Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 3, Episode 12 – “The High Ground” – An Exploration of the Means of Fighting and Sovereignty

Dr. Crusher deserved more episodes that didn’t involve her being a love interest. Thankfully the high ground does not do this but explores who she is as a person and doctor. This is exactly the kind of episodes I was looking for, for each of the doctors in my exploration of doctors of “Legacy Trek” (TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY and ENT). This an episode that tackles revolution, terrorism and the responsibilities of outside powers in conflict. Suffice to say this is the kind of episode of “Star Trek” that I love. Give me philosophy, politics and a good character story and a I am here for it. This one does hold up though it could have been better. Before I get into spoilers, I do recommend it.

The episode was directed by Melinda M. Snodgrass and written by Gabrielle Beaumont.

The story follows Dr. Crusher when she is kidnapped by Ansata Rebels who want to force the Federation’s hand in their planets conflict.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The idea of a faction forcing the Federation to get involved (given how powerful the Federation is) is really awesome. This is strengthened given this is an Independence movement and we see the people living under a fascist state. By all counts this should be easy for the Federation to make a stand but nuance is added to the characters and conflict which creates some good story drama.

The Ansata – The Ansata are the independence movement on Rutia IV being led by Kyril Finn. We get to meet the members of the populace who are a part of the movement too as well as some of the reasons why. The one thing that isn’t explored is that we don’t get the details of history. They exist as a powerful idea but we don’t get the details of the past that inspires the conflict, which hurts the episode.

Riker and Alexana Devos – Riker is the one who is pushing for resolution and freedom for the populace, though is way of doing so is very hands off. He’s helping Alexana who is a fascinating character who has been fighting for so long it is all she knows. She is a soldier who has lost people and it inspires the conflict and war. It is only Riker’s suggestion of another way that we see a possibility of her maybe taking another path.

Dr. Crusher and Kyril Finn – Dr. Crusher is helping the Ansata who use a transporter who infects them when used. She like Riker is pushing Finn to find another way and that never stops. Eventually Captain Picard is captured but she never stops rooting for the possibility of peace even as she protects Picard. This episode demonstrates how driven she is to help others as she is helping civilians after an attack by the Ansata which leads to her capture in first place. Gates McFadden does a wonderful job and I’m glad they didn’t give her a love interest in this episode.

The Cons:

The Details of The Lives of the People – The biggest thing against this episode is we don’t get many details of the lives of the people. Devos and Finn both give us vague allusions to things that have happened but nothing beyond that. This is a planet that has implied history but gives us no details of history. The characters have names, which is better than some episodes of “Star Trek” but it was so near great. It just needed to finish up those details.

The Federation’s Non-Involvement not Fully Tackled – Like the details of the conflict the details of the Federation’s non-involvement is not fully explored. It is discussed but we never get a real debate or in depth discussion of it. This is one of the core themes of the story and the story doesn’t go deeper.

This is a really good episode that I’d highly recommend. You get to see Dr. Crusher and what motivates her. There is a conflict that helps illustrate the Federation’s role in conflicts as well as the cycle of violence within conflicts and we are given nuanced characters who get to play off the crew. This episode could have been great and a favorite if it had just taken that extra step and filled into the details within the premise.

Final Score: 8.7 / 10

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 2, Episode 7 – “Unnatural Selection” – The Motivation Behind Dr. Pulaski

   Dr. Pulaski is probably the least loved doctor in all of “Star Trek.” She’s grumpy like Bones and is mean towards Data similar to how Bones sometimes is until Spock. I think part of it is she was not around long enough to really build a rapport with the audience or be given an arc. Like Tasha Yar she is around briefly and because of it the writers don’t really define her as fully as they could. This episode is a rare exception that explores her passions and beliefs in an interesting way. In my exploration of doctors of “Legacy Trek,” “The Next Generation” had both Dr. Pulaski and Dr. Crusher so I will be exploring an episode for both of them.

The episode was directed by Paul Lynch and written by John Mason and Mike Gray.

The Enterprise investigates the mysterious deaths on the starship Lantree, who have appeared to have died of old age.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The TOS Premise – The premise feels like it is out of “The Original Series.” The idea of age being the killer was something that TOS was fascinated with because of how it dealt with ego and mortality. That same premise is now being tackled by the new crew and they handle it in a very “Next Generation” way as everyone is under quarantine on the ship that was infected and the ship is put under quarantine so no one will get infected if they go aboard.

Dr. Pulaski – This episode is about Dr. Pulaski and we see her butting heads from the get go. Troi is the only one who gets along with her and we soon see how driven she is as Picard talks to her former Captain and learns that she admired the work of the Enterprise so much she asked to be transferred. She’s also willing to put herself at risk to see if the psychic genetically engineered kids are the cause and is infected in the process. Her desire for knowledge and love of science is on display and it makes her fascinating. Some of other actions, not so much.

The Mystery – The mystery is good as it leads to our crew investigating a research station where we find scientists have designed genetically engineered psychic kids. In the end we learn they are the reason behind it and must stay in quarantine the rest of their lives.

Captain Picard – Captain Picard handles himself well this episode. He is patient with others and is willing to hear out any idea. He is supportive of his crew to the point that he is willing to let Dr. Pulaski take the risk and meet one of the psychic kids to see if they are behind the aging on adults. He’s got a lot to tackle this episode and he never comes off as arrogant or mean, unlike Pulaski.

