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TNG Season 1: The Naked Now Ep. 2 January 19, 2008

Posted by Chris in Star Trek The Next Generation.
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 It Seems a Little Early in the Series for Robot Sex But TNG Jumps Right In!

The second episode of the new series picks up where the pilot left off — somewhat shamelessly and awkwardly pandering to the loyalists to the original series.  But this time, the pandering is even more pronounced as this episode is almost a carbon copy of “The Naked Time” from the original series.  Just as in the original series, the Enterprise visits a scientific team that is studying a dying star (actually, it was a planet in the original episode).  The star seems to cause a disease that spreads by physical contact and causes its victims to become extremely drunk.  It’s to the show’s credit that they have the crew realize quickly that they are dealing with the same disease that Kirk and his crew faced.  On the other hand, it would be nice if they built on the original premise somehow.  They don’t.  Instead, just as the original series did, they used the plot as a device to introduce us to some of the personality traits and motivations of the show’s characters — an understandable if not original approach.  Piccard and Crusher flirt their way through the development of a vaccine for the disease, further suggesting a shared romantic past.  Lt. Yar is severely sexually repressed.  Threatened by the prospect of human intimacy, she convinces Data to sleep with her, thereby getting a piece while not having to deal with all the hassle of sleeping with a real person.  Data shows just how strong his desire to be human really is by willfully disobeying his direct orders to take Yar to sickbay and seizing her in her quarters instead.  Wesley reveals more of his genius by first taking control of the ship from engineering, disabling it, and then effecting a last minute repair so they can escape the exploding star. Geordi bad trips on his blindness, showing his deep desire to see like others do, even though his vision is technically enhanced by his visor.

The final words of the episode come from Piccard, who says:  “I put it to you all:  I think we have a fine crew, if we avoid temptation.”  What!?!  So this is the central tension the writers have developed for the series?  It’s supposed to be all about the adventures of a bunch of sexually repressed and/or emotionally-challenged people in the future fighting to stay neutered and professional?  That’s a sucky premise!

TNG Season 1: Encounter at Farpoint Ep. 1 January 19, 2008

Posted by Chris in Star Trek The Next Generation.
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 Deanna on the Jellyfish Reunion:  “A feeling of great joy…”

Me:  “Oi”

So, here I am, watching the TNG pilot again for the first time in years — perhaps since this episode originally aired in 1987.  I remember hating this episode quite distinctly from that first viewing and as I watch it again now, some twenty years later, many of the same things that bugged me then are bugging me again.

First, Deanna Troy is sappy and annoying.  Her first quote of the series sets the tone for her character for the next seven years:  “Captain…I’m sensing a powerful mind!”  Help me, Jesus…

The writers start out by pandering to the Star Trek faithful with several allusions to the old series and it’s lore.  Q’s barrier net that envelopes the ship is reminiscent of the Tholian Web.  The ship’s capability to separate it’s saucer from drive sections was never shown in the original Star Trek, but the “foamer” set will recall this was detailed in the Star Fleet Technical Manual.

Data as a replacement for Spock’s character seemed awkward at first.  While Spock was half-Vulcan, half-Human and exerted considerable effort to suppress his human side, Data is human only in form and programming and exerts considerable effort (by programming, too?) to be as human as possible.  This character trait is presented to us with a “I am superior to humans, in many ways…but I would gladly give it up to be human.”  While Data grew on me as the series progressed, I still have to say that his character seemed like a bit of a cheap attempt to give us Spock without Nimoy.

Tasha Yar starts off on a ridiculous note by talking back to Q in direct defiance to Piccard’s orders to shut up.  Then she proceeds to attack the courtroom guard.  All this makes Piccard look weak — like he doesn’t have control over his own security officer.  This sets the stage for Piccard, who starts the series with a reputation as a hard (though not so effective) and distant commander.  He specifically doesn’t feel comfortable around children, which sets up his relationship with Wesley Crusher (supergenius).

What I do like about this episode is the way they set up the relationship between Dr. Crusher and Piccard.  What is implied but left incomplete is the depth and meaningfulness of their past.  It’s clear that Piccard was friends with Crusher’s dead husband, and Piccard seems to feel considerable guilt about his death.  It seems possible that Piccard and Crusher were romantically involved in the past (infidelity?).  Further along these speculative lines, was Piccard directly responsible in some way for daddy-Crusher’s death, and while murder motivated by romantic jealousy for Dr. Crusher’s affections seems beyond the pale, some less dramatic scenario seems possible.  Again, this is all implied but not spoken.

At the climax of the episode, Piccard et al. figure out that Farpoint Station is actually a creature trapped by the local Bandi people who use its powers to create a city habitat.  On one hand, I give the writers props for developing a plausible explanation for these creatures.  As Riker says, it makes sense that somewhere in the universe creatures would exist that are capable of converting matter into energy and back into matter.  This explains how the trapped, stranded creature on the planet surface was able to transform itself into Farpoint station.  But the sappy ending where both creatures take on their more natural forms as interstellar jellyfish leaves something to be desired.  This impression is solidified by Deanna’s reaction to the reunited jellyfish as, “A feeling of great joy…” CHEESY!  I really detest her character.