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 1, Episode 20 – “Heart of Glory” – Exploring What it Means to be Klingon

    “Heart of Glory” is our first time seeing the Klingons since the “The Original Series” films and it is from this that we begin to see the people they will become in “The Next Generation” and “Deep Space Nine.” This episode shows a lot of the problems of early TNG though as most of the cast is stilted and acts snobbish or condescending, especially Riker and Picard. This is an overall enjoyable episode, but it is still Season 1 and all the problems that came with that.

The episode was directed by Rob Bowman with teleplay by Maurice Hurley and story by D.C. Fontana and Herbert Wright.

The story follows the Enterprise when they investigate the site of a battle and a damaged freighter in the Neutral Zone.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Damaged Freighter – The set of the damaged freighter is fantastic. You have fog and tubes everywhere and sections that only Data can reach or get past. It is dangerous and there is a timer. All of this is handled beautifully and the soundtrack complements the mysterious and dangerous dying ship.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is one of the few great parts of season 1 and this episode does a good job with that. The Klingons theme involves war and drums, the ship has this mystery riff in the song and tension is consistent. I wish this had been a through line in all the series.

The Klingons – The Klingons feel like they are becoming the ones we will know later in “Deep Space Nine” and the Klingons from the film. The makeup is similar to the TOS films but we begin to see the more combative honor that would define them in TNG and DS9. Korris played wonderfully played by Vaughn Armstrong is fantastic as a Klingon fanatic who with two others could not grow with the Klingons to finding honor beyond finding war everywhere. He help Worf realize that part of himself though and in him and Konmel you see what Klingon fanatacism looks like in this century.

Worf – Worf is great in this. He remains professional and for the first time we get to see him explore his Klingon side. We learn about his adoption by a Federation officer and how he views battle as one of control and an internal battle. This episode really encapsulates what honor means to Worf versus the external honor that Korris and Konmel crave by fighting foes of the Klingon empire. Michael Dorn does a really great job and his scenes with Vaughn Armstrong’s Korris are gold.

The Cons:

Seperate the Saucer Section Obsession – The saucer section is immediately suggested when the crew is off to go to the place of a battle. This strikes me as such a waste and also that we never see the saucer section used well. There is an obsession with the battle station throughout the episode that leads nowhere.

Captain Picard – Picard spends a good few minutes exoticizing Geordie’s eyes when he is seeing from them. He even says, “I feel I understand him now.” If I was Geordie in this I’d feel so used and talked down to. He is an experiment and we never get his perspective beyond his eyes it is all Picard’s perspective and voice. This was peak cringe season 1 of “The Next Generation.” We see this again when he questions Worf’s loyalty on multiple occasions. It is awful.

This is one of the few episodes in Season 1 that works on some level. The Klingon stuff is all good but it is brought down by how awful the human characters act. This is an episode that truly could have been great if Riker and Picard had acted with some level of empathy towards those around them. Their stilted disconnect that Tasha Yar demonstrates at one point as well just illustrated how poorly nearly all the people were written. The Klingons deserved and a better episode.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10 Enjoyable and carried by cool sets, soundtrack and all the Klingon characters.

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 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: The Next Generation – Season 5, Episode 23 – “I, Borg” – Discovering Individuality and Value

Image result for I, Borg

     “I, Borg” is such an amazing episode. We see a return of the Borg with Hugh and an exploration of the consequences of the Borg on members of the crew. This is also an episode that provides a moral conundrum too. What should be the ethics of war? This and the theme of PTSD are explored in the episode beautifully. This is easily one of my favorite episodes of “Star Trek” and I’m glad Hugh will be back in “Picard.” Suffice to say, I highly recommend this episode.

“I, Borg” was written by René Echevarria and directed by Robert Lederman.

