Viewing posts tagged TNG Season 5

“Now will never come again”: Time's Arrow

Writing fanfiction was probably the earliest way I ever dynamically or critically interacted with media. I guess I always found it the most intuitive and instinctual to express ideas and concepts through the voices of particular characters. Perhaps it's something like Lwaxana Troi said in “Cost of Living”: All those little people who live inside of us, each of them voicing a different facet of ourselves. I suppose part and parcel of being the sort of person who undertakes a project of this scope and magnitude is that these particular characters, or at least versions of them shaped by my own perspectives, readings, interpretations and projections, are always going to live inside of me.

In a sense, this is nothing more than an extension of the way we read. The overall impact a text is going to have on you is largely contingent on the positionality you bring to the text itself. When we're talking about speculative fiction, we're talking about a genre that, perhaps more than any other, is designed to stimulate and inspire imaginations. And a hallmark of storytelling has always been its mutability: That multiple storytellers ...

“Spirits Within”: The Inner Light

There's really nothing much to say. It's simply one of the single greatest moments in the history of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and probably all of Star Trek. It deservedly won a Hugo Award back when the Hugo Awards actually meant something. If it's not the single greatest episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation it's a contender; the connoisseur's pick for those who don't want to tow the fandom line and pick “The Best of Both Worlds”. It's damn near close to perfect. You don't need me to tell you that.

It's almost funny though that “The Inner Light” gets all the accolades, because to me it runs so contrary to everything we're told makes “good drama” and a good episode of this series in particular. There's no “conflict” about Captain Picard's suppressed darkness and nobody learns a lesson about the lengths they'll go when pushed and there's no angsty, broody mediations about how life is pain. Rather, this is a story about performativity and storytelling. In fact, it's a story so willfully about performativity ...

“No, it's not 'just a phase'”: The Next Phase

Yes, it's very, very good. Thank heavens. This is my favourite Geordi episode. It's also my favourite Laren episode. It may well be my favourite Ron Moore episode. But I have to stop myself, because I'm perfectly liable to spend the entire essay just squealing about Geordi and Laren, and that's going to entertain nobody but myself. So I'll save that for the end and get all of the other things that are good about “The Next Phase” out of the way first.

And there are quite a lot. Dealing with themes of coming to terms with death and loss is nothing new for Star Trek: The Next Generation, and certainly not for Ron Moore. No surprises from him there. What *is* new, at least to this show, is the idea of looking it it from beyond the veil, so to speak: It doesn't go too far down this path, of course, but even so “The Next Phase” does leave open a few tantalizing possibilities for those inclined to read what happens here critically and laterally. It reminds me in this regard a bit of “Power ...

“Measure of a Non-Human”: I, Borg

The Borg are somewhat unique in the pantheon of Star Trek species. While not the first to be portrayed as villainous or antagonistic, they are the first to be designed explicitly to fill that role from the beginning, and nothing else (or at least the first successful attempt at this, given the Ferengi are in some ways a rough draft of the Borg). In spite of the kind of stereotypical “planet of hats” jokes, every other alien culture in Star Trek, even the Original Series Klingons, was created to have more than one facet about them. Not the Borg though: They were very clearly designed to be an enemy the crew couldn't debate or reason with intellectually, only fight with old-fashioned weapons and pray they could run away from relatively unscathed.

You can read this as beneficial or harmful depending on your perspective. One way you might defend this is to argue that, as such fitting metaphors for the engines of capitalism, it's good that the Borg are a faceless evil who exist just to get blown apart by phaser blasts. After all, you'd want no quarter for the ...

“I am not worth this coil that's made for me”: Cost of Living, Imaginary Friend

The episodes I look at for this project pretty unfailingly come in one of three forms. Bad episodes I know are bad but which I may or may not be fuzzy on the details of precisely why, good episodes I know are good because of longstanding vivid memories I have of them and episodes I have next to no recollection of whatsoever. “Cost of Living” and “Imaginary Friend” mark something an interesting milestone in this respect because they're none of those things: Sadly, this is probably the first time (or at least one of the rare instances in which) a story that brought me a lot of joy in the past turned out to be nowhere remotely near as good as I remembered.

This essay is, I should mention, something of a strange one for me. Normally when I do these multiple episode recap-type posts I know in advance which episodes I'm going to be lumping together and what central shared theme I'm going to hang them on. This gives me time to schedule my ...

“Love the one you're with”: The Perfect Mate

It's fuck-awful. It's “Elaan of Troyius” again. Famke Janssen, who would appear alongside Patrick Stewart again in the X-Men movies, was also Rick Berman and Michael Piller's first choice to play Jadzia Dax on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but she turned them down fearing she'd grow complacent as an actor despite the opportunity. Even so, Janssen is herself responsible for redefining the Trill as we will soon know them, as it's the spots on Kamala's neck that will go on to be Jadzia's signature look once the production team realised giving Terry Farrell Odan's headpiece from “The Host” would be a crime against humanity (much like the rest of “The Host”) and Rick Berman told Michael Westmore “just give her spots like we gave Famke”. Speaking of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Max Grodénchik plays a Ferengi in this episode, and he too will get cast on that show next year as Rom.

I have now exhausted literally all of the erudition it is possible to glean from “The Perfect Mate”.

Because I have an essay's worth of space to fill, however ...

“Policy of Truth”: The First Duty

Shout-out to Ray Walston, My Favorite Non-Terran Humanoid Solid.
In the mid-1980s there was a cartoon show called The Get-Along Gang. It was about a group of happy preteen anthropomorphic animals living in a storybook world called Green Meadows and, as you could probably tell from the title, was about the various and sundry ways teamwork and friendship will solve all of life's problems. Each character had some egregious and crippling flaw that would be unflappably counteracted by working together with their friends.

If you were willing to be unkind to The Get-Along Gang, you might say it typified the concept that “The Complainer Is Always Wrong” in children's media. That did certainly seem to be the worrying underlying implication of a lot of the show's morals, and you could probably trace an entire counter-revolutionary movement in children's television after the fact solely dedicated to moving as far away from The Get-Along Gang as was possible to get. It also probably didn't help matters that the show was the product of a greeting ...

“The sensation you are doing something you have done before”: Cause and Effect

It's almost the hardest to write about the stories that are my very favourites. Doubly so when they're so consummately made. How many ways can I say “Cause and Effect” is a work of genius without sounding like I'm just pointlessly gushing? How much can I go into my personal connection with stories like this without regressing to the point of being an utterly, hopelessly, self-indulgent bore? And yet this is a turning point: Whenever Star Trek: The Next Generation is mentioned in passing or I'm casually reminded of it in my day-to-day existence, this is one of the stories I think about. This, and the kinds of stories “Cause and Effect” sets the stage for.

Is it “iconic”, either in the fandom or television history more generally? Not exactly, or at least not the the extent of something like “The Best of Both Worlds”, “Unification” or “Unification II” (although many fans do consider “Cause and Effect” to be a classic too). Is it sweepingly moving, emotional and dramatic? No, not really. It's not “Transfigurations”, “Darmok” or “The Inner Light”. Indeed, like “Power Play” before it, you ...

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