Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Next Generation 3x2 "The Ensigns of Command"


To my mind, this is the most anonymous episode of Next Generation's third season.  Maybe it's because I didn't see it (or don't remember seeing it) when I originally saw the rest of the episodes (in second run syndication) or because the the title "The Ensigns of Command" is basically hugely confusing, because you'd assume it'd have something to do with ensigns in Starfleet...and it doesn't.

(Apparently it comes from a poem, "The Wants of Man."  Just so you know.)

It's a patented Next Generation version of a typical original series episode, in which inhabitants of a world have to deal with a huge transition.  "Patented Next Generation" means that it's our crew doing a little more diplomacy than Kirk would have, because Kirk was a man of action whereas Picard's crew was more cerebral, more willing to look at the nuances of a situation (although admittedly Kirk faced nuance in a big way at least in "Balance of Terror").  Otherwise you could skip this episode and not really notice.

The part that brings you back is that this is still early in the series when it finally started feeling like itself.  Structurally it's built around Data, figuring out some small ways to grow in his journey to become more human.  Here it's about his violin playing, which remains a lingering focus of his character for the remainder of the series.  The teaser, which became an artform for Next Generation, is perhaps one notable aspect of the episode, kicking off the violin thing, which is brought back at the conclusion (something later teasers didn't need to be effective).

Still, there are far more notable episodes later in the season, and better interpretations of this same basic plot.  Watch because it's watchable, but otherwise don't worry too much about it.  Data, the series and the season have much more interesting things elsewhere.

franchise * series * essential * character

Notable guest-stars:
Colm Meaney

Memory Alpha summary.

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