Monday, November 11, 2013

Not soon...but soon

I have not abandoned the Fan Companion project.  I will be back at some point to continue discussing each individual episode from every Star Trek series.  That is a promise.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Secrets of Star Trek Into Darkness: Section 31

One of the key bit of the story in Star Trek Into Darkness is the militaristic paranoia of Admiral Marcus.  Convinced that war with the Klingons is inevitable, he resorts to cooking all the tools he can imagine, and in the process recruits 20th century superman Khan from cryosleep.  It's the headquarters of Section 31, not some simple Starfleet archives, that Khan destroys in retaliation for the apparent loss of his fellow sleepers.

What's Section 31?  It's the CIA/MI6/Mossad of Starfleet, first introduced in the Deep Space Nine episode "Inquisition" from the fifth season.  Section 31 agent Luther Sloan seeks to recruit Dr. Julian Bashir (who is himself a product of genetic manipulation like Khan; another installment of this informational series could feature the Star Trek history of biogenics).  Bashir is horrified and rejects Sloan's offer, but that's not the end of it.

In the seventh season, in the thick of the Dominion War, Sloan takes no chances and this time forcibly recruits Bashir to manipulate the Romulans (which was a thing DS9 did really well, previously and more memorably in the siring Sisko spotlight "In the Pale Moonlight") in "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges" (Latin for "in times of war the law falls silent").

Late in the season and in one of the final episodes, "Extreme Measures," Bashir gets the Sloan monkey off his back.

Late in Enterprise, Section 31 is revealed to have had a long history in Starfleet.  Malcolm Reed was always a secretive fellow, but we didn't learn until the fourth season that he'd served with Section 31 early in his career.  This became an issue when the agent known only as Harris shows up in another Klingon crisis (one that solved the smooth forehead/ridged forehead mystery and also involved genetic manipulation that tied directly into Khan's origins, by the way), "Affliction"/"Divergence," and attempts to act like a regular Sloan and force Reed back into service.

A few episodes later, in "Terra Prime"/"Demons" (which also featured, incidentally, actor Peter Weller, just like Into Darkness), Harris pops up again, this time to Reed and the rest of Captain Archer's crew's advantage.  Sometimes even the bad guys can work to your advantage.  And that's exactly what Admiral Marcus thought...

(Incidentally, while I'm dropping knowledge on you, hiding secret fleets was also the subject of the DS9 episode "Defiant," which featured another Star Trek character's double.  Just as there ended up being two Spocks, there are technically two Rikers running around.  Transporter duplicate Thomas Riker defected to the terrorist group the Maquis.  These guys hated the Cardassians, and embarrassed them into admitting they had been amassing something very much like what Marcus had.  This got very awkward when the Cardassians joined with the Romulans for a trip through the wormhole, where the combined fleet was destroyed by the Dominion.  And then the Cardassians joined the Dominion.  In hindsight it sort of makes sense.)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

Ever since the second Star Trek movie, The Wrath of Khan, was released, fans have been negatively comparing every single one even tenuously similar to it.  The entry was a hallmark, saved the franchise after an underwhelming reception to The Motion Picture a few years earlier, filled with action and resonating character work.  It was the first time the adventures of Kirk demanded a sequel, which it got with The Search for Spock, which spent much of its time reflecting on Khan's key moments.

Star Trek Into Darkness is the first time we get a movie that not only deliberately echoes Khan but arguably improves on it.  The big mystery every fan has been attempting to solve since the presence of Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch's villain was announced turns out to be exactly what they long suspected but the filmmakers struggled to deny (much like The Dark Knight Rises last year with Marion Cotillard's Talia disguised as Miranda Tate).  Cumberbatch indeed plays a character named John Harrison, but Harrison is secretly Khan, the genetic superman created sometime in Kirk's past three hundred years earlier (previously but now only roughly our own time), awoken to create havoc once more.

That I'm writing about this directly is because I want to write about what truly energizes Into Darkness.  Many observers said the 2009 reboot Star Trek lacked the social relevance that had previously been one of the defining elements of the franchise.  If that was indeed true, then this new film does everything possible to reverse that.  The 1966-1969 original series famously did everything it could to get around network restrictions concerning the topic of the Vietnam War, and now we're getting the 21st century equivalent.  Make no mistake: Into Darkness is about the Iraq War.

The story is all about trying to decide if the right thing to do really is always the right thing to do.  It begins with Kirk's (Chris Pine) efforts to rescue Spock (Zachary Quinto) from the maw of a volcano, breaking the Star Trek rule known as the prime directive about exposing primitive species to technology years ahead of their development and thus altering the course of their future in the process.  He becomes demoted as a result, subject to serving under Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) all over again.  Pike has always been Kirk's biggest supporter, but even he sees the basic flaw in his character, in that he never stops to question whether he's right.  It's always been assumed that Kirk always is.  Into Darkness is one of those times where we all stop to question whether that is really the case.  Famously in Star Trek: First Contact, we ask the same question of Captain Picard.

Actually, Into Darkness is a lot like First Contact, which itself was a lot like Wrath of Khan.  Picard in this instance, however, might find a better parallel in Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller), the war-hungry instigator who draws the parallels to Iraq.  In Star Trek terms, Iraq is the Klingons, the alien species who are just as identifiable to the franchise as Spock's Vulcans.  Marcus uses Khan for the same reasons it might be said that both generations of President Bush wanted to deal with Saddam Hussein, because that was a problem the United States created in the first place, and they felt it was necessary to finally deal with it.  The second Bush, the argument further goes, really went to Iraq to finish what his father started.  Some of that can be found in Oliver Stone's W., if you'd like another cinematic exploration.

Do you really have to worry about any of that?  Do you have to think about all those nasty politics that have been so divisive in our culture for at least the last decade?  Not if you don't want to.  Star Trek previously explored this territory, the post-9/11 landscape (Khan is also a terrorist who attacks London early in the film), in the Star Trek: Enterprise Xindi arc, and the nature of war in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Dominion arc.  Yet Klingons have been a reliable menace for decades.  Admiral Marcus calls them a foe Starfleet is destined to clash with, and indeed fans know that to be true.  The sixth movie, The Undiscovered Country, is all about finally confronting that reality, an assassination thriller about the heavy cost of peace.

There's plenty of action, plenty of humor, and if you want to see this Khan ham it up, there's even a scene for that impulse.  Yet some of the best moments echo the best moments of Wrath of Khan, and that may be what the most devoted fans take away from Into Darkness.  The fan backlash to Superman Returns six years ago accused it of being too derivative of the Christopher Reeve movies that preceded it.  There's a small risk of a similar feeling falling on Into Darkness, but it's alleviated by all those moving parts around it, keeping events lively and engaging.  It's relevant to viewers on just about every level.  This is no one-trick pony.  There's little risk that any one element will be the one that defines it.

The bottom line is, like the best movies, there will be a different interpretation to engage every viewer.  Filmmakers love to try and please all the demographics of age and sex, but Star Trek Into Darkness is the rare movie that will cross over any one version of its events, a common experience that speaks to the very heart of the spirit its franchise has always represented.  Someone else said that it boldly goes where other Star Treks have gone before.  That is an incredibly positive interpretation, and perhaps the best thing that could be said about it.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Star Trek: The Next Generation 3x17 "Sins of the Father"


Simply put, "Sins of the Father" could easily be known as the true legacy of the third season.  On the one hand, it's easy to acknowledge the importance of "The Best of Both Worlds," and on the other, an entire mythology and basically an entire series stems from "Sins."

This is the episode that at last allows Next Generation to expand on the existence of Klingons within its framework.  Yes, Worf has been there from the beginning, and yet until this point he was a lot like the Spock of this series, the alien who is alienated from his own culture but nonetheless is a perfect representative of it.  Until the J.J. Abrams movie, Spock didn't have a lot of material that went into much depth about his conflicts with other Vulcans (aside from his own father).  Worf gets that in spades in "Sins."

Part of his backstory was that Worf was orphaned when he was very young, so that he was raised by humans.  His parents were killed during the Klingon/Romulan conflicts that served as the backstory of the entire series (and were a prominent feature of "Yesterday's Enterprise" a few episodes earlier).  Of course, early in the series its creators preferred to focus on new aliens rather than established ones.  This is why we got the Ferengi, and why it was so complicated to explain their own history with Picard and Starfleet in general.  When the Klingons showed up at all, it was mostly to make Worf uncomfortable, or give Riker a chance to showcase his particular skills outside the shadow of his captain.  The Romulans showed up at the end of the first season, but pretty much continued the behavior they'd apparently been maintaining in the recent past.  Then the third season brought them back to prominence again, showed how complicated it can be when they're involved.

When they're involved with Klingons, it's complicated indeed.  In the original series, they were apparent allies.  It's only reasonable to assume that eventually one of them decided their interests were better served alone, and thus they went to war against each other.  Worf is the most famous victim of this conflict, and "Sins" demonstrates how that is a fact that only gets worse in time.

The episode is a deep immersion into Klingon culture and politics.  We meet both Kurn and Duras in the process.  Kurn is Worf's brother.  The episode begins as Kurn serves the same function aboard the Enterprise that Riker did a season earlier aboard a Klingon ship in "A Matter of Honor."  Worf doesn't know he has a brother.  This part of the episode is fairly similar to other material in the season.  It's when the truth is revealed that things truly become interesting.  Suddenly it's no longer just another episode.  It's all about Worf, the backstory, everything.  Picard even gets a chance to expand on his diplomatic abilities, the thing that truly differentiates him from Kirk.  When he gets his hands dirty, it's in the service of getting out and walking around, not shooting or brawling.  He seeks out missing pieces of the puzzle, not just telling people that they were wrong to believe this or that.

