Episode 7-2, Liaisons

Not a bad episode, in fact in earlier seasons this would have been quite good, but it doesn’t really do anything new. The aliens trying to provoke a response from everyone was a neat idea, but the episode spent so much time actually showing how everyone was being provoked that it lost sight of the fact that it was for the sake of studying human behavior, something we, the human audience, are quite familiar with. This episode needed a few more drafts to get at something interesting, especially Anna who was a mix between Stands With A Fist from Dances With Wolves, and Cathy Bates’ character from Misery. In other words, she was not a very original character and it didn’t take me long to figure out who she really was.

Episode 7-1, Descent II

Great end to an excellent 2 part story. One part I really liked was how Beverly used some of the tech they worked on last season in her fight with the Borg (the meta-phasic shield thingy technobable). Most of the credit goes to Spiner who does a great job of playing both Data and his crazy brother, Lore. These episodes would never work without his fantastic acting. I also like that they brought Hugh back, though I’m not certain making even a splinter faction of the Borg less threatening is a good idea. Knowing the Borg have a weakness sort of ruins the idea of the Borg, but it is handled really well in this episode.

Episode 6-26, Descent I

I’ve never needed to comment on whomever has directed any of these episodes because they’re all filmed pretty much the same, but the one stands out, and not in a good way. The story is good, and the acting is very good, especially between Data and Troi, but the way it’s filmed with so many tight shots of the actors that the episode feels … small. For example, when the Borg are attacking (yea, Borg) the bridge of the Enterprise basically consists of Picrard’s head and whomever he is speaking with, nothing else is visible and so it really feels like they are on a cheap set. This is a real shame because this is otherwise a really good, action packed episode, but it’s dragged down by some unusual direction. I know this is nit-picky, but I’m well over 100 episodes into this show so you sort of get accustomed to how things “ought” to feel and look.

Episode 6-25, Timescape

Fun episode, though this is one that stretches the audience’s ability to suspend their disbelief and accept Trek-science. This is also another episode that introduces an alien as central to the plot device, but spends so little time with them that all the show deals with are the effects of the alien encounter and nothing else. Trek is lazy like this sometimes and it’s frustrating since the most interesting aspects of an episode are never really explored. But, for what it is the episode is not bad.

Episode 6-24, Second Chances

Second Chances is the sort of episode that only a show that’s been on for 6 seasons can pull off well. Had this episode been made in the first 3-4 seasons it would have been pretty terrible, but because the writers have a firm understanding of the characters and know how far to push an otherwise silly idea – a crew member duplicated by the transporter – this episode is really quite good. And what makes it good is that it focuses more on Troi than on Riker and explores her feelings of having a second chance that slipped away years ago. Who wouldn’t want an opportunity to fix things that they screwed up, especially romantically, and this episode does a nice job of using a silly sci-fi concept to explore a uniquely human idea.

Episode 6-23, Rightful Heir

One of the greatest novels ever written, Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, contains a story told by one of the brothers called the Grand Inquisitor, a fictional account of Jesus’ return in medieval Spain. Jesus is arrested after performing miracles in the city square and is interrogated by the Grand Inquisitor (think the Spanish Inquisition). Jesus never once speaks during the whole story and just sits there letting his inquisitor tell him that the church does not need him coming back and screwing up everything the church has built. This episode is similar to that story, and the parallels to Kahless to Jesus are close without feeling like the writers went too far in making the comparison. But it’s a very intriguing idea to think about how a religious figure could perhaps come back and challenge the authority of the secular world. This is a really good and thought provoking episode; I’d rank it as one of the best.

Episode 6-22, Suspicions

Hey, it’s Gunian. Where the hell has she been this whole season? Also a whole episode with Dr. Crusher, and it’s actually pretty good! She’s such an under utilized character on the show and as an actor she has so much training as a dancer and (I think) fencer, that it’s too bad she never gets to really show off her talents. Overall this was a fun mystery solving episode where the culprit was a maniacal alien with a weak motivation. More important it showed the Ferrengi was being capable of being much more than just greedy weirdos and the Klingons as being capable of being scientists. However, since DS9 was already on at the time, I don’t think TNG should get much credit for fixing the issues with these two races, especially the Ferrengi. Still, fun episode.

