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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 – 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.

tng-survivors

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Torchwood: Children of BBC Sci-Fi

I have to admit, my family’s hooked to Torchwood: Children of the Earth playing on the BBC at the moment. For those unfamiliar with the concept and execution, it’s a five-part epic that is playing at 9pm every night this week. It’s the type of television event that shows why the BBC might just be the best broadcasters in the world – the show is perfect for the format. The tension is elevated by the fact we know the run will end on Friday, the budget is clearly there for all the spectacle and all the talent involved is top notch. It’s the kind of thing that I wish that RTE might pick up on, even once. The really beautiful thing about this run is that manages to demonstrate that not only are the Beeb doing something very well, but they’ve been doing it well all along. From what we’ve seen so far, Children of the Earth can hold its head high with all the other great science fiction events the channel has pulled off over the years.

Back in black...

Back in black...

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