The Cons:

Pulaski’s Treatment of Others – Pulaski talks down to Data this episode and doesn’t seem to be aware of anything outside of her desire to science and solve the problem of the aging deaths. Her drive is fine but she has the early TNG arrogance that Picard and Riker usually had but instead they are good this time and instead she is the one taking people for granted who are helping her. She does seem to learn by the end though and is grateful for her rescue from dying.

The Transporter Fix – She is saved via beaming out the bad DNA. This is an early example of the transporter fix, which honestly I was kind of annoyed with given it felt like a fluke in how they found the answer. I wish there could have been more science versus the magic transporter.

This was a good episode and a great exploration of who Dr. Pulaski is. I don’t hate the character, but I understand why people do. She seems to have learned a bit of empathy during this episode though so I hope we get to see that growth in other episodes before Dr. Crusher comes back. It is a shame she never made any guest appearances after she left as her clashing with crewmembers could have opened up more story ideas.

Final Score: 8 / 10 Solidly good.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 6, Episode 5 – “Schisms” – The Horror of Abduction

Schisms (episode) | Memory Alpha | Fandom

   “Schisms” is an episode that is good at building tension and stakes. We get to see the day in the life of the crew as mysterious things keep happening, and get a ticking clock of the consequence of what the abductions are having upon the crew and ship. I appreciate how this mystery is handled as we see the daily life of the crew who are affected as things continue to feel off and the stakes grow.

The teleplay was written by Brannon Braga and directed by Robert Wiemer.

The crew of the Enterprise experiences losses in time as a subspace anomaly forms inside the Cargo Bay.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The premise of the crew losing time, going missing and in the end being abducted is fascinating. This is a crew that is seeking out new life and new civilizations and now it is being done to them on an inhumane level.

The Crew Come Together – This is a good ensemble episode as at one point all the people who have been experimented on by the aliens meet with Troi in the holodeck to recreate the experiment. We have La Forge, Riker, Worf and Kaminer. Seeing them realize that the cold table they were feeling was a lab table is haunting. To go with this we discover from their recounting that the aliens communicate in clicks add an even greater disconnect of what they must be feeling. After we have the meeting room and using a pulse to track a crewmember when they are taken as we have one member of the crew still missing, and another returned who dies shortly after from the experimentation. The stakes are high so the crew has to act fast.

Commander Riker – This is an ensemble story overall but Riker still manages to remain one of the main focuses. The episode starts with him and he is the one the aliens are taking the most often. The crew uses this as he is given a sedative by Dr. Crusher to remain awake and saves the Ensign from the aliens who were experimenting on the two of them. It is a good Riker episode as we see how driven he is by his job and also his care for the crew.

The Threat – The treat is fantastic. We have a mysterious alien species that is causing an anomoly through their experiments that will eventually destroy the ship. Beyond this ticking clock of the anomaly they are experimenting on the crew and it understandably causing trauma. Them being unknown serves to elevate things too as the crew doesn’t know the intentions of these enemies only that they need to stop them.

The Cons:

Pacing – The episode starts out really slow and in turn we only get to see the enemy threat briefly. I wish they could have cut Data’s poetry session out and given us more time with this new threat or more time with the crew problem solving. It is Data’s poetry session that sets the stage of the slow burn and it takes time for the episode to really pick up, which is a shame given the stakes of the episode.

Developing the Aliens Further – This episode has another of the one-off aliens that we never see again. We know they are experimenting on people, but we never learn why or how they function beyond mad scientists. This is the biggest con against the episode as they have a really cool design, looking like reptilian birds and they feel like a threat through the entire episode. I wanted more lore on them and that is a common criticism you’ll find from me in most of the episodes that include one off species.

This is a solid episode that gives a fascinating problem to be solved and an interesting threat. This isn’t a favorite episode but so much about this episode works that I can’t help but recommend it. Creating tension and horror is hard in the best of circumstances but “Schisms” pulls it off once the pace picks up. We have stakes and consequences and in the end are given a quality mystery story.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 4, Episode 11 – “Data’s Day” – Defining Data and Relationships

Data's Day (episode) | Memory Alpha | Fandom

  “Data’s Day” was an unexpected gem. I must have watched this episode years ago but I did not remember any of the events of the story so the relationships and reveals lead to this becoming one of my favorite episodes in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” This is an episode told completely from Data’s point of view and it is beautifully handled as we see him navigate many intriguing and complicated situations. I’ll get into more of what I mean deeper into the review.

The teleplay was written by Ronald D. Moore and Harold Apter and the episode was directed by Robert Wiemer.

The story follows Data recounting his daily routine as he faces preparation for Keiko and Miles’s wedding and working with the Captain as they work with the mysterious Vulcan Ambassador T’Pel.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Data’s Correspondence to Bruce Maddox – The episode is told through correspondence that Data is having with Bruce Maddox from “The Measure of a Man.” I love that they became friends and that Data is still helping him with his research and understanding androids. This gives a personal nature to Data’s musings and what is going on in his mind. We get to see his connection to crewmembers and how his journey to be more human is going.

The Neutral Zone Mystery – Ambassador T’Pel is having the crew scan the Neutral Zone and after them meet up with Admiral Mendak’s Warbird. We learn that the idea was a secret meeting to establish a thawing of relations between the Romulan Star Empire and Federation. All as not as it appears to be though as it looks as if T’Pel dies in transporting over to the Warbird. I loved how much tension this mystery creates through the episode as T’Pel only gets along with Data and Picard.

