Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Episode Review - Darmok (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 is sent on a mission to the El-Adrel system to make contact with the Tamarians, a mysterious race that the Federation have made several unsuccessful attempts to establish relations. Upon arrival, Picard and his crew are at a loss at the difficulty in communicating with the Tamarians, whose words are heard but their meaning is impossible to decipher. The Tamarian Captain beams both Picard and himself to the planet’s surface, where the two commanders find themselves in a battle against a strange beast. As the crew try to break through the interference that the Tamarian ship has set up around the planet, Picard tries to learn how to communicate with the Tamarian captain before it is too late.

Score: 9/10 – Such a great episode. The premise is original and gives the crew a real challenge in trying to communicate with a species that the universal translator will not help much with. The Tamarians speak in metaphor, and without a suitable knowledge of their lore and legends one cannot truly know the meaning of their words. Daithon, the Tamarian captain, is portrayed by Paul Winfield, whom Trekkies will remember as Captain Terrell from “The Wrath of Kahn”. He gives a strong performance here and conveys a sense of honor to his character. Patrick Stewart again shows his strength as an actor, showcasing Picard’s strong diplomatic skills. The best part of this episode is the writing. The script is wonderfully crafted by Joe Menosky, and the Tamarian dialogue has been a hit with the fans ever since. I dare you to go to a convention and not hear “Shaka, when the walls fell” when someone makes a mistake. In fact, those were neighbor categories on an episode of Jeopardy this past summer. 

Relevance – 3 points. I wish I could use the Tamarian language as being relevant. As I mentioned before, at a convention if you yell “Darmok and Jalad” and someone doesn’t respond with “at Tanagra”, then you are in the wrong convention. Sadly, this is not touched on again in the series, so I cannot give it a point. However, we do score a few points here. One is for introducing Lt. Robin Lefler, played by Ashley Judd. She will become a more important character in a future episode “The Game”, which brings back Wesley Crusher for the first time since leaving for the Academy. We also score a point for the debut of Picard’s new jacket uniform, which only he will wear throughout the remainder of the series. This is also the debut of the type 6 shuttlecraft, which was one of the nicer looking designs of shuttlecraft.

Continuity – 3 points. Character continuity works. Picard uses every tool at his disposal to communicate with the Tamarians, and when they all fail he is able to improvise and eventually is successful. While he is cautious of Dathon at first, Picard keeps an open mind to him as he tries to figure out how to connect. Story continuity and universe continuity also are maintained. I especially liked how the universal translator was practically useless to the crew as it gave the words but could not convey the meaning.

Character Development – 2 points. This is a strong Picard episode, but really it is just that. While the rest of the crew do there best to rescue their captain, this episode is all Picard. He is able to crack the puzzle that is Tamarian communication under extenuating circumstances. While his new friend falls to the attacks of the beast, Picard is still able to bring peace to his crew and the experience has left its mark on him.

Social Commentary – 3 points. I think in today’s technological world, the ironic issue facing many of us is communication. Too often we assume too much about those who we are different from. I loved how Picard and Dathon had to work in order to understand one another, and by learning how to communicate they learn that they were not all that different from each other. Imagine how different our society would be that instead of attempting to challenge and combat each other with our words and ideas we focused instead on understanding each other. It is a very poignant reminder for us in our ever-polarized world.

Cool Stuff – 3 points. One point for the Tamarian make-up. Michael Westmore gives us a cool looking species. They look a bit like a dinosaur in many respects. Of particular note, and I only came upon this recently, their thumbs are elongated and with a sucker-like tip. Their language is also very cool, and seeing how it has had such an impact on Trekkies with a single episode, it also scores a point. I give a final point to the beast of El-Adrel with it’s Jem’Hadar like cloaking abilities. A very cool creature effect.

Rank – Admiral (23 points). As with the other TNG episodes I have been doing to celebrate their 30th anniversary, this is one excellent sci-fi episode. It shows that even with our technology we have to rely on our intuition and instincts to succeed in contact. I would say that the message of the importance in seeking understanding is universal and always necessary. If anything, we need this message today more than ever.

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, September 13, 2017

Episode Review - Yesterday's Enterprise (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 – A time rift has Picard’s Enterprise encounter the previous ship that bore the same name, having been transported about two decades into the future. The appearance of the older Enterprise vessel causes the timeline to change and has the Federation in the midst of a brutal war against the Klingon Empire. In addition to the war, Lieutenant Tasha Yar was on the bridge of the Enterprise, not having died two years prior. The only person who seems to have any recollection of the previous timeline is Guinan, and she tries to convince Picard to send the Enterprise-C back to restore the timeline.

