April 25th: The Best of Both Worlds in theaters -
Just figured I’d let you all know, if you want to see the epic Borg 2-parter, it’ll be in theaters one night only next Thursday in select theaters. Buy tickets now!
SCORE: (3/5 stars)
Responding to a distress call on a Federation colony, the Enterprise arrives to discover the entire planet’s surface has been obliterated… all except for one house with an elderly couple, the Uxbridges. Rishon is a kindly woman who makes tea and is very hospitable, but Kevin is a very private sort who wants to be left alone. They knew that much of the colony had been obliterated when an alien ship belonging to a species called the Husnock attacked, but not until now were they made aware they were the only survivors.
Despite being all alone on this world, Kevin refuses offers to help them relocate to another colony. He seems to think they can survive just fine on what they have, though the analysis of the away team is that they have enough fusion power to last another five years at best, and no access to clean water. Meanwhile, Troi seems to sense something different about the Uxbridges, but before she can get too close, she begins hearing music in her head, music that she can’t shake no matter how hard she tries, to the point that it drives her to physical pain because it won’t go away even in the deepest sleeps.
The Husnock appear to return, presumably to finish the job, but flee the system when the Enterprise fires a warning shot. The Enteprise pursues, but Picard senses something is seriously amiss when the ship matches their warp acceleration exactly, point for point, no matter how much they push the engines. He senses this was a diversion to keep them from Rana IV, so he orders a return course. He personally beams down to meet with the Uxbridges and to offer them a replicator, which Kevin refuses even though Rishon says they do need it. He also, again, refuses to go with Picard to the Enterprise. By this point, Picard’s already begun to suspect Kevin is not who he says he is. Kevin believes the only reason he and his wife were spared was because they chose not to fight the Husnock, but Picard thinks there’s something else to it.
SCORE: (4/5 stars)
Data’s about to perform in a string quartet in Ten Forward, the first of many concerts we see in that lounge. (Side note: O’Brien plays cello? How come that never comes up in DS9?) When he sees Picard and Dr. Crusher are in attendance, he recommends they come to the second performance when someone else is on first violin, as he believes his performance is too mechanical and lacking in feeling. They waste no time in informing him that a command officer shouldn’t undermine his abilities to the point that those serving with him begin to lose confidence in him, and they’re certain he’ll perform well. Of course, a captain is never really off-duty, and Picard is forced to leave just as the concert is underway.
An alien species, the Sheliak, has announced that they plan to colonize a system the Federation granted to them in a treaty. The planet has human inhabitants and they are to be relocated in three days. The colony itself is a bit of a mystery; there are no records of its existence, and the planet is full of lethal radiation. They can’t even give the planet a proper scan because of the radiation’s interference. The only solution they have is to send Data down in a shuttle to make contact and give the proper warnings.
Data finds a colony of 15,000 people. They landed here a century ago when their colony ship went way off course and they had to make do with the planet they had. They found a way to counteract the effects of the radiation and made quite the home for themselves. The leader Gosheven seems to think warnings of a Sheliak claim aren’t worth raising any alarm over. How can they lay claim to a planet they aren’t even on, when they’ve been here a century and worked hard for it? (While the threat is very real, I’m inclined to agree with him myself. Homesteading is what gives someone the right of land, not a piece of paper.)
SCORE: (4/5 stars)
Season three! Collared uniforms! The return of Doctor Crusher! And guest-starring Dr. Kelso! Yes, I know his character’s name is Dr. Stubbs, but that’s a stupid name and he’s Dr. Kelso on Scrubs so he’s also Dr. Kelso here. And any one of you who dares to challenge me on that, we will throw down in the Klingon calisthenics program with safeties off. I will die pathetically and out of breath, but I will not back down from this challenge.
The Enterprise is on site to observe a rare neutron star’s activity. It siphons material from its sister star and builds up to a shell ejection every two centuries. Dr. Kelso has made it his life’s work after the abysmal 9th season of Scrubs to observe and catalog data from this rare stellar event. But a problem arises when Wesley Crusher falls asleep monitoring a science project to make nanites better, and inadvertently causes them to become self-replicating and develop a eusocial intelligence. Since they require raw material to construct more of themselves, they begin accidentally damaging ship systems, cannibalizing them to construct themselves. This plays havoc, as one can imagine, and the ship nearly crashes into the matter stream between the two stars.
