Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Next Generation 1x16 "Too Short a Season"


There's a kind of morbid curiosity to watching "Too Short a Season," which is like a reverse of the classic "Deadly Years," only it features a new character who never gains the viewer's sympathy.

An aging admiral visits on the way to one last glorious mission, returning to a world he once negotiated peace for, and like a repudiation of the accomplishes of the past (i.e. the original series), he still gets it glaringly wrong, and only our righteous new crew can set things right.

Of course, the reverse "Deadly Years" means that our aging admiral grows younger, like Benjamin Button, because he's taken special medication.  Only he's taken too much of it and just keeps getting younger.  His wife is horrified.  He's perfectly pleased, especially when he gets to leave his special wheelchair and walk again.  But he just keeps getting younger.  The crew becomes alarmed when it becomes obvious, and even the guy he's preparing to meet scoffs at the development.

The real problem is that the aging makeup is terrible.  I mean terrible.  It was bad enough on McCoy in "Encounter at Farpoint," but no attempt has been made in the intervening time to improve on it.  And the effect is absolutely crucial to the episode.

I don't care if you think "Too Short a Season" makes light of older generations.  I don't care if you're perfectly fine with the makeup.  The fact is that it's still not a good episode, and is dominated too thoroughly by a character of the week.

Watch it as a morbid curiosity.  It's the only one I'll give you from this season.  Just remember that I warned you, and that it gets better.

The other thing you might keep in mind about it is that "Season" establishes Next Generation's abysmal relationship with Starfleet admirals.  If you want to mark that.

franchise * series * essential * character

Memory Alpha summary.

The Next Generation 1x15 "11001001"


The episode with the binary title is a step in the right direction for the young Next Generation, and aside from anything immediately relevant to the story itself features strong character work for Riker.

Like Kirk before him, Picard's first officer was pegged as a ladies man, which grew complicated initially when it was deemed that he'd also serve as a surrogate for Gene Roddenberry's holdover character sketches from The Motion Picture and be paired romantically, at least as a matter of backstory, with Troi.

In "11001001" Riker gets around that by romancing a hologram, the first of many to be more than just a hologram in this series (setting the stage for an even more distinctive hologram in Voyager), thanks to the shenanigans of the aliens both servicing the Enterprise and trying to take advantage of the crew that has vacated it for the occasion (sadly, not the only time that would happen, so you can watch this for precedent if you'd like, even for the similar Enterprise episode "The Catwalk").

But this is another one I don't want to inflate too much.  As for the character work, there's also Data's budding career as an artist, which became a much bigger deal in later seasons, which kind of makes this an origin story.

Still, watch it for Riker first and best of all, and for the charming Minuet, one of very few memorable romantic interests from this series.

franchise * series * essential * character

Memory Alpha summary.

The Next Generation 1x14 "Angel One"

While this one breaks some ground for the young series, including a redefinition of the Prime Directive and the first mention of Romulans, "Angel One" you can safely skip.

It's not horrible like the previous episodes from the season that you should skip ("Justice," "Code of Honor,"), but it features another hamfisted society, this time a matriarchal one that has basically turn its male half into metrosexuals, which proves incredibly awkward for the very much male Riker.  As if that weren't enough, the crew passes a cold around, which seems mostly an excuse to see Crusher in action, plus get a few characters to do different things, for instance La Forge briefly assuming command.  Because it's not as if he has anything better to do just at the moment, not being chief engineer yet.

Yet it's all thoroughly unremarkable, another sign in a long line of them to indicate that Next Generation had not yet achieved its distinctive flavor.  In fact, if anything "Angel One" plays like a bad version of an original series episode, not any in particular, just a painfully generic one.

franchise * series * essential * character

Memory Alpha summary.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Next Generation 1x13 "Datalore"


You'd best settle in with "Datalore," since it's the last episode you really need to see from the first season of Next Generation until the last few.

It's a good way to go, though!  In case the title doesn't give you any ideas, let me cut it a little short: Lore.  Lore, as in Data's evil brother.

Now, in the off chance that you're not at all familiar with Next Generation, Data, or much less Lore, let me just say that if it had only been the one episode, "evil brother" could very well have been an unfortunate gimmick, even if the rest of the episode remains pretty fascinating, because there's more that you need to gleam from "Datalore" besides Lore.

(And I'm not even referring to "Shut up, Wesley!")

The episode also establishes the Crystalline Entity.  This is one of the more ambitious and mysterious alien lifeforms ever conceived in Star Trek (and would be seen again to greater effect in "Silicone Avatar"), a faceless being of apparent sheer destruction, perhaps like rogue probes in "Changeling" as well as The Motion Picture and The Voyage Home, and perhaps the best example of what Q was hoping Picard would figure out in Next Generation following the trial begun in the pilot and ended in the finale.

Note to anyone who cares: if you were interested in retelling the story of Data, it would be absolutely essential to include the Crystalline Entity.

There's plenty of Data's story in "Datalore," including his specific origins.  The funny thing about Data was that even though there were androids running around the original series, including dubious "followers" of the nefarious Harry Mudd (imagine if they made a movie out of him!), Starfleet treats Data as pretty unique thanks to his intricate programming and abilities.  Also because until "Datalore" he's believed to be unique.  Turns out there was at least one other model executed by his creator, one that didn't suffer from the same social setbacks and therefore proven very meddlesome (and that's before Lore unleashes the Crystalline Entity that wiped out all life on the colony where Data was later rediscovered).

There's plenty of fascinating material to be found here, but I hesitate to give it the full rating because, well, it's basically a pretty clear offering from the first, imperfect season.  Thank the creators that it exists and possibly move along.  Yes, Wesley is the only one who seems to notice that Lore tries to replace Data, and hears "Shut up!" twice during the episode for his efforts, which is yet another indication that the writers are either themselves aware that the character has already proven more annoying than they'd intended, or they keep inadvertently feeding the audience the reaction they eventually get.

And yes, it's an "evil twin" episode.  Still, by all accounts a quite noteworthy one.

franchise * series * essential * character

Notable guest-stars:
Brent Spiner

Memory Alpha summary.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Next Generation 1x12 "The Big Goodbye"


Like "A Piece of the Action" before it, "The Big Goodbye" is Star Trek doing a completely different genre and coming up gangbusters.  Whether or not you hold against it that it's also the source of holodeck-run-amok episodes is up to you.

One of the unlikeliest but most enduring (famously featured in Star Trek: First Contact) features of Picard's character was his fascination with the pulp fiction detective Dixon Hill.  On the surface, this is the Dixon Hill episode.  It's also the first notable pairing of Picard and Data, who would go on to dominate the Next Generation movies

It's also good fun, and that was extremely rare, both before and after, in this series.  Deep Space Nine, which a lot of fans pegged as the darkest Star Trek, had a lot more levity.  Aside from visits by Q, Next Generation tended to be pretty sober, taking the lead of Picard, so it's that much more notable that "The Big Goodbye" actually features him in the lead.