Tasha Yar is back.

Score: 10/10 – “Yesterday’s Enterprise is one of those special landmark episodes that makes a bold move in the story telling in that it admits that they got something wrong and are trying to fix it. In this case, it was the past death of Tasha Yar. She had died in the late first season episode “Skin of Evil” and both the fans and those involved in the making of the show had felt dissatisfied with it. This was a collaborative effort between Trent Christopher Ganino and Eric Stillwell and it was thought that as well as telling a fun story, it would give Tasha Yar a more meaningful death. What we were given was a great episode that is usually in people’s Top 5 TNG episodes (it’s ranked #4 on mine). We see a much different Enterprise here and the tone is considerably darker than most of what has come before. The amount of detail that went into this new reality was impressive, down to the finer points like having a male voice for the computer and much more spartan sets. The new Enterprise has one function, and that is war. Throw in the mystery surrounding Guinan and the return of a beloved character that many felt was gone too soon, and mix in some exciting battles, and you get a classic episode. These types of episodes where we see the what-could-have-been scenarios play out are always fun. It allows us to see things we wouldn’t expect, such as Riker getting killed by an exploding console. Originally, we were also supposed to see the deaths of Data and Wesley Crusher, but those were cut from the story. That would have been fun and added to the intensity of the final scene, but we still get a good dose of that when Picard mutters “That’ll be the day” as the Klingons demand his surrender and the good captain jumps behind the weapons controls. We also get some great guest stars with Tricia O’Neil as Captain Rachel Garrett and Christopher McDonald as Richard Castillo, and their characters quickly became fan favourites. Overall, this episode is gold on many levels.

The U.S.S. Enterprise NCC 1701-C

Relevance – 3 points. One point scored for bringing back Yar and giving her a death that has meaning. Being snuffed out by a giant, evil oil-slick is not the best death that one can imagine, and Tasha deserved better. Another point is scored as this story ultimately leads to Denise Crosby returning as the half-human, half-Romulan Commander Sela. The third point? Well, it’s likely less epic but definitely noteworthy. This is the episode where Worf gets his first taste of prune juice. His love for the beverage will carry on throughout the rest of TNG and DS9 as well.

Two Enterprise captains meet

Continuity - 2 points. Character continuity is hard to measure in an episode as anything that is different with our characters is going to be attributed to the fact that this is an alternate reality. Still, our characters continue to act in familiar ways, and everything that is slightly different makes sense. Even the absence of Worf and Troi in the alternate timeline makes sense. Worf, being Klingon, is obvious. For Troi, it makes sense that her skills would not be necessary on a warship. Universe continuity is also intact here, but again the differences (e.g. at war with the Klingons) is are easily explained with the time rift. Where I am going to dock them is on story continuity. In the closing scene, where Guinan asks Geordi to tell her about Tasha Yar, Geordi is still wearing the more military-like uniform of the alternate timeline. A minor oversight on the part of the producers, but it is enough.

Look at Geordi's cuffs. He's wearing the wrong uniform.

Character Development – 1 point. OK, this is a hard one for me. Any character development is almost a moot point as whatever happens gets reset when the timeline is restored. So, I will look at it this way, the most development goes to Guinan (not a main character), Picard (but it gets voided when they successfully return the Enterprise-C to its proper time), and Yar (who used to be a regular cast member but is now a guest star). Well, I can stretch it a bit and give a single point here. The impact of this episode will not be truly felt until “Redemption: Part II”, so the minimal impact on Worf’s love a prune juice will get us a single point here.

Worf tastes prune juice for the first time

Social Commentary – 2 points. The actions of the past often have unforeseen impacts on the future. Just as one ship sacrificing itself to defend an outpost could prevent a devastating war, our own acts of kindness, no matter how small, can end up changing someone’s life in a way we cannot predict. In addition to that little message, there is also the theme of second chances that is given here. When Tasha learns that she had died a meaningless death in the other timeline, she knew that she had a chance to make a difference. How many of us would want to do the same? Some food for thought.

