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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: 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 – 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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