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[TNG] Jammer's Review: The Complete Second Season

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Star Trek: The Next Generation Jammer s Reviews of the Complete Second Season For episodes airing from 11/21/1988 to 7/17/1989 Series created by Gene
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 12, 2006
      Star Trek: The Next Generation
      Jammer's Reviews of the Complete Second Season

      For episodes airing from 11/21/1988 to 7/17/1989
      Series created by Gene Roddenberry
      Executive producer: Gene Roddenberry

      Reviews by Jamahl Epsicokhan

      "The Child" -- Air date: 11/21/1988. Written by Jaron Summers & Jon Povill
      and Maurice Hurley. Directed by Robert Bowman.

      As the Enterprise embarks on yet another humanitarian mission to stop yet
      another deadly plague, a strange and unexpected thing happens in
      mid-journey: Counselor Troi announces she's pregnant. "Who's the father?"
      Riker asks accusingly. "There is none," Troi responds.

      The height of this episode's wit comes with a funny-in-its-savageness remark
      by Worf, whose utterly pragmatic Klingon-security-officer response to this
      mysterious, alien-influenced immaculate conception is simply that it must be
      terminated at once in order to wall off all possible risk. (Just think of
      how this could've been the ultimate launching-off point for an
      abortion-debate episode. Never mind.) The story's sci-fi gimmick is that the
      pregnancy proceeds at a vastly accelerated rate, such that Troi is giving
      birth to a son named Ian by the second act. The baby's accelerated growth
      proceeds from there, and Ian is an eight-year-old boy within 24 hours.

      The problem with this story is that it has far too little curiosity in Ian
      or Troi (for most of the episode, their mother/son scenes meander with
      precious little original insight or interest), and far too much curiosity in
      the technobabble subplot, involving a deadly substance sealed in a container
      for transport to another facility. Some mysterious radiation is causing the
      seal to crack; if the substance gets out, everyone on the ship will die. The
      tedious tech details of the radiation, the leak, and the resulting threat
      drag on needlessly long, causing all interest to drain from the story.

      And what about Ian? The story doesn't deal with him nearly enough, until the
      closing scenes where we learn he's the source of the mysterious radiation,
      and that he was born to Troi to learn about the human life cycle. Ian's
      self-sacrifice (or a reversion to his true energy state, if that's the same
      thing) makes for a good emotional scene that Marina Sirtis delivers on, but
      the sci-fi themes are familiar.

      The episode's serviceable supporting material surrounds Wesley's question of
      whether to join his recently reassigned mother at Starfleet Medical, the
      introduction of the abrasive new McCoy-wannabe Dr. Katherine Pulaski (Diana
      Muldaur), and Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) as the bartender of Ten-Forward, the
      Enterprise's new (or at least previously unseen) refreshment lounge.

      Rating: **

      "Where Silence Has Lease" -- Air date: 11/28/1988. Written by Jack B.
      Sowards. Directed by Winrich Kolbe.

      The Enterprise is swallowed into a mysterious void, and every likely means
      of escape turns out to be a hopeless cause. It's surprisingly intriguing and
      entertaining, much more so than I remembered. The early stages might best be
      described as "sci-fi procedural," where the story elements are played for
      their mystery value and overall atmosphere. The episode doesn't get overly
      worked up about the strange things going on, but simply observes the
      Enterprise crew as they try to solve the dilemma. This laid-back approach
      (with danger implied rather than explicit) somehow makes the episode more

      All the usual solutions fail: They deploy a beacon, travel away from it as
      far as they can, only to arrive upon it again, as if they were running in
      circles. When holes in the void appear and offer an escape, they then
      suddenly seal at just the last moment, as if on purpose. When the
      Enterprise's sister ship, the USS Yamato, appears, Riker and Worf beam over
      to investigate, but find an empty vessel and a variety of funhouse tricks
      and illusions. This leads to a humorous sequence where Worf gets fed up and
      goes on a rampage: "This ship has one bridge! One bridge! One Commander
      Riker! One bridge!" And Riker has had it too: "Let's put all this
      *technology* to work and get the hell out of here!" It's fun to see the TNG
      characters lose their cool.

      Ultimately, the Enterprise crew realizes they're being toyed with ("Rats in
      a maze," Pulaski observes) in an experiment by a superior intelligent being
      that calls itself Nagilum (Earl Boen, obscured by visual effects). What
      doesn't work, alas, is Nagilum himself; as alien designs go he's an exercise
      in stunning hokiness. Furthermore, his revealed agenda -- to understand
      human death by killing half the crew -- strikes me as manufactured for the
      sake of jeopardy. If Nagilum is so smart, why does he need to kill half the
      crew to understand death? Nagilum's first victim would've been Wesley -- if
      not for the fact that Wesley is conveniently away from his post during
      *only* the scene where someone needs to die. Standing in for him is a Black
      Guy in a Thankless Role, whose sole purpose is to be killed. This red-shirt
      death is so blatantly transparent that it possibly outdoes every red-shirt
      death on the original series.

      Not willing to be killed one by one, Picard and Riker arm the self-destruct
      sequence. Awaiting The End, Picard has a fascinating speech on the
      philosophies of death that's an example of Trekkian dialog at its finest.
      It's enough to convince Nagilum to release the ship, which only fuels my
      belief that his whole death experiment was a pointless enterprise.

      Rating: ***

      "Elementary, Dear Data" -- Air date: 12/5/1988. Written by Brian Alan Lane.
      Directed by Robert Bowman.

      Dr. Pulaski, ever the Bones clone looking for a Bones/Spock dynamic,
      challenges Data to an exercise in human improvisation: solve a Sherlock
      Holmes-style mystery that was not covered in the original source material.
      Is he capable of human insight beyond the Boolean logic of computer
      hardware? Geordi instructs the holodeck computer to create an original
      mystery with an adversary capable of defeating Data in a duel of wits.

