Monthly Archives: December 2018

Episode 3-15, Yesterday’s Enterprise

Yesterday’s Enterprise would be by my reckoning the 3rd best Star Trek film, if it had been a movie, immediately after Star Trek 2 and 6 (original films). It’s almost too bad this was just a 45 min episode but it plays just as well as any film. I was even a little worried that this episode wasn’t as good as I remembered it, but it’s actually better than I remember. Everything here is pitch perfect, from the casting (Captain Garrett is awesome, as is Lt. Castillo, played by an amazing Christopher McDonald), to the old school, bad ass uniforms from the films, to what I think is the best looking version of the Enterprise, the 1701-C, though version A is also fantastic). The story kicks ass, the acting is great, Guinan plays it perfect … everything about this episode is perfect.

Episode 3-14, A Matter of Perspective

A Matter of Perspective is … meh. It’s just Rashamon in space but without any drama, action, or any of Kurosawa’s famous rain. The only thing of note is guest star Mark Margolis who played Hector Salamanca on Better Call Saul, and Breaking Bad, of which John de Lancie, Q, was also on. The only other positive is that the next episode is perhaps the greatest Star Trek episode of them all …

Episode 3-12, The High Ground

The High Ground is a good episode, despite how the show’s writers felt about it. True, they don’t have anything to say about terrorism that’s new, but what else is there to say? Is terrorism terrible? Yes. Is it usually effective? Also yes. I think what this episode does do really well is show how the Federation oppresses people without even realizing it when they assist dominant governments who struggle with minority factions, something DS9 will explore in depth. I also couldn’t help but feeling they should have cast Eric Bogosian in the role, but Richard Cox does a good job too.

Episode 3-11, The Hunted

The Hunted is an awesome episode with a foe, Danar, who is smarter and stronger than anyone on the Enterprise. Even Worf was impressed. The one weak spot was that it didn’t deal enough with a society that basically brainwashed its young men to fight for them and then threw them away when the war was over. Political propaganda and indoctrination and even MKULTRA operations inspired this episode so a little less focus on action and more on the ethical moral issues would have been good, but it’s still a really fun episode with 2 good guest actors.

Episode 3-10, The Defector

The Defector is another one of my favorites, in fact it’s almost good enough to be a movie. I really like how, for once, the person who seems untrustworthy is actually telling the truth but has no way to easily prove it, even to Picard. The scene from Henry V was nice and it’s fun seeing the show ground itself more in culture and the exploration of the human spirit.

Episode 3-9, The Vengeance Factor

I like the episodes that use aliens to hash out the conflicts we have on earth, and this episode does it really well, especially considering a situation like Northern Ireland in the late 80’s or the peoples in the Balkans. The one thing they do poorly, however, is they always have one side be nearly barbaric and the other cultured, as if only one side is really the correct one and that there’s no nuance.

Episode 3-7, The Enemy

The Enemy is good, though it’s really just a retelling of Hell In The Pacific (and later, Enemy Mine). I still like how the Romulans are not overplayed so they always seem like a genuine threat. I also like the line asking Worf about a possible time the Federation and the Romulans could be allies and he laughs at that idea, yet on DS9 years later it does happen and he’s there to see it.

Episode 3-6, Booby Trap

Booby Trap is fun because I remember the sequel when Dr. Brahms discovers the holodeck program from this episode. But, this episode on it’s own is really good, it’s a fun, space mystery with a derelict battle-cruiser trapped for 1000 years till the Enterprise also falls in the trap and has to resort to no technology to survive. Good stuff. Season 3 is a huge step up over season 2, which is impressive since season 2 was a massive leap forward over season 1.

Episode 3-5, The Bonding

A very sad, but very good episode that, once again explores the inner universe of human emotions (dealing with death), as well as shows how life is dangerous on a starship. It’s hard to have a character we don’t know die and then have us care, but this was well acted by everyone, even Wesley. Reminds me of the great The Expanse episodes, The Weeping Sonambulist, where the wife is so angry about the crew getting her husband killed.

Episode 3-4, Who Watches The Watchers

Another classic episode and one of the best scifi stories Trek has ever told. Most interesting is how it explores that even with so much technology and advanced philosophy, all people will one day die and nothing can prevent it. This was an episode not about an advanced race different from a primitive race, but about all the important things we all have in common. Absolutely a fantastic episode.

Episode 3-3, The Survivors

A very good and unusual episode. While the idea as powerful as the one here seems too implausible, it does do an interesting job of telling the story of a creature whose terrible actions have left it guilty and alone. I really liked how only Picard had an idea of what might be going on that way it didn’t get tedious watching the crew learn something we already knew.

Episode 3-2, The Ensigns of Command

The Ensigns of Command has always been one of my very favorite episodes. Dealing with a government that would use force to silent dissent because the position is irrational, Data does a great job of acting human to make a point. This also has my favorite Picard moment when he checks the plaque on the bridge for dust as he’s being hailed by the aliens who have been giving him a hard time. This episode is all Spiner, however, and he’s the best actor on the show.

