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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 31 October 2017 at 7:40pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

I've read that the Borg and their schtick bear a certain resemblance to DOCTOR WHO's Cybermen, but I can't speak to that, as WHO is not in my wheelhouse. I do find myself wondering if this episode's title is a sly reference to a possible inspiration for the Borg, though.

WHO is definitely my wheelhouse so I'll step up to the plate.  I'd say mostly no to the Borg being inspired by the Cybermen, at least in their first appearance.  I think the visual designers may have had some suspiciously placed cables that resembled the Cybermen 'jug handes' but Borg creator and "Q Who?" author Maurice Hurley has said it was more CAPTAIN POWER inspired than DOCTOR WHO.  It was budgetary issues that made them abandon the more insect-like enemy  with the compromise being the 'man in a suit' look. 

Borg infants and the maturation chambers are never seen again after "Q-Who", though the pre-teen and teenage Borg seen in VOYAGER imply the Borg still use them.   WHO Cybermen never converted children, at least onscreen though some extra-television media hints that the small silverfish and rodent-like Cybermats use the brains of either children or small animals.

Interestingly it's when the Borg shift gears in "The Best of Both Worlds" that they act more like WHO Cybermen.  Conversion/assimilation using a bipedal lifeform as a template and replacing appendages with machinery.  The WHO Cybermen sometimes would partially convert humans, either because of lack of resources or time ("Tomb of the Cybermen") or because they needed more human-looking avatars to deal with regular humans without causing a panic ("The Invasion").  The Borg do exactly the same with Picard -- they partially convert him and use the mostly-intact 'Locutus' to address the Federation.  They later covert him fully and they hint that at least one of his hands/arms had been removed and replaced.   Some of Dr Crusher's lines indicate that parts of his skull and brain may also have been removed and replaced with machinery.


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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 31 October 2017 at 8:16pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

Thanks for the info, Rob!
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 31 October 2017 at 11:49pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

"Samaritan Snare".


Is this a good episode? Not really, no. Is it entertaining? Yeah, actually. Despite the inherent dumbness of the story, I wasn't bored. Part of that comes down to Chris Latta guest-starring as the Pakled Captain. By the way, I recently checked out some of his old standup material, and found a TREK connection, in that Bill Shatner hosted a comedy special that Latta appeared on:



That other part of what made this episode watchable would be Patrick Stewart's lovely performance in the scene where Picard tells the story of how he literally became heartless. 

Oh, and the adorable Ensign Gomez. I read on Memory Alpha that the original plan was to have her and Geordi develop a close romantic relationship, and his desire to actually see her would motivate him to have that experiemental surgery to restore his eyesight (which was set up earlier in the season, but never followed up on). Unfortunately, it all fell apart, and Gomez only appeared in two episodes, which is unfortunate.

Beyond all that, this one is pretty "meh".
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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 01 November 2017 at 4:57am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

The universe works in mysterious ways.   

Greg, I hope you appreciate the significance of watching and reviewing the Pakled episode so soon after yesterday's er... whatever that was in the DISCOVERY thread.   :-)

An interesting theme is set up in this episode, kind of a TNG version of DISCOVERY's "Choose Your Pain".  Would you rather be trapped in a shuttle having to talk to Wesley for hours on end or work alongside Pakleds?  First World Federation problems indeed.

For all the hate "Samaritan Snare" gets, I like to think of it as a subversively brilliant longform setup for it's eventual punchline in "Brothers".
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 01 November 2017 at 8:56am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

"Samaritan Snare" is still disturbingly relevant, today. 

A bunch of stupid people who are greedy, impatient, and demand instant gratification and technological growth they're not ready for without having to work for it? Yeah, that's pretty much the world we're living in.


Also, I forgot to mention that the cardiac doctors' attire is totally cribbed from Cronenberg's DEAD RINGERS.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 01 November 2017 at 2:28pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

Just listened to the MISSION LOG interview episode with Wil Wheaton. Really fascinating stuff. Wheaton is a self-professed geek, and comes across as a very smart and likable guy. His insights into how TNG shaped his professional and personal lives make for very compelling listening.

I was unaware of the circumstances surrounding his departure from TNG, and hearing about his whole experience as a child actor on that show was very illuminating. It's rather impressive that he didn't end up as just another burned-out child actor who was chewed up and spat out by the unrelenting Hollywood system. That being said, Rick Berman is definitely not presented in a good light. As Wheaton tells it, Berman's general conduct and controlling mindgames come across as pretty reprehensible.

