Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season One Retrospective

I'm about to bite off a lot more than I'll probably be able to chew here, but I'm going to attempt to review ever episode from the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. These reviews are going to be very brief, I hope, offering just a small commentary on each one. As far as scores go, I'm going to rate each episode one of three different ratings: Skip it, Watch it, or Buy it, with skip being the worst and buy being the best.

Anyway... let's see how this works out, shall we?

1. Encounter at Farpoint
This was a good pilot episode for what would turn out to be a brilliant TV series. The characters were introduced well, the tone of the series was set, and the story itself was clever and worked as good sci-fi. This was also the first appearance of the show's main antagonist Q, who went on to appearance at least once per season.

When this pilot first aired, I'll admit I found it to be lackluster, if only because it was so much more dramatic and series in tone than the original series, but it has aged incredibly well, not only because it's just a good story, but because the final episode of the series book-ended this pilot so perfectly... but we'll get to that someday. 

Interesting tidbit: This episode featured a cameo by DeForest Kelley (McCoy from the Original Series), setting the standard of having an appearance by a character from the previous series in each new Star Trek show.
Buy it

2. The Naked Now
The crew gets infected by some kind of space virus that causes them to act as though they're drunk. That's the whole story. This episode was based on the Original Series episode The Naked Time. That episode was fantastic, this episode was just silly. It's fun to watch (especially the scene where Data and Yar have sex), but it's pretty dumb and pretty pointless. How did Data get infected by a virus anyway?
Watch it

3. Code of Honor
A Space African kidnaps Tasha Yar in order to add her to his harem. This episode is terrible. Awful story, bad script, terrible acting. One of the worst episodes in the entire series.
Skip it

4. The Last Outpost
The first appearance of the Ferengi, who were originally intended to be the main villains of the series. Needless to say, things didn't turn out as planned. The Ferengi turned out to be a joke, so they immediately became comic interest instead of any kind of major threat. All in all, however, this wasn't a bad episode. 
Watch it

5. Where No One Has Gone Before
I've never understood what happens in this episode. Some scientist and his mystic assistant run tests on the Enterprise in order to see if the ship can go faster, but they accidentally travel halfway across the universe... or something. This was a Wesley episode, so take that for whatever it's worth. It's worth watching if only for Eric Menyuk's fantastic performance as The Traveler, who would later appear a few more times over the course of the series.
Watch it

6. Lonely Among Us
Some aliens try to take over the bodies of the crew. Not much to see here, folks. Move on. Not a good episode, and it's memorable if only because it introduce's Data's love of Sherlock Holmes.
Skip it

7. Justice
Another Wesley Episode. In this one, they visit an idyllic world that seems to be a perfect utopia... until Wesley gets sentenced to death for ignoring a "please keep off the grass" sign. And, no, I'm not making this up. Worth watching if only because all of the girls on the alien world are so good looking. other wise...
Skip it

8. The Battle
Another Ferengi episode, although this one is even worse than the previous one. Some Ferengi captain wants to get revenge on Picard for whatever reason, so they present him with his old ship the Stargazer, only it's boobytrapped... or something. Nobody likes the Ferengi (at least, not until Deep Space Nine made them fun again), and nobody likes this episode.
Skip it

9. Hide and Q
Q is back! He taunts the crew by sharing his omnipotent powers with Commander Riker. Q episodes are always good, and this one was no exception. Good fun, with a great performance by guest star John de Lancie
Buy it

10. Haven
Troi meets the man her mother choose for her arranged marriage... or something. There was some other forced sci-fi B plotline, but I can't remember anything about it. This was a pretty good episode, and it's notable for being the first appearance of Majel Barrett as Lawaxana Troi. It's also notable for having an early appearance by Robert Knepper, who went on to become a fantastic character actor whose name you might not know, but whose face I'm sure you'd recognize. 
Watch it

11. The Big Goodbye
The first "Trouble on the Holodeck!" episode. Picard and company get trapped on the Holodeck as they enact a scene from one of his favorite Dixon Hill mystery novels. Cute episode that doesn't hold up because the story is so dumb. Lawrence Tierney makes a memorable appearance as a gangster.
Skip it

12. Datalore
The crew of the Enterprise find's Data's brother Lore, giving actor Brent Spiner his first of about a million episodes where he gets to act opposite himself in a dual role. Data episodes are always good, especially when Spiner gets to act against type. The sci-fi B plot with the Crystalline Entity makes very little sense, but it's still a fun episode that I always enjoy.
Watch it 

13. Angel One
Riker and his team beam down to a planet where the women are in power. Dumb episode. Beyond the main premise, they had nothing else to work with. Probably the worst episode of the entire season.
Skip it

