Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Star Trek: The Next Generation 3x25 "Transfigurations"


Like the complete opposite of "Tin Man," but really exactly the same, "Transfigurations" is an episode that tries to mingle light character work with a compelling guest character arc.  This time the guest character himself really doesn't amount to anything except what happens to him, while the main characters get a little more relevant material that ultimately still doesn't mean anything by the end.

This awkward dance somewhat revolves around La Forge, a character notorious for being unlucky in love.  If the episode had been as memorable in his small triumph as some of his large failures (see: Leah Brahms), it could have come with a far bigger recommendation from me.  Instead it's another episode that dances around why it's so hard for these characters to find love ("In Theory" covers most of this same material better, although Worf has some good moments, what you could consider classic Worf, actually, so maybe if you like that, that's your way into this one).

The main thrust of the story is the riddle of a John Doe figure, who like a number of recent episodes also triggers some meaningless material from another main character, this time Crusher.  The structure of John Doe's story makes it another episode that needlessly obscures what's really going on, but by the time everything's clear, it doesn't really matter.  Except in retrospect, this could have been a far, far more relevant episode if it had also featured, say, Q.

Why?  Because ultimately this is a story about evolution.  Voyager's "Distant Origin" is a vast improvement on the idea, but this is a fine starting point, I suppose.  It's also what Q keeps teasing Picard that all his meddling is really about humanity's potential for just such development.  (Ultimately, Babylon 5 tackled the same idea.)  No one in the writing room seemed to realize or care how much this had in common with Q's overall arc, however.

Of course, the other way to have turned this episode into something more memorable would have been to pivot it around Data.  But for some reason, that idea was used for the episode's strange counterpart, "Tin Man."

All of which is to prove that even though out of the first three seasons of this series this was clearly the best, there was still room for improvement.  The third season at its best is arguably still the show's best material, certainly for sheer range (my picks, I'll remind you, for franchise classics were "The Defector," Deja Q," "Yesterday's Enterprise," "Sins of the Father," "Captain's Holiday," "Hollow Pursuits," "Sarek," and the episode that follows, "The Best of Both Worlds Part 1").  But the clunkers are still clunkers.

franchise * series * essential * character

notable guest-stars:
Colm Meaney

Memory Alpha summary

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