Friday, March 18, 2016

The Next Generation 5x20 "Cost of Living"

rating: **

the story: Lwaxana Troi is engaged to be married,  but that hardly prevents her from continuing to be a pest, this time enrolling Alexander into her shenanigans.

similar to: "The Muse" (Deep Space Nine)

my thoughts: Building on "Half a Life" the previous season, "Cost of Living" makes Lwaxana Troi to be something other than a constant irritant, but to a lesser degree.  It kind of does the same for Alexander, at last as far as his progress from "New Ground" goes.

For whatever reason, Next Generation loved recurring characters who were sources of conflict.  From Q to Ro Laren to Barclay, most of them were pretty much more trouble than they were worth, at least as far as the regular crew was concerned.  Two characters who absolutely epitomized this were Lwaxana and Alexander, so it was only natural that they converged into a single story.  The result was supposed to better represent both of them.  The flipside to these recurring characters was that it was as much a challenge to the crew as to the audience to find redemption for them.  (Redemption was a big thing for Star Trek creators at this point.  Deep Space Nine and Voyager both predicated on it.)

Which is to say, "Cost of Living" is all about trying to find sympathy for outcasts.  Lwaxana constantly makes bad choices romantically, and Alexander chafes at his father Worf's ideas about parenting.  Both would be better off in a colony such as the one Lwaxana conjures on the holodeck, full of free thinkers.  Yet because Star Trek itself craves orders, the episode ends with reluctance more than resolution, Lwaxana's engagement broken off and Worf at least agreeing to sample the maverick program that has so distracted his son.

The whole thing is part of how Worf ends up with Lwaxana's daughter, Deanna, at the end of the series, both of them equally exasperated by their unwieldy family members.  "Cost of Living" is important, in part, because of that, but it succeeds only so far as it talks about these things but doesn't at all attempt to resolve them.  You don't expect a single episode, years before the series is ready to be over, to attempt resolution, but for a series perpetually gun-shy about character development, when an episode comes along that make a bold statement but instead makes a mild one, you kind of have to find fault with said episode.

Still, there are some really great moments in it, from Alexander laughing at dinnertime to that poor guy who eats his planets, and the phrase, "The higher the fewer" (said two times with equally ridiculous profundity).

criteria analysis: franchise - series - character - essential

notable guest-stars:
Majel Roddenberry (Lwaxana Troi)
Brian Bonsall (Alexander)
Carel Struycken (Mr. Homn)
Tony Jay

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Next Generation 5x19 "The First Duty"

rating: ****

the story: Wesley becomes embroiled in a quagmire at Starfleet Academy.

similar to: "Homefront"/"Paradise Lost" (Deep Space Nine)

my thoughts: This is the best Wesley Crusher episode.  It has nothing to do with the Traveler, nothing to do with potential love interests, nothing to do with his mother, Picard, or even Wesley saving the day.  And it couldn't have been done with anyone else.

Since "Ensign Ro" early in the season, the series had made a concerted effort to present a more nuanced look at life in Starfleet.  The idea of visiting Starfleet Academy had been kicking around for a long time.  At one point Star Trek VI was supposed to be a reboot, with Kirk at the Academy (hello Star Trek 2009!), and that was about as recent in franchise history as was possible at that point.  I'm sure no one thought that when we finally saw Wesley at the Academy, after his early seasons hyping just how brilliant an officer he was destined to become, that he would be in any kind of trouble, let alone moral trouble.

I mean, Wesley was about as emblematic of Next Generation's early years as you could get, young and idealistic, one of the closest to the Roddenberry ideal any of these characters ever got.  I mean, he was Gene Roddenberry, for all intents and purposes.

His situation is a little complicated.  He's joined an elite squad of cadets.  He's not even its leader, but clearly he's one of the most important members.  The leader is the one who causes the problem.  Well, eventually, because the whole squad had to agree to screw up in the first place.  So "The First Duty" becomes a study of hubris, of, more or less, the kind of conceit that allowed Roddenberry to envision his perfect future in the first place, eventually settling on a hothead maverick in James Kirk to represent it, Kirk the contradiction at its center.  Next Generation went out of its way to present itself as different from Kirk as possible.  His surrogate, Riker, was the first officer, not the captain, drawn from Kirk's rival in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Decker, the man who totally disagrees with Kirk's mindset and resents him at every turn. 