14. 11001001
The second  "Trouble on the Holodeck!" episode, although this one was a bit more clever than most. Riker and Picard become entranced by Minuet, a Holodeck-created woman who is seemingly too real to be a hologram. This is a very weird, very dumb episode, but it's a hell of a lot of fun. Carolyn McCormick, who played Minuet in this episode, went on to play Dr Olivet in a billion episodes of the various Law and Order incarnations. She's lovely, talented actress.
Watch it

15. Too Short a Season
This episode is notable for starring the guy from that movie Just One of the Guys. Otherwise, this is a pretty forgettable episode about a Starfleet Admiral who takes some drug to make himself grow younger. It's not as interesting as it sounds. This episode was later adapted for the silver screen as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Just kidding.
Skip it

16. When the Bough Breaks
A planet full of infertile beings kidnap all of the children on the Enterprise in hopes of perpetuating their species. This was another Wesley episode, but it was a pretty good one. I like it.
Watch it

17. Home Soil
Some dumb shit happens.
Skip it

18. Coming of Age
There is some subplot involving Picard and Starfleet, but this episode is mostly remembered because Wesley takes an exam for early entry into the Academy. This episode is ok, but it's a pretty simplistic look at the Starfleet entrance exams. If all four or five of this kids are such geniuses, why not just let all of them enroll? I don't get it.
Skip it

SPOILER: That one dies.
19. Heart of Glory
The enterprise is taken over by Klingons, and Worf has to choose between his loyalty to his ship and his fellowship to his Klingon brothers. This was the first Klingon episode of the series, and it's a pretty darn good one. This was back when the Klingons were still cool.
Buy it

20. The Arsenal of Freedom
The Enterprise is attacked by a computer-controlled tech demo that showcases new weaponry. Clever idea and a fun episode, but hardly one of the series's best.
Watch it

21. Symbiosis
Now this is great Star Trek. One planet is afflicted with a plague, one another is the only place that can manufacture the antidote, so the two systems become intertwined and form a symbiotic relationship where any eventual cure for the disease would lead to the downfall of both. Great story, well done episode. I love this one.
Watch it

22. Skin of Evil
The crew beams down to a planet and gets attacked by a tar monster. Seriously. This is one of those episodes that sounds really dumb on paper, but the execution was so good that it's one of the most memorable from the episode. It's just a dark, dark episode with an incredibly evil antagonist, and features the death of a main cast member.
Buy it

23. We'll Always Have Paris
Some scientist doing experiments warping time creates some kind of fissure in the space time continuum so the Enterprise has to investigate. Turns out, the scientist's wife is Captain Picard's old girlfriend! This was a pretty good episode that had Trek's signature blend of clever science fiction wrapped in with a real human story.
Watch it 

24. Conspiracy
This episode is awesome. This was basically Trek's version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers or Heinlein's The Puppet Masters. Space aliens infiltrate Starfleet Command and take over the highranking members, so Picard and Riker have to go back to Earth and kick ass. This is seriously one of the goriest and most disgusting episodes you'll ever see. At the end, the aliens send out some distress signal, but this and their entire race are never heard from again in any Star Trek series, which is a shame because this episode was such a good set up.
Buy it

25. The Neutral Zone
Oh man. I like this episode, but I also kind of hate it as well. The Enterprise finds a ship full of Earthlings who put themselves into suspended animation during the 20th century, or thereabouts. One of them is even a cowboy who sings a little ditty on his guitar. It's funny, but it's also pretty bad. The B subplot has to do with the return of the Romulans, one of whom is played by Marc Alaimo, who went on to play Gul Dukat on Deep Space Nine
Watch it

And that's season one. Not one of the fan favorite seasons of the show, but probably more solid than it gets credit for. The breakdowns are as follows:

Skip it: 9
Watch it: 11
Buy it: 5


Liliana said...
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Sundry said...

I loved everything about "Encounter at Farpoint" except Wesley Crusher. Nothing against Wesley per se; I just loathe any "genius child shows up adults"-type characters. They made me feel like an underachiever when I was a child; and annoy me to no end since I became an adult. The Farpoint episode was a wonderful re-introduction to the Star Trek universe, and the saucer separation was awesome. "The Naked Now" was tiresome, but Yar and Data's hookup was well used in season 2, "The Measure of a Man". I almost abandoned the series after viewing "Justice."

"Haven" introduced Lwaxana Troi, a character I enjoy, in small doses. I heartily dislike "Skin of Evil". I'm neutral about the character who was killed off, although they had some fun reappearances in future episodes. (I love science fiction!) To me, the episode was an angry, public spanking of the actor who wanted off the series, and nothing else. I was irked that an entire episode was wasted just to do that. The powers-that-be could have just transferred the character off the Enterprise, to ... where ever (a la Dr. Crusher for season 2).

Season one isn't my favorite season, yet it is because of being the return of Star Trek to the small screen.