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Star Trek: The Next Generation – A Matter of Perspective (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.

A Matter of Perspective is a bit of a disappointment. However, it’s a disappointment for the same reason that The High Ground is a disappointment. The third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation is at least trying new things, and playing with big ideas for a syndicated television science-fiction show in the late eighties and early nineties. There is some charm to the episode’s basic premise (Rashomon in space… with the holodeck!”), but the script never quite manages to deliver on that wonderful set up.

Instead, we end up with a show that lacks the nuance to follow through on its central themes, and a mystery that confuses techno-babble for a satisfying solution.

Painting a pretty picture...

Painting a pretty picture…

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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 – Embrace the Wolf (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 episode Elementary, Dear Data.

The concept behind Embrace the Wolf is quite ingenious. The execution is slightly less so. Recognising that Star Trek: The Next Generation had a recurring interest in Victorian London, in Data’s interest in Sherlock Holmes, it seemed quite logical to drop Redjac into that scenario. Redjac was the non-corporeal serial killing entity introduced in Wolf in the Fold, one of Robert Bloch’s contributions to the second season of the classic Star Trek. As part of Wolf in the Fold, and playing into Bloch’s fascination with the notorious serial killer, Redjac was explicitly identified as the spirit of Jack the Ripper. As you do

So, pairing up Data’s Sherlock Holmes with Redjac’s Jack the Ripper should make for a decidedly pulpy adventure. Unfortunately, the end result is a little generic and unsatisfying.

Wolf in the holodeck...

Wolf in the holodeck…

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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 – The Enemy (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 Enemy is just a fantastic piece of television. The third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation has maintained an impressive consistency up to this point, despite all the difficulties bubbling away behind the scenes. However, The Enemy is the point where everything seems to have finally settled down and the show is truly comfortable churning out episodes of this sort of quality.

It’s a very typical Star Trek plot, with one of our leads trapped on the planet surface and forced to team up with an enemy soldier in order to survive. It’s a very standard morality tale about how the enemy is not as different as we might like to think; it’s an exploration – in a very Star Trek style – of how two people can overcome their differences in order to survive  a suitably desperate situation.

The Enemy is a demonstration of just how well-oiled The Next Generation had become at this point in time, and how even the most standard of plots could be executed with considerable skill.

The show's quality is climbing...

The show’s quality is climbing…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Booby Trap (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.

Booby Trap is a bit of a mess. The writing credits for the episode, featuring four different writers credited with getting the idea from basic story to finished script. This wasn’t at all unusual in the show’s third season – consider the writing credits for Yesterday’s Enterprise – but it gives an indication of the chaos unfolding behind the scenes on the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

It’s Michael Piller’s second credited script, and his first writing credit since he took over the writers’ room. (Although he did, along with Melinda Snodgrass, do a pass on Ronald D. Moore’s script for The Bonding.) As such, it is written with a very clear idea of where Piller wants to take the show, one that shines through a somewhat uneven and all-over-the-place plot, which often feels like several different scripts blended into one.

Building on what came before...

Building on what came before…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Who Watches the Watchers? (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.

Who Watches the Watchers? continues a strong start to the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It is the last episode of the third season produced by Michael Wagner. He would depart the show and leave Michael Piller in charge of the scripts for the rest of the season. It’s also the third-to-last credit for writers Hans Beimler and Richard Manning, who had both been around from the first season.

The writing duo would work on Yesterday’s Enterprise with Ira Steven Behr and Ronald D. Moore, but also finish Allegiance before departing the show at the end of the third season. (They were rather enraged by Piller’s tactless “writing 101” memo, sent later in the season.) Manning and Beimler would go on to write Paradise for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Behr would convince Beimler to return to the franchise for the fourth season of Deep Space Nine. Beimler would be Behr’s most faithful writing partner on that spin-off, teaming with Behr throughout the sixth and seventh seasons in particular.

In many ways, Who Watches the Watchers? returns to some of the themes that the duo had touched upon in their strongest script of the first season, Symbiosis. It’s a complicated morality tale about the ethics of Starfleet and the burden of the Prime Directive.

The answer, apparently, is Liko.

The answer, apparently, is Liko.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation (DC) Annual #3 – The Broken Moon (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 Conspiracy.

If you were to construct a list of the most niggling unresolved plot threads in the history of the Star Trek franchise, “what was up with those things from Conspiracy?” would likely rank up there alongside “so, did Bajor ever join the Federation?” Funnily enough, author S.D. Perry would tie those two dangling plot points up in her Deep Space Nine relaunch book, Unity.

However, several other writers have tried to figure out what exactly was going on with those mind-controlling parasites who appeared at the end of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and were never heard from again. According to Ronald D. Moore on Inside the Writers’ Room on the third Next Generation blu ray box set, various writers for the show tried to revisit the idea, but Roddenberry hated that episode so much nothing was ever developed.

The Broken Moon, the third annual for DC’s Next Generation comic book series, offers its own take on the mind-controlling parasites. While writer Michael Jan Friedman wisely avoids revealing too much about these creatures, the story suffers because it never figures out anything interesting to do with them.

It always bugged me...

It always bugged me…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation (DC Comics, 1989) #1-2 – Return to Raimon/Murder, Most Foul (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.

DC Comics’ limited six-issue tie-in to the launch of Star Trek: The Next Generation might have made an interesting read, but it was a success for the company. It was such a success that the company decided to launch an on-going monthly series tying into Star Trek: The Next Generation. It launched in October 1989, just as the show’s third season was starting on television. It continued throughout the show’s run, wrapping up eighty issues later in February 1996, when Marvel bought the license.

For the bulk of its run, The Next Generation was written by Michael Jan Friedman. Barring a couple of fill-ins scattered across the six-and-a-half year run, Friedman churned out monthly stories with remarkable consistency. Indeed, DC’s second volume of Next Generation would be the most consistent comic book tie-in published during any of the spin-off shows, with the licence for the franchise bouncing around Marvel, Malibu, Wildstorm and IDW in the late nineties and early years of the twenty-first century.

There’s something strangely appropriate about publishing Return to Raimon in tandem with the launch of The Next Generation‘s third season. The third season of The Next Generation is generally regarded as the point where the show really came of age, and the season that laid the foundation for that entire generation of Star Trek spin-offs. It was the point at which the vision of Star Trek proposed by The Next Generation finally came into its own, so it seems fitting that it’s also the point at which one of the franchise’s most consistent and long-running tie-ins begins.

New worlds...

New worlds…

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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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