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Brian Hague
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Posted: 06 January 2018 at 10:44am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

Jon Paul Steuer, the child actor who originated the role of Alexander, died earlier this month at the age of 33. Brian Bonsall, who continued in the role from Alexander's second appearance going forward, has retired from acting and is living in Boulder, Colorado.

Edited by Brian Hague on 06 January 2018 at 10:44am
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 08 January 2018 at 12:21am | IP Logged | 2 post reply

"Redemption II".



The first episode of the fifth season (again well-written by Ron Moore) is a satisfying follow-up to the previous episode, and a solid finale to the whole Klingon arc which began in the third season. It flies by at a rapid clip, and is maybe a wee bit overstuffed with plotlines, but it's definitely entertaining.

Interesting to learn that the whole concept of Sela came from Denise Crosby, who was looking for a way to pop back in and visit the show after having had so much fun in "Yesterday's Enterprise". On the one hand, it's rather contrived and soap-opera-ish. On the other hand, it works surprisingly well, and is actually kind of a brilliant use of established continuity. 

Odd that, unlike Picard, Worf has no reaction whatsoever when he sees Sela on the monitor in the Duras sisters' quarters, though.

The whole subplot with Data feels very much like a spiritual successor to the Lt. Stiles storyline in "Balance of Terror", with a bigoted officer questioning his superior at every turn. This is clearly Ron Moore's inner TOS fanboy peeking out and pushing the limits of Roddenberry's "no conflict" rule for TNG. It seems a bit incongruous to see Data displaying genuine anger at Hobson's insubordination, but Brent Spiner has said that Data was simply emulating what he believed Picard would do in thst situation so as to get a desired response from an insubordinate subordinate. Hmmm.


Oh, and we also have the revised, 25th anniversary version of the main title in the show's opening credits.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 09 January 2018 at 12:45am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

"Darmok".


This is one of my favorites. Such a simple-yet-brilliant premise, and very much in the spirit of what STAR TREK is all about. Guest-starring is the late, great Paul Winfield (who'd previously had a memorable role as the ill-fated Captain Terrell in THE WRATH OF KHAN). The beauty of his performance is that, when you're in on the gag and go back to rewatch the episode, you can figure out exactly what Dathon is trying to convey in every scene. 

A simple episode, but a very memorable and effective one, with great performances from Stewart and Winfield. This also marks the first appearance of Picard's casual duty jacket. In a similar vein, the previous episode featured the first appearance of the revised observation lounge, with the removal of the golden Enterprises on the forward wall. I'm not a fan of the change, since the display of the Enterprise lineage is one of the show's most memorable setpieces.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 10 January 2018 at 1:02am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

"Ensign Ro".



An important episode in terms of laying the groundwork for TREKs to come, in that it introduces that Bajorans (...or is it "Bajora"?), and established the Cardassians' occupation of their homeworld. More important in the short-term is the introduction of the titular Ensign, who is well-played by Michelle Forbes. Ro is a pretty clear manifestation of TNG's writing staff chafing against Roddenberry's "no conflict" rule, and their response to criticisms of TNG's characters coming off as bland, at times.


Anyway, it's a decent episode, bolstered by Forbes' performance and her interactions with the regulars. It's mostly notable for laying down important and foundational story points for DS9.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 11 January 2018 at 1:24am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

"Silicon Avatar".



Another episode I enjoy a lot. The beginning and ending are both very strong, although the overall story doesn't feel quite as fleshed-out as it could be. The strength of it comes from the performances and the emotions, with a grief-stricken mother-turned-Ahab. 

Also, it's nice to see the Crystalline Entity return after four seasons, as well as some exploration of the fact that Data contains the memories of the colonists on Omicron Theta. Follow-up episodes like this one provide extra resonance (Pun!) for stories from the much-maligned first season.

The best scene, of course, is the final one, with Dr. Marr looking for validation from her dead son (through the engrams and journal entries stored within Data). Data then totally crushes her in a way that only he could--by stating his unemotional, logical opinion that her son would not be happy with her actions. It's very effective, and one of my favorite Data/Brent Spiner moments in the entire series, because Data delivers his opinion in such a matter-of-fact way, and without any malice or judgement. Which makes it even worse.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 12 January 2018 at 1:29am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

"Disaster".



