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  • #91
    Enjoyed that, 'Plan. Still looking forward to getting to Voyager and seeing how my thoughts compare.

    Quite a lot of TNG episodes down lately. Let's pick up where we left off!

    So I was near the end of season 4 and picked things up with 'In Theory'. The idea here is that there's a co-worker who goes through a break-up and seems to be attracted to Data, who decides to try and embark on a relationship. It's a bit of a weird concept for an episode but they pull it off, even if it's not one you really have to go out of your way to see. The trick in an episode like this is in making it understandable that the woman would want to get together with Data, while at the same time making it so that's she someone who could kinda, sorta, want her to be someone Data might be able to make a relationship with work. Between the writing and Michele Scarabelli's performance they are just about successful at it. It's not one to just skip if you want to be complete, but it's not one to race out out to see if you're taking more of a 'dip in' approach. Perhaps most notable as the first time they let Patrick Stewart direct, so he's barely in this one. He does have a great line at the end of a sequence where Data asks for advice about love, which might be the best part of the episode.

    But next is the two-parter that straddles seasons 4-5, 'Redemption'. TNG has a really good success rate with it's two-part episodes, and this is no exception - it might be one of the better ones for fans of the Klingon episodes. There's quite a lot of build for it, too - if you think that this all started in March 1990 with 'Sins of the Father', and now - after a season and a half of Worf being insulted any time a Klingon comes into view - we've got the payoff here in June 1991. If season 2 was really the 'Data' season, season 4 is very much the 'Worf' season. If you've not watched this one before it's definitely one to binge as a two-parter, especially if you've already seen 'Sins of the Father' from S3 and 'Reunion' from S4. There's also a mysterious Romulan figure wandering around in the previous few episodes and this is the episode where their identity is finally revealed.

    Part I is the better part if you're interested in the Klingons and want to get into their politics. I believe it's also the first appearance for the perennial favourites, the Duras sisters - B'Etor's flirting is always hilarious. Part II is the more typical, Trekkie material and is a more even affair, less dominated by Picard and Worf.

    After that we're into season 5 proper, which kicks things off with Darmok. This episode is very, very smart TV. The first time I watched it I found the dialogue of the 'aliens of the week' quite irritating but the more you watch it you realise they've actually put a lot of work into making it quite sophisticated. It is not an episode that is going to figure in to the overarching Star Trek narratives, but at the same time it's so quintessentially Trekkie in it's message. The hero is less Picard than the opposite captain, who wants to be understood so badly that he's willing to risk his life just for the possibility of communication. There's something quite profound in that once you drill into it. Credit also to Paul Winfield as Dathon, for an inspired performance with what must have been some of the most difficult dialogue he'd ever encountered. This is also the first episode to feature Ashley Judd as Ensign Robin Lefler.

    The hits keep on coming, as next up is 'Ensign Ro'. Michelle Forbes had impressed them in her brief role in 'Half a Life' and she was written in as a recurring character this time out, the troublesome Ro Laren. Essential as an episode - not just for itself, and not just for the fact that you'll see Ro Laren many times in TNG, but because it's the moment that the Bajorans are introduced to Trek lore - so you need to watch this one and The Wounded from season 4, even if you just want to see how they are laying the ground for DS9. But it's routinely called one of the top episodes for it's own sake, too.

    The next episode then is 'Silicon Avatar', which builds on the events of the first season's 'Datalore'. This is more of a middling affair and it's one that I often skip, to be honest. Riker and some of the Bridge Crew are trapped on a planet during an attack by the Crystalline Entity. They survive, which brings a scientist whose been tracking it for years to the Enterprise as they go in search of it. I don't want to give much out in the way of spoilers, but this is just a relentlessly sad episode. It really is a bit of a downer. Strong Data episode though, and a good acting performance from Ellen Geer as Kila Marr.

    Great recovery though in 'Disaster' a personal favourite and one that's so well written. Quite often TNG follows the plot/sub-plot format, but here there are three or four strands to the main plot instead - all of them contributing to a situation in which, where there is a huge disaster that badly rocks the ship, they find themselves in a situation where the ranking bridge officer is Counsellor Troi, supported mainly by Chief O'Brien and Ro Laren. Picard is trapped in a turbolift with some kids, LaForge and Crusher have to deal with a plasma fire in a cargo bay, Keiko goes into labour in ten-forward and has to be helped by Worf while Riker and Data are scurrying around through Jefferies tubes. This last strand has a few weaknesses in it, but all the others work well - and you can't have everything. One of the better outings for Marina Sirtis, though - you can feel her out of her depth and having to grow into the role. Yeah, I love this one - and it does play into 1-2 later episodes so I'd say it's not one to skip.

