Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Star Trek The Next Generation (Season 4a)

<--"Family" Season 4b-->

Season Four is firmly in the best period of the franchise:

Episode 3: “Brothers” 
This is often listed among the better episodes of STNG. It is one of the Data-centric stories which are always popular, and it features Lore which takes it up a notch. That being said, not a lot happens. It does show just how dangerous Data could be if he ceased to be governed by ethical standards. (Which illuminates just how dangerous Lore could be if the show ever really went there.) There are also some interesting moments between Data and his creator, but we are left with the distinct feeling that this story is not complete.

Episode 4: “Suddenly Human” 
This episode is one of the rarer, poor episodes in this middle run of the series. That is a shame because it explores the important problem of judging another culture as being good or bad based on one’s own bias. There is such a thing as universal evil—god and bad do exist—but we often expand our definition of wrong based on our preferences.

Episode 5: “Remember Me”
Wow, two weak ones in a row. Still, they are rare at this point in the series.

Episode 6: “Legacy”
No, really, these weak episodes are rare—despite the evidence to the contrary.

Episode 7: “The Reunion”
A continuation of the events from “Sins of the Father” and “The Emissary.” Worf struggles again with his dishonor and his struggle to express his love in way that honors the traditions that have turned on him. The show reaches new heights of dramatic tension, and we are put in the position of actually rooting for Worf to seek revenge through murder.

Episode 8: “Future Imperfect”
Riker gets a glimpse of the future, but we all know something is askew with the whole story, because the series can’t possibly carry this reality forward. Ultimately, we realize that we don’t care about anything this story has to offer.

Episode 9: “Final Mission”
Wesley crusher is sent off to school in a dramatic way, stranded on a deserted moon where the only source of water is inexplicably guarded by a security system.

Episode 10: “The Loss”
Deanna demonstrates that she is just as irrational and grouchy as all her patients, when given the chance. An interesting but undeveloped aspect of this story is the idea of a two-dimensional being. It reminds one of the way C. S. Lewis clarified our incapacity to understand the things of God by comparing us to two-dimensional beings attempting to understand a three-dimensional world.

Episode 11: “Data’s Day”
This is a “Day in the Life” episode featuring Data’s continuing to struggle with the more emotional, subtle aspects of humanity. He spends the episode reporting to a cyberneticist on his experiences of friendship. One of the things we observe with Data is his difficulty dealing with people when they behave irrationally. Obrien loves Keiko, which implies he wants what is best for her, so he should be happy if she calls the wedding off. Obrien should want whatever makes her happy. Similarly, Ambassador T’Pel is a Vulcan, and Vulcans don’t lie, so he does not question her obviously suspicious behavior. Data has no emotions and always thinks logically, so he cannot truly understand much of the humanity around him. Interestingly, he can understand love, because love is not really an emotion, but rather a voluntary behavior towards others. Data is capable of choice and therefore he is capable of love.

Episode 12: “The Wounded”
An important episode for at least two reasons, “The Wounded” introduces a new adversary in the Cardassians and it uses that race to explore important issues of diplomacy. The Cardassians were created to provide the show with storylines of a threat that could be reasoned with, as opposed to the Borg. They would become very important in the spin-off “Deep Space Nine.” Here we see a story of the tense relationships at the beginning of peace. Something that is hard to achieve when so much pain and treachery had recently affected the lives of everyone involved. What’s worse is that in this case, the suspicions and prejudices were well founded. In spite of that, sometimes peace should be guarded by sacrificing rights. When that line can no longer be held will be tested in later stories.

Episode 13: “Devil’s Due”
This is an example of one of the oldest stories in the Science Fiction genre; the exploration of Arthur C. Clark’s Third Law. (For those who don’t know, it’s the one that says that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.) These sorts of stories are fine, but after a while you begin to ask why Star Trek would churn one of these tired old stories out. The answer, of course, is that Secular Humanism has decided that Science can answer any question and that anything it can’t measure is simply beyond our capabilities temporarily. Therefore things that appear “supernatural” are simply frauds. What would be a more interesting approach to this law would be a story that reveals science to have limits.

The NonModern counter to Clark’s Third Law would be: perhaps there are sufficiently advanced “technologies” as to be genuinely “magic.” Just maybe there is a “supernatural” element to reality.

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