Castillo and Yar

Cool Stuff – 3 points. A point for the great amount of detail given in the alternate timeline. New uniforms, new set designs, all of it was cool. Seeing Tasha Yar again was also very cool. I quite enjoyed her character and was sad to see her killed off in Season 1, so any reason to have her brought back is great, and they way they did it was very cool. I also found that having two Enterprises of different eras was fun. Having Garrett and her crew wearing the movie era uniforms was also a good attention to detail.

Riker's fate in the alternate universe

Rank – Admiral (21 points). I cannot fully express how amazing this episode is. It brings a much-needed closure to one beloved character and opens up the possibilities for another. While the tone is dark, the impact is enlightening. If this is not on your Top Ten list of the best TNG episodes, perhaps you need to rewatch it.

A tale of two Enterprises

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. 

Let us make sure that history never forgets the name "Enterprise"

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Discovery News - Discovery Has a Main Title Theme

I have not written too much on Star Trek: Discovery (which in my blog will be referred to as the more fitting DIS three-letter abbreviation) because so much is kicking up a great deal of controversy. I have addressed that controversy once and was holding off on further judgement until the show debuted and we had something to talk about. Allow me to slightly deviate from that, as the theme music has just be revealed. Let me give you my thoughts on it in a moment, but first, please observe the following at this link. Unfortunately, I think this may only be available in the US, but I will try to update the link with a more universally accessible video/soundtrack when I find it.

Here are my thoughts. Many fans have been vocal about their expectations of the new show, and the theme music has often been a point of debate and discussion. The general consensus is that the fans want an instrumental theme song, not a lyrical one like Enterprise had. While I do not mind the Enterprise theme song (it did grow on me), I really enjoyed the instrumental songs from all the other series. Well, with the recent announcement, Discovery is going the way that most fans seem to want them to. No lyrics, and some obvious nods to the original theme music. There is enough of the old to make it familiar, and yet the new is exciting.

Yes, if you want me say it, I love the new theme. I know that there will be some that will hate it. Heck, some hate it so much and have yet to hear it! I don't care. They got the music right on this. The tone that the theme music sets says a lot about what the show is, and for me, this theme music says a lot. It says that it remembers and respects its roots, but that it will take its own path. It will be serious, it will be exciting, and it will have an impact. Most of all, it tells me that this is a show that sounds like a Star Trek show. Whether or not this show will look or feel like a Star Trek show is to be determined, but I feel more optimistic with this music being released for us.

Again, I respect that some will not like it. There will be those that interpret it differently. The music has always been a contentious issue. Everybody has a favorite theme song. A lot of people love Voyager's theme. Many find that the Next Generation's theme gets their adrenaline flowing. Some find Deep Space Nine's music soothing. The Original Series has a theme song that is as iconic as the characters themselves. And yes, some of us find Enterprise's theme song a breath of fresh air. I hope that those who are critical of the music are critical for appropriate reasons and are not just hating it because it is Discovery. For many of us, this just gets us excited for September 24.

The countdown is on. Looking forward to it.

Oh, and if anyone can get me a link to the music that is available to everyone, I'd appreciate it.

UPDATE: Thanks to those who passed along the Instagram link, which is region free (I'm in Canada and it worked for me, so here's hoping. Here is that link

Friday, September 8, 2017

Episode Review - Balance of Terror (Original Series, Season 1)

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

Overview – While preparing for a wedding between two crewmen, the Enterprise is called to an area of space along the neutral zone with the Romulan Empire. Not much is known about the Romulans as there has been no contact with them since the Earth Romulan war of a century ago. As the Enterprise approaches the neutral zone it becomes apparent that something is amiss, with several of their outposts having been destroyed. As Kirk and his crew learn more about the identity of the aggressor, and it is indeed a Romulan ship, they discover that the Romulans bear a striking resemblance to Mr. Spock. As the Enterprise begins a cat-and-mouse game with the Romulan ship, tensions rise on both vessels, culminating in an epic showdown.