    If you are short of time and looking for ones to skip, then the following episode, 'The Game', is a much better choice. Riker brings back a game from Riker that from the beginning it's clear has an addictive quality - it basically rewards you by stimulating the pleasure centres of the brain. It runs through the ship and before long it's changing people's behaviour, so that people knock Data out. The only people not part of this conspiracy are Robin Lefler, played by Ashley Judd, and Wesley Crusher, who is back on the Enterprise and trying to go out with her before all this kicks off. There's some good horror tropes in the episode but other than that I don't find a lot to like here. The Lefler/Crusher relationship does little for me and the writing of all the other characters feels.... wrong, like they've been shaped in order to fit the plot. If you like horror, you might get more out of it, but if you are there for the Trek you'll likely agree with me that this is one of the weaker episodes of the season.

    But from something not very Trekkie, we move into Trekkie porn - the two-parter, Unification. The first part of Unification begins with someone from Starfleet briefing Picard that Spock has gone to Romulus without authorisation, and there are fears that this most illustrious of Federation figures has defected. This is a treat for anyone who watched the original series or the movies, and the most successful of all the TNG/TOS crossovers (yes, including Generations). There's quite a lot that you need to watch first, though, as it develops out of 'Redemption' - so you should watch all the same episodes that lead into that, like the Klingon ones mentioned above, and 'Yesterday's Enterprise'. Absolutely crucial - if you've not seen these ones you really should stop reading this and go and do it now!

    The most recent one that I watched is 'A Matter of Time'. Someone beams on to the bridge of the enterprise claiming to be a historian from the 26th century, there to observe the Enterprise crew at a significant historical moment. At the same time, Picard and Laforge are planning some risky moves to try and saves thousands of lives on Penthara IV. It soon becomes clear that the risk is that if they do nothing, thousands will die, and if they act incorrectly, millions will. In truth, Matt Frewer is memorable as the historian and Picard has his moments but it's not essential - and that stands out coming as it does after some absolute belters in the first half of the season in Redemption, Unification, Disaster and Ensign Ro.

    And that's where I'm up to - still, I figure eleven quick reviews is enough for one post. In a couple of episodes time we've got 'Hero Worship',

    "The worst moron is the one too stupid to realise they're a moron."


    • #92
      Disaster! Fantastic episode! I've always loved that one since when I first saw it was a pre-teen. I'm not sure why - maybe because it has a disaster movie vibe going on? Or it might be the various threads playing out in parallel, an aspect of Voyager's Basics Part II that I loved so much. Worf guiding Keiko through childbirth is some of the funniest Trek they've put to screen! Doesn't that come up again in DS9 in fact, when the O'Brien family have their second?


      • #93
        I bloody love Worf as a midwife. 'Why has it not begun?!' Hilarious. And yes, I think they do make a gag about it in DS9 - although obviously it's Kira who carries Kiroyoshi for the last bit, to write in Nana Visitor being pregnant with Dr Bashir's baby!

        Disaster joins Sins of the Father in totally busting apart my top 35 from the previous page. So yeah, back to agonising decisions again. Absolute belter of an episode.

        "The worst moron is the one too stupid to realise they're a moron."


        • #94
          Looks like it's the turn of me and Voyager again! Up to episode 12 in season four now, picking up from where I left off with...

          The Gift - as Seven begins her journey into becoming an individual and fights to find her way back to the Collective, Kes begins to understand her rapidly advancing telekinetic powers on the back of her contact with Species 8472. An important episode in the lore of the show, the first of many good performances from Jeri Ryan but ultimately pretty bog standard fare.

          Day of Honour - stonkingly good episode this. We follow Torres during the worst day of her life, as one disaster after another dogs at her heels. Through it all she wrestles with Tom's desire to help her celebrate the Klingon Day of Honour. The subplot sees the ship have its warp core stolen by needy aliens who try to emotionally blackmail the crew into helping them, and the episode climaxes with a poignant and pivotal scene where Torres and Paris come to terms with their feelings for one another. Really good stuff!

          Nemesis - another absolutely brilliant episode, where Chakotay crashes on a planet and finds himself getting swept up in a conflict between two warring species. As circumstances force him to tag along with a group of young and emotionally fraught soldiers in the jungle, he finds himself more and more sympathetic to their cause against their apparently monstrous enemies until, by the time Voyager recover him, he has some very serious mental issues going on. I won't spoil the ending because (even though the seasoned Trek vet will probably see something coming) it's best left watched without an education. Needless to say, I thought it was a very powerful story with an extremely important message. Special commendation to the writers for taking the time to craft a unique and peculiar dialect for our aliens of the week. That attentiveness to detail isn't always there, and here it works wonderfully.

