TV Review – Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation Part 4

Brothers (original airdate: October 8, 1990)
Written by Rick Berman
Directed by Rob Bowman

To go alongside the theme of Family from the previous episode of TNG, Rick Berman wrote this story that features Data coming face to face with his creator, Dr. Noonien Soong. There’s also a return visit from Data’s brother, Lore, the black sheep of the Soong family. Data episodes are always some of my favorites with a few exceptions, this is one of them.

Brent Spiner is an odd guy, but as Data, he’s very easy to watch acting. When he gets to play Data with emotions or in the case of Lore, Data as a villain, it can some times be cringe-inducing. I don’t know if its because Data is such a neutral character, so his more emotive roles stand out or because he can’t help himself but ham things up to the nth degree. I love the idea of Lore, but the execution of the character has just never worked for me. Spiner isn’t half bad as Soong, but he just nails Data. Lore actually becomes a better villain in a later episode (the two-part Descent we’ll talk about in another post).

There’s a B plot about two brothers aboard the Enterprise where the older one has gotten his younger siblings violently ill from a prank. I suspect we’re supposed to see the parallels with Data & Lore’s story, but it’s a pretty weak side story. Data is remotely commandeered by Soong and takes over the Enterprise to bring it to his creator’s hiding place. This is yet another instance of Picard being locked out of control of the Enterprise, which makes one wonder why there aren’t better security protocols in place. It’s a decent episode but definitely not one of my favorites.

The Drumhead (original airdate: April 29, 1991)
Written by Jeri Taylor
Directed by Jonathan Frakes

My favorite type of episodes in TNG are ones that clash ideas rather than have weird alien encounters. I think having philosophical conflicts and finding entertaining ways to explore them are the heart of what makes a fantastic Star Trek episode. This is definitely one of them, Picard against a senior member of Starfleet and someone he respects. The title comes from the concept of battlefield court-martials held in the 18th & 19th centuries, where justice was rarely served, and innocent people got caught up in Salem Witch Hunt-like violence.

The particular case surrounds the sabotage of the dilithium chamber in the Enterprise’s warp core. Retired Rear Admiral Norah Satie is sent to oversee the investigation and lands on Simon Tarses, a medical officer, as the culprit. Picard objects and stands up for J’Dan when it appears this was just a system’s malfunction. Satie is caught up in the wheels of the investigation and begins expanding her scope and the charges. This results in Picard being accused of multiple violations of the Prime Directive, among other transgressions. Very smartly, writer Jeri Taylor reincorporates Picard’s time as Locutus when Satie tries to bring in Starfleet information he may have unwillingly handed over to the Borg.

One thing I love about Picard is his insistence on challenging the Starfleet brass. I don’t think there was as much of this in the original series, but in TNG, there is a regular refrain that people higher up in the ladder of power get caught up in being near the top and abuse their privileges. There’s a lot here that reminds of “The Measure of a Man,” with Riker being assigned to defend Tarses, flipping him from being the prosecution against Data.

This became a sort of stock episode type, Picard standing up for his principles. We’ll see this again when the captain becomes a prisoner of war in another post. I am suspecting, from the trailers, that Picard is continuing this rebellious streak in the upcoming series. It felt like in movies like Insurrection and Nemesis that a more profound corruption in Starfleet was being hinted at, and I always hoped we’d see a story about the collapse of the organization or at least a major civil war within the ranks.

Redemption Part 1 (original airdate: June 17, 1991)
Redemption Part 2 (original airdate: September 23, 1991)

Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Cliff Bole and David Carson

Significant changes are coming to the Klingon homeworld as Gowron is set to be named the new Chancellor. The rival House of Duras is not happy, and rumors of war within the Klingon culture are being bandied about. Picard and Worf become involved due to their previous connections in Klingon leadership. The Duras sisters, Lursa and B’etor, intervene and pronounce their nephew Toral as the rightful heir to the chancellorship. This leads to Worf being forced to make a decision wherein he leaves Starfleet to fight aboard his brother Kurn’s ship in the ensuing civil war.

This is one of those big stories where a single character gets a major spotlight, Worf. It’s a great piece of evidence to show why this character was brought onto Deep Space Nine. He and the Klingon people have such an interesting culture, and Worf as a man of two worlds is particularly fascinating to watch and explore. The second half of the story is the best as we see Worf tire of the Klingon way of being volatile at all times. He’s much more comfortable the neutral regimentation of Starfleet, so bar brawls amongst comrades stress him out.

There’s also significant lore component here as it’s our introduction to Sela, a Romulan who bears a striking resemblance to Tasha Yar. To the Enterprise, Yar died during the events of “Skin of Evil,” but to faithful viewers, we know she got a second lease on life in “Yesterday’s Enterprise” traveling back decades with the doomed crew of the Enterprise-C. This is just the first seed planted in Sela’s story, one that will culminate in a later two-parter.

Redemption feels like it goes by way too quick with the Klingon Civil War happening mostly off-screen between the two episodes. It reminded me of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, where the Clone Wars are something we jump into at the tail end. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are novels out there about Worf during this period, but I would have loved to had some more episodes with Worf’s involvement in this conflict.

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