Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Star Trek The Next Generation (Season 3b)

<--Season 3a  "Best of Both Worlds"-->

The second half of season 3 continues the successes of the first half, and even improves. Many would say that this is the highest level the franchise would ever achieve. It certainly presents us with the best episode ever in the Star Trek universe. However, that does not mean the series and franchise begin to decline in quality after these episodes. It is more like the franchise reaches a level of quality here that would continue going forward.

Episode 14: “A Matter of Perspective”
This is “Rashomon” done Trek-style. Of course “real world” application of the film techniques that brought us that story is a little bit scary. Allowing witnesses and defendants to create a three dimensional representation of events that plays out like a movie would surely cause tremendous difficulties for the justice system. People have a hard enough time perceiving truth without clouding the issue up with multiple skewed perspectives and even lies presented in convincing reality.

Episode 15: “Yesterday’s Enterprise”
One of the most entertaining stories the series ever presented. It is fun to see what a Federation at war would look like; the battles and a chance for a glimpse—for a moment where our crew actually faces certain death—knowing that it will be erased with the—ever annoying—time travel story reset. Most of the time these sort of stories demand too much suspension of disbelief, but here we almost forget to question.

One suspects that part of the appeal of this show is that it is so non-Trek-like. It is too dark for the vision that Roddenberry set up. He really did use the show to sell his religious beliefs. He is one of the best examples showing how Secular Humanism was a strange rejection of religion while being a quasi-religion; a call for the ideals and ethics of Christianity while rejecting Christianity for its more religious and pharisaical elements.

Of course the most compelling aspect of this story is the writers’ choice to correct the mistake they made having Tasha die a meaningless death. The fact is that there are no meaningless deaths in life because there are no meaningless lives. Sometimes things may feel as though they make no sense, but we believe and sometimes manage to understand that that is simply a limitation of our perspective.

Episode 16: “The Offspring”
This episode is one of the occasional comedic ones, but suddenly tragic and moving at the end. It is also one of those episodes where the Secular Humanist aspects of the series are apparent, but subverted. Data continues his quest to understand the true experience of “being human.” Here he learns that it involves trying to be the sort of humans we were created to be. It is an impossible task on our own; it is nevertheless a matter of growth and a struggle for those willing to accept help.

Episode 17: “Sins of the Father”
Worf is a conflicted, third culture kid. TCKs are people from one culture, raised in another, resulting in a third cultural identification—a mixture of aspects from both. Here we see the surprising degree to which Worf is willing to go in order to help his birth culture, that he hasn’t been able to be a part of since his childhood. It is a bit unconvincing to someone who does approach life as a TCK. There are those that overcompensate and reject their adopted culture by blindly embracing every aspect of their birth culture without question. However, most of that type does not choose to live their life out in the adopted culture. That is what makes Worf so hard to comprehend.

Episode 18: “Allegiance”
Again, a Twilight Zone styled puzzle episode. We’ve seem to get about one or two of these every season so far. And again we have the “advanced=alien-species-studying-humanity” theme. Will they ever tire of these stories? And just how many god-like species are there in the galaxy?

Episode 19: “Captain’s Holiday”
If this whole episode is a self-fulfilling-prophecy, how did the future not know how it would turn out?

Episode 20: “Tin Man”
A ship-like life form that is the last of its kind is an interesting idea, but it is not explored.

Episode 21: “Hollow Pursuits”
This is a fun story for anyone who enjoys the escapism of fantasy.

Episode 22: “The Most Toys”
A fairly standard kidnapping story. However, how will Data’s ethics respond? Will he kill if justified? Can he lie?

Episode 23: “Sarek”
A long-lived character from the original series is incapacitated, and Patrick Stewart gets to show his acting chops.

Episode 24: “Menage a Troi”
A comedic caper involving a kidnapping, Picard embarrassing himself performing sonnets and those slimy Ferengi.

Episode 25: “Transfigurations”
An unusual overtly religious episode, where the evolution mutates a humanoid into a godlike being. In this case, the reaction is not one of worship but fear. Apparently several individuals in the species are experiencing the evolutionary step, so it is not a random mutation. Evolution, for those who propose it, never really is. It is supposed to be a result of chance and not design, but it is never a singular event and it always advances the species exponentially. To try to explain the philosophy of religion in humanity as a result of such evolutionary steps is questionable and that is not what is really happening here. Instead, this is an often repeated hope of Secular Humanism. Some anticipate a coming day when something like this will really happen. It seems that humanity must first evolve culturally and mentally before they will deserve the next physical step. They reject religion, but merely for one of their own making.

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