Thursday, October 19, 2017

Episode Review - The Best of Both Worlds, Part II (Next Generation, Season 4)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here.

Overview – When their last desperate attempt to stop the Borg fails, Riker and the crew of the Enterprise are forced to make repairs while Starfleet assembles a fleet to take on the threat. With Picard’s knowledge assimilated by the Borg, they make short work of the fleet. Riker, burdened both with the loss of his captain and command of the Enterprise, turns to Shelby to act as his first officer. Riker devises an unorthodox plan to both stop the Borg and to save Captain Picard.

Score: 9/10 – Three months was a long time to wait back in 1990. Amid all the speculation and rumors that were being kicked around, I remember well the anticipation behind the season premier. I felt that while the second episode of this arc was not quite as good as the first, it did not disappoint. There were a lot of interesting decisions made in this episode. Most notably was the choice to show the aftermath of the Battle of Wolf 359 instead of the actual battle itself. I felt that while the battle would have been nice to see, not knowing what happened made the revelation that much more powerful. I also liked how many of the characters were given integral parts in solving the dilemma. While Riker was the captain, he properly relied on the expertise of those around him. Beverly is the one who hones in on the Borg’s interdependency as their main weakness, Data and Worf go on the special mission to capture Locutus, and Troi is the one who identifies that it is Picard making his way through the collective to give them the key to their victory. Of course, we have to get Riker over the loss of Picard and get him to a place where he can be the leader everyone needs him to be. Enter Guinan, who gives Riker the right motivation in a brilliantly executed scene that helps us realize that the only way to both beat and save Picard is to let him go. The moment that Riker sits in Picard’s chair is defining for the new captain. There are also some great visuals during the rescue of Picard, and it is nice to see the saucer separation one last time on the series. There are some great moments in the telling of the story, and I would like to highlight one of them. When Locutus/Picard is in the lab and they are trying to use him to get Data in contact with the Borg collective, at one point Locutus attacks with his mechanical arm. Then, a few moments later, as Picard is struggling to break the influence of the collective, he grabs Data’s wrist with his human hand. I found that a great choice of imagery and symbolism, which adds to the strength of the episode. Where I gave Part I a 10/10, I have to admit that Part II is a slightly weaker episode. This does not mean that it is in any way a weak episode, but after such a strong and near perfect part I, it is difficult to maintain that level. Where I think the episode could have been a bit stronger is with the character of Shelby. In part I she was a force to be reckoned with. In part II, while she was now a cohesive part of the team, her contribution seemed to have lessened. For being an expert on the Borg, she might have been in a better position to contribute a lot more, but in the telling of the story her role seemed to have been sacrificed a bit. The final solution of the episode is also a bit of a controversy in fan circles. Even Cliff Bole, the director of the episode, felt that the end was a bit rushed, even going so far as to call it a cop out. While that may be, I thought that the resolution of the Borg invasion was appropriately simple. While many may have wanted a big “blow them up in a huge space battle” type of ending, I liked how it was by thinking through the problem that they found their way to beat the Borg. Still, I get why some felt a bit let down by the ending.

Relevance – 3 points. This episode will have a great impact on the Trek franchise. The Battle of Wolf 359 will be referenced later in the season in the episode “The Drumhead”, and it will serve as the launching point for Deep Space Nine’s premier episode. We also have Q elude to these events in Voyager’s episode “Death Wish” that without Q(uin) saving Riker’s ancestor, the Borg would have assimilated the Federation. In “Way of the Warrior”, which was DS9’s Season 4 premier, Worf and O’Brien reminisce over the events in this episode. This makes this episode one of the most influential and relevant episodes in Star Trek.