Personally, I've never had a problem with Wheaton or Wesley. I was a kid when I first watched TNG, and, while I didn't necessarily identify with Wesley, I also never saw him as an annoying or bad character. He was just a kid, after all, and both the in-universe and real-world circumstances of TNG were largely out of his control. 

Anyway, it's great interview, and highly recommended.
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Andrew Saxon
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Posted: 01 November 2017 at 4:22pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

At the time of Q Who's first broadcast I came back to TNG for this episode having read, I think in Starlog, that the idea for the story was to see how the Enterprise crew would cope in Doctor Who's universe against the sort of villains the Doctor comes up against (hence the title). So, whatever was said after the Borg became a huge hit, unless I'm misremembering things badly, the Borg were based on the Cybermen.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 01 November 2017 at 10:57pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

"Up The Long Ladder".


...and we were doing so well. The first half of this episode is season one-levels of bad, what with the ridiculous and over-the-top Irish space farmers. The second half goes into full-whiplash mode by introducing an interesting sci-fi plot about a clone society, and then crams in a bunch of interesting ethical questions (including a right-to-life debate when Riker kills the clones). There's also a very rushed solution to the clones' longevity problem (involving a polygamous merger with the Irish farmers' society). This is all within a span of about 20 minutes.

The second half of the episode almost works, but for the extremely rushed nature of it. If this second storyline had been expanded to serve as the full, hour-long episode, it could have been good. As it stands, it's a trainwreck. The bulk of the episode pointlessly focuses on the farmers, who are brought back in during the last five minutes as the solution to the problem. It's insane, as Picard says.

Nice detail to have the schematic of the S.S. Mariposa resemble a successor of the Botany Bay, though.


Oh, and the Mariposans could probably get some of Riker's DNA anyway, through Brenna. *ahem*
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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 02 November 2017 at 4:26am | IP Logged | 9 post reply

Lots of unwashed Federation feet that could have been recruited to help, I think. :-)
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 03 November 2017 at 12:06am | IP Logged | 10 post reply

"Manhunt".


This one's a real drag, plotwise. Nothing of any real excitement or consequence happens. At all. Troi's mom is horny, and Picard goes to the holodeck to avoid her. That's pretty much it.

That being said, it's always nice to see Majel Barrett, and there's a trippy moment where Lwaxana speaks to the ship's computer. The episode also has a good number of laughs and character moments, but that's not enough to keep it from being rather dull and pointless.
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Peter Martin
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Posted: 03 November 2017 at 10:06am | IP Logged | 11 post reply

I barely remember any of these, bar the Borg's first appearance and some small recollection of the Data trial. Might crank up The Measure of a Man on Netflix, inspired by your glowing words, Greg.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 04 November 2017 at 12:35am | IP Logged | 12 post reply

"The Emissary".



Following the pattern of all those character-driven season two episodes, here we have a Worf-centric episode. It's been a pleasure to see Michael Dorn/Worf move from glorified extra to fully-fleshed-out character, and this episode proves (as did season one's "Heart of Glory") that he has the chops to carry a story. 

The only real head-scratching moment in this episode is the opening gag, with a coffin-sized probe (retrofitted to hold K'Ehleyr) that is somehow capable of traveling at warp 9 under its own power. Ummm....what?

The broader plot is fairly inconsequential, since the episode really boils down to the interpersonal stress between Worf and K'Ehleyr, and some more exploration of Klingon culture. To say nothing of an exploration of the differences between men and women (be they Klingon or not) in their approaches to love, sex, and commitment. 

Susie Plakson (last seen as Dr. Selar in "The Schizoid Man") makes a very strong impression, and is more than a match for Worf/Dorn. The episode also does a nice job of touching on issues faced by children of mixed race and mixed cultures, and bouncing K'Ehleyr and Troi off of each other makes for some good moments, too. Then there's Worf, who was raised by humans, but behaves like a hardcore Klingon as overcompensation. It's a fresh and interesting dynamic to see a guy wanting to settle down and commit after a one-night stand (especially since he initially didn't even want anything to do with K'Ehleyr after their reunion aboard the Enterprise-D), and the woman being the flakey one.


And, hey, there's a very young Dietrich Bader manning the Tactical station!


