Thursday, July 26, 2018

Episode Review - Operation: Annihilate! (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 – The Enterprise is heading towards the planet Deneva to try to establish contact with the colony stationed there. They are investigating a pattern of mass insanity that is moving on a straight line towards the colony. They pick up a ship on sensors that is headed towards the system’s sun. After a mysterious message from the pilot, the ship burns up. It is then revealed that Kirk has a brother on the planet. As they beam down to the planet they begin to investigate. They are attacked by group of men who are yelling at the away team to go away. After stunning the group. Kirk and his team find Kirk’s brother, George “Sam” Kirk, dead. His son is unconscious, and his wife is n hysterics. Beaming them back to the Enterprise, Kirk’s sister-in-law, Aurelan, tells Kirk of “things” that invaded their colony, and then she herself dies. They find some strange creatures, one of which attacks and infects Spock. Kirk is left with the difficult decision of destroying the colony to prevent the spread of the parasites, and he demands another alternative. A method is found, but it extracts a heavy cost on Spock.

Score: 8/10 – A good, solid episode to end the first season of Star Trek. There is mystery, humor, and risk all interwoven. James Kirk faces a great loss as his brother and most of his family die from the neural parasites. The parasites themselves are a cool alien prop and concept, and they add a great deal to the eerie feel of the episode. The method of killing the parasites has a few twists and turns and shows that our crew are not entirely infallible. When they use the bright light to kill the parasite that is living within Spock, it blinds our favorite Vulcan first officer. The revelation that it is UV light that kills the parasite makes Spock’s sacrifice seem in vain. Being the last episode in the season, it adds a certain amount of suspense, although in the 1960s it would have been uncommon to have such a major change to such a major character.

Relevance – 2 points. The inner eyelid of the Vulcans is mentioned in the Enterprise episode “The Forge”. While some might classify this anatomical feature as being akin to the deus ex machina solution, it does become an important feature of Vulcan physiology. I will also score a point for showing George Samuel Kirk’s family, which was mentioned in the episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”.

Continuity – 1 points. Character-wise we have one little issue. Kirk has some tough calls to make and is dealing with the very recent loss of his brother’s family, save Peter. Yes, as a Starfleet captain he must be tough against the trials that life in Starfleet brings. It is expected that Kirk show composure in light of this tragedy, but I did find it odd that there was very little shown about the captain’s handling of his loss. I get that Jim Kirk was closer to Spock and McCoy then his own brother, but I did expect some sort of extended emotional response to his loss. Universe continuity had to be deducted as well. While it was a cool feature of the neuroparasite, the biology teacher in me has to call out the idea that each floating fried egg was a single cell is not scientifically feasible. Cells are microscopic for a reason, and the scale of these organisms is just not going to cut it. So, while I like the organisms as a concept, and I get that not all scientific laws can be readily adhered to in science fiction, but I have to make a call, and the call is to deduct the point. Fortunately, the story continuity is fully intact, so the point is scored here.

Character Development – 2 points. Spock shows he is willing to give himself for the greater good by going to the planet alone, after being infected, to obtain one of the creatures. McCoy shows his deep respect for Spock when he refers to him as the best first officer in the fleet. Kirk has to make some tough choices after losing his brother. All of them see some growth in this episode, and yet it is all stuff that has been previously established. Still, it’s a good episode that highlights the three of them.

Social Commentary – 2 points. Here we see the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few. Kirk having to make the difficult choice to destroy a million lives to prevent these parasites from expanding throughout the galaxy. Spock going to the planet to prevent the anyone else in the crew from being infected by the parasites. This is the usual “taking one for the team” attitude that we quite often find ourselves in. While we do not have to do this on the scale that Kirk and his crew do, it is still significant. It means we put off the things we would rather be doing to help those in need. It means we allow for the greater good to override a minority group. It may not always be the most ethical choice, and sometimes we go the route of the needs of the few outweighing the needs of the many.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. There is no way that I am not giving a point for the neural parasite. For a science fiction show in the 1960s, it was a cool creature that has a cool premise. Each one being like a cell of a larger entity is different. I also imagine being one of the set workers whose job was to move the parasite around the scene on a string, like some sort of weird puppetry act. If memory serves me correctly there is a blooper scene that is out there that shows the scene where Spock is infected by the parasite, except instead of being hit in the back, he is hit in the butt. I also want to score a point for having William Shatner play Sam Kirk, complete with distinguishing moustache. This, to my knowledge, marks the first time that a main actor plays a second character in the show. True, Sam is dead and has no dialogue because of it, but it is a cool feature.

Rank – Captain (17 points). This is a great episode that is a fan favourite. The effects of the creatures work well even today, and we get to see some great dialogue between the core three characters. Definitely a strong finish to a good first season.