          Revulsion - and we're three for three on great stories! This time the crew encounter a ship manned by a single hologram, but as Torres and the Doctor beam over to help repair the vessel and the hologram's matrix, little do the crew know that it is the hologram himself responsible for murdering his own crew. Torres soon finds herself fighting for her life in something of a slasher-in-space story that I thought worked very effectively, with a tremendous guest star performance from Leland Orser.

          The Raven - back to more standard territory with this one, which sees Seven's origins as a human girl explored. There's some of her relationship with Tuvok explored and it's interesting seeing where she comes from but it feels more functional than necessary. Probably shouldn't skip it though, given what you learn about Seven as a character.

          Scientific Method - it's swiftly back to that rising standard of quality this season though with what has long been a low-key favourite of mine. An allegory for animal experimentation, the crew find themselves subjected to physical experiments by unseen aliens wanting to learn. There's a lot going on - the mystery of the week is an unusual one, there's a strong sense of outrage at the story's conclusion and a sort of punch the air moment for Janeway as she decides to act but most of all it's delightful seeing the main cast allowed to stretch outside their usual zones. We see Janeway as a frayed nerve, Paris and Torres are uncontrollably in lust and Tuvok has some lovely moments too. Great stuff.

          On a quick side-note, Voyager has a huge amount of character development but it's often subtle, in the background, stands out only when you watch so much of it so closely. Tuvok has gradually become more at ease among the crew over the course of each season and it's been a joy to see that unfurl story by every other story. The same with Paris becoming responsible, Kim gaining experience, Torres learning self-discipline and more.

          Year of Hell Part 1 and 2 - the big one! One of the best two-part stories of any Trek series we've had, Year of Hell is an absolute powerhouse of a story. First hinted at during the preceding season's episode Before and After, Year of Hell sees the crew in Krenim space. As a weaponised time-displaced vessel alters history, Voyager is swept up in events that soon see them at the mercy of Krenim war ships firing torpedoes that can pierce their shields like razor blades through paper. Over the course of the story, Chakotay gets a cool little arc on board the enemy vessel, Janeway is pushed more and more to the limit and the ship itself is, in no small part, decimated; more so than we see in any other episode of movie of any other Trek series. The crew battle to keep Voyager together, there are innumerable quiet character moments in between all the relentless, tense action and the cliffhanger of Part 1 is genuinely quite a heart-tugging one, and noble. Absolute sublime television, of near motion picture quality in my opinion. Essential viewing. Don't miss it.

          Random Thoughts - from the highs of Year of Hell we drift back to 'decent' with an episode that sees Torres run foul of a telepathic race's laws concerning violent thoughts. There's not much allegory here - other than not bottling up your emotions - and it never seems to land a clear focus on who the central character is for the week. First it's Torres, then it's Tuvok, then it feels like the guest star's! It's decent, maybe even good, but it's also flat compared to what came before it. Perhaps a necessary breather, then? Skippable for those with little time.

          Concerning Flight - and we continue on with that same decent level of quality with a hologram caper that sees Voyager mugged of essential parts and Janeway teaming up with her da Vinci hologram on a planet to get it all back. It's very bland. Fun seeing Lord of the Rings' John Rhys-Davies as da Vinci I guess.

          Mortal Coil - but fear not! For it's soon right back to that outstanding level of quality as Voyager delivers a very emotionally powerful episode that muses on the nature of faith and the possibilities of the afterlife. Disaster strikes during a resource retrieval mission and Neelix is killed, only to be later resurrected by Borg nanoprobes and a neat trick performed by Seven of Nine. Putting aside the awkward narrative ramifications for future episodes that plot device might feel like, what eventuates is a quietly played, subtly performed Neelix story as he reckons with the absence of the afterlife he had believed in his entire life. Such material could easily lend itself to bombast or big speeches, but this one isn't played that way. Ethan Phillips provides his best performance to date - and possibly of the entire show - as his expressions and body language do all the talking when it comes to his personal crisis. Events culminate with a compelling scene in the transporter room with Chakotay that, I will admit, left me with a lump in my throat. Sterling stuff.

          And that brings me up to date again! Season 4 has had some weaker joints every handful of episodes, but outside of those half a dozen the rest have been hitting a standard that is really very impressive. The stories are now out of "technological solution of the week" territory (though it still occurs sometimes) and more towards moral exploration and musing, and the results speak for themselves. The best episodes of these first 12 in season four are among some of the best Trek I can recall. I'm sure that's somewhat fuelled by my bias towards Voyager, but I feel that way nonetheless.

