Saturday, July 14, 2018

Episode Review: Breaking the Ice (Enterprise, Season 1)

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

Overview – Archer and his crew discover an unusually large comet and decide to investigate and study it. While they are doing this, they make a recording to send back to an elementary school on Earth. When a Vulcan ship starts to tail the Enterprise, Archer becomes suspicious. When Trip intercepts a coded message from the Vulcans to T’Pol, he gets Hoshi to decode it, and in doing so he learns an unfortunate personal matter of hers. Malcolm and Travis are sent to retrieve some core samples from the comet, and soon find themselves in trouble. Now, Archer must decide whether he should ask the Vulcans for help or try to rescue his crewmen alone.

Score: 7/10 – I have to admit that I like this episode. It is by no means a heavy hitter, and though Reed and Mayweather are in peril on the comet, there is really no reason to fear for their well-being, so the threat level is relatively low here. What makes this episode interesting is the glimpse and insight into the characters that we are still coming to learn about. Keep in mind this was the next episode after the very tense introduction to Shran in “The Andorian Incident”, so taking things down a couple notches is fine. Almost every main character is given some added depth here. While it initially seems that Travis and Malcolm in trouble on the comet is the main story, it is quickly over-shadowed by the beginning of the Trip-T’Pol arc. There is humor and a touch of home that comes from the letter that the crew make for the elementary school in Kenmare, Ireland (which, if I may add, was a nice touch to not have it to a school in the USA). Vanik is a particularly unpleasant character, who seems to be bent on reinforcing Archer’s reasons to dislike Vulcans. He is dismissive, patronizing, and just plain rude. This makes it even more impactful when Archer is given a moment of truth as he is forced to swallow his pride for the sake of his stranded crewmen. Overall, this is a pleasant and light character-focused tale.

Relevance – 2 points. A point scored here for the first mention of Koss, who is T’Pol’s fiancĂ©e. Koss will go on to play a very significant role in T’Pol’s life and in the overall story. A second point is being scored for the beginning of the T’Pol/Tucker relationship. This is arguably the most compelling relationship that Enterprise has, and it all begins here. Interestingly enough, it is a piece of pecan pie that seems to be the catalyst, as Tucker suggest T’Pol try some for the sheer sake of enjoying food. The end scene where see that T’Pol takes him up on that offer seems to signal that something is in store for these two.

Continuity – 2 points. Character continuity is good here. Archer continues to feel that he has to prove himself to the Vulcans by going at a problem alone. T’Pol is understandably upset at Trip for reading her communique, and Trip is understandably remorseful for doing so. When Phlox is providing an answer to the school children, he is in full Phlox-form when he jumps in with the answer and goes off on lengthy response that Archer has to cut short. There is one little inconsistency that continues to not sit right with me. While Vulcans are said to not have a particular interest in things like comets, the comet is discovered to be rich in eisillium, a rare element. Why the Vulcans do not mention this during the remainder of the episode seems odd to me. I think that this would fall under the story continuity, and therefor I can keep universe continuity intact.

Character Development – 3 points. The fact that we begin the T’Pol/Tucker relationship by revealing that Trip is the only person to know about T’Pol’s arranged marriage. The whole misunderstanding about the encrypted message serves as a catalyst for these two. We also see some significant growth as Archer is forced to ask the Vulcans to help rescue Travis and Malcolm from the comet. This is not easy for Johnathan, and yet is an important first step in him eventually accepting that the Vulcans are going to be important allies in the future. As previously mentioned, almost everyone gets some attention here. Travis has hardly ever seen snow, and has a blast building a snowman (complete with pointy ears). Even Malcolm shows his lighter side by adding the nose as well as making a joke about the lack of symmetry in the hole they blast on the comet’s surface. If there is nothing else to be said about this episode, you can say that it is character-driven.