Episode 2-21, Peak Performance

Peak Performance has a near perfect script. I can’t think of another episode that utilizes each character as well as this one. Everyone plays to their strengths and even the subplot serves to keep the emotional and philosophical core of the story moving forward. It even manages to take into account the Borg threat so it further builds the 24th century world. Great episode that’s also fun and exciting and even lets both Picard and Riker win when they compete against each other.

Episode 2-20, The Emissary

Star Trek screwed up by not finding a more permanent role for Suzie Plakson. First she played a Vulcan doctor, and now as a Klingon she does a fantastic job as Worf’s lover. She’s such a good actress and has such good chemistry with all the main characters that they should have found something more for her to do. Otherwise this was another good Klingon centered episode, even if the set up was sort of weak, but exploring the personal, sexual, and emotional side of Klingons was interesting and well done by both Plakson and Dorn.

Episode 2-19, Manhunt

While this is a silly episode, I always had a soft spot for Lwaxana, she just has so much personality and vulnerability that I would enjoy knowing her in real life. I suppose it’s an odd crush, but I just think she’s cool. Anyway, the episode tries to do too much and really just goes nowhere, though the fish people (Mick Fleetwood) were neat.

Episode 2-17, Samaritan Snare

I know this episode is notorious for being considered dumb, but I always liked it, even if it is contrived and doesn’t even pay attention to the the character’s own dialogue. Still, it has a charm to it that I always liked and it follows the Borg episode well by showing from another POV how an advanced culture can outsmart a weak one. Also, I liked Ensign Gomez, but dropping her for Barclay who will come later was a good choice.

Episode 2-16, Q Who

I remember when this first aired and what a huge deal it was when the Borg were revealed but even now, 30 years later it’s still an incredible episode and the Borg are the greatest scifi “villains” of all time. Interesting how the idea of a collective, decentralized threat predicted what would happen about a decade later when Al Qaeda was the world’s greatest threat, and even now with an organization like ISIS. There really is nothing more chilling than an enemy that you can’t really see. I also love how the Borg are so clearly inspired by HR Giger whose Alien design was equally horrific and depersonal. This episode also gives Star Trek the much needed sense of real danger that had previously been missing and there are real stakes now going forward.

Episode 2-15, Pen Pals

Pen Pals is a very sweet episode, but it also shows how the Prime Directive can be untenable in some circumstances. And this is an important aspect of the show because it reveals how humanity is still evolving and is imperfect. Would be interesting to explore this episode with a sequel 30 years later where the little girl still has the alien stone and her life has been far more altered than Picard and Data could have ever predicted.

Episode 2-14, The Icarus Factor

The Icarus Factor is a good example that shows no matter how advanced humans think they are they will always struggle with personal matters, even resorting to violence. Interesting choice to have the subplot be about Worf wanting to endure physical pain since that juxtaposes well with the emotional pain of Riker and his father. Also, all things Klingon are awesome.

Episode 2-13, Time Squared

Time Squared is exactly how to play out a mystery. No extraneous plots, just all the pieces fitted together in service to tell the main story. I really like how a lot of these episodes focus on just one character as the central focus because it really helps to feel like we know these characters inside and out. Great little episode.

Episode 2-12, The Royale

I used to HATE this episode as a kid not only because I don’t like Star Trek episodes that take place on 20th century earth (though there are a few examples of good ones), but also because they used to play the shit out of it in syndication. I never understood why such a weak episode got so much rerun time. Anyway, the episode isn’t quite as bad as I remember but like all weak episodes the focus is on the wrong thing. This should have focused more on why the aliens ever built the hotel and less with trying to escape the second rate novel they based it on. Funny how Fermat’s Last Theorem was unsolved when this was filmed and is mentioned as still unsolved yet in reality it was solved less than a decade after this episode aired.

Episode 2-11, Contagion

Contagion has what I believe is the first time Picard orders a tea, Earl Grey, hot, and introduces Picard’s interest in archaeology. Otherwise the episode was pretty standard dealing with an ancient, more civilized race that disappeared 200,000 years ago. This had some cool ideas, but overall was too unfocused. They are dealing with the Romulans well by not overplaying them and giving us just enough of a taste to keep them an interesting and manageable threat.

Episode 2-10, The Dauphin

The Dauphin is not a bad episode, in fact this has probably the best acting Wesley gives on the show, but the story doesn’t quite hit home how lucky the Federation is and how other races are still stuck dealing with war and other tragedies. The other problem is the shapeshifters here. Not that it’s bad for this episode, but later when DS9 focuses so much on how shapeshifters are a huge threat to the Federation. Did they forget this episode? Maybe this gets addressed in a later episode like how maybe these shapeshifters are different from the Founders, but it is a pretty big plot issue if left unaddressed.