It takes a while for Wesley to work up the courage to tell the crew what he did (even though at this point he only suspects the nanites, he doesn’t have proof). After a good chat with Guinan (seriously, Deanna seems to just annoy people when she has advice), he talks to his mother about it, who takes it to the senior staff. Dr. Kelso thinks it’s ridiculous that a group of nanites could have evolved into an organism and wants to destroy them, even firing phasers at them as they damage the computer core. They seek revenge on him by wiring ship systems to electrocute him in his quarters.
SCORE: (3.55/5 stars)
The growing pains of TNG have begun to subside and we start getting into the real meat of the series. Major ethical questions are raised. Is Data a person? He’s not flesh and blood like the rest of us and certainly he’d be unique if we consider him a lifeform. Do we ascribe him personhood just because he’s made to resemble a man, or is there more to him than that? Should the Prime Directive be followed as an absolute? We’ve seen that they can neatly handle violations in an untraceable fashion so the culture is not affected. Picard holds back in situations where Kirk would boldly go.
New characters are introduced. We have Dr. Pulaski, the short-lived replacement for Crusher and an attempt to bring back the superego/id dynamic of Spock and Bones. I’ll admit that while I wasn’t happy to see Dr. Crusher leave and was initially hostile toward Pulaski, she grew on me as the season progressed. Whoopi Goldberg gets a role in the franchise that inspired her to become an actor, and it’s a pretty damned good role in Guinan. She does such a good job of giving advice to people that I’m left wondering why Deanna still has a job on the ship. And possibly the most important character to be introduced this season? The Borg. Oh yes, if there’s ever a Star Trek villain, it’s the Borg.
That’s not to say the show is done growing. There’s more than a few misses this season. You can’t just dress up a character as Han Solo and expect that the rest will take care of itself. I don’t know what the writer for “The Outrageous Okona” was thinking, but they wrote a character who the main cast fawned over for no good reason, and I don’t know how it’s possible, but we had an entire B story starring comedians Joe Piscopo, Whoopi Goldberg, and Brent Spiner, and not a laugh was had. And the season finale was suffering both from the show needing to cut costs, and the writer’s strike shortening the season and rushing the script. Hardly the most fitting end for Pulaski, probing Riker’s brain to make a clip show.
SCORE: (1/5 stars)
I’ve found it! The worst episode of Star Trek! (Well, until Voyager when Janeway and Paris have lizard sex.) So the writer’s strike was looming, meaning season 2 was getting truncated. They had very little time to write a script, and because of big-budget episodes like “Elementary, Dear Data” and “Q Who,” Paramount wanted them to save some money and do… a clip show. Clip shows are the absolute worst. Complete waste of an episode. I would take fifty episodes of being trapped in an elevator over a clip show, but well, that’s what they decided to give us.
On a survey mission of a planet, Riker gets jabbed by a vine. When he tries to beam up to go to sickbay, the biofilter detects a foreign body that it can’t separate from him, so after Pulaski reluctantly beams down for a house call, she overrides the biofilter precaution to bring Riker to sickbay. His leg begins to go numb and goes completely dead on the biobed. Pulaski needs to know what she’s dealing with, so Data and Geordi beam back to the planet to find the plant thingy that poked him. Geordi nearly gets poked himself by the hostile plant but Data’s reactions are far too quick for that. They remove a part of the plant and take it to Pulaski.
The invading body attaches itself to the nervous system, and it’s working its way up his leg, through his spinal column and into his brain. Pulaski has to shove a bunch of needles into Riker’s brain to try and fight it, while Deanna stands by using her empathy to sense Riker’s condition. They make the discovery that by turning the episode into a clip show, they can fight the organism. Riker starts reliving old episodes in his TV screen. Everything from his own erotic 50 Shades of Grey reenactments on the holodeck to sad things. It’s determined that negative emotions kill the invading microbes, so Pulaski cures the infection by putting on loop a bunch of action sequences. Eventually, after enough scenes from previous episodes have been shown, Riker’s infection is cured… but offscreen during the credits it passes onto Pulaski, who hasn’t been on the show long enough to cure it with her own clip show and she dies before season 3 begins. (I’m assuming. Nobody ever says what happens to her, but starting next season, Dr. Crusher returns.)