      Again we venture into the world of the period costume piece, a la first
      season's "The Big Goodbye," and like that episode, this one takes its time
      getting up to speed. I could've done with a little bit less of the Sherlock
      Holmes material and more of the sci-fi stuff. I think the story also makes a
      mountain of a molehill where Geordi's "slip of the tongue" is concerned.
      (Who cares if he instructed the computer to create an adversary that could
      "beat Data" as opposed to the fictional Holmes? The computer's sentient
      capability is the issue, not whether misspeaking one word can, or even does,
      cause it.)

      Fortunately, the destination of "Elementary, Dear Data" is well worth the
      wait, and builds on the one moment of inspiration that "The Big Goodbye" had
      going for it: the idea that a computer program could become self-aware and
      grow beyond what it was designed to do. In this case, the intellect of
      Professor Moriarty (Daniel Davis) grows beyond the holodeck's parameters and
      is able to witness and participate in events outside its programming. The
      scene where he calls for the arch is an intriguing moment: We find ourselves
      asking, what does this mean? When he eventually is able to tie into the
      Enterprise's computer system and start shaking the ship, he gets Picard's

      What I like about this episode is its TNG sensibility. I could see Star Trek
      today using this as a gimmick solely for an action plot, but in 1988, the
      story exhibits a genuine curiosity about who Moriarty is now that he knows
      he's not part of the world he was created for. Picard and Moriarty have an
      exchange of dialog that's also an exchange of *ideas*, and they reach a
      peaceful resolution. It says a lot that Moriarty is willing to put his fate
      entirely in the hands of someone who could simply order his destruction in
      the interests of safety. But TNG was really about seeking out new forms of
      life, and this story highlights the series practicing what it preaches.

      Rating: ***

      "The Outrageous Okona" -- Air date: 12/12/1988. Teleplay by Burton Armus.
      Story by Les Menchen & Lance Dickson and David Landsberg. Directed by Robert

      I'll start with the good part, which earns the episode its points: The
      B-story involving Data following Guinan's advice to learn humor and taking
      lessons from a holographic stand-up comic (Joe Piscopo) ends up working
      reasonably well. Joe Piscopo isn't funny in these scenes, but Data is by
      definition an inspired straight man to a (would-be) comic persona. The scene
      where he gives his performance to an audience that laughs no matter what he
      does is both funny and sad; Data simply doesn't understand humor and maybe
      never will.

      As for the main story, it's one of the most hoary and forgettable things in
      TNG's run. The Enterprise rescues Captain Okona (William O. Campbell;
      where's Bruce Campbell when you need him?) from his disabled ship. Okona
      spends his time aboard the Enterprise making high-spirited jokes, hitting on
      women, and in general being the type of Personality that requires a capital
      letter. (Wesley idolizes him ... which makes Wesley an even bigger nerd than
      I thought.) I suppose nothing says "swashbuckling scoundrel" like a ponytail
      and a three-day beard. One woman taken by Okona's charms is Teri Hatcher --
      yes, Teri Hatcher -- whom Okona beds in record time.

      The plot is a pedantic bore masquerading as light comedy. Okona is either in
      the middle of or the cause of a dispute between two feuding families. Is he
      the father of the pregnant girl whose father is really mad? Did he steal the
      crown jewel from the other family? Or is there something else here going on
      involving hopeless rehashed scraps of "Romeo and Juliet"? The episode makes
      it impossible for us to care, particularly in the awful climactic scene
      where all the parties are aboard the Enterprise and the air is finally
      cleared -- in one of the worst-acted and worst-directed scenes I can
      remember on this series.

      Rating: *1/2

      "Loud as a Whisper" -- Air date: 1/9/1989. Written by Jacqueline Zambrano.
      Directed by Larry Shaw.

      The Enterprise is assigned to transport renowned mediator Riva (Howie Seago)
      to a war-torn planet so he can broker a peace between two warring factions
      trying to overcome 15 centuries of bitter conflict. Riva turns out to be
      deaf, and he communicates through a "chorus" of three telepaths who speak
      for him, each one representing a specific facet of his personality.

      This is an episode that seems like it was sold on a promising concept that
      ultimately no one could build enough of a story for. The early scenes set up
      the story in what by now comes across as formula TNG: lots of exposition,
      some of it interesting, some of it not, all of it taking up screen time in a
      very slow-moving story. Then we get back to the Enterprise where we have to
      sit through another round of introductions to the crew. Given that Riva is
      so well-known, I don't understand why everyone is surprised to find out he's
      deaf. (Maybe because if they already knew, the story would have no excuse
      for its exposition.)

      Riva is very confident in his abilities to broker a peace agreement. So
      confident, indeed, that when a member of one faction tries to sabotage the
      talks by killing Riva's chorus, Riva's confidence is shattered almost beyond
      repair. We then get a series of scenes (too many, in my opinion) where the
      Enterprise crew tries to coax Riva back to the peace process he's supposed
      to be brokering. Only Counselor Troi is able to get through to him, in part
      because of their previous romantic overtures.

      I'm sorry, but the solution just doesn't work. Riva's argument is that
      starting from zero and teaching sign language to both sides will become the
      common ground that will allow the communication and negotiations to
      flourish. Call me cynical, but I find it more likely that someone's going to
      pull out a gun and shoot up the place out of sheer frustration during such
      an arduous process. If these people have been fighting for *15 centuries*
      (shouldn't they all be dead by now?), how is Riva and his simplistic
      solution honestly going to make a dent? I'm all for TNG optimism, but this
      is pushing it.

      Rating: **

      "The Schizoid Man" -- Air date: 1/23/1989. Teleplay by Tracy Torme. Story by
      Richard Manning & Hans Beimler. Directed by Les Landau.

      The Enterprise comes to the aid of terminally ill scientist Dr. Ira Graves
      (W. Morgan Sheppard), in the hopes of documenting his as-yet-unrevealed
      scientific discoveries before he dies. Graves, however, takes a very
      specific interest in Data and spends his final hours with the android. Data
      subsequently begins exhibiting strange behavior, the most amusing of which
      is the delivery of a ridiculous and indulgent eulogy for the recently
      departed Graves ("To know him was to love him, and to love him was to know

      The plot is obvious to us, but not to the Enterprise crew: Graves, utilizing
      his own scientific breakthrough of combining the human brain and computer
      data storage, has transferred his consciousness and knowledge into Data and
      is vying for total control of Data's mind. The crew slowly begins to realize
      that Graves has somehow hijacked Data's personality. One major clue might be
      Graves'/Data's verbally expressed jealousy concerning Graves' assistant
      Kareen (Barbara Alyn Woods), and the ever-increasing size of Data's ego,
      which, by definition, should be nonexistent. I was amused by much of the
      Data/Picard interaction: Watching Data's sly insubordination and
      condescension toward Picard is a source of much of the episode's fun.

