Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Questionable Trek vol. 9

Last week we tried to list the best original series episodes, so this week we go a different way. . . because we’re contrarians!

Question from Andrew: "What are your five least favorite episodes from TNG?"

Scott’s Answer: The funny thing is, there are only a handful of really terrible episodes. Many are simply... unremarkable. Here are the five I'm least inclined to watch over and over again!

"Code of Honor" - "Where are the white women at?!" This episode isn't that racist, save for the fact that all the villains are portrayed by black actors in what can only be described as a completely wrong-headed decision. The crew needs a vaccine but Lutan, the leader of the society that possesses it, wants something in return: Lt. Yar as his wife. Yar has to fight "Amok Time"-style with Lutan's wife Yareena. By episode's end, Yareena is presumed dead and manages to hook up with Lutan's number two man and Picard and Co. get their vaccine. Like many early episodes, it's slow as molasses. Oh, and during the crisis, Picard lets Wesley man the ops station! As per my research, this episode's director - who may or may not have been a racist - treated the actors terribly and was fired by Roddenberry before filming was completed. If you ask any of the actors which episode embarrasses them the most, chances are it'll be this one.

"Justice" - The crew lands on a planet populated by a hedonistic race called the Edo ("bad perm" in English). Wesley falls into some bushes and the penalty for this is - wait for it - DEATH! The way this society works is simple: nobody wants to die, therefore nobody breaks the rules. The only problem is that the rules apply to randomly selected "punishment zones." Meanwhile, a strange entity appears in orbit and the Edo recognize it as - wait for it - GOD! Picard eventually risks the wrath of this entity and allows Wesley and the away team to beam up, much to the chagrin of the Edo. This episode is crap. The Edo belong in an XXX Trek parody and the tonal shift between the frolicking first half and the moralizing second half is less than smooth. On the plus side, the effects crew was able to recycle the "God" miniature: it was later used as a space station! Take it away, Wil Wheaton!

"Shades of Gray" - Ah, there's nothing like a clip show! Riker is infected by an alien parasite and flashes back to previous events during his treatment. This episode was a victim of the 1988 Writers Guild strike. There were only 22 episodes this season and even the fall premiere ("The Child") was recycled from an unfilmed Star Trek: Phase II script. I'm pretty sure I've only seen this episode once and I honestly have nothing to say about it - it was filmed out of necessity. To add insult to injury, this was the season two finale! Could you imagine a TV series ending a season with a clip show today?

"Cost of Living" - I once showed a friend some screencaps from various TNG episodes and we came across one of Deanna's mother Lwaxana and Worf's son Alexander sitting in a mud bath together. We asked each other, "What the hell episode is this?!" Well, it's this one. Lwaxana (the late Majel Barrett-Roddenberry) is getting married to a one-time guest star and Worf is having trouble with Alexander. Naturally, the elder Troi takes the younger Klingon under her wing. Truthfully, I don't hate the Lwaxana Troi character. One appearance per season was just fine and I always enjoyed seeing Picard, Riker, and Worf bristle in her presence. However, I can see why some people would find her annoying and she might be at her most annoying in this episode. And in case you were wondering, the poor groom calls off the wedding when he finds out Betazoid women get married in the nude. [shudder]

"Gambit" - This is a two-parter but I'm including them here as one episode. The story involves "space pirates" raiding Romulan archeological sites and a Vulcan intelligence officer (played by Robin Curtis a.k.a. the second Lt. Saavik) who's on the hunt for an ancient Vulcan telepathic weapon. These episodes are the very definition of "bland." The acting is bland, the art direction is bland, the story is bland, and even "Part II" writer Ron Moore later admitted that they ran out of story. "Part I" opens with Picard presumed dead and of course we know that can't be true. These episodes aired early in TNG's seventh and final season and it's clear that everyone's attention was elsewhere: DS9 was in its second season and both Voyager and Star Trek Generations were in development.

Andrew’s Response: Scott, those are some dogs, though I liked Gambit until the ending. My least favorite is "Sub Rosa", which is like a weak, haunted romance novel, as we meet the ghost who's been shtupping the Crusher women for generations. Then you have a series of Troi's mother episodes: "Dark Page" (mom in a coma), "Haven" (Troi's arranged marriage), "Half A Life" (Troi's mom gets the hots for Lane Meyer's dad), and "Cost of Living" (Troi's mom becomes gold digger). You also have this turd ("Lessons"), where Picard fraternizes some woman he finds below deck (which sadly is not a euphemism for anything) but finds it too fricken hard to both be a lover and a Captain. Finally, there is "Conspiracy", which didn't bother me at the time, but seriously -- a plot to conquer Starfleet from within gets raised and resolved within the same episode? Oh the pain. . . the pain.

84 comments:

darski said...

I need to think back on this but right up front I would list "Descent" parts 1 & 2. Call me Pollyanna but I don't want to see our people being the bad guys. By our guys I mean the crew we all know and love. I never could see a reason for this show to air. Of course "I Borg" also hits bottom. it was that old libtard premise that we will allow billions of people to be murdered or enslaved because we are just so pure. Will get back to you with others as I think through them

oh... yeah. I must say that I would rather have Wesley than Beverly Crusher any day of the week.

K said...