Continuity – 3 points. Riker acts as one would expect. First, he is uncertain and distraught over almost killing Picard, and conflicted over failing in his attempt to do so. He then has a great dialogue with Guinan that finally allows him to both literally and figuratively take Picard’s seat. He swallows his pride and sees the value in Shelby’s skill set and makes her his first officer. This is so true to Riker’s character. Universe continuity also works here. There is one part of the story continuity that might have some people scratching their heads a bit. When Data is linked to Locutus in an attempt to access the collective, he is being monitored by Chief O’Brien. One would assume that with this mission they would need the best people monitoring Data’s well-being you would want the officer who is most knowledgeable with Data’s circuitry, and that person is Geordi. However, in researching this episode, I learned that actor Levar Burton was hospitalized during the filming of this episode. This limited his availability for filming, so having O’Brien in this role made sense.

Character Development – 3 points. This is again a strong Riker-Picard episode. For Riker it’s about his first time in the big chair as captain. He had to learn how to make some real tough choices (choosing Shelby as his first officer is one of the main ones). He showcased his brilliant strategic mind by beating the Borg, even though they had Picard’s knowledge. He had to learn to lead without having Picard to back him up. His growth in this episode is significant, and he is a stronger character for it. Picard’s growth was very different, and we saw it through a very different lens. As we see his humanity stripped away from him, we are told a story without hardly any dialogue being used. The scene where we see more of the transformation of Picard into Locutus is so powerful when we see the single tear trickle down his face. Picard has been violated in ways that we cannot imagine and has likely, with this single event, suffered more than any other character in Trek to this point. It will continue to haunt him for years to come.

Social Commentary – 3 points. Similar to Part I, we see some themes of being thrust into the role of leadership. Where before the idea of Riker’s seemingly stalled career path was the focus, now we are forced to look at him in the command that has finally come to him. For a while, Riker refused to sit in the captain’s chair in his ready room, still thinking that Picard should be there. In comes Guinan, who takes the chair herself to make a point. Like it or not, Riker, but that is your chair now, and the crew needs him to sit in it. Through Guinan, Riker has to learn that he must let go of Picard in order to both defeat and save him. It shows us that we must let go of the past if we are to move on with the future.

Cool Stuff – 3 points. A point is scored here for the afore mentioned scene with Guinan and Riker. It is a great moment, almost a coming-of-age one, for Riker. It works on many levels. Another point is being scored for the rescue of Picard (or the capture of Locutus, however you want to see it). It shows some great effects and gives us the most action in the episode. Best of all, we see the saucer separated from the drive section one last time on the small screen. Picard’s transformation into Locutus is also neat to see.

Rank – Admiral (24 points). When we look at both parts of “The Best of Both Worlds”, it is hard to argue that Part II did not quite live up to the bar set by Part I, but that is not a criticism of the episode in itself. While it is a little weaker, it is still a very strong episode that gives us a great mix of drama, action, and thrills. Perhaps in today’s standards it might seem that more could have been done, but again, that does not detract from how wonderful this episode really is. So while Part II may not pack as strong of a punch as Part I, it is still worthy of its association. Besides, you cannot watch Part I without having to see how it ends. This is a must see episode.

If you would like to read other reviews from the Next Generation, click this link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Episode Review - The Best of Both Worlds (Next Generation, Season 3)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here.

Overview – The Borg are back, and the Enterprise is sent to confront them. Assisting them is Borg Specialist Lt. Cmdr. Shelby, who has career aspirations to replace Riker as Picard’s first officer. As Riker questions his own career decisions, the threat of the Borg looms. When the confrontation occurs, Picard must find a way to defeat this formidable enemy. As the stakes are raised, Picard is captured and assimilated by the Borg, which forces Riker to make the impossible decision to end the third season.

