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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 26 December 2017 at 12:41am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

I should also note that there's no way the episode would be presented today as it was in 1990. Riker is extorted and forced to have sex with a woman in exchange for his freedom, and it's played for laughs. If the genders were reversed, it probably wouldn't have aired in that form. Of course, female rape of men (which is admittedly a rarity) is still often overlooked and/or handwaved, but it does happen. 

Being an established horndog, Riker's control of his sexual rights aren't even an issue, here, and the scene is played for humor. And it is humorous (in part due to the inherent unreality of the show and the situation), despite the underlying ugliness. Still, there's no way it would be done, today.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 26 December 2017 at 1:00am | IP Logged | 2 post reply

"Galaxy's Child".


...and here's an episode that is perhaps much more relevant today that it was in 1990, given the rise of the Internet. The story brilliantly explores the consequences of "Booby Trap", and examines the line between fantasy and reality. It's remarkably prescient, in that Geordi basically fell in love with what is essentially an online avatar of a real woman, only to be disappointed when he finally meets the real thing. On the flipside, Dr. Brahms is horrified to learn that she's been cyberstalked by a man she's never met, who basically fell in love with her Spacebook profile page.

We of course already know that Geordi's a decent guy, and that he didn't engage in creepy relations with Dr. Brahms' holographic avatar, but, man, the whole thing is still deeply uncomfortable and awkward. Mortifying, even. Complicating things is the fact that the real Dr. Brahms is pretty much a cold b****, at least initially. Her gradual thawing and mending fences with Geordi is a nice conclusion to the episode, but there's no friggin' way that happens in a real-life version of these events. She'd write Geordi off as a total creep, and perhaps even report him to Picard and/or Starfleet. 

That being said, this again raises questions regarding the legal and moral ramifications of recreating living people on the holodeck. There have been implications in the past that Riker has recreated real people to get his jollies, after all. And, it seems that anyone at anytime can either enter an in-progress holodeck program, or freely access any program created by someone else. Would Dr. Brahms have a legal recourse if she had definitive proof that Geordi had created a holographic blowup-doll in her likeness? It's not like people in today's world are arrested for taking personal liberties with magazines and Internet photos/videos in the privacy of their homes. I would hope that the rules aboard a pseudo-military starship would be a little stricter regarding that sort of thing, though.

A really solid and thought-provoking episode, with some great performances. I never cease to be amazed by how engaging LeVar Burton is, despite his eyes always being obscured. And, it pains me that Susan Gibney never became a regular on any of the spin-off shows, despite her auditioning for any number of parts. Her performance here is almost the polar opposite of what she did in "Booby Trap", and yet it all works.
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James Woodcock
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Posted: 26 December 2017 at 5:19am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

Greg, I donít know if you ever read the Hulk two part series FUTURE IMPERFECT. There is a scene in there where future Hulk orders a woman to have sex with current Hulk. Hulk accidentally refers to her as Betty and she says that is now her name and proceeds to have sex with the helpless Hulk.

A very disturbing scene that is not played for laughs.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 26 December 2017 at 10:53am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

Greg, I donít know if you ever read the Hulk two part series FUTURE IMPERFECT. There is a scene in there where future Hulk orders a woman to have sex with current Hulk. Hulk accidentally refers to her as Betty and she says that is now her name and proceeds to have sex with the helpless Hulk.
++++++++

I absolutely have. And it's not just one woman, it's many, ordered to "help" the Hulk by the Maestro, who is "killing him with kindness". Pretty sick stuff.

Also, I've not read the story, but I'm aware that Nightwing--Dick Grayson, one of the most iconic DC characters--was also the victim of female-on-male rape. 

It's a rarity, but it absolutely happens, both in fiction and in reality. Yet, it's often shrugged off. If Wonder Woman or the Black Widow became a rape victim, you can bet it would be headline news and a cause for major controversy, and would mark those characters forever. Yet, a lot of people either have no idea or have simply forgotten that characters like the Hulk and Nightwing are victims of rape. It's a disturbing double-standard. 

In the case of Riker, the combination of Roddenberry's looser views on sexuality, Riker's healthy libido, and the scene being played for laughs somehow make "First Contact" an easy watch...but, the more you stop and think about it, the more unsettling it is. It works in context, but the "fridge logic" of it is pretty disturbing.