Got all that?  "The First Duty" is a kind of mission statement, then, five seasons in, two seasons after the series found its voice, and deep into the season where it was confident enough to express exactly what it thought.  Kind of like how Wesley needs to find the confidence to do the right thing.  Usually Star Trek is all about doing the right thing without considering the consequences at all, flying in the face of the vaunted Prime Directive, the rule that the franchise is always the exception to.  Because life can be tough.  But being able to face that fact is usually a problem for the other guy.  Except this time.

"The First Duty" was clearly a watershed moment for the franchise.  We meet the gardener Boothby for the first time.  He shows up in two Voyager episodes ("In the Flesh" and "The Fight").  Actually, "The First Duty" is a kind of origin for Voyager in general, in that Robert Duncan McNeill, who later plays rogue officer Tom Paris, appears as the similar Nick Locarno here.  Fans tends to complain that Voyager squandered its potential by becoming a clone of Next Generation instead of following its own premise.  The producers never made any bones about setting Voyager on a ship instead of a station like Deep Space Nine because it wanted the franchise to get back to its exploring roots.  The premise wasn't a ship being lost in space.  It was about second chances.  Like what Tom Paris embodied.  Voyager was a second chance for a generation of Star Trek creators, who got to lead with their own voices.

Anyway, there's also the Bajoran cadet Sito Jaxa, who shows up again in the episode "Lower Decks," following her own thread from "The First Duty."  Out of everything else worth taking away from the episode, her journey is worth following, too.

It's an episode that's worth thinking about in even more ways than I've already presented.  It's compelling.  It's a classic.

criteria analysis: franchise - series - character - essential (all criteria met)

notable guest-stars:
Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher)
Robert Duncan McNeill
Ray Walston (Boothby)
Shannon Fill (Sito Jaxa)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Next Generation 5x18 "Cause and Effect"

rating: ****

the story: Time keeps repeating itself as the ship is destroyed, until the crew figures out how to prevent it from happening.

similar to: "Year of Hell" (Voyager), "Future Tense" (Enterprise)

my thoughts: Star Trek is many things.  One of them is a receptacle of classic science fiction tropes, sometimes so thoroughly embraced that they not only become Star Trek tropes as well, but fodder for some truly classic material.  Such is the case with "Cause and Effect."

The idea of the repeating day is old hat in modern movie culture, whether you think of Groundhog Day, Source Code, or Edge of Tomorrow (all excellent films, by the way; see also: the TV series Day Break).  At its heart it's a time travel story, which is definitely a Star Trek trope, well-worn.  But "Cause and Effect" takes its basic plot from the kind of storytelling the franchise, and Next Generation itself, loves equally, which is a crisis that forces the crew to mobilize its best minds to figure out what the heck is happening.

So in the end, it boils down to whether you listen to Riker, or listen to Data.  The answer is one of the pleasant surprises of the episode.  Everything and everyone fires on all cylinders to pull it off, and because, in the fine recent tradition of "Conundrum," the story trusts itself enough to avoid unnecessary shenanigans (many an episode is spoiled by such things), we avoid one of the worst Star Trek tropes, other Starfleet ships as cannon fodder, and end up with the best surprise of all when we meet the captain of the other ship caught in the same dilemma, who turns out to be Kelsey Grammer, in one of the better franchise cameos ever.

That's a classic.

criteria analysis: franchise - series - character - essential (all criteria met)

notable guest-stars:
Kelsey Grammer
Michelle Forbes (Ro Laren)
Patti Yasutake (Ogawa)

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Next Generation 5x17 "The Outcast"

rating: **

the story: Riker inadvertently ends up in a romance with a member of an androgynous species.

similar to: "The Host" (Next Generation), "Rules of Acquisition" (Deep Space Nine), "Distant Origin" (Voyager), "Cogenitor" (Enterprise)

my thoughts: Star Trek has a concerted history of exploring gender issues.  There's an equally concerted history of claiming it never went far enough, in that it never featured outright gay or lesbian characters, although it could be argued that it certainly explored bisexual and transgender individuals on a number of occasions.  However, in the mix of episodes I recommend to watch in relation to "The Outcast" is "Distant Origin" from Voyager, in which a society forcibly rejects the ideas of one of its own, whose viewpoint has been bolstered by one of our own.  "Distant Origin" is a classic.  "Cogenitor" (Enterprise), in which a third gender's rights are examined, is a classic.  "The Host," from earlier in Next Generation itself, is a classic.  "Rules of Acquisition" (Deep Space Nine), in which the equally routine fight for the rights of women is in the spotlight, is probably worthy of being considered a classic.