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.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Episode Review - Through the Looking Glass (Deep Space Nine, Season 3)

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

Overview – Commander Sisko is abducted by “Smiley” O’Brien from the mirror universe and brought there to lead the rebellion. In this universe, the Terrans have rebelled against the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance and were being led by Sisko’s counterpart until he was killed. Now, not only must Ben must try to rescue the counterpart of his deceased wife from both the Terran rebels and the Klingon-Cardassian alliance’s Intendant Kira, but he must do it under the pretense of being someone that he is not.

Score: 8/10 – I find the majority of the mirror universe episodes to be fun, especially with having a glimpse at familiar characters in roles that are different to how we have come to expect them. This episode is no different. Adding to our list of counterparts we see Jennifer Sisko as a scientist, Rom as a violent rebel, Jadzia as a coy lover of Sisko, Bashir as an aggressive hothead, and even Voyager’s Tuvok. This is a nice pick-up from the previous season’s hit “Crossover” and gives Ben Sisko a chance to play in this universe. While I miss the antics of Kira with her counterpart, I do feel that Sisko fits into this storyline over a longer stretch than Bashir did. Don’t get me wrong, Bashir in the Mirror Universe was fine, but he is better as a “one-and-done” visitor. Sisko, on the other hand, is given a great opportunity to find some closure with his wife, albeit she is not truly his wife. This episode does attempt to establish some traditions for these episodes. First, it reinforces the idea that in the MU the counterparts of main characters are not necessarily safe. The MU’s Ben Sisko has been killed, and in what is going to be another tradition, the token Ferengi dies as we see Rom skewered to the wall. The opening scene gives Odo and Quark (whose counterparts were killed in “Crossover”) gives us some comedy to enjoy. Where this episode falls a bit short is the “been there, done that” feel of the universe. Aside from Tuvok (who only appears in a single scene) and Jennifer Sisko, all the counterparts are the similar “darker” versions of themselves. It is still an excellent episode, but some of the glitter and magic is gone.

Relevance – 2 points. Another trip into the MU is good for a relevance point. It picks up and addresses many of the events of “Crossover”. Another point can be scored for what will be addressed in the next foray into the MU, “Shattered Mirror”. Sadly, aside from an interesting revelation that Morn has more than one heart, that is all that we have that is relevant to other parts of Star Trek.

Continuity – 3 points. Story continuity is a check here. Things proceed in a logical fashion. Character continuity would largely focus on Ben Sisko, as aside from Quark and Odo in the opening scene, we only see the MU counterparts of the rest of the main cast (except for Jake, who does not appear at all in this episode). Ben acts very much the way we would expect him to, making the tough decisions as he tries to find a balance between staying true to himself and giving an accurate portrayal of his MU counterpart. Of course, it must have been weird for him to make love to Jadzia in the MU, but who said the balancing act had to be all bad? For universe continuity there is a little hiccup that is going to cost a point somewhere. In this episode we see Alliance vessels decloaking, yet in the final season we are told that cloaking technology does not exist in the MU. This will cost a Continuity point, but not here. That will come in “The Emperor’s New Cloak”.

Character Development – 2 points. Again, with only Ben Sisko traveling to the MU, there is really only room for his character to be more fully developed. In this episode, we see how Ben acts under a different kind of pressure. I have already mentioned the balancing act he has to walk here, and he does it well. Saving Jennifer when almost everyone else wants to kill her makes sense both from Ben’s perspective (he gets to, in his own way, save his wife when in his universe he couldn’t) and from the Rebellion’s perspective. To see Ben grapple with his dilemma is a real growth for his character and is the next step in providing some necessary closure with losing Jennifer.

Social Commentary – 1 point. The social commentary in this episode is likely going to be about being able to go back for lost opportunities. It’s a bit of a stretch but hear me out. Ben Sisko has a chance to rescue someone who looks like his deceased wife, but she isn’t his wife. This creates a conflict because in one sense, he is able to do something he failed to do earlier with the Borg invasion. On the other hand, his rescuing MU Jennifer only creates an illusion that he is getting a second chance with his wife. He really isn’t, and will have to leave her eventually. Is he really getting a second chance then? That’s a good question. Do we often have opportunities that only superficially appear to be second chances when in reality they are not? I’m not sure many of us do, though we wish we could. It was hard nailing this down, so I think I can only give it a single point for this category.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. Two points for two guest stars. First, it was a clever and appropriate way to get a crossover with Voyager by having Tuvok appear as one of the rebels. It almost would have been worth it to have him sport a beard. Second, Jennifer Sisko in the MU was a great way to get the lovely and talented Felicia M Bell back. While I get that having Jennifer die in the series premiere was necessary for Sisko’s character, she is a talented actress, so it was nice to have her back in the fold. Making Jennifer a scientist added a new dimension to what could have been for her character in our universe. Aside from that, since this is the second time DS9 looks into the mirror, much of what we have seen is not new. So, just two points for this section.