SCORE: (5/5 stars)
If memory serves, the last time a ship named Enterprise engaged in a war game, it resulted in the loss of multiple starships. But hey, that was so long ago, when Constitution-class starships were the soup du jour and if they were in the episode and not named Enterprise, they were dead. Surely if the Enterprise-D engages in such a wargame, nothing bad will happen, right? It’s a true underdog story as the 80-year-old starship Hathaway is brought out of mothballs to be pitted against the might of a Galaxy-class vessel. Riker takes command of the Hathaway and assembles the crack team of Worf, Geordi and Wesley to help whip this rust-bucket into shape.
Aboard the Enterprise to observe the scenario is Kolrami, a master strategist, and the best Strategema player in the universe. Before transferring over to the Hathaway, Riker challenges him to a match. Not to win, he knows he’ll surely lose, but just to be able to say he played him. Kolrami wins handily, and worse, smugly. If there’s one thing Pulaski can’t stand, it’s someone being smug besides her. So she goads Data into challenging Kolrami. He holds his own for a time, but Kolrami is clearly the better player and wins. This sends Data into a spiral of self-doubt. He should have won, clearly his brain is superior to any organic one. He recuses himself from duty and spends hours shut in his quarters, running self-diagnostics. Pulaski and Troi try their hardest to get through to him, but it’s not working, so Picard comes in and gives him a swift verbal boot to the ass, along with a pearl of wisdom: “it is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose.”
Meanwhile on the Hathaway, they’re having to devise clever strategies, because certainly the ship would be fodder in a straight fight against the flagship. Guile and subterfuge must be employed, both in the preparation and execution phases. Worf plans to use security access codes to trick Enterprise sensors into seeing ghost ships. When Geordi realizes that they don’t have the dilithium crystals they need to power the warp drive, Wesley concocts a story that he needs to return to the Enterprise to shut down a physics experiment he’d left running unattended. Escorted by a security officer with no real technical knowledge, he’s able to steal a dilithium crystal right from under his nose, concoct a story about how his project is ruined and must be disposed of via the transporter, and beam it onto the Hathaway. Riker almost rakes him over the coals for this, but realizes that it was a rather clever bit of improvisation.
SCORE: (5/5 stars)
This episode, titled “The Emissary,” is not to be confused with the DS9 pilot episode, titled “Emissary” (no “the”). Hope that’s cleared up. We open again on our favorite Enterprise pastime: poker! You know this is an early episode, because Worf clears house. That’s the last time that’ll happen. Worf’s a lot funnier when he grumbles and loses at the table. But, since this is a Worf-centric episode, I suppose they had to throw him a bone to let you know it’s all about him.
Speaking of throwing Worf a bone, the Enterprise beams aboard a class eight probe containing a Federation dignitary. When they open it up, it’s revealed to be K’Ehleyr, a Klingon-human hybrid. (Played by Suzie Plakson, who we’ve seen on Enterprise as an Andorian, and who we last saw as a Vulcan doctor in a less-than-stellar episode. After her stint as K’Ehleyr, she’ll return in Voyager as Q’s wife Q.) She channels more human than Klingon, and is extremely sassy, sarcastic, and playful. With such a polar opposite personality, it’s no wonder she’s an old flame of Worf’s. Things apparently ended badly, and Worf is absolutely not pleased to see her.
So of course Picard assigns Worf to work directly with her. From a command perspective, it makes sense. She’s been sent to brief the Enterprise on a potential situation: an old Klingon sleeper ship from 75 years ago is about to awaken. 75 years ago was 2290, two years before the Khitomer Accords reached a peace treaty between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. These Klingons have been asleep all this time and believe they are still at war with Earth, and should they awaken near a Federation colony, they’ll be duty-bound to attack it. K’Ehleyr recommends destroying the ship outright, believing the sleepers to be beyond reasoning with. Worf believes there are alternatives they have not pursued, and their disagreement becomes heated, and well, not really about the mission as much as how they had left things 6 years ago.