Data’s Relationship to Members of the Crew – One of the strongest parts of the episode are Data’s relationships. In this he is “Father of the Bride” for Keiko because he was the one who introduced Miles and Keiko to one another and he navigates the conflict they are having before their wedding. He also comments how Worf is an outsider like him, Geordi is his best friend and he because of this he can try out new ideas with him. Dr. Crusher teaches him how to dance in one of the most wholesome scenes in “Star Trek.” He discusses relationships with Troi and comments on how Riker’s relationships and Picard’s advocacy has shaped him and the respect he has for them. We see how all are connected to Data before the wedding takes place and it is beautifully done. The crew and their relationship to Data is truly what made this episode stand out and the episode could have stood on this plot alone.

The Romulan Reveal – Ambassador T’Pel was a Romulan Agent Sub-Commander Selok the entire time. This reveal is done and gives us a Romulan victory as when Picard goes back to the Warbird her true identity is revealed. Picard has to retreat though as many Warbirds are coming to make sure she makes it back to their space safely. Admiral Mendak is an awesome antagonist and it was great seeing the Romulans get a win that was built on espionage and their intelligence.

Data Learns to Dance – Data learns to tap dance from Dr. Crusher first and it is adorable and wholesome. Once Dr. Crusher learns he is learning to dance for the wedding she teaches him Waltz, which takes more time for him to learn where tap he could pick up fast because he could see the foot movements and didn’t have to lead. I loved this entire sequence. It was so innocent and showed the little nuances that made Data so human. His relationship to Dr. Crusher is great in this too. She’s like his older sister and mentor and this scene illustrates it really well.

We get a great Romulan plot and an amazing plot showing Data’s relationship to all the members of the main crew. I could not find a single con in this episode and this episode illustrates what makes Data one of my favorite characters in “Star Trek.” As someone with autism I can relate to his analytical view of relationships and the disconnect he must feel sometimes. But I also get putting all the work into making those relationships last and work because they matter. Suffice to say, I highly recommend this episode. This is easily one of my favorite episodes in all of “Star Trek.”

Final Score: 10 / 10

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 3, Episode 16 – “The Offspring” – Data’s Daughter and the Rights of Androids

The Offspring"... 26 Years Later

   “The Offspring” is the sequel to “The Measure of a Man” as we see Data create a child. The story that is explored from this premise is great and I can see this story living on in “Star Trek: Picard.” I won’t say more than that as I recommend the show and think you should see it for yourself if you are a fan of Data’s story. This was Jonathan Frake’s first time directing and he does a wonderful job of capturing the the fears and joys of being a new parent. Without going into spoilers, I recommend this story to anyone who loves “The Next Generation.”

The episode was directed by Jonathan Frakes and written by René Echevarria.

The story follows Data after he crafts a child he names Lal. From here her future is thrown into flux as Starfleet wants to take her away and study her at the Daystrom Institute.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Data Learns Parenting – The process of Data learning to parent is quite wonderful. He talks to Dr. Crusher about raising Wesley and also to Guinan as his daughter grows up. We see him introduce her to the different aspects of what it means to be human…from smelling a flower and is proud when she asks the big questions about purpose and existence. Brent Spiner does a fantastic job in this role and is his daughter’s defender against Starfleet when they try to take her away.

Picard and Android Rights – Picard is Data’s defender through this entire episode, even though he wished he’d been consulted about Data creating Lal. We can see how the events in “The Measure of a Man” have shaped his philosophy and he brings up that case with Starfleet. It is beautiful to see and I’d say this Picard

Admiral Haftel – The Admiral is a character in the same vein as Maddox. He’s driven to protect Starfleet interests and comes to sympathize with the very people he is making it difficult for. His final acts are working with Data to save Lal…I just wish he’d admit he caused her panic attack and is the reason she died. Great complicated antagonist to say the least. He brings up his own experience as a father and having to let go as his kids grew up. He respects Data even as he is driven by duty.

Lal – Lal is Data’s daughter and this episode we see how that process takes place. She chooses to take on the form of a human woman and over the course of the episode we see her go from basic experiences, questioning her own existence and experiencing emotion. Hallie Todd is fantastic in the role and I love how you can see aspects of Data in her as it was him as he transferred his brain into the one he crafted for her. Her last emotion is sorrow and love of her father Data as she experiences sadness for both of them. It was touching and powerful. This episode has a powerful core and Data and Lal are the heart of it.

Data – Data is an awesome Dad. In this we see him stand up against Starfleet and the rights of himself and Lal and guide Lal through the process he’s been going through for years. It is beautifully done and heartbreaking when she dies as she takes her program into his memory and she mourns for both of them as Data at this time…cannot mourn. He drives this episode from the beginning and his and Lal’s relationship is what truly makes the episode great.

The Cons:

Starfleet Ignoring Prior Cases – The Admiral follows the evil Admiral trope that we often see in “Star Trek.” He ignores everything that Data, Lal or Picard say and that was really a disservice as he is an interesting character. Sadly it is his giving Lal a panic attack that leads to her death. If the Admiral was not here chances are she would have survived. This is never directly addressed, which I feel like was a mistake. She was fine until her choice was taken away by the Admiral and she panicked.