Episode 6-21, Frame of Mind

Frame of Mind was … weird. I like the idea of the aliens messing with Riker’s memory to get access to information, but it just felt too silly. The great thing about Garak and the Obsidian Order on DS9 (and i guess even the Federation’s Section 31) was that you never knew how they were torturing people, you just it was plenty horrible. Here it’s just so overdone and techy-fancy. Besides, the DS9 episode Far Beyond the Stars did a MUCH BETTER job of dealing with insanity where Star Trek is a fantasy coping mechanism for a miserable person. I will say Frakes does a nice job in this episode, but it’s just not an episode that really works overall. Nice try, though.

Episode 6-20, The Chase

The Chase is a fascinating idea for an episode that should have been split up into two parts and the extra money gone to better actors to play the Cardassian captain, the Klingon captain (this guy was a dolt), and the Romulan captain. Also, seeing Salome Jens playing a character that looks A LOT like a Founder is … unnerving. Though “her” character hadn’t yet been introduced on DS9, that show was already on the air and Odo looks not too different so I don’t know if there was going to be some sort of carry over here or not – or even if we’re supposed to assume the Progenitors in this episode are actually Founders – but either way, it’s weird.

This was a pretty good episode, but it was just too much story to fit well into 45 min.

Episode 6-19, Lessons

Following up, even just partially, to The Inner Light (the flute episode), is playing with fire. The Inner Light is (I still believe) the greatest science fiction story ever told, and so doing anything that could injure that is tricky. This episode does a very good job of staying true to The Inner Light while also giving Picard something to actually have to struggle with. LtCmdr Darren is a great match for Picard, but you can tell they are almost to well suited for each other and that for was well as they work together, it will never really work. Such is the life of an ambitious Captain – forever alone. Excellent episode.

Episode 6-18, Starship Mine

Starship Mine is such a fun episode! Getting to see Picard sort of go commando onboard his own ship to thwart the people stealing (something) from the engine core was really cool. I also love how Data is learning to make small talk and the opening sequence showing how annoying it would be to be the captain of a starship would be with everyone constantly asking you for something, The energy beam slowly making its way across the ship was also a cool sci-fi device that added a layer of tension which kept the episode always moving forward. I’m not sure about ending the episode with a Mr. Ed reference, but overall this is a fantastic episode.

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Would I be revealing too much about myself when I say that I identify with Swann just a little too much? When he’s talking himself into tapping on her window or oscillating between love and then is just as quickly thrown into anger and resentment when he can’t get what he wants I admitted to having these feelings myself – and it’s uncomfortable to experience it. Maybe everyone has felt like this but nobody admits it?

Episode 6-17, Birthright II

Excellent conclusion to this story. I realized while watching this that TNG is basically three distinct story lines: 1) Data’s story of becoming human, 2) Worf’s story of becoming (more) Klingon, and 3) the over-arching Q story of humanity on trial which everyone takes part in. In this story it’s all Worf, and what’s really well done is that while there is a love story here, what’s more central is Worf’s relationship with the young Klingon man, Toq. The story wisely allows Worf to influence Toq in hopes he will discover his Klingon’ness rather than just make it some silly love story of a half Klingon, half Romulan girl. This was a very well thought out episode, and I loved the touch at the end when Worf lies to Picard and Picard says “I understand” with a look that means he really does. THere was also the philosophical issue of allowing these Roumlans and Klingons to live in peace away from their centuries of hatred and war with each other and having Worf disrupt that raises issues of whether its possible for old hatreds to truly die. The episode doesn’t give an answer, but it seems to imply that they can’t be put aside so easily.Excellent episode.

Episode 6-16, Birthright I

This was a very interesting episode. I really liked the idea of Data having grown enough to now be able to dream and I loved that this was, in many ways, actually a DS9 episode. Too bad only Dr. Bashir is in the crossover, but he’s a good fit with Data and Georidi. Worf’s story is straight out of a DS9 episode, we even get to see him in his sneaking around black outfit that he would wear when he and Dax would do something dangerous. Of course this is part 1 or a 2 part-er TNG has a checkered past with finishing multi-part stories as well as they start them, but I’m genuinely intrigued to see how this plays out. Also, I love that James Cromwell was such a trekkie / trekcer.