I didn't watch many NG episodes, mainly because of the first one I happened onto.

Q dresses up in US Marine uniform - (of 1980s vintage!!) and acts the military bigot - using that as one example of why the human race should be liquidated (as I remember). At the time, this was a direct reference to the Ollie North affair.

I figured the series was going to be a series of lefist political commercials after that and stopped watching.

AndrewPrice said...

darski, I don't have a problem with our side being bad guys, it makes good drama. What bothered me in that one was that we're supposed to believe that in all of Star Fleet, the only people qualified to take this missions are an old man, a pacifist doctor and Worf? Do they not have a Delta-Team or something?

That Borg episode ticked me off too. So they have a chance to kill an unstoppable killing machine which has killed and enslaved trillions of people across the galaxy, destroyed planets, civilization, etc. but we can't do it because it wouldn't be right to give one of them a disease which would kill the rest? WTF?

AndrewPrice said...

k, That set the series off on the wrong foot all right. What I found laughably hypocritical and rather infuriating, was Picard in his pajama-costume calling the Marine uniform "a costume". A-hole.

You're right too that for a while the show was a series of leftist commercials. That slowly faded, but the traces of it were still there.

darski said...

Ok... meant to get right back here with my major TNG Fail. "Encounter @ Farpoint" was probably the worst of the lot. It was just pathetic. I know they need time to find their feet with a new series but this one was way over the *bottom* .

I must say that in DS9 and VOY you could see the difference when you can hit the ground running. They had the back story to start from so maybe I should be a little forgiving about the pilot for TNG... but the whole thing is cringe-worthy.

Tennessee Jed said...

had I actually seen 5 episodes, I might be in a better position to make at least one cogent remark. One thing that today's discussion did cement for me (had there ever been any doubt): At least for me, it doesn't appear to be a worthwhile investment in time and/or money to go back and view this series. I'm sure you guys are tired of my whining about this, though. It is a combination of my own hubris/snobbishness and total buy-in of the original, plus my oft discussed change in priorities at the time that caused TNG to, in effect, not happen

AndrewPrice said...

darski, "Farpoint" had it all on display -- liberal politics and sucker punches (the uniform thing in particular), plots that make no sense, lack of consistency in characters (like how Data acts like he's never seen a human before even though he went through Starfleet Academy and apparently served in other places), them having no idea what to do with Troi, kids all over the ship, some dude in a skirt, Picard trying to surrender the ship at the first sign of trouble....

Yeah. That was a horrible start.

DUQ said...

Any of the afternoon specials, like when Worf get paralyzed, or Worf has to learn that his son wants to be a dancer (or whatever), when Troi gets raped (but not really), when Wesley learns to deal with the loss of his dad, etc.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, That's a tough call. There are some episodes which are well worth watching. And overall, the series is mostly enjoyable. But there are big chunks of it that drag it down. What they need is like "The Abridged (Non-idiot)" version for people who don't want to waste time on the idiotic episodes and just want to see the good ones.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, "Afternoon Specials" is a good way to put it. There are some solid dramatic episodes and there are some solid "slow" episodes -- I actually like the one where Picard lives that guy's life on through the satellite they find. But then there is that other class, like the paralyzed Worf episode, and they really do feel like "Afternoon Specials." "Today, on a very special TNG, watch Worf get weepy as he learns that all cultural beliefs should be respected, except his own...."

darski said...

@ Andrew... there used to be a channel on You tube where the guy took all the Dominion war segments from DS( and edited them together and left out all the junk that got in the way of a good story line. I loved those vids - until he got caught of course.

it would be interesting to see what would make the cut for TNG.

AndrewPrice said...

darski, It's amazing how quick studios are to shut down re-edits. I haven't seen what you're talking about, but I very much enjoyed the Dominion War stuff from DS-9. I think it took TNG/DS-9/Voyager to a place it hadn't been before and really gave the series a lot of life.

I would bet that if you edited down TNG, you would probably lose 40% of the series.

tryanmax said...

I am against most episodes in which Picard busts out his flute. Holodeck episodes don’t really do it for me, either (That includes "The Royale"). Aside from those generalities, some specific episodes that stand out to me as bad are:

"Skin of Evil" - Yes, I know this is the episode where Tasha Yar bites it. I still don’t like it.

"The Dauphin" - Wesley’s unbearably awkward crush episode.

"The Host" - Dr. Crusher falls in love with a symbiont. Just a weak episode that for some reason stands out in my memory.

tryanmax said...

DUQ - Good call on the "afternoon specials"! I don't remember the one where Worf gets paralyzed, but it seems like Troi got mind-raped about once a season. How dreary!

darski said...

@ tryanmax re: The Host...

did you not find it interesting that the "Head of Star Fleet Medical" did not know anything about Trill physiology in spite of the fact that one of the best known and most revered Ambassadors (Curzon Dax) was a Trill? Just an interesting lack of planning by the writers.

and that was one of the episodes that I thoroughly disliked as well. Funny - I keep adding to the list.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Any episode where Dr. Crusher falls in love reminds me of a poor romance novel. . . or lame coffee commercial.

"The Royale" (with cheese) was a silly episode. How could the people who made this world be so bright as to be able to create this world of him... and yet not grasp that the repetitiveness of living in a crappy book would be anathema to a human?

