TV Review – Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation Part 8

Ship in a Bottle (original airdate: January 25th, 1993)
Written by René Echevarria
Directed by Alexander Singer

This episode returns to a storyline first introduced in season two. In “Elementary, Dear Data,” the holodeck program for Professor Moriarity in a Sherlock Holmes simulation becomes self-aware. That incident ended with a promise that one day, a permanent form for Moriarity would be developed. Now the program is accidentally released with Lt. Barclay is doing work on the holodeck. This time around, Moriarty appears to have created a way for himself to exist the boundaries of the holodeck and move about the ship. Picard and Data must try to puzzle out if a new form of life has been created or have they been tricked through Moriarity’s cunning.

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TV Review – Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation Part 7

Relics (original airdate: October 12th, 1992)
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Alexander Singer

Every once in a while, TNG would remind us of its roots in the original series. In the pilot episode, Dr. McCoy made a brief appearance. Later, Spock would play a pivotal in an arc that involved the Romulans. Those guest spots were fun but didn’t tug at our heartstrings, definitely not in the way this return would. The Enterprise comes across a Dyson sphere thanks to a distress call from the lost USS Jenolan. Trapped onboard in a rigged transporter stasis is Montgomery Scott, the engineer on the old Enterprise. He’s been kept the same age he was at the time of the accident due to his quick thinking with the transporter.

Once on the Enterprise-D, Scotty is overwhelmed with the changes in technology. I was reminded of his scene in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, where he struggled to work a 1980s PC, believing you spoke into the mouse. Anytime Scotty leaves his particular era, he is a fish out of water, befuddled by the way another time’s technology works. Geordi tries to ease Scotty into life in the 24th century, but the old man gets in the way and is ultimately ordered to leave Engineering. Eventually, Scotty shows his older knowledge and creative thinking is useful when he saves the entire Enterprise crew.

This is an episode my wife admitted made her tear up, and she has not ever been a Trekkie or really consumed a lot of Star Trek media. I think that speaks to the quality of Ronald Moore’s writing that he can evoke those feelings in people with only a passing knowledge of Scotty. When it comes to guest spots by original cast members, this is hands down the best one. The technical aspects of the plot entirely justify Scotty’s appearance without feeling heavily contrived. James Doohan is brilliant at bringing his character back to life and imbuing him with depth and pathos. You genuinely feel the grief of being the last one standing, all your friends are gone, and the world just doesn’t feel the same anymore.

Chain of Command Parts 1 & 2 (original airdates: December 14th & December 21st, 1992)
Written by Frank Abatemarco and Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Robert Scheerer and Les Landau

This is a case of Part 2 being vastly superior to the first installment. The first episode is essential to understand the second, though. It sets up a scenario where Picard, Crusher, and Worf are pulled off of regular duty on the Enterprise to engage in a top-secret mission for Starfleet. Captain Edward Jellico is put in command of the Enterprise, and the first part deals heavily with Riker’s bristling over Jellico’s regimented and harsh style of leadership. It’s okay but not nearly as good as what waits in the second part.

We eventually learn that the mission involves going into Cardassian territory to gather intelligence on a pending attack. That goes south, and Picard ends up captured by Gul Madred (David Warner), a Cardassian who specializes in interrogations. In a similar fashion to the Room 101 sequence in Orwell’s 1984, Picard is systematically broken down. Madred uses the lights in his office as the focus of this torture, forcing Picard to acknowledge over and over that there are five lights when, in reality, only four exist.

David Warner does a fantastic job as Madred; his career had led him to specialize in playing these insidious villain types. The moments between him and Picard are the best of this whole two-parter, full of genuine tension and peril. It’s one of the few times we see someone really get the best of Picard, and you wouldn’t be faulted for worrying if this will totally shatter the captain. My one complaint is that this arc should have more ripples in episodes that follow, the same way the Locutus arc haunted Picard into the feature films. Deep Space Nine became the show that developed the Cardassian conflict more, so maybe because of that, we don’t get much follow up.

TV Review – Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation Part 6

I, Borg (Original airdate: May 10th, 1992)
Written by René Echevarria
Directed by Robert Lederman

With Jonathan Del Arco listed in the cast for the upcoming Picard, I suspect this episode will be of core importance to the events that go down in that series. No matter how important this episode proves to be, it is one of the best of TNG, once again focusing on questions about humanity and dignity. The Enterprise comes across a crashed Borg ship with a single survivor. This Borg drone is brought onboard the vessel and becomes disconnected from the Collective. A debate ensues about whether to load this being with a virus that could kill the species or allow him to develop autonomy.

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TV Review – Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation Part 5

Darmok (original airdate: September 30, 1991)
Written by Philip LaZebnik and Joe Menosky
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

This is probably my favorite episode of Star Trek: TNG because it represents the very core ethos that Gene Rodenberry set out to show the world. The most simple description of this episode is two people who do not share a language must find a way to communicate or they die. The story is so beautifully executed, and I would argue it is a perfect episode.

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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.

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TV Review – The Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation Part 3

The Best of Both Worlds Part 1 (original airdate: June 18th, 1990)
The Best of Both Worlds Part 2 (original airdate: September 24th, 1990)

Written by Michael Piller
Directed by Cliff Bole

Of all the episodes of TNG, these are the two I remember the most vividly. Here was were the procedural nature of Star Trek on television finally got upended, and it felt like this was a world where events could have long-lasting ramifications. While most viewers might see this as an episode about Picard, writer Michael Piller says this is a Riker-centric entry. The emotional core of the episode is Riker’s decision whether to pursue a place as captain on another starship or remain onboard the Enterprise as second in command.

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TV Review – Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation Part 2

Q, Who (original airdate: May 8, 1988)
Written by Maurice Hurley
Directed by Rob Bowman

For its first two seasons, The Next Generation struggled to figure out what it was going to say that would set is apart from the Original Series and the feature films. “The Measure of a Man” was an excellent demarcation point of the showrunners realizing that the exploration of humanity through the story of Data would elevate the series. This episode is monumental because it introduced what is arguably the second element that distinguished TNG, The Borg.

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