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Star Trek: Phase II (1978) – The Child (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 actually supplementary to the second season of the Next Generation, specifically the episode The Child.

The Child is not one of the strongest episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. In fact, it’s not even one of the strongest episodes of the show’s troubled second season. There’s a valid argument to be made that the script – hastily cobbled together from a draft originally planned for Star Trek: Phase II back in 1978 in order to get something to air despite the 1988 Writers’ Guild Strike – is one of the weakest ever produced by the franchise. A combination of casual sexism and trite life lessons, wrapped up and presented as an optimistic space-age fable.

To be fair, pulling The Child into production was an act of sheer desperation from the producers of The Next Generation. The writing staff was clearly groping in the darkness and grabbed the first thing they could think to use. In this case, it was a completed script planned for the first season of the aborted 1978 Star Trek spin-off, Phase II. Reading the script, it’s hard not to pity Maurice Hurley the task of reworking the story into something that could be produced for prime time television in 1978. While the finished episode is nothing to be proud of, it still represents a vast improvement on the original script.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Survivors (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.

Michael Wagner remains something of a forgotten figure among Star Trek fans. While anybody familiar with the behind-the-scenes workings on Star Trek: The Next Generation is aware of the contributions made by the wonderful Michael Piller, and quite a few would be familiar with the work of Maurice Hurley during the first two seasons, Wagner’s four-episode tenure as executive producer and head writer is something of a mystery.

Situated right in the middle of that four-episode run, and the only Star Trek script on which Wagner does not share a credit, The Survivors seems like the most obvious indicator of what Wagner’s version of The Next Generation might have looked like. Of course, it’s impossible to extrapolate from a single episode of television, let alone a single episode of an era that was over before it already began, but it is interesting to look at how Wagner’s work here differs from the style that would be imposed by Piller.

The Survivors is a decidedly high-concept science-fiction mystery, feeling almost like an episode of an anthology featuring the regular cast. Built around a guest star, The Survivors is very much radically opposed to Piller’s vision of character-driven Star Trek.

"Nice house. Can't see much about the neighbourhood, though."

“Nice house. Can’t see much about the neighbourhood, though.”

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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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