When a Borg Drone is rescued, Picard must wrestle with what will become of it as he and other members of the crew face what the Borg Collective has done to them.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Dr. Crusher – This is a surprisingly good Beverly Crusher episode. She is the first to advocate for saving the Borg drone. She demonstrates her oath of the sacredness of all life beautifully and her empathy is what made La Forge and Hugh’s friendship possible and Guinan and Picard’s eventually coming around to seeing Hugh’s humanity. I wish she got more episodes like this. She is the moral center of the episode and the episode is stronger for it.

Geordi La Forge – As Geordi is the one studying Hugh in order to weaponize him against the Borg he becomes friends with him. It is Geordi who gives Hugh his name and teaches him about consent and individuality. This friendship goes so far that Geordi advocates directly to Guinan and Picard that he thinks the plan is a mistake. In the end his advocacy for Hugh’s humanity wins out and Geordi is the one who says good-bye to his friend before the Borg take him back.

Guinan – Guinan’s people were destroyed by the Borg and she confronts Hugh about this. She is the one who is at first against Picard’s growing empathy, given the destruction of her people…but Geordi changes her mind. After talking to Hugh and hearing him speak of his loneliness and empathy for her she realizes Hugh is not her enemy. Hugh is just a scared lonely kid. After this she advocates for Picard to not use Hugh as biological weapon against the Borg.

Hugh – Hugh is the I in “I, Borg” as this episode is about him developing a sense of self. As far as we know he has always been a drone within the Collective and because of this never had the chance to learn empathy or self and this episode is where he learns all of this. In the end he sacrafices himself so the Borg won’t target the Enterprise and to protect his friend Geordi. Jonathan Del Arco does such an amazing job in this role. He is the drone becoming an individual and it is his performance and relationships Hugh builds in the episode that make it so great.

Captain Picard’s PTSD – Picard’s PTSD is a major theme of the episode. The Borg mutilated his body and mind and because of this he understandably does not see any humanity within them. We see how deep this is as he pretends to be Locutus to test Hugh and it is in this test when Hugh denies to assimilate the crew and the Geordi is his friend that he sees the plan to weaponize Hugh is immoral and wrong.

An Exploration of War and Morality – The main moral issue being wrestled with in the episode is whether to use Hugh as a biological weapon against the Borg. He would be used a virus to shut them down. When the show starts out Dr. Crusher is the only one against this but slowly as Geordi becomes friends with Hugh and Picard talks to Hugh they see the humanity of the drones and that in committing genocide they would be acting like the Borg. It is handled really well and they take time to explore this over the course of the entire episode.

The Cons:

Borg Indifference – Geordi is able to go down to the planet where Hugh was found to say good-bye to him as the Borg pick him up. The thing that bothered me with this is the Borg not recognizing his role in their destruction prior. The Borg are a threat to the episode but they have no tactical sensibilities it felt like. The reason that is given is that they don’t notice individuals (as seen by them being able to free Picard in “Best of Both Worlds”) but shouldn’t they have adapted to that by now? It was one of the reasons for their defeat.

This is one of my favorite episodes in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and shows just how strong the show could be when it focused on character and themes. This isn’t the last time we see Hugh and what is done in this episode has consequences for the Borg we see later. This episode is a great a example of structure working really well too. Dr. Crusher’s empathy leads to Geordi and Hugh becoming friends, which leads to Guinan getting to know Hugh and finally Picard giving Hugh a chance after Guinan admits her hate and rage against Hugh was wrong. This is powerfully done and creates an unforgettable story.

Final Score:

9.8 / 10 The strengths of this episode outweigh the flaws.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Season 6, Episode 13 – “Far Beyond the Stars” – The Ongoing Struggle For Justice and Equality

Ds9 Far Beyond the Stars

      “Far Beyond the Stars” is a masterpiece on so many levels and an episode where the trials and struggles of the 1960’s reveal themselves to sadly be just as true today. We are so far from the world of “Deep Space Nine” in not just our television but our science fiction books too, even if things have improved in some ways. This is an episode that has such a powerful point with some of the best writing and acting to come out of this series. The fact that Avery Brooks (Captain Sisko) was also the director also lends more power to it when you look how focused on justice so much of Avery Brooks’s passion has gone towards post “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” On a final note before I get into the details, it is also a very meta and philosophical episode of Trek.