Score: 10/10 – This is one of the best episode in all of Star Trek. I could end it there, but let’s examine that a bit further. The story is well-paced, mixes triumph and tragedy, and introduces us to the Romulans. The Romulans will become a significant adversary to the Federation, but unlike the Klingons, their build will be slow and deliberate. Mystery is their greatest weapon. The first Romulan we see, the unnamed Romulan Commander, is played by Trek legend Mark Leonard, who will later become famous as Spock’s father, Sarek. He brings such a dignity to the role, that you almost can’t help yourself and cheer for him. His performance is among the best acting in the series, and a delight to witness. The Romulans have developed a devastating weapon and are attempting to see how it measures up against the Federation, which should make the Commander menacing in and of itself. Yet between Mark Leonard’s acting and the writing you actually see a sympathetic and noble side to this veteran military officer that has us feeling sad for his ultimate defeat and demise. The side story of Tomlinson and Martine’s wedding does get token treatment for much of the episode, but it provides us with a painful denouement that sends us home with a bittersweet sense of victory. The themes of honor in combat and bigotry are woven into the story with skill, giving us more than just a fun fight story. The tactics used by both Kirk and the Romulan commander are logical and easy to understand, yet still brilliant. It is truly a match between two equals where, as the Commander says to Kirk at the end, we are believing that in another life the two could have been friends.

Relevance – 3 points. A point is scored for the introduction to the Romulans. The Romulans would continually be developed in small doses over the course of all the television series, and that adds to their effectiveness of a foe for our heroes. Their similarities to Vulcans leads to the establishment of being distant cousins, and will come into play in future episodes as “The Enterprise Incident” and “Unification”. Another point is scored for the pre-wedding Captain’s speech, which is almost word-for-word repeated by Picard in the TNG episode “Data’s Day”. A final point is given for the first mention of the Earth-Romulan war, which is responsible for the establishment of the Neutral Zone and is mentioned in “Star Trek: Beyond”.

Continuity – 3 points. Everything checks out here. Universe continuity works easily as this episode establishes the Romulans, and they have stayed more or less true to form ever since. Story continuity works with a well-paced battle between two tough foes. Character continuity is also good, especially with Kirk and Spock.

Character Development – 3 points. There are two main characters that receive the bulk of the attention: Spock and Kirk. Spock shows that when he is confronted with prejudism he stills remain logical. It was obvious that Stiles’ suspicions and accusations did trouble him a bit (credit to Nimoy’s acting), he confronted it in a way that is both admirable and effective. He just did his job. He made no excuses for his actions, especially when he saved Stiles life at the end. Kirk, meanwhile, shows us why he is an extremely effective captain. He demonstrates intelligence, compassion, courage, nobility, wisdom, and true grit in this episode. Really, it is hard for me to think of a better showcase for James T. Kirk than this episode. He takes chances to win the battle, and when the end is decided and his adversary defeated, he extends an olive branch to prevent further loss of life. Kirk may not be your favourite captain, but in this episode he earns everyone’s respect.

Social Commentary – 3 points. Two important themes are woven through this story. The first, honor in combat, shows itself in great fashion as Kirk and the Romulan Commander engage in battle. They do all they can to emerge victorious and defeat their opponent, but they do so not out of a love for bloodshed or glory, but out of duty and respect towards their adversary. In a life-and-death high stakes game, both commanders approach the battle in a way that is devoid of hatred. This is even more impressive as various members of each crew express their own hatred and bigotry towards their opponents. This brings us to the second theme: bigotry. Lieutenant Stiles is well versed in reasons to hate Romulans, stemming from the losses his family was dealt a century ago. That hatred has been passed down, and when it became known that the Vulcans and Romulans were likely of the same genetic stock, his distrust of Spock grew. While it is a common trope used in these types of stories to have the object of one’s prejudice save their life, this is done well here. I found it most interesting that in the scene where Stiles was telling Kirk about how untrustworthy Romulans are, how they can hide among us and that spies could be everywhere, he is sitting next to Sulu, played by George Takei. Takei had spent much of his childhood in relocation centers just a few decades prior to this episode during WWII when many Americans expressed similar distrust towards Americans of Japanese heritage. To have Stiles saying those hateful things beside an actor who personally experienced similar bigotry adds a delightful taste of irony that makes the message much more personal. How Kirk responds to Stiles is also telling and applicable to our day as much as back then. “Leave any bigotry in your quarters. There’s no room for it on the bridge.” No lecture on tolerance, no follow-up discussion, just a quick reminder of the lieutenant’s duty and move on from there.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. The weapon used by the Romulans is very cool. An energy weapon that can make the strongest of materials weak and fragile. I liked that it had limits which allowed Kirk to defeat it, but still a cool weapon. Mark Leonard is so good in this episode that it has to count as a cool factor. To take a dangerous enemy and make him beloved and respected means something. I cannot even classify him as a villain because of his honor and nobility. Adversary, yes, but he is too honorable to be a villain. Villains typically have a treacherous side, and this Commander lacks that.