Also, this episode opens with another poker game...but it just ain't quite the same, considering that only two episodes ago, Geordi revealed that his VISOR basically works as a lie detector. Kinda changes the dynamics of the game, wouldn't you say?
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 06 November 2017 at 12:05am | IP Logged | 13 post reply

"Peak Performance".


I enjoyed this one a great deal. A fun premise, with lots of good moments and character interaction. Not a whole lot else to say!
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Brian Hague
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Posted: 06 November 2017 at 12:31am | IP Logged | 14 post reply

We'll just assume that Geordi keeps that function on his VISOR turned off during games. Just as we'll assume Data isn't counting cards or noticing microscopic tells or recording a constant series of playbacks to "learn" his fellow players reactions to the success or failure of each hand. Just as we'll assume Deanna isn't subtly picking up on traces of deception, confidence, surprise, or pleasure as each player receives their cards and decides how to play them.

No wonder Beverly was so surprised the time she actually won a hand.

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 07 November 2017 at 1:05am | IP Logged | 15 post reply

"Shades of Gray".



Ah, yes. The clip show.

Many fans deride it as one of the worst TREK episodes ever made, but it is what it is: The price to be paid for funneling budget money into other episodes. The first 20 minutes are actually pretty solid, but then we get into the whole "Quickly! Sexy clips aren't working! Play more action-oriented clips to kill the organism!" schtick.


Anyway, so ends the second season. Far less painful than the first, although there's still a lot of goofiness and such. Some real gems in the rough, though. And more importantly, the second season really set the stage for the show to come, with its character-centric episodes.
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Ted Downum
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Posted: 07 November 2017 at 12:45pm | IP Logged | 16 post reply

Ah, yes. The clip show.

*****

I had completely forgotten that TNG did a clip show.

Probably for the best, from how it sounds.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 08 November 2017 at 12:58am | IP Logged | 17 post reply

"Evolution".


...well, TNG just became TNG. Not that this is a great episode, mind you. Rather, it's that certain key elements have finally clicked into place. We now have the revised main title sequence (with the new opening, and the recording of the main theme which will be used for the rest of the series). 

Of course, there are also the revised uniforms, with the high collars and separate jackets, instead of the onesies of the first two seasons. The new look of the uniforms makes a huge difference in the visual style of the show. It makes everything look, I dunno, classier. However, it should be noted that these are early variants of the familiar post-season-two uniforms, with seams on the front, and a tighter fit on the actors. 

And, while the Riker Maneuver (where Riker swings a leg over a chair as he sits down in it) had already been introduced, some time ago, this episode finally introduces the legendary Picard Maneuver (where Picard tugs down on his uniform jacket after arising from a chair), although it's actually a reverse Picard Maneuver, here. He does it after he sits down, early in this episode.

There's also the welcome return of Gates McFadden as Beverly Crusher. Not that there was anything wrong with Pulaski, but Crusher/McFadden is just so much more of a natural fit with the cast and the characters. She also seems much more at ease then she did during that troubled first season. 

And, perhaps most importantly, this episode introduces the writing of Michael Piller, who would quick become TNG's head writer. The writing style now feels very much what I think of, when I think of TNG. We get our first "Initiate a Level One diagnostic" dialogue in this episode, after all.

Anyway, this is a rather ho-hum episode with some good moments, but it never quite comes together. Dr. Stubbs was intended to represent what Wesley might become if he didn't loosen up and focus on more than his work, but that thematic idea never quite reaches fruition. The nanites never quite come across as a proper threat/ethical dilemma. They cause some trouble, make an agreement with Picard, and get a planet to evolve on. This one feels like a fairly standard bottle episode, although there are some gorgeous model shots of the Enterprise-D and the binary stars.

And, as with "Peak Performance", seeds are again laid for the coming Borg threat, when the nanites cause the ship's computer to simulate an attack. 


Edited by Greg Kirkman on 08 November 2017 at 12:59am
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Ted Downum
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Posted: 08 November 2017 at 8:54am | IP Logged | 18 post reply

Greg Kirkman: "Not that there was anything wrong with Pulaski, but Crusher/McFadden is just so much more of a natural fit with the cast and the characters."

*****

I totally agree, Greg, but I was a little sorry to see Dr. Pulaski go--and not just because, as an original-series fan, I had some natural loyalty to the wonderful Diana Muldaur. Even though she sometimes came across as a little too transparently McCoy-like, with the transporter aversion and the reflexive crustiness, I thought her older, saltier character made for an interesting contrast to some of the younger regulars. It might have been interesting to see Pulaski develop relationships with Data and Worf over the course of more than one season.





