Trekathon Season Review: The Next Generation, Season 5

April 26th, 2010

The season was chronologically split by the final movie of the original crew, making this a real season of two halves. Prior to The Undiscovered Country the episodes veered between poor (The Game) and great (Darmok). In the second half, the standard deviation increases: from absolutely awful (Cost of Living) through to truly superb (The Inner Light). It’s like there was no consistent vision or oversight, or even editorial control. While he had been less involved with the show for a while at this point, I do wonder if the death of Gene Roddenberry, together with the distraction of the movie, may have made a difference.

There are three episodes here that I think are among the ten or so best Star Trek has to offer: Darmok, Cause and Effect and The Inner Light. Taken together these three shows showcase some of the best of the different stories that Star Trek can tell.

But on the other side of the coin there are some very dreadful episodes. Cost of Living in particular is, on sober reflection, probably the second or third worst episode of all time.

Everything but the writing is firing on all cylinders now, but the writing veers around like a starship driven by a drunken monkey.

That makes it very hard to judge this season relative to the others. At the top end it’s probably the strongest season to date, but how much should the bad episodes count against it?

Overall I think it’s not quite to the level of TNG Season 3, but it just (very barely) beats out TOS Season 2 on the strength of the good episodes.

That brings the rankings so far to:

  • TNG Season 3
  • TNG Season 5
  • TOS Season 2
  • TNG Season 4
  • TOS Season 1
  • TNG Season 2
  • TAS Season 1
  • TOS Season 3
  • TAS Season 2
  • TNG Season 1

That’s 234 episodes, 10 seasons, and 10,696 minutes (178 hours, or a little over a week) down, 503 to go. And 38,289 words written about it all.