This is a great sequel to “The Measure of a Man” as it further develops both Data and Picard and shows that Starfleet is still adversarial to Androids and them existing as beings with their own autonomy and rights. Lal is a fantastic character and I would have enjoyed this story being a two-parter, just to see more of her journey of growing up and becoming more human. Sadly this was not the case. Still, this is a great episode and well worth your time.

Final Score: 9 / 10 If Haftel and Lal had both received more development I’d rate it higher. Episode is still great, just needed that final bit of character development.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 4, Episode 3 – “Brothers” – The Legacies We Leave Behind

   “Brothers” is the best exploration of Soong and his creations that we get in “The Next Generation.” I wish we’d gotten more of this. This is one of the best episodes of “The Next Generation” and is an amazing story. Brent Spiner plays both Soong, Lore and Data in this episode and he gives quite the performance. I’ll get into more of what I mean later on but this is easily one of Spiner’s greatest performances.

The episode was written by Rick Berman and directed by Robert Bowman.

When Data takes control of the Enterprise, he takes them off course to a mysterious planet. The crew must get control back of the ship before one of the children under their care dies.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Taking Back The Ship – The main storyline for the crew involve them taking back control of the ship after Data locks them all out. It is very well done as we see all the main crew involved. O’Brien gets to use the transporter to trick the ship thinking Data has returned and we see the crew working together to solve Data’s hacks of their system. I could watch an episode of the crew taking back the ship any day of the week. The crew has such a great dynamic and I love seeing them problem solve.

Stories of Brothers – This episode is a story of brothers. The episode starts with one brother scaring his brother leading him him getting poisoned and their arc of making peace with another. On the other side you have Lore arrive when Soong calls Data and the resentment Lore has towards Data as Data makes peace that he is not lesser than Lore. We see how complicated relationships between brothers are and it is handled really beautifully.

Lore – Lore is called back by accident and that stings him. Soong believed that Lore was dead so his thoughts were only ever on Data. Even with Lore present though he cannot fix Lore and this feeds Lore’s resentment of Data and their father Soong. This leads to him stealing the emotion chip meant for Data and killing Soong. Lore is shown to be capable of some level of care though as he empathizes with Data at one point and his desire to be fixed shows he knows that there are problems in the actions he has done.

Data – This is Data’s story as he returns to his creator to be given an emotion chip. Over the course of the episode we see Data naturally develop more human like traits. He calls Soong Father before he dies and asks to be alone with Soong. These are all things that he would not have done before and show that even without the emotion chip he is still developing in his humanity. We also see how Data outmatches the entire crew as he locks them off the bridge and the episode is solving the problems he put in place while being controlled by Soong. This is a plot point I wish had gotten more exploration later.

Soong and Legacy – Soong bring’s Data to him in order to fulfill his legacy as his creator. He creates an emotion chip that is meant for Data but the mistake of his legacy in Lore leads to him getting killed. He was chased out by the Colonists and Lore was always trying to hurt and kill others. Soong never takes responsibility for Lore’s actions and his relationship with Data is him wishing Data would be a scientist like him. In the end Lore and Data live on as he dies from his illness and Lore and we see the parts of Soong in his children. Lore has his disconnect from others and selfishness while Data has his inquisitive nature and desire to be more.

Okay:

Urgency of B-Plot – The need for the little brother to be healed and get to the starbase loses the sense of urgency once the crew has taken back the ship. I felt a line or two as to why this was would have strengthened the end of this plot.

Brent Spiner does a truly beautiful job playing all three characters and is really the main reason to see this episode. You learn more about Soong, Data and Lore and you also get to see the crew be competent and problem solve. I love how this story explores legacy and family through Soong’s relationship to his children and their choices and actions. This lends an emotional weight that makes the episode perfect.

Final Score: 10 / 10. An amazing exploration of family and legacy.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 7, Episode 1 – “Descent, Part 2” – Finding Freedom in Self

Brent Spiner in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

“Descent, Part 2” has many of the same problems as Part 1. There are many good ideas here that really aren’t explored to their full potential. The whole motivation beyond Lore and the Borg is base and isn’t well thought out. What it means to be Data isn’t even really fully explored either or the Borg concept of individuality. There are enough decent plots present though, that I did enjoy this as well as Part 1. I wouldn’t call either good, but there are enough interesting plots present to keep things enjoyable once more.

The episode was directed by Alexander Singer and written by René Echevarria.

The story picks up where we left off with the reveal of Lore leading this new Borg Faction. Dr. Crusher must face the Borg Ship above the planet as Riker and Worf seek Picard and the others. Picard, Geordi and Troi seek an escape as well as possible solutions to free Data from the control of Lore.

SPOILER warning

The Pros:

Captain Crusher – Dr. Crusher is in charge of the ship and successfully defeats Lore’s Borg ship after using shields from a prior episode that protect from radiation from the star and ends up destroying the ship. I really liked seeing her train up the recruits and get a working up dynamic going on between them, given Picard stupidly left her with a skeleton crew with so much at stake. I really liked her as Captain and wish she’d gotten more leadership opportunities like this in the series.

Escape from Lore – It was great seeing Picard and Troi work with an injured Geordi to free themselves and Data. I can’t think of a time we’ve had this specific team-up, but I liked their dynamic…even if they failed in the end. Geordi is always fighting on, Troi is trying to be supportive and Picard is always in problem solving mode. You can see how in many ways he is like Data. His problem solving place is where he is most comfortable.