      “Far Beyond the Stars” was as stated above, directed by Avery Brooks with the teleplay by Ira Steven Behr and Hans Beimler with story by Marc Scott Zicree.

     The story begins with Captain Sisko’s Father Joseph Sisko visiting the station as Ben is rethinking what difference he is actually making, as his friend died in a routine patrol of the Cardassian Border and the Dominion War looks as if it has no sign of ending. His father tells him he should think on it as he begins seeing people from the 1960’s before he is transported into the world of Benny, an African American Science Fiction Writer during the 1960’s where his story unfolds and realities keep colliding as they try to find out what’s going on “Deep Space Nine” as he faces the reality of the past in the life of Benny.

The Pros: Benny’s World – I love that they set in the 60’s and unlike the “Mad Men” version of the 60’s we get to see the lives of the middle class, the poor and people who aren’t of European descent. The world doesn’t pull any punches with every character being flawed and discrimination being widespread and enforced by the law. I’ll get into more of the details when I explore the characters though.

The Soundtrack – There is so much great jazz in this episode and so often the episode knows when to be silent, it isn’t standard recycled music and that really made the episode just that much stronger in the presentation and story.

The Characters – I’m only referring to the characters of Benny’s world in this instance since the only people really explored in Captain Sisko’s time are himself and his father. The characters of Benny’s world (played by the same actors who make salutes to their counterparts in personality and actions) are wonderful. They are distinct while still having the inspiration of “Deep Space Nine” (or vise versa as I’ll go into later).

Willie Hawkins – Michael Dorn plays the baseball player who shows us that it doesn’t matter if you are star athlete, housing ordinances are still just that and even though some whites want to see you play they don’t want you around (most housing ordinances weren’t ended until the 90’s and 80’s even). His way of dealing with it is flirting with everyone. His character is very confident and it’s fun to see. He knows he’s a star and Dorn does it very well.

Jimmy – Jimmy is a young African-american guy and friends with Benny and a bit of a hustler. The day he gets the opportunity for wealth the detectives Burt and Kevin murder him. They say it was for breaking into a car but based of their reaction of beating up Benny for even asking questions I sincerely doubt that. R.I.P. Jimmy. Sad thing is this still happens today. This scene is given more power given the actor plays Jake Sisko…Benjamin Sisko’s son in the series as a whole.

Cassie – Played by the actress who plays Captain Sisko’s wife Kasidy she is great in this as the woman who accepts discrimination (and Willie’s creeping) and wants to build a life that she feels is practical with Benny. To this end she’s working at owning the restaurant she works at and trying to get Benny to see it too. She’s super supportive of him and his writing though and takes care of him after the cops beat him up.

Kay Eaton – Kay is played by Nana Visitor who plays Major Kira and she is an author who writes under a name K.C. so people will think she is man. She is aware of the prejudice and inequality around her and can relate to Benny in that way. She’s more resigned than Benny though and doesn’t fight Pabst over the injustice of the Editors.

Herbert Rossoff – Rosoff played by Shimerman (who plays Quark) is the one person always clashing with Pabst (played by Rene who plays Odo) and is most vocal against the injustice of Benny’s story not being published and the editors shutting down the magazine for a month because of Benny’s black protagonist.

Douglas Pabst – Played by the actor who plays Odo, like Odo Pabst is all about the rules, even if they are unjust. He doesn’t care about injustice he cares about money and fires Benny when the Publishers choose not to run the stories. He isn’t even well intentioned he is all about the rules, just like Odo. He is the status quo and those who do nothing.