Episode 6-15, Tapestry

Holy shit, what an episode! It’s remarkable how Stewart can carry this whole show just by himself when he has to. So many times he’s been the main focus of an episode and he just kills it every single time. I also love how the show has stuck with the framing device Q sets up from the very first episode of putting humanity on trial, even in an instance like this when it’s just one person’s experiences and the choices they make when young. And to have Q really get the better of Picard was great, especially when Picard is just a lowly Lt. being told by Troi and Riker that he’ll never be in command because he just plays it too safe. Great episode about life, about choices, and about Picard’s character as someone who, though he tries to be a reserved and deliberate person, is really, at heart (pun intended) a far more interesting person than he lets on. That’s why the end of the episode is great with him telling Riker a story in the ready from from his wild youth. Brilliant episode!

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Odette only goes as far as Swann is willing to go, she never forces the issue. He pushes the flower in and she lets him.

I like his diver, Remi; he’s the only one being sensible.

You can feel Swann going out of control as he searches for Odette. He doesn’t have to do this, it’s just one night he didn’t see her, but he’s obsessed and he seems to actually enjoy the experience of putting himself through this pain.

Episode 6-14, Face of the Enemy

Face of the Enemy could have been, with some tweaks to the script, a feature film. While initially seeing Troi altered to look Romulan seemed like a gimmick, the plot was really clever, exciting, and aside from the convenient character, DeSeve who knew all the answers to help Picard, this was a well thought out thriller. Best of all was Carolyn Seymour playing the Romulan captain, Toreth. She was Picard’s equal in every way and also gave us a sympathetic look at the Romulans, especially their unease with their own government. Toreth is an honest captain doing her best for her ship and her crew and had this been a film it would have been fascinating to see two great captains go up against each other. Troi was excellent this episode, too; she really owned the part of playing a Romulan and she really had fun this episode. Nice to see her get to do something more than ask people about their feelings.

Episode 6-13, Aquiel

Aside from it wrapping up a little too quickly, this is a very good episode with a good mystery at the center of it and some good tension between Riker and Laforge. I love how this episode plays off Laforge’s previous relationships with women and how that adds an extra layer to the tension, especially when she learns he real all her personal files. Had this episode been maybe just 10 minutes longer it would have had the time to wrap up better, but overall I really liked this and can see how DS9 has slightly influenced the storytelling to be a but more realistic concerning personal conflicts between the crew.

Episode 6-11, Chain of Command II

Chain of Command II is an all-time classic episode, not only because how how chilling it is, or how great the acting of Stewart and David Warner (as Madred), but also because it sets the tone for the Cardassians as brutal, cold, militaristic, and beyond any ability for empathy. They are perhaps the best villains in all of Trek outside of the Borg – in fact they might be better since they actually have a personality whereas the Borg are more insect-like. It’s also refreshing to see an actor play a bad guy as someone who seems to be a good guy. Warner doesn’t yell or scream, he’s methodical and cold in his cruelty and somehow that’s far more cruel than if he yelled and screamed all over the place. Brilliant episode and there really are only four lights.

Episode 6-10, Chain of Command I

The most interesting aspect of this episode is Picard being relieved of command and Jellico, who nobody likes, takes over. But I just can’t understand why Starfleet would send a veteran captain to do commando work. Worf? Absolutely. Dr. Crusher? Most likely not. But absolutely not Picard. I’m hoping that part two explains this plot with the Cardassians better, and I do believe the next episode is the great “there are 4 lights” episode, but so far part I, while pretty good, is not great.

Episode 6-9, Quality of Life

Quality of Life is the first truly excellent episode of the season (other than the Barclay one maybe). This is also the first time Trek doesn’t cheat when determining a possible new life form by allowing it to communicate, all we have to go on are the Exocomp’s actions and so the question of if they are alive or not is left open somewhat. Tying this episode into Measure of a Man was a good decision too because it gave Data great motivation to explore the Exocomps as well as refuse Riker’s orders. Rock solid episode.

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I’m trying to wrap my brain around Swann. He’s got red hair and green eyes so his looks probably cause him to stand out a little. He’s idle, but he’s always holding back and I get the feeling everyone else senses there is more to him then he lets on and this adds to his charm. Madame Verdurin is interesting as ring leader, but for some reason I feel sort of sad for her. Cottard is funny, but would be a bore to know.

Episode 6-7, Rascals

When the episode began with Keiko, Picard, Guinan, and Ro turned into children I immediately assumed this would suck. However, this was actually a very fun episode and all 4 kids did a great job, especially young Guinan and Picard. 12 year old Picard stamping his feet and yelling “now” over and over again is exactly how you would expect adult Picard to assume a 12 year old would act. The side story with the Ferrengi was not bad either, but Ferengi stories never get good until DS9. I also loved Riker speaking in pure technobabble to solve a problem. I feel like this episode was a lot better than it should have been given how much of a poor start season 6 is off to, but I’m hoping this marks a turnaround. We’ll see.

