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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Manhunt (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.

There’s a strange sense of fatigue as we come towards the end of the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, as if the effort of producing Q Who? has really just drained the show of any ambition or drive. To be fair, there are probably more banal motivations at play. The 1988 Writers’ Strike had taken the entire industry by surprise and has been credited with dropping television ratings by ten percent. It damaged the tail end of the first season, causing an improvised conclusion to We’ll Always Have Paris and is probably responsible for the mess that was The Neutral Zone.

The damage also bled into the second season. Even closing with a clip show, Shades of Grey, the second season wasn’t able to meet the average quota of twenty-six episodes per season. The season premiere, The Child, had to be hastily repurposed from an aborted script for Star Trek: Phase II. Even with the shortened orders, the second season of The Next Generation frequently saw episodes coming in behind schedule and above budget. This is one of the reasons that Rob Bowman, despite being responsible for two of the season’s strongest episodes (Elementary, Dear Data and Q Who?), did not become a regular director.

"It's a good time for nap time..."

“It’s a good time for nap time…”

Behind the scenes, the show seemed to be threatening to pull itself apart. Tracy Tormé and Maurice Hurley were frequently at loggerheads with one another over all manner of issues. Tormé was only allowed to register two pseudonyms with the Writers’ Guild of America, he used both on the second season of The Next Generation, protesting over modifications made to his script. It’s no wonder that the writers’ room pretty much exploded at the end of the season, with both Tormé and Hurley departing. When Michael Piller was put in charge on the third season, he had to pretty much start from scratch.

All of which explains why the tail end of the second season seems so lifeless and limp. The Emissary is really the only second season script with any life in it once the show gets past Q Who? Most of the rest of the season seems to trying to limp across the finish line. Still, even with all of that in mind, Manhunt feels a little mean-spirited. It’s an episode designed to mock at Lwaxana Troi, to reduce a middle-aged woman going through a process explicitly compared to menopause to the butt of some particularly harsh joke. It’s hard to find that all that amusing.

Starlit dinner...

Starlit dinner…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Up the Long Ladder (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.

It’s been a while since Star Trek: The Next Generation has been openly offensive. So, just in case you’d forgotten that this was the same production staff that gave us “Riker beams down to a planet of beautiful women and screws their heads on straight” or “Troi’s womb is occupied by an alien intelligence, isn’t that cute?”, the writing staff have conspired to remind us that just because prejudice doesn’t exist in the 24th century (tell that to the Ferengi!) doesn’t mean that it can’t exist inside a late twentieth century writing room.

Begosh and begorrah! The space Oirish are coming!

"Wait, we're actually filming this?"

“Wait, we’re actually filming this?”

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There Will Not Be Blood: Thoughts on Movie Ratings and a PC Culture…

I feel decidedly behind the times in writing this. After all, the gigantic scuffle over the MPAA’s rating of the documentary Bully seems to have resolved itself, with both the Weinstein company and the MPAA reaching a settlement that both can agree on to get the film distributed with a rating that won’t alienate its target audience. However, I can’t help but feel like this single case of compromise managed to avoid the heart of the issue at question. By allowing this single film to slip through the net, the censorship authority avoid an actual discussion on the role and obligations of a ratings authority. It’ll only be a matter of time before another controversy erupts, and that will undoubtedly be dealt with on its own terms as well, avoiding any actual debate or discussion about how censorship bodies rate particular films.

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Non-Review Review: Fort McCoy

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012.

Fort McCoy is a mess of a film that manages to botch a fairly interesting and compelling premise. Though Eric Stoltz does manage to escape the film with much of his dignity intact, many of his co-stars are not nearly as lucky. Written and directed by, and co-starring, Kate Connor, the movie struggles to find any measure of tonal consistency, as the movie takes basic concepts like cultural identity and coming-of-age drama, only to mangle them by playing to extreme melodrama. Indeed, most of the movie’s problems find expression in a single awkward moment: following the death of one of their own, the German P.O.W.’s at the eponymous camp arrange a funeral profession, which Connor opts to film in slow-motion, treating us to the unintentionally hilarious image of a bunch of mourning slow-motion goose-stepping Nazis. It’s a scene that beautifully evokes all the sorts of complex emotions that Connor was undoubtedly aiming for, but also demonstrates that the film has absolutely no idea how to get them to work together.

The war at home...

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