Benny Russell – Benny Russell is the one dreaming “Deep Space Nine” and the one being dreamed by Captain Sisko. He has victories like when Pabst accepts the story of “Deep Space Nine” being a dream. He is inspired by Delaney a gay African American writer whose story was rejected because his protagonist was mixed race. Benny the character is different in that he is working to be married with Cassie but his role becomes bigger after “The Preacher” reminds him of his role as a a symbol of the future and justice and making the story of “Captain Sisko” real by telling the story. This ends with him being put in a hospital though as he stands up to Pabst and cries out to be recognized as a human being.

Joseph Sisko – Joseph reminds his son Ben of how important it is to fight, which makes sense that he’d be the Preacher in Ben’s dream of Benny as he is calling Captain Sisko back to the struggle and making sure a just world remains or can come about…that life is bigger than those he has lost and himself.

Captain Sisko – Sisko is mourning the loss of his friend but after he dreams of Benny and realizes that Benny could have dreamed one another into reality realizes how important it is to fight and struggle against injustice, be it discrimination or the tyranny of the Dominion.

Honorary Mentions – Alamo (Dukat) and Combs (Weyoun) play corrupt detectives who are the ones responsible for killing Jimmy…and Meaney played a bumbling writer who liked robots. They weren’t bad characters but they weren’t explored some of the other characters were, which is why I’m giving them honorary mentions.

Easter Eggs – The Magazine they are writing for has “Star Trek: The Original Series” stories in it’s pages. Ranging from “The Cage” to “Where no One has Gone Before.” It’s a really cool salute to the past early science fiction as well as the ripple “Star Trek” created by it’s existence as a show during this time period.

The Meta Moments – The whole idea of “Deep Space Nine” all existing in the mind of Benny is very meta as “Deep Space Nine” existed in the writers who wrote the show. Benny is almost a stand in for them and the story they all sought to tell.

The Message – There are quite a few messages in this that stands out. The dreams of the present can become the dreams of the future and the dreams of the past remind us of what we still need and can accomplish. There is also the fact that injustice must be fought if anything is ever going to change and the power of story and how ideas can never die.

Representation and racism in the Past and Present – Delaney was an African-American Gay Black Science Fiction writer whose story was rejected by his racist publisher. Here is a great article that explores it and the lack of representation of people of color today: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/121554/2015-hugo-awards-and-history-science-fiction-culture-wars

This article shows that Delaney’s story is still true in many ways today and it is certainly true on television and other forms media. Now I don’t know how much talking about it changes it, but sometimes it is the stories that do. Look at the influence “Star Trek” has had on the culture and with that the same potential other science fiction shows can have. What is the future we want to create?

The Potential Future – There will always be problems I think, maybe and hopefully not the same ones even if echoes of those same problems remain…but it is in our power to change them, for each generation to make those changes in how they live, the laws they make and how they and we treat our fellow human beings. I don’t know if it will ever happen, but I hope for the future that “Deep Space Nine” represents.

Final Score: 10 / 10. One of the greatest stories to ever come out of “Star Trek” and still relevant to this day.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 5, Episode 25 – “The Inner Light” – Remembering a People

Star Trek The Inner Light

“Seize the time, Meribor – live now! Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.”

– Captain Jean-Luc Picard

We continue “Trek Requests” with “The Inner Light,” hands down one of the best stories to come out of “Star Trek” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” that really highlights the high concept sci. fi. ideas that the show could bring and explore while giving us the chance to explore an entire new culture and civilization as well as the man of Jean-Luc Picard.

“The Inner Light” was directed by Peter Lauritson with the teleplay and story by Morgan Gendel and Peter Allan Fields as the other co-writer of the teleplay.

The story involves the Enterprise-D investigating a probe that is following them that sends Captain Picard into sleep. When Picard awakens he finds himself as the man Kamin in the community of Ressik on the planet of Kataan. From here he seeks to figure out the nature of the state he is in and if it is real, while his crew tries to get him out of the state that was brought about by a beam from the probe.