I generally dislike the flute moments, except for the one mentioned above. For some reason I do enjoy the episode where he lives the whole life.

DUQ said...

tryanmax, It's called "Ethics" and it's dreeeeary. Worf gets paralyzed and then spends the episode trying to find someone to kill him as some other doctor promises an experimental surgery to cure him which Crusher won't allow. In the end, we all learned a little something about ourselves. Barf.

AndrewPrice said...

darski, LOL! Great point! I guess Crusher skipped that day at medical school. . . and ignored her briefing when the ship took on the ambassador. . . and doesn't read the papers or know her species.

tryanmax said...

darski - That's just one (the main) reason why the episode is so weak. I could write a page about it if it wouldn't lead to suicide.

Andrew - "The Inner Light" is one exception because it introduces the flute and gives it meaning. But Picard busting it out later only advertises: This is a lame episode, please associate it with this much better one.

ScottDS said...

To the room...

I just watched "Encounter at Farpoint" again for the first time in years. It has its moments but as I've said to Andrew on many occasions, it's a miracle the show wasn't cancelled after its first season. On one hand, it did introduce us to the Q character but on the other hand, it's all rather... stilted and formal. I read someone describe TNG, at least the early years, as "Masterpiece Theater Trek." :-)

"The Inner Light" used to bore me as a kid but today I love it. It's a classic episode and rightfully so.

Jed - you might want to find a list of "essential episodes" and go from there. Even the episodes with politics you may object to aren't terrible... at the very least, you might get a good chuckle out of 'em!

I haven't seen "The Royale" in years but there's a great gag where Picard starts reading from a novel: "It was a dark and stormy night..." He pauses and looks up, as if to say, "Really?!"

As far as "afternoon specials" are concerned, it's a thin line to walk. Yes, the characters should be put in some moral or ethical dilemma and learn from it, but the preachy stuff should be kept to a minimum.

ScottDS said...

Oh, and don't say I don't do anything for you guys. If you want a laugh, click this link:

12 Star Trek fashion disasters

tryanmax said...

Aaaaahhhhh! The man-skant! My eyes! My eyes!

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, What's interesting about that episode ("The Inner Light") is that it is a surprisingly strong episode even though nothing really happens in it. In many ways, that is a high water mark of what TNG was trying to achieve. But it's also very rare, as most of their attempts to do episodes like that ended up really flat.

On the other flute episodes -- I think the problem with the flute, just like Riker's trumpet and them constantly obsessing over what each character drinks, is that they had no real "character" and they just tried to substitute a list of likes/dislikes for character. Thus, rather than show you what Picard is like in a crisis, we instead get "he plays flute, he likes archeology, and he's not good with kids." That is not a substitute, but it's what they chose to substitute.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, It wasn't just content, it was tone as well. The "afternoon special" episodes felt like they were aimed at grade schoolers and you could almost see the cast coming together at the end and speaking to the audience: "This was just a play and Worf didn't really get hurt, but if you know someone in real life who...."

The biggest joke in the "Royale" episode was the TNG crew attacking someone else for poor writing! Their writing was amateurish at best at that point and it was really arrogant for them to try to poke fun at other writes.

(Those are some major fashion mistakes -- all of them! Ahh!)

ScottDS said...

I'm trying to think of some other episodes I dislike but again, I probably haven't seen them in years. The first season had a bunch: "Angel One" with a society run by women (yet they need Riker to save the day...?), another one where all the ship's kids are kidnapped, and the first Trek episode I ever saw, back in 1992: "Lonely Among Us" - the only thing I remember about it is lots and lots of energy beams flying around! Other than that, I got nothin' but it was enough to get me to tune in the following day, and the day after that... and here are 20 years later!

But so many episodes (and TNG is not the only series that suffers from this) are just forgettable. Take "The Vengeance Factor" from season 3 - do you remember it? I sure don't! But it happened! Even Coach Balbricker from Porky's guest-starred in it. :-)

As for the clothes, yeah, they rarely did a good job with civilian outfits, though I love Cochrane's coat in Star Trek: First Contact with that little hat he wears. Jake Sisko had some bad outfits but later on, they gave him a cool vest to wear... better than the one-piece purple jumpsuits he wore when the series started!

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, The only thing that kept me watching TNG the first season was my love of TOS and my hope that TNG would get better. Without TOS "street cred" behind it, TNG should have been cancelled very quickly.

What's funny to me, on the forgettability point, is that I don't generally run into that with other series I like. I can remember each of TOS series, probably all of the Stargate SG-1 episodes, etc. But TNG has a lot that just don't come to mind without a cheat sheet. I think that's because while they hit upon some really good episodes, they lacked consistency.

rlaWTX said...

I was in late high school when I watched these, and haven't seen much since then. What I remember: I liked Q. I liked Dr. Crusher. I didn't mind Wesley Crusher when he was younger (and the whole Will Wheaton thing on Big Bang Theory is pretty funny). I actually mostly like Guinan (Whoopi). She was a better counselor than Troi. I kinda liked the underlying almost romance between Beverly & Picard and Troi & Riker.
And when I went off to college in '90 and mostly stopped watching, I didn't really miss it.