      The episode's Serious Human Theme is whether this man Graves can retain his
      humanity now that he has superior android strength and mental abilities. And
      can he plausibly love Kareen, whom he previously admired without revealing
      his feelings on the account of their age difference? The other question is
      about Data's rights as a person, which Graves has usurped by hijacking his
      body. I like that the episode ends with a battle of reasoning between Graves
      and Picard, and that Graves proves Picard's point and is smart enough to
      fully realize that what he's doing won't work. But overall this is sort of
      an obvious storyline, and one that doesn't exploit its themes for what
      they're worth.

      Rating: **1/2

      "Unnatural Selection" -- Air date: 1/30/1989. Written by John Mason & Mike
      Gray. Directed by Paul Lynch.

      In another episode of TNG to feature a deadly disease and the Enterprise
      warping in to the rescue (a reliable Trek cliche not avoided in the first
      two seasons of TNG, to be sure), Dr. Pulaski attempts to find a cure to a
      disease that is causing rapid aging on a Federation space station that's
      perhaps too ironically named Darwin Station. (The disease has already killed
      the crew of an entire starship.)

      In terms of character, I did appreciate the way the story establishes
      Pulaski as a strong-willed personality willing to go to the mat for her
      point of view and for her patients, even if she must risk herself. She
      stands up to Picard and argues the merits, even if it means Picard doesn't
      get to finish a sentence. Picard, always the final authority, but ever the
      diplomat and patient listener, calls her on her penchant for interrupting
      without making a big deal about it.

      Pulaski's medical safeguards fail, and in attempting to find the cure in the
      station's genetically engineered children, she ends up infected herself.
      (The children are actually the cause of the disease because of their
      genetically manipulated immune systems, which create the disease without
      being susceptible to it.)

      I find it very hard to be moved by an episode like "Unnatural Selection,"
      mainly because the episode is too mired in procedure and arbitrary
      pseudoscientific details rather than characters or plot. Also, diseases that
      make people prematurely old are not very interesting. In terms of its sci-fi
      procedural approach, I suppose it's worth noting that the episode makes
      sense for most of the way and the pieces fit together to make a workable
      puzzle -- that is, until the end, where the transporter is used to magically
      restore Pulaski's DNA (and cure the rest of the station's residents). This
      is a perfect example of the tech solving the plot arbitrarily rather than
      any sort of legitimate dramatic payoff. But then that's often the problem
      with tech medical shows like these.

      Rating: **

      "A Matter of Honor" -- Air date: 2/6/1989. Teleplay by Burton Armus. Story
      by Wanda M. Haight & Gregory Amos and Burton Armus. Directed by Robert

      Commander Riker is selected to participate in an officer exchange program
      that allows him to be the first Starfleet officer to serve aboard a Klingon
      vessel. Logically, you would think this would mean a Klingon officer would
      serve aboard the Enterprise, but since we already have Worf I guess that
      would be a redundancy. Instead, we get Ensign Mendon (John Putch), a Benzite
      who is very anxious to please. Mendon's arrogant-seeming personality is
      initially an annoyance before the story demonstrates that it truly
      understands him and allows us to sympathize with his different way of
      looking at things.

      "A Matter of Honor" is TNG at its pro-diversity best. It's a perfect vehicle
      for Riker, providing an opportunity for him to exhibit both cerebral and
      testosterone-driven attributes. Consider the scene in Ten-Forward where he
      samples what seems like the entire Klingon menu: Here's a guy with a strong
      stomach *and* a completely genuine desire to learn about and immerse himself
      in an alien culture. Riker does his homework.

      The scenes aboard the Klingon ship give us the first of the series'
      first-person perspectives into the workings and mindset of the TNG-era
      Klingons (which is to say the Klingons as allies rather than enemies). The
      story makes no mistake about the fact that the Klingons are a very different
      culture with very different values, as in the scene where Riker and first
      officer Klag (Brian Thompson) discuss Klag's father, whom Klag has
      essentially disowned because the father was unable to die in battle during
      his prime. The beauty of "A Matter of Honor" is its ability to find common
      ground between these divergent characters through universal qualities like
      food, humor, and self-integrity.

      The plot throws a complication into this theme when the Klingon crew finds a
      substance eating away at the ship's hull and believes the Enterprise is to
      blame (for reasons that the plot is able to almost make plausible). The only
      thing holding this episode back somewhat is the stubborn, unlikely obstinacy
      of Captain Kargan (Christopher Collins), who seems way too determined to
      attack the Enterprise in retaliation rather than waiting to examine all the
      facts. But I enjoyed Riker's clever response to Kargan's unwillingness to
      listen, and his ability to play by the Klingons' rules in staging his power
      play. Riker's demand for Picard's surrender is classic.

      Rating: ***1/2

      "The Measure of a Man" -- Air date: 2/13/1989. Written by Melinda M.
      Snodgrass. Directed by Robert Scheerer.

      In TNG's first bona fide classic, the nature of Data's existence becomes a
      fascinating philosophical debate and a basis for a crucial legal argument
      and Federation precedent. Commander David Maddox (Brian Brophy), on behalf
      of Starfleet, orders Data to be reassigned and dismantled for scientific
      research in the hopes of finding a way to manufacture more androids with his
      physical and mental abilities. When Data says he would rather resign from
      Starfleet, Maddox insists that Data has no rights and takes it up with the
      region's newly created JAG office, headed by Capain Philipa Louvois (Amanda
      McBroom), who serves as judge. Picard takes on the role of Data's defender.

