exactly does The Game do? Like the probe from "The Inner Light," it's apparently programmed to rewire the neurons of a variety of lifeforms; that's an impressive bit of technology. Perhaps too impressive, but given the vastness of the universe, it's well within operating limits. (An excuse that keeps on giving, much like "I guess McCoy didn't do such a great job after all" for all Spock mayhem post-"Spock's Brain" in TOS s3 or "There was protomatter in the Genesis matrix; that's why Spock is wrinkly" post-TSFS.) It's a fun story, it's probably Wesley Crusher's finest moment in the whole series, and it has our future President of the United States Ashley Judd.


I kid. Maybe just the Attorney General.

From Wil Wheaton's FAQ:

Is it true that you were really Ashley Judd's first onscreen kiss, and you ruined her for the rest of her life?

Yep. It is 100% true. Ashley Judd played Robin Lefler, in the episode "The Game", and Uncle Willie went to bootytown. 


Wheaton is not being serious. Sorry to spell out the joke, but it's probably worth mentioning to those not familiar with his particular style.

I realize the rise of infotainment jackassery was still in the future when this episode was written, but if you substitute MSNBC or Fox News for "the game," the whole episode makes a great deal of unfortunate sense. I wish it didn't. I'd be lying though if I said this bothers me more than Wesley's saying he can't recalibrate a sensor manually. (To Ms. Lefler, early on, before the "your neutrinos are drifting" line.) That seems like a relatively simple operation for Mr. "I can modify the tractor beam, from memory with a Casio wristwatch" Crusher. Maybe he just didn't want to show off... yet.


9.
Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont, Written by Ron Jarvis, Philip A. Scorza, and Ronald D. Moore
A quantum filament disables the Enterprise, leaving Counselor Troi in command on the bridge, and various groups on different parts of the ship facing perils alone.



This is a fun one. Patrick Stewart does a good job acting with the kids, and the scenes on the bridge with Counselor "What is a containment breach?" Troi are also handled well. (Particularly Ensign Ro's barely-concealed contempt for Troi's command competence. It's got to be tough when something like this happens, and the lady in the pajama bodysuit outranks you.)

Kids in movies or shows can be tricky. Even if they come across a little boilerplate at times,I like that TNG made an effort to use them in ways that accentuated the best aspects of its main cast.

The best parts for me are just the exploration of the ship in its disabled condition. This is one of three or four episodes that come immediately to mind when I think of the NCC-1701-D.


 

Worf delivering the O'Brien's baby is one of those things that really shouldn't be allowed on the whiteboard in the writer's room, but it lands pretty well. Michael Dorn is really not given enough credit for how consistently Worf rises above some of the "wouldn't it be funny if Worf..." scripts that came his way.



At the time this aired, it annoyed me that the senior staff spent so much of its downtime putting on centuries-old musicals and recitals and poetry readings and such. Nowadays, I  rather enjoy this aspect of it. It's a funny contrast to TOS, though, when everyone's extracurricular hobby seemed to be botany or something scientific.


8.
Directed by Cliff Bole, Written by René Echevarria, Gary Perconte, and Michael Piller
Picard serves as host for a peace treaty between two warring planets, but he may be unable to resist the reconciliation "gift," a beautiful empathic metamorph who is to be presented by one leader as the other's wife.



The review of this in DeCandido's re-watch (and much of the comments section) is a good example of what Grant Morrison referred to as "the missionary approach" (vs. the "anthropological approach") in Supergods. While DeCandido (inaccurately, in my damn opinion) says the episode is "predicated on universal heterosexuality," Christopher L. Bennett jumped in to add this more expansive/ less-missionary way of interpreting things:

"I'd call it a strength of the episode that it treats its concept with more ambiguity and subtlety than the typical Trek morality play. Sometimes it's enough to explore a scenario and the effect it has on the characters caught up in it and to let the audience judge the morality for themselves rather than telling them what to think. Really, one thing that Trek should probably do more often (...) is to challenge us to consider the alien p.o.v. even when it seems wrong to us. (...) Some cultures, philosophies, and religious orders revere service to others and self-abnegation as admirable traits. Some believe that the key to a good life is to be true to a predetermined path. Yet, when we look at Kamal, filtered through our own culture and history, what we see in her status reminds is of how women have been subjugated in our history. But Krisian history is not ours, and it can be a mistake to assume that just because something in another culture reminds us of something from our own then it must be the same thing or have the same meaning." 