(SG1 was way cool! I still watch those when I catch them - didn't see them in order or exactly when they cam out - also like Atlantis)

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, I actually bought the SG1 series because I liked it so much. I didn't see it in order either the first time, but I've seen them all several times since. I liked Atlantis too, though not quite as much as SG1.

I actually liked Whoopie as well on TNG. I thought she did a good job and fit the show nicely. I don't have any problems with her from TNG.

ScottDS said...

I, too, liked Whoopi on TNG and I always appreciated the ambiguous nature of her and Picard's relationship.

On the Generations audio commentary, Ron Moore and Brannon Braga joke that writing for Guinan was very difficult and that the rule was always: "Less on the nose!" Both writers joked about wishing to write a scene where Picard walks into Ten-Forward, glances at Guinan, nods in acknowledgment, and leaves.... no dialogue. :-)

Re: forgettable episodes, sometimes I wonder what my reaction would be if I was watching TNG for the first time now as an adult, instead of in 1992 as a fourth grader. Would I like the same episodes? Would I remember some and forget others? Who knows? Besides, most TV series have 22 episodes in a season; TNG had 26, which meant 4 more opportunities every year to be awesome, or screw up.

tryanmax said...

I can't believe I almost forgot "Evolution" - Wesley! I don't care what you do in private, but keep your damn nanites to yourself!

Scott - Jake Sisko's wardrobe gives lie to the notion that dark-skinned people can pull off anything. Too bad about "The Vengeance Factor," on paper it sounds pretty good.

ScottDS said...

tryanmax -

If the episode was good, I'd like to think I'd remember it. :-)

"Evolution" isn't a bad episode.

It was the first episode of the third season, the first new episode with Dr. Crusher (who was absent from season 2), the debut of the new 2-piece uniforms with collars, the debut of a new 4-foot ship miniature that was used for new FX shots, and the first Trek writing assignment for the late Michael Piller, who would go on to run the show and later co-create DS9 and VGR.

The nanites were even mentioned in a later episode, in a rare display of a "call back" - something TNG didn't do as often as the other shows.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, That's a good question. I first saw TNG as a quasi-adult so I never saw it as a child. I did see the original series as a child and I know that my appreciation of it has grown. By comparison, my view of TNG has fluctuated over time.

I like the ambiguity too. Ambiguity is good in writing because it lets people fill in the gaps. Too many writers feel like they need to explain everything and that robs a lot of modern stories of the mystery they need to pull people in.

And that would have been a funny scene!

AndrewPrice said...

I actually thought "Evolution" was one of the more clever things they had done at the time. In hindsight though, it's not a very thoughtful or deep episode, and in light of sci-fi which came later, it's really pretty primitive.

ScottDS said...

By the way, I forgot to include this link in my e-mail to Nolte so the hits'll come Thursday instead of tomorrow. :-)

There's a great tell-all book just waiting to be published about TNG, especially its beginning. I don't blame Paramount for not spilling everything in any of the officially-licensed publications but I know Rick Berman expressed interest in writing a book at one point - he's no longer on the payroll and can say what he wants.

I've read more than one account of behind the scenes tumult in the early days where the blame is placed on, of all people, Roddenberry's (over-protective) lawyer.

(In other news, I see Rick Santorum pulled out. Sorry... had to go there.) :-)

Doc Whoa said...

So much badness in the TNG. But also so really goodness. Whenever they dealt with time paradoxes, it was great. When they tried to do weepy, it was horrible. The whole first season is a waste too. Rudderless.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Ricky did indeed pull out. LOL!

I would definitely be interested in a behind the scenes account of the series. I wonder that there aren't several books like that already?

ScottDS said...

I wouldn't call the first season a total waste. There are a few gems there, including "The Big Goodbye" (the first holodeck adventure), "11001001," and while Andrew doesn't like it, I enjoy "Conspiracy" - it's just a shame the alien threat was never followed up on.

As for time travel, I'm a fan. On DS9 they introduced the Department of Temporal Investigations, a bureaucracy charged with investigating all instances of time travel. It was played for laughs but a couple years ago they released a novel about the department... and the next novel comes out in two weeks, which I plan on reading. The first book was a bit trippy and I expect nothing less from this one.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

There are plenty of behind the scenes books but many of them are officially-licensed publications and no movie/TV studio is going to let themselves look bad in print! There are also unauthorized books (not as much now as there used to be), but I'm not as familiar with these.

For my money, the best making-of is The Making of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine by Terry Erdmann, who was there almost every day covering the ins and outs of production.

Ed said...

Scott, When I saw Justice, I didn't know if it was meant to be a humorous episode or not. It was that ridiculous. As an aside, I followed your link from the other day where Wil Wheaton takes the episode apart and laughed my rear end off! :D

ScottDS said...

Ed -

Glad to hear it! As I mentioned above, I didn't see the episodes in order when they first aired, plus I was just a kid, so I simply took the episode at face value.

However, today all I can do is roll my eyes. It's also the only Trek episode where, if they had shown it to us in film school, I would've set myself on fire as a diversion. :-)

Commander Max said...

Five worst episodes? Did it even have five good episodes?

I watched the entire run, what I find interesting is how little I remember. But I remember props, ships, characters, locations and situations.