Social Commentary – 2 points. This part was a little tricky to nail down. I did think that there was something to be said about Tucker’s sincere remorse over reading T’Pol’s message, and with Archer having to ask for help from the Vulcans. T’Pol turned to Trip to discuss the things that were troubling her. All of these lead to a theme about having to take that first step in trusting someone. Trip betrayed the trust of T’Pol, and yet she still found it within herself to trust him in seeking advice. Archer had to take the proverbial leap of faith to trust the Vulcans, which led to the rescue of Mayweather and Reed.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. I loved the snowman. Yes, I said it, though no pun was intended by including a snowman in the “Cool Stuff” section. I thought that was such a cool little part of the story. I also am going to score a point for the scene where the crew is answering the questions to the elementary class. I love that scene. It adds some humanity to everyone involved, from Archer’s attempt to speak to children he cannot see, to Phlox’s enthusiasm about germs, to Tucker’s dismay at having to answer a “poop question”. It was really good stuff.

Rank – Captain (18 points). OK, so this episode is not the most exciting, the most humorous, the most intriguing, or the most complex story that Star Trek has ever done. Far from any of those, in fact. Yet, despite all of those, it still comes across as a very charming story. Everyone gets something significant or important to do or say (which is quite rare for an ensemble cast), and the story is woven together quite well. Sure, there are far stronger and wittier episodes, but “Breaking the Ice” can do just that with

If you would like to check out my other episode reviews for Enterprise, simply click here.

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.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Five Times That Star Trek Poked Fun at Itself

Star Trek has always been a mixed bag of action, drama, suspense, and even comedy. With more than a half-century of live-action television, animation, and feature length motion pictures, there are always things that become in-jokes among the fans. Whether it is the doomed fate of unnamed crewman in the away team (usually wearing red shirts), the never-ending supply of shuttles on Voyager’s seven-year Delta Quadrant mission, or the yearly situation where Chief O’Brien found himself being tortured, there were always these trends that we as fans just loved to have fun with. Over the years, the producers and writers on Star Trek have not shied away poking fun at themselves. I thought it would be fun to look at how the writers gave us the proverbial nod and wink to the inside jokes that we have come to love. Oh, and a “Spoilers Warning” will be in effect for at least one of these, so be warned.

1. What Is It With Kirk, Anyways? Captain James T. Kirk never seemed to have much difficulty in wooing the ladies. The number of beautiful women that Kirk kissed is a lengthy one. Fast forward to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, which was the final swan song for the original cast and crew. As Kirk and McCoy find themselves in yet another dire situation, this time on the Klingon penal colony Rura Penthe. Martia, a mysterious and attractive female prisoner, proposes that Kirk and McCoy help her escape. She seals the deal with the expected lip-lock with our Captain Kirk. McCoy, witnessing this union, rolled his eyes, the way that many of us were doing. Then, as if he was channeling what many of us had been thinking for twenty-five years, he asks “What is it with you, anyway?”. I was in a theatre for the premier of this in my city, and the place was full of Trekkies. The cheers for that line were awesome.

2. Episodic Feel. Star Trek Beyond opens with a fun scene in which Kirk botches up a treaty negotiation, and then proceeds to give his Captain’s Log. In the log, he describes the how for the past three years, the Enterprise’s mission has become to feel episodic. He also mentioned that the Enterprise was on day 966 of its mission. This log is full of inside jokes/homages to the original series. The day 966 is in reference to the month and year that Star Trek premiered (September 1966). The three-year point in their mission pays tribute to the three seasons that Star Trek ran for. As for the feeling of life becoming episodic, well, that shouldn’t have to be explained to even the most casual of fans.

3. Ship in a Bottle. “Ship in a Bottle” picks up the tale of the self-aware holographic character Professor James Moriarty. In Season 2 he was created as a competent challenger for Data, who was portraying Sherlock Holmes. In this episode, he manages to trick Picard, Data, and Lieutenant Barclay into believing that he was able to leave the holodeck. In actuality, he had created a holodeck program within a holodeck program. As the story plays out, the crew create a similar ruse to trick the holographic criminal mastermind. As they take the device that contains Moriarty living his created reality, Picard begins to wonder if perhaps they themselves are living in a reality where their adventures are running inside a device sitting on someone’s table somewhere. Barclay, in a moment of self-doubt, asks the possible computer to end program. Of course, this is all a subtle wink to the television viewing audience at home.