Another element worth mentioning is the Federation historian featured in the episode.  Although between this and "Space Seed," it may not be the greatest career path in the future.

Sit back and enjoy!

franchise * series * essential * character

Notable guest-stars:
Lawrence Tierney

Memory Alpha summary.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Next Generation 1x11 "Haven"


"Haven" is the episode Gene Roddenberry was probably waiting for since the start of Next Generation, in which he finally gets to reclaim a subplot from The Motion Picture.  Riker and Troi's relationship gets shoved to the front, the element of the series borrowed from Decker and Ilia.  Thankfully the second incarnation has a more humanly happy resolution.

If there's an obvious flaw to "Haven" for long-term fans, it's most of what is established about Betazoids in the episode really doesn't end up mattering, other than a few cultural points (and the term "imzadi," which becomes the title of a book by Peter David about Riker and Troi's relationship, popular enough to warrant a rare sequel).  The series doesn't really "get" Betazoids until Troi's cloying mum, Lwaxana, begins to dominate later on.  Lwaxana does debut here, in the guise of Roddenberry's widow Majel Barrett, but if you have any memories of "Haven," perhaps it's of a young Robert Knepper (later to achieve notoriety in Prison Break) or Armin Shimerman making another early franchise appearance as the face on the side of a gift box (seriously!).

Either way, keep your focus on Next Generation's premier on-again-off-again couple (better at it than Picard and Crusher, who do get the series finale as a spotlight consolation prize), Riker and Troi, particularly Troi.  "Haven" is a little like "Amok Time" in that it features Knepper as Troi's intended suitor who doesn't end up working out (much like Worf, but that's another reference to the seventh season, which is a long way off, although if Worf were the suitor, or in Troi's line of sight here, you can bet we'd have another memorable fight on our hands).

More importantly, the episode positions Troi as more significant to the series than the first season tends to suggest.  She also steals "Skin of Evil" from the death of Tasha Yar, by the way.  In that way, it may be another sign that the writers needed to concentrate on things other than what they were bothering with at the time in order to figure itself out.  This is ironic, because here it's something Gene Roddenberry wanted.  By the third season it's basically other stuff.

franchise * series * essential * character

Notable guest-stars:
Majel Barrett
Robert Knepper
Armin Shimerman
Carel Struycken (Mr. Homn)

Memory Alpha summary.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Next Generation 1x10 "Hide and Q"


Q returns!  It's odd and appropriate for that to have happened so quickly, considering he was an afterthought inclusion for "Encounter at Farpoint," created to fill out Paramount's desire to expand the first episode into two hours.  "Hide and Q," then, may represent one of the first moments where The Next Generation started reshaping itself into something better.

I should note, however, that while it does feature Q and by definition is must-see, it's also almost painfully like much of the early episodes of the series, trying to do character development by pointing out what makes the characters unique rather than writing the characters themselves.

Basically, Q comes back to pester Picard (the general synopsis for basically every appearance), but instead ends up choosing Riker to join the Q Continuum, and in a weird sort of way attempts to drag Q into the very original series mold he shattered in his first appearance.  From Gary Mitchell to Charlie X, that's what a lot of those characters did when they encountered godlike power, as Riker struggles to retain his humanity while examining the possibilities of his newfound power.

The oddest but most notable instance of Riker doing this is aging Wesley to adulthood, which just goes to show that even the writers knew that the boy wonder was probably annoying as he was.

One of the things I remember best about "Hide and Q" is the awkward moment where Worf refers to a band of alien soldiers Q has just conjured as "vicious animal things."  Yet another instance where the supposed enlightenment of Starfleet perhaps not being all that it appears to be.

The best part of Q's visit this time is allowing Picard, and Patrick Stewart, to begin voicing his enthusiasm for Shakespeare, which also helps shape the dynamic between our good captain and his true rival (sorry, Bok).

Other than all that?  It's up to you to determine how good this episode actually is.  Because pretty much every other appearance by Q, in any series, is better.  This one still smacks of the deficiencies inherent to most of Next Generation's first season.

franchise * series * essential * character

Notable guest-stars:
John de Lancie

Memory Alpha summary.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Next Generation 1x9 "The Battle"


"The Battle" is another of those episodes that holds a pretty curious legacy in Next Generation lore.  On the one hand, it's unquestionably better and more relevant than a lot of its first season brethren.  But it also exists, within the context of most of the rest of the series (aside from the seventh season sequel "Bloodlines"), curiously out of step, other than the fact that it redeems the Ferengi after their first appearance and sets them on their way to what we would know of them later.

There, you see how convoluted it is?  Let's start untangling.

In this episode we explore crucial aspects of Picard's backstory, notably his first command, the Stargazer.  This is another thing that sets Picard apart from his famous predecessor Kirk, not only the fact that he's older and more cerebral (and bald!), but that he was captain of a starship not named Enterprise.  By 1987, when Next Generation debuted, Kirk had just received command of the Enterprise-A in 1986's The Voyage Home.  He'd destroyed the refit version of the original in Search for Spock, of course, but still zipped around space in more or less continuous command of a ship called Enterprise for twenty-five years (through The Undiscovered Country).

So that means Picard had a starship before Enterprise.  That's what this boils down to.  That's what "The Battle" is all about.  The curious thing is that after "The Battle," this is pretty much forgotten (in the books, not as such).  The curious fact of his artificial heart becomes far more important later on, the subject of a far more memorable episode ("Tapestry").

Stargazer is lost thanks to Starfleet's first military encounter with the Ferengi, though it's a victory for Picard that ends up like a defeat.  He loses his ship (though not before executing the nifty Picard Maneuver) and unwittingly gains a mortal enemy, Daimon Bok.  Bok appears here and again in "Bloodlines," but I'm not sure anyone really thinks of this rivalry when considering Picard, the Ferengi, or Next Generation.  Bok's obsession even in this episode is portrayed as counterintuitive to typical Ferengi (financial) interests, by the way.

For the record, even though "The Battle" is a far better Ferengi appearance than "The Last Outpost," it's still pretty awkward as far as establishing them.  Bok is more the menace that the Ferengi were supposed to be (the new Klingons, conceptually), but Ferengi greed (like 1980s greed in general) is hard-pressed to be understood in his context.  In fact, it's so hard to reconcile that another series entirely (Deep Space Nine) is forced to make up the difference, and arguably so many fans have already had their Ferengi explained via Next Generation that it may have already been too late.

