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Star Trek: The Next Generation 2.1 (The Child)

01a-3Cast:
Diana Muldaur (Dr. Katherine Pulaski)
Colm Meaney (Miles O’Brien)
Whoopi Goldberg(Guinan)
Seymour Cassel (Lt. Cmdr. Hester Dealt)
R.J. Williams(Ian Andrew Troi)
Dawn Arnemann (Miss Gladstone)
Zachery Benjamin (Young Ian)
Dore Keller (Crewman)

Writers: Maurice Hurley, Jon Povill, Jaron Summers

Aaargh!  What the hell is going on?  Worf and Geordi have changed job (and uniform), as has Beverly – in fact she has moved off the Enterprise, and Wesley is supposed to be going with her!  She has been replaced by a McCoy clone called Katherine Pulaski.  Also, we have a bar called Ten Forward complete with a barkeep that we have never seen before, Guinan.  Wesley has been put in a slightly less horrible costume, and we can see less of Riker’s face as he is hiding behind a beard.

Okay, so it made sense that Worf would officially take over the Security job (he has been acting head of security since Tasha died towards the end of last season) and Geordi also has a lot more to do now (again, he quite often did some engineering bits last year so it is not a total bolt out of the blue, at least we don’t get a different chief every other week!)  Oh, and they have made Worf’s makeup better.

But that is quite a lot of changes for a viewer to take in, and it does feel like we are shedding cast what with Tasha leaving three episodes ago and now Beverly – hell, at least we got a goodbye scene for Tasha, although it was horrible.  There are more changed between this episode and the last than at any point on the old series.

Any why the hell didn’t Wesley go with his Mum at the same time she left?  It doesn’t make sense – unless the stress of moving home and the stress of having that little git around whilst she did it would have just tipped her over the edge – I can see the conversation now: “Captain, please look after him for a few weeks, or I will end up killing myself!”

As for the episode – well, this was apparently a script for the aborted Star Trek: Phase II series.  Basically, a formless creature floats into Deanna Troi (and even I was suprised when I first saw this about which orriface it is suggested the form enters her by) and she has a baby.  Meanwhile, some specimens that are needed to cure a plague start growing when they shouldn’t and threaten to infect the whole Enterprise.  It turns out that the baby (which grows rapidly and is a young man by the end of the episode) is releasing a kind of radiation that causes the plague sample to grow, so the child kills itself (not by stabbing itself or jumping into the warp core, he just kind of switches off).  It turns out that it was just a creature that wanted to understand humanity by being one!

Oh, and Guinan talks Wesley into staying.  Bitch.

Crew Deaths: 0
Total Crew Deaths So Far: 4
Score: 6/10

September 12, 2008 Posted by | accelerated ageing, chief o'brien, disease/sickness, formless creature, guinan | | Leave a comment

Star Trek: The Next Generation 1.25 (The Neutral Zone)

romulamCast:
Gracie Harrison (Clare Raymond)
Leon Rippy(Sonny Clemonds)
Anthony James(Sub-Cmdr. Thei)
Marc Alaimo(Cmdr. Tebok)
Peter Mark Richman(Ralph Offenhouse)

Writers: Deborah McIntyre, Maurice Hurley

Odd episode, this.  For the first two seasons, we don’t get the big two part story split over the season break.  At the end of season one, we get this.

Describe it, and it sounds rather dull.  Firstly, there are three people from 1990’s Earth who were frozen after their deaths and shot off into space.  Data finds a capsule full of people like this – most are decomposed, but three are not, so they are revived and cured of what killed them.

It is quite interesting as these characters are used to show the difference between the enlightened 24th Century and the backward 20th.  Of the three, the most sympathetic is Clare – her husband, she assumes, has her frozen as she knew nothing about it.  Sonny Clemonds, a drug taking heavy drinking guitar player doesn’t seem to care too much (he actually gets the best line – “We won’t be inviting these Romulans so our party, will we”) and Ralph who can’t get his head around the fact that capitalism has been and gone.