But "The Outcast" isn't.  At its heart, it takes for granted that Riker, in the classic Kirk tradition, is so irresistible that the episode doesn't even have to explain why so much as let the controversy that ensues play out.  It's a dull exploration of character for Riker, if it can be called that, and the gender-free individual who reveals they've always identified as female has no compelling reason to change her mind now, except, Riker: hot! 

It's an episode that will no doubt speak strongly to the LGBT community, as it was intended to (except at the time, it was simply meant to sidestep the homosexual issue itself, which has subsequently expanded), the way every such Star Trek episode does.  Yet the more of them there are to consider, the more one must question the merits of individual episodes.  The franchise built a large part of its reputation on fearlessly tackling social issues, and yet never addressed this one directly, except in roundabout ways like "The Host" and "Rejoined" (Deep Space Nine).

So I think of "The Outcast" more in how it presents an individual confronting a repressive society rather than on the issue that seems to be at hand.  Because in the end, that's what it's most passionate about.  It may be convenient to have a backdrop where you can visit a planet and then leave it, and leave whatever matters came up behind as well, but when you stretch it too far, sometimes it snaps back.  It rings hollow, the whole Riker arc.  Because it is.

But it's still worth remembering that on the whole, "The Outcast" remains significant, in its own way.

EDIT: An anonymous commentator observed that for Riker, this is the first time he exhibits heartbreak.  Take that for what you will.  As always, take my thoughts with a grain of salt.  I tend to overanalyze, not in the way you normally see on the Internet, with every little scene broken down so that you completely lose sight of the whole...Actually, if you wanted to take this only from Riker's perspective, you might find, for instance, an analogy for what happened between Riker and Troi, all those years ago, on Betazed, a sort of untold story that is, if anything, more fascinating than what "The Outcast" actually accomplishes on its surface.  I like to provide, if anything, starting points for fans to consider further, a deeper study of the franchise than I've seen elsewhere.  There's a lot to think about.  So thanks, anonymous commentator...

criteria analysis: franchise - series - character - essential

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Next Generation 5x16 "Ethics"

rating: ****

the story: Worf becomes paralyzed, despondent, suicidal...and the recipient of a controversial medical miracle.

similar to: "The Host" (Next Generation)

my thoughts: Only Crusher could have pulled off something like this.  Actually, I guess Crusher and Riker.  Such an odd pair, these two.  Riker, early on, was cast in the mold of Captain Kirk, the fallback character in case Picard didn't work out (bald, older, cerebral).  Yet the more Picard caught on, the more Riker regressed (Voyager haters, please continue to pay attention: the more confident Janeway grew, the less she relied on Chakotay).  So what exactly was there to do with him?  Like Decker before him, Riker became more cynical, despite offering every protest that he didn't (see: "Second Chances").  By "Ethics" he's openly being ethnocentric concerning Worf's cultural plight, the overt struggle Crusher carries against a medical rival and proving how different she is from, say, Dr. McCoy.

Like Kirk, McCoy was known as a maverick, and a genius.  In fact, Kirk's was a crew of geniuses.  Picard's was always more subdued.  Even the android who for all intents and purposes was a born savant filled the role of an average crewman, generally speaking.  La Forge didn't even start out as chief engineer.  Whatever Worf was before his ascension to chief of security has never really been examined.  Crusher's competence was her knowledge, not her practice.  That's why her absence during the second season, and her departure in Nemesis, was in an office capacity.  McCoy would have been the one performing daring medical fetes, not condemning them.

