Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Star Trek The Next Generation (Season 7a)

<--Season 6b Season 7b-->

Somewhat surprisingly, season seven struggles in the beginning quite a bit to tell compelling stories. In some cases they have good ideas or kernels of good ideas, but they fail to turn those ideas into stories of the quality of previous seasons. Either the ideas supersede character, or the plot is only half baked. That being said, there are some great attempts in the bunch:

Episodes 26/1: “Descent (Parts 1&2)”

This may be one of the worst TNG stories, certainly among all the two-parter, cliff-hanger variety. Data becomes some sort of “drug addict” for feelings in the span of a few minutes. Never are we more aware of the fact that he is simply a machine running on some very elaborate software. Stories like this make us question the way that the rest of the crew trust him so thoroughly.

Episode 2: “Liaisons”

At first, the idea of an intercultural exchange is interesting. However, the idea that a culture could adapt enough to learn a language all the while failing to understand food, aggression or love is surprising. (Come to think of it, how likely is it that all of these alien species from all of these planets across the galaxy in this show would have so many of these commonalities?)  

Episode 3: “Interface”

By now we know Geordie has a way of obsessing over artificial versions of female characters. This story just reinforces that fact. The missed opportunity here is the theme of losing someone in uncertain circumstances. This is a real and hard to handle situation. Unfortunately, this episode loses the impact of that storyline in the sci-fi elements. One usually hopes that the fantastic will illuminate and help us explore realities that are hard to address, not distract from them.

Episodes 4/5: “Gambit (Parts 1&2)”

This is an entertaining space-opera romp. That is to say that it is not really Star Trek. It is also one of the best episodes of the season so far.

Episode 6: “Phantasms”

Once again, we have an episode with very little Star Trek feel. This time there are more horrific elements. It is quite entertaining. It does a good job of showing that our dreams often do communicate things we may have missed consciously, but it also highlights how hard it is to make sense of what the subconscious is trying to tell us. The way they show Freud being so off the mark is quite humorous.

Episode 7: “Dark Page”

Trying to flip the table on a more common Sci-fi thought (how would non-telepathic beings adjust to telepathy?) here, Trek stops short of giving us a convincing take. The telepaths who are trying to learn to speak our way sure do seem to have to concentrate really hard to communicate in their own fashion. In the end this is a story more concerned with a very touchy subject, but the way it is handled belittles the severity of it all.

Episode 8: “Attached”

This has always been one of my personal favorites. When Picard and Crusher are “joined at the thought” it advances their friendship exponentially, and exposes feelings that they have managed to hide for decades (even if those feelings were obvious to all of us observers.)

Episode 9: “Force of Nature”

This may be the biggest embarrassment of a show that the series ever produced. It is the ultimate example of the series wanting to force a commentary on an issue that seemed important to them at the time; but failing to create a story that works. Today, the world is much more open to the issue here presented (human caused global warming) in spite of the fact that two decades of data and failed predictions have undermined it more than this story did. They go so far as to paint themselves into a corner by imposing a “speed limit” on the Federation that is never corrected later on. Instead of finding a way to explain this problem away, the creators of the show seemed to pretend that this episode never occurred.

Episode 10: “Inheritance”

If Soong was able to perfect his technology so much that he produced an android so perfect it fooled the world and itself we have several problems: Data is not unique. Couldn’t there be a lot more androids out there? Why were his research and developments never made more public?

Episode 11: “Parallels”

This is an example of taking the “Parallel Quantum Universe” to its extreme potential. It is all a bit of a letdown, as these stories by definition never really happened. However, this episode single handedly makes the new movie possible without erasing all of the shows and movies that came before.

Episode 12: “The Pegasus”

A compelling if rather straight forward moral decision story. I hear tell that this one comes in to play at the end of the series “Enterprise.” If I ever get around to watching that I will have to revisit this episode.

Episode 13: “Homeward” This is a fascinating episode about the nature of dogmas. First of all, there is the “dogma” of the Prime Directive. Worf’s brother exposes the way that a law designed to not destroy cultures is often to blame for doing just that. Star Trek’s lofty ideals of tolerance and non-interference are at times self defeating, as when the sit by while injustices or evils are being committed. Then there is the “deep spiritual” faith of the Boraalans. When one of them accidently discovers the existence of other intelligent life in the universe, he cannot return back to his people. His fear is that he will be seen as crazy, or worse, people will believe his story. That would be worse in his view, because it would destroy “everything they believe in.” What good is a belief if it is not truth? That is the nature of dogma: teachings that are maintained in the face of their demonstrable deficiencies, simply to maintain power and control.

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