Woven around this is a mission to go to the Neutral Zone near the Romulan empire where several Federation outposts have been destroyed.  We are re-introduced to the Romulan Empire (one is played by Marc Alaimo, who will later become Gul Dukat on Deep Space Nine) and we find out that some of their outposts have also been destroyed, revealing that bigger things are going to come…

It’s not bad at all, considering it is such a simple idea.  The thought that there is something out there bigger and badder than the Romulans that is capable of scooping whole cities up is interesting, but it is not until much later that we find out who is behind it…

Crew Deaths: 0
Total Crew Deaths So Far: 4
Score: 7/10

September 10, 2008 Posted by | people from the past, planetary population destroyed, romulans | | Leave a comment

Star Trek: The Next Generation 1.24 (Conspiracy)

292px-dexter_remmickCast:
Ursaline Bryant(Capt. Tryla Scott)
Michael Berryman(Capt. Rixx)
Ray Reinhardt (Admiral Aaron)
Jonathan Farwell (Capt. Walker Keel)
Ward Costello (Admiral Quinn)
Henry Darrow(Admiral Savar)
Robert Schenkkan(Lt. Cmdr. Dexter Remmick)

Writers: Robert Sabaroff, Tracy Tormé

The opening fifteen minutes or so of this episode are very good indeed.  Without showing anything – just an illicit meeting between four Starship Captains on a rock in the middle of nowhere – you suddenly get a sense of the fact that something Big Deal is happening.  The revelation a few minutes later that one of the ships that met up has since been destroyed is quite shocking.  The Captain – Walker Keel – was an old friend of Picard and Crusher.

So they go back to Earth – another big deal, since this is the first time this series has visited the home of the Federation (we didn’t even go there in episode one).  We meet up with Admiral Quinn from a few episodes ago – and he is clearly different.

The episode goes downhill from this point.  There is a fight in which we see someone kicked through some room doors, which collapse.  Surely that person should have been in great pain with broken bones rather than going through the door.

And the race that has taken people over is quite creepy – although the stop motion movement of the creature looks rather clunky in these days of CGI, although Remmicks death scene is good.  (Incidentally, the BBC cut that actual moment from the episode because they considered it too violent for the time slot.  Yet the clip in the final episode of season 2 which shows the moment again was overlooked).

It seems unlikely that such a race could get such a foothold in the Federation, so although there are some genuinely violent and scary moments, you can’t quite help feeling that it would never have happened.  Also, the final scene of the episode suggests that there is more to come, which never happens in the run of this show or any of the sequels.

There is a lot of death in this story – the whole crew of the USS Horratio, Remmick, several admirals, yet none of the Enterprise crew die.

So, quite an interesting episode, but possibly a bit overrated by fans.

Crew Deaths: 0
Total Crew Deaths So Far: 4
Score: 6.5/10

September 5, 2008 Posted by | admiral quinn, death of a recurring character, destruction of a starfleet ship, mind control, rogue captains, set on earth, vulcans | | Leave a comment

Star Trek: The Next Generation 1.23 (We’ll always have Paris)

parisCast:
Michelle Phillips(Jenice Manheim)
Lance Spellerberg (Chief Herbert)
Jean-Paul Vignon (Edouard)
Dan Kern (Lt. Dean)
Isabel Lorca (Gabrielle)
Rod Loomis(Dr. Paul Manheim)
Kelly Ashmore (Francine)

Writers: Deborah Dean Davis, Hannah Shearer

This is a funny bugger of an episode.  It is basically a meeting between old lovers – Picard and the now married Jenice Manheim.  The twist is that her husband is doing these strange experiments that lead to odd time anomalies.

And that’s it.  There’s no real threat, there’s no chance of this couple getting back together, nobody dies.  Really it’s a character piece with a time anomaly thrown in!

The time anomaly scenes are fun – I especially liked the moment where Riker, Picard and Data walk into a lift, and when the doors open the past versions of themselves are outside the lift having the conversation they were having when they entered the lift – and then they interact with themselves.

Then later in the episode, as Data has to put antimatter into the anomaly to close it properly, there are suddenly three of him and they don’t know which one exists in the correct time frame to insert the antimatter.  Then one of that Data’s exclaims “it’s me” with no explanation as to how he knows.

Also, the vision of the Paris of the future was not that great.  I looks as though it got flattened at some point and rebuilt from scratch – only the Eiffel Tower seems to have survived.  And the person who ran the cafe was rather happy for Picard to take in the view without ordering anything.  It would have been more realistic for him to say “order something or piss off!”

I don’t hate this.  It’s okay, but nothing special.  And very difficult to say much about!

Crew Deaths: 0
Total Crew Deaths So Far: 4
Score: 5/10

September 3, 2008 Posted by | anomaly (spacial/temporal), asteroid, disease/sickness, doubles or duplicates, exes, time travel | | Leave a comment

Star Trek: The Next Generation 1.22 (Skin of Evil)

tasha-skinofevilCast:
Brad Zerbst (Nurse)
Walker Boone (Assistant Chief Engineer Lynch)
Mart McCesney(Armus)
Ron Gans(Voice of Armus)
Raymond Forchion(Lt. Ben Prieto)

Writers: Hannah Shearer, Joseph Stefano

This episode is a mixture of the surprisingly well done and the completely bloody awful.  As anyone reading this knows (and if they don’t where the hell have you been for the last 21 years!) this is the episode in which Lt. Tasha Yar is brutally killed by a shitty blobby black oil slick thingy.