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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 26 December 2017 at 12:13pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply

In the case of Riker, the combination of Roddenberry's looser views on sexuality, Riker's healthy libido, and the scene being played for laughs somehow make "First Contact" an easy watch...but, the more you stop and think about it, the more unsettling it is. It works in context, but the "fridge logic" of it is pretty disturbing.

Last week when I was doing my yearly mandatory policy reviews for work I noticed a new addition to the 'Workplace violence/harassment' module: Subjecting your co-workers to stories or boasts of your sexual escapades and conquests is now considered a form of harassment/bullying.  Life was so much simpler when you labelled that person a "blowhard asshole" and got back to the work at hand, but I digress.

However the "FC" situation with Riker does get me thinking.  It's pretty much an open secret among the bridge crew (and likely the rest of the ship) that the human first officer has a preference for sex with alien species, the more exotic and alien the better.   I'd go as far to say that his reputation precedes him and that actually serves to quietly sift out those who would likely avoid him (ie those he'd find dull in bed) and those who are sufficiently curious or like-minded.   It's a very subtle form of intimidation for anyone who has to work with him.

So why is the first officer of the fleet flagship doing covert monitoring duties and not someone whose actual job is doing these things?**  Why risk a valuable officer in a potentially hostile situation?   Maybe Riker volunteered and everyone else stepped aside and let the guy who likely has an alien porn collection go down and 'blend in'.

The situation is played for laughs precisely because Riker confronts his equal and opposite -- and it rightly scares the crap out of him.  I bet that nurses co-workers will be rolling their eyes for years at her "I shagged an alien" stories in the lunchroom.  That's the power of a well-manicured bad reputation.  :-)

**Yeah, if it was anyone else but a member of the bridge crew you'd lose the WTF-ness of the cold open
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 26 December 2017 at 12:43pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

It should also be remembered that Riker is essentially TNG's riff on James Kirk, and that he occasionally serves as a sort of meta-commentary on the general public's perception of Kirk--a horndog who constantly beds alien babes, and whose reputation precedes him.

The double-standard is such that Riker would probably get flack for seducing an alien babe to achieve a goal, but his own extortion by one is played for laughs. 

I'm also reminded of the AMERICAN PIE films, which were recently playing on TV. Jason Biggs' virginal character is seduced by Alyson Hanngan's, and then he wakes up alone the next morning, and says "I was used! Cool!". If the genders were reversed, the "love 'em and leave 'em" treatment would surely be shown as an emotionally damaging experience for the woman, with the guy deflowering her and then just running off. Of course, the sequel walked this all back, with Jim calling Michelle out on the whole thing, and it then proceeded to have them develop an actual relationship. But that's a separate matter.


Edited by Greg Kirkman on 31 December 2017 at 12:14pm
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Joe Boster
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Posted: 26 December 2017 at 4:13pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

Yes, many things come off differently in the context of modern day sensibilities for good or ill. Perhaps Riker is more of a riff on Gene himself. Given all the stories about Gene's tastes and desire to tell others about them. Free love and all that.It's not just Riker. Many guest stars get in on the action as well. 


I don't know, I would supposed the male rape identity is rather like Christian persecution. When one is in such a dominating position it's hard for it to sound like more than whining.
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Michael Roberts
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Posted: 26 December 2017 at 5:49pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

Still, there's no way it would be done, today.

----

I don't know. THE ORVILLE mostly got away with Dr. Finn having sex under the influence with her stalker. There was way more squick going on there. I think the scene in "First Contact" would still work today as long as it was clear that the idea was coming from Riker.

In terms of sexual consent and Riker, I find the season 4 episode "The Host" more problematic. Crusher is fretting over carrying on a relationship with the Trill being temporarily hosted by Riker, and it's never discussed whether Riker would be OK with Crusher sexing his body. And Troi, of all people, is egging her on. WTF?

STARGATE: UNIVERSE broached the same subject. The only form of communication between the lost in space starship and Earth was a device that could swap consciousnesses between people on the ship and people on Earth. The people on Earth who volunteered to swap consciousnesses signed a waiver saying that they were OK with what was done with their bodies while someone else had control. Maybe Riker signed a waiver?
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 26 December 2017 at 7:12pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

I don't know. THE ORVILLE mostly got away with Dr. Finn having sex under the influence with her stalker. There was way more squick going on there. I think the scene in "First Contact" would still work today as long as it was clear that the idea was coming from Riker.
++++++++++++++

I'm not so sure. Consenting relations while under the influence (remember, neither of them was aware that there WAS an influence, at that point--Dr. Finn had seemingly decided to give in to Yaphit's advances of her own free will) are one thing. A stranger agreeing to help a prisoner escape only in exchange for sex is another. "Drunk" consent vs. sober extortion. Which is worse? I'd vote for the latter.

