The Next Generation (TNG) Season 6 Guest Reviews
Stardate 46125.3: After stumbling upon a supposed Dyson Sphere, a superstructure encompassing a star, the Enterprise discovers a crashed Starfleet vessel lost 75 years before. After beaming aboard, Geordi activates the still-functioning transporter, materialising Captain Montgomery Scott into the 24th century. Further investigations lead the Enterprise to become trapped inside the sphere, forcing Geordi and 'Scotty' to work together to assist the Enterprise in escaping. Picard bookmarks the Sphere for Starfleet to study, and allows Scotty the use of a shuttle to leave the Enterprise.
A very bittersweet episode of sorts, of course, the star power of having Scotty appear already lends weight to this episode, and his appearance is done in a clever way using familiar technobabble incorporating an even more familiar device in the transporter. Doohan is cheery as you'd expect, but he shines with the more depressing material, sitting on an empty bridge of 'his' old Enterprise, toasting his long gone comrades, being treated with contempt and ignorance by Geordi, coddled by Crusher. It's kind of depressing to see the crew treat him so, but it's a good commentary on how some elderly people are largely disposed of by society once they're no longer seen as useful, which Picard mentions to Geordi. The secondary plot of the sphere feels a bit underwhelming, a structure of this magnitude discovered, the Enterprise accosted inside, only for the station to be abandoned? A bit of a let down, but the final moments are quite exciting, seeing the two Enterprise engineers spare technobabble jargon, and in the end help in the Enterprises escape from the sphere.
- Remarkable error: After hearing which ship Riker serves on, Scotty remarks that Jim Kirk pulled the Enterprise out of mothballs to rescue him, of course, Scotty would witness the apparent 'death' of Kirk in "Star Trek: Generations", 76 years before the events of this episode.
- Remarkable quotes: "Ah, it's like the first time you fall in love. You never love a woman quite like that again. To the Enterprise and the Stargazer – old girlfriends we'll never meet again." -Scotty, to Picard, "... It is green." -Data, attempting to describe Aldebaran whiskey
- Remarkable dialogue: "Take the bridge, commander." - "Oh no... You're the senior officer here." - "Oh, I may be captain by rank... but I never wanted to be anything else but an engineer." -Scotty and La Forge
- Remarkable scene: Picard standing on the (albeit holographic) bridge of James T. Kirk's first Enterprise. Who said Picard was a soft, tea-sipping, flute playing Frenchie? He downs a glass of non-syntheholic whiskey and names it without flinching.
- Remarkable set/structure: Although a blue screen effect, the empty set of the NCC-1701. The Dyson Sphere.
- Remarkable fact: Picard mentions a Constitution class ship is present in the fleet museum, this may very well be the final Enterprise Kirk commanded.
Rating: 7 (Cameron)
Chain of Command I/II
Stardate 46357.4: Starfleet orders Picard, Crusher and Worf on a mission to a thought-uninhabited planet in Cardassian space to recover what Starfleet Intel believes to be a biological weapon. Meanwhile, the new captain of the Enterprise, Edward Jellico, an expert on Cardassian relations, is enlisted to negotiate with Cardassian representatives over movements along the border. Upon discovering an empty 'research centre', Picard, Crusher and Worf discover they have been lured into a Cardassian trap. As Beverly and Worf make their escape, Picard is captured, taken to an interrogation chamber, he's threatened with death by a Cardassian officer; Gul Madred. Madred interrogates Picard into revealing the defensive capabilities of Minos Korva, a Federation planet in disputed territory. Picard resists torture long enough to be released by the Cardassian Government, whose invasion of the planet was thwarted by the Enterprise.
The first act of this fantastic 2-parter feels a bit hampered by the enormous amount of story that's incorporated into it, Nechayev arriving to inform Picard of his mission, Jellico taking command, Picard, Bev and Worf training for their mission, Riker not liking Jellico, Jellico's changes to the ship causing havoc, his treating Deanna and Picard's advice on how to deal with the crew with contempt due to his own command. Then you've got the Cardassians who arrive (and the actor who plays Evek is fantastic), and Picard's mission taking place.