Hugh’s Borg – Hugh’s Borg are refugees from Lore who leave after they see that his experiments are destroying them. The empathetic Hugh from “I, Borg” is still very much present and I appreciate that at the end of this episode he is leading the free Borg. That should have been more explored, he was with Riker and Worf who have both lead people and that leadership role was not discussed or explored at all.

Data’s Choice – Data gets back his morality core after Geordi, Troi and Picard tech some Borg tech causing Lore’s hack to stop working. After this it is only a matter of time before he switches sides. Given I was invested in Data and he drives both plots this was a plus. I wish it had been more of his free will, but I also get the writers were working with him still as a programmed machine. No matter how great his technology is, it can still be hacked.

The Cons:

Riker and Worf Wander – We have two interesting characters who wander until Hugh’s Borg capture them. After that they go to end up in the final battle and take part. There was no reason they couldn’t have been a more active part of the story. They do nothing to convince Hugh to join them. Did the writers just forget they had two awesome characters with Hugh to work with?

Lore and the Borg’s Goals – I guess they are going for conquest…but Lore is killing his own soldiers in experiments. The experiments like the point of them is pointless. They have one ship that doesn’t even survive the episode, so what was Lore and the Borg’s plan again?

Why is Geordi Always Tortured? – Why is Geordi always being tortured? This time it is his friend Data too. I get Data apologizes after, but given how many times this has happened to Geordi it exists as a trope. The writers should have stopped this. They do their best to show Data has an understanding of guilt after the fact and Data still says he should keep the emotion chip, but it would have meant more if this hadn’t been a go to trope on how to use Geordi in the plot so many times prior.

This episode was better than “Part 1.” I think this is largely due to Hugh’s faction and the B Plot with Dr. Crusher. Those had more inventiveness and weren’t dependent on Data plot device. This was also enjoyable but did not rise to good. I wish the writers of both episodes had got together to write a fully coherent story. You have Lore, you have the Borg, you have Hugh…how could you not make this great? If you want to see how these stories end in “The Next Generation” you should still watch both these episodes though.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10 This episode was potential and managed to do more at least than “Part 1.”

“Descent Part 1 and 2” Final Score: 7.2 / 10 Weighing it more against because it never reached good and missed so many opportunities to explore Soong’s sons and the Borg.

Star Trek VIII: First Contact (1996) – Of Facing Trauma and the Quest for Betterment

Image result for star trek first contact poster

“Star Trek: First Contact” is the best of “The Next Generation” films. For me this isn’t initially doesn’t sound like much as I don’t think the others are good. They range from okay to awful for me where this was legitimately a great film. It isn’t perfect by any means, the ending kind of falls apart for one but this feels like an ensemble show. All the crew of Enterprise has a moment and many of them get the chance to grow and change over the course of the film. I’ll get into more of what I mean deeper into the review. As a kid this film freaked me out as this film presented how truly terrifying it would be to be assimilated by the Borg, and why they are one of the greatest threats in “Star Trek.”

The film was written by Brannon Bragga and Ronald D. Moore and directed by Jonathan Frakes.

The story follows the crew of the Enterprise-E when the Borg attack Earth. In order stop the Borg from winning they must go back in time to stop them and make sure that “First Contact” between the Vulcans and Humans still happens at the right time.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Enterprise-E – The Enterprise-E is a beautiful ship. It has the torpedo look of Voyager while still having the curving appearance that most models of the Enterprise have. It is a powerful ship and you can see why it is the flagship as it barely takes any damage from the Borg Cube and does enough damage to the Cube that the Sphere has to be shot out and a time travel plan initiated. The bridge is much more military, reflecting a Dominion era ship, and the different rooms feel more mechanical and less like a lounge like on the Enterprise-D. Suffice to say, this is one of my favorite ships to come out of Trek.

Guest Appearances – Robert Picardo, the Doctor on “Voyager” appears as the Enterprise-E to stall the Borg and Ethan Phillips who plays Neelix on “Voyager” appears as a hologram who greets Lily and Picard. It was pretty neat seeing them. Picardo’s Doctor is one of the best parts of Voyager and Ethan Phillips is a good actor.

Lily and Cochrane – Lily and Cochrane are the two people from the past who know about those who visited from the future and for both it is a different experience. Lily passes out after trying to kill Data and finds herself on the Enterprise-E, eventually meeting up with Picard and helping him find a way past his obsession to destroy the Borg for how they hurt him…and Cochrane is running from his destiny and being a major part of the future as Troi, Riker and Geordi eventually help him come to terms with the man he will become. Both offer a different view of time travel that I appreciated. I do wish we could have got more of Cochrane’s motivation beyond selfishness though. The Zefram Cochrane of this series is acted amazingly by James Cromwell, but he is a scummy dude who is only out for himself. This is a man who doesn’t see the big picture until first contact with the Vulcans. Lily, is someone who does get it and Alfre Woodard does a great job.

The Crew – The crew are given a lot of exploration in this film. The only one who really doesn’t have as many scenes is Dr. Crusher, but she is still active and protecting people when the Borg begin taking over the ship. She is also the only who saves Lily who ends up being the person who helps Picard come back to himself again. So I’m mentioning what she did here before I go into detail on the events surrounding the rest of the crew.

