Archive for February, 2010

Trekathon 132: The Cage (TOS)

February 28th, 2010

Wheee, all the way back to the beginning.

Why this one now? Because it was first shown on television on 4 October 1988, a month or so before the start of Season 2 of TNG. It had been around in other forms before then, but I’m going to go with TV release dates.

For those who don’t know, we’ve already seen most of this episode, as the flashbacks in The Menagerie parts 1 and 2.

Most of the comments that I had then still stand. It is too cerebral and talky (a little like the first season of The Next Generation in places). The standalone version is more coherent as a story, but it has significant weaknesses as a pilot. You don’t get a good sense of anyone except Captain Pike.

Better than almost anything that’s aired for Next Generation so far, though.

132 down, 605 to go.

Trekathon Season Review: The Next Generation, Season 1

February 28th, 2010

This show was honestly pretty lucky to get a second year.

There are some good moments. But not nearly enough. There’s really only one truly great episode (“The Big Goodbye”), and a an awful lot of just plain bad episodes. Some of the episodes are up there with the very worst ever.

The blame for this is mainly with the writing. It does take the actors a little bit to settle down, but some of the material they’re given is just woeful. Way too much preaching about how wonderful the 24th century is (and, by contrast, how awful things are now).

But if you had to compare this with the worst season of Original Star Trek, the third? No contest. This is far, far worse.

The rankings so far:

  1. TOS Season 2

  2. TOS Season 1

  3. TAS Season 1

  4. TOS Season 3

  5. TAS Season 2

  6. TNG Season 1

Next: Back to The Original Series for the original pilot (aired for the first time between Seasons 1 and 2 of Next Generation), and then Season 2 of The Next Generation.

Trekathon 131: The Neutral Zone (TNG)

February 28th, 2010

From the title I was expecting a nice tense Romulan-centric episode, something like Balance of Terror back in the original series.

Instead we get borderline-slapstick fun with the unfrozen humans, clearly meant to underline just how incredibly advanced and awesome the Federation is. I wouldn’t have been a fan of this kind of thing even if the episode title hadn’t raised the expectations in my mind.

Still, the one bright point is that the Romulans are back, and Star Trek is part of the way to having a decent recurring villain.

The moment when I saw the guitar I was pretty worried – I thought they might start singing. Fortunately saved from that one this time around.

131 down, 606 to go. 6,000 minutes watched.

Trekathon 130: Conspiracy (TNG)

February 28th, 2010

Babylon 5 ruined this episode for me.

You see, before Babylon 5 the idea of having a vast conspiracy just come up and be resolved in one episode was the norm. Babylon 5 started to do this kind of plot over whole seasons, which added to the impact. For instance, in a more modern era there would have been a member of the main crew acting strangely for several episodes before this one who then turns out to be infected, for instance.1

So what might have been a great episode at the time is just a good one now. But it’s doing things that we’ve never seen Star Trek do before, and it has some fantastic action scenes. Oh, and an exploding head.

Great Star Trek moment: the first time in any of the TV shows that the crew has gone to the surface of 24th (or 23rd) century Earth.

130 down, 607 to go.

  1. In actual fact, the show is actually being quite innovative in that there was actually a link to this in an earlier episode, which is a first for Star Trek. 

Trekathon 129: We’ll Always Have Paris (TNG)

February 28th, 2010

A fairly interesting episode that’s slowed down by writing that doesn’t quite reach as far as its grasp, but manages to avoid mediocre or terrible. As a result it’s better than almost anything else in this season (yeah, faint praise I know).

It doesn’t actually rise to the level of ‘good’ – Picard’s relationship with the Doctor’s wife never really feels real, and there’s too much technobabble in the main plot. But solid marks for effort all around.

129 down, 608 to go.

Trekathon 128: Skin of Evil (TNG)

February 28th, 2010

A giant oil slick kills the security officer of the Enterprise. The episode mainly fails simply because the alien looks so ridiculous you cannot take it seriously. Really, it’s just a giant pool of black liquid. It’s hard to believe it as a significant threat to the Enterprise.

Fundamentally there’s the potential for something nice here. It’s so rare to just have the kind of random, meaningless death that is part of reality. Most TV shows will only kill characters to some purpose, or with some great villain. The need to write someone out because of a contract dispute had some potential. But it doesn’t add up.

