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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Evolution (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.

Evolution kicks off the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and marks the point at which the spin-0ff really comes into its own. It’s remarkable how consistent in quality the third season is, despite the trouble brewing behind the scenes. It’s also remarkable how quickly the show finds its footing after two years of stumbling clumsily in the right direction. Within the first five episodes of the third season, The Next Generation has clearly found its voice.

However, a change is obvious even from Evolution. Michael Piller would take over the reigns four episodes into the season, but he also co-wrote the script to the season premiere. While Piller polished quite a few of the scripts passing through The Next Generation‘s third season, it is interesting that his credited work book-ends the season, setting the tone and leaving a clear impression.

While Evolution is not the strongest episode of the season to come, it does have a much stronger sense of self and purpose than anything that has really come before. It isn’t a bold or ground-breaking script by any measure; it’s actually a relatively simple story. It just tells that story with a wonderful resonance, clarity and efficiency, commodities that have been sorely lacking from The Next Generation to date.

Hold on, it's time for a change...

Hold on, it’s time for a change…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Peak Performance (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.

Peak Performance is a functional episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It doesn’t really stand out all that much, and it feels quite a bit average. Still, that’s not to dismiss Peak Performance. After all, this past season has seen The Next Generation advance considerably. During the first season, an episode like Home Soil or The Big Goodbye was a welcome relief. At this stage in the show, episodes like Peak Performance and Contagion are the average.

Of course, the third season would see the show’s quality improve even more dramatically, but we’re still just a little bit away from that. So we’re left with Peak Performance, a fairly standard piece of Star Trek that feels just a little bit too formulaic and a little bit too cliché. While it’s not among the strongest of the season, there are definitely worse sins.

Game on...

Game on…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Samaritan Snare (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.

To describe Samaritan Snare as a step down from Q Who? feels like an understatement. Q Who? was Star Trek: The Next Generation realising that it needed to improve its game if it ever wanted to measure up to its predecessor, interrogating some aspects of the series that had been taken for granted, calling the crew out on their arrogance and offering an opponent that could really push the Enterprise crew for all that they are worth.

It was really the logical culmination of themes running through the second season, themes that seem to faintly echo into Samaritan Snare, another story about the arrogance and ego of the Enterprise crew. Unfortunately, while it does seem to acknowledge many of the same weaknesses and flaws that Q Who? hit upon, it can’t help but seem a little disappointing. Here, the Enterprise are not thrown against an impossible-to-defeat adversary. Instead, their arrogance turns them into interstellar marks.

His heart just isn't in it...

His heart just isn’t in it…

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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 Dauphin (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 Dauphin ends what looked like the beginning of a winning streak for the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Both A Matter of Honour and The Measure of a Man represented a significant shift in gear for the show – a demonstration of just what The Next Generation was capable of at the top of its game. The Dauphin, in contrast, is a decidedly generic little episode.

It doesn’t help that it’s a character episode devoted to Wesley Crusher as a teenage protagonist on the Enterprise. Wesley was always a character who posed a bit of a problem for the show. There were times when bad writing and Wheaton’s less-than-nuanced performance saw the character threatening to turn The Next Generation into a plucky teenage science-fiction adventure series. Watch the boy genius save the ship while the trained professionals around him are useless!

While A Matter of Honour teased a way of making Wesley work in the context of the show, The Dauphin falls back into familiar traps. It’s a poorly-written teenage romance with some awful dialogue and two rather wooden leads, using familiar Star Trek trappings.

A rocky relationship?

A rocky relationship?

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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 (Marvel Comics) #3-4 – The Cancer Within (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.

Poor Doctor Pulaski. She seems to have just disappeared from the canon. First season casualty Tasha Yar seemed to haunt to the show, returning for Yesterday’s Enterprise while her daughter become a recurring foe from The Mind’s Eye onwards. Even Wesley popped back every once in a while following his departure from the series. Pulaski, on the other hand, remains something of a phantom.

Barring an audible reference to her made in the background during the Star Trek: Voyager finalé Endgame, she disappears from the franchise without so much as a peep at the end of Shades of Grey.  She isn’t even referenced by name in the first episode of the third season to air (Evolution) or the first produced (The Ensigns of Command). While Beverly Crusher’s return is used as a plot point for Wesley, we only get the most fleeting of references to Pulaski in Who Watches the Watchers?

While this can easily be explained by the complex relationship that Diana Muldaur seems to have with Star Trek: The Next Generation. She has suggested the atmosphere on set was decidedly unfriendly, so the fact that Pulaski doesn’t return should not be that much of a surprise. What is interesting is the general apathy that the expanded universe seems to have for Pulaski. While even guest characters seem to get their own back stories and development in novels and comics, Pulaski is treated as a decidedly minor character in the Star Trek canon, reduced to guest spots and small appearances.

I like my family reunions generic and bland...

I like my family reunions generic and bland…

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