Episode 2-9, The Measure Of A Man

This is the one, the moment when the Next Generation not only equaled everything great about all the Trek that came before it, but surpassed it and defined what Star Trek really is and what makes it the greatest work of science fiction above all others. It’s almost breathtaking to watch this episode knowing that you’re watching greatness unfolding before you. You can even tell from the performances in this episode that every actor knew they were doing something special. From here on out thru the rest of this series and DS9, Star Trek was fully realized and running on all cylinders. The likes of a show like this (and DS9) may never be seen again.

Episode 2-8, A Matter Of Honor

A Matter Of Honor might be one of the most important Star Trek episodes ever made. Before this episode all anyone knew of the Klingons came from the Original Series and (more importantly) their appearance in the movies (1, and 3; 6 hadn’t released yet) and so this episode lays the foundation for the Klingons and their culture. Star Wars struggles because they haven’t figured out how to expand the Star Wars universe whereas Star Trek’s focus on character and culture means it’s far richer of a world. Also, this episode could have been a movie; it’s that good, in fact it’s one of the all time best Trek episodes.

Episode 2-7, Unnatural Selection

Unnatural Selection is one of those episodes that misses by focusing on the wrong thing. Yes, a disease that accelerates aging is interesting and seems like the obvious choice for good scifi drama, but the real story was with the genetically engineered children experiments and the scientists who thought it was somehow a good idea to create a “super human”. Theu should have focused on the moral and ethical failings of the scientists, not the symptoms of their folly. Still, even a miss in season 2 is a leap forward over nearly anything from season 1.

Episode 2-6, The Schizoid Man

This is not a bad episode, in fact Data gets to break character and have some emotion, but too much of the episode focused on information we, the audience had that the crew didn’t so it got tedious. The episode should have kept Graves alive the whole time as he tried to convince Data to give him his android body. Also, the lady who played the Vulcan doctor did a really good job.

Episode 2-5, Loud As A Whisper

Another great example of exploring the human condition rather than just blowing some shit up. This was already always one of my favorite episodes but watching it again years later it still stands up because it’s about character. Using sign language as the tool to get the feuding sides to listen to each other is a clever idea that seems relevant right now even.

Episode 2-3, Elementary, Dear Data

This should not be as much fun as it is, but good acting can overcome a weak script. I mean, there’s no way the Enterprise’s computer could create a conscious entity capable of rivaling Data, but it did at least attempt to pose the question of humans being able to create life and then deal with that responsibility. I also like how the show is starting to take on its cultured air with references to 19th century England and classical music and the finer things that I’ve always enjoyed.

Episode 2-1, The Child

Strange first episode to start a season, but the increased budget makes the show look MUCH better. Also, Riker has the beard, Guinan is now part of the crew in Ten Forward, Geordi is chief engineer, Chief O’brian is manning the transporters, and Wesley isn’t wearing that dumb rainbow outfit. However, I never liked Dr. Pulaski because she’s too 20th century ignorant and abrasive and even a little racist, though Diana Mulduar is a better actress than Gates McFadden.

Episode 1-25, The Neutral Zone

The Neutral Zone sets up the Romulans which sort of bookends DS9 with whom they form an alliance with against the Dominion, of which Marc Alaimo, here a Romulan, will play Gul Dukat who fights that alliance. Strange that this as the season ender is not a cliffhanger, but I’m glad I got through the whole season and can finally get to where the show gets consistently good.

Episode 1-24, Conspiracy

Conspiracy was in one way super idiotic, but on the other it had an exploding head straight out of a Cronenberg film. Mostly it was just idiotic, however. Too bad they didn’t think of shapeshifters until DS9 nearly a decade later because them (and the Borg) were the only real threat to the Federation, not a brain controlling beetle.

Episode 1-21, Symbiosis

Symbiosis is on the one hand very 80’s with its “Just Say No” philosophy, but on the other it explores the philosophy of what to do when people are suffering and if giving them drugs will, at least for the short term, relieve suffering. Good use of the Prime Directive and how Picard and Crusher disagree about what is the humane (human) thing to do.

Episode 1-19, Heart of Glory

19 episodes in before finally getting an episode with Worf and the Klingons. I’m surprised Dorn didn’t quit the show this late in before the writers remembered he was getting a paycheck from Paramount every week. Good episode, especially considering how much of Worf’s character arc is eventually covered thru 7 seasons of TNG and another 4 of DS9.

Episode 1-17, Home Soil

Home Soil is a fantastic episode with one of my all time favorite quotes when the alien life form calls humans “Ugly giant bags of mostly water!”. After this semester when I studied, in depth, how to define life scientifically and philosophically, this episode does a nice job of showing how difficult it is to define the term ‘life’. It only cheats by giving the lifeform the ability to communicate, but otherwise this is what a good Star Trek episode is all about.