Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Four Retrospective

The changes from season three to season three aren't as dramatic as those from the first to the second or the second to the third. Basically, the show found its voice in season three, so season four was just a continuation of the same. This season was a little more uneven than the third, but it's still a great season with some classic episodes.

Let's take a look:

1. The Best of Both Worlds: Part 2
While not as epic as the previous season-ending cliffhanger, this was still a satisfying conclusion that tied up the story as well as anybody could've hoped. Not much to say about this one, other than that it was a good second half to the story.
Buy it

2. Family
Star Trek slows things down a little and lets the characters do some family bonding. After getting kidnapped by the Borg and forced to join their collective, Picard takes some time off from being a Starship captain and stays with his brother's family at their vineyard in France. This is the kind of story where the promos probably said something like, "on a very special episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation..." And it really is, since I don't think there's really anything science fiction about it, other than that it takes place in the future. This is just a quiet, emotional story where the characters (as well as the audience) are allowed to take a break from the excitement and turmoil of the previous episode before continuing on with the rest of the season. This isn't one I rewatch too often, but it is very good.
Watch it

3. Brothers
This episode features the return of Data's "brother" Lore, whom we haven't seen since season one. This episode centers around the reunion of Data, Lore, and their creator, Noonien Soong, all of whom were played by actor Brent Spiner. I like Lore and I always enjoy watching Brent Spiner play multiple characters, so this is a favorite of mine, but it's only worth watching if you're a fan of the show's mythology. There is very little here to entice first time viewers.
Watch it

4. Suddenly Human
The Enterprise finds some aliens who have raised a human kid as one of their own. This is an ok episode that is notable for featuring a cool performance by genre star Sherman Howard. Other than that, it's kind of weak.
Skip it

5. Remember Me
Another Dr Crusher episode. This time around, she's trapped in some kind of space vortex that distorted her reality and made the rest of her crew disappear one by one. This is actually a pretty neat little episode even though it never really makes much sense, nor does it come to any kind of satisfying conclusion. However, it's probably the best of the Crusher episodes and it is pretty entertaining. We also get the second appearance of the Traveler, for whatever that's worth.
Watch it

6. Legacy
The Enterprise visits the planet that was home to former crew member Tasha Yar, who was killed way back in season one when she encountered that evil tar monster. Turns out, Tasha had a sister, and she was super hot. Other than actress Beth Toussaint's body, there isn't much to recommend about this episode. Nobody really yearned for the return of Tasha, so I can't imagine anybody cared about her sister either. But at least she was hot.
Skip it

7. Reunion
This is a Klingon episode, and I couldn't even begin to describe the plot since it deals with the politics of their Empire and has a plot so labyrinthine even Hoggle would have a hard time navigating through it. However, it's also awesome, even if it does give us the first appearance of Worf's son Alexander. This episode also marks the first appearance of Gowron, who goes on to be in about a million more episodes of Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.
Buy it

8. Future Imperfect
Riker gets kidnapped by some lonely alien kid who creates a virtual world where he makes Riker think he's his father. This is your typical things-are-not-as-they-seem episodes of Star Trek, which are always fun but rarely great. This one is worth watching because Riker episodes are always good, but it's not a classic.
Watch it

9. Final Mission
Wesley Crusher gets a big send off with a big adventure where he gets to safe Picard's life after they both crush on some desert planet. Why are these two always going on road trips together? Anyway, this is actually a really cool episode, even if it does center around Wesley, and even if it doesn't end with him getting punched. At last it ends with him leaving the show... for a few episodes, anyway.
Watch it

10. The Loss
Troi loses her empathic powers, for about the four hundredth time. 
Skip it

11. Data's Day
This is a neat little episode that is told through Data's narration, as he writes a letter to Maddox, that guy who tried to take him apart for study way back in season two. Oddly enough, his letter doesn't start off with "Dear, Asshole." This is a good episode that is worth watching, if only to see the wedding of Miles and Keiko.
Watch it

12. The Wounded
Even though he got married in the previous episode, this is the first real episode centered around Miles O'Brien, who became this show's transporter chief, and then went on to fame and fortune as the chief engineer on Deep Space Nine. This episode is about a rogue Starfleet Captain who tries to start a war with the Cardassian Empire, having gone crazy after too many military encounters against them. This is a classic episode, in my opinion, if only for the star-making performance by Colm Meany as Miles.
Buy it

