Overview – The Enterprise is in orbit around Caldos Colony so that Doctor Crusher can attend the funeral of her grandmother. At the funeral, a mysterious stranger lays a flower on the grave, and Beverly is intrigued. As she sorts through her grandmother’s home and belongings she discovers a candle that she remembers her grandmother having, a family heirloom whose flame is never extinguished. When a man named Quint, the caregiver of Felisa Howard, arrives and blows out the candle, he implores Beverly to get rid of the candle. He claims that it is haunted and brings nothing but trouble. After dismissing Quint, Doctor Crusher discovers that her grandmother had a much younger lover named Ronin. Before long, she meets Ronin, who claims to be a spirit that has been involved with the women of her family for eight centuries. Beverly finds herself falling for Ronin, and begins a love affair with him. As she decides to resign from Starfleet and stay on Caldos, she starts to learn that there is far more to Ronin than originally believed.
Score: 5/10 – I had a hard time scoring this episode. There is a lot going for it, but ultimately I found the episode lacking overall. It is definitely a different story for Star Trek, using science fiction as a background for a story that has elements of ghost stories, love stories, and thrillers woven together. I cannot fault Gates McFadden for the short comings of the episode, as she gives us one of her strongest performances. I likewise cannot fault director Johnathan Frakes, as he gives us some great views and scenes. Duncan Regehr (who will go on to play Shakar in DS9) gives a bit of an over-the-top performance as Ronin, and looks like he came straight out of a Harlequin Romance novel. The story is a bit odd, as the formidable Doctor Crusher, in essence, falls in love with a lamp. While I appreciate that all parties gave it their all in this episode, I think that the overall story was a bit of a dud. This is the final season of TNG, and in retrospect the writing staff seemed to be coming up short with compelling storylines for the characters. While I commend all those involved with this story for giving us the best they could with the material that was provided and trying something unique, it just didn’t seem like more than a mediocre story at best.
Relevance - 1 point. A point is scored for showing us Doctor Crusher’s grandmother. Back in Season 1’s “The Arsenal of Freedom”, Beverly tells Picard about the influence that her grandmother had on her in becoming a healer.
Continuity – 1 point. Universe continuity scores a point here. Character and story continuity, however, do not. For the story, it is said that Felisa Howard is over one hundred years old at the time of her death, but according to the her gravestone, her birth year was listed as 2291, which would make her closer to being 79 years old. Details people! Character continuity focusses on Doctor Crusher. I think my biggest hang-up with this episode is that Beverly acts in such an unlikely fashion. She has always been a character of strong conviction and sense of duty, and yet she falls easily to Ronin’s charm and seduction. Again, I just didn’t buy it. She quickly throws everything else away to stay on the colony and live the rest of her life with Ronin, and her actions seemed more like the sappy love-sick teenager type than the strong, fierce woman that we have come to know over the last seven years.
Character Development – 2 points. A pair of points scored for the attention to Doctor Crusher. We see her come back to her roots (figuratively, at least) as she mourns the loss of the woman who inspired her to become a healer. The loss of her grandmother is acute, and yet she handles it with great dignity. This is not surprising, but it is nice to see her as a character come full circle from what was established way back in the first season. We also see her lose control as she falls for the enigmatic Ronin. While her actions may seem out of character, we do see a different side of her.
Social Commentary – 1 point. I have heard that it is unwise to begin a new romantic relationship after suffering a great loss. I suppose one could use this episode as an example of this. Beverly falls hard and fast for Ronin, and she almost pays for it. OK, that is a bit of a stretch, but it does touch on that subject, if ever so lightly.
Cool Stuff – 2 points. I have to score a point for the names on some of the headstones in the cemetery. Two in particular stand out. Next time you watch this episode, look for the tombstones of Vader and McFly (and yes, they were intentional references to Star Wars and Back to the Future). What I do not know is if those two specific names were used with their Trek connection in mind. In the movie Back to the Future, Marty McFly disguises himself in a haz-mat suit to convince his younger father to ask out the woman that will eventually become Marty’s mother to the dance. Marty introduces himself as Darth Vader from the planet Vulcan. I also want to score a point for some of the guest stars. I already mentioned Duncan Regehr would become Shakar in DS9, where he would become the love interest for another strong female main character (Major Kira). Michael Keenan is Governor Maturin, and he will go on to star in both Voyager and DS9. Finally there is one of my favorite character actors, Ellen Albertini Dow, who played Felisa Howard. Ellen, who played a woman who lived past a hundred years, died at the ripe old age of 101. She was basically the sweet yet spunky old lady in almost every movie and TV show from the 80s onward, including Sister Act, the Wedding Singer, and Wedding Crashers.
Rank – Lieutenant (12 points). The audience seems to be split on this episode. Women tend to like it more than men. Some classify it as their guilty pleasure, while others see it as being at the bottom of the barrel. I will take the middle of the road on this one. If you want to have a look at this episode, it isn’t horrible, just a bit weird. If you would rather skip it as you are binge-watching the seventh season, I totally understand it. I myself only watch it when I am going through episode by episode or if I am writing a review on it (which is now done).
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