The Pros: First Contact – When Picard wakes up as Kamin he is fully Picard. The first thing he does is ask computer to “End Program.” He later goes outside and he questions everything. He does this for 5 years before finally accepting the reality of the life he’s living at Kamin is real but in doing so he gets all the information he can first such as when he asks Batai who he is, the planet and the town they are in. It’s powerful and shows why Picard is the diplomat and one of the smartest of the captains. He works to understand wherever he is so that first contact can go well.

The Life of Kamin – Kamin’s life is a full one. He is a scientist who inspires his daughter to become a scientist, and a musician who plays the flute who inspires his son to play the flute. In both cases they are studying the ongoing drought on their world and what to do about the water supply. He is politically connected as his friend Batai is on the city council, and his youngest son he names after Batai and he is a fighter. He stands up to the Administrator about the dying of their planet and learns they’ve known for the last 2 years. After his full life with his family and wife in which he is around for the death of his friend Batai and his wife Eline he is a grandfather and his story comes to an end as the rocket is launched which was the probe that shared the story of these people with whoever would discover it.

Picard and Kamin – Was Kamin fully like Picard in that the fever had made him believe he was in a Starship? Was Kamin a musician or was it Picard’s embracing of the flute to get used to living a life another that was key? The issues of identity are never fully resolved though we know Kamin had a family as they tell Picard to remember them at the end when he watches the probe launch into space. This is part of what makes the episode so good. Picard lived a full life that was both his and the life of another that gave him the glimpse into the world of a civilization that died 1000 years ago.

Politics of Water – In this episode the planet Kataan is dying but those in power in denial over it, even though we learn years later that they knew all along that the heating of the planet was causing water problems. This was a great showing and not telling in regards to Global Warming as we see this same denial today by those who profit from not changing the status quo. Change is hard even if the status quo is difficult with water being rationed (Like in California currently). This was one of the great moments in the episode where the trials of an alien species mirrored our own and were ones that we could relate to.

The Crew of the Enterprise-D – The crew is very involved at the beginning with Geordi, Worf, Data and Riker having lines about the probe before Riker catches Picard before he falls. We later see them stop the beam and reestablish it when Picard begins to die. Beverly is on the bridge during this time trying to help resuscitate Picard but to no avail. The scenes are powerful on the bridge since the crew is powerless and can’t do anything while their captain is going through an experience they have never dealt with before and know nothing about.

Remembrance – A huge theme of this episode is Remembrance, which is what we see when Kamin’s family talks to Picard at the end. The probe was sent out so their people would not be forgotten as the civilization knew it would be dead by the time the probe reached anyone. From this though they found hope in being remembered and did it by sharing Kamin’s life and the memories of their people. The experience is so powerful that Picard learns how to play the flute while there and when he returns and receives the flute in the probe plays a song to remember the life he lived with the people who are no more.

The Message – There were quite a few messages in this. Not ignoring a problem until it becomes impossible to deal with (the heating of the planet and water usage in the case of the Kataan), and the importance of remembering the past and those who have gone, cause even though no civilization and culture are perfect we can still take the good from the past and apply the lessons from it to the future.

This episode is everything that is great about “Star Trek.” It’s a meditative episode with Captain Picard living the life of another people and culture and from that experience coming to love and remember them. It’s an experience only he receives and it defines him in a way as to express himself through music and be left speechless before the crew. This profound discovery of new and new civilization (even if the civilization has long been dead) is part of why I am a Trekkie. The aliens of “Star Trek” when they are written right teach us more about ourselves and reveal our own shortcomings and strengths and with it give us the ability to empathize better, as Picard did when he became a part of a people before the probe breaks contact…and also that as long as people remember those who have been lost, they have life again in our hearts and minds.

Final Score: 10 / 10. Perfect “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episode.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Pilot – Encounter at Farpoint Part 1 and 2 – Show Don’t Tell

star-trek-farpoint

Today continues the second week of the Star Trek Pilot Series. This week we turn to “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and the return of Trek to television after 17 years since cancellation. Suffice to say it is a very mixed return in this episode “Encounter at Farpoint,” a two part episode that shows some of the best and worst of Gene Roddenberry at the head of his creation. This again would be for better and for worse…much of what was wrong about the “Original Series” carried over into early “Next Generation,” until it was able to find it’s own voice. To get into more of what I mean.