The moral stances taken in "Ethics" are bold.  They can't be ignored.  They serve as a statement for the whole series.  Maybe you tend to think about one over the other, Worf's emotional journey versus Crusher's intellectual one.  Granted, "Ethics" gives Alexander one of his better uses.  But it's just a tough, tough episode.  I call it a classic insofar as it's easily one of the franchise's most challenging stories, one that can't be ignored, and one that stands to be continually examined.  What else is there to do with it?

criteria analysis: franchise - series - character - essential (all criteria met)

notable guest-stars:
Brian Bonsall (Alexander)
Patti Yasutake (Ogawa)

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Next Generation 5x15 "Power Play"

rating: **

the story: Alien assume control of Troi, Data, and O'Brien, and attempt to free the rest of their colleagues from their prison on a remote planet.

similar to: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

my thoughts: The best thing to be taken away from this episode, I think, is Marina Sirtis's commanding performance as the possessed Troi, a far more confident poise than she been allowed to take previously.  It's later built on by "Face of the Enemy" and Captain Jellico's famous edict that she dress like everyone else, which finally breaks the sexual overtones that dominated her for years thanks to her ever-present cleavage and reliance on emotions (regardless of her role as ship's councilor).

Other than that, it's a pretty standard possession episode, a franchise trope to be sure, from Kirk's experiences in "Turnabout Intruder" to Enterprise's "Observer Effect."  More interesting is the penal colony the crew turns out to have discovered, aping The Final Frontier's revelation that "God" is there on Sybok's world for similar reasons.

(I hate the name "Bryce Shumar," by the way.  Just hate it.  It's the name of the Starfleet captain the lead villain claims to be.  The last name is already unusual enough.  But pairing it with an equally unusual first name just makes the whole thing sound horribly artificial, and terrible.  But it doesn't ruin the episode for me.  Probably should.  But it doesn't.)

Anyway, aside from all that, there's Ensign Ro being used in a fairly routine capacity again.  I guess it's fine, because that was kind of the point of "Ensign Ro" to begin with, and the majority of her appearances are Ro being, basically, just another member of the crew (again, Voyager haters, Ro is a far more flagrant offender of character integrity than anyone in Janeway's crew).  Well, besides her, there's O'Brien being a part of the possessed party, just so he can menace Keiko.  I mean, literally, that's all he's there to do.  Data, meanwhile, is there to add muscle.  There's an inconsistency to how easy it is to do this sort of thing to him.  One minute ("The Schizoid Man") it's incredibly easy, the next ("Silicon Avatar") it's incredibly hard, because his positronic net can easily handle multiple personalities...Add in "Masks" and...

So this is an episode you can enjoy much more if you don't think about some of its limitations, because on the whole it's really not that bad.  In a very strong season otherwise, it's obviously filler, but it could be worse.

(Glowing endorsement: "It could be worse!")

criteria analysis: franchise - series - character - essential

notable guest-stars:
Michelle Forbes (Ro Laren)
Colm Meaney (O'Brien)
Rosalind Chao (Keiko)

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Next Generation 5x14 "Conundrum"

rating: ****

the story: The crew's memory is wiped, and there's an additional officer in the mix as they try to figure out what happened.

similar to: "Distant Voices" (Deep Space Nine)

my thoughts: I love this episode.  I love how it explores the crew without any of them knowing who they are.  I love how the answer to their mystery is sitting right in front of the viewer all along, "Commander MacDuff."  And I love how it manages to take a plot that has nothing to do with Ensign Ro and still make into one of her best episodes.

It's a classic mystery.  You could see an echo of the series' own "Clues," in which Data alone remembers what happened during a trip through a wormhole.  But it's more than that.  "Conundrum" makes the whole crew part of the act.  In fact, it's all the more amusing because Data is part of it for a change (unlike, say, "The Game"), when everyone kind of assumes he's just the bartender, because that's where he happened to be when the scenario begins.

Best of all, though, again, is Ro.  Instead of pitting her against Picard, it's Riker who's plays off of Ro, as they both play for and against type as they sift through their mental fog.  It's one of Riker's better romantic moments, because normally he's so guarded, dedicated to that idea of his career that previously sabotaged his relationship with Troi.  This is a perfect episode, because it works with all the interpersonal dynamics that would otherwise need something more dramatic to make it possible.  No, "Conundrum" works because it's so apparently mundane.  It's the series finally learning to integrate that slice-of-life instinct from the fourth season into its regular plots.  And as such, a step into the future of the franchise, and TV in general.