Armus itself (the black oil thingy) is rather badly realised – when it moves it looks like very bad early CG or a dreadfully awful bit of hand animation.  In fact, you will be pig sick of the “effects shot” of it absorbing/leaving the shuttlecraft by the end of the episode.  The idea, however, of a literal “skin of evil” that is abandoned on a planet so that the race that left it there are no longer afflicted by those emotions and behaviours is a good one.  During one of the conversations you get between it and Troi you realise that this thing takes a sadistic pleasure in inflicting pain.  And the only two good bits in the episode are the actual death of Yar (rather suddenly quite near the start – if you were expecting something big deal don’t – it’s very sudden and actually rather well done.   In fact, it is so sudden if you did not know she was going to die you probably expected her to be bought back from the dead before the end).  I also liked the scene where Riker was absorbed into the oil slick, and indeed the moment where he is spat out – that is actually quite scary.

However, the resolution, that Troi bores the energy out of it, enabling her to be beamed away (okay, that’s not what they actually say happens, but it is how it comes across on screen) is bad, and the final, mawkish scene on the holodeck is enough to make one sick, as Tasha says goodbye to all of her mates.  Cue vomit!

So, a surprising episode.  Surprisingly bad for a show where a cast member is killed.  There will not be many more of these, and the others are done much better!

Crew Deaths: 1 (Tasha)
Total Crew Deaths So Far: 4
Score: 2/10

August 30, 2008 Posted by | death of regular character, formless creature, post death message | | 1 Comment

Star Trek: The Next Generation 1.21 (Symbiosis)

Cast:
Richard Lineback(Romas)
Merritt Butrick(T’Jon)
Judson Scott(Sobi)
Kimberly Farr(Langor)

Writers: Robert Lewin, Hans Beimler, Richard Manning

This episode is based on an interesting idea (so interesting, in fact, apparently Denise Crosby asked to be in this one, even though the episode in which she died had already been recorded!)  However, as usual with promising episodes from this early on in the series, it is delivered rather badly.

The Enterprise rescue some people from a ship which is about to crash.  When they are unable to help them fix it and the ship burns up, they sacrifice some of the crew to beam a container with a drug in it.  It all turns out that the two planets in this system have a symbiotic relationship (hence the title).  One lot produce a drug which is the cure to a plague that the others are suffering from.  But it turns out to be a narcotic and the symptoms that the addicts think is the start of their deaths is nothing more than withdrawal symptoms and the plague does not exist.

This episode contains two actors from The Wrath of Khan– Merritt Butrick (who played Kirks son David, and Judson Scott who played Khan’s Lieutenant).

The idea is sound, the delivery is very dull.  Coupled with the fact that both races have an ability to electrocute each other with their bare hands and you are left with a silly, inconsequential story with almost no merit.

A nice idea, wasted.

Crew Deaths: 0
Total Crew Deaths So Far: 3
Score: 4/10

August 26, 2008 Posted by | disease/sickness | | 1 Comment

Star Trek: The Next Generation 1.20 (The Arsenal of Freedom)

Cast:
Vincent Schiavelli (Peddler)
Marco Rodriguez (Capt. Paul Rice)
Vyto Ruginis (Chief Engineer Logan)
Julia Nickson(Ensign Lian T’Su)
George de la Peña(Lt. Jnr. Grade. Orfil Solis)

Writer: Maurice Hurley, Robert Lewin, Hans Beimler, Richard Manning

The Enterprise investigates the missing USS Drake and they go to the planet Minos.  They receive a broadcast (which appears to be an advert for weapons manufacture).  The Drake was visiting the planet because all of the population have gone missing.

They beam down.  Crusher and Picard fall down a big hole, and the others (Tasha, Data and Riker) are chased by a probe that gets more and more difficult to destroy each time it appears.  Also, a massive version of the same probe attacks the Enterprise (of which Geordi is now in command).  Eventually Picard comes across the control centre of the machines (conveniently in the same hole he and Crusher fell down) and agrees to buy the weapons that are being demonstrated, which shuts the demonstration models off in the nick of time.  It turns out the people of Minos were destroyed by their own creations…

It is not very good, this one.  The opening moments where they get the transmisson of the advert come straight out of The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy(although not as good) and the level of coincidence reach stupid levels when it is revealed that the killer drone things are controlled from where Picard and Crusher come from.  And the set of the exteriors on the planet is the worst kind of crap soundstage.