Rank – Admiral (24 points). A near perfect episode. I occasionally scour the internet looking for Top Ten lists, and I have yet to find one for the Original Series that doesn’t rank this among the very best. I typically find it jousting for the top spot, and it is easy to see why. The battle between the two ships reminds me of a future Trek battle, and one that is always going to be among my favorites, and that is the Enterprise vs the Reliant in Star Trek II. The character of the Romulan Commander is among my favorites in Star Trek. The tackling of important social issues in the way that only Star Trek can is at its best here. Overall, a beautiful work of art in Star Trek.

If you would like to read other reviews from the Original Series, 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.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Episode Review - Lower Decks (Next Generation, Season 7)

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

Overview – A group of junior officers deal with life on the Enterprise, wrestling with the day-to-day issues such as promotions and social lives. Among them are young career-driven Sam Lavelle, Vulcan engineer Taurik, Bajoran Sito Jaxa, and Nurse Alyssa Ogawa, as well as civilian waiter Ben. Ensigns Sito and Lavelle believe they are up for the same promotion, Taurik is eager to discuss new warp field configurations with La Forge, and Ogawa discusses her romantic life with Doctor Crusher. As the story unfolds, a dangerous mission is assigned to Ensign Sito, and her friends are slowly brought into the mission and its risks.

Score: 9/10 – This is one of those cool idea episodes that shakes up the status quo of the stories, and it succeeds on many levels. For almost seven years we have seen the same basic premise over and over as the senior crew/main characters are given a mission or a problem and they must work together to accomplish their task. In “Lower Decks”, the tables are turned a bit as we focus the narrative from the perspective of a group of junior officers instead. It gives us a refreshing look into live aboard the Enterprise. While we were already familiar with Nurse Ogawa and had a brief introduction to Sito a few years ago as one of Wesley Crusher’s squad members in “The First Duty”, they get some much-appreciated development here. Taurik, Lavelle, and Ben are new characters that round out the group, but they are so well developed by the writing and acting that they seem familiar. In fact, each member of the group serves as a foil to one of the senior officers. Lavelle is obvious as a young Riker-type. Taurik’s logical eagerness is enough to rub Geordi a little bit as an annoyance, Ogawa has always been Beverly’s right-hand nurse in sickbay, and Sito matches up nicely with Worf. Even Ben acts as a barometer for the group, much like Troi does for the main cast. While the action is limited in this episode, it is the characters that drive this story, and that is what makes this episode work so well. Ensign Taurik and Ben seemed to really hit it off with the fans, and rumors that they would return if TNG had gone onto an eighth season ran rampant. While Lavelle’s eagerness to get a promotion tries to take the spotlight and shine it on him, it is Ensign Sito’s road to redemption tale that truly ensnares us and the crew. This is a fitting tie-in to the immensely popular “The First Duty” that gives one of the cadets who were a part of the cover up a chance to fill us in on how life was like for those four. It would have been an obvious choice to have Wesley serve that role, so to have the almost unfamiliar Sito in this spot is a nice switch. When Sito is offered the mission to pose as a Bajoran hostage to a Cardassian who is a Federation operative, we cheered. When it was reported that she was killed on the mission, we wept. The writers of this story successfully gave us a character that had made some big mistakes return and redeem herself in the eyes of the fans. Her loss was felt keenly by the fans, showing the strength of this episode. The only lament I have about this episode is that, with the sole exception of the already established Ogawa, we do not see these characters again. I think I would have been fine without Lavelle, but it would have been fun to have Ben in Ten Forward again. Alexander Enberg, who played Taurik, would go onto to appear as another Vulcan engineer named Vorik on Voyager. I really would have liked it to be Taurik on Voyager, but they wanted a “new character”. Fan theories (and one of producer Jeri Taylor) suggest the two are twins. Most of all, I think the ambiguity around Sito’s death (they never actually found a body) could have led to her character’s return in a later episode, or even DS9. Oh, what might have been.

Relevance - 2 points. A point is scored for the continuation of the tale that began in “The First Duty”. It is tragic, but it does show us that the cadets who continued in the academy had a difficult journey, but Sito was ultimately able to earn her redemption. Another point is scored for the engagement of Alyssa Ogawa, which would lead to her becoming pregnant. This would be an important plot element in a later episode, “Genesis”.