Anyway, Kurn very quickly becomes a key figure of the entire franchise.  He's the version of Worf who remained among his own kind.  Yet they're not really so different.  Kurn only makes a handful of appearances, but he quickly becomes what Gene Roddenberry would have called a beloved character.  As much as Worf himself, Kurn helps inform the depths of the episode, when Duras attempts to hide his own shame by saying it was Worf's father Mogh who betrayed the Klingons at Khitomer to the Romulans, the very place of his death.  Better to slander the dead.  Kurn has been hiding his true identity.  Picard quickly realizes that Worf will not only represent himself but the entire Federation.

All of this pulls us out entirely from the usually episodic material of the series.  The series plays at it again a few times, but arguably could very easily have completely changed its format to accommodate this revelation.  Deep Space Nine did in fact do this on a regular basis, and eventually embraced Klingons more fully than Next Generation ever did, and even after acquiring Worf didn't stop at him to do this.

Duras later returns and becomes far more infamous.  It can be argued that the narrative of Next Generation could be said to belong to a number of different characters.  Worf could very easily be one of them.  When he murders Duras, or temporarily resigns from Starfleet to help fight the Klingon Civil War, these moments again shatter the format, and if it weren't for the Borg, everyone would think of this grand Klingon saga when they think of Next Generation.  Yet even the series lost track of this.  By the end it had become an afterthought.  Those pesky Duras Sisters?  It's like they aren't even related to such a notorious figure.

"Sins of the Father" turns his own people deliberately against Worf, who accepts dishonor, the very thing Klingons abhor, and then returns to Starfleet, where he effectively hides and doesn't really think about any of it except for the periodic occasions where it's too obvious to ignore.  Perhaps this is just as well.  A moody Worf can be depressing.  This is the rare Star Trek character who actually considered suicide, after all (Neelix and O'Brien would be two others).  It could still have reshaped the series without going that dark.  Instead the Borg delivered the memories everyone has.  Sure, most people will call "Sins" a standout, and in a lot of ways it was a permanent game-changer.  It went where Star Trek had never gone before.  Yet it could so easily have done much more.

Maybe I'm just trying to envision a reality where Kurn was around more often...

franchise * series * essential * character

notable guest-stars:
Tony Todd

Memory Alpha summary.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Star Trek: The Next Generation 3x16 "The Offspring"


Like an echo of "The Measure of a Man," one of the defining episodes of the second season and the young series as a whole to that point, "The Offspring" explores the concept of the rights of an artificial lifeform.  This time we're considering the daughter/creation of Data rather than Data himself.

Data is of course the son/creation of Noonian Soong.  I think I would be more interested in that episode, that semi-sequel, in which we see a tad more of Soong than simply his fatherly latterday relationship, and more of what he thinks of Data and how he dealt with the prejudices of others as they faced the reality of having an incredibly human android running around.  (There were nods here and there to that, but I always had the sense that Data's would be another story that could easily carry its own series, or perhaps movie reboot.  As a plus, Brent Spiner could still easily portray Soong.)

Still, I'm here to talk about Lal.  Although in hindsight this is perhaps not the greatest story to tell in a single episode rather than arc (just imagine what Deep Space Nine would have done with it), it's still notable (and in fact might be said to be a kind of basis for a similar Voyager episode, "Latent Image," a classic that sees The Doctor struggling with the very thing that eventually ends Lal's existence).  As a continuation of "Measure," it's worth noting, too.  Most Data episodes about Data himself and the legacy of his creator were about Lore, Data's evil twin (the way that sounds only makes it sound bad).  The last odd thing I'll say is that it's weird that Data apparently gave up making babies (as it were) after this experience, especially after everything the characters talk about in the episode, and his own yearning to keep his kind around should anything happen to him (which would make Star Trek Nemesis and B-4 far better in context than most fans have been willing to admit).

Anyway, so obviously there's plenty to recommend about "The Offspring," even if it's basically a springboard for a lot of nitpicking.  But it's far less creepy than anything Harry Mudd was doing in the original series.

On top of everything else, Starfleet is still obsessed with exploiting the unique breakthroughs that allow Data and Lal to exist.  It's worth wondering why that is, if even in the future devoid of monetary motivation an organization the size of Starfleet thinks that space exploration would be so much easier with the fallible human element.  What's up with that?  By the time of the Emergency Medical Hologram, it's still trying to exploit this concept.  Sure, it's probably a metaphor about our own times and trying to deny basis human rights to a given minority, but it's certainly a shift from the ideals of Gene Roddenberry.  But then again, Spock was always running into subtle bigotry as well.  Is it just a given that we'll never be able to shake that impulse?

Although now that I've thought about it, DS9 did do this episode, and it was better.  It's called "The Begotten."  Watch that and "Latent Image," and that'll be the true worth of this one, its own legacy.

franchise * series * essential * character

notable guest-stars:
Whoopi Goldberg

Memory Alpha summary.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Star Trek: The Next Generation 3x15 "Yesterday's Enterprise"


One of the episodes long recognized as a classic is this unusual revisit of a prior series regular (though I've listed the similar experience of Kes returning to Voyager in "Fury" as another classic, this is far from a typical Star Trek fan's view) as an alternate reality allows the late Tasha Yar to stage a comeback, although she goes back and forth during the episode as to whether or not this is a good thing.

"Yesterday's Enterprise" references in its title one of the many nifty aspects of the episode.  The lineage of the name Enterprise as a ship in Starfleet was established by Pike and Kirk's commands in the original series as well as the next one under Kirk in the films.  Picard's command of the Enterprise-D was the next one established in continuity, and then the Enterprise-C in this one.  It wouldn't be until Star Trek Generations that we learn anything about the Enterprise-B, while the NX version was established under Archer in Enterprise.  Of course Picard also commands the Enterprise-E in the movies.

Anyway, we're chiefly concerned with the Enterprise-C for the purposes of this episode.  After Kirk's heydey and before Picard's there was considerable unrest between Klingons and Romulans.  Worf's backstory involves some of the particulars, although his presence isn't really relevant to "Yesterday's Enterprise."  The ship in question becomes time-lost in Picard's present in a crucial incident, which alters the timeline so that Starfleet has become more militaristic, but more important in this reality Yar is still alive (after all, she died pretty randomly in the more familiar one, in "Skin of Evil," which I've also listed as a classic).

She proves useful in bringing the older crew up to speed, complicated when Captain Rachel Garrett doesn't survive the experience that brought her ship into the future.  An odd kind of bonus is that Yar starts to fall for the de facto new commander of the ship.  This becomes relevant the longer she becomes aware that as far as Guinan is concerned, she shouldn't exist.

That's the most interesting aspect of the episode for me.  Guinan was often kind of overly mysterious.  The creators kept hinting about her backstory and abilities (Generations eventually revealed exactly what species she was and how she ended up hanging out with Starfleet), and sometimes that made for some incredibly interesting material, even though no single episode was ever based entirely around her (strangely enough).  This one came closest.  She's the only member of Picard's crew that is aware that reality has been altered, and she lets Yar know that she's the most obvious blip.  This might be considered incredibly insensitive.  If Guinan had remained quiet about that Yar wouldn't have made the decision she does at the end of the episode, and we wouldn't have Sela later in the series (also played by Denise Crosby).

But that decision is its own kind of redemption for the character, alternate version or not.  She goes out much more heroically, choosing to lend her expertise to the Enterprise-C crew when it goes back in time and undoes its undoing of the timeline (does the doing of the timeline?).  Anyway, feel-good moment for everyone, except when you realize the crew is headed to its own doom, and that Yar will become a Romulan prisoner, and mother of a real Romulan watchyourmouth.

At this point in Star Trek lore, acknowledging any kind of continuity was still a rarity, so something like this would have been special one way or another, but it's still an excellent and unexpected episode.  And yes, technically there was a female captain of an Enterprise!

franchise * series * essential * character

notable guest-stars:
Denise Crosby
Whoopi Goldberg
Christopher McDonald

Memory Alpha summary.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Star Trek: The Next Generation 3x14 "A Matter of Perspective"


"A Matter of Perspective" is interesting, and yet it's not as memorable as the similar Voyager episode "Ex Post Facto."  Both are stories about a crewmember being accused of murder on an alien planet and being forced to clear their names by extraordinary means.  In Voyager's version it's Tom Paris, who has already been sentenced and punished by the time we catch up with him, forced to relive the murder he supposedly committed over and over again.

For The Next Generation, it's Riker.  The means by which his supposed crime is explored is more interesting than the crime itself.  (In Voyager's it's both, although fans of that series mostly criticize it for bringing out all the wrong elements of the character at an early stage of his and the show's development.)  Simply put, it's essentially a holodeck episode, but more importantly than saying that is that it's one of several episodes from the series to use it as much as a tool as a means of entertainment.  (Although no one's entertained with it this time, including the audience, relatively speaking.)

It's a devise that's used again in "Schisms" to much greater (and creepier) effect, not to mention "Identity Crisis" when Geordi is trying to figure out what's happening to some old colleagues of his (and because I love "Distant Origin" from Voyager, there's a memorable recreation sequence there, plus the whole completely inaccurate recreation from "Living Witness" from the same series).

Anyway, so this one seems to have bred an entire genre of Star Trek storytelling, one that begs the common belief that the holodeck was a terrible trope in franchise lore.  It just so happens that the first effort wasn't the best one.  They seldom are.