This one's a heck of a lot of fun, and is very much TNG's homage to disaster movies. The plot is very straightforward--the main characters are all trapped in different parts of the damaged ship--but each individual story works very well. My favorite is Crusher and Geordi having to depressurize the cargo bay in order to put out the plasma fire. It's a pretty intense situation to imagine being in (especially considering the horrible control design, which separates the "open door" and "repressurize bay" functions).

Some good laughs in this one, too, from Picard being trapped with annoying children to Worf serving as obstetrician to the pregnant Keiko O'Brien. Of course, Keiko's pregnancy just suddenly appears in this episode, no doubt as an homage to the classic Hollywood/disaster movie cliche of a pregnant woman being trapped in an elevator or some other such place during a crisis.

Troi is somewhat well-serve in this episode, in that she's placed in a command position during the crisis. It's nice to see her rise to the occasIon, but she also comes across as less smart and prepared than She should be. I mean, she doesn't even know what an antimatter containment breach is, and that's a very, very basic principle of warp drive. It's akin to showing a woman driving a car without her knowing that it runs on gasoline. Troi is made to look dumber than she should so as to provide exposition for the audience. It didn't sit very well with me, but that's really my only complaint about what is otherwise a really fun episode. 

I was also interested to see that the reason Ro and O'Brien were trapped together was to set up their eventual transplantation to DS9. Of course, Michelle Forbes ended up turning down the series offer, and so Major Kira was invented to replace Ro on that series.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 13 January 2018 at 1:13am | IP Logged | 7 post reply

"The Game".



Another favorite of mine. This one is TNG's riff on INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, and rather obviously serves as commentary on the then-new phenomena of video game addiction. Of course, this was when the video game industry was still in its infancy, and so the episode is more relevant than ever, although the concept would perhaps better apply to smartphones, now. 

There may also be some kind of subtle STD (that is, "sexually transmitted disease", not "STAR TREK DISCOVERY", although both illnesses are pretty friggin' bad) metaphor, here--Riker shags a random alien babe on Risa, then brings a communicable "illness" back to the ship. However, that idea may not have been intentional on the writers' part.

We get the second and final appearance of an incredibly young Ashley Judd as Robin Lefler, and she's delightful in the role. More importantly, we also get the return of Will Wheaton as Wesley Crusher, and both the actor and the character seem much more at ease and mellow here than in the past. 

I really do love the way this episode reveals its story, with the tension building as Wesley and Lefler slowly put the pieces together, which leads to an exciting chase sequence as Wesley tries to evade capture. The episode almost turns into DIE HARD, for a few minutes, there. It's also really effective and creepy to see the crew acting normally, yet under the influence of the game. They're all smiles as they prepare to receive orders from a hostile alien ship, and their cold and calculated deactivation of Data early on provides a strong sense of dread which looks over the story. 

Not the deepest or most insightful episode of TNG, but still quite good as a piece of entertainment. And, it's nice to see Wesley be the hero and get the girl in a way other than his outperforming the rest of the crew, as in earlier seasons. This is probably my favorite Wesley-centric episode of TNG. 
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 15 January 2018 at 1:26am | IP Logged | 8 post reply

"Unification I".



An important episode for several reasons. A title card tribute to Gene Roddenberry appears prior to the episode's teaser, since he'd died several weeks before the episode aired. This officially marks the final transition from Old STAR TREK to New STAR TREK, since Roddenberry's influence on the franchise would no longer be felt, from this point on. 

And, of course, this episode guest-stars Spock (Well, for about five seconds, at the very end.). This is a dramatic turnaround from A) The near-total lack of TOS references during the first few seasons of TNG; B) The writers having to fight to get Picard to even mention Spock's name during season three's "Sarek". 

Speaking of Sarek, Mark Lenard makes a strong impression in this episode, his last filmed appearance in the franchise (although his last actual appearance--as with Nimoy's, at least until 2009--would be in STAR TREK VI, which was released in theaters a few weeks after this episode aired). It's a great scene between Lenard and Patrick Stewart, although it's rough to see a beloved TOS character in such sorry shape, then die off-camera. More importantly, this episode goes the Disney STAR WARS route of taking an established happy ending and undoing it with depressing results, since Spock and Sarek had seemingly patched their relationship up at the end of THE VOYAGE HOME (which was their last onscreen interaction). Yeah, given their history, it's not entirely unlikely that they might have ended up arguing again, down the road, but it's still a bummer. I get what they were going for (especially since I know how the Part II ends), but the fact that Sarek died before he and Spock could resolve their issues is pretty grim.