Troi – Troi is the one who first finds Zefram Cochrane. She ends up getting drunk with him before he finally admits who he is and has to sadly keep him away. Zefram is a scummy guy in this whose arc is really about becoming a better person. Troi is the one interacting among the people and who can see how much fear there is (this is Post World War 3). I wish we got to see more scenes like this as she is the one outside of Dr. Crusher who really sees the human element best.

Worf – Worf is fantastic in this film. We get to see him fight with The Defiant against the Borg and later face them on the Enterprise-E. It is the fact that the numbers of Borg seem to be endless that leads to Worf realizing they need to blow up the ship as the Borg are adapting more quickly than they can destroy them. Picard calls him a coward at this point before apologizing. I love that Worf isn’t played a joke as he is in the later films. He’s a Starfleet officer and one of their best.

Geordi – Geordi is the first to tell Zefram about the future and is in charge of repairing the Phoenix. It is Geordi’s admiration and descriptions of the future that end up freaking Cochrane out the most as he doesn’t see himself as a genius. In the end he comes through and Geordi and Riker get to make warp speed on the day it is supposed to happen in the timeline.

Riker – Riker is the one who hold Zefram accountable and makes it so he can’t run away from the future. He ends up stunning him, which finally helps him get his act together so they can get the Phoenix ready and first contact with the Vulcans be made. He’s in charge of the team on Earth and you once again see why he’s the First Officer as he pulls everything together and in the end, Zefram and Lily are the only ones who ever knew there were time travelers present.

Data – This film is really Data and Picard’s story and continues the theme of the show with Data’s quest for humanity. In this we have moments where his androidness comes in handy as when they he feels fear, he can just shut it off by turning off his emotion chip. In this the Borg, specifically the Queen offer Data a choice once he is captured. If he joins them he can have the organic and feel physical sensation as humans do. He goes along with it and ends up tricking the Queen and destroying their base. He does mention to Picard that for a near second he was tempted, which is long for an android. The Picard, Data dynamic is wonderful and you can see a friendship has grown between them over the years on the show and the loss of the Enterprise-D.

Picard – This film involves Picard facing what was done to him by the Borg when they made him Locutus. We see this at first when Starfleet doesn’t want him to face them because they don’t trust his judgement and later when after helping easily defeat the Borg we find they are around, and in his ship. This is powerful as Picard is trying to hold onto himself and his ego and in the process doesn’t notice when he loses people or how his obsession is consuming him. It isn’t until Data is captured and Lily calls him out that he calls for a retreat and realizes that losing another Enterprise is the only way to win. After this he goes to the Borg to save Data and comes open and ready to face himself and the memories of his trauma.

Ship Under Siege – What make the narrative work is that when the Borg beam onto the Enterprise it is a slow takeover, but by the time they’re discovered they are permanently entrenched. Our heroes are fighting to hold ground and to prevent more Borg being called so the stakes are high the entire time. This claustrophobia lends itself to the narrative and constant push of the Borg push into Picard’s obsession to destroy them and fight back.

The Trauma of the Borg – When Borg assimilate someone they are made part of the Collective. Their body is mutilated and machine is installed within them. This is what was done to Picard in “Best of Both Worlds” Part 1 and 2. Certain episodes explore how that hurt him, from killing Federation officers in the Battle of Wolf 359, to his loss of self and identity and being a part of the machine. This film explores this beautifully as it begins with Picard having a nightmare about his assimilation and his scene facing the Queen involves him facing that nightmare. It is a good narrative book-end.

The Quest for Betterment – Another major theme of the film is the quest for betterment. Whether it is how the Borg seek perfection through assimilation, Cochrane’s first contact and how it lead to humanity rising up to the Stars and the formation of Starfleet and the United Federation of Planets and Data’s quest to become human and more than his programming. All these elements run as the narrative through line and make the film great.

The Cons:

The Borg Queen and Ego in the Collective – The Borg are a Collective and to me that is what makes them the most terrifying. When the Queen is introduced she uses “I” and also is seeking a mate. My guess is they wanted to go for a bee hive for the Borg when they are much scarier as a one mind lovecraftian horror. The Queen’s ego, which a collective doesn’t have, is what leads to her losing as after Data sleeps with her, she fully trusts him and he betrays her and saves first contact and the Enterprise-E goes to waste. If she hadn’t had Data do be the one to fire the shot (which was just to rub in Picard’s face) she would have won. This issue of ego becomes an even bigger problem when she is back again in “Voyager.” The actress does a good job with what she’s given but the moment the Queen showed up, the threat of the Borg no longer felt as great, and the final act simply cemented that.

Picard Wasn’t Needed in the Final Act – Narratively I get Picard going to save Data, as Data saved him in “Best of Both Worlds.” The thing is, how the script was written the Queen would have lost whether he was there or not. She believed she had Data and Data knew what to destroy to stop her. He also isn’t killed or mortally injured after he does this. Picard showing up is just for the sake of narrative and to complete his emotional journey. I wish they’d re-written this whole act so that Data did need rescuing and wouldn’t have been able to stop the Queen on his own. Instead, Data stops the Queen, stops the Borg and makes first contact possible. If Picard wasn’t in the scene it wouldn’t have changed a thing.

