Friday, January 15, 2016

The Next Generation 4x17 "Night Terrors"

rating: (no stars)

the story: Troi attempts to figure out why no one can achieve REM sleep.

similar to: We'll skip this one.

my thoughts: When talk about bad episodes, they normally focus on concepts that just didn't work for them, such as someone stealing "Spock's Brain," or Next Generation characters appearing in Enterprise's final episode ("These Are the Voyages...").  They rarely bring up clunkers like "Night Terrors."  I have no idea why.

This is the kind of episode that can be summed up in one sequence: Troi floating in space, crying "Where aaaaare youuuuu?"

And I will let that set in for a moment.

Apparently it was a nightmare to shoot.  When the nightmare in shooting completely translates to the screen, you know there's a problem.  Those same fans often bring up Star Trek V: The Final Frontier as the worst film in part because they have little faith in it creatively (William Shatner directs, is plague by the perennial Star Trek movie problem of not having enough time to finish his vision; see also: Star Trek: The Motion Picture, another favorite among chatter about the worst of the franchise).  Yet to actually watch Final Frontier, you can quibble about special effects not being impressive enough or creative choices, but nothing you see on the screen is nearly as bad as the image described above from "Night Terrors."

So to me, that's what defines bad Star Trek.

The episode in general is horribly uninspired, the franchise on autopilot, as riddled with tropes and devoid of real character content as you can get.  I don't pin this on the character of Troi, but Next Generation's habit of forgetting that, generally, it did characters far better than the original series.  No, I'm not talking the affinity and familiarity of Kirk, Bones, or Spock.  But about depth of characterization.  And there's just no depth here at all.  Poor Miles and Keiko O'Brien are so soon reduced to story fodder it's like the episode was trying to take a huge step back for the series.  Worf contemplating suicide?  For any other time he was feeling low, this is just a mockery of his character.

It's that bad.  And worse, it doesn't even try to play along with established character traits.  Troi is half-Betazed.  The guy who technically leads her to the terrible sequence is a full Betazed.  Yet he spends the entire time comatose, and the best way he can communicate is enigmatically?  It's just bad storytelling.

Next Generation unquestionably features a certain level of quality storytelling over all.  And yet, sometimes it was far too comfortable in taking it easy.  Fans bellowed that later series (Voyager, Enterprise) coasted on good will (and sputtered because they both used it up quickly), but that very level of quality was evident well before they ever made the air.  And the second season of this series at its creative peak (generally agreed to have begun in the third season) releasing material of this poor caliber is just insulting.

Yet the fans...You get the point.  "Night Terrors" is kind of like the barometer of bad in Star Trek.  If you can somehow stomach it, if you find it easy to gloss over, then your ability to judge the franchise objectively is completely compromised.  It's the kind of episode you would rather the uninitiated not sample as their first taste of Star Trek.  Because it will forever bias them, too, unquestionably.

If you want to know what kind of fan I am, just read this review.  Typically, I don't react to episodes like this.  There are some fans who made it a habit to react to whole series this way.  That's just ridiculous.  But there are episodes truly deserving that ire.  Such as this one.

(For those wondering if the season as a whole completely degenerates, it doesn't.  There are some really good episodes coming up!)

criteria analysis: franchise - series - character - essential

notable guest-stars:
Colm Meaney (O'Brien)
Rosalind Chao (Keiko)
Whoopi Goldberg (Guinan)

1 comment:

  1. In every season I guess there have to be a few clunkers.

    ReplyDelete

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