There is some good.  There are some nice character moments for Geordi (who takes command, and has a row with yet another chief engineer) and also a bit of back story for Beverly (who was living in a colony where there was a major disaster when she was young).  But all in all the actual story is rubbish and it looks very, very cheap!

Crew Deaths: 0
Total Crew Deaths So Far: 3
Score: 4/10

August 25, 2008 Posted by | destruction of a starfleet ship, planetary population destroyed | | 1 Comment

Star Trek: The Next Generation 1.19 (Heart of Glory)

Cast:
Vaughn Armstrong(Captain Korris)
Charles Hyman(Lt. Konmel)
David Froman(K’nera)
Robert Bauer(Kunivas)
Brad Zerbst (Nurse)
Dennis Madalone (Ramos)

Writers: Maurice Hurley, Herbert Wright, D.C. Fontana

Three Klingons are found aboard a shot up freighter just inside the Romulan Neutral Zone.  They are beamed so safety aboard the Enterprise just as the ship finally explodes.  (And note, this another reference to the Romulans who we have still not seen on this show).  The Klingons do their best to work on Worf and get him on side by appealing to the Klingon side of his nature, trying to tell him that the peace between the Federation and the Klingons is making the Klingon heart wither and die.  It turns out the freighter they were on was attacked by another Klingon vessel.  Then the Klingon Command gets in touch with the Enterprise and alert Picard to the fugitive status of his “guests”.  The Klingons try to take hostages but are soon put into holding cells, but they have weapons concealed in parts of their clothing which they assemble and use to escape (killing two security guards).  One of the Klingons also dies but the Captain makes it to engineering and threatens to shoot the dilithium chamber which would destroy the ship.  Worf shoots him dead.

This is the first time we get to hear the details of Worf’s back story – the attack at Khitomer, his adoption by human parents.  This will be gone into in a lot more detail as the series goes on – later on in the run Worf’s father is accused of betraying Khitomer and causing the attack.

It is also the first decent Klingon episode, and these guys come across as the proper death or glory type chaps who we know from the films.  We have had only one member of crew die in the series so far – and that was an accident – but here these guys kill two security guards in cold blood.

There are a couple of dodgy points – the moment the two surviving Klingons reveal the truth about their background, Worf should have reported it immediately to someone and he did not.  Also, there is a moment of truly shockingly bad acting from Denise Crosby – Picard orders her to the transporter room, and she does not move until he says something else.  She waited for him to complete his line, when actually if it was a real situation you would not have known the second part of the comment was coming and Tasha would have set off for the transporter room as soon as Picard told her to leave.  I’m surprised the director did not pick up on this, it looks truly shit.

But these are minor points.  It is not a complex story, but the acting is good and the story solid.  You appreciate for the first time that there is more to the Klingons than you might think, that the alliance is not perceived as a good thing by all of them.  It’s a good introduction to this race on this show, and more is coming!

Crew Deaths: 2
Total Crew Deaths So Far: 3
Score: 7/10

August 12, 2008 Posted by | klingons | | 1 Comment

Star Trek: The Next Generation 1.18 (Coming of Age)

Cast:
Ward Costello(Admiral Gregroy Quinn)
Robert Schenkkan(Lt. Cmdr. Dexter Remmick)
John Putch(Mordock)
Robert Ito(Tac. Officer Chang)
Stephen Gregory(Jake Kurland)
Tasia Valenza(T’Shanik)
Estee Chandler(Oliana Mirren)
Brendan McKane (Technician #1)
Wyatt Knight (Technician #2)
Daniel Riordan(Rondon)

Writer: Sandy Fries

This is one of those episodes where there are two distinct plot strands that do not relate to each other at all (suggesting that neither is strong enough to carry the episode on their own).  The first is Wesley taking the StarFleet Academy entrance exam.  Whilst interesting, it really could not carry the episode.  Wesley goes through various tests, including the psyche test, which tests his greatest fear.  Whilst he does rather well, he does not get in on this occasion.  It is the first of a number of episodes where the carrot of Wesley leaving is dangled tantalisingly in front of the audience only to be cruelly snatched away. 

This plot has one of the worst effects on this series – there is a corridor where Wesley has an altercation with a chap with webbed fingers.  The continuation of the corridor is a blatant photograph, and it looks utterly shit, not worthy of this series.  (As I recall, the happens once more, much later, perhaps even season seven, and it is worse!)

I also don’t like the fact that only one person from this test can get into StarFleet.  Surely they wouldn’t turn someone away who did really well just because they didn’t come top?  It’s silly.