SCORE: (2/5 stars)
Lwaxana Troi comes on board to marry any willing (or unwilling) male on board, and Mick Fleetwood is a fish. As you can probably guess from this being a Lwaxana-centric episode, it’s gonna be pretty light in terms of things actually going on, because she’s enough of a nuisance that it would be cruel to throw more at the Enterprise. (Oh God, could you imagine an episode with Lwaxana and Q?)
Lwaxana’s official reason for coming aboard is as the Betazoid ambassador to a conference on the planet Pacifica, which unfortunately means Picard has to extend her full diplomatic courtesy. She insists that Picard take her luggage, even though Mr. Homn can easily lift it, but Picard defers to Riker, who finds the case to weight well over a hundred pounds. Still, he’s not about to harm his pride and admit defeat, so he picks it up… using his back. LIFT WITH YOUR KNEES, RIKER, LIFT WITH YOUR KNEES!
Lwaxana has decided that she’s going to aggressively court Picard. You see, she’s experiencing the Betazoid version of menopause, which kicks her sex drive to warp 9. After Picard defuses an intimate dinner she arranged by inviting Data over to share the most mood-killing trivial facts, Troi explains what’s going on, so Picard decides that he should hide out in the holodeck until “that woman” is off his ship. He hasn’t run the Dixon Hill program in a while, why not give that a whirl?
SCORE: (2/5 stars)
Worf’s come down with the Klingon measles. What an embarrassment! It’s a disease for a child, not a stoic warrior. Fortunately for him, Dr. Pulaski covers and makes up a cover story for him: that he decided he was too much of a warrior for food. In exchange, Worf invites her to a Klingon tea party. Seriously. And it is very much a Klingon tea party. There’s pomp and ceremony and the tea is poisonous enough to kill. Klingons don’t really have celebrations where things can’t kill you. I have this Klingon friend who keeps inviting me to his birthday parties, but I’ve seen his dwindling friends list on Facebook and I’m wise to his ways.
The Enterprise responds to a distress call for a human colony they didn’t even know existed. The colony is threatened by a massive solar flare and they’re evacuated to the Enterprise, where it turns out they’re a bunch of Irish
stereotypes farmers, bringing up all their farm animals with them. It’s quickly clear that the “leader” of the colony, one Danilo Odell, is really just the drunken figurehead and his sharp-tongued and short-tempered daughter Brenna is the real leader. They’d do nothing but drink and fight and fight and drink til they can’t feel their legs, if she wasn’t standing over them whipping them into shape. Poor Danilo, you fathered your own mother.
The episode kind of feels a little directionless, the plot standing back to make cheap jokes about the Irish. “Oh no! You showed them how to make booze in the replicator! Now nothing will ever get done! We better program the replicator to not replicate potatoes and complete the historical cycle!” Worf one-ups Danilo, showing him a Klingon alcoholic concoction that even his stout Irish constitution can barely handle. Oh and if you were wondering, yes, Riker does in fact make the sex with Brenna, but unlike Captain Rapes T. Kirk, she’s the one who puts the moves on him. Still, it feels too long since Riker’s put his Will in something. I never thought I’d say it, but boy, the 80s sure was a prudish time for television.
SCORE: (4/5 stars)
Wesley’s scheduled to take some Starfleet exams at a nearby starbase when Picard unexpectedly announces he has some business at that Starbase too and will be tagging along for the shuttle ride. Riker’s clearly surprised as they were going to be studying a pulsar cluster that Picard had really been looking forward to. For Picard, this is a matter of image and ego. Dr. Pulaski has determined that his artificial heart (!) has a fault and needs to be replaced, and Picard will be damned if he has such a vital operation on his ship and damage his crew’s view of him.
While Picard attempts to ignore Wesley’s inroads at in-flight conversation, the Enterprise is diverted from their pulsar study by a distress call. They find a small immobile ship crewed by fat and stupid Pakleds, who are out in space to look for things that help them go, but it’s broke. They need help to make it go. Since it’s clear communication isn’t their strong suit, Riker has Geordi beam over to see if he can make the repairs himself, despite Worf’s protestations that we don’t know these people. Well, nobody ever listens to Worf and he’s usually right. As soon as Geordi gets the ship up and running, the Pakleds steal his phaser and fire at him. See, they want him to make them things. With their replicator up and running, they can make lots of weapons. And with power up, they appear to have obtained a Romulan shield generator, so forget about an easy disabling phaser shot to get Geordi back.
