Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Star Trek The Next Generation (Season 2b)

<--Season 2a  Season 3a-->

Seeing early “Star Trek: The Next Generation” seasons is an exercise in understanding how a good idea can take a lot of time and many false starts to reach its full potential. Corporate television would never let a show like this find its way these days. Thankfully, Paramount did, because STNG does get better even by the end of this season, though true improvement—the sort that places STNG on multiple Top 50 lists—is a year away:

Episode 12: “The Royale”
A rather Twilight Zoney episode that would seem out of place had the series established any sort of consistence or standard by this point.

Episode 13: “Time Squared”
As written this episode makes little sense. A vetoed plot point involving Q and tying into the Borg plot-line would have almost explained things, but that didn’t happen. By the way, have we lost count how many times episodes this season involve “all powerful” alien intelligences checking the enterprise out?

Episode 14: “The Icarus Factor”
It is generally hard to become emotionally moved by a completely foreign cultural custom that appears to have been made up on the set the day of filming. In this episode they try to so move us twice, and the characters have simply not been developed enough for us to overlook the problem.

Episode 15: “Pen Pals”
OK, this episode stinks as bad—or worse than the other ones but there is one point interesting enough that it merits attention: The debate about the Prime Directive and duty that arises when Data disobeys said Directive. (Anyone else have a problem that it is the Android that goes against programming here?) The question raised is the same one that comes up when you watch animal documentary shows. How do scientists or filmmakers who observe animals allow them to die when they could do something to help? Scientists and story tellers can become quite inhumane in their quest for truth or a good story. Theology in a vacuum or an ivory tower can be the same way. It does no good to know a lot about God if you are not going to allow that knowledge to affect your life.

Episode 16: “Q Who”
Carrying the ideas of “Pen Pals” forward, the scientific exploration of the Enterprise’s mission is brought into question by Q. It is ultimate pride and arrogance to think that humanity will reach a point where it can rove the universe learning about it at an arms distance. Life is not simply study and understanding and humanity will never reach a point where it has solved all of the universes challenges. Living requires conflict and this series finally gets some in the form of an unreasonable race of evil. It will take over a season for the Borg threat to reach its full potential, but this is what will finally help this show.

Episodes 17, 18: “Samaritan Snare” and “Up the Long Ladder”
A couple of comedic… misfires. The later has the misfortune of trying to tell a story about the future, right when the world was about to change in ways no one could imagine. On the other hand, sub-plots in both episodes involve characters worrying about the medical privacy. How forward thinking!

Episode 19: “Manhunt”
This one IS funny.

Episode 20: “The Emissary”
The Star Trek writers lump the idea that “sex should only belong within the confines of a life-long monogamous commitment” in with the warlike and primitive violence of the Klingon Empire. Then again, they manage to turn around and make that a special sentiment as well.

Episode 21: “Peak Performance”
Fun, but how exactly did Worf trick the Ferengi ship? We know where he got the security code for the Enterprise, but… Sorry, I accidentally slipped into geek-nit-picker mode.

Episode 22: “Shades of Grey”
Let’s pretend that this never happened, shall we? (Hmmm)

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