Score: 10/10 – There is little that can be said about TBOBW that has not already been said. It is one of the most influential and impressive episodes in all of Star Trek, and set the bar extremely high for season-ending cliff hanger episodes. While today we can quickly insert Disc 1 of Season 4 or hit “Play Next” on Netflix (or even let Netflix do it for you automatically), when this episode was first aired it would be many weeks of waiting to learn Picard’s fate from the end of the episode. My family and I, as we watched it, almost fell out of our seats when “To be continued” appeared after Riker’s final line. Rumors ran amuck about Patrick Stewart leaving the show and Johnathan Frakes being promoted to Captain. There is even a story (verified by Patrick Stewart, I believe) where a fan who was terminally ill was saddened that she may not get the chance to see how everything worked out. Patrick Stewart was given permission to give her a phone call where he told her about what the second part was all about (and if my memory serves me correctly, she survived to see the episode herself). In addition to a spectacular ending we also had, from start to finish, a near perfect episode. The music was fantastic at setting the proper mood, the acting was on point, the writing was excellent, and the pacing was near flawless. Shelby was a great character that I would have loved to have seen again and was a perfect foil for Riker. While many found her abrasive and difficult, she was a nice breath of fresh air that shook up the status quo. The character development was wonderful, and the surprise assimilation of Picard was eerie and exciting. This is what many consider the episode that put TNG on the map.

Relevance – 3 points. This picks up the Borg storyline from “Q Who”, and asks the question if the cube vessel was the one the Enterprise encountered almost two years ago or if all cubes look the same. The events of this episode will have far reaching impacts on the show. In addition to the Season 4 opener, we will deal with the after effects on Picard immediately on the second episode, “Family”. Locutus of Borg will be a tactic used by Picard in another classic “I, Borg” and the season 6/7 finale/premier “Descent”. We also have Riker turn down another command, having done so in the second season episode “The Icarus Factor”. Finally, this episode will be essential for making heads or tales of the movie “First Contact”, widely regarded as the best TNG film of the four that were made. To make it short, this is one of the most relevant episodes in the TNG series.

Continuity – 3 points. Character continuity is intact here. In particular, Riker having to deal with questions about his career ambition, then dealing with someone who is after his job, and finally the assimilation of his captain and having to make a difficult choice, he pulls it off in true Riker fashion. Picard also has a lot of focus, and he is as ever his pragmatic self. Everyone else, though in more minor roles, acts the way they should. Story wise, all is intact and nothing contradicts anything from before. Finally, Universe continuity is also solid. Full points here.

Character Development – 3 points. It seemed in some ways that this was going to be a Picard episode, and with his assimilation is likely the most significant event for the development of Picard’s character. Yet while it looked at first that this would be a story about Picard, it evolves into one of Riker’s best stories. As mentioned above, he deals with a lot, and we really get some great insight into who Riker is. We learn the reasons behind his sudden halt in his goal to become a starship captain. He is happy where he is, and for the first time in his career he chose happiness over career. We also see him make the near impossible decision to potentially kill his former captain in the final seconds of the episode. We see his true grit here, as well as his fierce will. Likely the best Riker episode of all.

Social Commentary – 3 points. Riker finds himself in a situation where everyone around him is wondering why he has stayed on the Enterprise for three years, turning down his third command. He comes to terms with the fact that while his career had always been his primary focus in life, he found that the happiness he has on the Enterprise is ultimately the most rewarding. Finding happiness is always one’s truest of goals, but we may be surprised as to what makes us happiest.

Cool Stuff – 3 points. I have to score a point for the soundtrack. If there is any episode that has music that is truly iconic, it is this one. Also, a point is scored for the ultimate cliff-hanger that is one of the best season finales of all time. I score a third point for the scene that reveals Picard after he has been assimilated. It ramps the intensity of the story to the highest level. Let’s face it, the whole episode is cool.

Rank – Admiral (25 points). Season 3 was largely seen as a turning point for TNG. While there are some excellent episodes in the first two seasons, the third season was solid and where the show really found its stride. “The Best of Both Worlds” took that stride and catapulted the show into the proverbial stratosphere. This was a defining moment that clearly said to the world that Trek is here to stay, and it was after this moment that the Next Gen characters were seen to have earned their place alongside their legendary counterparts. I cannot think of any reason why anyone would not suggest this episode as a must see episode. According to this rank (and this is a first for my reviews), it was a perfect episode.

