Eruditorum Press

The struggle in terms of the strange

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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.

6 Comments

  1. K. Jones
    June 24, 2015 @ 4:23 am

    It's funny with Will, because you get the sense that he "thinks" he wants the thing dead, because his loss is so fresh in his mind. But given a little time, he would have leveled off and gotten back into the proper Enterprise state of mind. But Marr still wanted it dead after 30 years since her loss, and 30 years of studying the creature and coming to understand it more than anyone else. That's a hell of a contrast in itself – and again, it would only have required someone like maybe Deanna stating the comparable amounts of time involved.

    This episode is otherwise interesting for being a bit bipolar. It begins very much as a Riker episode. Sure, there's the quick fridging of a love interest – probably lazy writing there, the easiest way to make us like a character so we'll feel their death is to make them flirt with the eminently likable Riker. But holy hell did they bring the opening sequence. It's unlike anything they've done before, really.

    The actual ground team is interesting and play off each other nicely, as we haven't really seen Riker and Crusher interact since The Host (retch!) and Riker's friendship with Data is never highlighted as much as the Geordi/Data pairing, so it's nice to see both it in play here as well as his friendship with Worf when the Enterprise rescue party arrives.

    But anyway, it feels a bit bipolar. It starts as a Riker episode, remains a Riker episode about until Picard forces Marr to work with Data, then becomes a Marr/Data show (though it at least makes an effort to give Riker's beats conclusions).

    Picard is very much the epitome of the Enterprise ethos. Troi is there to give funny looks to people when they go mad with vengeance, giving the audience an early warning. Worf is there to be stern. Geordi to give tech specs. And so on and so on. And last of all, the narrative structure – the heavy start on a colonial planet, as Enterprise is gone off and returning from a distance – is very Original Series.

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  2. K. Jones
    June 24, 2015 @ 4:24 am

    Haha, just noticed now – the structure being very Original Series is essentially confirmed by the makeup of the landing party – who could effectively be stand-ins for Kirk, Spock and McCoy.

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  3. Jacob Nanfito
    June 24, 2015 @ 12:16 pm

    This episode exemplifies the kind "of meat and potatoes" ST: TNG that stands out in my mind and memories. This is the sort of episode that was played again and again on late night repeats throughout my adolescence — so this sort of average feels very comforting to me.

    I've always enjoyed this one and I'd gladly watch it anytime (even though I've seen it about 100 times). In the Netflix age, I often choose these types of middle-of-the-road episodes over groundbreaking, big event, or "classic" episodes.

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  4. Adam Riggio
    June 25, 2015 @ 1:45 am

    I've always enjoyed this episode, for all the reasons you and K. mention. But the story involving Marr and Data hits me hardest every time, precisely for the same reasons Jeri Taylor discusses. I'm not a parent myself, but I am an only child, and I can see some flashes of that soul-shattering parental grief that drives Marr over the edge whenever my mother discusses some of my early childhood health crises (short version: pertussis isn't fun).

    The real power of the narrative comes in those final scenes. Just as the communication breakthrough is about to happen, Marr ruins everything. In killing the entity, she essentially declares herself an enemy not just of the Enterprise's values (and the professed, if not practiced, values of the Federation), but of Star Trek. And Data tells her as much, through his knowledge of her son's thoughts and character. She committed a killing to avenge her son, but he wouldn't have wanted vengeance.

    That's always been my take-home from this story.

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  5. Daru
    July 6, 2015 @ 10:21 pm

    "The death of the Crystalline Entity remains one of the most memorable and tragic moments in all of Star Trek: The Next Generation for me."

    Yeah me too. This is one episode I really still enjoy as a good standard – I never had any idea there was any hate for it, but then I have never spent any time with Trek fandom in any way at all.

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