Actually, the most notable element for the characters in the whole episode is Data's barbed comments about Picard's artistic abilities.  Which may as well as be a metatextual comment about the episode itself.

franchise * series * essential * character

notable guest-stars:
Colm Meaney

Memory Alpha summary.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Fifty Years to First Contact!

On April 5, 2063, exactly fifty years from now, Zephram Cochrane will take his warp test aboard the Phoenix, and as a result Vulcans will figure humans are worth visiting.

Cochrane had "dollars" in mind when he created his warp engine.  He doesn't like to fly! He dreams of retiring to a tropical island, filled with naked women.  Yet whatever his motivations, Cochrane will prove to be a great man.  As he himself will say, "Don't try to be a great man, just be a man, and let history make its own judgment."  Yet he will still be surprised when a statue is created in his honor.  Geordi La Forge will go to Zephram Cochrane High School!

We know all of this because of Star Trek: First Contact.  Cochrane actually makes his first franchise appearance in the original series episode "Metamorphosis," in which we discover how he actually retired.  Following First Contact, he became a much bigger element of franchise lore, appearing in "Broken Bow," the first episode of Enterprise, creating the distinctive phrasing of the famous mission statement Kirk and Picard quote in the opening sequences of their shows (while just as famously correcting the dreaded split infinitive by declaring that we'll go boldly).  Later, Enterprise reveals that an alternate version of how human's first contact played out created the Mirror Universe when Cochrane fires on the Vulcan and leads a raid on his ship.  This occurs in the "In a Mirror, Darkly" two-part adventure.

That may or may not be how it occurs without Picard's intervention.  First Contact reveals one last ripple of this famous date in Star Trek history.  It begins with humanity's second brush with a Borg invasion.  Picard and his crew are initially sidelined thanks to the events of the Next Generation two-part story "The Best of Both Worlds," yet they arrive just in time to save the day, and witness a cube's traveling through time.  The Collective believes that pesky humans will be easier to assimilate if they're far more isolated than in the timeline proper.  They choose to step in and eliminate Cochrane's flight from history, thereby preventing first contact.  It may be worth noting that Cochrane's world is in a state of disarray following the devastation of WWIII (first referenced by Q in "Encounter at Farpoint").

Picard will hardly let that stand.  Although things are complicated when Data is kidnapped and almost convinced to join the Borg's efforts, not to mention Riker's exasperated discovery of Cochrane's personality, events play out the way history remembers them (except for the intervention of visitors from the future, much less the presence of the Borg).

Fans who want to follow another thread of First Contact will note another Enterprise episode, "Regeneration," which closes the loop of the movie and may also explain why the Borg were so obsessed with humanity in the first place.

Cochrane isn't alone, it should be noted, in his efforts.  He's ably assisted by Lily, who may after all be the idealist history thought Cochrane was, at least before he saw that everything he was told by Riker, La Forge and Troi was true.  Yet she has a much more difficult time embracing the strange visitors to her time, possibly because she's brought aboard the Enterprise itself, forced in a real and immediate way to confront everything about the future she helps create.  Her scenes with Picard define First Contact even more than Cochrane's.

Fans had a difficult time processing that the pleasant surprise of the Vulcan visit at the end of the movie didn't immediately segue into friendly relations as suggested by the original series.  Enterprise features a steady stream of humanity struggling against Vulcan patronizing.  Although if you think about it, the signs were all there.  We're told by Troi herself that humans were considered too primitive to visit previously, that Cochrane's flight came as a big surprise.  Half of First Contact is an emphasis on how decidedly human Cochrane himself is.  Spock, meanwhile, is an anomaly in his own crew, not only apparently an exception as a Vulcan serving in Starfleet but also subject to bigotry among his colleagues, the least harmful being his playfully antagonistic relationship with Dr. McCoy.  (This pattern of behavior, from oppressor to oppressed, is reflected in the Deep Space Nine continuation of the Mirror Universe saga, by the way.)

All that being said, enjoy this anniversary of first contact!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

100 Greatest Moments: Movies Edition

I thought it might be interesting to have a look at the Star Trek magazine special's greatest moments from the franchise as they reflect each of the series:

26) David Marcus dies (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock) 
The son of Kirk is murdered by Klingons.  It comes up again three films later. (#97)

25) McCoy relives his father's death (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier) 
Crucial to the arc of Spock's half-brother running around trying to find God is his ability to attract followers by relieving their pain.  He does so by making them confront it.  McCoy wanted to spare his father pain, too, but couldn't know that the illness afflicting him would be cured soon after. (#96)

24) pink Klingon blood (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) 
The magazine doesn't seem to know why the Klingons have pink blood in this movie, but it's because the ratings board would have gone crazy otherwise. (#93)

23) Data dies (Star Trek Nemesis) 
Most of the reason why this is rated so low is that most fans don't respect the movie in which it happens.  I do.  But as I've said before, I'm not here to quibble. (#91)

22) Worf gets a zit (Star Trek: Insurrection) 
One of the wacky side effects of defending a planet with a functional fountain of youth is this moment. (#90)

21) Spock mind melds with V'ger (Star Trek: The Motion Picture) 
One of Spock's many mind melds embraced by the magazine.  It's the turning point of the whole movie, naturally. (#65)

20) Zephram Cochrane greets the Vulcan (Star Trek: First Contact) 
The end of the movie has the biggest surprise, because until this point fans didn't know how humans and Vulcans met.  Ended up serving as the basis for an entire series, plus the secret origin of the Mirror Universe. (#64)

19) George Kirk dies (Star Trek) 
One of the best moments of the 2009 reboot came early on, when we meet Kirk's heretofore unseen father and the circumstances of his death in the diverging timeline. (#62)

18) Riker stuns Zephram Cochrane (Star Trek: First Contact) 
Cochrane was just one of the many reasons this film proved instantly memorable, and this is just one of the many ways he helped make it that way. I'm sure it wasn't because Riker was getting revenge for that whole drunk episode with Troi.  Noooo (#60)

17) "What does God need with a starship?" (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier) 
Kirk asks this question.  McCoy counters with "You don't ask the Almighty for his I.D."  But Kirk is right. (#53)

16) orbital skydive (Star Trek) 
In a movie filled with action, this one of the best action moments. (#46)

15) Decker merges with the Ilia probe (Star Trek: The Motion Picture) 
Those two people you don't remember from the original series?  Neither makes it out of the movie alive.  But they help the evolved probe fulfill its mission (and incidentally not destroy Earth).  Rampant speculation through the years has it V'ger was modified by the Borg.  Although that would imply that the Collective either had equally mechanical origins ("Have you seen John Connor?  We're supposed to go out on a date.") or that the darn probe screwed everything up (which is what fans have been saying about this movie). (#43)

14) destruction of the Enterprise-D (Star Trek Generations) 
Saucer section goes sledding!  Calvin was at the helm. (#41)

13) Kirk cheated in the Kobayashi Maru test (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) 
An increasingly crucial element of franchise lore is established. (#35)

12) Kirk meets Picard (Star Trek Generations) 
Everyone thought it would be more epic. (#26)

11) Spock and the punk (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) 
You know the punk.  The one with the boom box.  The one everyone cheers to see receive the Vulcan nerve pinch.  Colorful metaphors not required. (#25)

10) Data switches off the emotion chip (Star Trek: First Contact) 
The fact that Data is an android was a heavy emphasis of his appearances in the movies.  This is still the best moment concerning that part of his character. (#20)

9) destruction of the Enterprise (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock) 
It was talking to the Klingons.  Or maybe just counting down to a self-destruct.  Or it could have been Marvin. (#18)

8) ready room confrontation (Star Trek: First Contact) 
My personal favorite moment from this or any other Star Trek movie, Picard and Lily clash over what to do about the Borg.  The magazine cleverly points out that although Khan brought up Ahab first, it was Picard who learned the lesson. (#17)

7) battle of Mutara Nebula (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) 
Other than the Battle of Wolf 359, this is the most famous ship fight in franchise lore. (#15)

6) Kirk meets McCoy (Star Trek) 
The best moment in the reboot was our and Kirk's introduction to McCoy.  Everyone knows it. (#14)

5) Data is tempted by the Borg Queen (Star Trek: First Contact) 
As in the series, the android somehow still gets around more than anyone else (besides Riker). (#13)

4) Khaaaaaan! (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) 
This is the utterance everyone knows.  The funny thing is that it's all part of a bluff, so the passion everyone remembers so fondly is just another Corbomite maneuver. (#12)

3) eels in the ears (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) 
Creepy crawly. (#8)

2) Spock mind melds with Gracie (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) 
In which he discovers she's pregnant, which is the least of what puts Gillian in a near-constant tizzy. (#6)

1) Spock dies (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
A moment so memorable that the film that follows it builds the entire first and final act around reprising it.  And even without that, would anyone dispute this as the greatest moment in the film series if not the entire franchise?  I thought not. (#1)

100 Greatest Moments: Enterprise Edition

I thought it might be interesting to have a look at the Star Trek magazine special's greatest moments from the franchise as they reflect each of the series:

3) Trip becomes pregnant ("Unexpected")
Trip is one of my favorite characters, not just in Enterprise but the entire franchise.  So it's a little odd and perhaps amusing that at least at the moment his lasting legacy is that one time he got...pregnant. (#99)