The premise of “Encounter at Farpoint” is it is the first time The Next Generation Crew is put into action and they are challenged by Q to prove they have evolved and are worthy of being out to investigate the stars and are not the bad they were in the past by solving the mystery of Farpoint Station. Here is the assessment:

The Pros: The crew – The crew is interesting and they are given things to do throughout the episode. Everyone has a role even if the actors don’t pull off that role well. We have Picard as the voice for humanity against Q and the one who reasons through situations, Riker as the investigator, Yar as the voice of the past (grew up on a post apocalyptic type planet), Worf as the alien perspective, Data as the critique of humanity and Crusher and Troi as the empaths (the healers of mind and body) to keep the crew functioning. The show starts out with a great dynamic, that they tell us about but don’t always show us…

Q: The introduction of Q in the guise of the judge is fantastic. Some of his other stuff is less subtle but John de Lancie does a good job elevating the terrible script to at least be an intriguing antagonist. He is what makes the plot interesting since the story around Farpoint is pretty weak.

Dr. McCoy guest appearance: DeForest Kelley makes a great guest appearance speaking about the love of a crew for it’s ship which also added more to it.

Okay: The actors – They just started and are a mixed bag. Frakes does alright as Riker and McFadden does alright as Dr. Crusher. Sirtas as Troi and Wheaton are just bad. Stewart is good as the Captain and Delancie is good as Q…there are no great performances though. The episode isn’t elevated by the actors the way “The Man Trap” was.

The Special effects – The Special Effects are alright, they aren’t as good as they would be later, but they are much better than the original series. It at least gives us some interesting things to look at when the script drags, which happens often.

The Ending – It isn’t amazing, but it isn’t terrible like some of the episodes in Trek, it just feels empty considering that this was the chance for the crew to shine but we don’t get to see it really. Nothing of consequence really happens that wouldn’t happen anyway (the Space Jellyfish meeting, the introduction of Q), in that way I would say the ending of “The Man Trap” and even “The Cage” are superior. They have more awareness of themselves and the actions that occurred in the episode.

The Cons: The script – The script is bad. It made me miss the writing in the original series. It tells us rather than shows us evolved humanity most of the time which makes the crew come off as no better than Q…which wasn’t the writers’ intent I’m guessing. It is far to busy preaching (especially in regards to the aliens that inhabit Farpoint) rather than presenting a dilemma.

The tone: It never felt like the crew was ever in danger because the script presents Q as such a huge joke. He never feels dangerous, though he does look cool in his Inquistion robes, but that doesn’t change the fact that he comes off as a clown not otherwordly threat because of the episode unable to fully realize what tone it wants to take. It wants to be the “Original Series,” (Otherwordly mysteries with a something discovered about how humanity has grown) but also be “The Next Generation,” (new crew, new time, new place).

The Romance: The romance between Riker and Troi feels tacked on in this episode. I had a hard time they’d loved each other being this was the first time we as the viewers see them meet. It is believable in later episodes, but not the first one.

The “Original Series” also suffered from a few bad scripts and being too preachy at times (showing not telling), one thing the pilots do well though is show us the message rather than tell us. They present us with the danger of travel and the possibility for wonder. Here the message is preached to us by Picard with a badly written foil through Q and the sense of wonder falls flat since the aliens are just concepts. The aliens in “The Man Trap” and the “Cage” were more than just ideas…they were living creatures and had complexity, the Space Jellyfish have no complexity at all, they just wanted to mate…and we have no idea how many of them there are or what they do in the larger scheme of the galaxy. It is for this reason I have to rate this episode as less than the other pilots.

I would rate this episode as 6 / 10. It had a lot of potential (both with the conflict among the crew) and outside threats (Q and Farpoint) that were never fully realized.