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Star Trek – Return to Tomorrow (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

Return to Tomorrow is similar to By Any Other Name in a number of ways.

Most superficially, it’s an episode about aliens in human bodies, who find themselves learning (or, in this case, remembering) how to appreciate all that mankind has to offer. The plot similarity is rather broad, but it seems strange that By Any Other Name and Return to Tomorrow would be produced right after one another, and that no significant effort would be made to space them apart on initial broadcast. (Both aired in February of 1968.)

Leonard Nimoy only gets to smile once a year, so the show makes the most of it...

Leonard Nimoy only gets to smile once a year, so the show makes the most of it…

However, there are more fundamental and underlying similarities between Return to Tomorrow and By Any Other Name. Both are episodes that are very much engaged with the underlying philosophy of the franchise, particularly concerning humanity’s place in the universe. Indeed, there’s an argument to be made that Return to Tomorrow and By Any Other Name both work much better as statements of philosophical intent than they do as stories in their own right.

Co-written by Gene Roddenberry, Return to Tomorrow is a rather generic piece of television, but one that feels like a considered statement of the franchise’s central themes.

"Things are going to be a little different around here..."

“Things are going to be a little different around here…”

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 2 (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.

Although, as Rick Berman argues in the documentary Making It So, the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation “was at least in syndicated ratings terms, extremely successful”, there was trouble brewing behind the scenes. The show lost two-thirds of its regular female cast members, and the season ended with a whimper rather than a bang as the 1988 Writers’ Strike cutting into the development of the final couple of scripts.

The second season was no less plagued by problems, even as the show proved a ratings and commercial success. The show’s writers’ room was in disarray, with conflicts erupting between Tracy Tormé and Maurice Hurley over scripting for the show – leading to the use of both of Tormé’s WGA-approved pseudonyms on consecutive scripts from the writer. Episodes were coming over budget and behind schedule, necessitating a clip show to round out the season.

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Even on the set itself, new cast member Diana Muldaur had difficulty fitting in the cast, and did not wish to return after the second season. Katherine Pulaski would disappear from the show (and the franchise) with little fuss – her last appearance being in the rather disappointing Shades of Grey. While The Next Generation was successful by just about any objective external measure, it had yet to really find its own internal balance.

Still, the second season of The Next Generation did show hints of improvement. The show was finding its feet. While the average quality of the episodes was nothing like what it would become in the show’s third season, even the more middling instalments of the show’s second season (like Contagion or Where Silence Has Lease or Peak Performance) were leaps and bounds ahead of where the show had been in the first season. It was getting where it needed to go, but not nearly fast enough.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (Marvel Comics) #3-4 – The Cancer Within (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.

Poor Doctor Pulaski. She seems to have just disappeared from the canon. First season casualty Tasha Yar seemed to haunt to the show, returning for Yesterday’s Enterprise while her daughter become a recurring foe from The Mind’s Eye onwards. Even Wesley popped back every once in a while following his departure from the series. Pulaski, on the other hand, remains something of a phantom.

Barring an audible reference to her made in the background during the Star Trek: Voyager finalé Endgame, she disappears from the franchise without so much as a peep at the end of Shades of Grey.  She isn’t even referenced by name in the first episode of the third season to air (Evolution) or the first produced (The Ensigns of Command). While Beverly Crusher’s return is used as a plot point for Wesley, we only get the most fleeting of references to Pulaski in Who Watches the Watchers?

While this can easily be explained by the complex relationship that Diana Muldaur seems to have with Star Trek: The Next Generation. She has suggested the atmosphere on set was decidedly unfriendly, so the fact that Pulaski doesn’t return should not be that much of a surprise. What is interesting is the general apathy that the expanded universe seems to have for Pulaski. While even guest characters seem to get their own back stories and development in novels and comics, Pulaski is treated as a decidedly minor character in the Star Trek canon, reduced to guest spots and small appearances.

I like my family reunions generic and bland...

I like my family reunions generic and bland…

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