          And as mentioned before, the character development is there in spades, and what's become clear is that, watching these episodes so closely in such mass, I've developed a very clear and strong sense of attachment and family with the main cast that perhaps isn't there watching week by week, even year by year. That makes moments like the climax of Mortal Coil or stories like Year of Hell all the weightier. Unlike some other Treks, on Voyager we see these people develop as people, and it's a joy to behold.

          Just round the corner is the debut of the Hirogen! They always used to be a favourite enemy of mine, so keen to see how they might hold up.


          • #95
            Tagging back in - with eight more episodes!

            Next up in my run through is 'New Ground'. So, this is a must watch but more because it fits into the overall picture more than because it's especially brilliant. Not that's it's bad - they've hit a real strong stride by this point in the show and even the less than stellar episodes are all highly competent, at the absolute worst. But this is where Worf really shifts gears, having finished his 'dishonoured' storyline at the start of the season. He's moving into fatherhood - his parents can no longer look after Alexander, and so he's on the ship as Worf works out what he's going to do with the kid.

            Next comes a run of episodes that you can take or leave - they are all good, but none are essential to any overarching story.

            First is Hero Worship, as directed by Patrick Stewart. It's a strong Data episode primarily, though Troi plays a fairly strong supporting role. The real function of the story, though, is an exploration of trauma and healing, as Data rescues a young boy from a wrecked ship. It's a decent enough episode, only slightly thrown by the fact that they are going to be handling similar themes again - and better - in a few episodes time, in 'Ethics'.

            After that we go to 'Violations'. Man, this is a horrible episode. Not quality-wise. It's really decent for the most part. But the 5th season has taken a turn towards darker episodes and this is one of them. A species that is still more telepathic than Betazoids is on the Enterprise. The 'violation' of the title comes where one of them commits an act that is essentially the telepathic equivalent of rape, on Troi, Crusher and Riker. In the Troi segments in particular, it's quite clear that this is what they're referring to, even without the fairly clear telegraphing of it at the end. It's an uncomfortable watch, I'm not going to lie. If you don't like the sound of it, skip it - you won't be missing any pertinent details that you need to go forward. An interesting footnote given the subject matter - one of the few TNG episodes, and I assume one of the few primetime TV shows at this point in time, written entirely by women.

            Next is 'The Masterpiece Society', which feels to me like a TNG take on an Original Series episode. They happen on an isolationist colony who are the result of genetic and social engineering, who keep themselves separate from others in order to protect their superiority. Long story short, when the Enterprise is forced into their path they find that their isolationism has seen them fall behind the outside world, and their 'superiority' means nothing without connectivity and the stimulus of the broader universe. The episode deals with the fallout of that. Probably one of the stronger LaForge episodes so far, and a good one if you're of a broadly free-market/internationalist persuasion! Not so much fun for very conservative protectionists, but then I can't imagine the show plays that well for you anyway.

            'Conundrum' is one of the first 'space-time' mysteries we've had for a while, and it's a good one. I don't wanna give too many spoilers for it, but I'll say this - stuff happens that leaves the entire crew with all their skills intact, but no recollection of who they are. It's an interesting exploration of what happens when the command structure is disrupted and personalities come out on the one hand. On the other, for reasons that will become clear when you watch it, this one is interestingly written because it's one of those where we always know more than the characters. It's one I'd definitely recommend.

            'Power Play' is an interesting little episode - one of those fairly standard ones where an alien presence takes over several members of the crew on an away mission, and you end up with a hostage situation. Again, don't wanna go into too many details - but one of the crew taken over is O'Brien, and watching him torturing his wife and baby under alien control is a fairly tense and unpleasant part.

            After that we come to 'Ethics', the first episode Ron Moore had written since 'Disaster'. It's a brilliant one - Moore was on top form at this point. Anyway - before the credits a huge container falls on Worf, and we learn that he's unlikely to walk again. There are two strands of ethics here. The first is that Worf, being the typical Klingon, asks Riker to help him to die - so the episode is in part an exploration of the ethics of assisted suicide. The subplot is linked to the first; an expert consultant is brought to the Enterprise to help but falls out with Crusher about medical ethics. Worf, Crusher, Riker, Troi, Picard.... there's so many things and people to like about this one. First rate, held up really well - I think the only reason people might not like this one is if they have such strong views on the subject that they can't imagine a theoretically perfect world where it's still such a hot-button issue, capable of provoking responses on either side. It only takes a little bit of empathy with the text to get a huge amount out of it, though.