Continuity - 2 points. Character continuity works, although at first I thought that Picard was much to harsh with Ensign Sito. As it turns out, his harshness was a test for the young woman, and that fits well with her character. Universe continuity works out as well. Where I had to take a point away was in story continuity. Sito Jaxa states that the events of “The First Duty” happened three years ago, when they had actually happened only two years prior to these events. I understand why the writers fudged the numbers a bit, as it allowed them to have Sito as a full ensign who had spent several months aboard the Enterprise after having to redo a full year at the academy and graduate. This was a good character that came to mean a lot to us, and other than Wesley this would not have worked with anyone else. So while I understand the reason they fudged the years to make the story work, it still costs them a point.

Character Development – 2 points. This story focusses on the junior officers, so the senior officers need to be treated with a lighter brush than usual or it defeats the entire premise. Still we get some interesting insight into a few of the regulars. Riker sees too much of himself in Lavelle, and shows that he is again at odds with that. Beverly’s friendship with Alyssa is deepened as they discuss the upcoming promotion and wedding for our favourite sickbay nurse. Worf has taken Sito under his wing and goes out of his way to help her make some important realizations about herself. It is Picard, however, that stands out the most to me, though his scenes are much more limited. His test for Sito, followed by his revelation that he specifically requested her to serve aboard the Enterprise to give her a second chance causes him to shine as a leader. Her subsequent death struck a deep chord with Picard, and not since the death of Tasha Yar have we seen the death of a crewmate hurt the captain so keenly.

Social Commentary – 3 points. This episode was such fun as it showed us a new perspective that often gets overlooked. The supporting players rarely get any recognition in many of the TV series and movies these days, so when it does happen, it almost makes us feel like this is a story about us. There is also the redemption angle that can appeal to us. Sito’s journey becomes about as much as anything else touched on in this story. There is also the grief of losing a valued colleague and friend. It doesn’t matter if you are the senior officer or the lowly ensign, you are connected by these moments of loss and suffering, which is shown effectively as Worf joins Sito’s friends in Ten Forward to honor her memory.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. OK, so there are no special effects that are out of this world appear. There are no new aliens or technology. A lot of what we see is familiar. The cool stuff is about the characters and the story. First, a point for mixing things up a bit and making this about a bunch of nobody junior officers instead of the main cast. That was cool. Second, a point is scored for the characters themselves. They were brilliantly cast, perfectly developed in the writing, and wonderfully performed by the actors. If TNG had gone on for at least one more season, it would not have been hard for the fans to see some of them again. You don’t need fancy sets or costumes to give us cool stuff, and this proves it.

Rank – Captain (20 points). Missed Admiral by one point! Oh well, it is still a delightful episode that mixed things up just enough to be memorable. One of the final season’s finest episodes, and also appears on my Top Ten Favourite TNG Episodes list. 

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, August 30, 2017

Episode Review - Q Who (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 – Q returns to the Enterprise, wanting to be a member of the crew. When Picard scoffs at the idea, Q warns him that there are great dangers in the universe that they are unaware of. Without warning Q sends the Enterprise to a distant corner of the galaxy where Picard and his crew encounter a new threat, one that seems to be unstoppable.

Score: 9/10 – “Q Who” is one of those episodes that you need to see for following TNG. This is the first time that Q has appeared on the ship since Guinan came aboard, and it is obvious that they have a past. It also gives us some insight to her character, and layers on the mystery of her character. We learn that her people were destroyed by the Borg. Speaking of which, this gives us our first official introduction to the most dangerous enemy Picard and his crew will tangle with throughout the series and the films. Because of how powerful the Borg are, they are (appropriately) used sparingly so as to maintain the seriousness of their threat. This episode effectively establishes them as the deadliest foe the Federation has yet to face. This episode also has a lot to offer. There is action, humor, and suspense. The writing is crisp, the acting is great, and the story is compelling. Before this point the Enterprise had not really suffered any loss of life in the double digits. The Borg took out 18 crewmembers. That was a serious blow to Picard, and he approaches it with concern and trepidation. Overall, one not to miss.

