Viewing posts tagged TNG Season 6

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 ...

“Till the sun grows cold”: Descent

The Borg are back.

“Descent” marks an important turning point in a number of respects. Up front, it's the first time Star Trek: The Next Generation has done a cliffhanger season finale more or less only because this is the sort of thing it does to close off filming block seasons; in other words, the first time the cliffhanger finale structure is implemented as a matter of course and functional habit instead of being the result of unexpected necessity. “The Best of Both Worlds” was born out of a narrative-melting crisis springing from the chaos of the third season's production as well as contract disputes with Patrick Stewart's agent. “Redemption” was a double length story done to lead into the 25th Anniversary year and to accommodate the bombshell return of Denise Crosby, as well as closing off Worf's epic story arc about his isolation from his Klingon heritage (oh how naive we all once were). And “Time's Arrow” wasn't even going to be a a two-parter until the building hype ...

“...rose from a solid sea”: Timescape

A river, flowing to eternity. Frozen.

But even when frozen, water does not stand still. There is movement and kinetic energy at the molecular level, imperceptible though it might be to normal human senses. Water's mercurial nature is in its ability to remain fluid throughout many different forms.

In the depths of space, due to the extreme temperatures, water does not solidify into the crystalline lattice commonly associated with ice, but ice still exists. It is still freezing. In space, ice forms as an amorphous solid, transitioning in an instant to a kind of cosmic glass. Amorphous ice is likely the most common form of water in the universe.

On Earth, a lake frozen over in winter appears still and silent as the world around it appears locked in suspended animation. But beneath the surface, life goes on: Some fish, such as trout, are actually *more* active during the winter, while many species of insect spend their larval stages underwater during the winter in temperatures that can average a balmy 1-4 degrees Celsius in places. Winter is not a finite cessation of life, but a part of the continuing cycle of ...

“There are usually two sides to a story”: Second Chances

Wait...Didn't I already cover this one last season? Oh well, it was a great issue worth hyping up again, even if talking about it here almost a year later loses a lot of the context of reading it as part of its story arc. Anyway, so this is issue four of the story arc I dubbed Separation Anxiety after the title of issue three. The story on the whole deals with the saucer and stardrive sections of the Enterprise being flung to opposite ends of the galaxy after an encounter with a mysterious alien relay station. All the while, the crews of both ships are engaged in combat with a territorial race called the Sztazzan, who new transfer officer Terry Oliver has had tragic prior dealings with.

A major theme of this story are bridges, both actual starship bridges and structures that can either bring people together or keep them apart. Terry Oliver hates the Sztazzan for a previous skirmish she was involved in that resulted in the destruction of her former ship and the deaths of its crewmembers, and she's paralleled with both Chief O'Brien (this was ...

“Jesus! Jesus is here!”: Rightful Heir

I don't know how you screw up a concept like "Klingon Ice Monastery", but they do.
You know, I think I'm just done listening to stories about Worf and Klingon heritage. Especially as told by Ron Moore.

Here's another episode I vaguely remember liking that completely turned me off on the rewatch. It's not one I have really fond memories of from back in the day-This was an episode I only caught once TNN started rerunning Star Trek: The Next Generation in the early 2000s. Consequently I'm not super broken up about having “Rightful Heir” fall flat for me as I don't have any particularly potent nostalgia affixed to it and this season has been strong enough it can afford to give us a few duds at this point in the year....Even if we do seem to have, since “Suspicions” (and looking ahead to next week), crossed over into the Enterprise variant of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's month and a half long water-treading session.

None of you need to hear my reasons for being alienated by this episode. I most certainly do not ...

“No, I won't sit idly by as you hurl clichés at me”: Suspicions

And this would be a good example of *why* Star Trek: The Next Generation is straining against its material constraints.

I was originally planning to criticize “Suspicions” for being grimdark-Just another boring and juvenile “lengths they will go”, “doing that which must be done” exercise in false depth. But in reality if it's grimdark, it's only halfheartedly so, because “Suspicions” is halfhearted everything. The grimdark stuff feels like going through the motions, as if there's just this assumption that any story about a murder investigation simply has to be grimdark for the portagonists to have any stake in solving it (tracing grimdark's lineage back to Frank Miller is almost a cliché these days, but the comparison does need to be drawn in this circumstance as those are his signature beats to the letter, albeit really watered down and done in a middling fashion). And, for that matter, that we need token “character development” every week to hold the show together. Which, if we're being perfectly honest, is precisely the kind of assumption it's reasonable to guess was floating around this production team's offices, even if ...

“If he rose/If he chose”: Frame of Mind

It was only a matter of time before we returned to the dark recesses.

In many ways “Frame of Mind” is Brannnon Braga's archetypal Star Trek: The Next Generation story. It certainly bears all of his trademarks: A bold and unafraid examination of genuinely dark psychological horror themes done with a deft and ambitious surrealist flair. Braga is also flatly unafraid to throw us some undiluted theory, with copious quotations, citations and visual nods to the work of Carl Jung. It's a candid and refreshing bolt of unashamed intellectualism that goes a long way towards letting us know what Braga thinks his show's audience is like: Star Trek isn't exactly patronizing, or at least not as much as a lot of other television is, but even so it's still rare for it to be this frankly and openly (and literally) philosophical, and every time it happens it feels like this really should be the way the show always operates. Pretty much nowhere else are you going to get a 200-level course on Jungian psychology and dream theory told through a mini piece of abstract sci-fi cinema on ...

“Inner Space”: The Chase

“The Chase” is definitive Star Trek: The Next Generation for me. It's one of those episodes I find truly iconic, everything I want this show to be and one of the first stories that comes to mind whenever I think of it in passing. There's quite a lot of those this year.

And yet I'm finding it hard to come up with things to say about it that aren't obvious. I guess I'll address the only real potential criticism I can think of straight away: The von Dänikenism stuff at the end is a little bit iffy and arguably anthropocentric, even if it does fit into the continuity of the established Star Trek universe without incident. But that's sort of the problem with this kind of writing, isn't it? Science fiction writers can focus on details like world-building minutiae and miss the larger social implications of their work. It must be said, however, that Ron Moore and Joe Menosky cite Carl Sagan's Contact rather than Chariots of the Gods? and “The Chase” does provide the interesting wrinkle that the protohumanoids were responsible not for ...

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