If you would like to read other reviews from the Next Generation, click this link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Episode Review - Melora (Deep Space Nine, Season 2)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here.

Overview – Ensign Melora Pazlar, an Elaysian science officer, has been assigned to Deep Space Nine for some research missions in the Gamma Quadrant. Due to her physiology from coming from a world with lower than normal gravity, she requires a motorized chair to move around the station. The crew quickly learn that adapting to Ensign Melora entails more than meeting her physical needs, but her emotional needs as well. Doctor Bashir, in particular, finds himself drawn to her and a special bond between the two of them develops as he discovers a way that she will be able to walk as the others on the station can walk. The treatment, however, comes with a price. Meanwhile, Quark is reunited with a former business associate who has come to the station seeking retribution against the Ferengi bar owner. His price: Quark’s life. The two stories connect and the crew must try to protect Melora, Dax, and Quark from this violent criminal.

Score: 6/10 – I appreciate what this episode tries to do in bringing the struggles of the physically handicapped to light. To have an officer who is physically limited due to the natural conditions of her home world being in conflict with most other places was a unique way of depicting this issue, and is classic Star Trek. The story does a fair job, largely due to one of the writers being confined to a wheel chair himself. Some of the parts of the episode dip into the cliché well a bit (such as the handicapped person getting into trouble trying to make it on their own, learning to accept help from others), but not in ways that are too overbearing or take away from the story. Where this episode suffers is in some of the acting and/or directorial choices. First, there’s Fallit Kot. He is quite an interesting looking alien, and has the look of a tough-as-nails ex-con. He has every reason to want to kill Quark, and yet he comes across as…well, bored. There is little passion or emotion in his lines that convinces me that he is a serious threat. Second, when Fallit shoots Melora in the runabout, Bashir and the rest of the crew are watching the events unfold. Bashir has just started a romantic relationship with Melora, and his reaction to her being shot and presumably killed is severely understated. I found it difficult to believe that he would have stayed so calm. Not a good choice of action for the character. My final complaint with the episode overall is that once the episode is done, that’s it. No follow up, not even a hint that the episode happened. Maybe I missed it, but all the ramps that O’Brien and his crews spent hours on installing are gone by the next episode. This could have had a more lasting and inclusive impact, but once the last scene was completed it was back to normal.

Relevance – 1 point. A point is scored for the Klingon restaurant, which will be seen again in a later episode “Playing God”. Sadly, these are the only two episodes that we will see the highly entertaining Klingon chef, but the restaurant will be referenced in dialogue a few more times. His argument with Melora (revealing not only her iron will but her fluency in Klingon) is a lot of fun.

Continuity – 1 point. Universe continuity works here, so a point is awarded for it. I am deducting points for character and story continuity here, both for reasons I eluded to earlier. Bashir reactions to Melora’s apparent death are just not what I came to expect from him. He is as emotional as they come. He throws himself into his relationships with gusto and zeal. I am not saying he should have curled up in a little ball of whimpering under his console, but I really expected him to have been a bit more animated. Story continuity is the fact that if the crew had spent all this time installing ramps to have made the station a little more accessible to Melora, and it didn’t appear that they would have hampered anyone else, why spend the time and resources in removing the ramps. It just gave this episode a “one and done” feeling.

Character Development – 2 points. This is definitely a Bashir episode where he finally gets lucky in love. After pining for Jadzia for a year it’s nice to see the good doctor get some success in this department. We see how me uses his medical brilliance to help those he loves, but we also see how idealistic he can be. When he offers her the treatment that will allow Melora to walk in normal gravity as everyone else, he is almost oblivious to the notion that she may not want to give up being who she is. We also get some funny moments with Quark and Odo, with Quark needing Odo’s protection from Fallit and Odo (albeit reluctantly) agreeing to do what he is allowed to do by law. Sisko shows how he handles a character like Melora when he denies her request to go on her mission unaccompanied. He balances compassion and understanding with truly treating others like everyone else by telling her that in no situation would he send a junior officer alone on a mission.