So it's best to view "The Battle" as a Picard episode, an artifact from a time before the series moved into a different gear that still manages to differentiate one captain from his famous predecessor.

franchise * series * essential * character

Memory Alpha summary.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Next Generation 1x8 "Justice"

"Justice" is another of those first season episodes that are better off stricken from the record.  If you wanted to torture yourself, you might watch it because it resembles "The Apple" from the original series.  You can also jab a pencil in your thigh.

This is the one where the crew visits what appears to be a pretty idyllic planet, filled with people who dress in the characteristic alternative Star Trek fashion (which is to say very little), and for a moment you think everything might be just fine.  Worf has a chance to be Worf, for instance.  Then Wesley has  a Wesleyism and is sentenced to death.

When I say "Wesleyism," I mean Wesley Crusher from the first season, a character that seems really excellent on paper (and no offense to Wil Wheaton), but you absolutely loathe because he's the most annoying character ever, and here he's helped by a stupid plot device by another native culture forced into stupid behavior that is only required so that our crew can seem morally superior, even though Star Trek typically suggests an ideology of tolerance (erm, what's up with that?).

So the rest of the episode is about the crew scrambling to find a loophole that will save a character the audience (aside from those who really enjoyed "Where No One Has Gone Before") wishes would die.  (It's no surprise that the catchphrase "Shut up, Wesley," developed by Picard in "Datalore" five episodes later, became an anthem for the fans.)

Suffice to say, while not technically as horrible as "Code of Honor," "Justice" is an episode that emphasizes all the wrong things, and is a perfect example of what The Next Generation needed to outgrow in order to earn its place in Star Trek lore.

franchise * series * essential * character

Notable guest-stars:
Josh Clark

Memory Alpha summary.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Next Generation 1x7 "Lonely Among Us"


"Lonely Among Us" is an episode that's watchable but also forgettable.  It's very much the portrait of a series in development.

The title alone probably won't give you any memories of the episode, and that's pretty much indicative of the whole thing.  It's a Next Generation version of the elaborately poetic titles the original series favored, and just one of many examples of the new series trying to do what the old series did but eventually outgrowing it.  If the series hadn't developed, much less lasted more than a few seasons, "Lonely" could very well be considered memorable.  Yet it merely stands out as a not-horrible and not-memorable entry from the first season, which is to say that it does not stand out at all.

It does feature, however, Data at the start of his obsession with Sherlock Holmes, so that's something that lasts far beyond the end credits.  In a lot of ways, it's an episode that tries to do far too much, and that's what ultimately hurts it.  There's a little of "Journey to Babel" in there, a little of noncorporeal-entities-wrecking-havoc (a franchise staple), and a little of the cast development that went into a lot of these early episodes.  It is distinctly Next Generation material, which at this point is something worth celebrating, something that fans following the new series would recognize, and fans who have continued to follow the franchise will find familiar as well.  It's a template, a messy one, but a template all the same.  Little by little, the series learns to distinguish itself.

The dress uniforms of the modern era (at least until the new uniforms and their own dress uniforms appear starting in 1996) are introduced, though they remain somewhat baffling (originally looking very much like...dresses, even on the men).  Kirk was always getting into new uniforms in his day, so it's nice to see that tradition continued.  Picard would later add to his own collection of variations, but not for several seasons.

I originally earmarked this episode as skippable, but changed my mind (that happens a lot as I work on writing each episode up).  You could skip "Loney Among Us," but there are things worth seeing.  It's not horrible, like the truly skippable episodes (and there are plenty from this season).  You could watch it as a fan of the formative develop of the series, or even just as a fan of the franchise.  But just don't put too much weight on its value.  Unless you want to.

franchise * series * essential * character

Notable guest-stars:
Colm Meaney
Marc Alaimo

Memory Alpha summary.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Next Generation 1x6 "Where No One Has Gone Before"


Before we go much further, let me just mention the title of this episode.  It's another call and response from the original series, but one that like the episode itself is perhaps the first sign since Q that The Next Generation is going to be a notable enterprise all its own.  It comes from the famous mission statement that Kirk and Picard speak over the credits of every episode, with that one crucial difference, "one" instead of "man," just as years later Enterprise would eliminate the split infinitive concerning the boldness of the adventures when essentially having Zefran Cochrane creating it.  As with the later example, it's Star Trek trying to grow up a little, just as in the casting of the older Patrick Stewart to be the captain of this new crew.  Of course, there will always be fans who suggest such quibbles aren't necessary to fix.

Anyway, so "Where No One Has Gone Before" is the best Wesley episode of the season (arguably the only good one).  It's the introduction of his cosmic destiny, something that wouldn't be visited again until the final season.  Had the series been launched later, it's very probable that subsequent creators would not have allowed such an important character development to be overlooked.  It's arguable that this is a lot of what the series should have been about, and that Deep Space Nine, especially with Sisko's relationship to the Prophets, that Star Trek itself later figured this out.

The Traveler, then, is a lot like Q, Next Generation introducing a giant concept that could very well have been like something out of the original series but instead transformed into an integral element of the mythology that shaped later franchise developments.  On the surface he's just the catalyst for crazy warp engine experiments (tagging along very much with one of those original series misguided-Starfleet-officers-of-the-week) that push Picard's ship into one of several far-out journeys into unknown territory (happens again in "Q Who?" and eventually becomes the premise of Voyager).  But when we find out that it's the Traveler making everything happen (unfortunately while being exploited, which is another nice aspect of the episode), and that he's marked the erstwhile annoying boy genius Wesley as another like him.

Q was the first to suggest that Next Generation was about taking Star Trek to the next level, figuring out how to not only explore strange new worlds but to, well, go where no one has gone before.  Later seasons, although technically superior in every way, lost this thread and later series never really got it back.  That's one reason why this episode still stands out.

franchise series * essential * character

Notable guest-stars:
Eric Menyuk
Dennis Madalone

Memory Alpha summary.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Next Generation 1x5 "The Last Outpost"


So this is the debut of the Ferengi.  The Ferengi were the worst screw-up of Next Generation's first season, but in a lot of ways, it's a screw-up that ultimately doesn't matter, much like the rest of the season.  Originally, the Ferengi were essentially to become the new Klingons.  As presented here they're complete jokes, of course.  And even when the series finally got them right, they're just not all that familiar to fans of Deep Space Nine.  It takes Voyager and Enterprise to reconcile the differences, if you must know.

Anyway, like much of the season, it's bafflingly bad (although Riker does get to notably bellow "Anybody?" off a cliff, which is where most of these episodes go).  Even the intriguing concept of the ancient civilization the Ferengi and Starfleet spar over is not even good as a pastiche of all the similar plots from the original series (and this season manages to do it better in "The Arsenal of Freedom").

