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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 – The Schizoid 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.

I should probably hate The Schizoid Man. It is certainly a very, very flawed piece of television. It would be a lot more forgivable had it aired during the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, when the show was still trying to find its feet – including it early in the second season feels like the show is pushing it a little. In many respects, The Schizoid Man embodies a lot of the (legitimate) complaints about the weaknesses of The Next Generation as a television show: the performances from the peripheral members of the main cast are a bit ropey, there’s an incredibly false sense of urgency generated by techno-babble and the dialogue is just terrible.

And yet, despite that, there’s quite a lot here to like. Stripping away the terrible dialogue and the unnecessary convolutions, The Schizoid Man is a very basic morality play, one touching on themes the show will handle a lot better a few episodes down the line. Brent Spiner is surprisingly creepy as Graves-as-Data, and W. Morgan Sheppard is pretty great in an admittedly thankless part as the misogynistic and creepy Ira Graves.

23rd century Schizoid Man...

23rd century Schizoid Man…

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