Social Commentary – 3 points. How do we own our limitations? While there is the obvious nod towards those who have very visible handicaps, it also applies to most, if not all, of us. We all have things that can hold us back. It may be something that is mental, physical, emotional, or even just as simple as our basic mortality. We have limits of one kind or another. The true strength is in our ability to own those limits and allow us to define them rather than it being the other way around. The character of Melora goes through the standard path that many characters with physical handicaps do. She fights for trust and then has to learn to trust others in return. She and Bashir have some great conversations that anyone can glean inspiration from. I particularly liked the exchange where Melora says she just wants others to know they can count on her, and Bashir counters with asking if she knows that she can count on them. Proving oneself doesn’t mean we won’t ever need someone else’s help, but it does mean that we are capable of assisting others.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. Melora as a character is pretty cool, and in the vein of characters such as Geordi La Forge, a character being confined to a wheel chair is a good step for Trek, even if it was only for a single episode. I also liked the scene of her and Bashir in the low gravity environment and seeing her float with ease. That scores a point. The second point is for the make-up of Fallit Kot, especially the nose piece that connects to his chin. While I felt that the character was lacking in how he was portrayed, I really liked the look.

Rank – Lieutenant (15 points). While not necessarily a bad episode, there are a few let downs. I really think that in spite of a well-intentioned and good effort, there were some missteps in character direction that cost the overall show. Still, it gives us a good message and has some good moments. So while you may be fine missing this episode while going through the series I would suggest that you catch it at least once. If nothing else, the Klingon chef gives us some soothing dinner music.

If you would like to read other reviews from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, please click the following link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Episode Review - The Inner Light (Next Generation, Season 5)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Overview – The Enterprise encounters a mysterious probe from a distant star system. Without warning, the probe forms a psychic connection to Picard, who finds himself on an unfamiliar planet living the life of a man he never knew. As Picard lives this life and learns of the culture and the people of the planet, the crew of the Enterprise try to break the connection. As they attempt to study where the probe came from, they discover that system from which the probe came has long been destroyed by the star of that system going nova one thousand years ago.

Score: 9/10 – This is a fan favourite that showcases science fiction at its greatest. There are no strange looking aliens or epic space battles, but instead the episode is driven by a powerful story and excellent acting on the part of Patrick Stewart. I believe that the magic of this episode is that it shows that Star Trek can be powerful without blowing you away with action, special effects, or an epic struggle against a powerful adversary. Indeed, this episode, on paper, may not appear to be anything special, and yet I remember after seeing it for the first time that I was moved. This episode shows that simple things, when done well, can be just as inspiring and moving. I have heard a few people say that this episode is slow and boring, but those voices are rare. Star Trek does not have to be exciting and action-packed to be beautiful. And if I can add my voice to the chorus of a quarter century, the fact that Patrick Stewart did not get an Emmy nomination for this episode is a sad shame. He was brilliant in it, walking the line of Captain Picard transitioning into Kamin, his Ressikan persona. The ending, of course, is near perfection with Picard showing that he has retained much from his past life.

Relevance – 3 points. The impact of this episode is followed up in the next season with a good episode called “Lessons”, where Picard finally shares with someone how his experience has affected him. We also score a point for Picard’s use of the Ressikan flute in future episodes, namely the afore mentioned “Lessons” as well as “Fistful of Datas”. It is wonderful that this new aspect of Picard is carried forward. I am also scoring a point for Picard playing “Frere Jacques” as he learned to play his flute. If you recall, this was the song he sung to the three kids that he was stuck in the turbolift with in an earlier fifth season episode “Disaster”.  