Episode 6-6, True Q

True Q is pretty good, mostly because the actor playing Amanda does a really good job of making the most of a sort of weak script. She does a good job of exploring what it’s like to be a Q, and DeLance is sufficiently creepy and inevitable in this episode. He also has a great line about Picard’s wonderful speeches. Still, this wasn’t anything amazing; I’m curious why this season is so far below the standards of season 5 (and 4). The show just feels… off somehow, like something is missing.

Episode 6-5, Schisms

Not a terrible episode, but only because I’m hoping they revisit the aliens they were abducted by, otherwise this was sort of silly. And just imagine getting a job as the props person for Star Trek and then being asked to buy a park bench and a pair of scissors. I feel like the budget for this episode was only in the tens of dollars.

Episode 6-4, Relics

Relics could have been a lot better. First of all they discovered a friggin Dyson Sphere, that alone should have been the main attention of the episode, but it was somehow abandoned and we never learn why. Then Scotty making an appearance should also have been it’s own episode, but while there were some very good moments with him and Burton and Stewart, the story felt flat. Season 6 is not off to a good start.

Episode 6-3, Man of the People

This episode must have come about when one of the writers came up with one good idea while all the other writers thought up ways in which to make everything else about the episode stupid. And then the director decided to make sure everyone gives a terrible performance. This is a BAD episode, like really bad, like season 1 bad. It’s dumb, too.

Episode 6-2, Realm of Fear

Realm of Fear makes up for the bad season opener, Arrow of Time part II, with a really fun Barclay episode. This might be the best Barclay episode because it doesn’t make fun of Barclay or put him in some bizarre situation, it only explores his fear of the transporter which allows him to solve the mystery. I love how you can see him trying harder to interact with the rest of the main crew by taking a deep breath before speaking. Very fun.

Episode 6-1, Time’s Arrow Part II

What a harebrained plot these aliens cooked up to go back in Earth’s time to steal people’s energy. What was the point? Who were these aliens? What was the snake thing all about? How did Picard wind up renting that room? Where did everyone get their period correct clothes? What a goofy episode. And the whole Mark Twain thing (and Jack London) was mostly idiotic except for when Troi taught him about how much better the future is. All around waste of a two part series finale / starter. Ugh.

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This concludes the Combray section. The final image of his room going out (or coming into) focus, his recalling Hawthorns when running into a friend, his longing to be kissed by his mother and his despondency at not being kissed: his foundation of memory, a language individual to the mind. I love how he mistakes the brass curtain rod for daylight and how we remember the invalid at the start who longs for company.

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He has an almost sexual reaction to the hawthorn flowers in the church and then again when he’s in Swann’s park when he sees Gilberte who is holding a spade. Is this a death image? Is there a Freudian meaning here? At least now I know why it’s called Swann’s Way because of which door they exit when they go on a walk all together while Francoise is probably killing another chicken “filthy creature”.

Episode 5-26, Time’s Arrow Part I

Strange season ending cliffhanger but it’s a really fun episode with a genuine mystery. I have no idea where this is leading since I’ve never seen this one before. I love the moment when Data looks first at Troi then at Riker as he tries to figure out why the are acting strange around him. It’s amazing how human Data feels over these past 5 seasons without Spiner having to overact it, it’s so subtle that you almost don’t realize he’s acting.

Episode 5-24, The Next Phase

Michelle Forbes really kicked ass in her few episodes and she would have been phenomenal on DS9. This was a fun episode, though the Romulan plot to blow up the Enterprise sort of gets forgotten in the end. Also the science in this one is pretty bad: they can’t interact with any physical object, but their feet are firmly planted on the ground?

Episode 5-23, I Borg

I remember when First Contact came out and while everyone loved the movie, a lot of people complained about their being a Borg queen, but I always considered her to be a result of this episode. Individually would not destroy the Borg, they would adapt it somehow while still remaining mostly Borg. The really interesting aspect of this episode is the ethical concern of using a living being as a means to kill its entire species. Is killing every mosquito on earth ethical because they spread malaria? This episode side steps giving an answer by allowing Hugh to rejoin the Borg in hope that individuality will infect them, but the question remains: is killing an entire species ethical?