We're also reminded that Picard and Sarek had previously mind-melded, which means that Picard has also technically melded with Kirk, McCoy, and Scotty, two of whom he'd be meeting in person, not too long after this episode.

As noted, we only get a moment with Spock, and his ambassadorial turn is an interesting twist for his character. Of course, since this episode served as sort of a teaser for STAR TREK VI, there's a lot of cross-pollination going on, with the episode referring to the film's Khitomer conference, and Spock taking his first step into the ambassador role by arranging the peace talks with the Klingons in the movie.


The bulk of this episode is pretty "meh", and often feels like padding. Nice to see Malachi Throne (another TOS veteran) and an unrecognizable Stephen Root (as the Klingon Captain), though. Despite being the first major TOS/TNG crossover story, it feels pretty underwhelming and disappointing. The opening teaser is a pretty friggin' good hook for the episode, though.


Edited by Greg Kirkman on 16 January 2018 at 10:54am
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Jack Bohn
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Posted: 15 January 2018 at 9:45am | IP Logged | 9 post reply

Commercials for "The Undiscovered Country" aired during the episode. ("This episode of Star Trek is sponsored in part by... Star Trek." Something I would love to hear!) It felt bigger at the time than it does in hindsight.

There was some TNG novel about in the second season, I read the author took it on as a challenge to make the reader care about Wesley. He kinda cheated, showing the kid working himself into exhaustion trying to find a solution to a subplot, and failing. I think the writers of "The Game" and Wil Wheaton stepped up by making him acceptable despite the fact that he saves the ship!   Again!!

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 15 January 2018 at 11:13am | IP Logged | 10 post reply

I think the key difference is that Wesley only saves the ship because he had help from Lefler and Data. If he hadn't reactivated Data, it would have been over, since Wesley is captured and exposed to the game before Data comes in and breaks the spell. 

The episode makes Wesley more mellow and more human, and he only just barely saves the day, rather than hopping onto a computer terminal and doing something amazing with ease that the adults would never even think of trying. He actually has to work for his victory, here, and he almost doesn't achieve it. Makes a big difference.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 16 January 2018 at 11:03am | IP Logged | 11 post reply

"Unification II".


Pretty "meh". This feels like a missed opportunity, since there's really not a lot of exploration of Spock and where he's gone since the TOS era. The whole thing just feels kinda flat and by-the-numbers, when it should feel like a major event. There's more promotion/cross-pollination with STAR TREK VI, too, which is nice. Spock using his guilt over the Khitomer incident as justification for going rogue actually works pretty well.

Nice to see Crosby as Sela again, although this is her last appearance. Makes me wonder if Data performed the neck-pinch wrong, and actually killed her, since we never see her again. 

The whole "B" story with Riker and the others searching for the Vulcan ship is just uninteresting padding. The whole sequence in the bar with the four-armed piano player chick feels like some kind of outtake from THE STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL. I half-expected Harvey Korman in drag to walk in and hit on her.

Until 2009, this was the canonical final appearance and fate of Spock. I dunno which ending is worse: this bland end to the character, or his Skype call to NuSpock in INTO DARKNESS. I'll give this one points for the actual ending, though, with Spock crying as he melds with Picard and finally gets a sense of Sarek's inner thoughts. That's a nice moment.

All in all, this two-parter was a major disappointment, in terms of a major TNG/TOS crossover. "Relics" would do a far better job, later on.
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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 16 January 2018 at 9:07pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply

I kind of wonder if they were considering adding Robin Lefler to the main cast to round things out gender-wise.   That spot eventually fell Forbes' Ro Laren.  

It's interesting that "True Q" originally had Lefler in it -- but it's not indicated if she was originally the "Amanda Rogers" of the script or just a character in the background.  Kind of glad that didn't happen, TBH.
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