      This episode plays like a rebuke to "The Schizoid Man," taking the themes
      that were intriguing in that episode and expanding upon them to much better
      effect. What rights does Data have under the law, and is that the same as
      what's morally right to grant him as a sentient machine? Of course, one of
      Maddox's arguments is that Data doesn't have sentience, but merely the
      appearance of such. The episode cleverly pits Riker against Picard; because
      the new JAG office has no staff yet, the role of prosecution is forced upon
      the first officer. Riker finds himself arguing a case he doesn't even
      believe in -- but nevertheless ends up arguing it very well, including with
      a devastating theatrical courtroom maneuver where he turns Data off on the

      Picard's rebuttal is classic TNG ideology as put in a courtroom setting. The
      concept of manufacturing a race of artificial but sentient people has
      disturbing possibilities -- "an entire generation of disposable people," as
      Guinan puts it. Picard's demand of an answer from Maddox, "What is he?"
      strips the situation down to its bare basics, and Picard answers Starfleet's
      mantra of seeking out new life by suggesting Data as the perfect example:
      "THERE IT SITS." Great stuff.

      Still, what I perhaps love most about this episode is the way Data initially
      reacts to being told he has no rights. He takes what would for any man be a
      reason for outrage and instead approaches the situation purely with logic.
      He has strong opinions on the matter, but he doesn't get upset, because
      that's outside the scope of his ability to react. His reaction is based
      solely on the logical argument for his self-protection and his uniqueness.
      And at the end, after he has won, he holds no ill will toward Maddox.
      Indeed, he can sort of see where Maddox is coming from.

      Trivia footnote: This is also the first episode of TNG to feature the poker

      Rating: ****

      "The Dauphin" -- Air date: 2/20/1989. Written by Scott Rubenstein & Leonard
      Mlodinow. Directed by Robert Bowman.

      In what might've been the most inevitable story concept in early TNG annals,
      the overly naive Wesley Crusher falls in love with the lovely Salia (Jaime
      Hubbard), a 16-year-old girl who has been raised from a very young age to
      rule the planet where the Enterprise is now transporting her. Salia is
      accompanied by her grandmotherly-like guardian Anya (Paddi Edwards), whose
      insistence that Salia stay focused on her destined duty (rather than on
      boys) plays like a mission of monomania.

      I could take obvious potshots at the much-targeted Wesley Crusher for the
      sake of cheap entertainment value, but the fact of the matter is that I need
      to accord the character a certain level of fairness. So I'll start with the
      (surprisingly tempered and fair) potshot and then move on to the positive:
      Wesley is too obviously painted as a naïve boy, with that overly anxious Wil
      Wheaton smile and wonderment. (Yes, Wesley is young; does it need to be
      hammered over our heads with zero subtlety? I don't think it does.)

      On the other hand, Wesley's naïvete does make for relevant story material
      and a different point of view vis-à-vis the rest of the bridge crew. The
      Wesley-falls-in-love story is handled with tact and innocence, which I will
      note as being to the episode's credit even as I admit my own personal
      impatience as a more cynical television viewer. I liked a scene where he
      seeks Riker's and Guinan's help, and they end up in a role-playing game that
      ultimately ignores Wesley's questions ("Shut up, kid").

      What I really could've done without, however, is Anya's overprotectiveness,
      which takes on a ludicrous zeal that borders on the laughable. When Anya
      finds out a patient in sickbay has a disease that has an infinitesimal
      chance to infect Salia (on the order of nearly zero percent), she orders
      Pulaski to kill the patient and then turns into a bug-eyed monster that
      looks like it crawled out of a 1950s serial. Way too goofy. And one wonders
      why the Enterprise would even grant passage to such gross, arrogant

      But there are some good character moments here, like Worf's grudging respect
      for Anya as a warrior/opponent, and especially the plight of Salia herself,
      who must forgo the pleasures of living her own life in favor of fulfilling
      her destined responsibilities. (That Salia herself is a shapeshifter is
      almost beside the point in terms of her character's arc.) Guinan's closing
      dialog with Wesley about the mutable nature of love is also fairly

      Rating: **1/2

      "Contagion" -- Air date: 3/20/1989. Written by Steve Gerber & Beth Woods.
      Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan.

      Opening with a great hook, "Contagion" has the Enterprise rendezvousing in
      the Romulan Neutral Zone with its sister ship, the Yamato (established in
      "Where Silence Has Lease"), only to have the Yamato suddenly explode,
      killing everyone aboard. A Romulan Warbird subsequently, and ominously,
      arrives on the scene.

      What happened here? Were the Romulans responsible? And why was the Yamato in
      the Neutral Zone? Yamato Captain Varley's (Thalmus Rasulala) mission was an
      urgent archeological chase, looking for the homeworld of the legendary
      Iconians, an advanced society that went extinct thousands of years ago after
      being besieged by its many enemies. Varley ventured into the Neutral Zone to
      find the Iconian world and their surviving technology, lest it fall into
      Romulan hands. Widespread malfunctions aboard the Yamato, however, made the
      ship virtually inoperable and, ultimately, doomed it to its destruction.
      Varley said he suspected possible design flaws, which leads the Enterprise
      on a hunt through its systems to find its own possible problem. The answer:
      a computer virus infected the Yamato when it was scanned by an Iconian
      probe. The Enterprise itself becomes infected when it downloads the Yamato

      As TNG procedural tech stories go, "Contagion" is a fairly entertaining one,
      with its blend of ancient archeological mysteries, ominous Romulan threats
      (this marks their first real appearance since season one's finale), computer
      tech talk, and sometimes-amusing system malfunctions (the Enterprise as well
      as the Romulan ship become unmanageable messes). The notion of the Iconian
      "gateway" technology is fascinating, even though I found myself wondering
      how an Iconian automated launching bay manages to continue functioning (not
      to mention being so dust-free for the away team) rather than falling into
      ruin after all these centuries.

      What doesn't hold up is the plot advancement surrounding the computer virus
      and the Enterprise's solution, which is to essentially wipe the affected
      hard drives and restore them from backup. In a word: Duh. Shouldn't that
      have been the first course of action? And doesn't the Enterprise computer
      have virus-protection software? I also find it doubtful that the Yamato crew
      wouldn't be able to figure out what was going on when they had just as much
      information as the Enterprise crew. But I quibble on a basically solid show.