13. Devil's Due
Some planet supposedly made a deal with the devil 1,000 years ago, and she is finally back to collect. This is a fun, entertaining little episode where the crew of the Enterprise steps in and puts the devil on trial. Also, the chick who plays the devil is totally smoking hot.
Watch it

14. Clues
The crew of the Enterprise seemingly get knocked out for a few minutes, but then slowly began to suspect they were out a lot longer than that, and that things are not as they seem. Good mystery story, but not all together a real classic.
Watch it

15. First Contact
Now this one is all together a real classic. Commander Riker is on an alien planet, in disguise as one of the indigenous species. When he gets into an accident and has to be seen by a doctor, they realize he is not one of their kind, and first contact between them and Starfleet is prematurely initiated. This is a fantastic look at the first contact between alien races, and a very thoughtful story with funny dialogue and great performances by the cast, especially the cameo by Bebe Neuwirth as a horny alien who seduces Riker.
Buy it

16. Galaxy's Child
Some alien lifeform that lives in the vacuum of space (not Tin Man), thinks the Enterprise is its mother. This is a perfectly fine Star Trek plot, that is kicked up a notch by the hilariously awkward subplot where Geordie meets and tries to seduce Leah Brahams, the women whose virtual self he met and fell in love with on the Holodeck. Make sure you watch season three's "Booby Trap," before watching this one.
Buy it

17. Night Terrors
The sleep cycles of the crew are interrupted, so they all start to hallucinate. That's about the whole plot, which basically exists just because the writers seemingly just wanted to do a horror story. As a horror story, it works pretty good, since all of the scenes of the hallucinations are very well done. As an over all episode, however, it falls a little flat.
Watch it

18. Identity Crisis
Geordie turns into a giant reptile. I honestly can't remember if this episode was any good or not, but how could I write that kind of plot description and then not expect you to check it out?
Watch it

19. The Nth Degree
Lt Barclay is back! This time, he gets zapped by some alien probe and is given supernaturally high levels of intelligence and artistic skill. This is just a great story that is brilliantly written and astoundingly acted by Dwight Schultz. This is one of my all time favorites.
Buy it

20. Qpid
Q is back! And so is Vash! Ok, that last one wasn't too exciting, but... Q is back! This is the one where Q sends the crew to Sherwood Forrest, where Picard is Robin Hood, Vash is Maid Marian, and the rest of the crew play the Merry Men. This is such a weird episode, but it's hilarious. This is one of the funniest episodes of the entire series.

Buy it

21. The Drumhead
If you had to go ahead and pick the best ever episode from any Star Trek series, this would be as good a pick as any. After an explosion takes place on the Enterprise, Starfleet sends a team in to conduct an investigation, which quickly turns into a witch hunt. This is a good episode about paranoia and conformity gone too far. Jean Simmons guest stars.
Buy it

22. Half a Life
Another Lawaxana episode, but this is actually a pretty good one. Lawaxana falls in love with a man played by the always wonderful David Ogden Stiers who is a member of an alien species whose culture expects him to commit ritual suicide upon his 60th birthday. His newfound love for Lawaxana forces the couple to examine this centuries old tradition. Good stuff.
Watch it

23. The Host
This episode marks the first appearance of the Trill, which are a symbiotic species where an intelligent parasite inhabits a humanoid host body.  Crusher falls in love with a man without realizing his secret, and then when his host body is injured, she has to decide if she loved the parasite or the body in which it resided. This was a brilliant episode that dealt with powerful themes and ideas that were later abandoned by the writers of Deep Space Nine, who had their Trills looking and acting nothing like the ones we found in this story.
Buy it

24. The Mind's Eye
This was basically The Manchurian Candidate. Geordie is kidnapped and brainwashed in order to have him assassinate a Klingon Ambassador. Good episode, but I don't remember too much more than that.
Watch it

25. In Theory
Data gets a girlfriend. A female crewmember develops a crush on Data, so he initiates a relationship with her in order to better understand romance. This is one of my all time favorite Data episodes, and it perfectly runs that fine line between being sweet and being hilarious.
Buy it

26. Redemption: Part 1
This season ending cliff-hanger isn't quite up there with Best of Both Worlds, but it's still a pretty awesome episode dealing with the impending Klingon Civil War. Worf resigns his commission on the Enterprise, choosing to team up with his brother and return to the Klingon Homeworld.
Buy it

Overall totals:
Skip it: 3
Watch it: 12
Buy it: 11

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