But the second act is where this becomes one of the best episodes of Star Trek, Patrick Stewart and David carry this episode amazingly. The chilling Madred is portrayed so well that it's a shame he was made use of again, but I don't think it would've had the same impact. And Patrick Stewart's performance is nothing short of incredible, the remarkable fact I'll list reveals why. But the descent both characters take is just a thrill to watch, Picard stripped of his clothes and his rights, but never yielding his dignity, refusing to give into Madred.
I'm almost sorry I can't elaborate more, but the episode focuses so much on the dialogue and experiences shared between the two men that words just don't do the second part justice. I only wish the scenes weren't interrupted by cuts back to the Enterprise every now and then, due to the riveting nature of the 'interrogation' scenes and what a magnificent performance is given by both men.
In that, it almost seems a shame I've decided to rate this in the one review, because the slow burning first half almost feels like a chore in order to proceed to 10 star-deserving Part II, shame I don't have the DVD then ;)
- Remarkable quote: "There... are... FOUR... lights!" -Jean-Luc Picard.
- Remarkable prop: Gul Madred's four lights ;)
- Remarkable fact: Patrick Stewart prepared for his torture scene, at the hands of the Cardassians, by reviewing tapes provided by Amnesty International.
Rating: 9 (Cameron)
Ship in a Bottle
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main TNG listing
This is a very, very, clever episode, and is a sequel to the rather unimpressive "Elementary, Dear Data".
Right from the start, from walking off the Holodeck, Moriarty plays the crew for fools in an array of brilliant deceptions and manipulations of Federation morality. He preys on their compassion and tolerance to gain their trust and support with brilliance - even I was fooled. Its only a simple deduction by Data that the ruse is learned. Alas, too late as Picard gives away the access codes to the Enterprise and Moriarty utilises them with force.
Ironically, Picard and Data play Moriarty at his own game, but in the end all is for each other's mutual benefit: Moriarty spends his life with his love in "his own world" and never aware of the difference, the ship is released, and no real harm is done.
I praise the intelligent handling of the way the deception was done, it was not once seen coming like with oh so many other episodes and nor did it urinate on the audience. I felt that the writers respected the intelligence of the people watching.
Also there is no real malice - it was not an alien wanting to take over the ship and kill the crew, but a "conscience" who wanted his love. The end was peaceful.
Rating: 8 (Chris S)
Face of the Enemy
Stardate 46519.1: Synopsis in main TNG listing
I recently saw this episode for the first time and I found it far more enjoyable than what the description makes it out to be. This episode gives Troi a very unique role that she normally does not have. I found this to be a great follow up story from TNG: "Unification" with mention to Spock's underground movement and "cowboy diplomacy".
N'Vek is a interesting character. He has many of the characteristics of a Romulan, yet is genuinely sympathetic to Spock's underground movement. I find it pleasing that we get to hear about many Romulans who have joined in the unification movement.
Toreth is another interesting Romulan character. She appears like a typical Romulan at first, but is later revealed to have some positive qualities. For one thing, she makes it clear that the safety of her ship is a top concern. She also tries to avoid a conflict with the Enterprise unless there are no other reasonable options. Her distrust of the Tal Shiar is also striking since it is usually assumed that all Romulans are distrusting. This episodes shows a dimension to Romulans that is pretty much absent in other episodes they make an appearance in. I often get annoyed at the countless Trek episodes that depict other races and cultures as being so one dimensional, short-sighted, and uncivilized (i.e. Klingons, Cardassians, Romulans, etc.). This episode pleasantly breaks that tradition.
The plot of this episode also had some pleasant twists that were not too predictable. I also liked how 90% of the episode was shown from the viewpoint of the Warbird rather than the Enterprise.
This episode was a pleasant surprise and I would consider it one of my top 10 favorites of TNG.