      Rating: ***

      "The Royale" -- Air date: 3/27/1989. Written by Keith Mills. Directed by
      Cliff Bole.

      The most interesting aspect of "The Royale" is its math-history footnote
      concerning Fermat's Last Theorem, still unproved in 1989 when the episode
      was made, and still allegedly unproved in the 24th century. Who would've
      guessed then that the theorem, after more than 350 years, would be proved in

      I mention that footnote in an episode that otherwise exhibits almost no
      interest or merit. After the Enterprise crew finds a piece of NASA space
      debris from the mid-21st century and traces it to a nearby planet, Riker,
      Data, and Worf beam down and enter a mysterious building. Inside they find
      an alien representation of a 20th-century casino hotel as based on a
      "second-rate novel" owned by the NASA astronaut that had survived, and used
      as a template by aliens to build him an oasis in the middle of a barren,
      unlivable environment. It makes for a classic TNG Pointless Period Piece.

      The first sentence of the novel was, "It was a dark and stormy night," and
      the episode makes much of the fact that the novel is a piece of trash with
      shallow characters and endless cliches. I suppose this is to cover the fact
      that "The Royale," as an episode of TNG, has shallow characters and endless
      cliches. Seriously, it must've been a hell of a writers' meeting: "Let's do
      an episode that's about bad cliches and lame dialog so we don't have to
      write something that's actually good!" (Apparently, they figured that by
      pointing out that the storyline is dreck, that somehow excuses it.) The away
      team becomes trapped in the hotel and can't escape, for no reason except
      that this is a "Twilight Zone"-style mystery that has arbitrary rules and no
      satisfactory explanations.

      I suppose I could excuse a fantasy show if it were entertaining, but not
      this one. There's no mystery or wonder or suspense, but merely bad cliches,
      pointless guest characters, aimless dialog, and a plodding premise that
      never comes close to justifying its fantasy elements. (And, no, Data playing
      craps isn't enough.)

      Rating: *

      "Time Squared" -- Air date: 4/3/1989. Teleplay by Maurice Hurley. Story by
      Kurt Michael Bensmiller. Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan.

      If "The Measure of a Man" plays as a rebuke to "The Schizoid Man" in terms
      of artificial-intelligence themes, then so "Time Squared" plays as a rebuke
      to "The Royale" in terms of procedural sci-fi mysteries. The crew is stunned
      when they discover a duplicate of an Enterprise shuttlecraft adrift in the
      middle of empty space, and inside the shuttle is a duplicate of Captain

      Strangely, one of the reasons "Time Squared" works so well is because it
      comes fairly early in the series' run, at a point when the show hasn't been
      time-traveled to death. Here's an episode of TNG that is *not* jaded by the
      fact that a duplicate of Picard has crossed through time and brings with him
      crucial information about the Enterprise's near future. The story depicts
      the duplicate Picard as a harbinger; Picard himself is unsettled by the
      sight of his twin lying in sickbay, to the point that early on he flat-out
      refuses to accept that the doppelganger is in fact the same person. When the
      crew discovers the duplicate Picard's shuttle log, they determine the
      duplicate is from approximately six hours in the Enterprise's future;
      there's a disturbing video recording that shows the Enterprise being

      The episode is a triumph of mood and tone, in no small part because of
      Dennis McCarthy's ominous musical score, but also because the crew reacts
      with genuine awe and concern to this bizarre situation. The way the mystery
      is slowly broken down allows us to become fully immersed in the story. The
      notion that the duplicate Picard has an internal biological clock that is
      knocked out of whack is intriguing, even if it is the only such example in
      Trek time-travel annals. The closer to his time we get, the more normal he
      becomes, and yet we always get the sense that he's trapped in an unalterable
      loop where his actions have already been preordained.

      Best of all, the episode is content to let a mystery be a mystery. The
      vortex that traps the Enterprise (which resembles an inside-out tornado in
      space) seems to be governed by some form of intelligence, but the story
      never spells out exactly how or why. And unlike "The Royale," the episode is
      able to make unanswered questions part of its appeal, rather than a
      lumbering mess.

      Rating: ***1/2

      "The Icarus Factor" -- Air date: 4/24/1989. Teleplay by David Assael &
      Robert L. McCullough. Story by David Assael. Directed by Robert Iscove.

      When Starfleet offers Riker his own ship and command, they send his father,
      Kyle Riker (Mitchell Ryan), to brief him on the new mission. The two haven't
      spoken in 15 years, and Riker has little desire to start now. Meanwhile,
      Worf's mood is noticeably brooding, even for him.

      "The Icarus Factor" has a certain amount of guts because it doesn't have a
      plot in the traditional sense and instead puts its trust solely in
      characters getting the job done. It's not a great show, and hardly one of
      the series' most memorable, but I think it's a good one. Kyle Riker is
      portrayed here as a well-intended father who is being made to pay by his son
      for his past mistakes as a parent. Wil Riker has a lot of pent-up anger over
      his mother, who died when he was a young child. As these sorts of
      family-turmoil stories go, this is a passable one that tries to see both
      sides and doesn't make anyone a hero or a villain but simply addresses this
      as a problem faced by both parties. Pulaski has her own insights, as she
      once was involved with Riker's father. The episode is perhaps overly
      optimistic in the way it depicts Riker's forgiveness so quickly at the end
      (either that, or their problem should've been solved years ago with one
      talk), but I suppose that's part of the TNG charm. Also worth mention are
      the Riker/Picard discussions about what it means to command a starship, even
      if it's not something as high-profile as the Enterprise.

      More interesting is the Worf storyline, which gives still more insight into
      his (sometimes-insane-seeming) Klingon warrior code, and how that code
      exists in isolation on the Enterprise. Leave it to the Klingons to have
      something called "pain sticks" as part of a ritual involving the Age of
      Ascension (of which it's Worf's 10th anniversary). I also want to quickly
      mention Chief O'Brien (Colm Meaney), whose profile became steadily higher
      throughout the second season, to the point that he exists here as a
      supporting character right alongside Geordi, Pulaski, and Wesley.