It's a strong performance episode all around, and Famke Jannsen does a good job. As does Patrick Stewart, but of course. It's a good Picard episode, all around.




7.
Directed by David Carson, Written by Ronald D. Moore
Geordi and Ro are believed dead after a transporter malfunction. They soon discover, though, that their state may not actually be death.



This is definitely one of those episodes that immediately unravels if you start asking too many questions about its scientific premise. (At one point Geordi mentions that he hasn't been able to eat for days. Makes sense! Just don't wonder about how he could hear, breathe, walk, sit, etc.) This is actually a hallmark of Season Five's best episodes, actually: almost all of them fall apart under lab conditions. But most of them pass "The Inner Light" test.


 

"What am I, some blind ghost with clothes?" (paraphrased)



This bit with the Romulan going through the wall particularly cracks me up. I guess the interphase deal has a good sense of drama and timing. Presumably he goes through the force field surrounding the ship, as well.


6.
Pt. 1 Directed by Les Landau, Written by Joe Menosky and Michael Piller. Pt. 2 Directed by Les Landau, Written by Joe Menosky and Jeri Taylor.

An engineering team finds evidence of an alien presence on Earth in 19th century San Francisco: Data's severed head, buried five hundred years ago. The crew traces it to the presence of an alien race known as the Devidians and travels to the past to stop them from killing more humans, meeting Mark Twain and the Guinan of the past (and Jack London) along the way.



I read through quite a bit of negative commentary on this episode while gathering my notes for this blog. Two complaints I kept coming across were that Jack London and Mark Twain were not in San Francisco at this time and that the episode doesn't look much like San Francisco, particularly of the era. Both are reasonable enough reactions, but nothing that should trip anybody up. The latter is just a reality of television production, so it seems rather arbitrary to ignore the fun story and performances of "Time's Arrow" to take a stand on principle. And the former: near as I can figure, the Eugenics Wars didn't happen in the 1990s, either. I think it's okay to chalk some things up to hey, different timeline than the one we know.

That may strike some as equally arbitrary, and I can't really argue. Just explaining my approach.



It's a fun time travel story, and it's certainly a fun Trek story. Data's scenes in the past are handled well, as are the rest of the cast's, and the aliens are genuinely creepy.



And I love that as a result of this episode Data is now walking around with a head that is five hundred years older than the rest of his body. Still works perfectly. It's a shame Dr. Soong can't build me a car.

p.s. I don't think I've singled out Joe Menosky heretofore; that guy did great work. He went on to work on The Dead Zone and is in pre-production of a new series right now.


5.
Directed by Winrich Kolbe, Written by Phil LaZebnik and Joe Menosky
Picard is captured, then trapped on a planet with an alien captain who speaks a metaphorical language incompatible with the universal translator. They must learn to communicate with each other before the beast on the planet's surface overwhelms them.



At least once a year, I'll put something from "Darmok" up on facebook or wherever, and I am always surprised and pleased by the variety of responses. Everyone who's seen it remembers this episode. Think of how many stories you've seen where squares and hipsters, different races, genders, generations, etc. try to communicate.


Then consider how different "Darmok" feels when compared to them.
A great deal of its success has to do with Picard's unexpectedly moving retelling of the Story of Gilgamesh, humanity's oldest recorded myth/ story.

"They became great friends. Gilgamesh and Enkidu at Uruk. The new friends went out into the desert together, where the great bull of heaven was killing men by the hundreds. (...) They were victorious, but Enkidu fell to the ground, struck down by the gods, and Gilgamesh wept bitter tears, saying 'He who was my companion through adventure and hardship is gone forever.'"