- Nitpicking: I had wondered at the moment when Troi appeared on the Enterprise view screen as a Romulan, what if Riker shouted out "Deanna!?" Of course, he doesn't say anything.
Rating: 9 (Chris)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main TNG listing
This is the most unusual Star Trek story, let alone concept, ever done. Why? Because the theme is very common yet no one has really explored it; how many times have we all said to friends, fellows, and ourselves "if we had our time again, would we change anything?" Well here is the idea in full, clever, fruition.
Picard is fatally wounded and the cause is his heart; in mystical belief, he is wished away to what appears to be the afterlife and encounters a sentience – on shaking its hand however, he discovers it to be none other than Q!
Q then takes him through a sort of recollection of his life, showing his folks who had passed on as well as friends and such – Picard refuses to play along because he cannot and will not believe that Q basically runs the afterlife. It is the moment that Q asks Picard if he has any regrets – to which it then depicts him as a youth fighting Nausicaans when he is stabbed in the heart by one of them – that things take an interesting turn. Q, being Q gives Jean-Luc a second chance to change that.
In an instant Picard is transported to that time – and as that youth but we the audience sees Picard the elder. Here he meets his long young friends who expect Picard to be the unbelievably foolhardy and randy individual that they expect him to be. What is interesting here is that despite his intentions not to alter the course of history, Picard has returned to that time but with the experiences of the future – this leads to Picard unintentionally altering his destiny of his friends and himself; he ignores the advances of a woman but sleeps with a Starfleet female friend one Marta Batanides, he had always admired; he prevents his best friend Corey from wanting vengeance against them Nausicaans, but in the process makes him more bitter and thus resulting in the collapse of their friendship.
As a result, Picard gets a new role at Star Fleet with a nice natural heart pumping in his body – alas the role is of a mere low ranking science officer. Despite asking Riker and Troi that he has the ideal materials to command, his record shows nothing to warrant such a position; in short all the materials that has earned him the right to command no longer exists. Have a wild guess how he changes it back...
What is clever about this episode, if not rather poignant is that it’s the experiences that we beings earn that define us; in life we make mistakes, suffer, and feel consequences, but despite the terrible taste these things give us it is these things that become the building blocks that makes us, defines us, and in the end hopefully guides us to be better; just because one has come from say a terrible background does not mean they are destined to be monsters – equally so are the privileged who could fail and fall in life; sometimes painful lessons and experiences makes us wiser but also so is the character to learn or ignore such encounters.
It is a great story to remind us of what we have done, where we have come from, what we have learned and what do we do next.
Cannot think of a better motive than this!
- Remarkable error: In this episode we see Picard the youth in a different uniform and with hair - in "Nemesis" we see Tom Hardy's picture claiming him to be Picard's academy days - bald as a coot!
- Remarkable quote: "Welcome to the afterlife, Jean-Luc. You're dead." -Q to Picard
- Remarkable dialogue: "I gave you something most mortals never experience - a second chance at life - and now all you can do is COMPLAIN!?" - "I can't live out my days as that person! That man is bereft of passion......and IMAGINATION! That is not who I am!" -Q and Picard
- Remarkable fact 1: The original premise of this episode was "A Q Carol" where Picard would face the seven worse things he did in his past by Q who was still judging him; this would have included the death of Jack Crusher but the concept sounded outlandish; instead Ron Moore decided to make the story focus on one error of Picard's life.
- Remarkable fact 2: Entertainment Weekly ranked this episode #4 on their list of "The Top 10 Episodes" to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- Remarkable continuity: Picard's stabbing was referred to in the earlier episode of TNG "Samaritan Snare" whilst aboard the shuttlecraft with Wesley Crusher.
Rating: 10 (Chris S)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main TNG listing
Star Trek has been criticised about many things, but it is its aliens that get the most stick due to them being ‘strange looking human of the week’; or to put it more insultingly, the infamous latex forheadians. Part of the reason is basically budget but also interaction.
However if done because of above reason, or just a stroke of genius, this episode not just lays that demon to rest, it also solidifies the conviction of its universe.