So the story is forgettable and the Ferengi are laughable with their laser whips (with nary a Dolph Lundgren in sight).  Anything at all worth taking away from it?  Glad you asked!  Among the first actors to portray a Ferengi happens to be Armin Shimerman.  This is not even the only time he shows up in the season (see also: "Haven").  He's better known, of course, as Quark in Deep Space Nine, a far more respectable Ferengi (though anyone who knows him would beg to disagree, starting with his "pal" Odo).  That's a remarkable bit of fortuitous casting, and one of the big benefits of the franchise keeping tabs on its actors.

Anyway, as far as the Ferengi go, this is worth watching merely as their first appearance in the series.  All of it gets better.  Don't panic!

franchise * series * essential * character

Notable guest-stars:
Armin Shimerman

Memory Alpha summary.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Next Generation 1x4 "Code of Honor"

This is one of those episodes that absolutely should be stricken from the record.  It's one of those episodes that's so bad it's embarrassing, and to many fans actually represents the whole of the first season of The Next Generation.  It's at the very least at the top of a steep learning curve that resulted in far better material later on.

If care to know what this travesty actually features, it's almost worth a look for the way it reflects back on other Star Trek material, an officer being thrust into a duel to the death on some alien world.  There are plenty of those.  This one does not need to be viewed to complete that collection.  Picard ends up visiting a world with such bad African stereotypes even Marvel Comics' Black Panther wouldn't want anything to do with it.

Long story short these guys become obsessed with Tasha Yar, who at this point is the character the series least knows how to handle.  As portrayed by Denise Crosby, she's the soft-spoken security officer whose rotten past makes a far more interesting character, but is asked to fill a role she's not suited to, basically the surrogate Kirk (even though Riker, or perhaps just increasingly so as the season continues, is also in that position, though he's also initially conceived as a surrogate Decker, as in The Motion Picture Decker, with Troi being his Ilia).

Anyway, it's an ill-fit for Yar, for the episode, for the season...Best left overlooked.  This is the first of several episodes to have that distinction from the season, unfortunately, and because of this, each subsequent new Star Trek series is assumed to require a certain amount of developing time, which is only really necessary in Deep Space Nine, as Voyager and Enterprise are both pretty confidently themselves from the start.  But because of material like this, some fans will just never be convinced.

franchise * series * essential * character

Memory Alpha summary.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Next Generation 1x3 "The Naked Now"


As the first regular episode of Next Generation, it may have been somewhat questionable to pattern "The Naked Now" after one of the more memorable episodes of the original series ("The Naked Time").  Although it's also a pretty bold move.  Aside from the fact that like many episodes from the first season of the series it doesn't age terrifically well, it does do exactly what it's supposed to, and further distance the new from the old crew.  The new one is more apt to look at a problem from a strictly analytic approach, whereas the old one usually ran by its emotions (yes, even Spock, because most of the time he had to deal with the questionable logic of his two friends, especially Bones).

Like many episodes of Enterprise, "The Naked Now" plays off of a familiar story, so there's at least a link to familiar material if you want to look at it that way.  There isn't an image quite as memorable as Sulu fencing on the bridge (which remains Sulu's definitive image from the TV incarnation of his crew, which says a lot about how important Sulu actually was), though Yar basically stripping in front of Data certainly comes close.

Actually, let me correct that.  Wesley Crusher, the controversial boy genius who was probably the biggest victim of the first season's baby steps, has a pretty infamous subplot in that he basically takes control of engineering, which is made easier by the fact that La Forge had not yet become chief engineer and so Next Generation left one of the original crew's most famous posts wide open and subject to some pretty weird developments.  This episode is the worst example of how that definitely did not work out.

La Forge does, however, get to emphasize the key characteristic everyone knows about him, that he needs artificial help in order to see (the awesome-looking VISOR up until First Contact that was one of the show's most distinctive elements).  There's also Picard and Crusher brushing on their theoretical romance that never quite played out but remained a recurring theme for both of them until the last episode, plus a tease of the Riker/Troi relationship that did happen and ended in a marriage (eventually).

It's Yar, though, who leaves the lasting impression, and while it's not Fencing Sulu it does provide Data with one of his earliest bonding moments, one that is left unexplained when it's referenced again later in the season (if you don't know what I'm talking about, and you're new to Next Generation, let's just say explaining would require a spoiler alert).

While far from a recommended episode, "The Naked Now" is not as horrible as most of the first season is in the eyes of most fans.  It's actually something of a lost gem (though the shine needs considerable buffing).

franchise * series * essential * character

Memory Alpha summary.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Next Generation 1x1/1x2 "Encounter at Farpoint"


In some ways, it's really hard to appreciate "Encounter at Farpoint."  As with the majority of the first season of Next Generation there's an aesthetic that was outdated even upon original airing, indicated by the dramatic shift in quality beginning with the third season (although even the second season was markedly better if less distinguished).  The main crux of the episode, the crisis at Farpoint as Picard struggles to learn what exactly is going on (not the only parallel with the series finale "All Good Things..."), is hardly worth watching for the most part, much less commenting on.  We do get introductions to each of the characters of the series, however, including Data's memorable whistling of "Pop! Goes the Weasel" (which is what Riker struggles to remember in Nemesis, by the way, even though he's the one who finishes the tune, though you may be forgiven if all you yourself remember is that the scene is also the introduction of the holodeck).

The real meat of the episode was actually included as an afterthought, once Paramount decided to make "Encounter" a two-hour affair.  That meat would be Q, as memorably portrayed by John de Lancie, who perhaps is the greatest bit of continuity through the rest of the series and several others besides.  If anyone but de Lancie had been cast, Q would very easily have become just another of Star Trek's meddling omnipotent beings, another link fans just getting into the first new Star Trek cast since Kirk would have scoffed at seeing again (this would be a problem in other first season episodes).

Also memorable but not as striking is DeForest Kelley's cameo appearance as an aged "Bones" McCoy, buried under so much bad prosthetic makeup (another episode from the season would feature bad prosthetic makeup, in case you were wondering, "Too Short a Season") that even his distinctive voice might be hard to catch.  He takes a short stroll with Data (making the android easily the other character, besides Q, to make a definite impression from "Farpoint"), touring the new Enterprise.  If you didn't know it was Kelley, you certainly wouldn't know it was supposed to be McCoy.  Kelley would leave better impressions in The Final Frontier and The Undiscovered Country, both released after this pilot, though this is his final TV appearance.

For those looking for niftier continuity casting, this is Colm Meaney's first appearance in the franchise, though his character (Miles O'Brien) doesn't receive a name.  It took a long time to establish a character for Meaney, but he eventually became a regular, in Deep Space Nine.