Beyond this, I just recommend the whole thing as a wonderfully weird experience. This is one of those Trek stories that invokes something you get in so few other places. And it's undeniably fun to break out into "Darmok" language when approached by strangers on the street. More effective than mace or conceal and carry.


 
 
 

Doctor Who writer and producer Russell T. Davies has deliberately never watched it: "I love the idea so much that I'd rather think about it. Forever."


I like to add my own phrases to the language of the Children of Tama ("Donna Martin, at Graduation," "Marty McFly, Under the Sea, Enchanted" etc.) while watching. I can't be the only one.


4.
Directed by Les Landau, Written by Paul Schiffer and Barry Schkolnick
After the crew's memories are mysteriously erased, the computer records indicate the Federation is at war with the Lysian Alliance, and that the Enterprise has been ordered to attack their command center.



The first half of this episode, where the cast tries to figure out who they are and MacDuff - the alien pretender responsible for the memory wipe - is great fun. From Worf's assuming he's the commander to some of the best Riker moments in the series in his what the hell why not love triangle with Ro and Troi.



"With all the power that MacDuff had, it's a wonder he needed the Enterprise."


It's a fair point. This is a bit of "The Inner Light" syndrome, here.
But the mystery and reactions to it are so fun - and perfectly characterized and set up - that it's more than tolerable.



One thing that can't be excused, tho, is Troi beating Data at chess by playing "intuitively." It's a cute scene, (and it gets Data in Ten-Forward for the memory-wipe) but... what? Obviously, Data set himself to play at a much lower level than even the chess programs of our own era, which doesn't say a lot for his assessment of Troi's chess abilities.


3.
Directed by Jonathan Frakes, Written by Brannon Braga
The destruction of the Enterprise near a distortion in the space-time continuum causes a temporal causality loop to form, trapping the ship and crew in time and forcing them to relive the events that led to their deaths.



Of all the causality-loop stories before or since, this is probably my favorite. Everything is well paced, performed, and presented, and the accumulating deja-vus are mysterious and cool. Not much to say more than that, actually; this one's pretty straightforward.


 
Kelsey Grammar's appearing as the Captain of the Bozeman is one of the story's best details. Lilith and Frasier both have characters in the Trekverse; just one of the several Cheers/ TNG overlaps. (Add in "Morn" on DS9, and Berman's appearance in "One for the Road" and this nose smells the greatest crossover summer blockbuster not in development.)
2.
Directed by Les Landau, Written by Rick Berma, Michael Piller, and Jeri Taylor.
Directed by Cliff Bole, Written by Rick Berman and Michael Piller.

To the Federation's surprise, Ambassador Spock has traveled to Romulus. Fearing he has defected, they send Captain Picard and some of his officers on a covert mission to determine why. On Romulus, Picard and Data meet with Spock, who claims to be trying to reunite the Romulans and the Vulcans. While Spock works to achieve his goal, powers within the Romulan government seek to pervert his mission into an invasion of the Federation. 


Last appearance of Mark Lenard in canon
First appearance of Romulus in canon. This was very exciting stuff at the time, just as the shots of the Klingon homeworld in "Sins of the Father" were. The next time we see Romulus, I think, is Nemesis, where everything we ever learned about it is thrown out the window.
Also quite a big deal at the time.


The Romulan invasion of Vulcan seems to be under-planned, doesn't it? They either think quite a bit of their own abilities, or someone erred in the number of troops being sent to Vulcan. Or maybe Sela isn't the most mad-genius super-villain of the bunch. It never occurs to her to make retaining Data a more important objective, as just one of many examples.


This episode has one of my all-time favorite Trek / Spock moments, at the very end when Spock gets to say goodbye to his father via the mind-meld Sarek and Picard shared.


 
 


1.
Directed by Peter Lauriston, Written by Morgan Gendel and Peter Allan Fields
An alien probe disables Picard, who wakes up as Kamin, a resident of the planet Kataan. While the crew of the Enterprise tries to jar the probe's influence, Kamin lives through the dying days of the homeworld. Over the course of a lifetime, he has children and grows old, witnessing the launch of the probe which disabled him those many years ago. It was engineered to transmit the memory of the long-dead race so they would not be forgotten. Picard awakens back on the Enterprise, with only a few minutes having passed, but his life forever changed.