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I love how the deeper I get into the novel the more it feels I am living with this family. I look forward to his grandmother’s walks in the rain, his Aunt’s disappointment with having too many visitors at once, or knowing how a scene is repeated as when he didn’t look at his uncle, an event which was never reconciled, to when his father thinks he ignored on the street by someone he knew and we feel the pain of it.

Episode 5-22, Imaginary Friend

Imaginary Friend is really good, though a bit odd since it mostly revolves around 2 kids, both of whom are good good little actresses. I like the premise of an imaginary friend becoming real as well as how family life on a starship would be tough on a kid, but the point if view the alien takes is kinda dumb since it just assumes the grownups are just a bunch of meanies and deserve to die. Still, a solid scifi story and it’s nice to see Guinan again – she’s been gone all season.

Episode 5-20, Cost of Living

Yea, another Lwaxana episode! These are always my favorite. This one had a particularly bittersweet moment when Majel Barrett (as Lwaxana) talks about being alone and you could tell she was thinking of her husband, Gene Roddenberry who had passed away not long before. The episode itself was not great with the b story of a metal eating parasite nearly destroying the Enterprise and even the reason for Lwaxana to be on board was a silly story, but her scenes with Worf’s son, Alexander, were very charming.

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Sometimes we know we’re reading a great book when the author says something we’ve always intuited but were never able to put into words. Often this happens once, maybe twice in a really great novel. When it happens more than twice, such as in War and Peace or Ulysses or reading Emily Dickinson or George Oppen, we know we’re inside the realm of pure genius. But when it happens page after page, it’s almost terrifying.

Episode 5-19, The First Duty

The First Duty is an actually good Wesley episode, but mostly because of Robert Duncan MacNeill (pre Mr. Paris) and Ray Walston as the fabled Boothby we’ve heard so much about. The episode does a nice job of showing how high pressure a Starfleet commission can be and the insanely high standards for all cadets. It was also nice to see how those expectations broke Wesley since his desire to fit in outweighed his better judgment (at least till he finally; predictably) confessed.

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I was thinking about how when you’re a child the days last forever – time is so much more stretched out and rich when everything is new. Proust recreates that sensation, he luxuriates in the smallest details, and all the details connect: a leaf in the moonlight, the smell of the varnish, the sound of the bells, and the taste of cake dipped in tea. This feels like what Bergson was trying to say to Einstein about time.

Episode 5-18, Cause and Effect

Cause and Effect is fun. Watching shows on streaming is odd because they were always designed to have a few minutes long commercial break which gives the show time to transition between acts, sort of like waiting for stage hands to dress the stage in live theater. And a lot of episodes feel rushed because they no longer have a break, but this one actually benefits from the compressed time and makes the time loop disaster more urgent. Overall the story is very basic and the same few scenes play out roughly the same each time, but it’s a fun episode and the surprise Kelsey Grammar as captain is pretty cool, too.

Episode 5-17, The Outcast

The Outcast is an incredible episode. First of all the dialogue is incredibly well written, the chemistry between Riker and Soren is excellent, and the story is first rate classic Trek. It’s so good, Geordi grew a beard! But seriously, this is vintage Trek in using sci fi to explore contemporary social issues, in this case gender issues, but also gay and lesbian issues. Yet other than a good speech at the end that makes the case for treating people who are different no better or worse than “normal” people, the real weight of the episode is in getting to know Soren and seeing that relationship evolve naturally so that we care about Soren without having to be told how and what to think. This episode builds genuine empathy for Soren. Great, and heartbreaking episode.

Episode 5-16, Ethics

Ethics is another of the great Trek episodes. Part of its greatness is that it has elements of an over arching story with Worf’s son, Alexander. Having this history already in place makes the “miracle” of Worf’s recovery a legitimately earned emotional element and not just a convenient plot resolution. But what really makes this episode great is all the ethical concerns around Worf’s decision to want to commit suicide, which Riker is opposed to but Picard respects, and Beverly’s concern with a doctor who takes too many risks, even if it might save lives and which, again, Picard goes along with. The episode does make it clear which side they agree with but the episode is strong enough to still leave you mulling over all possibilities as being valid.

Episode 5-15, Power Play

Power Play is great right up until the “prisoners” give up and go back to the surface. But even with a convenient ending it was a fun episode, not groundbreaking, but fun. Episodes like this are part of the reason why the show sort of drags since it’s just a basic scifi story that doesn’t really do anything bigger. DS9’s story arcs made for even simple stories to at least feel like they were part of something bigger.