            After that we come to the last of the ones I've watched lately. Whenever TNG's relative lack of LGBT representation gets brought up, is the one episode you can point to - 'The Outcast'. It's very TOS in some ways, with Riker in a Kirk mould (as he has been more in the last few, probably the most he has since season one). Anyway, the species the Enterprise is interacting with here are androgynous, and it transpires that gender is taboo - they consider it un-evolved and primitive. People in their culture who express a gender identity are taken away for 're-education'. And things develop so that the scientist working with Riker confesses she's always felt like a woman, and has been keeping that hidden to avoid persecution. They seem to be invoking a curious combination of the prejudices against gay people and against trans people in the way that it's rendered. I don't think it ages that badly - but if you're particularly militant about certain things, then I can see how you might think that it does. There's a line about pronouns early on that is clearly written sympathetically, but the world has moved on since then and I could see some people getting hung up on it. It's also - again - not particularly essential viewing - unless you want to see Worf being very sexist while playing cards.

            Right, that's it - next up is 'Cause and Effect', which made my favourites list as I recall. Written by Brannon Braga, who goes on to be one of the bigwigs behind Voyager/Enterprise, and who has a lot to make up for since his last writing credit was 'The Game'. Frakes in the director's chair. I remember it being a great one!

            "The worst moron is the one too stupid to realise they're a moron."


            • #96
              Think I remember Violations and feeling a bit weird about it. I also remember Conundrum and found it immensely frustrating because of knowing more than the crew, as you put it, if it is indeed the episode I'm thinking of!

              Meanwhile, in the Delta Quadrant, season 4 continues to offer up good episodes, if few really outstanding ones for the remainder of its run.

              Waking Moments - the crew are accosted by a species capable of inducing a dream state, where they're able to manipulate events and essentially take charge. Chakotay has to come to the rescue with his ability to dream lucidly and retake that control. There's no real parable here, it's bit 'threat of the week' but it does have some really fun similarities to Christopher Nolan's blockbuster Inception, with dreams within dreams. Fun, and a nice moment for Chakotay to take centre stage again.

              Message in a Bottle - one of the few outstanding episodes from the rest of this season. Voyager find a vast and ancient communications network that allows them to send the Doctor to a Federation vessel on the outer reaches of the Alpha Quadrant to get a message home. There he discovers the prototype vessel has been taken over by Romulans. Alongside the ship's Mark II EMH, capers ensue. It's played mostly for humour, this one, and it's a glorious romp showcasing Robert Picardo's comic talents. It's also a vital moment in the mythology of the show, with an ending that feels like it has all the more pathos precisely because it concludes a largely comic episode. Contextualises how much the Doctor has grown too.

              Hunters - in which the Hirogen, one of my low-key favourites, are introduced! Voyager moves to retrieve a message from Starfleet Command sent along the same comms network from the preceding episode, and in so doing encounter the Hirogen. Tensions mount between them, but really their introduction here is a minor point. The majority of the episode is dedicated to the crew receiving letters from home, and boy does it pack a punch. Pretty much the entire core cast gets their moment in the sun as a result (excluding Neelix for obvious reasons) and we get a real sense of consequence to Janeway's decision in Caretaker. I absolutely adored this episode, and would rate it a can't miss in a Voyager run through.

              Prey - this one is bloody brilliant! Star Trek does Alien, essentially, as Voyager picks up a wounded Hirogen before learning that he was pursuing a stranded member of Species 8472, the Borg's enemies in the season opener. It finds its way on board and the crew must work to find it and remove it. The direction is great here, the episode feels genuinely very tense, and Seven gets some real meaty development as we see her insubordination take on devastating consequences, wrought by her aversion to her former people's destroyer.

              Retrospect - this is a very strange one that left me feeling awkward. Voyager meets an arms dealer later accused by Seven of a violating assault. I'll leave the plot recap there but will say the episode seems to take a weird u-turn halfway through, ends in an odd way and while its message is an important one for sure, in the Me Too age it all feels a bit tonally deaf. Ultimately not that vital to the show either. Feel free to skip if you want.

              The Killing Game (Parts I and II) - another double-header here, in which the Hirogen have taken over Voyager and condemned its crew to live out an endless cycle of brutal simulations on the holodecks so that the Hirogen can better study their pray. The crew have no knowledge of what's happening to them and eventually are pitted against the Hirogen in a WWII simulation. It's a fun story idea that turns into a whimsical action story. Unfortunately it has the fate of being the first two-parter after Year of Hell, and suffers for it, for feeling like its stakes are significantly lower. Good, but not great.

              Vis a Vis - another 'threat of the week' deal here as a restless Tom Paris finds excitement in Voyager's meeting an alien with a unique propulsion system. Naturally, the alien isn't all they seem. Stuff happens. It's all a bit meh - interestingly, possibly because it's a rare example of an episode so far that feels like it fails to tie in to any larger arc, of either character or plot. Fraiser's Bulldog guest stars as the alien though, so there's that.