4. Someone Finally Says It. In “Star Trek: First Contact”, which premiered 30 years after Star Trek first hit the airwaves, Picard and his crew travel back in time and encounter legendary warp drive innovator Zephram Cochrane. Eventually, they make the decision to tell him his future place in history. As they explain their overall mission, Cochrane responds with “…and you are all astronauts, on some sort of star trek”. In three decades of film and television, nobody had ever said “star trek”. The closest we ever came was Q mentioning Picard’s “trek among the stars”. Now the father of warp drive gave us the title of our franchise in dialogue. Finally.

5. It’s a Private Matter. For years, fans had wondered why the Klingons had smooth foreheads in the Original series, and yet once the movies came out they suddenly had forehead ridges. This would lead to a distinct and iconic look for the Klingons, and a lot of fan questions at conventions. The standard answer that writers and producers gave us was that the advancements in makeup technology and increased budgets gave the Klingons a more alien look. While many of us accepted and understood that explanation, we always wondered how it could be addressed in canon. While Enterprise provided a great storyline explanation for the discrepancies, it was first addressed in the classic DS9 episode “Trials and Tribbleations”. As the DS9 characters are spliced into the 1967 episode “The Trouble with Tribbles”, Worf and some of the other characters find themselves in the bar surrounded by Klingons that definitely did not look like the Klingons of their era. When they questioned Worf about it, he replied that they were indeed Klingons, and that it was a long story. As Odo, Bashir, and O’Brien pushed for more information, Worf finally ended the discussion by stating that it was a private matter, and one not discussed with outsiders. For almost a decade, that was as close to an explanation as we fans were going to get. Oh, and we’re still waiting for a legit reason for the further change to Klingons in Discovery. Guess that is also something not spoken about with outsiders.

So, did I miss your favourite? Let me know in the comment section about the best times that Star Trek poked fun at itself.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Episode Review - The Child (Next Generation, Season 2)

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

Overview – After having a rendezvous with the USS Repulse to pick up new Chief Medical Officer Kate Pulaski, an alien entity impregnates Deanna Troi. The pregnancy is unusual in that it is highly accelerated and the child that is born also accelerates in aging. His presence, while in itself is a concern to the crew, might be linked to a threat to the crew from some viral samples that the Enterprise is transporting. Meanwhile, Wesley Crusher is preparing to join his mother at Starfleet Medical, but after a conversation with the new hostess of Ten Forward, Guinan, he realizes he truly wants to remain onboard the Enterprise.

Score: 7/10 – This is an interesting episode to review. At this point, with four series that followed TNG, there is a certain expectation towards season openers. At the time, however, TNG’s second season was showing the signs of a major change that was taking place. With Gates McFadden being fired from the show and Diana Muldaur being brought in to serve as a more McCoy-like doctor, there were some definite feelings of growing pains. The episode, which was a recycled story from the abandoned “Phase Two” Star Trek series, is good. Not necessarily earth-shattering, but good. It does a good job of introducing a couple of new faces, Pulaski and Guinan, as well as highlighting the changes being made. We get some good character development and an interesting story. Aside from that, however, the show is just like any other episode in the season. A writer’s strike did factor into this, as there was originally talk of having the Borg, which were alluded to in the Season 1 finale, be introduced here. That would have been a far more compelling season opener, but alas, we are given this story instead.

Relevance – 3 points. A lot of changes are shown here in the season opener. In “Skin of Evil” Worf is made the acting security chief. In this episode, it looks as if it is permanent. Also promoted is Geordi La Forge to full lieutenant and Chief Engineer. Beverly Crusher is gone, and Diana Muldaur comes aboard as Kate Pulaski, the new ship’s doctor. Also premiering is the new hub of social activity, Ten Forward, and its mysterious host. Guinan was specifically created at the request of Whoopi Goldberg who was a lifelong Trekkie. Guinan became one of the most popular characters among the fans, and this is the episode that it all began with. So even though this is not the strongest of episodes there is a lot that is relevant to the season and the series that happens here.

Continuity – 3 points. Story and universe continuity are both fully intact here. What is of particular interest for this episode is the character continuity. In the briefing where the officers discuss Troi’s pregnancy, everyone who chimes takes the positions one would expect them to take. Worf sees it as a threat, while Data an opportunity to study. Riker is mostly concerned for Deanna, and Picard listens dutifully. Pulaski, who is introduced in this episode, quickly establishes herself in this episode, and we get a very clear picture of who she is. In short, character continuity is maintained as well.