      Rating: ***

      "Pen Pals" -- Air date: 5/1/1989. Teleplay by Melinda M. Snodgrass. Story by
      Hannah Louise Shearer. Directed by Winrich Kolbe.

      In what's another somewhat low-key but palatable episode, Data makes radio
      contact with a young alien girl named Sarjenka (Nikki Cox) on a nearby
      planet, and they become "pen pals" for eight weeks. Data then learns the
      girl's planet is facing an ecological catastrophe that will destroy their
      entire civilization, and now the senior staff must decide whether to break
      (or at least bend) the Prime Directive to save them.

      The subplot involves Wesley being put in charge of a mineral survey team.
      Considering he isn't even commissioned by Starfleet, I can see his
      trepidation about not being respected by those on his team. For that matter,
      I wouldn't necessarily blame those skeptical of his abilities since he
      hasn't had any training. But I suppose part of being brilliant means you
      don't necessarily need all the certifications. Riker's advice to Wesley
      about leadership and authority is surprisingly credible -- even useful --
      despite the fact it sounds like the sort of advice dispensed at corporate

      The central point of interest to me is the fact that it's Data -- the
      emotionless android -- who makes the initial case for Sarjenka's people's
      survival, and that he formulates his argument based on logic but also --
      make no mistake -- based on his own personal feelings. The story paints an
      intriguing paradox: Data might not have any explicit emotions, but he does
      have a sense of compassion for Sarjenka. Just what does this paradox mean?
      How much humanity does Data possess? (It would seem a great deal.)

      In true TNG fashion, there's a scene where the senior staff debates the
      Prime Directive, and this scene is played not as drama or high emotion, but
      as reasoned, intellectual debate based on opinion. Picard ultimately decides
      to save the society but erase Sarjenka's memories of Data -- a solution that
      poses an interesting question (is it right to deny Sarjenka the knowledge of
      the truth?), but at the same time feels like too neat (and tech-contrived) a
      way out of the dilemma.

      Rating: ***

      "Q Who" -- Air date: 5/8/1989. Written by Maurice Hurley. Directed by Robert

      Ah, at last, here's the most absolutely necessary episode of TNG's second
      season. Q forces Picard to hear his request to join the Enterprise crew as a
      guide. In a wonderful dialog scene that gets to the heart of the human drive
      for learning by personal experience, Picard refuses on the grounds that Q's
      presence would defeat the purpose of exploration. (That, and no one likes Q
      anyway.) To prove his point with a twist of the knife, Q hurls the
      Enterprise into an unexplored part of the galaxy (two years away from the
      nearest Federation outpost), bringing the Enterprise into contact with a
      cybernetic alien species called the Borg. (The episode also implies that the
      Borg were responsible for the destroyed colonies along the Romulan Neutral

      The best aspect of "Q Who" is its ability to mix the intellectual with the
      visceral. In other words, it's the best kind of TNG action show, and should
      stand as a lesson to sci-fi shows that are action-oriented: Your action
      works only if it grows from a point of emotion, in this case genuine
      scariness. The Borg are scary precisely because they cannot be reasoned with
      and because their technology is vastly superior to the Enterprise's -- and
      those two avenues are the basis by which nearly all TNG stories are
      typically solved. The Borg have often been described simply as "implacable,"
      and I agree that that's the best adjective for them. They are an implacable
      foe, and we learn that very quickly by their behavior in this episode.

      The industrial-cube design of the Borg vessel is brilliant in its
      simplicity: Here's a society that has no regard for style or aesthetics but
      simply raw function. When they communicate, it's with terse directives; they
      epitomize the laconic. The episode puts good use to Guinan by revealing that
      not only has she had past dealings with Q, but that her people's world was
      destroyed by the Borg, essentially turning them into nomads.

      Because this is an episode of TNG, the crew is still genuinely curious about
      the Borg, as are we. An away team beams over to the Borg ship and we get a
      chance to see their hive-like society, with imaginative visuals and
      production design. The "Borg nursery" is an intriguingly chilling detail.
      Such ominous concepts are all the more interesting to ponder when
      considering the presence of the young and naïve, evidenced here by the cute
      and plucky Ensign Sonya Gomez (Lycia Naff), whose infectious drive to do her
      part as a member of the Enterprise crew is met here only with danger. If the
      show had truly wanted to punch us in the stomach with its dark ambitions, it
      would've had Gomez die.

      The episode plays by its rules. The Borg are a superior and implacable
      enemy, period, and the only way out is through Q, to whom Picard makes an
      urgent plea for help when there are no other options. Q sums it up nicely
      when he says, "It's not safe out here." Indeed, and it's nice to be reminded
      of that by an episode that is equally as visceral as it is curious, and all
      but promises that the Borg will be coming for us. If ever an episode
      deserved to be saved for a season finale in a season that didn't have an
      adequate (or even tolerable) finale, it's this one.

      Rating: ****

      "Samaritan Snare" -- Air date: 5/15/1989. Written by Robert L. McCullough.
      Directed by Les Landau.

      Wesley must complete his Starfleet Academy entrance exams and is booked by
      shuttle to travel to a nearby starbase. Picard goes along with him when
      Pulaski orders him to have heart surgery at the starbase's medical facility,
      for reasons Picard would like to keep as quiet as possible. With Riker in
      command, the Enterprise answers the distress call from a disabled ship of
      Pakleds, a race of humanoids that might best be described as ... slow. Riker
      agrees to send Geordi to repair their engines.