              The Omega Directive - a PHENOMENAL episode, I think. Janeway overrides all on-board priorities after Voyager's systems are taken over by a mysterious symbol. They've detected an omega particle, and as a Starfleet captain Janeway has a responsibility to destroy it, because it could have devastating effects for space travel across the quadrant. The unusual circumstances Voyager finds itself in means she has to adapt unusually, especially when it turns out Seven has a unique relationship with Omega as a former Borg drone too. It's all quite 'Genesis Device' from the Genesis arc of TOS movies, and I adore it for that. Genesis even gets a name check! The direction is superb, the use of lighting is lush and there are powerful performances from Janeway, Seven and even Chakotay. One of my series favourites, I think.

              Unforgettable - interesting concept, as a woman arrives on Voyager claiming she and Chakotay had been in love. Her species, however, live in secret meaning any memory of them is erased after the fact. Chakotay must work to uncover whether she's telling the truth or not and by the time he does there are some tragic turns of events. It's an ok episode, but it doesn't quite manage to live up to its concept in the way you might imagine TNG could have managed if this had been an Enterprise-D adventure.

              Living Witness - the Doctor is reactivated after several centuries by an alien species who have misinterpreted their historical evidence about their people's historic encounter with Voyager. I'm torn on this one. On the one hand, it's fantastic to see an episode tackle the importance of learning from history and being sure to embrace new revelations about historical guilt and culpability. It also deals with the impact such a thing can have on race relations and peace. On the other, it's so similar in concept and execution to Distant Origin from S3, but nowhere near as strong, it's difficult not to see it as an inferior retread.

              Demon - another interesting one. Voyager is severely low on deuterium and their only hope is to risk an away mission on an inhospitable Class Y 'Demon' planet, rich in the stuff. Kim and Paris take an away mission to extract it, but it turns out the deuterium on the planet is a living being now able to take form for the first time. Typical Trek stuff then unfolds. Another good but not great episode, but we see some pivotal development for Harry Kim here (all too rare a moment, in truth), it's an episode that will have lingering consequences in a future season and it's quite fun seeing Voyager running on low power and the crew working to overcome the difficulties that presents.

              One - in order to traverse a nebula with dangerous effects, the crew must go into hibernation leaving only the Doctor and Seven conscious to run the ship. Seven begins to experience the effects of prolonged isolation, and when she encounters an alien vessel in the same nebula everything starts to feel especially threatening. Or does it? This one is a lot of fun! It's also a vitally important episode for Seven, working as a sort of duet with the next and final episode of the season, in which she finally begins to accept the idea that she is a part of a new collective now on Voyager, and an individual.

              Hope and Fear - the final episode of the series, which revisits earlier arcs. Voyager encounter an alien whose people are experts at languages. He helps decode the remaining Starfleet transmission from earlier in the season which leads Voyager to a new ship. Janeway, however, has suspicions, and as events play out it turns into a story about Seven's anxiety towards fully accepting she is returning to Earth with the others and now a part of the wider family. It's also got some great moments for Janeway too, who feels like an ever maturing leader in this season and ends it as strong as any other captain on any of the other shows for my liking. It's a low-key season ender, especially compared to Scorpion, but thematically very important for the wider show and great at wrapping up some of the season's most important arcs.

              I'm now into S5, but I'll leave the recap there for now. Think that's more than enough!


              • #97
                Picking this up again, quite a lot to get through in this one!

                Cause and Effect - this has got one of the most memorable pre-credit sequences of any Star Trek episode. It's very much in the 'there's a mystery we need to solve before it's too late' mould, but it's probably one of the better ones. It's written by Brannon Braga, but it actually stands out more as one of the better directed episodes - with Frakes in the chair. Good episode for Crusher, but actually one it's strengths is the sheer number of people who are well-written in this one. If there's a mark against it, it's that the resolution is a little weak. I wouldn't really consider this a mark but you could also say that it's an isolated 43 minutes, and nothing with any real consequences happens if you're looking at the series as a whole. But it's a really great episode, held up very well. I suspect this is the episode that made them think Frakes could potentially direct a film.

                The First Duty - one that absolutely has to be watched. Not only an important Wesley Crusher episode, but easily the best. Important to see before you watch Lower Decks from Season 7. The episode that led to them casting Robert Duncan McNeill as Tom Paris. We finally get to see Boothby at the Academy, and Patrick Stewart is just at his best at some moments. One of the most iconic speeches in the whole franchise. Definitely one to prioritise!

                Cost of Living - an intriguing but flawed Lwaxana Troi episode. The main issue with her episodes on TNG is that none come up to the level of 'Half a Life' in Season 4, and that's really what blights this one. Other than that, it's not bad - they've got the balance by this point, in which Lwaxana inspires comic performances from Picard and Deanna in particular - and making Worf another long-suffering character is a nice touch as time goes on. The main thing, though, that makes this less than the best is that the way she inserts herself into the Worf-Alexander relationship is a bit troublesome. It's not bad, though - there's a lot to like in it, and as a Lwaxana episode and one with some of the Worf/Alexander plot in it, I don't think it's worth skipping (unless you find the elder Troi too irritating to tolerate).