Rank – Captain (18 points). A solid entry in the MU storyline. While it is a bit weaker than its predecessor, it is still enjoyable, relevant (for this storyline, at least), and gives us some nice surprises. Because this is our second visit in the DS9 series, we lose some of the wonder and excitement of a new environment, but it still manages to retain much of its darkened charm.

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, July 18, 2018

Episode Review - Prototype (Voyager, Season 2)

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

Overview – Voyager beams aboard the body of an artificial lifeform. It is humanoid and low on power. Torres begins work to repair it and reactivate it. After receiving advice from Neelix and the Doctor, Torres is able to reactivate the robotic humanoid, which identifies itself as automated unit 3947. It appears that 3947 is one of many robots that were created during a war. 3947 requests that B’Elanna helps him in producing more of his kind, as his kind are only able to repair existing units and not create new ones. When Janeway refuses the offer, 3947 seems to accept it. When a ship of identical looking units arrives (identified as the Pralor automated personnel units), 3947 abducts Torres and forces her to construct new units. After Voyager is almost destroyed in an unsuccessful rescue attempt, Torres finally agrees to assist the Pralor units. Just as Torres appears to have been successful at creating a prototype unit, the Pralor unit’s enemy, the Cravic units, attacks their ship. As the battle rages on, B’Elanna makes a startling discovery about the true nature of the automated units.

Score: 7/10 – This is a classic type of story dealing with artificial intelligence, a staple of any sci-fi franchise. B’Elanna is fascinated by the possibility of being a “builder”, a term the Pralor unit uses to describe the sentient beings that created them. Because of the idea in the Federation that artificial life can be sentient and therefor has rights, we are put in a Prime Directive dilemma of deciding whether it is best to help these units build themselves or to allow the society to evolve in its natural course. It is a clever twist to have the units turn on their builders when the Pralor and Cravic people declare the war to be over. To have the robots turn on and destroy their builders/creators because peace was against their programming is interesting, and it awakens within Torres a startling realization about how quickly good intentions can go awry. The episode is well written and acted, giving Roxann Dawson some good scenes that she pulls off well. If there is one thing that I could note that might be an area that could have worked better was the design of the robots. They basically looked like men in plain jumpsuits with a weird metal mask covering their face. The look just seemed to much on the corny side. According to Rick Worthy, the actor who played Unit 3947, it was almost impossible for him to see through the slits they had in the mask.

Relevance – 1 point. Only one point to score here. During her conversations with Unit 3947, she mentions that artificial life forms in the Federation are regarded as sentient beings. She then goes on to mention Data by name. This harkens back to the 2nd Season TNG episode “The Measure of a Man”.

Continuity – 3 points. Character continuity works. Tuvok is opposed to repairing the robot due to security concerns. Torres is fascinated by the engineering challenge. Neelix tries to help out with anecdotes. The Doctor is sarcastic. Universe continuity checks out, as does the story continuity. It truly makes sense that the robots destroyed their creators because of their programming. Since the creators were trying to stop the war, they were seen as an obstacle in the way of achieving the unit’s overall mission.

Character Development – 2 points. Definitely a Torres episode. She gets to tap into both her engineering side as well as polish her mothering nature. She does treat the prototype unit as a child and takes a certain amount of extra care towards it. That makes her deactivating it all the more painful for her when that moment comes. It is nice to see Torres go on the journey towards saving Unit 3947. One thing I loved about B’Elanna’s character is how she solves problems. Other engineers tend to consult with their peers, but Torres has a different approach. This is likely due to her being in the Maquis, but she would turn to anyone who may have a different perspective. This is not the first time that she turns to the Doctor to get a biological/medical perspective, and it all came from the advice she got from Neelix.

Social Commentary – 2 points. There are quite a few things that we could touch on with this episode. First, there is the classic commentary about the warnings of an over-reliance on technology. That is typically a given for stories involving AI. The more we go down this road, the more likely the AI units will eventually do something bad to us. Going deeper, as we examine the relationship between B’Elanna and the prototype unit, we see how sometimes our own belief system on what is right can be challenged. B’Elanna’s experience with the prototype was also a metaphor for motherhood. Of course, most mothers are not forced to kill their offspring to protect the galaxy, but sometimes a mother has to turn her back on her children for their own good.

Cool Stuff – 1 point. Alright, I know I criticized the look of the robots in this episode, but I am going to give a cool point for the Pralor and Cravic units. The fact that they turned on their creators when peace was declared was an interesting revelation. I guess to go along with social commentary section there is the idea that if you are going to create AI to fight your wars for you, make sure you include a “Peace” switch to turn on when the war is over. Their ships are also quite cool looking and fit the concept of the character.

Rank – Captain (17 points). Overlook the very cheesy appearance of the units, then you have an excellent episode. It is fun with a clever plot-twist that gives us some insight into the character of B’Elanna Torres.

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.

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.

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