 
  
Patrick Stewart's real life son, far left.
What else could be number one, here? It is rightly regarded as one of Patrick Stewart's defining performances. This look at a planet and civilization that died before it ever got the chance to meet anyone succeeds on just about every level you can succeed with a story. (And if this civilization turns out to be what's in store for us, I hope this episode is part of whatever probe retains our legacy; it sure makes us look good.)

I've referred to "The Inner Light" rule/ syndrome here and there in the above remarks. All I mean by that is asking whether or not the wonky-sci-fi in question is justified by the episode being kick-ass in other ways. I use "The Inner Light" because it's the strongest example; only a true dunderhead would fail to be moved by this solely on account of the Kataanites - who are referred to as barely having rocket technology, throughout - likely not having the technological sophistication to pull off what's shown here: a probe that rewires an alien mind so completely that Picard lives out an entire lifetime under its spell. I agree - it's highly unlikely. Also highly irrelevant. 




A commenter at the Tor re-watch mentions how Earth's first rocket experiments shouldn't be taken to mean every culture on the planet is at the same level of technological innovation and mass production. Very true, as well; maybe the Kataanites are the Super-Masons (or whomever) of their world. 

Whatever explanation works for you, I hope you'll agree that there's no sane excuse for not considering this forty-odd minutes of the greatest tv ever made.

21 comments:

  1. Inner Light was an incredibly moving story, but I could never rank it as the greatest Next Gen episode as it wasn't really about the Next Generation, just a very moving story about a guy's life on a planet.

    For that same reason, I can't rank "Great Darkness" as the greatest Legion of Super-Heroes story ever, at least not over Earthwar, because it wasn't emblematic of what Legion and its world was all about, with a villain that isn't even a Legion villain and a weirdly horror-tinged tone that isn't very Legion, either. Earthwar on the other hand, had a Khund invasion, Mordru at 400 feet tall, the Dark Circle, Karate Kid fighting off aliens at Science Police HQ, etc., etc. In short, Earthwar was a LEGION story, as opposed to having the Legion incidentally.

    Ensign Ro might be my favorite Next Gen character ever. She was exactly what the show needed, like a bomb lobbed right into the main cast. An incendiary personality on a show full of people that always agreed with each other and always got along, she was immediately different from every personality that showed up before, formidable and ferocious. I cannot overstress how she was the right character at the right time; even Worf got a little cuddly by the 5th season. The Michael Jan Friedman Next Gen comics used her all the time, and they were notably light on using the TNG supporting cast (even Barclay showed up only a couple times). No wonder DS9 was originally envisioned as an Ensign Ro spinoff.

    I like your observation that Darmok is an episode everybody remembers and everybody can quote. Sokath, his eyes uncovered!

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    1. I don't get what you mean by saying "The Inner Light" isn't about the Next Generation. Trek is about exploration, and this particular act of exploration involves having it REALLY sink home that an entire culture is no longer in the universe. What's more Trek than that?

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    2. I've got to agree with Bryant, here - I am pretty sure it's a fine example of what TNG is all about. I never said I considered it the best episode of the series, but I certainly don't think it being a Picard-centric episode is a detriment or disqualifies it in any way whatsoever. But if you're saying you prefer the more-ensemble episodes, that's your prerogative, of course.

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  2. By the way, it's interesting to note how, despite being a minor character here in TNG, and one of the major characters in DS9 (one of the best written Trek shows, and more importantly, one that did a lot with supporting characters), it's interesting at no point was Keiko O'Brien ever a sympathetic or likable character.

    She might have been the only character DS9 couldn't redeem. She was introduced to us as an infuriating hippie who's job was to disapprove and complain, and we never understood what made her tick...even more surprising on a show that made even Rom intriguing.

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    1. My DS9 know how is, alas, pretty thin. I never had a problem with Keiko on TNG, or in the few DS9 ones I've seen, but I am now greatly amused by thinking of her as "the infuriating inscrutable hippie." Nice! Opposites attract, I suppose.

