Viewing posts tagged TNG Season 2

Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Reading Guide

Longtime Vaka Rangi readers may remember that I have a small tradition of making episode guide/reading list posts whenever I finish covering Big Eras of the project. The hypothetical situation is that someone who is new to the show and yet for some reason *doesn't* want to marathon binge-watch it as is the standard way of consuming TV these days could theoretically be interested in my recommendations for the best stories so as to emphasize the cream of the crop while avoiding filler and missteps. Each entry has a link to my essay on the story for those who might want to revisit them.

I first did something like this when, following a joke Kevin Burns made to me about Futurama, I was challenged to find "20 Good Episodes" of the Original Star Trek. TOS fans will likely be annoyed as there's probably more episodes from that show one could recommend (and I *still* would have chosen different episodes after publishing Vaka Rangi Volume 1), but I wanted to limit myself to 20 following the conceit of the game so I was far harsher in my choices than I might otherwise have been. I didn't do ...

“All their greatest hits, together at last”: Shades of Gray

The scene where Letek and his away team react with horror at the fact that Tasha is allowed to work alongside her male crewmates as an equal, and even *wears clothes*, is actually brilliant: Letek's objection ticks all of the misogynistic pseudo-feminist boxes-He bemoans how Earth women are “forced” to work and wear clothes, arguing that the Ferengi prohibition of such things is a more noble and respectful treatment of women. Just think about how many male chauvanists have tried to keep women from holding the same positions of men while phrasing it as if they're concerned about their well-being or consider women in some sense too special to do that sort of thing, or how many “Strong Female Characters” (in the Kate Beaton sense) refer to bras as “unnatural restraints”. It's a dead-on satire of patriarchal gender norms and assumptions in contemporary Western culture. 

Lieutenant Commander Data, played by Brent Spiner, is an android built by “unknown aliens” who left him with the combined memories of their people before they vanished. Data was found by a Federation research team who reactivated him, and ...

“Except, perhaps, a casual familiarity”: Peak Performance

The title has a double meaning.

A war game is meant to be a test of someone's prospective performance in a real combat scenario. But it itself is also a performance; an exaggerated caricature meant to stand in for a supposedly real thing. Symbols and objects are one and the same and the idea of a war is a real war, but paradoxically it's the very unreality of war games that makes them in the remotest sense ethically defensible. Captain Picard is only half right when he says that “Starfleet is not a military organisation” and that “its purpose is exploration”, of course: He and his crew may think of themselves as explorers and scientists rather than soldiers, but Starfleet is very much a “military organisation”-That is, in fact, its single greatest flaw.

Which is why it's so interesting that the Enterprise should play a war game explicitly in lieu of the recent revelation of the Borg's existence. Kolrami thinks this is a needed precaution to prepare for open warfare against the Borg but, even though he's the only one so far who has witnessed firsthand ...

“I'm half human. On my mother's side.”: The Emissary

Yeah, I could have made a really cheeky joke about Benjamin Sisko and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine here, but I didn't feel like it.

Although she only makes four actual appearances across the franchise, Suzie Plakson is one of Star Trek's most beloved and memorable guest stars. She's an incredibly talented performer who can work wonders with parts of any size and wields the broad-strokes brush incredibly deftly. We've already seen her once this season as Doctor Selar in “The Schizoid Man”, the specialist who studies Ira Graves and who Captain Picard calls in to help discern what's happened to Data. Her most memorable Star Trek role, however, is unquestionably K'Ehleyr, who is introduced in “The Emissary”.

K'Ehleyr's existence is something of a messy subject in the history of Star Trek: The Next Generation. There's a massively problematic aspect of her character arc (really, the entire arc itself), but that doesn't come into play until the fourth season, so I'll save complaining about it until then. At this point, K'Ehleyr is just a one-off guest character: Merely one ...

“You Can Go Your Own Way”: Up The Long Ladder, Manhunt

I've no particular lead in to these two episodes. They're both bad, and they're both bad in ways that are easily explainable and honestly don't bear much repeating at this point. One would imagine that as the production year finally drew to a close and the slush pile of scripts finally dried up, things would start to get more formulaic and more desperate...which they do.

I'll say this for “Up The Long Ladder”, though: It's impressive that Melinda Snodgrass is credited with penning both one of the absolute best episodes in the series (“The Measure of a Man”) and one of the absolute worst (well, this). Knowing who the author is, it is worth attempting to come up with at least some defense of “Up The Long Ladder”, because science fiction fans are all too eager to poke holes in stories written by women. And there are very noble roots in its conception: Snodgrass meant for it to be an overt attack on anti-immigrant sentiments in general and the United States immigration policy in particular. Snodgrass wanted to convey how immigration policies are deliberately designed ...

“Oh Yupa! I don't want to go to war!”: Samaritan Snare

There's a joke I read in Cracked magazine once that stuck with me and that I enjoy paraphrasing. It was in an article about no-budget knockoff animated films and is along the lines of “the most good these movies could ever do is inspiring a baby to pursue a life of filmmaking through helping them realise they could actually have done better themselves”. Though it's describing an undeniably more negative form of inspiration arguably tied to a certain egoism, the joke definitely touches on a real phenomenon. Sometimes art sparks our creativity not because we resonate with its message and sentiment so much as we are incensed at its structural incompetence.

It's become a common story in fan circles that “Samaritan Snare” is a textbook example of this, as it upset writers Dennis Russell Bailey, David Bischoff and Lisa Putnam White so much in its opening moments that it drove them to write “Tin Man” a year later in a deliberate attempt to show a production team they considered to be wholly and completely incompetent how “proper” Star Trek should be written. In a now somewhat infamous interview, Bailey ...

“There's a terrible hatred hiding inside of me. I won't be able to control it anymore.”: Q Who

One thing should be established right away: This is not the first Borg episode. It is, depending on how you count, anywhere from the third to the fifth, with the deciding factor being how you choose to view “Angel One”, “Coming of Age”, “Conspiracy” and/or “The Neutral Zone”. “Q Who” is not a last ditch effort to give a floundering Star Trek: The Next Generation a life-saving jolt of creative restructuring, it itself is the strangled product of a powerless production team trying to sync up and distill half-formed, disparate and mutually contradictory ideas left behind by their predecessors in an attempt to keep the show as it exists now running a little bit longer.

The only reason, for example, the Borg look the way they do is because it would have been too expensive to make them insectoid as Maurice Hurley originally imagined them, thus severing this episode's link to “Coming of Age”/“Conspiracy”. Furthermore, the writer's guild strike prevented anyone from penning a proper follow-up to “The Neutral Zone” (not to mention the ...

“Shut up, Wesley!”: The Dauphin, Pen Pals

Part of the original justification for adding a child character to Star Trek: The Next Generation was to show how regular teenagers could come to terms with regular teenage issues in a utopian setting such as this. The idea was that in this place and at this time, teenagers' perspectives would be valued and respected as much as those of any other person, and they would be able to resolve their inner conflicts in ways kids don't always have the opportunity to do in the real world. It's a nice conceit, and you can see how it would be in theory easy to weave this theme in as a manifestation of the show's children's television for adults motif.

And then there's Wesley Crusher. And episodes like these.

Both of these episodes deal in some way with developing Wesley as a character and both of them fail pretty conclusively at it. To be fair to “The Dauphin” and “Pen Pals”, there isn't really a whole lot for them to actually go off of ...

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