+++++++++++++

In terms of sexual consent and Riker, I find the season 4 episode "The Host" more problematic. Crusher is fretting over carrying on a relationship with the Trill being temporarily hosted by Riker, and it's never discussed whether Riker would be OK with Crusher sexing his body. And Troi, of all people, is egging her on. WTF?
+++++++++++++++

I have yet to rewatch that episode, of course, but I do remember being weirded out by it.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 27 December 2017 at 12:49am | IP Logged | 10 post reply

"Night Terrors".


A so-so episode with some good ideas and moments. I can certainly attest to the effects of sleep deprivation, so this one hits home, on that level. There are a few genuinely creepy moments (such as Dr. Crusher hallucinating that the corpses are all sitting upright in the morgue, and Worf preparing to commit ritual suicide), but it's a rather boring episode, overall. The nightmare sequences with Troi flying around are pretty painful to watch, too. That said, it's still fun to see everyone playing their characters as increasingly sleep-deprived, paranoid, and zombie-like.

Also, I'm a bit surprised that the remastering team didn't take the opportunity to use CGI to fix the famous error in this episode, with the Brattain's exterior (a reuse of the ever-reliable Reliant model) being labeled "Brittain".
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 27 December 2017 at 11:33pm | IP Logged | 11 post reply

"Identity Crisis".


I like this one quite a bit. It's not the deepest or most complex episode of TNG, but it's very well-produced, and is very successful in terms of the dread and creepiness in its tone. The makeup effects are really good and clever, too, including the use of the black light effects. The ideliable image of this episode--burned into my brain, when I saw the episode in first-run--is the featureless simulation of the shadow-casting creature in Geordi's holodeck simulation.

Assuming it's not an error, there's also the subtle indication that Geordi's transformation also gives him his sight back.

I'm an easy mark for transformation stories, and this one works on every level. The notion of a genetic ticking time-bomb acquired years ago on an away mission is really neat, too. A favorite episode from my youth, which still holds up very well.
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Ted Downum
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Posted: 28 December 2017 at 2:47pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply

I had forgotten that the 3rd/4th seasons had a nice little run of Geordi-centric episodes. And rightly so: a compelling character played by an excellent actor.

I enjoyed it when Geordi came back as the captain of the Challenger (?) in whatever alternate universe/future Voyager episode that was. Methinks he actually would make a good starship captain.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 28 December 2017 at 3:37pm | IP Logged | 13 post reply

I had forgotten that the 3rd/4th seasons had a nice little run of Geordi-centric episodes. And rightly so: a compelling character played by an excellent actor. 
++++++++

Yeah, it's a credit to LeVar Burton that Geordi didn't just end up as "the blind guy" or "'the unlucky in love' guy". He brought an intelligence and likability to the character which makes episodes that focus on La Forge particularly enjoyable. 

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 28 December 2017 at 11:47pm | IP Logged | 14 post reply

"The Nth Degree".


Another transformation episode, but one featuring a mental change instead of a physical one. The episode is sort of a cross between FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON, "Where No Man Has Gone Before", and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. It's a joy to see Dwight Schultz return as Barclay, and his self-actualization is effective in generating both laughs and tension. Probably the biggest laugh is when, in the ready room, Troi describes how he made a pass at her (and Riker subsequently tries to find out if it was successful). 

Barclay's neural-interface device is very impressive and memorable (and includes a WRATH OF KHAN tricorder prop--originally a generic prop from the Modern Props rental house--as part of its structure), and Schultz's performance is very effective in conveying the character's gradual detachment from his physical life.

A really good and entertaining episode, which is par for the course for the fourth season. This is the peak era for TNG, and I'm really enjoying the heck out of revisiting it.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 30 December 2017 at 1:41am | IP Logged | 15 post reply

"Qpid".


A very fun (and funny) episode. Always a joy to see Q and Picard butting heads, and bringing Vash back provides more continuity-building for the show. The change of setting--from the Enterprise-D to Sherwood Forest--is refreshing, and the whole Robin Hood schtick almost feels like it could have come from TOS. 