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  3. OK, a few comments:

    Darmok is fun to reference, for sure. I still can't get past the notion that the Universal Translator can translate the sentences so they're intelligible, but not so that their meaning is contextually clear. It's almost like the UT has a mind of its own and is having a bit of fun of its own with the Enterprise crew. Still, it's one of those flawed episodes that somehow exploits its glaring illogic to make for something memorable.

    Dwight Schultz and Matt Frewer are, to me, interchangeable. I have to stop and think when I try to remember which one played what role. I like Frewer better, but not particularly so in this episode. He'll always be Max Headroom to me.

    The Perfect Mate bugged me with its ending. The problem I had is that, as I recall, the guy she ends up with is a dick. It struck me that it would been more moving if she'd been paired up with a likeable guy, someone who was a decent Joe, so that we ended up feeling truly bad for him, too. Instead, I was rooting for a transporter malfunction.

    I'd almost forgotten Ensign Ro. I never warmed up to her, much like I never liked Dr. Pulaski.

    Unification was awesome, perhaps my favorite moment of NextGen. Sarek and Spock were special treats.

    I'm ambivalent about The Inner Light, and always have been. Set aside the unlikelihood of a culture that can do that bit of technical magic also being caught so completely flat-footed by their coming demise. The mixed feelings I have stem, in part, from the really heartstring-tugging nature of the plot.

    To me, it just seems...obvious, like a Lifetime movie about a really, really nice protagonist dying a slow-but-always-beautiful death and trying to fix her husband up with the perfect woman to take her place. I mean, how can you not be moved and love our heroine to pieces? She's just so nice! And that's what I got from this episode about this doomed culture. I think I'd have been more compelled had the aliens been more like us, in that you ended up thinking "holy crap, those guys could really be dicks to each other, but sometimes they did some cool stuff, too."

    But I said I was ambivalent, which means I also go another way with this episode. It's hard not to think about how many species, or cultures, or individuals there are out there, lost to the abyss of time. Everything they loved and thought and did, all the things that were so important to them, are now forgotten for eternity, with nary a trace to show us they were there. I think about this a lot when it comes to real-world archaeology and paleontology. I read about a site with cave paintings where there were fossilized tracks of a boy walking into the cave, accompanied by a dog. Just a kid and his dog exploring a cave, so long ago, and everything about him and his people long forgotten, but for his tracks. That kind of thing always gets me; for every story like that, how many more will we never even get a glimpse of?

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    1. "Still, it's one of those flawed episodes that somehow exploits its glaring illogic to make for something memorable."

      That's what I was getting at with my "The Inner Light" syndrome/ test stuff.

      Frankly, tho, this one doesn't need it, as the universal translator is among the most inconsistent things in the Trekverse. It's okay to put it aside for one story (or many stories) and deal with the perils of cultural-reference, something we all deal with on a daily basis even within our own language/ culture/ planet.

      If you find Dwight Schultz and Matt Frewer interchangeable, and Ensign Ro unlikeable, I doubt there's much point in discussing any of those... Ditto for the end to The Perfect Mate, which cements the episode for me/ Picard's story arc. Making the mate likeable would deprive the episode of so much of its power/ gut everything they set up so well. Ditto for making the aliens dicks (or representing a dickhead or two in their culture) in The Inner Light; I can see what you're saying, but... does the episode / story need it? More to the point, would a probe take the time to give that sort of individuation? I'd hope that a probe launched from our own planet would leave Kim Kardashian to one side; she's already beaming around the galaxy enough to begin with! It seems to me the right choice was made and what you suggest would be a needless distraction or open the story up to questions it's not meant to address.

      We've been pretty 180 on our TNG reactions/ interpretations. Obviously, the world is big enough for us / me and everyone in the galaxy to disagree on such things, like the solipsism thing with Remember Me/ Future Imperfect. Don't mean to be a dick in my response or anything, and I appreciate both what you wrote, here, and your Trek enthusiasm in general.

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    2. The end of my comment sounds unduly political or broad. Goes for everyone/ all comments, of course, but didn't meant to get all "We're All Americans."

