Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Star Trek The Next Generation (Season 4b)

<--Season 4a Season 5a-->


Episode 14: “Clues” 


This is sort of a pointless episode, at least from the perspective of its own plot. It does explore the human need to know everything—even when that knowledge is dangerous or self-destructive. We cannot resist a mystery. In this case the crew encounters another one of these amazingly powerful, almost godlike aliens that they are always running into, but they have to “undo” the encounter or die. The first time around they do not erase the evidence thoroughly enough. When they finally do, the story didn’t happen as far as anyone outside of the audience, Data and the “gods” are concerned.

Episode 15: “First Contact” 

This episode, even though not perfect nor one of the best of the series, does show what Star Trek (and any good science fiction) does best. It is a good portrayal of the way cultural institutions and traditions sacrifice truth and reality in favor of the status quo. The obvious parallel here is the controversy over Copernicus’ theory and the way that the Catholic Church could not accept that their world view was wrong. Today the grip of Scientism and certain scientific consensuses are a better example.

Episode 16: “Galaxy’s Child” 

This episode is interesting for two reasons: First we see a rare and hardly imaginable creature that lives out its entire life in the vacuum of space. Secondly, Geordi gets to meet his fantasy woman in real life. The first storyline illustrates the destructive nature of exploration; the second the equally dangerous and destructive nature of expectations.

Episode 17: “Night Terrors” 

The Twilight Zone episode of the season both from the mysterious puzzle that needs solving and the general creepiness of the episode. This episode may have some of the scariest scenes in the franchise. The mystery is a bit of a let-down.

Episode 18: “Identity Crisis”

Here, the creepiness is not quite there, although the aliens are some of the most visually stunning of the series. The mystery and its unraveling are more satisfying than that of “Night Terrors.”

Episode 19: “The Nth Degree”

Smart people tend to dismiss transcendence because, since no one can comprehend it, their self-perceived brilliance does not allow them to entertain such things. This episode is a beloved one of those fans who view Star Trek as a substitute for religion. It is a good representation of the faith of people like Roddenberry. They believe that all reality is ultimately comprehensible, much as in this story Barclay grasps all reality as being understood through a single equation. If that is indeed the case, and the (godlike once again) beings that transform Barclay’s mental capacity are capable of understanding reality that way, why do they need to continue learning? How are they capable of making mistakes? Ultimately, people who believe in Secular Humanism the way Roddenberry did are unwilling to entertain the idea of a creator who is beyond the limits of reality. Not, however, because it requires faith and they are unwilling to believe in anything they cannot prove (as they obviously do hold to improvable tenets) but because they chose not to believe that particular proposal.

Episode 20: “Q-pid”

Fun, but hardly worthy of the series or a Q appearance.

Episode 21: “The Drumhead”


"With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably." 

This episode is one of the more important of the series. It is not particularly Star Treky, or eve Science Fiction per se. The issue it addresses, however, is one that we as a society need to be reminded of at every chance, because we are so quick to forget how important it is. As a Baptist, the issue is particularly close to my heart.

Episode 22: “Half a Life”

This episode goes to great lengths trying to defend an illogical, indefensible cultural tradition as something that is merely diversity of opinion. As it is illogical, indefensible and does not respect the universal principle of respect for life, it fails to do what it sets out to do. At best, it merely makes a feeble showing at trying to say that all beliefs are meaningless beyond a certain degree of subjectivity. Some things are simply right or wrong, no matter how much people wish they weren’t. Imagine if this show had been defending something even more controversial such as a society that encouraged rape, child molestation or the practice of burying entire families when the father died.

Episode 23: “The Host” 

Eventually many television shows give into the temptation to have their various characters sleep together. You would think that “Star Trek” would avoid such soap opera tactics. Instead, they jump through some ridiculous sci-fi hoops to get Beverly to sleep with Riker’s body, which naturally bothers her a great deal. In a surprising display of narrow-mindedness, she draws the line when her lover ends up in a woman’s body.

Episode 24: “The Mind’s Eye”

Poor Geordi is the writers’ butt monkey again. This time, at least, the “Manchurian Candidate” story-line is pretty good.

Episode 25: “In Theory”

Data, at his robotic best, decides it is time to try his hand at a romantic relationship. While we have seen that he is capable of love in its truest sense of the word, his lack of emotion makes him less than ideal as a significant other.

Episode 26: “Redemption (Part 1)”

Here we have the long anticipated resolution to a story arc involving Worf that had been building for two seasons. This may be the first real example of such a device in Star Trek. It also is an early case of such arcs in episodic television that are quite common these days. Of course, audiences at the time had to wait until the next season to get the full resolution. This is a tradition stumbled upon in “The Best of Both Worlds” and it would be used throughout the rest of the franchise.

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