Wes’s constant attempts at conversation with Picard finally wear him down. They discuss family. Wesley asks Picard why he never married or had kids, and Picard explains that the life of a Starfleet officer doesn’t often accommodate long-term relationships. He then opens up to Wes and explains why he has an artificial heart in the first place. When he was a hotshot cadet, top of his class, he and some chums were being cocky at a deep-space dive bar and he thought he could take on three Nausicaans. (As we later see, or if you remember from their appearance on Enterprise, Nausicaans are like, seven feet tall.) He took a knife through the heart for his rouble. We’ll later see this event relived in Season 6’s “Tapestry.” Upon arrival at the Starbase, Wesley acts on orders from Dr. Pulaski and escorts Picard right to the operating room to make sure he actually goes through with it.
SCORE: (5/5 stars)
Let’s do a test. Call up a friend, someone you know watches Star Trek. (Or, if you live in the 21st century, text them or message them on Facebook. I know, people who were born in the 80s still use their phone as a phone.) Ask them to name one TNG villain. Go! Ask them! I’ll be waiting here. I’m extremely patient, being a block of text, and I won’t mind. Okay, are you back now? Watch, I’m totally psychic. They said: THE BORG. Or, possibly, they said Q. But that’s okay, because this episode has BOTH.
Q’s homeless at the moment. Apparently the Continuum kicked him out and he’s been drifitng aimlessly, but then he remembered all the good times and hearty laughs on the good ship Enterprise, and shows up offering to join the crew. He reacts quite negatively to Guinan’s presence and tells Picard he should ditch her immediately. Apparently, they have some history that’s never explained, but since it happened 200 years ago, this is our first hint of Guinan’s longevity. (Hint: she’s even older than that.) When Picard has had enough of Q’s obnoxiousness, he tells Q they don’t need him and they’re well-prepared for whatever they might face out in the cosmos.
Challenge accepted. Q snaps his fingers and the Enterprise is flung 7,000 light years away. At maximum warp, they are two and a half years from the nearest starbase. Guinan’s people have been out this far, and she warns him to turn back immediately, but Picard’s curiosity gets the better of him. (Besides, who’s to say Q wouldn’t just keep them there if they tried to leave?) They encounter a ship with no life signs and no recognizable ship systems. It is massive and cube-shaped. Guinan identifies them as the Borg.
SCORE: (5/5 stars)
While investigating a planet that went from pristine blue-green to volcanic black in a matter of hours, Riker suggests that this could be a good teaching moment for Wesley and proposes that he head up a geological survey team. While this does eventually end up with Wesley inadvertently saving the day, the handling of it is one I’m okay with. He has to grapple with selecting the right crew for the job, being a lot younger than the people under his command, and standing by decisions that his subordinates may disagree with. He is wise to seek Riker’s counsel as much as possible, though I don’t know that his performance as leader is indicative of any future command ability.
Believe it or not, even though this is the focal story for the first half of the episode, it’s actually the B plot. Data reconfigures ship sensors to pick up transmissions from different bands, signals that may be much fainter. He succeeds in picking up what’s essentially a ham radio transmission from a little girl named Sarjenka. She’s from a pre-warp society that has, to this point, not been made aware of extraterrestrials. And worse, the planet is suffering from massive seismic disturbances, of a nature similar to the planet they’ve been studying for these past weeks. Data confesses to Picard his status as a “pen pal” with the little girl and explains the situation.
In one of the best single scenes this season, Picard calls all senior staff to his quarters to discuss the nature of the Prime Directive and what should be done. Opinions are split on whether to leave the planet to its natural course or whether to lend a helping hand, with this latter opinion carrying slightly more favor in the group. Eventually, Picard decides to help when he hears a transmission from the little girl. She’s scared and in danger and doesn’t know why her new friend Data isn’t responding to her. You’d have to be a monster to ignore the pleas of a child, regulations be damned.