Character Development – 3 points. Deanna is the main focus here. She is given a choice and chooses to become a mother to this alien child. We learn how much she loved her father when she chose to name her son after him. She shows that she would have made a very capable mother as well. We see her compassion as well as her resolve and grit. Wesley also is given some important development as he seeks to determine what is truly best for him: to be with his mother at Starfleet Medical or to be on the Enterprise. His dilemma also gives us the opportunity to see what Guinan’s role in the show is going to be. There is also the start of the gradual introduction to Doctor Pulaski. She does not like transporters, she is does not waste time or mince words, and she has a thing against treating Data like a sentient being (which has not yet been established). This also gives Data an opportunity to flex is assertiveness as she mispronounces his name, for which he dutifully corrects her. Lots of good character development here.

Social Commentary – 3 points. When the pregnancy was announced, there was a great deal of discussion around it among the senior officers. Worf, the ever-pragmatic security chief, stated that the pregnancy should be terminated. Riker wanted to learn about the origin of the child, and Data was speaking to the potential for study. During all of this, Troi had to burst out that because it was her child that she should be the one to make the decision, which was to keep it. This is as close to the debate on abortion that Star Trek has ever gotten to. It was interesting in that it re-enforced the mother’s right to choose what happens to her body while at the same time having her choose to keep it. Of course, that needed to happen in order to have the story last the whole episode. Meanwhile, with the Wesley story, there is the idea of a young man unexpectedly finding his independence. His heart was telling him that he belonged on the Enterprise and he chose to follow it. While for the show it was important to have this happen in order to keep Wil Wheaton on the show, it was a good way to address this coming-of-age motif in a way that makes sense. So while the first issue is only dealt with in a very brief and almost superficial manner, the second theme has much more general appeal to the audience.

Cool Stuff – 0 points. Sadly, as interesting as this episode is, there is not much that I found that met the criteria for being “cool”. There is a lot of good in this episode, but nothing that really stands out.

Rank – Captain (19 points). This is not really good example of how to start your sophomore season, but it is a good episode in and of itself. While this episode is not very strong or memorable on its own, what makes it special is all the changes that it establishes. It sets a tone for a more stable season than the previous and has some good character moments.

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. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Episode Review - The Storyteller (Deep Space Nine, Season 1)

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

Overview – O’Brien and Bashir travel to Bajor for a medical emergency. The good doctor tries to get on O’Brien’s good side while the chief would rather not have anything to do with him. Upon arriving at the village Chief O’Brien suddenly finds himself as the spiritual leader, replacing the Sirah. In addition to being the spiritual leader, O’Brien is also supposed to protect the village from the Dal’Rok, a mysterious energy being. Meanwhile, back on the station, Jake and Nog befriend a young Bajoran girl who was made the political leader of her village after Cardassians killed her father. As she tries to put forward a strong persona during the negotiations with a rival village, a lovestruck Nog tries to connect with her.

Score: 6/10 – For some people, “The Storyteller” is a great episode, for others it is pointless filler and boring. I find myself somewhere in between the two viewpoints, leaning a little on the good side. The two stories being told are mildly entertaining, and the Dal’Rok is a cool idea. It turns out that it was created by a previous Sirrah of the village as a means to bring about unification and harmony among the citizens. It is a secret passed down from Sirah to Sirah, and the current successor is unprepared to take the mantle upon himself. An unlikely and unwilling Chief O’Brien is chosen instead. It is interesting side-note that O’Brien says he was not sent by the Prophets, but when we learn about Sisko’s Prophet connection throughout the series, it turns out that O’Brien was indeed sent by the prophets. O’Brien is a true fish-out-of-water here, with Bashir cheering him on. On the other side of the episode we have another Jake and Nog adventure to help give the other characters some screen time. This story is a bit less compelling than the main story, although there are some great moments in it. Nog continues to get the people around him in trouble, and the prank with the oatmeal in Odo’s bucket is quite funny.