And yes, it's a classic.

criteria analysis: franchise - series - character - essential (all criteria met)

notable guest-stars:
Michelle Forbes (Ro Laren)
Liz Vassey

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Next Generation 5x13 "The Masterpiece Society"

rating: ****

the story: A colony is reluctant to receive help for a potential disaster, as contact with the crew could pollute its society.

similar to: "Meridian" (Deep Space Nine), "Dear Doctor," "A Night in Sickbay" (Enterprise)

my thoughts: "Masterpiece Society" has always been tricky to contemplate, as it threatens to dissolve into the milquetoast reputation of Next Generation, something that seems bland in comparison to some of the more exciting elements of the franchise, or entertainment in general.  In short, it's a think piece.  And, perhaps, a perfect Star Trek think piece.

The franchise is no stranger to examining cultures that its crews find hard to interact with, for any number of reasons, most of them unflattering to those cultures.  In the most reductive analysis, Star Trek can be seen as a remnant of the age of exploration, when various leading states went blundering into native cultures and pronounced them primitive throwbacks to an earlier time, easy to judge and exploit.  Now, clearly the franchise has always preached that exploitation is out of the question.  But what about all the judgment inherent in these adventures, from a supposedly enlightened people?  Sometimes, if you think about it, it's just a tough thing to reconcile. 

Then an episode like "Masterpiece Society" comes along, and forces you to think about why this tends to happen.  It's one thing when, say, "Darmok" explores a language gap, but a culture gap can be all the more astounding.  What happens when Starfleet comes across a world that wishes to isolate itself, with reasons that don't seem clear until it's too late?  It's a matter of the Prime Directive, not merely a matter of protecting inhabitants at a different development platform, but cultures that are so different, they're difficult to comprehend, so that in doing anything at all will affect them. 

In "Meridian" (Deep Space Nine), there's a planet that necessarily experiences a different relationship with our plain of existence.  In "Dear Doctor" (Enterprise), it's a culture with two competing species you'd have to play god to consider helping during an epidemic at all.  In "A Night in Sickbay" (also Enterprise), it's about failing to comprehend what's important to them (better than as portrayed in Next Generation's own "Justice").

And in "Masterpiece Society," it's a culture where every member has been specifically assigned a task, and that's what they do for the duration of their lives.  Yet when Picard's crew comes along, some of the members realize there's a true alternative for the first time.  (See also: Insurrection.)  It's the rare episode that dares suggest the good guys are in fact the bad guys, not because of anything they do, but for what they fail to understand.  It's an episode, like "Ensign Ro," that suggests the perfect future really isn't so perfect after all.

It's also a minor Geordi spotlight, pointing out how in some cultures his blindness would have resulted in an abortion, his imperfection intolerable.  It's a thorny topic we still debate today, and "Masterpiece" may be worth viewing to meditate on that alone.

criteria analysis: franchise - series - character - essential (all criteria met)

notable guest-stars:
Ron Canada

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Next Generation 5x12 "Violations"

rating: ***

the story:  A visiting alien delegate may be violating people's thoughts.

similar to: "Fusion" (Enterprise)

my thoughts: This is the episode the series had been trying to tell with Troi, as previously attempted in "Tin Man" and the abysmal "Night Terrors."  This time, the story serves the empathy, figuring out how to organically integrate her into itself, and still finding compelling material to explain how it fits in with everyone else.  While it doesn't do much to explore Troi, it's another in the series of latent continuations of the slice-of-life episodes from the fourth season.

With characters like Keiko O'Brien around to help sell the concept of a telepath with seemingly remarkable abilities helping the whole crew, if they'd like, remember fond memories, the nightmare sets in when many of them begin to experience nightmares from their past, or in Troi's case, something that never happened at all.  The whole thing really feels like a direct apology for "Night Terrors," actually, especially in that regard.

Nightmares and dream sequences are another Star Trek trope, one Next Generation regularly mined (with Data in particular, in "Birthright" and "Phantasms").  Yet "Violations" is more akin to Enterprise's "Fusion," in which deviant members of Vulcan society are performing the forbidden mind meld experience, which in their hands is as destructive as what Troi experiences.  There's also an echo of what Shinzon and his Viceroy later do to her in Nemesis.

