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Star Trek: The Next Generation – A Matter of Perspective (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.

A Matter of Perspective is a bit of a disappointment. However, it’s a disappointment for the same reason that The High Ground is a disappointment. The third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation is at least trying new things, and playing with big ideas for a syndicated television science-fiction show in the late eighties and early nineties. There is some charm to the episode’s basic premise (Rashomon in space… with the holodeck!”), but the script never quite manages to deliver on that wonderful set up.

Instead, we end up with a show that lacks the nuance to follow through on its central themes, and a mystery that confuses techno-babble for a satisfying solution.

Painting a pretty picture...

Painting a pretty picture…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Déjà Q (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.

Déjà Q is, in a way, the most quintessential of Star Trek: The Next Generation stories, one of the most perfect embodiments of the show’s philosophy. It’s the story about an alien who engages on a voyage of self-discovery, with the Enterprise crew serving as guides. It’s essentially an episode about what it means to be human, and is built upon the fundamentally assumption that being human allows a person the capacity for altruism and self-sacrifice.

It’s easy to imagine Déjà Q turning out unwatchable. This sort of “humans are brilliant!” storytelling was a staple of the show’s troubled first season, leading to episodes like The Last Outpost and Lonely Among Us. However, Déjà Q turns out to be quite the treat. It’s helped by the presence of John de Lancie’s superbly sardonic Q and Richard Danus’ decidedly wry script. Both of these help to temper the episode’s earnestness, leading to a show that is endearing rather than irritating.

Watching Déjà Q, there’s a sense that this is very much what Gene Roddenberry wanted the first two seasons of The Next Generation to be, but – at that stage in its young life – the show was never quite capable of producing something this charming.

Well, he knows how to make an entrance...

Well, he knows how to make an entrance…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The High Ground (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 High Ground is a rather earnest issue-driven episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, dealing with one of the big issues of the day: international terrorism. However, the moral ambiguity of terrorism was a decidedly more contentious and controversial issue in early 1990 than the plight of Vietnam veterans explored in The Hunted or the Cold War politics of The Defector.

The High Ground is an allegory for the Troubles in Northern Ireland at a point in time where the Troubles were on-going. 1990 saw a number of high-profile terrorist actions conducted by the IRA. They bombed the London Stock Exchange in July. Using an explosive device, they murdered Sergeant Charles Chapman in May. Nobody has ever been prosecuted for his death. In February 1991, the IRA launched a mortar attack on 10 Downing Street. So this was the context in which The High Ground aired.

And, to be fair, there’s something admirable about the show’s willingness to engage with a controversial issue, even if the end result leaves a lot to be desired.

Holding hands around the universe...

Holding hands around the universe…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Embrace the Wolf (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. This is actually supplementary to the episode Elementary, Dear Data.

The concept behind Embrace the Wolf is quite ingenious. The execution is slightly less so. Recognising that Star Trek: The Next Generation had a recurring interest in Victorian London, in Data’s interest in Sherlock Holmes, it seemed quite logical to drop Redjac into that scenario. Redjac was the non-corporeal serial killing entity introduced in Wolf in the Fold, one of Robert Bloch’s contributions to the second season of the classic Star Trek. As part of Wolf in the Fold, and playing into Bloch’s fascination with the notorious serial killer, Redjac was explicitly identified as the spirit of Jack the Ripper. As you do

So, pairing up Data’s Sherlock Holmes with Redjac’s Jack the Ripper should make for a decidedly pulpy adventure. Unfortunately, the end result is a little generic and unsatisfying.

Wolf in the holodeck...

Wolf in the holodeck…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Ensigns of Command (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 Ensigns of Command is a Data-centric script from Melinda Snodgrass, the writer responsible for The Measure of a Man. It was the first episode produced in the show’s third season, even if it was the second to air. As with so many third season episodes, The Ensigns of Command was beset by behind-the-scenes difficulties. These issues plagued the episode through all stages of production – from the script through to post-production.

It is a wonder that The Ensigns of Command turned out watchable. While it certainly can’t measure up to Snodgrass’ earlier Data-centric story, it is an intriguing character study that benefits from a focus on character and an understanding of Star Trek: The Next Generation works. While far from an exceptional or defining episode of The Next Generation, it’s a demonstration of how far the show has come that even an episode as troubled as this could look so professional and feel so satisfying.

A fun shoot...

A fun shoot…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Evolution (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.

Evolution kicks off the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and marks the point at which the spin-0ff really comes into its own. It’s remarkable how consistent in quality the third season is, despite the trouble brewing behind the scenes. It’s also remarkable how quickly the show finds its footing after two years of stumbling clumsily in the right direction. Within the first five episodes of the third season, The Next Generation has clearly found its voice.

However, a change is obvious even from Evolution. Michael Piller would take over the reigns four episodes into the season, but he also co-wrote the script to the season premiere. While Piller polished quite a few of the scripts passing through The Next Generation‘s third season, it is interesting that his credited work book-ends the season, setting the tone and leaving a clear impression.

While Evolution is not the strongest episode of the season to come, it does have a much stronger sense of self and purpose than anything that has really come before. It isn’t a bold or ground-breaking script by any measure; it’s actually a relatively simple story. It just tells that story with a wonderful resonance, clarity and efficiency, commodities that have been sorely lacking from The Next Generation to date.

Hold on, it's time for a change...

Hold on, it’s time for a change…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Shades of Grey (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.

Well. That’s over now. Star Trek: The Next Generation limps across the finish line of its second season with a compilation clip show designed to save money and keep the season’s episode count up. Shades of Grey is frequently cited as the worst episode not just of the second season of The Next Generation, but of the show as a whole. While it’s hard to entirely agree with this assessment – Shades of Grey is cynical and lazy, but it’s neither as sexist as Angel One or The Child nor as racist as Code of Honour or Up the Long Ladder – it is possible to see where that argument comes from.

Like the first season before it, there’s a sense that the second season of The Next Generation might have been better had it ended an episode earlier. Indeed, the second season could have ended with Q Who? and the only episode anybody would really miss would be The Emissary. Unfortunately, one imagines the syndication agreements and network policy made this impossible. While one suspects many of those involved would be happy if Shades of Grey simply faded from existence, it remains part of the show’s syndication package.

This is a little like what this episode feels like...

This is a little like what this episode feels like…

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