If you are a fan of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” than you will probably like “First Contact.” It isn’t as strong as some of “The Original Series” films but it is greater than most “Star Trek” films that are out there. Overall it works and even though the ending didn’t need Picard and the Queen, kind of ruins the threat of the Borg for me, it is still a very well told story. This was a film tacking big ideas and major themes and I think Bragga and Moore accomplished that. The Borg are Picard’s Khan and this is one of the best explorations of that trauma that currently exists in the stories of “The Next Generation.”

Final Score: 9.4 / 10 This is a wonderfully great and flawed film.

 

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 5, Episodes 7 and 8 – “Unification Part 1 and 2” – A Question of the Past and Peace

Image result for star trek tng unification

    “Unification Part 1 and 2” are both good “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episodes. They aren’t the best and I feel that some of the story points aren’t completely thought through, but this is an episode that gives us some good exploration of the Romulans. Also it is great seeing more classic characters from “Star Trek: The Original Series” and seeing where their stories end up. If you are a Romulan fan like me, outside of spoilers, I do recommend checking this two-parter out. For this I’ll be going over the complete story with things I like but scoring each part individually before giving it my final score.

“Unification Part 1” was directed by Les Landau with Teleplay by Jeri Taylor and story by Rick Berman and Michael Piller (for both parts) with “Unification Part 2” being directed by Cliff Bole and teleplay by Michael Piller.

The story follows the crew of the Enterprise-D investigating the possible defection of Ambassador Spock to Romulus.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Klingon Politics – One of the first things that our crew needs is a ship with a cloak, so Picard takes them to Qo’noS and the Klingon Empire. We quickly learn that Gowron has been re-writing history to make himself responsible for all the good that had happened and doesn’t even talk to Picard. Picard gets around this by suggesting that they can find help from someone else in the Empire and in turn they will now have the Federation’s gratitude. Gowron’s secretary gets it and they get a ship with a Klingon who will take them (Data and Picard) to Romulus. It is awesome as after Data and Picard leave the Klingon Captain still does everything he can to make their experience uncomfortable, showing Gowron was still being petty again Picard for the threat.

Riker – The B Plot follows Riker uncovering why a decommissioned Vulcan ship was found on a destroyed Ferengi cargo ship that crashed in an asteroid belt. This leads to Riker dealing with the leader of a scrapyard and convincing him to work with them and after combat with a heavily armed ship befriending a musician at a club to find out the dealings of a Ferengi businessman. It is very well done and we get to see why Riker is the First Officer. I really liked seeing Riker in command in these two episodes.

Sarek – “Unification Part 1” involves Sarek’s last days as Picard goes to him to see why Spock might have left to Romulus. It is sad seeing how much his mind has detiorrated and you can see why his new wife resents Spock for leaving and is protective of him. His scenes here are small but it was great to see Mark Lenard one last time. His Sarek brought so much to “Star Trek” and I wish we’d had more time with him in the episode.

Spock – Spock is the one who drives this story as it is his working with a Romulan Senator that he is spreading Vulcan philsophy and promoting the eventual peaceful unification of Vulcans and Romulans. He didn’t tell anyone he was doing this, which felt out of character, and he is pretty stubborn through the episode believing he will be successful. The Romulan senator betrays him but he decides to stay to continue fighting for his goals, but before Picard leaves Picard offers a mind meld so that Spock can see what his father thought of him. This scene is well done, even if Spock’s motives aren’t entirely fleshed out well. It is always great seeing Leonard Nimoy though, and his conversation about humanity with Data and his clashing with Picard were some of the stronger elements of the episode.

Data – Data goes undercover on Romulus with Picard for this two-parter and from this gives us some great moments. Data’s genius is what saves them from the Romulan Betrayal and Sela and it is his connecting with Spock that helps bridge the divide between Picard and Spock. Spock and Data discuss what each of them seeks, that Data is what Spock strives to be (good, emotionless and logical) and Spock has what Data always wanted (emotions, etc.) It is really well done. The second part of Data saving the day comes about from how stupid the Romulans are leaving them in a room with no one to guard them and an open computer. It is so dumb but Data using that access to free them makes sense.

Picard – Picard is the bridge between Sarek and Spock in more ways than one this episode. He’s the diplomat and we see that in how he strongarms the Klingons to help them through diplomacy and in his distrust of the entire situation with Romulus. In the end the Romulan plot is revealed but Picard is shown that there is still a chance for peace in the long term and offers Sarek’s memories to Spock in a mind meld as his parting gift.

The Unification Movement – The Unification Movement is really cool as Romulan Society is a totalitarian run. The Tal Shiar have everyone afraid and Romulan superiority is preached above all else. Vulcan philosophy is the counter to that and through ambassador Spock we see the younger generation of Romulans taking to his ideas, showing that maybe someday there can be peace once again between Romulans and Vulcans.

Romulan Betrayal – The Senator supporting the Unification Movement was using it as a front to gain power and prestige within the government and gives them all up. This betrayal was clever and well done and made sense. For him it was as much a matter of survival for him and the people he represented, knowing that the members of the Unification Movement were enemies of the State. I wish he’d shown up more after the betrayal as the Senator, Pardek was around for the Khitomer Accords. I wanted to see more of what drove his philosophy.