Continuity – 3 points. Universe and story continuity both get a check here. Of most significance, character continuity gets a big check here. I found that as Picard first encountered and then slowly embraced his new life, he went through the roles appropriately. Transitioning from a skeptic who was trying to escape to a man who accepted where he was and eventually almost forgetting his past life. Everything is as we would expect from Picard.

Character Development – 2 points. This episode is all about Picard. We get to see him grow in ways that we would not have expected at the beginning of the series. We see him learn music and have a family. This episode does a lot to develop his character in a way that was less violent than what we saw with “The Best of Both Worlds”. Of course, with so much focus on Jean-Luc Picard, there was little time to devote to other characters. Troi herself is absent from the episode, so there was little to say to further push anyone else along. That is one of the few short comings of this sort of episode, but it does not diminish much from the strength of this story.

Social Commentary – 3 points. Preserving one’s culture or society. I think this is something that all people can identify with. The Ressikan people went to great lengths to preserve the memory of their history and culture once they knew that their world was doomed. In addition to this, we learn how important it is to learn of and to teach of past cultures to help us learn and grow.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. I definitely have to score a point for casting Patrick Stewart’s own son Daniel as his character’s son. It is very cool to see father and son on the screen together as father and son. I also score a point for the Ressikan flute. It will go on to become a significant part of Picard’s character. Plus, the song that Picard creates for the naming of his son is an amazing piece of music. If you get a chance to hear the orchestral arrangement of this song, it is one of the greatest musical scores in all of Star Trek.

Rank – Admiral (22 points). A great tale of humanity and a refreshing tale. It is a simple yet also intricate tapestry of a touching story delivered with strong acting. There is little doubt as to why this episode is on so many Top 10 lists.

If you would like to read other reviews from the Next Generation, click this link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

If TNG Had an Eighth Season

The Next Generation was a smash success on television, and it far surpassed expectations of everyone involved. It became a pop culture hit that breathed new life into the Star Trek brand. It ensured that Trek would be a force for at least a full decade or two more. That it went for seven full seasons was beyond what many of us had hoped for when their adventures began, and yet when the show came to a close in 1994 we wished it could keep going on for at least another year. I get why they chose to end it when they did. The quality of the show slipped a little in the final season, and the people involved were tired. They wanted to do something in addition to Star Trek, and with Deep Space Nine on the television set we would still have Trek. Plus, let’s be honest, there would be more money involved in feature films, so financially the decision made sense.

But what if it had gone on for one more season? What new adventures could we have seen, what new worlds could have been discovered? What past stories could have been continued and/or concluded? Lots of fans have wondered what might have been, including this fan. I decided to examine that as part of the celebration of TNG’s 30th anniversary, and so here is what I would have loved to see if TNG had gone on for at least one more season. Please note, I know this is wishful thinking and that it would have changed things in Deep Space Nine and the like, but this is just for fun. So, on this, the 30th anniversary of this legendary show, I give you a “what if” tribute to what might have been. These are given in no particular order. 

1. Conspiracy Aliens – In Season 1 we had a fun episode titled “Conspiracy” that had Starfleet being infiltrated by intelligent and malevolent parasitic creatures. They were intent on taking over Starfleet and were defeated in a grizzly manner. Before they were defeated, however, they sent out a message to the farthest reaches of the galaxy, presumably to their own kind. This left the door open for a possible follow-up to the story. It never happened. I really wish it would have. It would have been nice to see these little critters again, maybe build the story over the last season, sowing seeds that something was once again afoot. It could have been a great two-part episode.

2. The Crewmen from Lower Decks – “Lower Decks” was a great episode that featured three new characters joining the already established Alyssa Ogawa and one of Wes Crusher’s squadron members from “First Duty”, Sito. It was a great episode that shone a light onto the lives of the countless crewmen that we had seen over the past seven years. In the episode, Ensign Sito is presumably killed on a mission, and her friends (Ben, Lavelle, Ogawa, and Taurik) are left to mourn her loss. While Ogawa was still seen on the show, even in a couple of the feature films, the other three were never seen again. I’m not saying that there should have been an episode where Sito is still alive (although that would have been sweet), it would have been nice that after dedicating a full episode to Ben, Lavelle, and Taurik to have seen them again.  