      Our attention is flagged when Worf repeatedly urges caution in answering a
      call from a race the Enterprise knows nothing about. The Pakleds seem
      harmless, even stupid, but it might all be a ruse. Then again, maybe not.
      The fact that they feel confident (as Troi intuits) and not helpless might
      be beside the point when considering their intelligence. Riker finds himself
      managing a potentially deadly standoff when the Pakleds take Geordi's phaser
      and hold him hostage, demanding all of the data in the Enterprise's

      Even though the episode is always watchable, the problem is that the Pakleds
      should never have gotten the upper hand in the first place -- not based on
      what we see of their intelligence. The standoff is created by the
      Enterprise's own shortsightedness: For example, why would they send Geordi
      over with a phaser just so it can be used against him? Besides, I find the
      plausibility of the Pakleds dubious. They're either too smart or too dumb to
      be behaving this way, and for a long time the episode doesn't know which.
      How could they have stolen so many others' technology using similar ruses?
      Somehow, I don't see the Klingons or Romulans caving in to a hostage
      standoff, or even being Good Samaritans that could become the victim of such
      a ruse in the first place. The Enterprise's solution to the problem is an
      elaborate con that proves my point: If the Pakleds are dumb enough to be
      taken in by such ham-handed trickery, they couldn't possibly be able to
      travel through space in the first place.

      The subplot involving Wesley and Picard is actually pretty good, mostly
      because of the issue of Picard's image. He doesn't want to have surgery on
      the Enterprise -- and, for that matter, his whole dilemma involving his
      artificial heart is established with a wonderfully told piece of backstory
      that brings a whole new dimension to his character.

      Rating: **1/2

      "Up the Long Ladder" -- Air date: 5/22/1989. Written by Melinda M.
      Snodgrass. Directed by Winrich Kolbe.

      "Sometimes you just have to bow to the absurd," says Picard. Not me. Not for
      this episode. Here lies a colossal mess of a show, mixing serious (albeit
      unrealized) science fiction with broad, less-than-funny comedy. The
      Enterprise comes to the rescue of two long-lost Earth colonies from a single
      ship that was launched in the early 22nd century. One colony lives on a
      planet as anachronistic farmers with no technology; the other lives on
      another planet completely reliant on technology, with cloning having
      replaced sexual reproduction (which they now find "repugnant").

      Let's start with the need to make the primitive colony into broad Irish
      caricatures: What was the point? It's supposed to be funny, but it ends up
      providing nothing but annoying stereotypes. The community leader, Danilo
      O'Dell (Barrie Ingham), is purely a grotesquery of himself. His daughter,
      Brenna (Rosalyn Landor), is immediately a target and conquest for Riker, for
      reasons completely unknown to the plot and the characters. Why do they hook
      up? Okay, it provides a reason for Brenna to start taking off her clothes
      (which I suppose was fun for me at age 13 when this show originally aired),
      but that's about it. Some of the Worf Ultimate Straight Man humor works to a
      degree ("Then you would suffocate and die"), as well as his honor-bonding
      with Pulaski near the beginning.

      At about the midway point the episode pulls a 180 by following the serious
      story of the modern colony and its cloning procedures. They need a new
      infusion of DNA to survive and want the Enterprise crew members to
      volunteer. This leads to some interesting ideas about the nature of
      individuality amid cloning, and one particularly attention-getting scene
      where Riker destroys two developing clones of himself and Pulaski that were
      obtained illegally; in the right writer's hands, this could've been a
      provocative rape-victim/abortion allegory. As it is, the whole storyline is

      The solution proposed at the end is hammered together as an exercise in
      convenient TNG ultra-simplicity. Because the hour is over, the problem must
      be solved using the available variables at hand, with no parts left over.

      Rating: *1/2

      "Manhunt" -- Air date: 6/19/1989. Written by Terry Devereaux. Directed by
      Robert Bowman.

      Lwaxana Troi comes aboard the ship in the midst of a Betazoid phase that's
      equivalent to a human woman's menopause, with the Betazoid side effect being
      the quadrupling (or more) of her sex drive. Lwaxana begins romantically
      pursuing Picard, which forces him to go into hiding in the holodeck novel
      world of Dixon Hill in order to avoid her, while avoiding offending her.

      "Manhunt" has got to be one of the most padded-out, pointless filler
      episodes in the entire series' run (with the obvious exception of "Shades of
      Gray," which we'll get to shortly). It wants to be a comedy with no hard
      plot -- which is fine in concept -- but the comedy scenes aren't funny
      enough and are padded to embarrassing length with meandering material that
      simply goes nowhere and accomplishes nothing.

      It's starts out reasonably, with Lwaxana being her usual attention-starved
      self -- and not even in an off-putting way; she's kind of a likable
      motormouth. Picard becomes her unwitting one-on-one dinner guest in a
      situation he didn't expect. His solution is to invite Data to fill the
      awkward pauses. Not a bad comic concept. But the longer the episode goes on,
      the more tiresome and pointless it grows, until by the end we're positively
      baffled: What is the point of all this? The answer is: There isn't one. This
      is an episode about behavior (I'm at a loss to qualify "behavior" with a
      useful adjective) put to no purpose.

      There are scenes in the holodeck that exist simply to fill time and
      accomplish nothing the least bit important to anything. They aren't nearly
      interesting or fun enough to distract from the fact they're pointless. This
      whole episode is utterly inexplicable.

      Rating: *

      "The Emissary" -- Air date: 6/29/1989. Teleplay by Richard Manning & Hans
      Beimler. Story by Thomas H. Calder. Directed by Cliff Bole.

      Starfleet sends the Enterprise on an urgent mission to rendezvous with a
      special emissary with crucial information, and it turns out the emissary is
      the half-human, half-Klingon woman K'Ehleyr (Suzie Plakson, appropriately
      tall and formidable, but also personable), who was involved in some
      mysterious way with Worf six years earlier. Worf is not pleased to see her.

      I gotta say: I *wanted* to like this episode -- with its Worf character
      development, Klingon angst that turns to Klingon sex, and, of course, Suzie
      Plakson -- but ultimately it just doesn't work. K'Ehleyr briefs the
      Enterprise staff on the situation: A Klingon ship whose crew has been in
      stasis for the past century (and thus still thinks the Klingons are at war
      with the Federation) is about to awaken, and the Enterprise may be the only
      ship close enough to stop them before they unleash a fury of terror on
      nearby Federation colonies. I find this plot just a little bit ludicrous.
      The Klingons of the old era are seen as not merely aggressive, but also
      apparently as mindless drones -- and besides, where would the honor be in
      destroying colonies with minimal defenses?