Tasha Yar’s death here kind of proves Denise Crosby’s point: there isn’t a single other member of the main bridge crew whose death would be so unaffecting (except maybe Troi). She’s had no character development. She’s not very good at her job. And there isn’t much evidence that she got on well with anyone except Worf. Maybe the writers would have gone somewhere eventually, but she was getting less development than any other character. Heck, in her funeral scene the only thing they could think of to do was to have Tasha give compliments to the crew, because there wasn’t enough about her for them to say. The only crew member who really seems to react is Troi.

128 down, 609 to go.

Trekathon 127: Symbiosis (TNG)

February 28th, 2010

Star Trek visits the always exciting world of pharmaceutical companies and contract disputes. And the politics are as always very subtle – why, no one has ever compared pharmaceutical companies to drug dealers before.

The entire plot rests on the assumption that the planet is completely full of idiots. No one who has ever tried not taking the drug. No one who has even noticed that it looks a lot like someone on a drug high.

And then there’s the dreadful ‘Tasha explains to Wesley’ about drugs bit, which is about as convincing as an episode of Different Strokes.

Not much to like: there’s some awesome ‘cranky Dad’ stuff from Picard in the otherwise interminable rescue scene at the start, but that’s about it.

This seems like as good a point as any to do my rant about the Prime Directive. In this episode we hear that the results of violating it is “invariably disastrous”. But that simply doesn’t match up with several of the times when the prime directive was broken. It also doesn’t match up with the fact that Picard was breaking the Prime Directive himself in this episode (with the coils). But fundamentally the Prime Directive is an argument that we shouldn’t ever help developing countries, because it might go wrong. It’s a nice story telling trick, but I think it’s fundamentally an immoral rule. People with a capacity to help have an obligation to help. If there are side effects, then you need to fix those too.

127 down, 610 to go.

Trekathon 126: The Arsenal of Freedom (TNG)

February 28th, 2010

For a moment I thought everyone was going to get over the case of the stupids they’ve been experiencing since the start of season one. They pick up the fake Starfleet officer very quickly. But then Captain Picard falls in a hole. Oh, and then despite the fact that they’re within fifteen seconds run of the others Tasha can’t find them.

Half a good episode – the La Forge subplot on the Enterprise was pretty entertaining, with La Forge fending off a near mutiny from the Chief Engineer, fighting the ship, otherwise just being awesome.

But back on the planet we have an after-school special on why weapon merchants are evil. With a very bad case of the stupids with no one thinking to say “Please end the demonstration, we’d like to buy” until the last 5 minutes of the episode.

126 down, 611 to go.

Trekathon 125: Heart of Glory (TNG)

February 25th, 2010

Worf gets an episode at last. I think the only real failing here is that it’s hard to appreciate any kind of deep cultural struggle wihin Worf because he hasn’t mentioned a single thing about being a Klingon to this point. To an extent that’s admirable – he just fits in with the rest of the crew. But it undermines this episode, because we never have any real reason to believe that Worf is tempted by the Klingon renegades, other than perhaps having some sympathy for them. That kind of ruins the suspense.

There was some more superb security from Tasha Yar here: there’s a ship of unknown origin and status, and she doesn’t send anyone to accompany the first officer, second officer and navigator. And then she doesn’t have the prisoners searched for, say, the components of a weapon?

Oh, and the ‘Picard geeks out on new technology even though they’re on a time critical mission’ bit was funny, but seemed out of character. He may be fascinated by that stuff, but he also has a sense of place and priorities.

Great Star Trek moment: although it passes practically unheralded, this episode has the first on-screen use of the replicator.

125 down, 612 to go.

Trekathon 124: Coming of Age (TNG)

February 25th, 2010

I have to assume that the competitive selection for Starfleet Academy is a new thing. Because otherwise we wouldn’t have seen the stupidity levels from the crew we have so far.

On paper, this would seem to be the dullest episode ever: Wesley takes a test, Picard has an inspection. To make things even duller, the outcomes of both are foregone conclusions: Picard won’t leave the Enterprise, and neither will Wesley (at least, not yet).

But despite that it works. The actors are really starting to have a good sense of the characters. But more importantly here the writing comes together. It made this one of the three or four best episodes of this season. For instance, there’s a lovely moment where Worf actually seems like a real live Starfleet officer. It’s the first time he’s done anything but snarl at people.

And there’s even a hook into a broader plot to be picked up in a later episode.

Quote of the episode; “It’s a good thing you’re cute Wesley, otherwise you’d be obnoxious”.

124 down, 613 to go.