Edited by Ted Downum on 08 November 2017 at 8:54am
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 08 November 2017 at 9:03am | IP Logged | 19 post reply

Exactly.
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Jack Bohn
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Posted: 08 November 2017 at 11:54am | IP Logged | 20 post reply

Halfway through "Shades of Gray" the thought came to me that they'd killed Tasha Yar first season... Riker might not make it. That kept me watching the first time.

Spoilers...
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Steve De Young
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Posted: 08 November 2017 at 2:44pm | IP Logged | 21 post reply

Crusher was pretty much a character with tons of unrealized potential that just got wasted.  Pulaski seemed to me to just be Muldaur trying to do a Bones impression.  McCoy being irascible toward Spock came across as ribbing grounded in what was really a deep respect.  Pulaski's constant potshots at Data just seemed mean-spirited, because there wasn't any sense of history there. 
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Steve De Young
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Posted: 08 November 2017 at 2:47pm | IP Logged | 22 post reply

finally introduces the legendary Picard Maneuver
-------------------------------------------------
Would him fiddling with that crystal being Picard Maneuver Squared?
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 08 November 2017 at 3:54pm | IP Logged | 23 post reply

Crusher was pretty much a character with tons of unrealized potential that just got wasted.  Pulaski seemed to me to just be Muldaur trying to do a Bones impression.  McCoy being irascible toward Spock came across as ribbing grounded in what was really a deep respect.  Pulaski's constant potshots at Data just seemed mean-spirited, because there wasn't any sense of history there. 
++++++++

As I've noted, there was a lot of inherent dramatic potential in the whole "The wife and son of a friend who died because of my order are now on my ship" situation, which was squandered. Also, Stewart and McFadden were both under the impression that there was were unspoken feelings between Picard and Dr. Crusher, but a lot of that stuff was downplayed and/or left on the cutting room floor. Early on, it was intended to be a running joke, with Crusher always about to say "You know, Jean-Luc, there's something I always wanted to tell y--", only to be cut off by some dramatic/action moment.

As for Pulaski, well, there's another case of wasted potential. Aside from the obvious attempt to create a new McCoy-type character, there were any number of wasted opportunities to really build a rapport between her and the other characters. Like I said, how much more interesting would "The Measure of a Man" have been if Pulaski had been forced into serving as the prosecution, what with her running criticism of Data, up to that point? 

There are seeds of Pulaski's character growth throughout the second season, with her becoming more and more of a friend and booster for Data, but it never quite came together, unfortunately. As you note, the whole Spock/McCoy relationship was rooted in mutual respect and genuine friendship, whereas here, we could have seen Pulaski genuinely dislike Data at the start, and then grow to develop legitimate respect and friendship. Again, that seems to be where they were trying to go, but it didn't quite gel.


And, interestingly, I just listened to the MISSION LOG interview with Marina Sirtis, and she mentioned at one point that Muldaur said when they first met that she probably wouldn't be there beyond one season. Whether that was a statement of intent on Muldaur's part, or her voicing knowledge of some behind-the-scenes workings, Sirtis wasn't sure.
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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 08 November 2017 at 10:18pm | IP Logged | 24 post reply

"Shades of Grey" is hilarious for the ways Riker's Beard magically reappears and vanishes from his memories.


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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 09 November 2017 at 1:21am | IP Logged | 25 post reply

"The Ensigns of Command".


A nice, juicy moral dilemma is at the center of this one, with a human colony of 15,000 people in danger of being wiped out unless it's relocated. Shades of Native American genocide in the plot, but that allegory never really goes anywhere, thematically. It basically comes down to Data having to eschew android logic and elicit an emotional response from the people. Data's attempts to convince the people to evacuate are probably the least interesting part of a solid episode with an otherwise meaty premise.

I found the stuff with Picard The Negotiator way more interesting, in no small part because we're now really starting to see Patrick Stewart in his element, with the mix of big, dramatic speeches and small moments of dry humor. 

Huge blooper in this episode, too: Geordi and O'Brien are still transporting test cylinders to see if they can overcome the effect of the radiation which is preventing the evacuation of the colony...after the Enterprise-D has left orbit, and is traveling at warp to intercept the Sheliak ship. Ummm....


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