3. Commander Sela – When Denise Crosby returned to reprise her character in the classic “Yesterday’s Enterprise” it allowed the writers to create a delightful adversary in Yar’s half-human, half-Romulan daughter Sela. She interfered with the Enterprise on a few occasions and was a great plot twist in her reveal in the end of the fourth season “Redemption”. Her last appearance on the show was the great two-part episode “Unification” that featured Leonard Nimoy. While that story was great, it would have been nice to have had her back one last time. I had hoped she would have shown up in one of the feature films, but regardless of which, I wanted more Sela.

4. Captain Sulu – The episodes that featured beloved characters from the original series were always great episodes. From an aged Admiral McCoy in the pilot, to the afore mentioned “Unification” that had Spock, to the clever transporter rigging that beamed Scotty to the 24th Century in “Relics”, it was always fun to see these characters one last time. Even Sarek, Spock’s father, had a special episode that was very popular. In the eighth season it would have been fun to have had one last blast-from-the-past appearance. Unlike the other items on this list, I have a fully fleshed out idea. Captain Sulu could have made an appearance, and he didn’t have to be really old or brought forward in time the way that Scotty and later Kirk would do. It wouldn’t even have to be a major part of the episode, more like McCoy’s appearance in “Encounter at Farpoint”. My idea is that in an episode, likely the opening sequence (but really, it could be fit in anywhere), have Picard in the holodeck fencing. Since both opponents are masked you cannot tell who is who. After a few jousts and back-and-forth action, Picard removes his mask and says: “Well played, Captain”. His opponent then removes his mask to reveal Hikaru Sulu. They exchange some pleasantries, during which they are interrupted by either a page from the bridge or one of his officers entering and informing him of something that needs Picard’s attention. Picard bids Sulu “Adieu” and adds “Computer, end program”, to which the fencing arena and Sulu disappear. I will confess that this idea is basically something I remember reading in one of the many TNG novels that are out there, but I thought it was a great idea and would have loved to see it appear on the screen.

5. Deep Space Nine Crossover – Before you start, yes, there were some crossovers in the last bit. Doctor Bashir visited the Enterprise in Season 6 and helped Data dream. Riker contacted Quark to help track down the Duras sisters in Season 7. I’m not talking about a quick little cameo, I am talking a full-on crossover episode, somewhat like the ones we see in the DC superhero universe between Arrow, the Flash, Supergirl, and the Legends of Tomorrow. It could have been a two-part event, one happening on DS9 and the other on TNG that would have brought both crews together to save the universe or something. Picard and Sisko had a rough beginning in the pilot episode of DS9 and it would have been fun to see them mix it up a bit after having made amends. O’Brien could have had one last adventure with his former colleagues, and maybe Data and Bashir could have revisited the android dreams again. Lots of combinations could have made this fun.

I would love to hear your thoughts on these ideas, as well as anything you would have liked to have seen if an eighth season had happened. Leave your thoughts in the comment section. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Episode Review - Brothers (Next Generation, Season 4)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Overview – The Enterprise is en route to Starbase 416 to save a young boy who is in severe need of medical help. It is during this crisis that Data suddenly and unexpectedly takes control of the ship and redirects it to Terlina III. As the crew try to regain control of the ship, Data beams down to the planet where he encounters his creator and “father”, Doctor Noonian Soong. Soong had activated a homing device in Data that would cause the android’s programming to seek only Data’s return to the cyberneticist that created him.  As Data reconnects with Soong, they are joined by Data’s brother, Lore, who was inadvertently activated by the same homing device. As the father and sons reunite, the purpose of Soong’s plan is revealed, as he has created an emotion chip for Data. As he prepares to implant the chip into Data, Lore takes matters into his own hands.

