Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Star Trek The Next Generation (Season 6a)

<--Season 5b Season 6b-->

Season six of STNG must have been my first. The first one I specifically remember seeing (and that got me thinking along the lines that would eventually lead to this whole NonModernBlog) was from the second half of season six. Many fans consider this season to be lacking or at least “silly.” It is at times but there is still some good stuff here…

Episode 26/1: “Time’s Arrow (Parts 1&2)”

Entertaining silliness. Most time travel stories are. Somehow they pull this one off without pulling us out of our suspension of disbelief too much.

Episode 2: “Realm of Fear”

This episode, (and a lot of this season) feel a bit like those early “Twilight Zone” style attempts. At this point, however, the series is comfortable enough with its characters and style that it works for the most part. Ultimately its analysis of fear is superficial and even comical.

Episode 3: “Man of the People”

This is really just another Deanna-centric episode where she is ready to jump into the bed of the latest diplomat-type to come on board the ship. There is an interesting aspect to the twist this time, as the diplomat in question uses women to contain and control all of his negative emotions and impulses that would hurt his mission. He sees this usage of others as justifiable—even though it kills them—in light of the “greater good” he is doing. The real world parallels of men abusing their power by telling themselves that the good they do outweighs the bad are all too prevalent. This episode exposes such behavior for the cowardice and weakness that it is.

Episode 4: “Relics”

This episode is pure, mostly dismissible, fan-service.

Episode 5: “Schisms”

Star Trek rarely manages to pull off a truly scary story. This is not one of those rarities.

Episode 6: “True Q”

As always, episodes involving Q provide us with some pause for thought. Similar to the earlier episode where Q offered Riker the chance to have the omnipotent power of a Q, here we are presented with a Q who has been led to believe she is human. At first, the revelation that she has inhuman power is unwelcome. She has aspirations and desires. After a while, she begins to discover the fun and benefit of her abilities, but she quickly realizes that they do not go well with her humanity. More precisely, her relational side of being a person in community is not compatible with her omnipotence. She must be limited to function with other people in society. When given the choice to either embrace her real self and go with Q, or to limit herself and continue to live as a human, her choice is easy… until she is faced with the imminent death of people she cares about.

Episode 7: “Rascals”

This is one of those stories that Sci-fi is always on the verge of telling. We are already asked to buy so much of a fantastic premise that, in theory, anything goes. In practice, however, the plot often hangs on too much of a stretch. As “Next Generation” developed the practice of two storylines that usually tied into one another, this was frequently a danger. Here it is a testament to the show’s creators that this episode works on any level.

Episode 8: “A Fistful of Datas”

This is the episode where Worf does a water ski jump over a shark.

Episode 9: “The Quality of Life”

One way to take this episode is as an attack on the miracle of life. If machines will someday become sentient, “living” beings doesn’t that ultimately cheapen life? Then again, these sorts of episodes display an amazing respect for life. If our culture, as materialistic as it is, had more of a Trek-like respect for life things would be very different.

Episode 10/11: “Chain of Command (Parts 1&2)”

This is one of the better stories told in the Trek universe. Thematically it is all about power and leadership. We get to see just how great a leader Picard is and has been through his absence. His replacement has the wrong idea that there is power inherent in position. In fact, certain systems do grant power to a chain of command, but real leadership does not rely on power to get people or a team to perform. True leaders inspire action and devotion, and they earn trust in the way that they lead—not in how they wield power.

At the same time, we see power used in another context and we see how raw power may be the least effective way to bring about change or to get what one wants where people are concerned. Torture is more of a topic in today’s post-911 world, but that facts were clear back at this airing. Torture should never be considered an option to obtain reliable information or to make people do something we want them to.

Episode 12: “Ship in a Bottle”

Fun, but a bit overdone by the early nineties. If you haven’t read much “is reality real?” fiction, this will be a treat. But there are better stories that play with this concept.

Episode 13: “Aquiel”

A failed attempt at romantic, noir Trek-style with a fair amount of “The Thing” thrown in. Maybe the worst of the season.

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