2) 79. the Xindi probe attacks Earth ("The Expanse")
The fans all seem to agree that the series got much better in its third and fourth seasons.  This moment comes from the end of the second and is the start of a season-long arc.  Enterprise debuted in the fall of 2001, right after 9/11.  Another second season episode has the sad distinction of commemorating the Columbia disaster.  The Xindi arc was meant to reflect a post-9/11 world, something the series at first seemed to avoid.  Some fans in fact criticize the series for not reflecting...other TV series like The West Wing.  Yet if it is to have any legacy at all, this cannot be considered a bad one.  It is perhaps one that will only increase in significance over time.  And for the record, Trip is personally affected by the attack, which cuts a huge swath from Florida to South America, claiming among many others his sister, which is itself part of another arc, concluding only in the final season. (#79)

1) T'Mir introduces Velcro ("Carbon Creek")
T'Mir is an ancestor of T'Pol, and conveniently looks exactly like her!  This odd little bit of storytelling happens to prove that Vulcans came to Earth before the events of Star Trek: First Contact, and that at least these Vulcans didn't react so negatively to humans, which is the defining element of the series.  It's unlikely that the magazine was thinking about that particular element when it chose this moment, but that's where I come in.  You're welcome. (#47)

100 Greatest Moments: Voyager Edition

I thought it might be interesting to have a look at the Star Trek magazine special's greatest moments from the franchise as they reflect each of the series:

8) Nazis! ("The Killing Game Parts I & II") 
What the magazine argues perhaps without even realizing it, with both this initial moment and the others that follow, is that Voyager was always a fan's version of Star Trek, which is funny because it was the fans who struggled so much to reject it.  Yet it's Voyager that perhaps did the franchise itself better than any other incarnation. (#85)

7) Quinn argues for suicide ("Death Wish")
Another irony of the series is that it features one of the best Q episodes. (#80)

6) Janeway resets time ("Year of Yell Part II") 
"Year of Hell" was one of several "movies" that the series did, two-part episodes that were originally aired back-to-back on the same night.  It's also the best of them, and the best counterargument to the fans who thought Star Trek could pull off what Battlestar Galactica later accomplished, a bleak journey filled with one disaster after another, and a toll that visibly worked itself on the crew.  You'll think differently after watching this one.  Also arguably the best "reset button" episode of the franchise. (#78)

5) 69. One dies ("Drone") 
Another great irony of the magazine's selections is that they make a mockery of another classic argument against the series, that it basically ruined the Borg.  The magazine and I both defy you to watch this moment, and the episode around it, and still try to make that claim. (#69)

4) Janeway's Borg encounter ("Scorpion Part II") 
The fourth season began with the control of the show's first real clash with the Borg.  And the debut of Seven of Nine, whose continuing bid for humanity proves that it's far more difficult to disconnect from the Collective than simply breaking free of the hive mind. (#59)

3) the Voth establishment rejects science ("Distant Origin") 
Another really awesome selection is the magazine's acknowledgment of "Distant Origin," one of the best episodes in franchise lore.  The whole point of Voyager was that it was supposed to make getting back to the basics of franchise storytelling easier.  And episode like this one proves that no matter what fans think, this was a good idea. (#55)

2) the natives set Voyager free ("Blink of an Eye") 
A similar moment, and just a cool episode, is this one, which features the ship getting stuck in the orbit of a planet that spins faster than the norm, meaning civilization advances from primitive to advanced in moments.  The magazine rightly distinguishes the moment where this becomes more than just nifty storytelling. (#52)

1) Janeway and the Borg Queen ("Endgame")
Janeway is represented twice in the final episode of the series, one as her contemporary self and the other from the future.  It's Future Janeway who visits the Borg at their home, believing she can finally undo all her feelings of guilt by finally getting the crew home.  It's incredibly curious, and perhaps telling, that this is selected as the defining moment of the series, which featured the first female to helm a Star Trek, matching wits with the defining female villain of the franchise.  Janeway always had an indomitable will (it can perhaps sometimes be forgotten that she lost her fiance when the crew was stranded on the other side of the galaxy).  How better to prove it? (#30)

100 Greatest Moments: Deep Space Nine Edition

I thought it might be interesting to have a look at the Star Trek magazine special's greatest moments from the franchise as they reflect each of the series:

8) Sisko takes his son solar sailing ("Explorers")
In an entire series that remains my favorite, it's sometimes hard for me to say what my favorite moments are, but this one has always been among them, so it's nice that the magazine agrees. (#92)

7) Sisko and Garak conspire ("In the Pale Moonlight") 
Like "Amok Time," "In the Pale Moonlight" has a few key moments that endure.  The whole episode is about Sisko's willingness to get his hands dirty during the Dominion War that defined the latter half of the series.  It figures that "plain, simple" Garak would factor into these events. (#87)

6) Worf's bachelor party ("You Are Cordially Invited") 
The franchise became increasingly interested in Klingon culture, which might be said to reach its culmination in this moment. (#77)

5) Worf battles the Jem'Hadar ("By Inferno's Light") 
Worf gets a lot of moments on the list, and surprisingly two of them are in his second series.  Here he battles the foot soldiers of the Dominion while being held as a captive (some fun facts about his fellow prisoners: we learn that Bashir is one of them, and that the one that's been featured in the past few episodes was in fact a changeling; and this also features the debut of the real Martok, who was also previously running around as a changeling doppelganger, which more or less makes Deep Space Nine far more a precursor to Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica than fans perhaps currently appreciate). (#76)

4) Quark serves root beer ("The Way of the Warrior") 
Quark could be many things, but he was also an unlikely observer of the human condition, a classic trope in Star Trek.  That's the whole deal with the root beer, which he compares to the Federation during the Klingon war that led directly to the Dominion one. (#71)

3) Nog seeks treatment in the holosuite ("It's Only a Paper Moon")
Since it more or less came to define the whole series, it's not surprising that the Dominion War keeps popping up in the moments selected to represent it.  In this instance, Quark's nephew Nog, the first Ferengi to serve in Starfleet, has lost a leg thanks to the conflict, and is only able to get over it thanks to virtual lounge singer Vic Fontaine.  Hey pally, it only makes sense! (#54)

2) Sisko deletes the log ("In the Pale Moonlight")
"In the Pale Moonlight" is told from the perspective of a personal log, one of the rare instances of this happening in the franchise ("Whispers" from the second season is another, while Voyager's "Thirty Days" is another).  It's Sisko's attempt to make peace with what he's done.  So the decision in the selected moment is a significant one. (#37)

1) Benny Russell ("Far Beyond the Stars")
Being the first black man to helm a series in franchise history, Sisko was always in a unique position, yet it's this episode that finally puts it in perspective, which may actually, as the magazine suggests, end by deciding that it's Benny Russell, frustrated 1950s pulp fiction writer, who's real, and not Sisko.  Like the Kirk-Uhura kiss, it's a cultural moment rather than a franchise moment, and it proves that Star Trek is so much more than mere science fiction, just as it proves the series was always more than the sum of its dark parts.  Like its brethren, Deep Space Nine was ultimately hopeful. (#7)

100 Greatest Moments: The Next Generation Edition

I thought it might be interesting to have a look at the Star Trek magazine special's greatest moments from the franchise as they reflect each of the series:

29) time keeps repeating itself ("Cause and Effect") 
Fun episode where the same events happen over and over again, with the crew eventually catching on and figuring out how to stop it.  One of the great fun facts of the series is that Kelsey Grammer makes an appearance at the end of the episode as the captain of a crew who had to wait until Data could be programmed to glance at Riker's pips. (#94)

28) Data and Tasha Yar have sex ("The Naked Now")
I mean, c'mon.  Sex in Star Trek is rare enough (unless you're Kirk with conveniently discreet edits).  This instance features an android getting it on.  And it's Yar's defining moment when she's actually alive.  What's not to love? (#95)

27) Riker and the alien nurse have sex ("First Contact")
The funny thing about Riker is that, at least as far as the magazine seems to be concerned, he made a better Kirk than Kirk did, the ladies man who made memorable moments out of this instinct.  Which is a tad odd, because Riker was best known for his relationship with Troi, which finally ended in a wedding with Star Trek Nemesis.  It's also worth noting that Riker was partially based on Will Decker from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, who is known as the polar opposite of Kirk. (#86) 

26) Tasha Yar dies ("Skin of Evil") 
Yeah, so Denise Crosby wanted out, and this is how she went.  An incredibly rare instance of a series regular permanently exiting a Star Trek series, and a defining moment in the formative development of this one. (#84)

25) Ensign Sito dies ("The Lower Decks") 
Sito was a Bajoran who was chosen to go undercover into Cardassian territory.  More importantly she was part of an episode that focused entirely on junior officers, a rare occasion indeed.  The magazine points out that this essentially makes her the most famous red shirt. (#82)

24) Picard laughs after getting stabbed through the heart ("Tapestry")
A famous, and famously baffling moment.  Why does he laugh?  Perhaps you'll know by the end of the episode, which by the way happens to feature Q. (#81)

23) Picard fights his brother ("Family") 
Aside from Star Trek Generations (in which we learn the fate of said brother), this is the only time where Picard's family is ever mentioned.  The reason for the visit, and the fight and its cathartic conclusion, is the aftermath of Picard's assimilation by the Borg.  Slightly more significant, then, than Kirk's fights. (#75)

22) Riker accepts Enterprise's surrender ("A Matter of Honor") 
A cool moment from the second season, during an officer exchange program that sees Riker aboard a Klingon ship. (#68)

21) Worf's family is disgraced ("Sins of the Father") 
Sucks to be Worf sometimes.  Sucks to come from the entire hard-luck family, actually!  Lies are told about Worf's father, and the only way out is to forsake Klingon honor in favor of personal honor.  It only figures that Worf goes that route. (#66)

