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Star Trek: The Next Generation (DC, 1989) Annual #1 – The Gift (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.

You can see why DC comics jumped at the chance to publish The Gift. After all, a comic about Q written by the actor playing Q is a hell of a hook. The publisher had already done something similar, with actor Walter Koenig providing a script for the nineteenth issue of DC’s first Star Trek comic book series. At the same time that The Gift was published, George Takei collaborated with Peter David on a Star Trek annual story, So Near the Touch.

John deLancie isn’t a bad storyteller. Indeed, his published tie-in novel – I, Q written with Peter David – is quite enjoyable. However, The Gift is just an absolute mess of a story, with a couple of interesting high concepts buried beneath two horrible clichés tied together to create a rather unfortunate narrative. The Gift is a disappointment on just about every level.

Cue Q!

Cue Q!

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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 – The Price (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, the streak had to end some time. After seven episodes ranging from “flawed but still interesting” to “pretty great”, the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation hits a bit of a snag. The Price is the weakest episode of the show’s third season to this point, and confirmation that the writers really have no idea how to write for Deanna Troi. It’s still the best episode to focus on the ship’s half-Betazoid counsellor, but being better than Haven or The Child is hardly an accomplishment for the ages.

All that glitters...

All that glitters…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Peak Performance (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.

Peak Performance is a functional episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It doesn’t really stand out all that much, and it feels quite a bit average. Still, that’s not to dismiss Peak Performance. After all, this past season has seen The Next Generation advance considerably. During the first season, an episode like Home Soil or The Big Goodbye was a welcome relief. At this stage in the show, episodes like Peak Performance and Contagion are the average.

Of course, the third season would see the show’s quality improve even more dramatically, but we’re still just a little bit away from that. So we’re left with Peak Performance, a fairly standard piece of Star Trek that feels just a little bit too formulaic and a little bit too cliché. While it’s not among the strongest of the season, there are definitely worse sins.

Game on...

Game on…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation (DC Comics, 1989) #59-61 – Children of Chaos/Mother of Madness/Brothers in Darkness (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 first season of the Next Generation, specifically the episode The Battle.

Continuity is a funny thing. Star Trek: The Next Generation would develop its own internal continuity as it went along. The  episodes featuring the Klingons and the Romulans (and the Borg) all fit together in a somewhat logical and progressive pattern, even if the show lacked the clear story arc structure of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. While the show did offer background information on the members of the Enterprise crew, it never felt particularly beholden to them.

Picard’s time commanding the Stargazer was one of the earliest parts of his history to be established, in the first season episode The Battle. Picard’s tenure on the ship is alluded to several times over the course of the series, and there’s a sense that it was a formative experience for the commander. While it’s never stated outright, it’s suggested that the death of Jack Crusher and the loss of the Stargazer may have turned him into the somewhat aloof and distant superior we met in Encounter at Farpoint.

The slingshot manoeuvre...

The slingshot manoeuvre…

And yet, despite that, The Next Generation never delves too deeply into Picard’s past. There’s the occasional reference to his time serving on the Stargazer, or a reminder of his complicated relationship with Wesley and Beverly Crusher, but The Next Generation is a television show that seems to move forwards. Even the events that happen to Picard in the context of the show – his abduction by the Borg in The Best of Both Worlds or his alternate life in The Inner Light – don’t seem to have affected Picard too much.

So it seems appropriate that this bit of future history should become fodder for the comic books and tie-in materials, delving mroe deeply into the history of The Next Generation than was possible (or even desired) on screen.

Stargazing...

Stargazing…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Reunion by Michael Jan Friedman (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 first season of the Next Generation, specifically the episode The Battle.

The Star Trek expanded universe is so large and so expansive that it has its own particular phases of history, its own important and divisive figures, its own grand context for things. With the announcement of Star Trek: The Next Generation in the late eighties, the focus of expanded universe shifted a bit. Ever since the original Star Trek had gone off the air, novelists like John Ford, Vonda McIntyre, Diane Carey and Diane Duane had been free to carve out their own little corners of the shared universe.

There was a sense that the novels existed to expand the Star Trek universe outwards, with certain authors even developing their own recurring casts and delving into the history and culture of various fictional races in a way that simply wasn’t possible as part of a television episode or feature film. In the late eighties, this changed rather dramatically, with Richard Arnold becoming something of a “gate-keeper” of the expanded universe.

Although Diane Carey would write the first Next Generation tie-in novel, Ghost Ship, this represented something of a changing of the guard. The focus of the novels became a bit different, and the authors driving the line began to change. Michael Jan Friedman’s first published Star Trek novel was Double, Double in April 1989. Since than, he has written more than thirty different Star Trek tie-in novels, a few short stories and ninety-one issues (including annuals and specials) of the nineties Next Generation tie-in comic.

In terms of influence in the Star Trek expanded universe of the nineties, Michael Jan Friedman is a defining figure.

tng-reunion

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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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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Samaritan Snare (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.

To describe Samaritan Snare as a step down from Q Who? feels like an understatement. Q Who? was Star Trek: The Next Generation realising that it needed to improve its game if it ever wanted to measure up to its predecessor, interrogating some aspects of the series that had been taken for granted, calling the crew out on their arrogance and offering an opponent that could really push the Enterprise crew for all that they are worth.

It was really the logical culmination of themes running through the second season, themes that seem to faintly echo into Samaritan Snare, another story about the arrogance and ego of the Enterprise crew. Unfortunately, while it does seem to acknowledge many of the same weaknesses and flaws that Q Who? hit upon, it can’t help but seem a little disappointing. Here, the Enterprise are not thrown against an impossible-to-defeat adversary. Instead, their arrogance turns them into interstellar marks.

His heart just isn't in it...

His heart just isn’t in it…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Q Who? (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.

Q Who? throws down the gauntlet for Star Trek: The Next Generation. It serves as a fitting reminder that Picard and his crew are still amateurs when it comes to space exploration. They don’t even win the day – they suffer “a bloody nose” before limping away from their strange new opponents to lick their wounds. For a crew that never seemed to sweat before, who never seemed like they were under pressure, this is a shocking development.

More interestingly, it’s something unknown in a universe that has become far too familiar. Three of the four episodes leading into Q Who? ended with the crew accepting that there were some things they’d never fully understand or comprehend, and – while it’s unlikely this was intentional – it seems like a nice bit of thematic foreshadowing rather than haphazard plotting. For the first season-and-a-half of the show, it seemed like the Enterprise was always dealing with the familiar, always in control of the situation.

With Q Who?, everything is put into perspective.

Borg to death...

Borg to death…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Pen Pals (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.

Pen Pals is a pretty mediocre episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, one with a lot more potential than the episode actually delivers upon. Centring around Data’s unilateral decision to violate the Prime Directive and the consequences stemming from that decision, there’s a sense that Pen Pals might have been a lot more incisive in earlier version – a lot more willing to ask tough questions about the rules and regulations that our heroes uphold.

Sadly, Pen Pals instead ends with a massive cop out and an unwillingness to really commit to any big idea or to interrogate any of the show’s core concepts.

Everything burns...

Everything burns…

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