I do remember-
Q's description of the Borg.
"Mr Worf, fire." The best line of the series, and the climax of one of the best episodes. To bad it opened what was one of the worst episodes of the series.
I did like the episode with Worf and his mate(but I want to be feminist) Kaylar(sp)?
Talk about about wanting to do the act but have non of the responsibility(Andrew have you done a post on that one?).

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Fire is not a toy! ;)

I wouldn't call the first season a waste in the sense that it had a few kernels of good ideas. But ultimately, I would completely re-write the whole season if given the chance.

On the Temporal cops, the concept troubles me a bit, but that's probably best saved for another day. It just seem like either it wouldn't be possible or else it should be 100% successful and there should be no episodes where dangerous time stuff occurs. Also, it reeks of "fate" and I don't care for fate in my stories.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, I have not done a post on that one yet. I've been mainly focused on TOS and haven't really addressed TNG yet. But that is an odd episode and I think you describe it correctly -- responsibility avoidance.

I remember a good chunk of the series, but not nearly as much or as well as other series. I could probably quote to you most scenes from TOS, but I have a hard time even remembering all of the TNG episodes, much less remembering all of the parts. I think that's because they often had parts which didn't really relate to each other. It was like there were always 2-3 unrelated stories going on.

tryanmax said...

Scott - I notice your defense of "Evolution" doesn't address the storyline at all. I agree that the episode marks a positive turning point in the series and has a good legacy. Also, the nanite rewrite is hella better than the original concept. But for some reason, whenever this episode comes on, I flip the channel or hit skip. Maybe it's burnout.

I don't remember "The Vengance Factor" either. I just thought the linked synopsis sounded good.

RE: Guinan - overall, I like the character, but from a script standpoint, she could be just as much of a crutch as Troi. She probably has the best wardrobe of any Trek character, though. I could totally see some most of it being worn on the street. Maybe not the hats.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I dig the hats. One thing I absolutely like about her wardrobe is that it's believable that this will be futuristic or alien attire. It doesn't look fake like so many other things you see on the show do.

I remember "The Vengeance Factor" and thought it was an ok episode, but nothing I would want to see if I could pick my top 20 to watch. "Evolution" is about the same to me. It's an ok episode, but doesn't thrill me.

ScottDS said...

tryanmax -

You're right. I didn't address the storyline; your mention of the episode simply made me think of all the changes that occurred at the start of that season. :-) As for the episode itself, I haven't seen it in years but it does guest star Scrubs' Dr. Kelso, Ken Jenkins.

Andrew, et al -

A great episode that I find myself disappointed with sometimes is "Relics," the one where Scotty shows up. It's a good piece of work and I love that they brought back James Doohan and they rebuilt part of the original bridge...

...but they totally overdid the "Scotty's old and senile and useless!" angle, like he's GRandpa Simpson. I tried watching the episode with a friend recently and he asked me to turn it off. That aspect of the show was bothering him and I was thankful knowing he felt the same way I did.

tryanmax said...

"Relics" does have one great moment, though, when Scotty and Data are raiding the liquor.

"It is green."

annoyedelephants said...

The list of terrible shows in the early TNG years (Wesley/Data gets into trouble/saves the day) is pretty heavy. The abominable Code of Honor, Angel One, Justice, The Child, etc. Season 7 had quite a few stinkers, too. Genesis, Masks, Dark Page, Gambit Pt 2, and the terrible previously mentioned Sub Rosa. It's like the creators decided that the show needed to be psychological goop instead of good sci-fi.

AndrewPrice said...

I don't like "Relics" at all. It strikes me as morbid and insulting. It's also anti-character in the sense that these people who bend over backwards to accommodate anyone and anything suddenly can't be bothered to listen to Scott's stories? It reeks of a set-up plot.

ScottDS said...

annoyed -

"Genesis" is actually one of my guilty pleasure episodes. My main problem with it is that it wraps up in about 30 seconds. We go from Picard cowering in a corner to "Captain's log: everything's fine!"

In the 7th season, I think everyone's priorities were elsewhere, but there are two genuine classics in that last season: "Parallels" and "The Pegasus" which guest stars John Locke himself, Terry O'Quinn, as Riker's former commanding officer.

Commander Max said...

Andrew, at least they punished her with a kid.
According to O-bum-bo speak.
Why did they have to punish Worf with a wimp. I'm surprised they didn't show him playing with dolls and having tea with his stuffed animal friends.

Andrew I think your observation was one of STNG's failings. Besides having to many characters fighting for center stage, or is it to many writers and poor leadership.

AndrewPrice said...

annoyedelephants, They certainly started poorly and a lot of the last season was pretty weak too, though many of their best episodes came near the end.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

I can't disagree. I think I told my friend, "It's like, if Einstein walked in through the door, we'd be showing him all over the place and asking him questions. The last thing we'd do is ignore him!"

Per Memory Alpha, there was a scene that was cut where Troi visits Scotty in his quarters but he gets pissed off when he find out she's a shrink. I'm kinda glad they left this out! (It's comes before the scene where Scotty orders a drink.)

ScottDS said...

Cmdr. Max -

I can see why they'd make Worf's son kind of a wimp. Aside from the fact that he's a little kid, their differences make for good conflict (to the extent that TNG did conflict). If father and son were exactly alike, it would've been boring.