20) Worf murders Duras ("Reunion") 
Star Trek characters don't tend to go around murdering people.  So if Worf does it, you can bet there's a good (Klingon) reason.  Duras is the bastard who murdered the mother of his son Alexander.  So revenge, which is of course a dish best served cold. (#63)

19) Data creates science ("Thine Own Self") 
Data loses his memory on an away mission and ends up in a medieval village, where only he is (still) capable of figuring out the cure to radiation poisoning.  The whole episode is pretty neat, so it's great that the magazine remembers it. (#61)

18) Riker falls in love with an androgynous alien ("The Outcast") 
One of the infrequent attempts by the franchise to address the matter of sexual identity, featuring Riker, which only figures.  In another episode, he's once again in the spotlight in our first encounter with the Trill, when the last host in a set of circumstances that featured Riker desperately trying to keep a relationship alive turns out to be...male.  He's no longer comfortable about it.  In a Deep Space Nine episode, Jadzia Dax, who is also a Trill, has a similar problem but a different solution. (#57)

17) Picard figures out the metaphor ("Darmok") 
Picard's Gorn moment is far more awesome, mostly because his counterpart speaks in riddles. (#56)

16) Picard embraces Hugh ("I, Borg") 
As the title of the episode suggests, Hugh is a Borg drone who ends up severed from the hive mind and in the hands of the Enterprise crew.  Starfleet feels it's a golden opportunity to cripple the Collective, yet Picard does the unthinkable. (#50)

15) humanity's trial concludes ("All Good Things...") 
One of the magazine's goofs is incorrectly or ambiguously identifying this moment.  I'd gone ahead and clarified for my own readers.  The judge, of course, is Q. (#49)

14) saucer separation ("Encounter at Farpoint") 
One of the perks of Picard's Enterprise is that it could split in two.  This was done for the first time in the pilot episode. (#48)

13) the space whale ("Galaxy's Child") 
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home featured humpback whales.  Here we get some of the more unique aliens to be featured in the franchise. (#42)

12) Data creates Lal ("The Offspring") 
Lal is another android, who appears to be a perfection of the Soong type Data represents.  Unfortunately she doesn't remain functional for long. (#40)

11) Moriarty is tricked into retirement ("Ship in a Bottle") 
Moriarty (originally based on the Sherlock Holmes villain, created when La Forge mistakenly orders a challenge for Data) is more or less the Harry Mudd of the series, a distinct foe who made a couple of appearances but whose legacy seems to be increasingly obscured.  He's completely awesome, by the way.  He's also a hologram, and Voyager's Doctor he is not.  His version of a mobile emitter is a box he and his virtual mate are locked in at the end of this episode.  Hopefully someone retrieved it during the events of Star Trek Generations! (#39)

10) Scotty returns ("Relics") 
Scotty is perhaps more awesome in this appearance than in all three seasons and seven films set in his own time.  Because he's very clear about which Enterprise he would like to see recreated on the holodeck. (#34)

9) enter: the Borg ("Q Who?")
It figures that Q is responsible for this.  Although the Collective first rears its suggestive head in the first season, so it would have happened anyway.  Q just wanted something to brag about. (#31)

8) Data's right to exist affirmed ("The Measure of a Man") 
Data is put on trial, and Riker is the opposing counsel (not by choice, mind you).  One of the more famous episodes of the early seasons. (#29)

7) ending on the poker game ("All Good Things...") 
Still the most famous ending to any Star Trek series.  Picard happens to join in for the first time ever. (#24)

6) Stephen Hawking stops by ("Descent") 
You can't ask for a greater sign of legitimacy than for the most famous scientist of his era appearing in Star Trek. (#22)

5) four lights ("Chain of Command Part II") 
Picard is tortured by a Cardassian, who tries to make him say that there are five lights.  There were in fact only four. (#19)

4) Spock mind melds with Picard ("Unification") 
Technically the point of the meld is so Spock can have one last moment with his late father Sarek, but this is perhaps the most ideal bridging of the generations yet depicted in the franchise. (#11)

3) devolution ("Genesis") 
What's interesting is that until the magazine listed this moment, I was under the impression that I was in a distinct minority in appreciating the episode around it.  Visually memorable! (#9)

2) Picard is assimilated ("The Best of Both Worlds")
The defining moment of Picard's life is when he nearly lost it when he joined the Borg as Locutus, the voice meant to help humanity better prepare for its fate. (#5)

1) Picard plays the flute at the end of the episode ("The Inner Light")
The show's version of "City on the Edge of Forever" has long been held in great esteem by the fans, but this is an oddly poetic way to define its enduring legacy, a more reflective version of the franchise than has been seen before or since. (#3)

100 Greatest Moments: The Original Series Edition

I thought it might be interesting to have a look at the Star Trek magazine special's greatest moments from the franchise as they reflect each of the series:

26) Sulu fences ("The Naked Time")
This is one of those instantly iconic images from the original series.  It doesn't mean much and it didn't particularly effect Sulu's growth (although no character had growth in the TV run), but if you ask anyone what the most memorable image was from "The Naked Time," this will invariably come up. (#100)

25) Spock's pet dies ("Yesteryear")
Few fans know much about the animated series, but anyone who does will always point to this episode as its most memorable moment.  It's the rare details of a personal nature, particularly the background element, that enhances its prospects. (#98) 

24) Kirk fights the Mugato ("A Private Little War")
One of two memorable fights Kirk has with an alien who is an actor dressed up in a full body suit. (#89)

23) Sarek and Amanda's marriage ("Journey to Babel")
It's one thing to know that Spock is half human.  It's another to know that you might as well have assumed that Spock was fully Vulcan in his typical presentation.  And then you meet his parents. (#88) 

22) McCoy wins an argument with Spock ("Journey to Babel")
The magazine does a good job of pointing out how fun a moment this is, with Bones literally turning to the audience to express his delight. (#83)

21) Kirk is put under observation ("The Mark of Gideon")
This happened all the time.  But apparently the magazine wanted to emphasize it. (#74)

20) Zephram Cochrane's mate exposed ("Metamorphosis")
The magazine's point with this one is that Cochrane is dismayed to learn the true nature of his mate, although fans who subsequently saw the warp engine creator in Star Trek: First Contact probably saw it as perfectly appropriate in hindsight. (#73)

19) Spock with hippies! ("The Way to Eden")
There were a lot of strange things that happened in the series.  This oddly feels like one of the less strange developments. (#72)

18) Kirk explains Fizzbin ("A Piece of the Action")
Along with his classic Corbomite bluff, this is Kirk gambling that he can outsmart his foe no matter what it takes. (#70)

17) Kirk ends the war games ("A Taste of Armageddon")
They were stupid war games.  But it also meant that Kirk blatantly defied the Prime Directive. (#67)

16) Kirk fights Finnegan ("Shore Leave")
Kirk made a lot of enemies and came across a lot of his former associates during the series.  Finnegan was a tormentor at Starfleet Academy.  The fight was just an illusion, but I'm sure it felt good all the same. (#58)

15) Pike embraces an illusion ("The Menagerie Part II")
Following the events of the original, unaired pilot "The Cage," the original captain of the Enterprise had some bad luck, remedied by the very aliens who had once tormented him.  Sometimes those weird planets turn out to be a good thing. (#51)

14) the spores attack Spock ("This Side of Paradise")
The magazine's point with this one is that it affected Spock's personality.  It was always worth seeing the usually stoic Vulcan out of character, which is why it happened to Tuvok, too, on Voyager.  Not the spores, though. (#45)

13) Commodore Decker dies ("The Doomsday Machine")
A rare instance where the guest character has the memorable ending, fighting the cone-shaped menace that became an obsession for him. (#44)

12) Kirk battles Spock ("Amok Time")
Another classic image, the two iconic characters of the series locking up in mortal combat. (#38)

11) Kirk fights the Gorn ("Arena")
Kirk fights an alien played by a stunt actor in a full body suit, part 2  One of his more iconic fights, even though it's terrible. (#36)

10) Gary Mitchell evolves ("Where No Man Has Gone Before")
The second pilot reveals that Kirk's previous best friend was basically a mutant, the male Jean Grey if you will. (#33)

9) Kirk outwits Nomad ("The Changeling")
Otherwise known as a precursor to Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  Worth noting that Uhura gets her mind completely erased during the course of the episode. (#32)

8) enter: Khan ("Space Seed")
The most famous villain Kirk ever faced, originally a dictator who came from sometime in the 1990s.  Voyager visited that era.  They didn't notice him either, so don't feel bad. (#28)

7) Kirk and the Tribbles ("The Trouble with Tribbles")
So memorable that it resulted in the exact moment being revisited with even more comedic value added in Deep Space Nine.  Comedic, that is, if you laugh at the prospect of Kirk being exploded by a Tribble bomb! (#27)

6) Kirk and Mirror Spock ("Mirror, Mirror")
You know Mirror Spock as the one with the goatee.  Kirk knows him as the only evil variation of the people he knows who still has a trace of logic in him.  It only figures. (#23)

5) Scotty outsmarts by outdrinking ("By Any Other Name")
Scotty was like the fifth Beatle (except in this case he'd be the fourth after the big three of the series), known as a miracle worker.  But he was also Scottish, as you might have guessed by his accent, his last name, or his nickname.  He liked to drink.  In this instance, it proves strategically valuable! (#22)

4) Spock discovers that Kirk is still alive ("Amok Time")
Spock breaks his usually stony expression when he discovers that he didn't actually kill Kirk.  As good a time as any to do so! (#16)