In other tech developments, the Enterprise performs a rare saucer separation, which may be another notable aspect of the episode worth watching.  It's the odd bits, not the entirety of it, that makes "Encounter" its own kind of new Star Trek classic, not just because it makes history in itself, but because there are definitely things worth remembering and savoring.

But mostly it's Q, not Jean-Luc Picard, who gets to see what's out there.

franchise * series * essential * character

Notable guest-stars:
DeForest Kelley
John de Lancie
Colm Meaney

Memory Alpha summary. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A note on what to expect in the future.

Having now concluded detailed looks at six seasons from three different series, I will now be starting work on two seasons from The Next Generation, the first and then third, and following that a strictly chronological look at the remaining twenty-one seasons, starting with the original and including the animated series, and the seasons so far omitted from Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise.  I expect that this will at least take me through 2013, so this is to say there's plenty more where all this came from...

Enterprise 2x26 "The Expanse"


The second season ends with a bang, concluding the crew's efforts to figure out how they fit into the grander scheme by letting them know that they have a long way to go.  This is accomplished by kicking off the Xindi arc with a giant swash of Florida being eradicated, and also the last efforts by Duras to gain revenge on Archer, concluding another arc begun in "Judgment."

In a lot of ways, this is Enterprise being Deep Space Nine, having the series steeped in its own mythology.  Next Generation started this with "Redemption," which also featured Klingons, and certainly "The Best of Both Worlds," still the most famous but not first appearance of the Borg.  Contrary to how much of the preceding season had played out, there's a definite connection to other episodes (another irony of the perception of the season, given that even in the early episodes, there was a link between "Minefield" and "Dead Stop," and Trip references plenty of things we've seen in "Dawn").

Another notable feature of "The Expanse" is its inclusion of the Temporal Cold War arc, which even at this point seems to have been altered from its original conception.  Future Guy makes his last appearance of the series, undeniably aiding Archer, as previously suggested for his motives in "Cold Front" from the first season.  Rather than a black and white, Silik-is-the-bad-guy/Daniels-is-the-good-guy interpretation that some episodes might have argued (notably "Shockwave," which ambiguously ended the first season and began this one), we have reason to believe after "The Expanse" that it benefits plenty of factions for events to play out as they historically did, rather than be altered.

Which in itself suggests that the whole third season could be redefined as the definitive Temporal Cold War story, even though the familiar players from other stories in the arc are mostly absent (Daniels appears a few times).  But that's an argument for another time.

Even if you don't care about that arc, there's plenty to enjoy about the episode.  Trip loses his sister in the attack, which is the last push the season gives him for everything that would come, the material that would truly build his enduring legacy.  The Xindi crisis itself reflects the 9/11 attacks that had just occurred when the series began, marking the first time Star Trek used contemporary events to inspire an ongoing story (unless you count the other Cold War and the Klingons).

If you don't particularly want to watch this one for all the interseries continuity, it can still be enjoyed as a standout Star Trek adventure.

franchise * series * essential * character

Notable guest-stars:
John Fleck
Vaughn Armstrong
Gary Graham
Daniel Riordan
James Horan
Daniel Riordan

Memory Alpha summary. 

Enterprise 2x25 "Bounty"


The Klingon arc begun in "Judgment" continues in "Bounty," in which Archer's escape from the penal colony of Rura Penthe finally comes back to haunt him.  If that's not interesting enough for you, the episode also features Enterprise's first use of Tellarites, another species first seen in the original series but unused since.

Ah, and if that's not enough for you, T'Pol suffers from pon farr, the Vulcan mating drive famously depicted in "Amok Time" (and Voyager's "Blood Fever").  Like other points where the series depicts something later generations are only just supposed to be learning about, the episode leaves the topic unnamed, and since only Phlox is made aware of her condition, the secret remains pretty safe.  In fact, this whole aspect of the episode is better viewed for the sake of Phlox than T'Pol, even though it's about as uncomfortably atypical as "The Breach."  This is probably the only time the good doctor would ever be reduced (nearly) completely to comic relief, though some fans thought he reached that point (wrongly) in "A Night in Sickbay" still earlier in the season.  It's safe to say that the second season saw a lot of weird things attempted with the character.

Getting back to the main story, it's a lot like "Canamar," which as you'll remember was originally conceived as the ending of "Judgment."  This time Archer doesn't attempt to hide his identity, however.  It's Archer as he'd come to be known in the Xindi arc of the following season, actually.  Like the next (and final) episode of the season, "The Expanse," "Bounty" functions well as a preview of things to come.  Tellarites return in the fourth season, so that's another thing you might take away from this episode.  They never reach the level of Andorians in the series, but this is a fine starting point for what's done.

Don't think I've overlooked the Klingons!  The relevance Klingon element doesn't have to do with Klingons themselves, but rather another actor famous for portraying one making an appearance this season.  This time it's Robert O'Reilly, playing a rival to the Tellarite.  You know O'Reilly, right?  He played Gowron.  You'd know his eyes anywhere.

franchise * series * essential * character

Notable guest-stars:
Robert O'Reilly

Memory Alpha summary.

Enterprise 2x24 "First Flight"


In a lot of ways, this is a sequel to "Carbon Creek" from earlier in the season.  It's a story that Archer tells T'Pol, much as the reverse is true of the other episode.  Anyone who still believes that Enterprise's second season was pretty random will hopefully have one less reason to think so.

It's also a love letter to NASA, something Star Trek had done before in Voyager's "One Small Step."  At a time when the US space program was already in a decline and only a few months after the Columbia tragedy, it perhaps is appropriate that Star Trek did so again.

It's also a rare flashback in franchise lore.  Deep Space Nine did it with Odo and Kira, but for the most part the past was at best something characters only talked about.  "First Flight" presents Archer's efforts to get his father's warp engine approved for deep space travel, as well as his rivalry with A.G. Robinson, whose death in the present is the impetus for the occasion.

In a lot of ways, it's the episode fans had been waiting for from the start, dealing with Vulcans actively discouraging human technological advances.  Archer meets Trip for the first time during the depicted events, so it's an origin story in several regards.  Anyone still wondering just how perfectly the second season treated Trip must also view this episode as proof.  He serves as an excellent counterpoint to Archer, even though they eventually conspire in the same test flight that gets Starfleet the mandate to reach "Broken Bow" (the series pilot), even if it nearly grounds the program in the process.

If you view only one episode from the season, "First Flight" should probably be that episode.  It's a perfect example of Enterprise at its finest, and is a worthy induction into the new classics of the franchise.

franchise * series * essential * character

Notable guest-stars:
Vaughn Armstrong
Keith Carradine

Memory Alpha summary.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Enterprise 2x23 "Regeneration"


It's something of a pity that a season that has really started to get a good sense of what it was doing so well ended up doing an episode that was pretty much exactly what Enterprise detractors had been saying the series was doing all along, a fairly unnecessarily indulgent look at established franchise lore.