Okay:

Sela -I like that Sela is back, Denise Crosby is fantastic in the role and like Spock she is also part human but embraces the alien side of herself. This was something that could have been explored given that Data gets this treatment with Spock. Her plan is to occupy Vulcan and from there get the Romulans a foothold in Federation space. Given that the Federation was still largely peaceful during this time, it probably would have worked. The problem is how she is written, after Spock refuses to give her speech to the Vulcans and Federation and she has to use a hologram she leaves the room with her guards. Our heroes ambush her after that as there is no one in the room and they can hack the threat, ending the threat.

Cons:

The Romulan Plan and Threat – Occupying Vulcan, might have worked. For how long I’m unsure about but if getting a foothold in Federation Space is what the Romulans want than they should keep their hostages watched. Sela and her guards leaving her office unguarded was one of the dumbest things in any episode. It also seems to be a pattern where Romulans leaving is why they get defeated. This completely ruins the threat established and hurt the overall quality of the episode.

My scores will be below this summary but here are my thoughts on the story overall. This was a solid two-parter that had a lot of good ideas that were not fully explored. What the Romulans wanted with Vulcan felt haphazard and not well thought out, Spock not telling the Federation struck me extremely stupid and put more people at risk besides those in the Unification Movement and leaving unguarded prisoners is a far too common easy out in “Trek” writing. I love the Romulans and this was a good exploration of some of the people within their society, I just wish we’d gotten more details beyond everyone being tied to the Government or part of the Unification movement. Nuance and greater depth would have made this story amazing, rather than simply enjoyable and good.

“Unification Part 1” score: 8 / 10 Solid mystery plot and reveal.

“Unification Part 2” score: 7.4 / 10 Good character moments but brought down by the stupidity of the Romulan enemy actions.

Final Score: 7.7 / 10 Enjoyable and had good guest appearances but needed a stronger plot, especially in regards to the Romulan plans and endgame.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 6, Episode 14 – “Face of the Enemy” – Romulan Politics and Troi’s Potential

Face of the Enemy

       Counselor Troi was really shafted throughout the entire run of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” When she was wrote it was largely romance plots or her stating the obvious on the bridge. She has extra-sensory empathy, but that is never really used in any interesting ways most of the time. This episode is an exception in regards to that. It is a good episode and a great Troi episode as we see her under pressure from being undercover and also how committed she is to her role as a Starfleet officer. This is an episode that gives us great exploration of the tension between the Tal Shiar and military and is well worth checking out for any fan of the Romulans on “Star Trek.”

The episode’s story was by René Echevarria with teleplay by Naren Shankar and directed by Gabrielle Beaumont.

The story follows Counselor Troi who has been surgically altered into Tal Shiar Agent Major Rakal. She must figure out the reasons why while facing a crew that distrusts her very presence on the ship.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Mystery and Trust – The main mystery of why Troi was turned into a Romulan by Commander N’Vek and The Enterprise-D as they work with a former Federation Ensign DeSeve who defected to the Romulan Star Empire, returning to help them find a ship going at the fastest speed. Both Picard and the crew don’t know whether they can trust the defector and Troi is in the same situation, even as she sees that the cargo they are transporting are government officials trying to get safely over to the Federation. It is powerfully done as both N’Vek and Ensign DeSeve slowly reveal more of the truth and have to give more and go against the distrusting nature instilled in them by the Empire. It is powerfully done and through it you get to see Troi come into her element as a leader.

Relationship Between Tal Shiar and Romulan Military – In this episode we get the military perspective (and from it the view of the Romulan populace) of the Tal Shiar. Everyone fears them. Commander Toreth mentions how every person on her crew has lost someone to the Tal Shiar, but in the end they still follow orders. The fear is so great that the most that can be done is verbal protest.

Commander Toreth – Commander Toreth’s father was a man who spoke up for freedom for Romulans and was killed by the Tal Shiar for it. This in many ways makes her sympathetic to N’Vek’s plot but her duty overrides all else and because of how Troi is being used, Troi can’t sympathize or help. She was a moral commander and anytime N’Vek or Troi did something she disagreed with, she’d document it and she was not afraid to confront the Tal Shiar with her disagreement over their actions, even as she continued serving the Empire. Carolyn Seymour was amazing in the role.

Counselor Troi – This is an episode where Troi gets to shine. She has to play the role of the enemy to both the Romulans on the ship and later towards her own crew in order to save innocents. The entire episode is a tightrope walk for her and Marina Sirtis does a fantastic job acting that walk. Troi’s arc in the episode involves her speaking up for herself and taking charge. First against Commander Toreth and later against N’Vek when his plans fail.

The Cons:

The Ending Actions of the Romulans – Commander Toreth’s original plan was to destroy The Enterprise-D after they learn how to track their cloak, but after getting command back from Troi she completly forgets her original aim and instead thinks that she’ll just bring Troi in for questioning. It isn’t handled well and feels rushed and sudden. The Romulans just leave and the Federation gets the escapees and no knows another way to track cloaks. Given how effective we see Commander Toreth is, this made no sense and felt like they just wanted to end the episode.

This is a good episode and one I’d recommend to any Romulan fan. You get to see how complicated relationships are between the Tal Shiar and military, Toreth is a wonderfully compelling character and the mystery plot is strong enough to keep one engaged. Marina Sirtis has to carry this episode and she succeeds in doing so. Her Troi is vulnerable but firm and adapts to the predicament she is in. I wish she had gotten more episodes like this.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10