Relevance – 2 points. This is also the first time that legendary baseball player Buck Bokai is mentioned, so that also gets a point. Most importantly, this episode begins the fun and interesting journey of O’Brien and Bashir on their unlikely friendship. To be honest, at the time of its original airing, I was very much like Miles with respect to Bashir. I found the young doctor to be annoying and self-absorbed. As their relationship developed, I continued to mirror the engineer and his feelings towards Julian. This is the episode where one of Trek’s best friendships starts, and at the time it was difficult to imagine them becoming anything remotely close to friends.

Continuity - 3 points. Story continuity is good. Things flow along nicely, and nothing stands out as contradictory. I also found the character continuity to be good here. O’Brien really disliked Bashir here, and it’s perfectly understandable. I also found his reluctance to be the Sirah to be appropriate. Bashir, of course, finds a way to be oblivious to the Chief’s annoyance and starts to worm his way into O’Brien’s good graces. Universe continuity also works here, though it is a little odd that this one village on Bajor has not drawn any attention with the Dal’Rok over the many years.

Character Development – 3 points. We are definitely going to score points for the beginning of the development between Bashir and O’Brien. As will be said in “The Explorers”, this is the start of when O”Brien starts to not hate Bashir anymore. If for no other reason, this episode should be viewed to see how this 24th Century bromance began. There is also some good development for Jake here. It is minor in comparison to Nog’s, but as is often the case for these two, Jake becomes the voice of balance and reason for Nog’s excitement.

Social Commentary – 2 points. There are a few things here that could be drawn upon. There is the meaning behind the Dal’Rok, which is that nothing unites a bickering group of people like a struggle against a common foe. That message is very much on the direct side of things. There is also the idea of leadership, which goes a little deeper than previous example. In the case of O’Brien, leadership is thrust upon him to inspire the Sirah’s apprentice to rise up to the challenge. In the case of Jake and Nog’s friend Varis Sul, it’s about how to learn to be a leader. Both stories have some distinct parallels. Both involve a leader who feels unprepared for their role. Both are required to step up and find confidence in themselves. In the case of the former apprentice Hovath, his role as Sirah is given to another, while Varis Sul has to emerge from her father’s shadow on her own (with a little guidance from Commander Sisko and encouragement from Jake and Nog). She then comes to terms with the fact that she can compromise and still be seen as a strong leader. Both give us some good insights on what it means to become a leader.

Cool Stuff – 1 point. The Dal’Rok and its story is interesting. While the effects are not necessarily state of the art, they do work and are effective. The idea behind it, as a way of the Bajoran Sirah years ago to unite the village and in doing so eliminating the hatred and distrust that divided them. While the series would eventually outgrow this type of story, it is still a cool one.

Rank – Captain (17 points). While this episode is in the mediocre-at-best category by itself, it is still a good story due largely to the beginning of really nice friendship. Of all the relationships that the various characters find themselves in, the one between O’Brien and Bashir is cited as being one of the most authentic. These two seem to be polar opposites, and they have a really rough start of it, but this is the episode where it really all starts. For that reason alone, I would suggest you give this episode a viewing.

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.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Episode Review - Someone to Watch Over Me (Voyager, Season 5)

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

Overview – Captain Janeway and Tuvok leave on an exchange assignment with a race known as the Kadi, a race that does not value over-stimulation of the senses. Nelix is assigned to host the Kadi ambassador who is responsible to evaluate the Voyager crew. During this exchange, the Doctor takes it upon himself to educate Seven of Nine in the art of romance. The Doctor ends up making a bet with Tom Paris as to her capability to be successful at dating. As he tutors her on the aspects of going on a date, the Doctor comes to realize that he himself is developing feelings for his pupil. Amidst this, the Kadi ambassador turns out to be more than Nelix seems to be prepared for.