                The Perfect Mate - One of the most criticised episodes of the TNG series. A metamorph, who is to be given as part of a peace ceremony, is transported on the Enterprise and is attractive to pretty much every man on the ship - at one point Data has to act as a chaperone. It's very reminiscent of the Red Dwarf episode, Camille. Famke Janssen does a pretty good job, actually, and some of the criticism is a bit overblown and unsympathetic - hostile, even. Still, even when you get past that it's not a particularly memorable episode. I don't think it's skip-worthy because by this point the overall quality is so high that it can drag weaker episodes up to a good level, but it's definitely amongst the bottom five in the series.

                Imaginary Friend - people who watched the sitcom 3rd Rock From the Sun might enjoy seeing a young Shay Astar in this episode. Heavy on Troi and some of the child actors, this is a fairly unusual one leaning heavily on the tropes of horror movies such as Village of the Damned. My favourite thing about this episode is the pre-credit sequence seems to be a throwaway version of the kind of plots that often make for whole episodes, only for it to become crucial by the end.

                I, Borg - Now we're talking! Essential viewing both for the quality and for it's place in the rest of TNG, and even in Picard. Crusher insists that they treat a wounded Borg, against the judgement of Picard. They bring him back, only to conceive of a way to use him as a weapon. But they discover him developing some individuality, which sees Laforge, Guinan, and eventually Picard all starting to think through the ethics of how they fight the war with the Borg. Was very impressed with how this held up. Rene Echevaria is a name that crops up with writing credits a lot on TNG but so far this is his best by a country mile.

                The Next Phase - This is a 'something gone wrong with the transporter' episode, and the gist is that Ro and Laforge are thought to be dead while they are really just out of phase. The action/typical plot is decent enough fare and does the job but the real qualities of this episode are in the philosophical end - in the whole thinking about faith, what happens how we die, and in indulging that long-standing but unrealisable fantasy of hearing what people have to say about us after we've passed on. It's a step down from I, Borg or The First Duty, but still, this is good stuff.

                The Inner Light - This is probably one of the big concept episodes of TNG, and is I think the moment you can see that they are definitively reaching beyond what people were used to from Star Trek, at an artistic level. First of two episodes that would win the Hugo award, something I don't think Trek was able to do after TNG. Beautifully directed, and no real subplot to speak of - they just let the main concept speak for itself. It's out of the ordinary so you'll either love it or hate it but I think it's great. The bit where Batai spoke to him at the end moved me just as much watching it back this time as it did the first time around. Powerful stuff!

                Time's Arrow - Now we come to the end of the season and the two-parter. The main issue with Time's Arrow is that it has to follow two-parters that were so great in The Best of Both World's, Redemption, and Unification. And it doesn't quite come up to that level. Even so - there's not a lot wrong with it. It simply fails to come up to the level of what are some of the very best episodes. Very strong Data outing, plenty of good scenes for other characters, a dash of comedy here and there and something that's pretty essential to the whole Guinan story. If you're into the rendering of real people, then they pretty much nail Mark Twain, too. Witty - but arrogant, and not exactly likeable. It might have been smarter to make him more endearing but as someone into the history, I appreciated the accuracy of the writing in that regard.

                Realm of Fear - the last one I came to on this run, and Reg Barclay is back. This time, though, it's the transporter that is the problem rather than the holodeck, and he is scared of it rather than obsessed. There's a lot of verbiage familiar to us from conversations about air travel that is quite enjoyable, and O'Brien appears a lot which I enjoy. He and Dwight Schultz have some scenes together and that's two of the best actors to guest on TNG working together, which is always a joy. Plenty to like and while I don't think it's as good as 'Hollow Pursuits', it comes in 2nd of the Barclay TNG episodes.

                "The worst moron is the one too stupid to realise they're a moron."


                • #98
                  Hot tag.

                  As Voyager journeys into its fifth season, I must unfortunately say some cracks are beginning to show. While we've had one or two more really great episodes, there's been more that, while not terrible, have just felt a little mundane, or ones that lose their way halfway through.

                  Night - strong start, though, as we pick up with the crew traversing a vast expanse of featureless space. Nothing but black stares at them and they've been traversing it for weeks, with months left to go. Janeway has shut herself away from a demoralised crew and as events begin to play out and we're introduced for the first time to the space garbage men, the Malon, it takes an almost mutinous effort from the command crew to get the captain back on side with everyone else. That scene in particular is extremely well executed, a low key series favourite moment of mine in fact, and Mulgrew is in general outstanding. Not one of that absolute elite level reserved for the few, but a very, very strong season opener and a bold episode.

