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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Vengeance 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 Vengeance Factor is an ambitious little episode that never quite manages to follow through on its potential. Something of a Riker-centric romance to compliment the Troi-centric romance in The Price, the episode is an exploration of vengeance and generational strife – the cost of feuds that last decades, even centuries. It’s a story where Yuta’s thirst for revenge keeps her young, and one that opens with Crusher tracking the acts of piracy back to the Gatherers using a blood stain on a shard of metal. Subtle, it is not.

However, there’s something almost endearing about The Vengeance Factor, from its very eighties leather Mad Max reject space pirates through to the way that channels the optimism of Star Trek quite well. Although the ending is unbelievably forced, at least it is striking and effective. Far from perfect, and not among the high points of this third season, The Vengeance Factor still marks a sharp improvement from The Price.

There will be blood...

There will be blood…

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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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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Season 2 (Review)

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

Well, that’s more like it. The second season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine might not rank with the very best of the franchise, but it doesn’t have to. Deep Space Nine is still a young show, and Star Trek spin-offs have a long history of taking their time to find their feet. The second season of Deep Space Nine contains its fair share of classic or memorable episodes, but it’s defined by a sense that the producers are still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

While the first season occasionally felt like the series was stumbling back towards safety, trying to become a lighter version of Star Trek: The Next Generation as faith in its premise wavered, the second season is a lot more confident in itself. It’s willing to play around a bit to figure out how to be the show that it wants to be. And there’s a sense, as the season winds to a close, that we’re almost there.

By the time we hit the second half of the season, it seems the show has learned to churn out inoffensive episodes that feel unique and distinctively Deep Space Nine – episodes like Playing God or Shadowplay. However, it’s in the final third that the show seems to figure out how make truly great episodes of Deep Space Nine.

ds9-playinggod22

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Collaborator (Review)

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

It’s surprising how long we’ve had since a solid Bajoran episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Barring the dark reflection of Bajor as a power-broker (and brief allusion to a colony in the Gamma Quadrant) in Crossover, the last episode to really explore the planet’s political and religious structure was probably Sanctuary, which aired more than half a season earlier. After a reasonably high concentration of Bajoran political adventures in the first season and the first half of the second, it seems that further explorations will be more broadly spaced.

Indeed, the first season ended (and the second season began) with a five-episode run that was heavily anchored in the show’s Bajoran surroundings. However, as of late, it feels we’ve been strangely disengaged from the show’s stated objective of welcoming Bajor to the Federation. With episodes like The Maquis, it seems like the show is making a conscious effort to disentangle Cardassian politics from those of Bajor.

In a way, this probably represents Deep Space Nine growing into the form that it will take for the rest of its run. The second season has really been about Deep Space Nine figuring out what it wants to be, and what it doesn’t want to be. With The Collaborator‘s focus on Bajoran politics feeling conspicuous by the lack of other Bajor-centric episodes in this half of the season, it seems like Deep Space Nine doesn’t want to be a show about Bajor.

Enough rope to hang himself...

Enough rope to hang himself…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Armageddon Game (Review)

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

It’s been a while since we’ve had a fairly generic “could have happened on any Star Trek episode of Deep Space Nine. So it’s a lot easier to forgive Armageddon Game its simplicity and lack of nuance. This isn’t a story specific to Deep Space Nine. The basic concept could – rather easily – have been tailored to fit Star Trek: The Next Generation or even Star Trek: Voyager, with two crew members on the run for their lives on an alien world.

Armageddon Game is another story idea from Morgan Grendel, a writer who tends towards extremes. The Inner Light remains one of the best episodes of Star Trek ever produced. The Passenger ranks among the worst episodes of Deep Space Nine ever to make it to the screen. Armageddon Game sits somewhere in the middle.

Talk about chemistry...

Talk about chemistry…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Move Along Home (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.

And here we hit what is commonly agreed to be the nadir of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s rocky first season. Even the production staff seemed to acknowledge the problems with Move Along Home. Director David Carson conceded that it was “disappointing”, while future writer Ronald D. Moore could help  “wondering if everyone had lost their minds.” And there’s no way of getting around it. Move Along Home is a stinker in virtually every way that counts. It’s messy, contrived, confused, but without the wit to pull off the surreality of the set-up. There are no stakes, and the only way the episode can generate suspense is by lying to the audience.

And yet, despite that, I am actually much fonder of Move Along Home than I am of The Passenger. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like either very much, but I’m more forgiving of the problems with Move Along Home, which stem from the episode’s ambition. There’s a sense that at least the episode was trying to do something a bit novel, even it backfired spectacularly. If I have to choose between flawed ambition and bland mediocrity, I’ll choose flawed ambition every time. Move Along Home might be a pretty dodgy episode, but at least its less generic than The Passenger.

A piece of the action...

A piece of the action…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Passenger (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.

And here we hit what amounts to the rock bottom of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s first season. The Passenger and Move Along Home exist as the two weakest stories in this first season, and the point from which Deep Space Nine begins to map a path towards recovery, climaxing in the best final two episodes of any first season in the history of Star Trek. We’re a long way from that, and we seem furthest from it here.

While Move Along Home is a legitimately bad episode, one with flaws that probably should have been spotted in any of the episode’s troubled development history, The Passenger suffers because it is the most bland and generic of the first season Deep Space Nine episodes. It accomplishes nothing, but it feels worse because its ambitions were so low. It’s the kind of story that could easily have been told on any Star Trek show, or any science-fiction series, but with no sense of local colour to give it distinctive flavour.

The Passenger is just as bland as the title makes it sound.

The not-so-good Doctor...

The not-so-good Doctor…

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