Score: 8/10 – This episode is a light-hearted character driven story that taps into some standard motifs of the romantic comedy. We see the awkwardness of the inexperienced individual result in hilarity. There’s the falling in love of the teacher to the student. There is a typical bet that damages the relationship between the two, and an eventual resolution. While this episode does seem to hit the standard notes, it does so in a successful manner. The pacing is a bit rushed at times, and the story is mostly predictable, but it is a delight to watch. Seven’s disastrous date with Lt. Chapman is not too over the top, but still funny. There is some great banter and humor. Scott Thompson, best known for his work in “The Kids in the Hall” sketch show, does a great job as Tomin. He plays the part with flare and passion. It is unfortunate that some of the main characters are glorified extras in this episode. I think Chakotay is only in one scene, and Harry gets very little time as well. Tuvok is only seen at the start and end, with little else to do or say at those moments, and Janeway does not get much more screen time than that. Mostly, we get a great story that really pushes the relationship between the Doctor and Seven of Nine to a different level. Both Robert Picardo and Jeri Ryan sing for this episode, and the duet of “You are my Sunshine” is delightful.

Relevance – 3 points. This is the beginning of the Doctor having romantic feelings for Seven of Nine, so that scores a point. There is also a point for the final appearance of Sandrine’s, the holographic French pub that Tom Paris created. A great line is when Tom comes into the program and loudly wonders what happened to the pool table. There is also a reference as to why Seven refuses a glass of champagne, as in the episode “Timeless” she learned that synthehol has a negative effect on her.

Continuity – 3 points. Universe continuity is intact here. Character continuity is also good, although I found Seven forgiving the Doctor to be a bit quickly done. That is more of an issue with pacing than anything else, so not much I can do to detract from this category. I did find that it made perfect sense for the Doctor to develop feelings for Seven as he worked with her in developing social skills of the romantic nature. Story wise there was one small aspect that bothered me. When Janeway, Tuvok, and Neelix meet the Kadi in the transporter room, it was odd that Chakotay was not present as well. I would think that the first officer, who would be in command of the ship during Tomin’s visit, would be there to great them. Still, I find that to be a minor oversight, and while it deserves a mention, it doesn’t merit a point deduction.

Character Development – 3 points. We see the beginning of the Doctor’s infatuation with Seven in this episode. It is a significant advancement in the Doctor’s character, and it is carried through for almost the remainder of the series. Seven also gets some good attention as we see her expand her skills and interests into more interesting areas. The B story gives us a rare chance to grow Neelix’s character as we see him try to reign in the out-of-control ambassador. We have seen this before in TNG’s “Liasons”, but here we see Neelix’s charm and good heart win through.

Social Commentary – 1 points. Here is where the story comes up a bit short. This is a great character story that deepens the insight into two popular characters. We are given a fun story of futile love (which, come to think of it, might have been a fitting title, a former Borg trying to understand love). But what are they saying here that is truly relevant to us? Is it that love is a fickle game? Perhaps we could examine the Neelix story and come away with how living a sheltered life can become troublesome when you are in an environment where your inhibitions are freed. I suppose that something there is something to that in the story of Tomin. He has lived a very disciplined life and when given the opportunity to explore outside what he is accustomed to. Of course, the results have some hilarity, but it does make one think about the inhibitions we have. Still, most in our society do not have the level of restrictions that Kadi have, so this will give us just one point in this section.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. I loved the performance by Scott Thompson. He is a gifted comedic actor that really knows how to pull off an over-the-top character, and the suddenly unrestrained Tomin certainly qualifies. I am also scoring a point for the lovely singing that Seven and the Doctor engage in. It added a great sense of charm and sweetness to the episode.

Rank – Captain (20 points). This is such a fun and charming episode that does a great deal of justice to Seven’s and the Doctor’s relationship that it is just too good to pass up. While it lacks in the action and intrigue department, it more than makes up for it in the characterization, humor, and fun. Well worth multiple viewings.

If you would like to read other reviews from Star Trek: Voyager, click on the link here.

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.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Episode Review - Up the Long Ladder (Next Generation, Season 2)

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

Overview – The Enterprise receives an ancient distress call from an unknown colony of humans and is sent to rescue them. They also discover a second colony from the same ancestral group as the first, who have taken a very different course of development and are now a colony of clones who hope that the crew of the Enterprise could help them restock their gene pool.