There are certainly justifications, though they may be too subtle to appreciate for what they are.  The detractors loved to say that Enterprise constantly risked contradicting canon by visiting certain elements that were historically known to not be known at this point in the timeline.  The series had already danced around Ferengi and Romulans at this point, but "Regeneration" features the Borg, who famously catch Picard by complete surprise a long way off in the future.

Fans who don't worry about such things know that there are several clever things done in the episode. One is that it's basically a sequel to First Contact.  The other is that it also provides the source of the Borg Collective's obsession with humanity.

Other than that, it seems like an excuse to feature the Borg again.  Fans grew tired of them after Voyager used the Collective in countless stories.  This is not to say that the Borg are not inherently still fascinating, but that many fans began to lose sight of their appeal, weakening "Regeneration"'s at least initial impact.  The episode is also fairly generic in its storytelling, even if we get some updated perspective on their tech.

It's not bad but it's also not amazing, and sometimes the Borg just need to be amazing.  That's the only real problem here.

franchise * series * essential * character

Notable guest-stars:
Vaughn Armstrong
Bonita Friedericy (wife of "Phlox" John Billingsley)

Memory Alpha summary.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Top 50 Star Trek Characters

There've been a lot of characters featured in Star Trek across six TV shows and eleven (and counting) movies.  Here's my list of the top fifty.  If you think every series regular or all the most famous names you can think of will appear, you may be mistaken.  To wit:

1. James T. Kirk (TOS, TAS, 8 movies)
Gene Roddenberry did not create Star Trek with Kirk in mind, but he's the captain who was featured in the version of the pilot that NBC liked, and the rest is history.  Is there really any dispute that Star Trek would be nothing without Kirk?

2. Spock (TOS, TAS, TNG, 7 movies)
Kirk is the character who represents Star Trek, but the most famous character in franchise history is his Vulcan science officer, whose death helped make the movies popular and was essential to the 2009 reboot.

3. Jean-Luc Picard (TNG, 4 movies)
Only the complete opposite of Kirk could have led a new generation, and Picard introduced a new flavor to Star Trek, making Patrick Stewart an acting icon.

4. Q (TNG, DS9, VOY)
The unlikely breakout character from the first episode of The Next Generation was a trademark Star Trek omnipotent being whose use of sarcasm became legendary, helping him make appearances in the next two incarnations of the franchise.

5. Data (TNG, 4 movies)
Spock to Picard's Kirk, Data was the machine who wanted to be a man, and whose journey to realizing that goal proved a revelation in the Star Trek theme of exploring the human condition.

6. Worf (TNG, DS9, 4 movies)
The only Star Trek character to be a regular in two different series.  Do I really need to say more?

7. Miles O'Brien (TNG, DS9)
Nearly as impressive is O'Brien graduating from recurring character to series regular.

8. Benjamin Sisko (DS9)
The grounding element of Deep Space Nine was its lead character, whose evolution matched the growing maturity of the series itself.

9. The Doctor (VOY)
One of the most fascinating personal journeys of discovery in franchise lore is the next step in concept originally represented by Data.

10. Charles "Trip" Tucker (ENT)
The most human character ever featured in Star Trek had his share of triumphs and tragedy.

11. Kira Nerys (DS9)
12. Kathryn Janeway (VOY, 1 movie)
13. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (TOS, TAS, TNG, 7 movies)
14. Odo (DS9)
15. B'Elanna Torres (VOY)
16. "Scotty" Montgomery Scott (TOS, TAS, TNG, 8 movies)
17. Khan Noonien Singh (TOS, 1 movie)
18. Seven of Nine (VOY)
19. Jonathan Archer (ENT)
20. Julian Bashir (DS9, TNG)
21. Lwaxana Troi (TNG, DS9)
22. William T. Riker (TNG, VOY, ENT, 4 movies)
23. Reginald Barclay (TNG, VOY, 1 movie)
24. Quark (DS9, TNG, VOY)
25. Dukat (DS9)
26. Deanna Troi (TNG, VOY, 4 movies)
27. Guinan (TNG, 2 movies)
28. Garak (DS9)
29. T'Pol (ENT)
30. Sarek (TOS, TAS, TNG, 3 movies)
31. Jadzia Dax (DS9)
32. David Marcus (2 movies)
33. Phlox (ENT)
34. Gowron (TNG, DS9)
35. Saavik (3 movies)
36. Nyota Uhura (TOS, 7 movies)
37. Wesley Crusher (TNG, 1 movie)
38. Malcolm Reed (ENT)
39. Borg Queen (1 movie, VOY)
40. Ro Laren (TNG)
41. Chang (1 movie)
42. Shran (ENT)
43. Geordi La Forge (TNG, VOY, 4 movies)
44. Tom Paris (VOY)
45. Christopher Pike (TOS, 1 movie)
46. Hikaru Sulu (TOS, TAS, VOY, 7 movies)
47. Jake Sisko (DS9)
48. Beverly Crusher (TNG, 4 movies)
49. Chakotay (VOY)
50. Kes (VOY)

Enterprise 2x22 "Cogenitor"


Characters in Star Trek have certainly screwed up before.  In Enterprise alone half the premise is pretty much predicated on everyone screwing up at one point or another as they try to figure out how to set the standards established as a matter of course in other incarnations.

But "Cogenitor" is probably the be-all-and-end-all of screw-ups.  Naturally it features second-half-of-the-second-season-all-star Trip Tucker, in the episode that solidifies that role.  It's the last time in the series, actually, where one of Trip's spotlights does not focus on something about him other than his personality and apparent bad instincts, probably because the writers no longer have any doubt after it that he's the breakout star of the series.

Before we get to that, let's just get out of the way another of Enterprise's efforts to make a franchise reprise of some of its most notable actors.  This time it's Andreas Katsulas, who famously played Picard's Romulan counterpart Tomalak (although he's better known as G'Kar in Babylon 5).  He gets to spend a lot of genial time with Archer in a first contact situation that's one of the best this crew has experienced.

Except for Trip's actions.

Several times in the course of the series alien species truly get to be alien, meaning that they have noticeable characteristics other than their appearance that makes them alien.  While it's happened in other incarnations, there's a more pronounced effort in Enterprise, even if it happens in an alien-of-the-week context most of the time.  Here it's a species that has three distinct genders.  Trip gets his knickers in a bind when he decides for himself that the third one is being unfairly exploited and limited in its potential.  He meets a couple who are trying to conceive, and so they have one of the eponymous members of this gender accompanying them. He becomes intrigued by this individual.