3) Spock mind melds with the Horta ("The Devil in the Dark")
The magazine seems to list every single instance of a Spock mind meld.  And they're absolutely worth remembering each time.  This one turns its entire episode on its head, revealing the apparent monsters to be the actual victims in a mining incident. (#10)

2) Edith Keeler ("The City on the Edge of Forever")
I'm simplifying this one because the magazine refers to Keeler and the episode in general only in the way she summarizes Kirk and Spock.  Yet we all know the most memorable aspect of "City" is its ending, when Kirk realizes she has to do. (#4)

1) Kirk kisses Uhura ("Plato's Stepchildren")
Culturally this is the biggest moment the series could have ever had.  Uhura already made history by being not only a woman but a black woman on the bridge of the Enterprise (and the magazine does a neat job of explaining how Nichelle Nichols was going to leave until Martin Luther King, Jr. explained how important that was).  She inspired many of the actors who would follow her in the franchise, including LeVar Burton and Whoopi Goldberg.  Now, in case you have no clue, while Uhura is black, Kirk is white.  When they kissed, by contrivance, it was the first time a white man kissed a black woman on national television.  It seems odd to us now, but a huge chunk of American history made such an idea unthinkable.  It's basically TV's Jackie Robinson moment, brought to you by Star Trek.  The sad part is that most fans today probably don't appreciate this, based merely on the episode in which it happened, one of what's routinely described as the typical dregs of the third and final season.  Yet there it is, and it shouldn't be forgotten, and it should be celebrated.  The magazine, at least, gets it right. (#2)

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Newstand Magazine's 100 Greatest Moments

In a magazine special recently released to newstands with the title Star Trek Collector's Edition, you have an opportunity to review what a modern fan may consider the franchise's 100 Greatest Moments.  It puts a lot of things into perspective, particular Enterprise's emerging legacy.  To wit:

  • 100. Sulu fences ("The Naked Time," The Original Series)
  • 99. Trip becomes pregnant ("Unexpected, Enterprise)
  • 98. Spock's pet dies ("Yesteryear," The Animated Series)
  • 97. David Marcus dies (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)
  • 96. McCoy relives his father's death (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier)
  • 95. Data and Tasha Yar have sex ("The Naked Now," The Next Generation)
  • 94. time keeps repeating itself ("Cause and Effect," The Next Generation)
  • 93. pink Klingon blood (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)
  • 92. Sisko takes his son solar sailing ("Explorers," Deep Space Nine)
  • 91. Data dies (Star Trek Nemesis)
  • 90. Worf gets a zit (Star Trek: Insurrection)
  • 89. Kirk fights the Mugato ("A Private Little War," The Original Series)
  • 88. Sarek and Amanda's marriage ("Journey to Babel," The Original Series)
  • 87. Sisko and Garak conspire ("In the Pale Moonlight," Deep Space Nine)
  • 86. Riker and the alien nurse have sex ("First Contact," The Next Generation)
  • 85. Nazis! ("The Killing Game Parts I & II," Voyager)
  • 84. Tasha Yar dies ("Skin of Evil," The Next Generation)
  • 83. McCoy wins an argument with Spock ("Journey to Babel," The Original Series)
  • 82. Ensign Sito dies ("The Lower Decks," The Next Generation)
  • 81. Picard laughs after getting stabbed through the heart ("Tapestry," The Next Generation)
  • 80. Quinn argues for suicide ("Death Wish," Voyager)
  • 79. the Xindi probe attacks Earth ("The Expanse," Enterprise)
  • 78. Janeway resets time ("Year of Yell Part II," Voyager)
  • 77. Worf's bachelor party ("You Are Cordially Invited," Deep Space Nine)
  • 76. Worf battles the Jem'Hadar ("By Inferno's Light," Deep Space Nine)
  • 75. Picard fights his brother ("Family," The Next Generation)
  • 74. Kirk is put under observation ("The Mark of Gideon," The Original Series)
  • 73. Zephram Cochrane's mate exposed ("Metamorphosis," The Original Series)
  • 72. Spock with hippies! ("The Way to Eden," The Original Series)
  • 71. Quark serves root beer ("The Way of the Warrior," Deep Space Nine)
  • 70. Kirk explains Fizzbin ("A Piece of the Action," The Original Series)
  • 69. One dies ("Drone," Voyager)
  • 68. Riker accepts Enterprise's surrender ("A Matter of Honor," The Next Generation)
  • 67. Kirk ends the war games ("A Taste of Armageddon," The Original Series)
  • 66. Worf's family is disgraced ("Sins of the Father," The Next Generation)
  • 65. Spock mind melds with V'ger (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)
  • 64. Zephram Cochrane greets the Vulcan (Star Trek: First Contact)
  • 63. Worf murders Duras ("Reunion," The Next Generation)
  • 62. George Kirk dies (Star Trek)
  • 61. Data creates science ("Thine Own Self," The Next Generation)
  • 60. Riker stuns Zephram Cochrane (Star Trek: First Contact)
  • 59. Janeway's Borg encounter ("Scorpion Part II," Voyager)
  • 58. Kirk fights Finnegan ("Shore Leave," The Original Series)
  • 57. Riker falls in love with an androgynous alien ("The Outcast," The Next Generation)
  • 56. Picard figures out the metaphor ("Darmok," The Next Generation)
  • 55. the Voth establishment rejects science ("Distant Origin, Voyager)
  • 54. Nog seeks treatment in the holosuite ("It's Only a Paper Moon," Deep Space Nine)
  • 53. "What does God need with a starship?" (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier)
  • 52. the natives set Voyager free ("Blink of an Eye," Voyager)
  • 51. Pike embraces an illusion ("The Menagerie Part II," The Original Series)
  • 50. Picard embraces Hugh ("I, Borg," The Next Generation)
  • 49. humanity's trial concludes ("All Good Things...," The Next Generation)
  • 48. saucer separation ("Encounter at Farpoint," The Next Generation)
  • 47. T'Mir introduces Velcro ("Carbon Creek," Enterprise)
  • 46. orbital skydive (Star Trek)
  • 45. the spores attack Spock ("This Side of Paradise," The Original Series)
  • 44. Commodore Decker dies ("The Doomsday Machine," The Original Series)
  • 43. Decker merges with the Ilia probe (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)
  • 42. the space whale ("Galaxy's Child," The Next Generation)
  • 41. destruction of the Enterprise-D (Star Trek Generations)
  • 40. Data creates Lal ("The Offspring," The Next Generation)
  • 39. Moriarty is tricked into retirement ("Ship in a Bottle," The Next Generation)
  • 38. Kirk battles Spock ("Amok Time," The Original Series)
  • 37. Sisko deletes the log ("In the Pale Moonlight," Deep Space Nine)
  • 36. Kirk fights the Gorn ("Arena," The Original Series)
  • 35. Kirk cheated in the Kobayashi Maru test (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
  • 34. Scotty returns ("Relics," The Next Generation)
  • 33. Gary Mitchell evolves ("Where No Man Has Gone Before," The Original Series)
  • 32. Kirk outwits Nomad ("The Changeling," The Original Series)
  • 31. enter: the Borg ("Q Who?," The Next Generation)
  • 30. Janeway and the Borg Queen ("Endgame," Voyager)
  • 29. Data's right to exist affirmed ("The Measure of a Man," The Next Generation)
  • 28. enter: Khan ("Space Seed," The Original Series)
  • 27. Kirk and the Tribbles ("The Trouble with Tribbles," The Original Series)
  • 26. Kirk meets Picard (Star Trek Generations)
  • 25. Spock and the punk (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
  • 24. ending on the poker game ("All Good Things...," The Next Generation)
  • 23. Kirk and Mirror Spock ("Mirror, Mirror," The Original Series)
  • 22. Stephen Hawking stops by ("Descent," The Next Generation)
  • 21. Scotty outsmarts by outdrinking ("By Any Other Name," The Original Series)
  • 20. Data switches off the emotion chip (Star Trek: First Contact)
  • 19. four lights ("Chain of Command Part II," The Next Generation)
  • 18. destruction of the Enterprise (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)
  • 17. ready room confrontation (Star Trek: First Contact)
  • 16. Spock discovers that Kirk is still alive ("Amok Time," The Original Series)
  • 15. battle of Mutara Nebula (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
  • 14. Kirk meets McCoy (Star Trek)
  • 13. Data is tempted by the Borg Queen (Star Trek: First Contact)
  • 12. Khaaaaaan! (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
  • 11. Spock mind melds with Picard ("Unification," The Next Generation)
  • 10. Spock mind melds with the Horta ("The Devil in the Dark," The Original Series)
  • 9. devolution ("Genesis," The Next Generation)
  • 8. eels in the ears (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
  • 7. Benny Russell ("Far Beyond the Stars," Deep Space Nine)
  • 6. Spock mind melds with Gracie (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
  • 5. Picard is assimilated ("The Best of Both Worlds," The Next Generation)
  • 4. Edith Keeler ("The City on the Edge of Forever," The Original Series)
  • 3. Picard plays the flute at the end of the episode ("The Inner Light," The Next Generation)
  • 2. Kirk kisses Uhura ("Plato's Stepchildren," The Original Series)
  • 1. Spock dies (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
Pretty good list overall.  Enterprise, then, gets three spots, and they're over by the midpoint of the list.  Voyager gets eight, and they're pretty good moments.  I can imagine a TV special where these clips are actually shown with people talking about them (we've all seen plenty of these things).  Deep Space Nine also gets eight, including one in the top ten, so that's pretty awesome.  Obviously a lot of love for the movies and the two most famous series, plus a surprise shout out to The Animated Series.  You could easily argue for any number of other moments that deserve to make a list like this, but as far as any such effort goes, I won't quibble.