But when they revisited the character in DS9, it was rather unpleasant and obvious that he wasn't cut out to be a "warrior."

AndrewPrice said...

Max, Worf having a wimp for a kid is almost a Biblical punishment, isn't it?

I think those were the problems -- too many characters competing for center stage, lack of a central structure for the show, too many writers (and too many weak writers) and poor leadership.

United Citizens Council said...

Too many characters? Not enough character?

They could easily have devised ways to focus on certain characters and they did in some episodes. They could have kept doing that in a way not to leave anyone out, not everyone can be a main character in every episode.

And what was the thing with Ensign Ro? Why bring her onto the ship and do absolutely nothing substantial with her? Plus she was a lowly ensign hanging out with the bridge crew! She should have been hanging out with people like Wesley and/or other ensigns.

I can't disagree with any of the opinions mentioned above. They had a lot of lousy episodes and some of them could have been so much better with a little bit better writing.

For what its worth Star Trek Phase 2 fan films, nonprofit, has also produced "The Child" (released April 5) and it could be better than TNG's, at least in my opinion. Anyone else seen it?

United Citizens Council said...

I almost want Brent Spiner and Wil Wheaton to get together and produce a little web film where Captain Wesley Crusher finds Data on a little planetoid a decade after Nemesis. Just make it a take on Castaway, where Data has gone insane and talks to rocks with faces painted on them. (Picard, Riker etc) Spot is a spot on the floor that he pets and talks to too.

"Look Spot, this imaginary bipedal mammal is talking to me, should I talk to him or would that be strange?"

Commander Max said...

I wonder if they would have taken Alexander's suggestions over Worf's?
I don't know if it would have been boring if Alexander had acted more Klingon. I do think it would have concerned a few parental groups. Imagine little boys being inspired to clobber kids for ice cream. While stating, "Your not worthy of eating ice cream, coward".

UCC, you can devise ways to focus on other characters. But it does dilute a story if to much is going on at one time. You'll do more to confuse/bore the audience than entertain. Best to keep the overall plot focused. TOS did a nearly perfect job at that, you have your three main characters. Everyone else is built around those characters, NG didn't do that. Suddenly one character is central, then another episode it's another and so forth.

Since you mention the fan films, I found them so bad, I couldn't watch them all they way through. Much less getting past Kirk with an Elvis haircut.

Guys here is something a bit off topic, but not quite off topic.
http://www.thegoddardgroup.com/blog/index.php/now-it-can-be-told-the-star-trek-attraction-that-almost-came-to-life-in-1992/

ScottDS said...

UCC -

I haven't seen any of the fan films but I've heard good things about them

As for Ensign Ro, I agree. While she was a recurring character, there really was no reason for her to participate in discussions with the senior staff, especially since no other helm officer did! (Ro was supposed to be a regular on DS9 but Michelle Forbes wasn't interested so they created the Major Kira character instead.)

But that's something about Trek in general that bothers me: why is the senior staff always going on away missions? I get the "TV" reason but in the "real world," wouldn't Geordi be sending a couple of field engineers in his place? Same with the original series: why was Sulu - a helmsman - always part of the landing party? :-)

ScottDS said...

Cmdr. Max -

I saw that Las Vegas article. Bummer! But who are we kidding? It no doubt would've cost a fortune to maintain, not to mention the inevitable upgrades. But it sure looked like it would've been fun and kudos to the designers for thinking big.

rlaWTX said...

Just dawned on me, TOS seems more "diverse" (Earthling-wise) than TNG. my imagination? Although I think the Red Shirts who get killed were generally white guys.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, What's funny is that TNG started out very diverse. You had blacks, whites, Indians, Asians and other in the first couple episodes. Then a couple episodes in they dropped that and pretty much went with wall to wall whites.

TOS really was pretty diverse. What's more, they weren't obnoxious about it. For example, one of my favorite characters (Dr. Daystrom) is a black guy who is also a bad guy. You (almost?) never saw minorities at the bad guys in TNG. They played under the "only white males are bad" rule of political correctness and thus minorities had to be these carefully scripted, non-exciting characters. TOS never worried about that.

rlaWTX said...

that's what I thought I was remembering... thanks.

ScottDS said...

TNG actually had a lot of female villains including Sela, Ardra from "Devil's Due," the two Klingon sisters, and that one actress who played a Romulan a few different times. You also had the black actors in the aforementioned "Code of Honor"

At the end of the day, many of the villains were simply aliens where PC race rules wouldn't apply. Picard was tortured by a Cardassian but it didn't matter than the character was played by a white guy. (I'm sure I'm oversimplifying it.)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Fascinating post, Scott!
Also, thanks for the hilarious Wheaton video.
I would definitely like to see more of those type of power point cut-ups.
Wheaton is very funny.

As you already mentioned, there were a shipload of episodes that just wasn't very memorable, sandwiched by some good episodes and more than a few stinkers.

Not to be outdone in the stinker (and incredibly stupid) dept., an enterprising sixth grade teacher actually taught a class in a travelling exhibit to different schools using, get this, the Force Of Nature episode.