And he screws up big time.  You can imagine what happens next.  Riker did basically the same thing in "The Outcast," but where that episode used Riker in a fairly uncomfortable representation of his latent Kirk ladies man mode, Trip is Trip in "Cogenitor," a fallible human who probably thinks too much for his own good, the version of Archer who would've made the Vulcans even more uncomfortable (but who is ironically revealed to help the future captain get his father's engine working in "First Flight" two episodes later).  He's everything that Enterprise was supposed to be, and gets to be it for four seasons, warts and all.

Whereas most episodes like this end up being about the issues they were engineered to explore, "Cogenitor" is best viewed for its featured character, and that's the true strength of Trip, that he could make something like that happen.  That's how he gets one of his bona fide Star Trek classic episodes.

franchise * series * essential * character

Notable guest-stars:
Andreas Katsulas
F.J. Rio

Memory Alpha summary.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Enterprise 2x21 "The Breach"


Very much like the Voyager episode "Jetrel," we learn a disturbing history behind a species we've basically just come to know.  Unlike the Talaxians being victims in that instance, Denobulans are the villains as featured in the revelations of "The Breach."

Unfortunately, Enterprise never got around to exploring Denobulans, the race of Dr. Phlox, too extensively, so this remains one of the signature expositions for them.  As in "Jetrel," much of the episode is a reluctant dialogue between representatives of two species who were once at violent war with each other.  In the one positive note of this exchange, it's never exaggerated to anything other than the doctor-patient relationship that it begins as.

The main benefit is learning a little more about Phlox's family.  Earlier in the season we learned that he doesn't have the best relations with all his children, and here we learn why.  It's a sobering spotlight for a character who often served either as comic relief or a voice of reason, perhaps more somber than is enjoyable, considering that when utilized Phlox was always among the best assets of the series.  Like Mayweather before him, perhaps the wrong lessons were taken from the learning steps of Phlox's episodes from the early seasons.  Instead of taking his place as the featured character he deserved to become, the good doctor became a thoroughly supporting character.  It's not hard to view "The Breach" as a reason why.

On the plus side, the B-story does allow Denobulans to show a more positive and typically eccentric side, as some of the crew attempts to rescue some scientists from a tricky spot.  It's an odd mix, but it counts as a thoroughly Denobulan affair, and this is the only episode that can say that.

franchise * series * essential * character

Memory Alpha summary.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Enterprise 2x20 "Horizon"


It's absolutely true that Travis Mayweather was the least utilized of any series regular in a Star Trek since the original series, where Sulu and Uhura especially were used mostly as window dressing, and Chekov mostly for Russian anecdotes.  It got to a point where fans joked that he could be played by a cardboard cutout with equal effectiveness to actor Anthony Montgomery.

This became true mostly in the last two seasons.  As point of fact, he got a spotlight episode in each of the first two seasons.  Yes, faint praise to a certain extent.  As I understand it, half the character's potential was pulled out from under him when it was determined his own backstory worked against the concept of the series.  Mayweather was a Boomer, part of the human space experience that lived on starships before Starfleet made it routine.  Of course, Enterprise was all about the formative development of Starfleet, pushing the boundaries of human space experience.

In short, being a Boomer meant becoming obsolete.  Mayweather joined Starfleet to be a part of this development.  His old colleagues and family didn't uniformly see that as a good thing.  "Horizon" is all about this conflict, brought to a point when news reaches Mayweather that his father has died.  Like the rest of the latter half of the second season, the episode serves as a status marker, showing how far things have developed, this time from the perspective of the pilot who was the most natural spaceman in Archer's crew.

I always wished the character would receive more material.  I'll admit to being fascinated by the potential of the Boomers to offer a commentary on Starfleet.  Unlike the show's creators, I still thought there was a chance that Mayweather's Boomers roots could provide insight into developments well past the second season.  I assume this didn't happen mostly because the writers found other things more interesting to them.

"Horizon" doesn't make Mayweather out to be a hidden treasure of the series, but at least an underappreciated one.  I would argue that there was a lot of worth to having a recognizable character lace his way through the series, regardless of how much material he got.  He was still more important and distinguished than Sulu or Uhura.  Other incarnations made use of their casts to varying degrees of effectiveness.  Mayweather rates below all of them, but he still leaves an impression.  An episode like "Horizon" is like a reward for noticing him at all.  You're a true fan of the series if you appreciate this one.

franchise * series * essential * character

Memory Alpha summary.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Enterprise 2x19 "Judgment"


Sometimes fans of something don't seem to appreciate the benefits of being, y'know, a fan.  Perhaps they forget that "fan" is short for "fanatic."

I mention this because fans are supposed to be the ones who appreciate what fans will gleam from regularly enjoying something.  Too often in this magnified age of fan interaction, they end up rejecting what they seem to enjoy precisely because of that familiarity.  I know, I'm still confused by that myself.

What I'm still driving at is the appreciation of patterns.  Star Trek has always been about enjoying patterns.  The original series was littered with patterns.  It's nature of episodic television, what makes a procedural franchise possible.  Even when Star Trek doesn't follow the episodic format, there are still established elements that resonate through each incarnation.

I'm not even talking about that.  "Judgment" is a little more fundamental than that.  This episode of Enterprise  calls to mind a specific sequence from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, released some twenty years before the episode originally aired.  "Judgment," to be specific, features a return to the Klingon tribunal Kirk and Bones once got to enjoy, as well as the same result, a sentencing to the ice planet penal colony Rura Penthe.

If that weren't enough, it also guest-stars J.G. Hertzler, playing a Klingon defense attorney.  Hertzler famously played Martok, who eventually became the Klingon chancellor in Deep Space Nine.  Although he only appeared in the last few seasons Martok quickly became one of that show's most memorable recurring characters.

And in that weren't enough, "Judgment" also features the first chronological appearance of a character named Duras (infamous from The Next Generation and a pair of sisters who survived two TV series but not their first movie appearance, Star Trek Generations).

It's as if the whole episode were constructed in order for me to make this point.  Enterprise was always about celebrating the legacy of the franchise.  This may be the most resonant statement of that aspect of the series.

Anyway, the unfortunate dude at the Klingon tribunal this time is Archer, and he easily and confidently carries the episode, holding his own even as Hertzler is, well, Hertzler, actually making the case that not all Klingons are warriors (it's true!).

So yes, on the one hand you can watch "Judgment" for the novelty of revisiting something from one of the movies that fans generally like, or for Hertzler, or for Klingons in general (this is their best appearance in the series), or simply for the fact that it at last grounds the season in ways prior episodes, even "Cease Fire" with the Andorians and Vulcans, tried their best to do, establishing how far Archer has gotten and how far he still needs to go.  There's a string of episodes that continues the story, by the way, straight into the Xindi arc that envelopes the next season, so those fans who like Star Trek to be more serialized won't be disappointed, and neither will those who like it episodic.  It works every way you like, and beyond that.  It's meta Star Trek, but it doesn't lose sight of telling an interesting, compelling story.