The special also has an oral history of the franchise from a few notable participants, plus a preview of Star Trek Into Darkness, a look at the top villains, and a quiz.  I got a rating of Commander (one below Captain, which is tops).  There's some iffy editing in spots, including in the quiz, where the answer to one question in particular is impossible with the wording as it stands.  No character from Deep Space Nine, Voyager, or Enterprise appears in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, though Michael Dorn, who plays Worf in Next Generation and DS9 appears as an ancestor of the character, while Rene Auberjonois can be seen in the deleted scenes, and of course he plays Odo in DS9; a whole episode of Voyager is set in Undiscovered Country, meanwhile, "Flashback," which features Tuvok and Janeway on the bridge of Sulu's ship; and Enterprise reprises Klingon justice in Judgment," which places Archer in many of the same situations encountered by Kirk and McCoy in Undiscovered Country.

Anyway, the expanded list of the 100 Greatest Moments includes write-ups and pictures (though that don't get one get the other).  The special is well worth purchasing.  And if you have any gold-pressed latinum left over, you can always give it to me.  What, you thought reading this blog was free?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Star Trek Thoughts

I watched through the original series films again the last few days, and here are some quick thoughts:

  • Search for Spock for me is more satisfying than Wrath of Khan, and this is an opinion that only seems to increase over time.  I appreciate Khan's importance to most fans, but the better film to me is undeniably Spock.  Half of why Khan is so memorable is that it unexpectedly picks up a thread from a prior story, which to that point in Star Trek history just didn't happen.  It was something that was far more familiar in the post-Star Wars era, which was the whole reason Star Trek hit the big screen to begin with.  Yet it's Spock that really knows what to do with the idea, Spock that builds an entirely coherent story out of it, because there's a much greater reason for it to exist than to simply have the crew stumble into a random foe from the original series, whom they have apparently lost all track of, which I suppose is reason enough for him to go completely blind with rage and lose all that supposed superior intellect in his bid for revenge...Anyway, Spock at the very least works better for me as a fan.  Maybe part of the reason is because I watched both films for the first time well after their original release.  Fans who watched them in theaters will probably always have a much different perspective.  And fans who simply accept the common beliefs of Star Trek fans will probably always have the same perspective, too.
  • The Voyage Home is not only the conclusion of the Spock Trilogy, completing the journey of what happens after the Genesis Device is deployed and how it affects one of the franchise's key characters, but is also pretty blatantly Part 1 of the Mission to Redeem The Motion Picture.  Like the first film, the fourth features a mysterious probe.  Unlike the first film, the fourth film pretty much ignores the probe itself, which to conventional wisdom is a really good thing.  Although I happen to be a big fan of The Motion Picture.  Yeah, you read that right.
  • The Final Frontier, meanwhile, is pretty blatantly Part 2 of the Mission to Redeem The Motion Picture.  And that may be another reason why fans don't like that one, because unlike Home and its whales and humorous interactions with the 20th century, Frontier just has Motion Picture's quest for greater meaning, this time reversed, a humanoid figure looking for the divine rather than a machine looking for a humanoid figure the divine.  I like Frontier more and more, too.  I know, fandom blasphemy, but if there's any reason at all for the Star Trek Fan Companion, it's to blast away the musty opinions of yore and establish new ones.  And yes, I'm aware that the previous statement can be construed to mean I'm forming new musty opinions.  Because otherwise what else is an unerring capacity to embrace an entire franchise good for?  The needs of the many, the needs of the few...Logic, as Spock says in The Undiscovered Country, is the beginning of wisdom, not its end.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Coming up in the Companion...

While we take a brief hiatus, here's a few things worth looking forward to:

Our look at Star Trek: The Next Generation's third season concludes with thirteen final episodes, including a whopping five additional new classics.  Tune in to see what they are!  Following this, we'll tackle the three seasons of the original series, plus the animated series, and then in the remaining order every season not already covered from throughout the franchise, which means five more seasons of TNG, six of Deep Space Nine, four from Voyager, and two from Enterprise.  If you want to see what we've already done, have a look at the links above (which includes some special features on Q and Miles O'Brien in case you hadn't noticed).

With the impending release of Star Trek Into Darkness and the buzz around J.J. Abrams taking on directing duties with rival franchise Star Wars, now's as good a time as any to refresh or familiarize yourself with one of the legends of onscreen science fiction!

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Next Generation 3x13 "Deja Q"


In his last appearance ("Q Who?") Q made a play of wanting to join Picard's crew, but ended up going on and on about the same kind of ideas that had brought humanity to the Continuum's attention to begin with, whether or not it was ready to take the next step.  He seemed to come to the reluctant conclusion that humans were not as barbarous as they first appeared, yet also far less capable than they imagined themselves to be (well, meeting the Borg will do that).

This time around he does join the crew, although no one's happy about it.  For one, Q has been banished from the Continuum, stripped of his powers and made for all intents and purposes human (by his own choice!) for being unruly.  As always, no one's happy to see him, but that hardly proves a challenge, even in Q's diminished capacity.

What's perhaps equally interesting is the B-story, which is a strict contrast to some of the less memorable episodes of the third season to this point, our crew facing a crisis on one of those alien-worlds-of-the-week, yet interacting with it only via viewscreen, maintaining a strict distance between the two, so that or crew can do what it does and the viewer doesn't have to worry too much about the anonymous folk that rarely have any significance anyway.  And yes, it's a model that Star Trek uses in earnest from this point forward.

Anyway, the whole point is that there's a crisis the crew is trying to handle, and immediately suspects Q being behind, although all things truly are equal in this instance.  Q really has lost his powers and the crisis is most definitely happening.  Eventually this puts our impish acquaintance under the care of Data, the android who wishes to become more human, or as far as this episode is concerned the polar opposite of Q.

The third season, strangely enough, took its time getting around to addressing Data, who had previously stolen the entire second season with a single episode, "The Measure of a Man," in which his rights as an individual were put on trial.  That would always be a tough act to follow, so perhaps it's not surprising that the creative forces who sought to drastically reshape the whole series approached Data from a distance.  He was perhaps the last element that needed any fixing.

Yet "Deja Q" begins a more sober approach, presenting him on more equal terms, less a curiosity than before.  It's by no means an episode worth watching if you're only following the arc of Data, but it's a beginning, a new beginning, much as it is for Q.  Watching the two together, this is probably the only moment they could have synced up together.  You may recall that at first Q was obsessed with Riker, and yet the writers realized perhaps as much as Q that Picard was his true foil, and from this point on, at least in Next Generation, there's very little remaining to separate them.  For one moment it's Data, however, who intrigues Q, because Q sees the android not as an artificial being or for his awesome abilities, but very much as Q is at the moment himself, merely an imperfect being, striving to be better than what he is, even if that may seem contradictory.

It's a subtle moment of clarity, and you have to pay attention to catch it.  The episode itself doesn't draw too much attention to it, but there it is.  Sometimes it's easy to think of Q simply as the annoying pest who happened to be extremely entertaining.  Yet the genius of the character was that he was always much more than that.  This was the episode to prove it, and it's a great success.

franchise * series * essential * character

notable guest-stars:
John de Lancie
Whoopi Goldberg
Corbin Bernsen

Memory Alpha summary.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Next Generation 3x12 "The High Ground"


This is another episode that could've been so much better than it ultimately was, and unfortunately has a lot of other Star Trek that's better, namely any Bajoran episode, whether in Next Generation itself or Deep Space Nine.  It's also essentially a Dr. Crusher episode, and that's almost never a good thing.

"The High Ground" is about terrorism.  Crusher is kidnapped by terrorists, in fact, and is forced to come to terms with their thoughts on why they're killing people to get their message across.  Star Trek has had a shocking emphasis on terrorism over the years, which only changed in the aftermath of 9/11, when an entire storyline was built around it.  We were meant to sympathize with the Bajorans who regularly participated in terrorist attacks, for example.  The line was only drawn with the Maquis, who were summarily declared to be Federation rebels, enemies of Picard and Sisko and only reluctantly absorbed into Janeway's crew, on the strength of its more idealistic and qualified representatives.

Like other episodes that don't quite succeed, "High Ground" fails by featuring another alien-culture-of-the-week, which is something some Star Trek fans enjoy and also drives other fans crazy.  Randomness is only effective when the central characters really connect, and as I said, this is a Crusher episode.  Not the best way to connect.

Gates McFadden has the distinction of being the only franchise series regular to have a gap in their record.  For many reasons, she was dropped from the Next Generation cast after the first season, only to return in the third and thereafter remain, including appearances in its four movies.  Yet Beverly Crusher remained a maddeningly ineffective character, thanks to McFadden's remoteness as a performer.  This is not to say that she wasn't memorable at moments, or that if you see her or one of her episodes you should immediately find the skip button.  It's just that, she was a constant challenge.  "The High Ground" is one such moment where the challenge turned out to be a failure.

It's also an episode that slips your mind the longer it's been since you've seen it.  Sometimes a fresh viewing will fix this.  "The Seventh" from Enterprise is an example of an episode that quickly redeems itself upon watching it again.  I somehow doubt that "High Ground" is in that company.  There are just too many episodes that handle the same material, for whatever reason.