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    3. I think we've been 180 degree apart on the comments I make here and a few other places about Trek, but I think we agree the majority of the time, and on Trek in general. I just don't feel the need to be all Chris-Farley-reviewing-movies and saying "'member that?" about all the stuff we agree on.

      So that said, it's interesting that what you feel would be a needless distraction, would, to me, vastly improve an episode. I do, indeed, think it needs it. I would have hoped that they could have made a repository of all their cultural info that would have been micro-bursted to the Enterprise as the same time Picard was hit; after all, the computing power necessary for that would likely have made storing most or all of their culture's history and achievements relatively easy (maybe that was mentioned in the ep? I can't recall). There is an episode of Babylon 5 that is something like this; an alien race is going through a very intolerant phase, destroying all old art, music, and literature of its past as impure/heretical/whatever. One of these aliens has stored it all on what is, essentially, an external hard drive, and is pursued by the forces in charge of his planet, seeking to destroy that last copy of all their culture's high points. The resolution was both satisfying and melancholy; the alien manages to turn it over to the command crew of B5, who then broadcast it all in the clear, sending copies of all of it everywhere. It's melancholy because it sucks that the culture had gotten to such a low point, almost succeeding in destroying everything it had achieved. It's the tragedy of it, the self-inflicted nature of the catastrophe, that makes it more satisfying a narrative to me than the Inner Light. That's not to say The Inner Light is garbage. Among other things, it has a good performance by Stewart to anchor it.

      I don't see how making the guy in Perfect Mate a good dude would have hurt it at all. Like I said, it would make it more memorable to me. So she's paired off with a jackass, and gets to pine away for her perfect match flying around the galaxy. It seems very Gothic Romance to me. Make the guy a dude we give a damn about, and then it becomes more complex: he wouldn't deserve to be living a lie, it would give Famke's character something to be ambivalent about emotionally ("oh God I imprinted on another guy and now come to find out this guy I have to be with is well worth that imprinting!"). Not trying to change your mind, I'm just showing you my work on the scratch paper I have to turn in with the test.

      It's interesting to me to see the positive reactions to Ro. Like I said, I equate her with Pulaski as far as likability and for being a good fit on the show. And by "likability," I don't mean she'd have to be personable and a joy to be around; I can like characters who are reprehensible or obnoxious.

      Frewer/Schultz are both good actors, I think, I just have a hard time distinguishing them. They suffer from the Matt Damon/Mark Wahlberg syndrome of looking alike and being cast in similar roles.

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    4. "So that said, it's interesting that what you feel would be a needless distraction, would, to me, vastly improve an episode. I do, indeed, think it needs it."

      ha - I was thinking that on the train ride in this morning. I'm fortunate you were never a TNG producer, as we split pretty hard on these issues. I hear you, tho, not in an ultimate sense, just specifically to Best of Both World, The Inner Light, Remember Me, Future Imperfect, The Perfect Mate, and a couple of other ones.

      I like the "show your work" side of things; I sometimes provide too much of that, and sometimes not enough. I need a whole separate blog just for the scratch-notes/ declensions.

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  4. You know, I hate to be that guy, but...good lord, how beautiful was Michelle Forbes as Ensign Ro? I am disappointed to this day that she didn't take the role on Deep Space Nine.

    She's still doing great work, too; she was awesome on "The Killing," despite the fact that her role was poorly written 90% of the time.

    There are a lot of great episodes on this list. I remember being especially blown away by the fact that the series was audacious enough to actually turn Mark Twain into a Star Trek character. How perfect is that?

    The banner for Darmok & Jalad's big appearance at the '91 Tanagra is awesome. (By the by, I consulted Google earlier because I felt certain that somebody, somewhere must have done a Star Trek / Game of Thrones mashup poster called "Stark Trek." Looks like nobody has; but the search did turn up an amusing photo of Robert Downey Jr. in a gold captain's short. http://media.tumblr.com/6d79c2274247b0d1e0e25801b0ecceab/tumblr_inline_mnfqzvqMcu1qz4rgp.png)

    I never could much get into "Unification." Having Spock show up was cool, but I always felt as if they couldn't quite make it work. This may just be because I loathe the Romulans' big-shoulder-padded uniforms SO much.