In short, there's little wrong in loving this one.

franchise * series * essential * character

Notable guest-stars:
J.G. Hertzler
Daniel Riordan

Memory Alpha summary.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Enterprise 2x18 "The Crossing"


This was originally an episode that I figured you could skip if you were so inclined, with nothing but fairly generic material contained.  On the one hand, it could have been rated as something fans of the franchise might watch, as it contains thematic elements featured in various incarnations of Star Trek, including non-corporeal beings and crew possession.  If that's your bag then you might still consider that a reason to watch.

Yet "The Crossing" might be considered equally for partisans of Trip Tucker, who's the nominal lead character of the episode, even though most of his scenes are under the influence and control of the wisp beings who flit about the ship and spend moments with several other characters.  It's a fine performance among many fine performances from Connor Trinneer (I don't reference actors by name too often in these recaps, so that may mean something), already at this point in the season well on his way to establishing him the most important if not simply breakout star of the series (although his career since Enterprise has been pretty nonexistent, which is horrible).  It's a rare chance for Trip to be on the other side of the mischief he's more usually instigating himself, as different from "Unexpected" (in which he famously gets pregnant) as you can get.

But you can also watch it simply as an ensemble piece, something that's always fun with these characters.  It's fun with any cast, but these ones in particular are good at maintaining a sense of continuity and purpose even when the situation doesn't really go anywhere as far as character growth goes.  If Star Trek had ever considered simply hanging out with a set of characters, this would have been the cast to do it with.

There you have it, then, three different reasons to care about an episode that might've been skipped under a different set of criteria.  It's not earth-shattering, but it's worth a look.

franchise * series * essential * character

Memory Alpha summary.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Enterprise 2x17 "Canamar"


"Canamar" is on the whole a pretty fun episode, although it's probably best recommended to fans who already like Enterprise, even though it's of no great importance to appreciating the overall series.

Apparently it was inspired by the later episode "Judgment," spun off from events that involved Archer becoming a prisoner of the Klingons (which itself served as a mini-arc at the end of the season).  You should understand, however, that "Canamar" has nothing to do with "Judgment" otherwise, only the inspiration for the story, in which Archer and Trip find themselves prisoners of an alien culture.  Come to think of it, there are plenty of episodes like this in other incarnations of Star Trek (another recurring theme in the writing room, I guess), although I stick by my assessment that you can probably get by on the minimal recommendation for the episode (that's what one out of three key elements listed at the top of every episode summary gets you, which in this ranking system is one out of four stars, and still means it's worth your attention).

The reason I rate "Canamar" for series rather than franchise is because, along with just about every other episode from the second season, it marks a clear progression in Archer's ability to make decisions for himself.  As in elsewhere from the season, it's his ability to bluff that is again tested, and like in "The Communicator" Archer decides playing the bad guy is easier than being the good guy (which he is), especially since that image is more expedient to the face on the other side of the metaphorical poker table.

In this instance, he and Trip are onboard a transport ship filled with other individuals deemed to be criminals by an alien species.  I guess this happens even when Starfleet is generally well-known, but it's easier for a ship in the Enterprise's circumstances (similar to Voyager's) for the uniform and reputation to mean nothing.  The problems actually develop after Archer's innocence is cleared and he's free to go, because a mutiny breaks out and Archer then has to survive his own get-out-of-jail-free card, by aligning himself with the chief antagonist.

Now, it's true that Trip is also featured in this episode, but he's more the B-level protagonist.  Archer gets the most interesting material, which is fine.

Now, all that being said, I wonder if it wouldn't have been more interesting as part of the Klingon arc at the end of the season.  I know there are fans who prefer their Star Trek to be the traditional episodic material featured heavily in the original series and other incarnations, but I think it could have worked better if integrated back into the original source material.  Still, I guess there's another episode that more or less covers the same material within that arc (we'll reach it soon enough).  The choice is ultimately yours how much you take from "Canamar."  See how accommodating I am?

franchise * series * essential * character

Memory Alpha summary.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Enterprise 2x16 "Future Tense"


After the first season episode "Cold Front," this is the best episode from Enterprise's Temporal Cold War arc.  It's also the only one not to feature Silik, Daniels, or Future Guy.

That may be why it's so intriguing.  Sometimes the arc could seem like it was only there to tease Archer's role in founding the Federation, especially during the third season (the fourth season dumped the arc almost unceremoniously in the two-part premiere).  "Shockwave," the season finale/premiere that kicked off the second season, was an opportunity to truly exploit something that had been planted in the pilot, "Broken Bow," but instead was a fairly generic affair that didn't truly explore the potential of the big concept of a war waged across time.  That's what made "Cold Front" so intriguing, two agents (Silik and Daniels) dueling with Archer caught in the middle.

"Future Tense" is all about a ship Archer stumbles across and tries to figure out.  Sure, the Suliban appear and duel the Tholians (first franchise appearance since the original series, and a precursor to their later appearance in the fourth season Mirror Universe adventure), but the episode is really about exploring the full potential of the Temporal Cold War, especially as it concerns someone who has no idea what's going on, has been caught in the crossfire several times, and would like to finally get some answers.  That someone would be Archer.  In a sense, "Future Tense" is the last episode you really need to see concerning the arc.  It's the one time everything revolves around decisions Archer himself can make.  Otherwise you might consider "Detained" the other essential byproduct of the arc, in which the Suliban are explored outside the scope of the arc.

Another interesting element of the episode is the body inside the ship.  There's some funny talk about Vulcan-human compatibility, because DNA from both species is found in the body's genes, funny because it seems implausible to these characters, but walks and talks just fine a century later as Spock, not to mention the more sober events from the fourth season.  Archer also speculates before anything is known about it that the body might be that of Zephram Cochrane, whose history in Star Trek is more complicated than merely being the inventor of humanity's warp engine.  In the original series episode "Metamorphosis," the fact of his having gone missing is finally solved, but at the point of Enterprise is still a great mystery, greater still for his being so central to recent human history.  The mating element is an example of the episode being a tad hokey.  The Cochrane element is an example of the episode being clever.  That's the benefit of being a prequel series.  You can have it both ways.

There's also a sequence of repeating time, something that's been done before in Star Trek (the Next Generation episode "Cause and Effect").  It's kept to a minimum but's still another pleasure of the episode.  Good fun over all.

franchise * series * essential * character

Notable guest-stars:
Vaughn Armstrong

Memory Alpha summary.

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