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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Manhunt (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.

There’s a strange sense of fatigue as we come towards the end of the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, as if the effort of producing Q Who? has really just drained the show of any ambition or drive. To be fair, there are probably more banal motivations at play. The 1988 Writers’ Strike had taken the entire industry by surprise and has been credited with dropping television ratings by ten percent. It damaged the tail end of the first season, causing an improvised conclusion to We’ll Always Have Paris and is probably responsible for the mess that was The Neutral Zone.

The damage also bled into the second season. Even closing with a clip show, Shades of Grey, the second season wasn’t able to meet the average quota of twenty-six episodes per season. The season premiere, The Child, had to be hastily repurposed from an aborted script for Star Trek: Phase II. Even with the shortened orders, the second season of The Next Generation frequently saw episodes coming in behind schedule and above budget. This is one of the reasons that Rob Bowman, despite being responsible for two of the season’s strongest episodes (Elementary, Dear Data and Q Who?), did not become a regular director.

"It's a good time for nap time..."

“It’s a good time for nap time…”

Behind the scenes, the show seemed to be threatening to pull itself apart. Tracy Tormé and Maurice Hurley were frequently at loggerheads with one another over all manner of issues. Tormé was only allowed to register two pseudonyms with the Writers’ Guild of America, he used both on the second season of The Next Generation, protesting over modifications made to his script. It’s no wonder that the writers’ room pretty much exploded at the end of the season, with both Tormé and Hurley departing. When Michael Piller was put in charge on the third season, he had to pretty much start from scratch.

All of which explains why the tail end of the second season seems so lifeless and limp. The Emissary is really the only second season script with any life in it once the show gets past Q Who? Most of the rest of the season seems to trying to limp across the finish line. Still, even with all of that in mind, Manhunt feels a little mean-spirited. It’s an episode designed to mock at Lwaxana Troi, to reduce a middle-aged woman going through a process explicitly compared to menopause to the butt of some particularly harsh joke. It’s hard to find that all that amusing.

Starlit dinner...

Starlit dinner…

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