    "The Inner light" might be my favorite episode of any Trek series. I'd have to give that one a long, hard think.

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    1. Michelle Forbes is legend. I agree on it being a shame about not joining DS9. (Though the work she did on Homicide: Life on the Street took one of my already favorite shows to new levels of greatness. (It nosedived in its last season, but overall, I loves me some Homicide.)

      I want a giant flag of that Damok & Jalada at Tinagra rock promotion image.

      The Romulan shoulder pad look is indeed awful. I never understood the TNG visual design for Romulans altogether (nor the addition of Nosferatus to their look in Nemesis.) I love Unification, but a lot of the plot is a mess. Ditto for Redemption, though, and I love that one, too.

      Message being: I'm at least consistent in my plot-shrug favoritism.

      That pic of Robert Downey Jr. is great. I'm surprised about Stark Trek not existing, either.

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    2. Michelle Forbes is also pretty cool to hang out with. At a con in DC (I think it was) we were backstage hanging out with Ethan Phillips and she came back to smoke a cigarette and had to bum my lighter. Since my friends and I knew Ethan, she continued to hang back there and chat with us (and continued to bum my lighter; that chick is one of the all-timechampion chainsmokers.).

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    3. You big-time authors and your smoking-with-celebs stories...

      Just kidding, that's pretty cool.

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    4. Hell yeah, it's cool!

      I've had very few such experiences. However, I did meet Brad Paisley this weekend and spent a couple of minutes talking about "Battlestar Galactica" with him. I was very pleased with myself for bringing it up.

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  5. "Darmok" makes it only to #5? Shakka, when the walls fell.

    "Unification Part 2" has one of the all-time funniest blunders in Trek history. After Sela is nerve pinched our heroes exit her office by walking past her desk. On the desk is a green crystal pyramid-type thing. Reflected in the pyramid is the face of a bearded man with glasses, chewing bubblegum. Once you see it it's impossible to unsee it.

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    1. Darmok is an A+, no doubt about it. Goes to show much I like the episodes ahead of it!

      That is indeed one of the more egregious Trek blunders. I considered adding a screencap of it, but it seems every review I read brought it up, so "meh" won the day. (I figured someone would mention it, as well: you rose to the challenge admirably.)

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    2. Actually, Darmok does need to be higher, here. It's just such a memorable episode. Someone completely randomly started tweeting Darmok stuff last night - from a highly unexpected quarter - and I was loving the responses from strangers and around the twitterverse.

      So, when I get to my eventual When TNG Eps Battle post, I'll have to finalize my bracketology and move "Darmok" up, and probably "Unification" down. Love so many elements of that 2-parter, but it was on last night and I perhaps over-rank it on account of the stuff I like.

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  6. I have no Earthly idea why I haven't been leaving more comments on this post -- I'm in the midst of a season-five rewatch.

    Tonight: "The Perfect Mate." Not by any means a perfect episode (the Ferengi bug me), but BOY does a lot of it work like a charm. It has a genuinely great Patrick Stewart performance, and also what might be the most alluring female character in all of Star Trek ... which is saying something. Janssen is terrific apart from just her looks, too; there's something true going on there.

    The episode also has what might be one of the funniest lines in all Trek history: Riker, having barely managed to escape Kamala with succumbing to her wiles, calls the bridge and alerts them that he will be on Holodeck 4. The only way that could be better is if you see him heading in, and Barclay is coming out; the two of them just sort of nod at each other. In my headcanon, that's what happens.

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    1. A "TNG" rewatch of any kind is good times. Season 5 most especially. I love Patrick Stewart's performance in "The Perfect Mate," as well - you can really sense the loneliness-of-command-and-duty in the best English naval tradition there. (Maybe I'm only thinking of Hornblower. But that's close enough for me.)

      I love that holodeck scenario of Broccoli and Riker. Someone really should publish the imagined holodeck adventures of Riker. Maybe all of the TNG characters. Not Wesley, though.

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