Relevance - 3 points. One point for solving the mystery of the missing colonies along the neutral zone that was mentioned at the end of the last season. One point scored for the references to Q’s purposes for his prior visits to the Enterprise. And finally, a third point is scored for the introduction of the Borg. I think it is safe to say that the Borg would turn out to be TNG’s nemesis above all others. This episode marks a launching point that will give us some great episodes, such as “I, Borg”, “Descent”, and, of course, “The Best of Both Worlds”. Plus, if you are a Q fan, this episode is also relevant in that it establishes a history between our favorite omnipotent being and Guinan.

Continuity – 3 points. Story continuity is good, although I would have liked it if they had been a little more explicit with the connection to “The Neutral Zone” which established that Federation and Romulan outposts were being destroyed. Universe contiuity also gets a point here, though I thought that the subtle change in the Borg’s main objectives between this and their next appearance pushed it a bit. In this episode, it is technology that they are seeking to assimilate, whereas it will later be established that it encompasses much more than that. Since it is a logical progression, I still gave it a point. Character continuity also gets a point scored here. Since Picard is the major focus, his reactions are under the most scrutiny. When he has to tell Q that he is helpless to defeat this adversary, it took a great deal of humility. While Picard often works at establishing confidence in his leadership, it is perfectly fitting for him to demonstrate that there are times when in order to help his crew, he must confess his limitations.

Character Development – 2 points. The characters that receive the most development in this episode are the two main guest characters, Q and Guinan. That leaves Picard from the main cast as the one who receives some significant treatment. For our beloved captain, Jean-Luc must swallow his pride a bit. I like the ending of this episode where, as Q is mocking him for being out of his league with the Borg, he humbly admits that Q is right. At that moment, Picard is inadequate to handle the situation and needs Q. I have always felt that the best leaders require an element of humility in their character, and Picard demonstrates that here. While he is not groveling for help, he does show that he is in need of Q’s help. That is one of the first times that I can recall Picard conceding that he is not always up to the task. Sadly, for Picard, this will not be the last time he finds himself falling short when dealing with the Borg.

Social Commentary – 2 points. As often seems to be the case in some of these excellent episodes, I have difficulty narrowing down what the story might be saying about our day-to-day lives. In this episode, there are several comments that can be interpreted. Picard’s show of humility teaches us the importance of being humble when leading. There are those that feel that any sign of humility is a sign of weakness, and that a good leader never shows weakness. I’m not advocating that all leaders need to constantly inform their crew that they are inadequate to the task at hand, because I do believe that good leaders need to be confident in themselves and their crew, but I do feel that if a leader is faced with a difficult or even impossible task, there is no shame in admitting it.

Cool Stuff – 3 points. Everything about the Borg here is cool. Their look, their ship, and their culture was beyond impressive and showed a great deal of consideration and planning. Originally they were supposed to be insectoids of some sort, but I like the cyborg better. While the Borg themselves score a point, I am scoring a second point for the special effect of the section of the Enterprise being carved out of the hull. A very cool effect. Finally, since I cannot use Guinan’s development in the Character Development, I think the excitement about the mysteries surrounding her character just made her that much cooler.

Rank – Admiral (22 points). While Q may not be everyone’s cup of tea, he is a very popular character that has made several big impacts on the TNG. This episode is one where some argue he makes the biggest impact of them all in introducing the Borg to Picard and his crew. It has been hotly debated over the last three decades as to whether or not Q did Picard any favors here, it cannot be denied that this episode is an essential show to watch for the series. The episode itself is excellently made and is a lot of fun on repeat viewings.

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. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Episode Review - The Forgotten (Enterprise, 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 Enterprise is badly damaged after a devastating Xindi attack that has left over a dozen crew members dead. They have a meeting set up with Degra, the Xindi-Primate scientist who developed the weapon that attacked Earth, and Jannar, the Xindi-Arboreal Council member, hoping to convince them of the truth behind the Sphere builders. As they attempt to form an alliance with the Xindi representatives, Tucker must come to terms with a letter he is asked to write for a fallen comrade and the emotions it is causing him to experience.