This is an instance of a seemingly minor episode being more significant than it seems.  It's one of Troi's better showings, and a sign that she would get better material in the future as well.

criteria analysis: franchise - series - character - essential

notable guest-stars:
Rosalind Chao (Keiko)

"Star Trek All Access" news

Counting The Animated Series, the impending CBS All Access live action series will be the seventh TV show in Star Trek history.  Plenty has already come down the pike about its development, including the addition of Bryan Fuller to its creative staff, as previously discussed here.  Word has also come that frequent franchise guest star Tony Todd (Worf's brother Kurn, the older Jake in the Deep Space Nine classic "The Visitor") is in talks to join the cast.  More recently, Nicholas Meyer joined the staff.

You'll Meyer as the director of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the movie many fans still consider to be the best in the franchise, which at the very least helped revitalize interest in the pop culture.  He later returned to direct Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the final film to feature the complete original cast.  It's worth noting that Meyer is otherwise associated with Sherlock Holmes thanks to his Seven-Per-Cent Solution.  Holmes has been in the midst of a pop culture renaissance, whether in the CBS TV series Elementary or the BBC incarnation starring Benedict Cumberbatch, who played Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness.

More recently, it seems observers have started to refer to the new series as "Star Trek All Access."  Whether as convenient shorthand or otherwise, it's certainly interesting.  It also follows the naming scheme of this new era, including Star Trek Beyond.  The show will probably have another name, but this is a good one to use for the moment.  I first knew of Enterprise as Series V, just as technically, this new one is Series VI, but as explained above, I prefer to consider it, for the moment, as Series VII.  Those curious can read all about The Animated Series here at Star Trek Fan Companion, including all the highlights (and otherwise).

And of course we'll all continue to keep tabs as announcements are made.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Next Generation 5x10 "New Ground"

rating: **

the story: Worf begins full-time custody of his son Alexander.

similar to: "Collective" (Voyager)

my thoughts: Alexander can be viewed as the Wesley Crusher of the second half of the series.  He's the second youth to be featured regularly.  Apart from Jake Sisko in Deep Space Nine and his regular antics with Nog during that series' early seasons, there's no one quite like Alexander, otherwise, except the Borg kids in Voyager, who debut in "Collective," and are eventually boiled down to just Icheb.

Yet being the youngest of the bunch, Alexander stands the best chance of being considered as irritating as Wesley famously was by fans.  His regular recurring debut in "New Ground" explains it all nicely.  The son of the late K'Ehleyr, whose arc is otherwise irrelevant to him, aside from his similar struggles trying to find a place for himself between the Klingon and human cultures he straddles, Alexander is everything the young Kirk and Spock in Star Trek are not, continually trapped in the role of being a pain in his father's side.  This might be considered shedding light on Worf (having a son paves the way to the relationship with Troi that culminates in "All Good Things..."), but his obvious discomfort in the role of father makes him look weak.  Not imperfect, just weak, because it's a role he doesn't even want, never fully commits to, and routinely fails at.  Maybe it's a judgment on Worf's own discomfort with his duel Klingon/human heritages, but in isolation, when all he has are other humans (or, half-humans, in Troi's case), it presents a lopsided narrative that painfully crescendos in the seventh season episode "Firstborn."

Leaving "New Ground" very hard to justify itself.  If the fourth season was all about finding comfort in family, the fifth is about the discomfort of it, whether in "Ensign Ro" (a Starfleet officer who doesn't fit in) or "The First Duty" (cadets who fail miserably to live up to moral standards, including Wesley).  It's the first Klingon-centric episode since "Redemption," bringing high drama back to low, mundane affairs.  Adding characters like this is a common trope for long-running series.  The one real benefit is that, unlike Wesley before him, Alexander allows the viewer to see more of the family aspect of the ship, which has all along been touted to feature family in abundance.  Except aside from the random appearance here and there, kids are mostly absent. 

If Jake hadn't come along and filled the role better, I might not have as much a problem with Alexander, or "New Ground" specifically, but Jake did come along, and he was instantly a better character.  Alexander wasn't a total loss ("Cost of Living," "Fistful of Datas," the aforementioned "Firstborn"), but he's a huge letdown, at least initially.  That's kind of bad enough.

Maybe you aren't, or won't be, as annoyed by Alexander as I tend to be, just I won't dismiss "New Ground" entirely.  It does have some important things to say, and to show.  But it could easily have been better.

criteria analysis: franchise - series - character - essential

notable guest-stars:
Brian Bonsall (Alexander)
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