Archive for June, 2010

Trekathon Season Review: The Next Generation, Season 6

June 20th, 2010

Season six feels like a year where the writers were willing to take chances. And while there are some failures (Aquiel, anyone?), when it works it really works.

Another trend of this year was a move away from ensemble episodes and more towards single-character focused episodes. So we have episodes like Frame of Mind or Birthright, Part II that barely have any of the other crew members outside of the focus character. That’s probably an artefact of the contract negotiations for people on a show as long-lived and popular as this one, but it makes for a nice change of pace.

Overall it’s the strongest year of TNG so far, and hence the strongest year of any of the series. Out of the 26 episodes I had 14 down as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’, and only 1 as ‘very bad’. Even Season 3, the previous best, only had 7 in the top half, although it did manage to avoid the ‘very bad’ category.

That brings the rankings so far to:

  • TNG Season 6
  • TNG Season 3
  • TNG Season 5
  • TOS Season 2
  • TNG Season 4
  • TOS Season 1
  • DS9 Season 1
  • TNG Season 2
  • TAS Season 1
  • TOS Season 3
  • TAS Season 2
  • TNG Season 1

That’s 280 watched, 12,609 minutes down, 38.67% complete. 45,665 words written. And 457 to go. Next, the final year of TNG, and the sophomore year for DS9.


Trekathon 280: Descent (TNG)

June 20th, 2010

The traditional end-of-year cliffhanger brings back both the Borg and Lore.

The usual ‘two-parter’ syndrome is not as evident as usual here, thanks to the plot thread involving Data and his investigation of emotions. The other strength is the callback to I, Borg, and the long overdue examination of Picard’s actions there.

But there’s a severe case of ‘enemy decay syndrome’ happening with the Borg here – maybe it’ll be explained, but the crew are able to deal with large numbers of Borg without the problems they’ve previously faced dealing with only one. It’s always hard to deal with near-invulnerable enemies, but it doesn’t help if you just weaken them.

I liked this episode, but I’ve forgotten what happens in Part 2, and I could very easily end up changing my mind based on how this is resolved. A lot has been set up, but so far there hasn’t been a single season-opening resolution to the cliffhanger that has lived up to Part 1.

280 down, 457 to go.


Trekathon Season Review: Deep Space Nine, Season 1

June 20th, 2010

So far it’s fair to say that Deep Space Nine has a lot of promise, but so far has only showed a couple of attempts to really grasp it.

The thing this season has done really well is avoid awful. There were really only two ‘bad’ episodes (The Passenger and If Wishes Were Horses). That’s impressive for a new show, when a lot can go wrong with early episodes. But that’s been done by avoiding risks, and the vast majority of the season was ‘ok’, not ‘good’ or ‘great’.

But there are still signs of great potential, especially with the episode Duet, which is an example of taking risks, and of taking the show in a direction that TNG doesn’t.

Overall it was a strong first season – not quite enough to edge ahead of season 1 of the original series, but very very close.

That brings the rankings so far to:

  • TNG Season 3
  • TNG Season 5
  • TOS Season 2
  • TNG Season 4
  • TOS Season 1
  • DS9 Season 1
  • TNG Season 2
  • TAS Season 1
  • TOS Season 3
  • TAS Season 2
  • TNG Season 1

Trekathon 279: In the Hands of the Prophets (DS9)

June 20th, 2010

The first season comes to an end with a bang.

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Anyway, in the tradition of the best episodes of this season, once again the focus is on Bajoran politics. This time the religious angle is at the fore, and the underlying differences between Bajor and the Federation are the main thing. The setup is a little too obviously a ‘ripped from the headlines’ Star Trek take on the debates over the teaching of evolution, and that struck me as being a little too overtly political for Star Trek’s normal approach.

The political part of the episode aside, the procedural investigation side rolls along nicely, and the personal touch in having O’Briens assistant (seen in the previous episode as well) as the assassin. It’s a strong season finale, but a lot rests on whether the threads begun here are carried through or dropped.

279 down, 458 to go.


Trekathon 278: Timescape (TNG)

June 20th, 2010

Another trip to the time travel well, fortunately with something new to offer.

This episode is very reminiscent of Cause and Effect, but given that was one of the best episodes ever that’s not the worst base to build off. There’s a new direction taken here, and the episode ends up standing well on its own. Perhaps there’s a bit too much plot, and not quite enough character, but it’s still an entertaining hour of television.

This episode is an example of ‘good’ technobabble. Any science fiction show is going to have its share of incomprehensible technologies. When it’s good, it’s used to create interesting situations with clear rules that allow the audience to follow what’s being done. The bad sort is when it’s used to justify a quick fix at the end of the episode, acting as a deus ex machina to get the writer out of the hole they’ve dug. Too often Star Trek does the latter, so it’s important to remember that the other sort of technobabble isn’t a problem per se.

278 down, 459 to go.


Trekathon 277: Duet (DS9)

June 20th, 2010

It took the best part of a season, but Deep Space 9 now officially has an episode to rival the best of Next Generation.

The greatest strength of this episode is that it draws almost solely on the setting on Bajor, and outside of that is barely science fiction. It’s a bold, courageous approach to take, and could very easily have worked out very badly. It succeeds brilliantly, mainly thanks to the performances of Nana Visitor as Kira and Harris Yulin as Marritza.

Another important reason why the episode works so well is that the plot manages to avoid a lot of the cliches or recurrent plots around the ideas of captured war criminals – there’s a genuinely new approach here, and it makes for excellent viewing.

277 down, 460 to go.