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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Icarus Factor (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 Icarus Factor is a character-driven story. At least, it wants to be a character-driven story. The problem is that Star Trek: The Next Generation hasn’t reached the point where it can really do character-driven storytelling with a measure of consistence. (The fact that Picard confronting his future failures in Time Squared worked was more down to Patrick Stewart than the episode’s script.)

The Icarus Factor is a story focusing on Riker as a character, and it suffers from the fact that Riker hasn’t really been well-defined to date. We’re repeatedly told that he’s ambitious and career-driven, but most his on-screen characterisation has fluctuated between reckless, jerkish and horny. So The Icarus Factor tries to compensate by giving Riker the most generic back story possible for a lead male character on a television show.

This is the story of Riker’s daddy issues.

Somehow, this image just sums up Riker as a character...

Somehow, this image just sums up Riker as a character…

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Star Trek: The Lost Era – Deny Thy Father by Jeff Mariotte (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 theory, you can probably tell a good story about just about anything. There’s a knack to constructing a narrative and in making particular characters fascinating or compelling. In the right hands, even the most tired and boring premise can generate some measure of excitement and over a glimpse of depth that we never thought was there. For example, I didn’t come out of Star Trek: Generations thinking that I’d ever read a classic story about John Harriman, and then I read the superb Serpents Among the Ruins.

However, some ideas strike you as a little less exciting than others. Some concepts seem a bit riskier to pull off, a bit more daunting in scope. Constructing a compelling narrative around the youth of Commander William T. Riker, probably one of the blandest members of the Star Trek: The Next Generation ensemble, seems like an uphill struggle.

Unfortunately, Jeff Mariote’s Deny Thy Father isn’t up to the task of making the boring father-son relationship glimpsed in The Icarus Factor seem any more exciting.

tng-denythyfather

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – A Matter of Honour (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 second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation might be a bit rough around the edges (among other places), but there’s still a sense that the show is trying to improve itself, struggling to find its own voice. Most of the first season seemed content to offer a pale imitation of the classic Star Trek show, ignoring the fact that a lot had changed in the two decades since Kirk and Spock took to the air.

A Matter of Honour is an example of The Next Generation engaging the late eighties instead of trying to evoke the lost spirit of the sixties. Taking the “Klingons as Communists” metaphor as far as it could logically go, and serving as a companion piece to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, A Matter of Honour is a tale of deep space détente.

Guess who's going to dinner where?

Guess who’s going to dinner where?

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Unnatural Selection (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 really strange that this is our first Pulaski-centred episode. It’s even stranger that it’s the shows only Pulaski-centred episode, given she’s a new character being inserted into an established ensemble. It’s even stranger-er that the episode doesn’t really seem to have much to say about Pulaski apart from the fact that she is the show’s new doctor – and she’s a bit of an idiot. Which is not necessarily what you want when you’re trying to endear a new character to the audience.

Then again, Unnatural Selection is a pretty good indicator of where Star Trek: The Next Generation is right now. The show hasn’t quite figured out that it’s a good idea to anchor character-centric stories in the character upon which that intended to centre. It’s one of the most successful aspects of Michael Piller’s approach, and part of what really revitalised the writing in the show’s third season. As it stands, Unnatural Selection seems to be a story about medical stuff, so it gets to focus on Pulaski. Who is really just sort of there.

I can see this getting old fast...

I can see this getting old fast…

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