                  Drone - sometimes Voyager gets criticised for using the Borg too much, and this might be a good example of why. In a relatively ordinary Star Trek set-up that sees Seven's nanoprobes fuse with the Doctor's mobile emitter, a 24th Century Drone is born. The crew try to integrate 'One' without him wanting to join and upgrade the Collective. Stuff happens. It's all a bit bland. But I will say that there is an especially poignant scene at the climax between Seven and One in sickbay that demonstrates some powerful and uniquely Trek dialogue. I suppose it's also important for Seven's now rapidly developing arc of humanising and integration.

                  Extreme Risk - Voyager deals with issues of self-harm and unresolved emotional trauma in this challenging and bold episode, one of the early true standouts of the season. B'Elanna has taken to exposing herself to high risk holodeck programmes without any safety protocols, as well as being reckless in high risk situations and repeatedly allowing herself to come to harm, all fuelled by her survivor's guilt following the preceding season's revelation that the Maquis have been wiped out. I'm not qualified to discuss how deftly it tackles the subject matter, but it certainly makes for involving and emotive television. It also introduces the Delta Flyer for the first time, and we see another of what will become many and frequent commanding performances from Mulgrew and Janeway becomes more and more explicitly the inspiring maternal figure on board.

                  In The Flesh - Chakotay is undercover on an alien installation posing as Starfleet HQ. It turns out to be Species 8472 prepping for an invasion of Earth. Some shenanigans and one conversation later and the species more powerful than the Borg bow out of Trek lore forever (I think) in anticlimactic fashion, well and truly neutered. This felt like a huge misstep for the show, cutting off a whole raft of future opportunities. It's also a bit boring.

                  Once Upon a Time - someone in the writer's room said, "Hey guys, you know what's always gone down a storm on Star Trek shows?! An annoying child prodigy!" Enter Naomi Wildman, the most annoying prodigious child in the history of all Trek. In an episode that's really about Neelix and his struggle with managing the nature of familial grief, we get regularly sidetracked with some weird effort at a children's holodeck programme that almost robs the entire episode of its pathos. Ethan Phillips carries the episode with an affecting performance, there's a genuinely moving scene between Tuvok and Ensign Wildman on board a crashed Delta Flyer and, yet again, Mulgrew excels as the mother figure Janeway. It's a shame they introduced Naomi.

                  Timeless - often heralded as one of Voyager's all time great episodes, it's easy to see why even now. After a terrible accident occurs during use of an experimental new propulsion system, Voyager crashed and all hands are lost except for Chakotay and Harry Kim. They make it back to Earth safely aboard the Delta Flyer. Years later, a grief riddled Kim, along with Chakotay and his girlfriend, hatch a plan to alter the past and save Voyager, recruiting the EMH to help. This one has a truly superlative performance from Garret Wang and Robert Picardo both, the story is properly engaging and feels genuinely high stakes and there's even a cameo from Geordi La Forge for you TNG nerds. It's reputation is warranted. Be sure to check this one out. And guess what? Yep. Mulgrew. Janeway. Excellent.

                  Infinite Regress - another Seven episode here, that sees proximity to a weapon against the Borg trigger suppressed voices she once heard during her years as a drone. It manifests as a form of multiple personality disorder. Jeri Ryan excels in a performance that stretches her skills as much as they can be. Mulgrew, at this point typically, is outstanding as well. It feels like a deeply powerful episode and intimately personal for Seven, as well as key to her developing relationship with the crew and captain. Unfortunately it does feel like the drama peaks emotionally much too soon, and so it sort of peters out rather than really driving home.

                  And that's it for now. Things are still good, but they're getting a bit more wobbly. And there are some bad habits slowly beginning to develop - a neglected Kim and Paris; a surplus of Borg-heavy Seven episodes; the introduction of Naomi Wildman. On the flip side though, I can't gush enough about how much Kate Mulgrew is now absolutely owning the role of Janeway. No matter how little we see of her, she puts in these properly commanding performances every time that really compel Janeway as the mother figure to the crew. She feels like a leader in every way, one you'd respect and absolutely follow anywhere she asked you to go. It's reminding me now why Janeway is my favourite of all the captains over the years.

                  Jean-Luc who?!


                  • #99
                    Man, I really let this lapse, didn't I? I have watched about another nine episodes since my last update, and I will have to find the time to carry on... I think the last place I left it was right after the 'Chain of Command' two-parter.

                    "The worst moron is the one too stupid to realise they're a moron."