SCORE: (3/5 stars)
Not much Trekking through the Stars is done in this episode, which is far more about relationships. Riker has been offered the command of the USS Aries, and a strategic attache is going to come aboard at Starbase Montgomery to brief him on the assignment. Riker is stunned to find out that the attache that materializes on the transporter is his father Kyle Riker. They haven’t spoken in fifteen years. It appears that Kyle took this job specifically so he could try to reconnect with his estranged son, but Will’s having none of it. The orders he receives are in a small data chip that could have been transmitted, so the briefings are purely a pretense that Will has no interest in humoring. And to think just a few episodes ago you were criticizing a Klingon officer for not talking to his father.
Worf is grumpier than usual, according to Wesley, who wouldn’t stop talking to him while he was most likely on the way to the bathroom. “It isn’t like Worf to yell at people and be angry,” says Wesley, the expert on interpersonal relationships and clearly a long, dear, and knowledgeable friend of Worf’s, “I better investigate!” He enlists the aid of Geordi and Data, who really feel like they’ve got better things to do as the engineering crew of Starbase Montgomery is doing their due diligence by double-checking every single piece of Geordi’s work. The bureaucratic mentality is the only universal constant. Wesley’s able to do some digging of his own into Klingon customs and learns that today is Worf’s tenth anniversary of his Age of Ascension. Worf’s grumpy because he has no Klingon friends to participate in the ceremony with. But don’t you worry, Wesley will fix that!
While Riker’s doing his best to avoid his father, he still seems to want to see what’s going on with him. As a civilian contractor with Starfleet, Kyle Riker has worked with lots of officers and lots of ships, and it seems like he can’t go two steps in Ten Forward without someone recognizing him or vice versa. What really shocks him is that Dr. Pulaski knows his dad, and from their kiss and a hug greeting, she seems to have known him in the Biblical sense. Asking her about it later, some of Riker’s misconceptions of his father are shattered. He always assumed he never remarried because no woman would put up with his ego, but Pulaski says she would have married had he asked. Kyle prioritized his career, much like a certain officer who ended a relationship with a hot Betazoid thing.
SCORE: (2/5 stars)
The Enterprise encounters a Federation shuttlecraft adrift in space, too far out to have gotten there on its own. They pull it into the shuttlebay but discover a few disturbing things. For one, its registry is NCC-1701-D, USS Enterprise, Shuttlecraft 05. For another, the shuttle with that registry is sitting right next to it in the shuttle bay. For a third, an unconscious Jean-Luc Picard is sitting in the pilot’s chair. Dun dun DUUUUUUUUUUUN. All signs point to the shuttlecraft having been thrown back in time six hours, with multiple shuttlecraft systems (and Future Picard’s brain) out of whack due to the time differential.
Attempts to wake Future Picard prove hazardous and yield little result—even when conscious, he’s unable to communicate. Deanna’s able to pick up emotion from him but it’s almost animalistic, instinctual in nature, and it has only one desire: to get off the Enterprise. Things aren’t that simple, however; pulling shuttlecraft records shows the craft leaving the Enterprise in the midst of a huge space vortex, and the Enterprise being destroyed as soon as it’s clear. Picard is none too pleased to know of this possible future, or with his future self, whose pathetic state leaves him with uncertain feelings about his own fate. On the bridge, he begins second- and third-guessing his orders, unsure of what he would have done in the timeline to get the Enterprise into the mess.
It doesn’t matter though; a giant energy vortex like the one in the shuttle’s records appears, and the Enterprise has to expend most of its energy at warp to fight the pull into it. Energy beams leap from the vortex into the ship, striking both Picards. It is now that Picard understands why he left the previous time—the vortex is focused not on the ship, but on him specifically, and he had taken the shuttle out to give the Enterprise a chance to flee. Future Picard, who is now far more lucid as he’s approaching his own time, joins Present Picard in the shuttlebay, but insists on being the one to take his shuttlecraft out. The time jump really scrambled his brain. It is his only imperative, his only purpose. But Present Picard knows what will happen if the cycle is allowed to repeat, and he fires a phaser set to kill on his future self. He won’t leave the ship. Instead, he orders the ship to stop fighting the pull of the vortex, and to fly straight through it. This works, they find themselves clear of the anomaly that they never really know what it was, and both Future Picard and Future Shuttlecraft 05 vanish. That’ll teach them to attempt a stable time loop!