The other plot strand is the arrival of two people aboard the Enterprise – Picard’s old friend Admiral Gregory Quinn and his assistant Dexter Remmick.  Quinn tells Remmick that there is something wrong on the Enterprise and Remmick is to find it.  Remmick sets about this task with glee, bossing people around both above his level and below him.  We get to see a lot of questions that seem to be aimed at tearing Picard apart – the questions are loaded and also make reference to several episodes that we have already seen.  It is done very very well and unlike the previous strand it would certainly have carried the show had it only been part of the story.  And for most of the episode we really don’t know what the hell is going on – why is Quinn seemingly out to discredit Picard?

The only point where the stories meet is when a friend of Wesley’s (who is upset because he has not made it to the StarFleet entrance exam) steals a shuttle to run away, the whole operation to rescue him when the shuttle breaks down and is about to lose its orbit is witnessed by Remmick (Picard even tells him to stop interjecting or he will be removed from the bridge).  Picard saves the day in a moment that genuinely makes you punch the air (not because you care whether Wesleys irritating friends dies or not, but because Picard has one over on Remmick).

Remmick questions everyone, and even goes below the belt when he tries to upset Beverly by referring to the fact that her husband died under Picards command.  Naturally, she blows him out.  Picard eventually loses his rag and demands to know from the Admiral what the hell is going on.  Remmick reveals that he can find nothing at all wrong aboard the ship.  Quinn finally reveals that there is some form of conspiracy within StarFleet and wants to recruit Picard into keeping an eye out for signs.  Actually, he wants to promote Picard and put him in the Academy, which Picard says no to.  (He also says he doesn’t do politics, which is rubbish, as we get to see in some superb Klingon episodes down the line!)

This is the first time we have had a dangling plot thread on any Star Trek apart from the movies, and whilst it is resolved fairly quickly (this season in fact) we do get to see a lot more later.  Although a lot of the time The Next Generation, like the original series, is standalone episodes it is the ability to successfully create plot strands that feature in multiple (if not consecutive) episodes that makes, for me anyway, this show superior to the original.

This is the first time we have seen the real potential of this show.  If only the whole episode had concentrated on the investigation/conspiracy plot, it would have been utterly superb.

Crew Deaths: 0
Total Crew Deaths So Far: 1
Score: 7.5/10

July 31, 2008 Posted by | admiral quinn, benzite, lt. cmdr. dexter remmick, starfleet academy, stolen ship or shuttlecraft, vulcans | | 2 Comments

Star Trek: The Next Generation 1.17 (Home Soil)

Cast:
Walter Gotell(Kurt Mandl)
Elizabeth Lindsey (Louisa Kim)
Gerard Prendergast (Bjorn Benson)
Carolyne Barry (Female Engineer)
Mario Roccuzzo(Arthur Malencon)

Writers: Karl Geurs, Ralph Sanchez, Robert Sabaroff

This is the other episode from Season One that was never released as part of the original UK Rental VHS set – they released 24 out of 26 episodes.  As with the other, you can see why they didn’t bother.  Good it ain’t.

The Enterprise crew visit a planet where some Terraformers are converting what is basically a rock into a biosphere capable of sustaining human life.  In the first ten minutes or so we are given a quite detailed account of how this process is supposed to work (I would almost argue too much detail).  Then as soon as we know what these guys are up to, one of the scientists is killed by what appears to be a faulty laser drill.  It then attacks Data.  The race is on to find out what is going on.

Of course, naturally the crew assume that one of the remaining terraformers must be the saboteur who reprogrammed the drill.  They quickly find some kind of life form that lives in the salt water that is being killed by the terraforming process.  They beam a sample up to the Enterprise, and it gets bigger, resists analysis, starts communicating via the computer and breaks through the quarantine seal and takes control of the ship. 

The story is very dull indeed.  The life form refers to humans as “ugly bags of mostly water.”  The voice is embarrassing.  They start referring to the life form as a “micro brain”.  They find out that it uses energy from the lights to reproduce.  So they defeat it by turning the lights off, talk it down and beam it back down to the planet.  The terraformers have to find another planet to mess about with.

I am trying to find something positive about this mess of an episode.  It takes them ages to try and beam it back down to the planet – one of the first things I would have tried as soon as it looked as though they might not be able to control it.  The episode only lasts for forty five minutes. If feels like hours!

Crew Deaths: 0
Total Crew Deaths So Far: 1
Score: 3/10

July 28, 2008 Posted by | inorganic life form, ship/station taken over | | 2 Comments