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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Ensigns of Command by Melinda Snodgrass (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.

One of the benefits of the internet age is the wealth of material that it makes available with comparative ease. Interviews are widely distributed, clips are circulated, and it’s often not too hard to find primary or well-sourced secondary materials available with a simple search. As such, it’s a lot easier to pry into the history and legacy of cult film and television than it has ever been before. Leaping back in Star Trek: The Next Generation more than two decades after it originally aired allows the viewer more insight than they would ever have had back then.

The third season of The Next Generation is widely (and rightly) regarded as one of the strongest seasons in the history of the franchise. Only the first two seasons of the original Star Trek, a few more seasons of The Next Generation and couple of years of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine can claim to compete on a level of quality and consistency with this twenty-six episode rejuvenation of the series that had faltered in its first two years.

Watching The Ensigns of Command, it’s hard to fathom how deeply troubled the production was. The episode was plagued by problems from scripting through to post-production. Writer Melinda Snodgrass has made no secret of her dissatisfaction with the episode. Although her name appears on the finished script, the episode had been heavily re-written. Snodgrass has made her original script available on-line via her website, and it makes for an interesting glimpse at what might have been.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Survivors by Jean Lorrah (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 Skin of Evil.

Writing tie-in fiction is tougher than a lot of people seem to think it is. There’s a notion that you’re playing in somebody else’s sandbox, and that you’re confined and restricted by what has and what has not appeared on screen, knowing that your work will always be secondary. As such, I can’t imagine how tough it must have been for Jean Lorrah to write Survivors. Only the fourth tie-in novel for Star Trek: The Next Generation, it was released in January 1989, around a quarter of the way through the show’s second season. Given the time it would take to edit and publish a paperback, it seems that Lorrah likely had to have the novel ready quite early in the life of The Next Generation.

It’s one thing to try to accurately capture the voice of well-defined characters on a long-running show, but it must be infinitely more difficult when writing based off sketchy early episodes that aren’t always consistent in their own characterisation.

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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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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Measure of a Man: Extended Cut (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 a rare treat.

The Measure of a Man is generally regarded as one of the best episodes that Star Trek: The Next Generation ever produced, and a crown jewel in the entire Star Trek franchise. As such, it’s a prime candidate for this sort of lavish restoration treatment, with the blu ray collection featuring not only the televised version of the episode, but a special extended edition.

This extended edition was the version originally filmed and edited together, until the production team realised that it ran almost a quarter-of-an-hour over the slot allocated to the show on syndicated airing.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Measure of a Man (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.

Ah, The Measure of a Man.

It’s the first point in the run of Star Trek: The Next Generation where we’ve reached an episode that could legitimately be ranked as one of the best that the show would ever produce. Even today, the episode remains a favourite of Star Trek fans around the world, and a superb demonstration of what the series is capable of. Almost half-way into the second season, we get a glimpse of what The Next Generation could be, and how it balance its own identity against the proud philosophical traditions of its parent series.

It’s also quite brilliant.

A Data with destiny...

A Data with destiny…

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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: Deep Space Nine – Dax (Review)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is twenty years old this year. To celebrate, I’m taking a look at the first season. Check back daily for the latest review or retrospective.

Dax is a very weird episode. It is the first episode centred around Jadzia Dax, but it also demonstrates the problems that will affect Dax-centric episodes throughout Terry Farrell’s time on the show. Due to the nature of the character, the stories about Dax tend to treat her as a plot point or a macguffin rather than a character in and of herself. Here, for example, Dax finds herself on trial for the actions of her direct predecessor, Curzon Dax. It’s a fascinating moral and philosophical dilemma (can you hold somebody accountable for their actions in a past life?), but it’s a story about Dax that isn’t about the character as she currently exists. It’s fascinating and frustrating in equal measure, but at least it’s a sign that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is content to do more than merely imitate Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Touching...

Touching…

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