Thursday, December 22, 2011

Star Trek The Next Generation (Season 2a)

<--Season 1b  Season 2b-->

The second season of STNG starts out a little worse than the first season, if that is possible. It does quickly improve, however, and manages to address a couple of interesting philosophical things. (That being said, these episodes are not up to today’s expectations. A full hour of television devoted to one simple idea is no longer the way things are done. It is surprising today to look back on these shows and see how slowly and simply television writing was. One can watch these episodes at 2x speed and understand every word spoken and keep up with the plot completely.)

In a quick outline, here is what this half had to offer:

Episode 1: “The Child”
An alien intelligence decides to explore humanity by becoming one temporarily. In a far too coincidental plotline, the ship is threatened by its presence. (Interesting note: this is one of several episodes where STNG comes out on the “prolife” side of the abortion argument.)

Episode 2: “Where Silence Has Lease”
In a strange scheduling decision, this episode involves yet another alien intelligence curious about humanity. In a somewhat rare moment for the very Secular Humanist show that Star Trek is, Picard expresses a belief in something far beyond simple materialism or a chaotic, chance induced universe. It is, of course, very agnostic as well.

Episode 3: “Elementary, Dear Data”
An extremely fun exploration of existence and the limitations of being a created being using the holodeck, Sherlock Holmes mysteries, and Data’s potential for comedy. (There are times this season where it feels as though they are trying to shape the series into a straight comedy staring Data.)

Episode 4: “The Outrageous Okona”
An out of place comedy, swashbuckler adventure story.

Episode 5: “Loud as a Whisper”
A story rich in potential but stilted in delivery. It involves issues such as the danger of hubris, the importance of community, and overcoming conflict through learning to communicate.

Episode 6: “The Schizoid Man”
The first of two episodes to explore the essence of existence as being more than the sum of our experiences and memories. (See Ep. 9 for more.)

Episode 7: “Unnatural Selection”
A refreshing look at the dangers and pitfalls of trusting scientific knowledge and advances over and above common sense and humility.

Episode 8: “A Matter of Honor”
This is one of those episodes involving cultural clashes and culture shock that Star Trek does so well.

Episode 9: “The Measure of a Man”
Data is the strongest and most layered metaphor the series ever produced; he may in fact be one of the most interesting characters ever put on television. Here his rights and freedoms are explored in ways that illuminate racial and cultural prejudices with which humanity has always struggled.

Episode 10: “The Dauphin”
A very clumsy and clichéd look at Wesley’s first kiss.

Episode 11: “Contagion”
An hour long episode building up to the need to reboot the Enterprise, a process which takes about 2 seconds. The interesting aspects of this story about a mythical planet remain completely unexplored.

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