Plenty of fun moments and jokes in this one, too, from Picard's awkwardness when Vash and Crusher meet to Troi shooting Data with an arrow. The best moment, of course, is Worf's priceless line: "Sir, I must protest! I am NOT a merry man!".
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 01 January 2018 at 12:56am | IP Logged | 16 post reply

"The Drumhead".


One of the best episodes in the entire run. Unfortunately, it's also perhaps even more relevant now that it's ever been, given its themes of freedom vs. security, paranoia, and witchhunts.

Jeans Simmons turns in a wonderful performance, and her breakdown in the final act (with Admiral Thomas getting up and leaving the room without a word) is one of my favorite moments in all of TREK. Patrick Stewart also shines, here, and this episode contains several of Picard's best-ever moments. You can see his level of concern slowly ramping up, as he episode moves along, until we get to his own interrogation. I often think of his final line in the episode, about how vigilance is the price we must all pay (which seems only appropriate, since my own first name translates to "watchman").

Amazing to think that this was originally suggested as a clip show, which then evolved into a bottle show, based on a plot idea by Ron Moore. I believe this was Also Jeri Taylor's first solo script for TNG, and she really knocked it out of the park.

Along with "The Measure of a Man" and "The First Duty" (which I have yet to revisit), this is one of the trio of episodes that I feel best represent the values and themes that STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION stood for. And which are lacking in both today's "STAR TREK", and across a broad swath of mass-entertainment in general.
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Jack Bohn
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Posted: 01 January 2018 at 5:01am | IP Logged | 17 post reply

"Qpid" gave me quite a "Bewitched" vibe in the first segment. Eventually I unclenched and was able to enjoy it.

So it originally aired between "Identity Crisis", "The Nth Degree", and "The Drumhead"? The advantage of the continuing anthology format.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 02 January 2018 at 1:03am | IP Logged | 18 post reply

"Half a Life".



At first, this episode seems like it's gonna be yet another episode where Lwaxana Troi Is gonna be insufferable and man-hungry and get into it with Deanna. Then, it makes a sharp left-turn a become a very sensitive story about culture-clash, ritual suicide, retaining dignity in old age (not unlike in "Sarek") and how a society deals with its elderly. Mrs. Troi is also given more depth than she's had, to this point. and becomes a sympathetic--even tragic--character. 

David Ogden Stiers turns in an excellent performance. He comes across as legitimately alien through the subtleties of his vocal intonations, and it's really effective. Majel Barrett-Roddenberry's performance is also very affecting. And, here we have Michelle Forbes' first TNG appearance, but not as Ro Laren.

This episode carries a lot of emotional weight, and it presents both sides of the euthanasia argument very well. I can't even imagine an episode like this being done today. If it was, the subject matter would probably be presented with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, and It would probably degenerate into a LOGAN'S RUN-type story, with Timicin going full-rebel against his people. Sigh.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 03 January 2018 at 12:28am | IP Logged | 19 post reply

"The Host".


Another sensitive episode, although this one veers more toward soap-opera. And, of course, this is the introduction of the Trill species to STAR TREK, although the version seen in DS9 retains only the basic premise, and changes everything else. 

As noted upthread, Riker and Dr. Crusher get it on, and this makes two times that Riker is essentially sexually assaulted in this season! Unlike in the DS9 version of the Trill (which involves a merger of symbiote and host's personalities and memories), it's apparent that Riker's personality and memories are being suppressed, with Odan being in full control. So, Riker's body is hijacked, and is used to bang a friend a co-worker. And, as Michael noted upthread, it's pretty friggin' weird to see Troi encouraging Crusher to just go for it. Equally awkward is Odan asking Picard for his insights on Dr. Crusher, and Picard's subsequent voicing of his support to Crusher. 

Yeah, it's a soap-opera. Troi and Riker have an underlying affection, but she encourages Crusher to bed him. Picard and Crusher have an underlying affection, and Picard has to watch all of this play out AND try to stop a war from breaking out. And, Riker has now gotten it on with both of TNG's female leads. Huh.

The ending treads what would surely have been troublesome ground in 1991, since Crusher's reaction to Odan's new, female host could have potentially played as homophobic. The scene makes it clear that the constant body-swapping of the Trill is what has her unsettled, though. 
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 03 January 2018 at 11:51pm | IP Logged | 20 post reply

"The Mind's Eye".