Score: 3/10 – What starts as an interesting concept gets mired down in a haphazard jumble of a story. While there are some humorous moments, the story is not very well constructed. For example, in the pre-credit scene, we see Worf acting in a distressed manner, and cut to the open title sequence with him having fainted and Doctor Pulaski being called to the bridge. We learn in the next act that Worf had a case of Klingon measles, which he is embarrassed by, and Pulaski covers for him. Worf performs a Klingon tea ritual (which includes Pulaski drinking a poisonous tea for some reason) as a way of thanking her. This subplot is done before the second act starts and is largely forgotten, which leads me to wonder why it was included in the first place as it has zero impact on anything else in the episode. Yes, it builds a bit of a bond between Pulaski and Worf, but that is it. It served no real purpose other than to fill time, which makes me suspect that this is what was the original purpose of it. Then we look at the Irish-stereotype Bringloidi, whose ancestors turned away from technology and went for a simpler way of life. This is where we see the humorous parts as Picard and his crew try to deal with a particularly challenging groups of humans. Picard has a great moment where he bursts into laughter at the situation of his cargo bay being used to transport farm animals and tells Riker that sometimes one has to “bow to the absurd”. While the Bringloidi do provide some comic relief, they are little more than a classic examination on utilizing cultural stereotypes for humor. This did not age well and seemed a bit outdated when the show first aired in the late 1980s. You have everything from the drunken inept patriarch to the fiercely sharp-tongued hot head of a daughter Brenna (who seems fine to be yelling at every man one moment and then swooning for a late-night tryst with Commander Riker). Even some of the jokes fall flat, such as when Worf is insulted by Brenna. Then we throw in the clone colony, which was the opposite of the Bringloidi, who turn to technology to solve every problem. There seemed to be an attempt to make a statement about having people have a right to chose how their body is used when Riker and Pulaski discover that they have had some of their tissue taken to make clones, but it is done in a way that is quick and not very impactful. Thankfully, the problems to both groups’ dilemmas is in each other, and everything is happily completed. For an episode with a handful of fun moments, the rest alters between dull and cringe-worthy. 

Relevance – 0 points. Other than Riker’s dalliance with Brenna being one of his memories in the infamous “Shades of Grey” episode, I couldn’t find any tie-in to anything else in Star Trek. Even the Worf-Pulaski B-storyline (which felt more like a C or D storyline) is not developed further. In other words, if you don’t catch this episode you are not missing any important details.

Continuity – 2 points. Character continuity is largely in tact here. Picard bowing to the absurd is oddly fitting for our distinguished captain. Of course, Riker is going to go for the girl. His and Pulaski’s objections towards being cloned make perfect sense, as does Worf’s embarrassment over having the measles and Pulaski being excited to participate in a Klingon tea ritual. One thing that did not make much sense was the fact that Worf came to Pulaski with the tea ceremony as a way of thanking her, knowing full well that the tea was toxic to humans. Sort of an odd way to show gratitude. Still, one can assume that he may not have intended to have her drink the tea in the first place, but since she gave herself an antidote ahead of time it worked. Universe continuity is good as well. Where I will deduct a point is story continuity. The whole Worf with the measles story was completely out of place in the context of this episode, and really was unnecessary.

Character Development – 1 point. Riker gets some make-out time with an attractive woman. Check. Worf is embarrassed for comic relief. Check. Pulaski makes a lot of grand speeches about ethics in science. Check. Picard has to make the best of an awkward situation. Check. Nothing really impactful in the development of any of these characters, so I can’t score more than a single point here.

Social Commentary – 1 point. Changing your perspectives to solve your problems. That seems to be the main take-home message of this episode. It was how the two groups of humans had to put aside their differences to save themselves. In reality, there was very little emphasis made on that. Oh, and cloning someone against their will is bad. Some wasted potential there. It was almost as if they were trying to make so many comments at once, that there was no real energy behind any of them. Making a comment on any aspect of life is commendable, but the way they were presented almost does as much of a disservice to them as anything else.

Cool Stuff – 0 points. Try as I might, I just cannot find anything that was cool about this episode. Some nice humorous moments, but nothing cool.

Rank – Ensign (7 points). I am sure that there are many who like this episode. I myself do find it a particularly bad episode, just an example of how the second season of TNG had some definite growing pains. If you are watching this on Netflix you can easily skip the show or let it play through. Enjoy the levity, even though there are some painful stereotypes thrown in. Don’t worry about what could have been and take it at face value.

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