Jean-Luc is paid a visit by a mentor of his, one Professor Richard Galen, who brings with him an impressive rare artefact: a Kurlan Naiskos; despite the well laid out development and explanation of it, this does not set the episode on fire – but in hindsight is a great Trojan horse.
He then tells Jean-Luc about an even greater find – one so stunning, so revealing, so incredible that it would change the universe. Not surprised Jean-Luc is sceptical about such an outlandish claim that despite his mentor’s pleading to leave the Enterprise and join him on his quest, he declined.
All that changes when Galen is attacked and killed by Yridians; on scanning his computers, Picard discovers that he was onto something immense – so huge that the Cardassians and later, the Klingons are interested. The discovery is that various planets lifeforms hold key DNA strands that when placed into a sequence appears to be some sort of organic algorithm. The Klingons and Cardassians are convinced it’s the blue prints for a weapon. However, the algorithm is incomplete and as a result the Enterprise and the other powers go on a true Star Trek to find other possible key strands to finish this extraordinary puzzle.
In the end, the four powers of the Alpha Quadrant arrive on a moon and via a clever delay ploy by Picard, the algorithm is completed and to everyone’s amazement, it explains the true origins of many of the beings in the Alpha Quadrant, and most of the species in this galaxy.
To be honest, the concept is rather outlandish, with numerous plot holes and flaws but it is so well delivered, so well paced, with a mystery and a puzzle not once giving a clue to what it actually entails, with possibly the strongest sense of trekking I have ever seen in an episode, that you don’t really notice. It is just brilliantly done.
The revelation could be seen as nonsense but then again could be easily explained – ships, probes, comets, and such can support the reason. Whatever the case the outcome as well as the overall episode is so well done it does not matter. It also (to me) creates a strong rule and reason why there are so many humans with "bits" and ‘hues’; this is Trek’s universe’s rule and up until recently, it was respected.
Sadly this amazing revelation is never carried on in future episodes or series which is a shame because such an event would be so powerful.
Finally the ending; as the Romulan Captain leaves, his words to Picard hit a real cord with me – and is a very important statement for all of us; at the end of the day we are all the same underneath. Beautiful.
- Remarkable dialogue: "It would seem that we are not completely dissimilar after all; in our hopes, or in our fears." - "Yes..." - "Well then perhaps, one day..." - "...one day..." -Romulan Captain to Picard
- Remarkable fact 1: The origins of this episode was based off Carl Sagan's famous book Contact.
- Remarkable fact 2: Ronald D. Moore's earlier draft made out the ancient aliens to be possibly the Preservers, featured in the TOS episode "The Paradise Syndrome"; the idea was later dropped.
- Remarkable scene: Nu'Daq's attempt to get information from Data, and the following hilarious headbutt!
Rating: 10 (Chris S)
Frame of Mind
Stardate 46778.1: The story starts out with Riker rehearsing for another one of Doctor Crusher's plays. It is about a man who is in a mental hospital. But then things start going awry. Riker keeps going back and forth between Beverly's play and a real mental hospital. After struggling to figure out what is real and what is a figure of his imagination, Will finally gets back to normal and it is revealed that Riker was on a secret mission and was being brainwashed by aliens. Riker then resumes his duties on board the Enterprise.
This episode is very confusing and you need to watch it a few times until you truly understand it, but I felt that it was time well spent. It is also somewhat creepy. The story was one of TNG's finest and it truly gave Jonathan Frakes an excellent chance to do his best work as Will Riker. The acting was excellent and at times it was hard to tell what was reality and what was in Riker's mind. A definite must see for every hard-core Trek fan!
- Memorable quote: "What I need is to get out of this cell, I've been locked in here for days. You've controlled my every move. You've told me what to eat and what to think and what to say, and then when I show a glimmer of independent thought, you strap me down, you inject me with drugs. You call it a treatment!" -Riker
- Remarkable set: The set for Beverly's play was the same as the "real" mental hospital in which Riker was being held.
Rating: 9 (Nathaniel Scripa)