A very effective and well-done TNG riff on THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE. LeVar Burton shines here, despite most of his performance featuring Geordi acting (seemingly) as he normally would. The teaser and the sequence where Geordi is brainwashed are really good, with the latter scene featuring the sort-of first appearance of Sela (played by a double standing in the shadows, but dubbed with Denise Crosby's unmistakable voice).

The climactic sequence, which intercuts La Forge walking to the cargo bay (with good use of a wide-angle lens to give the proper, distorted effect) and Data quickly putting the pieces of the plot together is handled really well, too. In a way, this is basically Geordi's version of when Picard was assimilated by the Borg and used as a weapon against the Federation. Of course, this being weekly/episodic TV, he's back to normal by the next segment, although more could have been done with his recovery from the brainwashing. Burton's performance with Marina Siritis in the final scene is very effective, and perfectly conveys Geordi's mixture of frustration and confusion.

I also noted in the episode's credits that "Larry Dobkin" plays the Klingon ambassador, and, yep, he's the same guy who directed "Charlie X", way back in 1966!
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Brian Rhodes
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Posted: 04 January 2018 at 2:04pm | IP Logged | 21 post reply

The best moment, of course, is Worf's priceless line: "Sir, I must protest! I am NOT a merry man!".

Along with the ANIMAL HOUSE homage..."Sorry...."
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Brian Rhodes
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Posted: 04 January 2018 at 2:06pm | IP Logged | 22 post reply

The best moment, of course, is Worf's priceless line: "Sir, I must protest! I am NOT a merry man!".

And the ANIMAL HOUSE homage...."Sorry..."
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 05 January 2018 at 12:58am | IP Logged | 23 post reply

"In Theory".


Patrick Stewart's directorial debut, and his favorite episode of the series. This one really (and perhaps unintentionally) gets into the inherent fridge-logic/fridge-horror of Data, and Brent Spiner's performance is even colder and more robotic than usual. The underlying reality of this episode is that Jenna tries to date a talking toaster in the shape of a man (shades of the Vision and the Scarlet Witch, here), and, while Data's attempts to emulate human romantic behavior initially seem "cute", they end up proving to her that she needs more. 

Although Data is a beloved character, and is played by a talented and likable human actor, the actual, in-universe reality of that character would surely be disturbing (same with a character like the Terminator, who is literally a robot covered by flesh, but easy for the audience to relate to because he's played by a charismatic human actor). Setting aside, for a moment, the theoretical possibility of an android who looks, moves, and speaks just like a human being, there would surely be some major Uncanny Valley stuff going on, in terms of a normal person's reactions to Data. Of course, the point of TNG is all about tolerance and people from disparate species and backgrounds working together, but a more realistic take would probably involve people being creeped-out at both how human and non-human Data appears to be at the same time.


Anyway, the "B" plot involving the dark matter nebula is pretty standard stuff, and basically gets in the way of the much more interesting "A" plot. It's a solid episode, though, with Spiner's performance and the exploration of Data's character providing it a lot of its strength. Of course, as far as we know, Data's only prior romantic experience would be his one-night stint as a drunken Tasha's vibrator, back in "The Naked Now", so this experiement of his is a logical progression for the character, despite the underlying creepiness of it. There are some good jokes and some genuine emotions alongside the subtle creepiness of it.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 06 January 2018 at 1:23am | IP Logged | 24 post reply

"Redemption".



TNG's 100th episode, and the fourth season finale. Geez, this season went by fast! Anyway, this episode, written by Ron Moore, takes all of the simmering Klingon political intrigue plotlines that have been building for a year and a half and really kicks them into drive. This is a very well-written and engaging episode, with lots of interesting dynamics, particularly in terms of the relationship between Worf and Picard. 

It's very satisfying to see Worf's family honor finally restored, and great to see Tony Todd and Robert O'Reilly again. This episode also marks the first appearances of Lursa and B'Etor, in all their chest-tastic glory. And, of course, there's Sela's first full appearance, which serves as the cliffhanger ending. I have no doubt that, at the time, fans were scratching their heads over it, since no explanation is given. Still, it's nice to see TNG finding ways to keep bringing Denise Crosby back, and making her feel like she's still a part of the family.

I also wouldn't be surprised if people were wondering at the time if Michael Dorn was leaving the show, much as they wondered if Patrick Stewart was leaving, given the cliffhanger ending of the previous season.


A really good episode, and a strong ending to a great season. 
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Brian Miller
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Posted: 06 January 2018 at 7:54am | IP Logged | 25 post reply

The actor that played Alexander died on New Yearís Day. 
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