Viewing posts tagged TNG Season 3

“The Duke”: Allegiance, Captain's Holiday

Pictured: Not Captain Picard.
With the show's newfound brief to focus on character interiority, we've seen the creative team work hard to come up with a specific conception of who exactly these characters are. Now, it's more than possible to argue that our main cast already had characterization, it was just characterization that was different then what this team eventually decided on and made canon (indeed, I think that's precisely what happened), but regardless, the fact is the third season has had a series of episodes dedicated to nailing down a new set of personality traits for the Enterprise crew: We had “Evolution” for Wesley, “Booby Trap” for Geordi, “The Enemy” and “Sins of the Father” for Worf, “The High Ground” for Doctor Crusher, “The Ensigns of Command”, “The Defector” and “The Offspring” for Data, “The Vengeance Factor” and, uh, “A Matter of Perspective” for Commander Riker and, um, “The Price” for Deanna Troi.

Yeah, that doesn't look so hot all laid out on paper now, does it?

The thing about this is that while this season in general and these episodes in particular get credit for ...

“...the most offending soul alive”: Sins of the Father

What “The Enemy” was for the Romulans, “Sins of the Father” is for the Klingons.

This episode is frequently held up as an important turning point for the series and rightly so, as it defines a lot about what Star Trek: The Next Generation (and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine too, for that matter) is going to look like going forward. But “Sins of the Father” is also the kind of episode that's exceedingly difficult for me to write about as it's been extensively analysed and historicized by just about every major publication to cover the franchise. This is the kind of episode I hate because it leaves me with perishingly little new erudition to add to the glut of discourse that already exists. Yes, yes, this episode sets in stone pretty much everything we think of when we think of Worf and the Klingons, yes it's a strong character piece and yes it's a major step in the development of more explicit serialization in episodic Star Trek. Yes, the award-winning set design and ...

“Reproductive futurism”: The Offspring

“The Offspring” sees us introduced to another new face who will become a reoccurring figure on Star Trek: The Next Generation and beyond. Not, perhaps controversially, Data's daughter Lal, but the story's writer René Echevarria. Like Ron Moore, Echevarria is another success story of the open submissions policy, discovered on the back of his spec script (this one) and then asked to come out to join the writing staff by Michael Piller. It just takes a little bit longer with Echevarria, who doesn't come on full time until next year, despite having one more submission this season.

Indeed it's a something of a miracle he managed to last even that long, considering he's another in a long line of writers who, by his own admission, waltzed into the writer's room convinced he was going to teach them how to write Star Trek because he was a die-hard Original Series fan unreasonably upset at Star Trek: The Next Generation. Ira Behr jokingly recalls his first impression of his future collaborator being that of ...

“Dreams Reoccurring”:Yesterday's Enterprise

A volley of canon-fire and the future we had anticipated disappears in a cloud of cosmic dust.

A vision of my past life stands before me, its sparkling azure hue as vibrant and as clear as I always remember it to be. Memories wash over me as I'm reminded of the person I was and the way I saw things before. Hope for a future that never came, but perhaps should have.

My past, present and future exist at once together because time is not what we think it is. The grand cycle of the cosmos turns over once again and we find ourselves once more where it all began. We exist and we live. It's not linear, but we live. We are defined by the power of the moment that can last both a brief instant and for all eternity at the same time. To remove or deny those moments is to deny identity, for it is through living in these moments that we learn who we are.

Symbols have meaning and power, but it won't always be the same for every person in every context. I can ...

“That's not how I remember it!”: A Matter of Perspective

Possibly the single most iconic shot of the season.
One common story structure going forward from here is what's been described by numerous writing staff as, essentially “Let's Do X”, where X is some non-Star Trek work of fiction that the show can bang out a more-or-less straightforward translation of with minimal edits needed to translate the story to a science fiction setting. Arguably the most prominent example we've seen so far could be called “Let's Do Moby-Dick”, as the Original Series did that an astonishing three times over the course of its existence, the first two impressively even being in the same filming block, and the rest of the franchise promptly decided that wasn't overkill enough and did it three more times.

But that's not exactly what I'm talking about here: Nicholas Meyer (and a fair few Original Series creative figures, if we're being brutally honest) leaned on Moby-Dick (and Paradise Lost, King Lear, A Tale of Two Cities as well as about a billion other things plucked from the reading list of a high school English class) because he pretentiously thought it ...

“The sensation you are doing something you have done before”: Deja Q

A lovely effects shot and an apt visual allegory.
When Star Trek: The Next Generation goes wrong, it's almost never due to incompetence or sloppiness (“The Price” would seem to be an exception). It's almost always due to creative decisions that, while they may have seemed like good ideas in the moment (or were the only option on the table), in hindsight turn out to have been particularly ill-advised and regrettable.

And boy does it ever go wrong here.

There are bad creative calls, and then there are crushingly poor ones that manage to cripple the show's entire ethos, dynamic and sensibilities. That's what we're looking at today. “Deja Q” is an episode that finally takes the metatextual voice of the universe who challenges us to justify our utopias, reminding us to constantly better ourselves and never settle for complacency in the process, and turns him into a complete mockery. Yes “Hide and Q” had already done serious damage to Q's efficacy, but “Q Who” had managed to make significant inroads for the better in restoring a lot of that while also going some way towards ...

“We don't negotiate with terrorists”: The High Ground

A sizable portion of Star Trek fans would, if you polled them, likely state that the franchise's biggest strength is in its ability to do so-called “social commentary” on the issues of today in a futuristic science fiction setting. When they say this, what they're referring to is the interpretation of Star Trek that I've somewhat flippantly chosen to call “Roddenberry's Fables”. This is the kind of story where our crew beams down someplace, encounters an alien civilization that either operates under a structure or is facing a situation that very closely mirrors a social debate in the real world. Back in the Original Series, this usually took the form of quite literally punching the moral of the week (typically Gene Roddenberry’s Opinion on something) into the guest cast, but with the advent of Star Trek: The Next Generation. we've by and large been more interested in helping our one-off characters work through their problems in a constructive way.

How interesting it is than that the one time the creative team did ...

“Don't push it or I'll give you a war you won't believe”: The Hunted

“Welcome aboard. Now rewrite act three for me and have it on my desk by this evening.”

That's how Ira Steven Behr was welcomed to Star Trek: The Next Generation by Michael Piller on his first day as producer and staff writer. That gives you an idea of what this show's behind-the-scenes climate was like during the third season: Behr recalls how even though he was a veteran writer and producer, this was like no other show he'd ever worked on before. Everyone was frantically writing and rewriting stories, absolutely nothing was ready to go, and it stayed like that for the entire year. The insane workload eventually burned Behr out so badly that he walked away from Star Trek after only one season, and only came back to the franchise at Michael Piller's personal request four years later when he and Rick Berman were drafting up what would become Star Trek: The Next Generation's sister show. We'll talk more about Behr and his influence once we get to the fist story he actually wrote himself (as opposed to ones he did an uncredited rewrite of ...

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