Not tongue in cheek, or to show how not to use science in a cautionary tale (which also could've been used in a how not to write an interesting story in Bad Storytelling 101), but rather as a serious science exhibit.
STTNG Fantasy Science Project

I guess they picked sixth grade because of the gullibility factor.
I'm pretty sure high school or even jr. high students would've laughed at this, for the most part.
Looks like the Borg found a way to change the past so they could easily take over in the future, LOL.

ScottDS said...

Thanks for the kind words. :-)

It appears "Force of Nature" is only part of that traveling exhibit... I see a date of 1994. Is this still going on or was it just something put together back then?

I haven't seen that episode in years but when it came up in the comments recently, I cited a bunch of quotes from the writers who: a.) regretted the heavy-handedness of the episode, and b.) knew it was a cheat since a warp drive "speed limit" couldn't possibly be followed every week.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, PC rules dictate certain things. For example, good luck finding petty criminals who are black or Hispanic. You can have female villains, but usually only if there is a white male ultimately behind the exploitation or if they are grandiose (Cruelle de Ville types).

More often than not, minorities are portrayed like Sisko's dad, Whoopie, Geordi's mom, etc. -- "the magic negro" as Spike Lee called them... wise, simple creatures who teach us a thing or two about universal wisdom.

STNG was written at the outset of a very feminist decade, and that resulted in several feminist influences: (1) women who are as strong as men in a fist fight, (2) women who are generally smarter and wiser than men, (3) lots of rape episodes (at least 4 off the top of my head), (4) several sexual harassment episodes, (5) several "imagine a world where women ran everything" episodes, (6) the man skirt, etc.

This is also why all good Starfleet Admirals are women (or the occasional black) and all bad ones are white men. There may be an exception now and then, but I can't think of any. And it's why the female characters tended to be strong single mothers, whereas the men in relationships tended to be wimps.

Interestingly, TNG did go against this on occasion, such as when Riker is wrongly accused of sexual harassment and murder. But those were rare moments and were almost always explained as mistakes on the part of the minority -- not anything intentional.

ScottDS said...

I definitely agree with you on the rape episodes. "Another Troi mind rape story" has been used by my friend and I on more than one occasion. :-)

I also agree about the petty criminal thing.

There was one great white guy admiral on DS9. Admiral Ross was a good man, not perfect, but not a caricature either, nor was he a mustache-twirling villain.

Of course, DS9 did these things a bit better than it's predecessor.

United Citizens Council said...

In a more realistic story there would be a standard away team and that would NOT include sending the senior officers and bridge crew to unknown worlds. Just saying.

Anonymous said...

Code of Honor: "No vaccine and no Lt. Yar!"

Encounter at Farpoint: For all the reasons stated.

The Drumhead: This episode was so sanctimonious I wanted to puke. I watched this once on the original air date and it has stuck with me for years.

I Borg: All the goodness from "The Best of Both Worlds" is ruined here.

ScottDS said...

Anon -

I like "The Drumhead." I got what they were trying to do and maybe it's a little on the nose but Jean Simmons saves it. It was also the last episode scored by composer Ron Jones before he was fired.

Re: "I, Borg", I know, I know. I haven't seen it in years and there is something to be said about taking an individual drone and humanizing him... on the other hand, sometimes "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one."

AndrewPrice said...

Anon and Scott, I should probably do a separate article on "I, Borq" because it bothers me on so many levels. It's the old liberal idea that "they're just like us," which is most definitely not true.

It's also got the most bizarre moral to it. How many trillions of people will die the universe over because Picard refuses to act? Moreover, if we accept that it's wrong for them to give him the computer virus, then how can Picard justify ever killing any enemy soldier -- it's the same thing? Basically, he's standing on a phony point of morality.

Arrrrrrrg.

Plus, it does wipe out all that was good about Best of Both Worlds because it tries to humanize an alien whose specific point was that it lacked any element of humanity.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

I agree in part, at least with your last line. I think what might've happened was the writers hit a wall with the Borg. How many episodes could they have where the Borg try to invade Earth and Picard and Co. defeat them? And if Picard and Co. keep defeating them, it makes the Borg seem less menacing over the long run.

If you think about it, each Borg drone is a person who was assimilated so why not explore that? Of course, they still could've done that in a different way. One of the things I feel Voyager did relatively well was the 7 of 9 character.

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

I agree completely. What made the Borg unique was they they were not like all the other "enemy" races from the Star Trek universe. They couldn't be bargained with. There would be no army of Federation diplomats reaching understanding with them. It's like trying to negotiate with your toaster. They were single minded in their desire to absorb other cultures. There was great potential for stories and drama with them. What happens when a Federation known for diplomacy and "soft power" has to deal with a technologically superior enemy who cannot be negotiated with?

I, Borg negates all this by humanizing the Borg. Now they are just like the Klingons and Cardassians. The moral choice that Picard makes really isn't a choice at all. It would have been so much more interesting if we saw the consequences of not using the virus. How many worlds and cultures were destroyed because the virus was not used? Does that hang on Picard's conscience?

Anonymous said...

TNG certainly had a ton of clunkers. A few good ones that stand out are:
-- "Sins of the Father", which could easily have been a two parter

-- Q-Who",arguably the best Q episode and which which introduced the Borg

--"Timescape" from season 6, just an overall good/fun story

"The First Duty" from season 5, the only Wesley episode I truly liked and the first real visit to Star Fleet Academy

-- "Lower Decks" from season 7, a follow-up of sorts from "The First Duty" and the only episode to not concentrate on the core characters

---- Big Mo

AndrewPrice said...

