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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.


  1. Marionette
    April 30, 2015 @ 11:19 pm

    The thing that always threw me out of the story with this one is that Keiko is introduced as being a long-time friend of Data, and yet she has never appeared or even been mentioned before, so her appearance feels more like an obvious retcon, rather than the organic introduction of a character. I realise that on a crew this size there would be plenty of people who interact daily with the main cast that we never see, but this just feels forced.


  2. Thor
    May 1, 2015 @ 4:56 am

    Ah yes, this is much more like it!

    I often think the best TV shows are the ones you'd like to live in, without quite so much of the danger, and this relaxed episode is about as close as you'll get to being aboard the Enterprise.


  3. K. Jones
    May 1, 2015 @ 7:46 am

    Data's Day.

    I see your nitpick of the use of Maddox, which was clearly a bone thrown for the continuity-hounds. I think their intention there was savvy enough, but personally yeah, I think the better choice would have been the admiral from The Offspring, who went a far greater distance than Maddox did to redeem himself for us. But then, Maddox comes with the Daystrom Institute, and we all must bow to any name-drop that references the Original Series, mustn't we? And speaking of continuity-bones thrown, how can Ambassador Taris not be considered anything but foreshadowing of the long-game that will be Reunification? I'll have plenty of complaints about how they execute the Vulcan/Romulan scenario when they do it, but I can't knock them for actually paying off the promise made the very second Kirk and Spock tap into the Warbird's computers and see Mark Lenard's face for the first time … or the female Commander's overture to Spock. I have a confession to make – I don't believe the Romulans should ever be used without some Vulcan component (specifically without a Vulcan character, preferably Spock, to be the one experiencing them.)

    Keiko O'Brien operates in a 50/50 place. Because while she's typically a supporting player specifically designed for O'Brien to bounce off of, and is utilized in that way … Chao definitely gives her her own sense of agency and motivation. Sometimes a limited framework like that can actually strengthen a performer's playing of a role, as you try to make it better than the stock guest spot. And I think she does, and is a complete success story in that regard (even if I'd rather watch an episode about her doing space botany than see another "The Loss").

    As good as Data is here (and unsurprisingly, Riker, Crusher and Geordi), this is step one of ostensibly just treating O'Brien like the Nth member of the core cast, and therefore it's step one of what is essentially the bid or pitch to spin him off. That's probably barely the kernel of an idea-form at this point – but at least within the context of TNG Season 4, we've got Colm Meaney's considerable talent on display and the writers room digging his character's everyman quality.

    And that everyman quality is something TNG has been accused of being missing, so he's almost a panacea.

    But then, there's the greatest strength of this episode, which is also itself a panacea – Star Trek's strength has always been the juxtaposition of the mundane with space travel. TOS's great strength was the whole "I just work there" everyman spacemen spearheaded by Shatner and made rock solid by Kelley and Doohan (even the exotic Spock fits the bill here.)

    All we ever really needed was to see this kind of episode to shed some of that aristocratic air. If I've highlighted any nitpicks, consider them minor because this is a triumph.

    Next episode: Well … there's no bones about it … next episode, my absolute personal favorite episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.


  4. K. Jones
    May 1, 2015 @ 7:52 am

    Additionally, just about Keiko O'Brien, her trajectory really resembles that of Doctor Lilith Sternin on Cheers. Essentially a stock character romance that turns into a wife role for a prominent male character, but one where the actress involved takes that limited framework and gives it an agency and panache that keeps the writers coming back to them, essentially just adopting them into "extended main cast" after a while.

    The trajectory of the role, mind you, not the trajectory of the on-screen marriage.


  5. Josh Marsfelder
    May 1, 2015 @ 12:29 pm

    This might be an interesting theme to revisit in the context of the next episode.


  6. Daru
    May 5, 2015 @ 8:45 pm

    "Sometimes, you just have to accept you may be overthinking things and let the characters and the setting speak for themselves."

    Absolutely, that's what is so beautiful about this episode. I do have similar feelings about Keiko who more than often was moulded into the 'harpy' stock image of a wife. I do love her and O'Brien's relationship though.

    "Even from the very beginning, Star Trek: The Next Generation has always positioned itself as a very slow-paced and heady show that's far more interested in people's thoughts, feelings and life experiences than complex sci-fi worldbuilding or exciting ray-gun space battle action. Indeed, I think the show has pretty unmistakably lost its way whenever it has thought it was those things."

    This above is central to how I feel about TNG too. For me it's always been the joy of exploring the inner experiences and emotions in response to travelling through the stars. Space battles are fun only on occasion, but they can't hold people or stories for long.


  7. T.L.R.
    September 23, 2018 @ 1:37 am

    The IMDB lists The Holographic Dance Partner as played by actress Jane Sibbett in an uncredited role. She is perhaps best known for a recurring role on Friends.


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