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Star Trek: Myriad Universes – Shattered Light: The Embrace of Cold Architects by David R. George III (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films.

It’s amazing to think what happens if you shift events just a little to the left or a little to the right. Part of what’s most fascinating about David R. George III’s The Embrace of Cold Architects is that the alternate universe isn’t created by altering the outcome of any major event. Instead, the alternate universe is created by shifting a single date slightly forward in time. Moving one event out of its original context – in this case the conference from The Offspring – and transposing it later into the third season of the show has any number of radically unforeseen side effects.

Of course, this all feels like very clever meta-commentary by author David R. George III. As much as The Embrace of Cold Architects is about shifting around the order of events inside the narrative, it’s also about shifting around the framing structure itself. The Embrace of Cold Architects doesn’t just offer a glimpse of what might have happened had certain events within the framework of Star Trek: The Next Generation occurred out of their previously-established context, it is also about reimagining The Next Generation itself.

Quite a lot of The Embrace of Cold Architects feels like glimpse of an alternate version of The Next Generation, one where the show itself has been shifted so that it might be written in the context of the War on the Terror.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Best of Both Worlds, Part II (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

The Best of Both Worlds, Part II was always going to feel like a bit of an anti-climax. After all, the show had spent so much time building up the Borg as this implacable and undefeatable adversary. In Q Who?, it had taken the interference of a god-like entity to allow the Enterprise a chance to escape their unstoppable foe. In The Best of Both Worlds, Part I, the Enterprise had been able to run for a while – but the Borg eventually caught up with them and took what they wanted.

Since The Best of Both Worlds, Part II was never going to end with the Borg destroying Earth, and since Star Trek: The Next Generation was never going to be a show willing to exact a dramatic cost high enough to justify victory against such overwhelming odds, the resolution to the two-parter was never going to live up to the heightened drama and impossible stakes suggested by The Best of Both Worlds, Part I.

Still, the second part of the adventure is charming and exciting enough that it never completely falls apart. While the resolution to the crisis does seem a little trite and convenient, The Best of Both Worlds hangs together as the show’s best two-part adventure until at least Chain of Command in the sixth season.

A Number One fan?

A Number One fan?

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Ron Jones Project & The Best of Both Worlds OST (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

In 1991, The Best of Both Worlds got a CD soundtrack release. It was incomplete, running just under forty-seven minutes. (Five minutes music would be included on The Ron Jones Project and 2013 would see a release of a more complete two CD set running fifty-five minutes.) However, this was the first soundtrack album released for Star Trek: The Next Generation since Dennis McCarthy’s score to Encounter at Farpoint in 1988.

The music for The Best of Both Worlds is iconic. In the Regeneration documentary included with the blu ray release of the episode, Seth McFarlane jokes about hiring Ron Jones on the strength of that closing sting. The impressive orchestral score to The Best of Both Worlds remains one of the most instantly recognisable soundtracks in the Star Trek canon. And yet it was written by a composer who was on his way out the door.

Of the twelve discs in The Ron Jones Project soundtrack collection covering the episodes scored by Jones, only three include scores for episodes that aired after the second part of The Best of Both Worlds. (And the third-to-last disc only features one episode from the fourth season.) So, what happened?

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 3 (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

The third season is on a very short list of contenders for “the best season of Star Trek ever produced.” Maybe one or two other Star Trek: The Next Generation seasons make the list, maybe the first two seasons of the original Star Trek and maybe two seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. From beginning to end, the third season of The Next Generation hangs together remarkably well, churning out consistently entertaining adventures and several runs of truly classic episodes.

There are two main stretches in the season where the show produces episodes that could legitimately be ranked as the best of The Next Generation. The first comes around the midpoint of the season, from Yesterday’s Enterprise through to Sins of the Father, all episodes that would not look out of place on a “top ten episodes of The Next Generation” list. The second runs from Tin Man through to Sarek. And that’s ignoring the wonderful gems scattered throughout the season, from The Defector and The Hunted through to The Best of Both Worlds.