Score: 8/10 – As we wind down the Xindi arc that comprises the third season, we are given this treat of an episode that starts tying up a lot of threads that have begun throughout the season. Of the many highlights in this episode, I particularly enjoyed the opening memorial that Archer holds for the fallen crewmembers. I also liked how the Enterprise is still badly banged up from the previous episodes. With the exception of “Year of Hell”, this is one of the complaints that fans had about Star Trek: Voyager that was remedied here. The ship has been through an almost literal hell, and they have not been able to make the necessary repairs between the last two episodes. Even the crew are still sooty and unkempt, giving the happenings of the last few epsidoes weight and significance. It is a nice attention to detail. We had some great development of several characters and the fractious Xindi council continues to splinter. Malcom Reed shows some of his grit by completing his assignment with extinguishing the plasma fire on the hull of the ship. Phlox gets to show the different ways that he can be supportive of his crewmates, ranging from a nurturing role with T’Pol to a more stern, tough-love approach with Tucker. Archer continues to show the strains of command from this difficult mission, while Tucker and T’Pol continue to sort through the psychological burdens that the mission has placed upon their shoulders. There is a good dose of action with the arrival of the Reptilian Xindi vessel, and we finally see some members of the Xindi Council begin to accept the truth of what Archer has been telling them. Most notably, Degra is showing his remorse for the weapon that he created, and takes the final step that begins his road to redemption by destroying the Reptilian vessel. Underlying all of this is a simple yet poignant story of Tucker having to write a letter to the family of one of his fallen crew, forcing him to acknowledge the grief he bears over the loss of his sister. In the end, we see that those that have fallen will not be forgotten, at least not in the minds of those who worked with them. Overall, a great episode.

Relevance – 3 points. Points are scored for T’Pol’s continuation struggles to deal with her trillium addiction, Tucker finally accepting the impact of his sister’s death, and finally for Degra destroying the Reptilian vessel with the hope that it will ensure that Enterprise can reach the Xindi council. The repercussions of this action will have a significant impact in upcoming episodes. There could also have been points scored for the reference to the episode “Carpenter Street” when Archer shows Degra and Jannar the bodies of the Reptilian Windi they found and killed in 2004, and to the crewmen killed in an earlier episode as “The Forgotten” begins with their memorial.

Continuity – 3 points. For character continuity, everything checks out. A lot of people seem to try to ignore orders, from Reed’s refusal to stop his work with the plasma fire as his EVA suit reaches dangerous levels, to Tucker bargaining down Phlox’s order to get some sleep so that he can keep the ship together all fit with their characters. Story wise things also check out, especially the fact the Enterprise is still heavily damaged. If not for Degra’s assistance, the Reptilians would have finished them off for good. Universe continuity also checks out here.

Character Development – 3 points. I at first thought that this show would do more to develop Archer’s character, and maybe T’Pol, but it soon becomes apparent that it is Trip that gets the most attention. His order to write the letter to crewman Taylor’s family weighs heavy on him, and it is a catalyst that forces him to accept that he is feeling conflicted for mourning the death of his sister Elisabeth more than the other 7 million people killed in the Xindi attack. This also leads to some significant development for T’Pol as she bonds with Tucker over this. Archer also gets some significant growth as he continues to address the desperation of their situation. Phlox and Reed get some good moments as well (and of course, Hoshi and Travis are given some token lines, but that’s about it).

Social Commentary – 2 points. Coping with the tragedies of our lives, looking for internal healing, or remembering the forgotten. Any of these themes can apply to this episode. We tend to take the loss of loved ones harder than the loss of complete strangers, and sometimes we feel guilt over this fact. We recognize that all lives matter, but we feel that by feeling the loss of those we knew more keenly than the loss of strangers that we have somehow failed. I think the point that Trip came to in that it was fine to grieve his sister more than to grieve the other millions of lives that were lost is one we can all acknowledge. Yes, he knew that Elizabeth was no more important than any other life lost, but she was more important to him.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. A point is scored here for the plasma fire and the hull walk needed to fix it. I also score a point here for the first appearance of Seth MacFarlane as an engineer that Tucker berates. MacFarlane, who is best known for creating the animated show “The Family Guy” (and, this fall, Trek-like “The Orville” which appears to be a parody/homage to Star Trek) is a huge Star Trek fan. While his humor tends to lean more to the raunchy side of things, I almost always appreciated his Trek references in his work. At a convention several years ago, Connor Trineer admitted that when Seth was on the show, he had no idea who he was or what Family Guy was. When he realised how big MacFarlane was, Connor thought that maybe Trip shouldn’t have yelled at him so much.

Rank – Admiral (21 points). This episode gives us necessary plot movement to advance the story that arches across the season while delving into the human condition that deals with loss and tragedy. Some fine acting gets us set up for a solid end to this year-long adventure. 

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.