You might think it gets better once Picard joins Crusher as a hostage, and yet the series so frequently dodged the obvious issue of their past (and sometimes future) relationship that it's no surprise that "High Ground" ignores it (or perhaps explains why it never happened, which may be a reason to give it another shot after all).  A lot of the episode ends up defaulting to the typical series mode of negotiating and, well, taking the high ground, removing the crucial element Crusher herself can't provide.

franchise * series * essential * character

Memory Alpha summary.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Next Generation 3x11 "The Hunted"


Like a lot of Next Generation episodes, Picard and his crew get to demonstrate their superiority over the alien culture of the week, only this time it's a story about war veterans and their inability to integrate back into society.

It's certainly a worthy and continually relevant story, but "The Hunted" is told in the wrong context for it to really matter, the wrong series and in the wrong way.  It's hard to truly care about the guy who's fighting for his rights when we don't know or care about his culture (it's James Cromwell in his first Star Trek appearance representing that culture, by the way), just more random aliens, which I know plenty of fans are perfectly fine with but others would prefer more continuity (which is what later series did on a regular basis).

Yet shockingly, "The Hunted" is still a pretty singular event in franchise lore.  Deep Space Nine told a lot of stories about war, but the Dominion War ended at the end of the series, so there was never a chance to tell the DS9 version of this one.  There were plenty of Bajoran episodes about the effects of the Occupation and holdouts from current political regimes, but nothing quite like this.  Voyager didn't do it, either, or Enterprise.  It's just so surprising.  If I had been in charge of any of these series, it would have been natural to revisit this episode, even if it was a MACO in the fourth season (which never happened) of Enterprise, following the Xindi conflict.

It's a missed opportunity.  "The Hunted" is a placeholder, a competent one, but not a tremendously memorable one.  One of the things that might've redeemed it would have been better casting for the soldier, but even there it's pretty generic, and by budget uninspiring in wardrobe, which was always a problem.

franchise * series * essential * character

Notable guest-stars:
Colm Meaney
James Cromwell

Memory Alpha summary.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Next Generation 3x10 "The Defector"


This is the best Romulan episode of The Next Generation.  Where the earlier third season effort "The Enemy" seemed to go out of its way to avoid real comparisons to the classic original series episode "Balance of Terror," "The Defector" tells its own story, which is very much of a common Next Generation theme, and emerges as a new classic.

There are many episodes that successfully mine some of the same territory, whether "Chain of Command, Part II" from Next Generation or "Duet" and "Defiant" from Deep Space Nine, but none diminish the impact of "The Defector."  The title character, naturally, is a Romulan, who stumbles onto some plans and rushes to Starfleet in order to prevent a costly war.  At first he pretends to be a minor figure, believing that he'll have a better chance at being believed, but the truth is eventually revealed, his bad reputation known, and his credibility once again tossed around by Picard and his crew.  The whole episode is about these characters mulling over the situation, an even more pure version of the stalemate from "Balance of Terror," this time set entirely aboard the Enterprise.  There's no place to hide.  This is Next Generation diplomacy at its finest.

James Sloyan makes the first of many Star Trek guest appearances as the Romulan in question, which is just one of many further elements to relish about the episode.  There's also one of the series' classic teasers to kick things off, Data performing Shakespeare's Henry V on the Holodeck (with Patrick Stewart nearly unrecognizable in support, allowing him to flex his considerable acting muscles), and a return from Andreas Katsulas's character from "The Enemy" (thereby completing the redemption of that episode).

When you think of the dramatic rise in quality of the series in its third season, "The Defector" is at least as responsible as any other episode that may spring to mind, and yet I think it can be easy to overlook. It's a Romulan episode, and Romulans aren't new in Star Trek, certainly by this point in the franchise.  Sometimes it can be easy to assume that you need fresh aliens to remain relevant, but "The Defector" is also a reminder that established continuity can provide for relevant and engaging material, which is a concept DS9 ran with for seven seasons.  Could this story have been told with aliens we'd never seen before?  Sure, but it probably wouldn't have been as memorable.

franchise series * essential * character

Notable guest-stars:
James Sloyan
Andreas Katsulas

Memory Alpha summary.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Next Generation 3x9 "The Vengeance Factor"


This would be one of those generic Next Generation episodes that proves that although the third season was basically the start of the series as fans know it, it's not the best of all possible seasons.  It can sometimes be all but forgettable.

"The Vengeance Factor" is one of many, many episodes from the series where our crew is asked to mediate a conflict between warring factions.  There were so many of these, it's surprising that none of the movies were really about it, but perhaps not surprising that its only nominal spin-off, Deep Space Nine based a part of its premise on the concept.

Unfortunately, there's not a lot to distinguish this one from the rest of them.  There are even episodes from other series that are exactly like it but more memorable, "Battle Lines" from DS9 for instance, and that's just because it features the unexpected death of a recurring character.

Actually, if there's anything to talk about with this variation, it's that "Vengeance Factor" is one of Next Generation's periodic attempts to represent Riker as a Kirk kind of guy, who becomes involved with the female guest just because he's male and she's female.  Of course, most of Riker's such relationships turn out miserable, even worse than Tucker's in Enterprise (and that's saying something!), and this one is no exception.  But it's not even prominent enough to make too much of.  It does tie into the resolution, but it leaves no real lasting impression, just another part of the unhappy ending.

That may be what you can best take away from the episode, its ambiguity.  Star Trek can sometimes be stereotyped as fairly black-and-white.  Heroes are pretty obviously heroes and villains are pretty obviously villains.  DS9, again, was an exception to this rule, but Next Generation helped set that tone more than fans might sometimes admit.  If nothing else, "Vengeance Factor" is one such experience to prove such an assertion.

So there you have it.  You can probably skip this one, but it wouldn't hurt to have a look.

franchise * series * essential * character

Memory Alpha summary.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Next Generation 3x8 "The Price"


Fans got an unexpected sequel to "The Price" in Voyager's "False Prophets," but the real common denominator is The Next Generation finally figuring out a better way to present the Ferengi after their all-but-disastrous debut in the first season, not quite to the nuanced portrayal in Deep Space Nine, but respectable.

The occasion (and reason why Voyager could revisit the Ferengi featured here) is discussions concerning an artificial wormhole, the appearance itself helping years in advance to set up another defining feature of DS9.  Representatives of various species gather aboard the Enterprise for the rights to the wormhole.

Interestingly, the episode apart from its enduring legacy is a fairly standard Next Generation affair, featuring the crew deep in negotiations as happens frequently elsewhere in the series (previously Kirk did a lot of his negotiations not with his mouth but fists).  Troi gets the nominal lead when one of the participants turns out to be part-Betazoid, but he's hidden this aspect of himself so he can exploit his empathic abilities.  Riker gets to step up as well during the course of the episode.

Yet it's the weaselly Ferengi, always in search of profit and willing to do anything to get it, that steal the episode.  They end up making the trip through the ultimately unstable wormhole, ending up in the Delta Quadrant where "False Prophets" later catches up with them.  Before that, although not particularly likable they're more memorable than even the Ferengi who was at one point considered Picard's mortal enemy.  This is exactly how you picture Ferengi in the field, twitchy and duplicitous but probably ineffective, because they work best in far better-defined financial territory.  Watching them flounder in "The Price" is enough to establish a firm new context for the species, and it's one that endures.

franchise * series * essential * character

Notable guest-stars:
Colm Meaney

Memory Alpha summary.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Next Generation 3x7 "The Enemy"


"The Enemy" is incredibly similar to a number of episodes in franchise lore, all of them basically inspired by the movie Enemy Mine.  One of ours ended up having to survive on a planet with one of theirs, a "good guy" and "bad guy" working together.  It has another subplot that's also been used multiple times, a medical dilemma concerning one character not willing to help as another is dying simply because their species are or have been blood enemies.  Also, it's basically "Balance of Terror" from the original series as well.

So there's a lot going on, and most of it ends up with Three Stooges Syndrome, stuck in the doorway because none of the three wants to give way to the others.

But what you may take as a unifying element is that it's a Romulan episode, and Next Generation is generally good for these.  This one's just disturbingly generic about it.  The franchise itself probably realized that when it kept trying to redo some of its elements in later series.  Sometimes it's because a story is good.  Sometimes it's because the story could be better.

The hero of the first element is La Forge, and this is mostly relevant because the Romulan he's trapped with ends up noting that his kind would have ended La Forge's life after it was discovered that he was blind.  Being blind tends to dominate La Forge's character, when necessary.  It's seen as a handicap, except when it isn't.  In this same episode his VISOR is an asset, a great piece of technology that allows innovative solutions to problems.

Worf is the subject of the next element.  His parents were murdered by Romulans.  He refuses to donate blood that would save one in the present.  It's Worf being controversial, much as he would be in the Deep Space Nine episode "Change of Heart," making a decision that could adversely affect his career.  This time he gets off much easier.  Next time he's told he will never advance in rank again.  Half of this is Worf being Worf, but you can't help feeling that it's because he's Klingon and the writers think it's easier for an alien to get away with this and not seem like a monster (although in DS9 he's saving his wife Jadzia), regardless of Klingon honor.  I don't know.  It's an odd episode to reconcile on that score alone.

"The Enemy" also features the debut of Tomalak, a faintly recurring Romulan played by Andreas Katsulas, later to become famous as G'Kar in Babylon 5.  Part of me wishes that the episode had downplayed the other elements and played more like an updated "Balance of Terror," a duel between Tomalak and Picard.  Would fans have been upset?  I doubt it.  Well, probably.  Star Trek fans are rabid.  (Though I personally don't bite.)

All of this means that "The Enemy" is an episode well worth watching, but how much you care to remember it depends on how much you care about these particular characters having these moments that happen again to others.

franchise * series * essential * character

Notable guest-stars:
Andreas Katsulas
Colm Meaney

Memory Alpha summary.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...