      More interesting is the backstory that surrounds Worf and K'Ehleyr; they had
      an unconsummated relationship six years ago, and they haven't spoken since
      the relationship ended. This episode establishes Worf's attitude on
      relationships, which is that they must be taken seriously -- as seriously
      as, say, a heart attack. K'Ehleyr, unlike Worf, has an outward sense of
      humor, but pursuant to all Trekkian characters who are trapped between
      cultures, she struggles with her Klingon temper. Unfortunately, the
      Worf/K'Ehleyr bickering is not performed well enough to transcend cliche.

      The high point of the episode comes when K'Ehleyr uses Worf's holodeck
      exercise program and Worf joins her in a battle that turns to (apparent)
      heated sex. I guess one of my problems with the episode is that the sex and
      its aftereffects are kept so far off the screen that it's something of a
      letdown. The episode tiptoes around the word "sex" so carefully that it
      doesn't seem like the characters actually had it. Worf's attitudes on sex
      are the same as everything else -- he takes it as a deadly serious
      enterprise that must end in marriage (which K'Ehleyr doesn't want) and
      doesn't seem to know what fun is. You've got to admire his personal code.

      Worf also gets his "first command" in a scene of trickery that persuades the
      Klingon ship to stand down. Unfortunately, like a lot of the episode, the
      concept is better than the execution, which feels forced.

      Rating: **1/2

      "Peak Performance" -- Air date: 7/10/1989. Written by David Kemper. Directed
      by Robert Scheerer.

      As a result of the Borg threat (a nice little nod to continuity, that),
      Starfleet orders Picard and Riker to go head-to-head in a simulated battle
      as part of a new program to develop tactical skills among Starfleet crews,
      which Picard notes "is not a military organization." Along to observe is
      brilliant war strategist Kolrami (Roy Brocksmith), from a race of strategy
      masterminds that no one has dared challenge for centuries. In an observant
      detail of one sizing up someone else, Worf says the lack of any direct
      challenge essentially invalidates the reputation. (The theme of the show is
      sizing up people and situations.) Riker takes command of the derelict USS
      Hathaway to oversee a crew of 40, hand-picked from the Enterprise. He and
      his crew must improvise a way to compete in a battle where they are
      outmanned, outgunned, and, well, out-everythinged.

      I enjoy stories about tactics and cunning, and this is a good one from TNG.
      One tactic involves Wesley playing the innocence routine "to shut down a
      science project" in order to steal some antimatter from the Enterprise.
      Another involves Worf creating an illusion that looks like something real (a
      Romulan Warbird) in an environment that's supposed to be all simulated.

      There's also a subplot where Pulaski sets up a match of Strategema between
      Data and the arrogant Kolrami (Pulaski hopes to deflate Kolrami's ego), and
      Data ends up *losing*. This sends Data on an over-analytical search through
      his systems to find the "problem." The scene where Picard sets him straight
      is classic Picard -- thoughtful, firm, reassuring.

      The show's plot twist is that a real Ferengi ship shows up in the middle of
      the simulation and opens fire on the Enterprise, leading to a real test of
      improvised tactics. Armin Shimerman makes another appearance here as yet
      another Ferengi. (Another cameo I found amusing was by Glenn Morshower --
      the always reliable Aaron Pierce on "24" -- as Ensign Burke.) Honestly, I
      could've done without the Ferengi altogether. The episode cunningly
      distracts us: By having the Ferengi interrupt the war games between Picard
      and Riker, the story doesn't have to offer up a resolution in which one of
      them actually wins. I for one am curious: Who would've won this battle
      simulation, and what would that have meant?

      Perhaps the only satisfactory outcome would've been a draw. The story saves
      that for the Strategema rematch between Data and Kolrami. The payoff has
      Data saying, "I busted him up," which goes down (or at least should) as a
      classic Data line.

      Rating: ***

      "Shades of Gray" -- Air date: 7/17/1989. Teleplay by Maurice Hurley and
      Richard Manning & Hans Beimler. Story by Maurice Hurley. Directed by Robert

      Worst. Finale. Ever. I might as well get it out of the way and call it the
      most pointless episode of TNG ever made. Honestly, was this episode even
      meant to be taken seriously, or were the creators as hopelessly desperate to
      fill the hour as it looks? Part of me thinks it's unfair to even assign a
      star rating to a clip show, but I'm going to do it anyway and assign it,
      let's see, no stars. (I suppose every Trek series has to have one.)

      Not only are the choices of clips mostly bad (not that they had much to
      choose from at this point), the framing device is terrible: Riker is
      infected with parasites on an away mission, and the only way to keep them
      from destroying his brain are to combat them with endorphins by triggering
      his memory. His memories, of course, are all clips from previous first- and
      second-season episodes of the show. How convenient. Or, for us,

      One nice aspect of this episode is that it took me about 25 minutes to watch
      on DVD because of the fast-forward button and the fact that I've seen all
      these other episodes in the last few months and don't feel obligated to
      watch excerpts again. (I can't imagine watching this episode again *without*
      a fast-forward button.) But, for the record, the clips are from the
      following episodes, in this order: "The Last Outpost," "Encounter at
      Farpoint," "The Dauphin," "The Icarus Factor," "Justice," "11001001," "Angel
      One," "Up the Long Ladder," "Skin of Evil," "The Child," "A Matter of
      Honor," "Conspiracy," "Symbiosis," "The Last Outpost" again, "Skin of Evil"
      again, "11001001" again, and "Heart of Glory." And, of course, a montage
      where lots of stuff blows up (including Remmick's head from "Conspiracy,"
      which is almost worth a free half-star by itself, but I'll resist).

      While there are clips from a few good shows, many of the clips are from some
      of the series' worst episodes, and there's no reason to be repeating them.
      The episode's "original material" depicts how happy memories strengthen the
      parasites while painful ones ward them off. The scenes in sickbay with Troi
      and Pulaski employ much unendurable medical babble that seems to be
      repeating on an endless loop. I seem to remember there was a writers' strike
      either before or during this season of TNG. Based on this episode, they
      should've taken more time off.

      Rating: zero stars

      Copyright 2006, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
      Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

      Jammer's Reviews - http://www.jammersreviews.com/
      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...
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