Score: 8/10 – I quite enjoy this episode. It gives us a great insight into Data and does a lot to move his character’s development along. We follow up on the fate of Lore and meet Dr. Soong himself. Data finally gets a chance to have emotions, and this development will have big impacts in a few seasons. Best of all, this episode really showcases Brent Spiner’s acting skills. Honestly, how he went all seven seasons of TNG without a single Emmy nomination is beyond my comprehension. I am hard pressed to think of any actor in television that had this much screen time as three distinct characters, and he pulled it off in fantastic form. Not only does he make each character unique, but he adds depth to all of them. Even Lore is one you can't help and feel a bit of sympathy for, except at the end when he pulls a fast one on them and assaults Soong. The side story of the two brothers on the Enterprise serves as fair backdrop to give the episode a touch of risk, but the focus is all on Data. In the end, we get some great insight into one of Star Trek’s most beloved and popular characters.

Relevance – 3 points. One point for following up with Lore’s fate from “Datalore”. He apparently had spent a couple years floating in space until he was picked up by the Pakleds. Another point scored for the emotion chip which will come into play in the Season 6 finale as well as the movie “Generations”. There is also a throwback to “Encounter at Farpoint” as Data once again tries to (unsuccessfully) whistle “Pop Goes the Weasel”. That gives it a third point in this category.

Continuity – 3 points. I don’t see anything in this episode that goes against story, character, or universe continuity. There are everybody acts the way we would expect. Nothing contradicts here. Lore especially shows a few layers that do accurately reflect who he is. He shows a love for his brother that I believe is genuine, and he gives us a few moments where we believe that his evil actions in the past were more like those of a misguided teenager lashing out for attention. He also reveals that in his books, Lore always comes first, and turns on his creator that ultimately seals his role as a villain. He will play on his knowledge of Soong and Data to deceive them and gain the upper hand.

Character Development – 2 points. This is all about Data. This is his story where he is reunited with members of his “family”, mainly his father and brother. We almost see him achieve one of his desires in gaining emotions. Mostly, his best moment comes when he is saying goodbye to Doctor Soong who is dying. It is touching and shows a deep look into how thoughtful Data is. He gives his father a reassurance that he will honor his memory and legacy. All the other characters are simply doing what they do, but nothing really gives us much insight into their characters.

Social Commentary – 3 points. Family. It is a universal theme. Families are complex and often messy. Here, we have a family made up of a father and his two sons (both androids). While Soong does care for both of them, he had to make some hard choices regarding Lore due to his actions. Despite his good intentions, Soong’s day of reckoning came. I’m not saying that Soong deserved what Lore did to him, but sometimes doing the right thing can catch up with you. This can lead to another theme of the unintended consequences of even our best intended actions. In the midst of all of this is Data, the good son, who deserved better than he received. And in the end, the side story of the two brothers on the Enterprise teaches Data, and us, an important lesson on family: “Brothers forgive”.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. There is definitely a point for Doctor Noonien Soong. Brent Spiner plays the character with delicious zest. Another point is scored for seeing Brent Spiner play three different characters at once. It was well acted and edited. I already said it once, but I want to say it again, but it was almost criminal that Spiner did not receive even an Emmy nomination for his work in this episode. Finally, in one of the final scenes when Soong implants the emotion chip in Data, there is a neat little plot twist that shows us that it is Lore that received the chip instead of Data. Watching this for the first time, I was surprised by this turn of events. It made sense, but I really think that it was a cool twist. 

Rank – Admiral (21 points). Season 4 started with the Best of Both Worlds ending, and then, to lighten things up a bit, gives us back-to-back episodes about family. Brothers is the second of those, and it is a strong episode. Brent Spiner is the biggest highlight with portraying three different characters at the same time, and he is up to the task. A great continuation to the Lore story, an important move in Data’s development, and introduced to a fun character in Noonian Soong. A must see episode on many fronts. 

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