Of course, one of the most impressive aspects of the third season is the fact that the consistent quality visible on the television screen belies the chaos unfolding behind the scenes. The third season was a deeply troubled year of television, with plenty of unfortunate conflicts and moments of sheer desperation from the creative team. Perhaps the most wonderful demonstration of how far the show has come is obvious in the consistent professional quality of the output.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Vendetta by Peter David (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

Vendetta was published in May 1991, which is an astonishingly quick turnaround for a novel building on the events of The Best of Both Worlds, which was broadcast in 1990. Vendetta is billed as “the giant novel”, in the spirit of Jean Lorrah’s Metamorphosis – the March 1990 novel building off The Measure of a Man and advertised as “the first giant novel.”

It’s offers a suitably epic premise – the Enterprise caught between the Borg and the Doomsday Machine with the fate of the universe at stake.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Best of Both Worlds, Part I (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

So we’re here. It’s the end of the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the season where the show really kicked into gear. After a decidedly uneven first and second seasons, where moments of brilliance blended with hours of tedium, the show had really pulled its act together. Even the weakest hours of the season where still competently produced, the average quality increased significantly and the stronger episodes just hit it out of the park.

The Best of Both Worlds is really just the cherry on top. But it’s one hell of a cherry.

He's looking right at us...

He’s looking right at us…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation (DC Comics, 1989) #47-50 – The Worst of Both Worlds (Review)

This November and December, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

The Worst of Both Worlds, as the name implies, is an excuse to revisit one of the pivotal moments of Star Trek: The Next Generation. (Go on, guess which one!) Unfortunately, it’s not quite up to the task – a failing down to both to the scripts from Michael Jan Friedman and the artwork from Peter Krause. It winds up feeling like an interesting idea, given a rather lackluster execution, working best as a study of the impact that the show’s third season cliffhanger had on the franchise.

A time warp...

A time warp…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Transfigurations (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

In way, what is so interesting about Transfigurations is how incredibly generic the story is. It’s a cookie-cutter Star Trek story, a collection of the narrative elements one associates with the franchise – mysterious aliens, energy beings, metaphors about tolerance and fear of the unknown – all loosely sorted into something resembling a linear story.

There’s none of the cheeky subversive charm from early in the third season. This isn’t a deconstruction of “energy being” stories in the way that The Bonding was a deconstruction of “red shirt” deaths. This is just a straight-up story about an alien species learning an important lesson about tolerance, dressed up in a science-fiction mystery, with a romantic subplot thrown in for Beverly because the show hasn’t really done much with Gates McFadden since she returned.

The result is as bland as you might expect, with a sense that everybody involved was just exhausted by the production difficulties that had haunted the third season, and desperately trying to make it to the hiatus. Transfigurations is nowhere near as bad as The Price or Ménage à Troi. It’s just forgettable and average.

Mellow yellow...

Mellow yellow…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Ménage à Troi (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

So, here we are again. We almost made it. Two episodes away from the series finalé and… boom! Lwaxana Troi episode. Sometimes you just can’t catch a break.

Still, this is the point where we reflect on how far the show has come in a season. Ménage à Troi is hardly the best episode of the season, but then Lwaxana episodes rarely are. We need to compare like with like, to get a sense of how far the show has come along. It’s not enough to say that Star Trek: The Next Generation is a better show when it made Ménage à Troi than it was when it made Manhunt or Haven, but it’s close.

Ménage à Troi is a problematic episode, much like Manhunt and Haven are both problematic episodes. There’s a weird awkward dated quality to the show’s attempts to do relationship humour – a vaguely unsettling sexist undertone about how confident older women are inherently hilarious and its great fun to see them involved in embarrassing relationships. Unfortunately, Ménage à Troi continues that trend.

Two Ferengi walk into a bar...

Two Ferengi walk into a bar…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Imzadi by Peter David (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

As far as tie-in novels for Star Trek: The Next Generation go, Imzadi is the big one. It’s Peter David’s magnum opus for The Next Generation – a wonderfully clever character study that allows David to bask in the character dynamics of the show, while playing with big ideas and grand themes. It’s very easily the strongest Next Generation novel published while the show was on television, and remains a strong contender for the best Next Generation novel ever published.

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