Anon, I agree. And that's how TNG always made sure that it appeared Picard made the right choices -- by never showing the consequences of his action, i.e. the lives lost, etc.

I agree completely about why the Borg was cool. This was an enemy you could not negotiate it. It was war to the death and they offered no mercy. "I, Borg" turned them into "just like everybody else" aliens. And then First Contact made it even worse by giving them a flirty queen. So now the Borg are only doing what some over-sexed, over-acting dictator wants? Hmm.

AndrewPrice said...

Big Mo, I think they did have some very good episodes as well, and you name several of them.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

I know it's been one of those weeks but any thoughts on my comment above re: a possible reason for the episode "I, Borg"?

(My last comment is above anon, in case you missed it.) :-)


Anon/Big Mo -

Great list of episodes. "Lower Decks" was definitely a unique episode.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Obviously, you CAN do what they have done. And taken in isolation, I suppose it makes sense. BUT there are huge problems with this.

First, the Borg is terrifying because it is a collective. Its members cannot be individually influenced and it lacks the motives that are common to normal individuals. Thus, you can’t “deal” with it. To maintain this, the Borg were presented as a thing which absorbed people and they ceased to exist. Allowing the "I, Borg" situation undoes that. The Borg is no longer the death of the identity/soul, it is now simply being put to sleep until you die or can be free. In other words, the Borg as originally presented represented a type of immortal death – you were gone forever. The “I, Borg” version is just a life sentence with the possibility of parole. That reduces the terror factor significantly.

Secondly, you now have the problem that "I, Borg" changes the nature of the Borg itself. Rather than being a collective which desires to absorb all, it instead becomes an entity which suppresses its members. In real terms, this is like the difference between an army of devout Islamic terrorists v. a conscript army led by a dictator. The first is relentless because each part shares the goal. The second is a thing of pity because it only stays together under threat.

Further, "I, Borg" is daffy liberalism at work. Liberals have always maintained that given the chance, everyone in the world would think like a liberal. So if they are running around raping, pillaging and murdering, it must be because some horrible force has made them do it. That’s why they think killing bin Laden would end terrorism, because they can’t imagine that the other terrorists are doing this because they believe in the cause, they assume they must have been tricked into it by an evil leader. This idiocy is on display in “I, Borg” and with 7 of 9, where once these people get released, they instantly accept Starfleet philosophy as true and go about becoming just like Picard and the crew. Even 7 of 9, who supposedly didn’t fit in, only had problems with the chain of command, not the fundamental beliefs.

If they wanted to do an episode like “I, Borg” despite the problems mentioned above, then they should have acknowledged that these people would have very different views than those of Picard et al. But they didn’t do that because the point to the episode was, “if we free people from evil political systems, they will become good liberals and it will be a great world.”

Finally, as an aside, the follow up to “I, Borg” is rather stupid if you think about it. Oh, so Hue brings back “knowledge of individuality” to the Borg and causes chaos. Really? How is it the Borg had no knowledge of this? They absorbed millions of people -- none of them ever mentioned this? It’s these kinds of contradictions which tell me the writers didn’t understand the concept they created in the first episode.

Mike Zimmerman said...

I confess, I haven't read every comment word-for-word, so maybe someone has already covered these points ...

For one thing, I hate to be a nitpicker, but I believe the real term is "after *school* special," not "afternoon." As in the infamous "ABC Afterschool Specials" from my youth. But no matter what you call them, there can't be a worse "after school special" moment than in the episode "Symbiosis," where Wesley and Tasha have a frank discussion about the evils of drugs. "Gosh, Lt. Yar, if drugs are so bad, why would anybody ever use them?" It feels completely wedged-in and puke-inducing.

That moment aside, that episode, where the Enterprise intervenes between two cultures/planets where one exists solely by supplying the other with a drug they think is medicine that cures their "plague," is notable to me because it made me think, at least for a moment, that Picard might have a conservative streak in him. Or, more precisely, that the Prime Directive might at its heart be a conservative principle. That's because in this case Picard, over Beverly's very strong objections, chooses what might easily be considered the conservative path in dealing with the problem: let the remaining cargo ships fail, breaking the cycle of dependence (because no one remembers how to fix them on their own), then let the dependent culture go through withdrawal, etc., and figure things out on their own. For their own good. Alas, this seems to be the one exception I've seen.

I also think it's interesting, since reading Andrew's comments about how TOS is both a "morality play" and a "character study" of Captain Kirk, how this episode mirrors that the Kirk-Spock-McCoy relationship. The captain faces a moral dilemma and must make a decision. In this case, the doctor again provides the emotion -- though I can't recall if anyone (maybe Data?) played Spock's role in that process, or if Picard provided the "logical" side of the argument himself. Despite the overtness of the metaphor (it wasn't even really a metaphor, it just was), I found the decision process pretty interesting -- it seemed, now in retrospect, very similar to how Andrew says it always plays out on TOS.

One other quick note, speaking of Dr. Crusher ... I recently re-engaged watching the TNG episodes on Netflix, after watching them 20 or so years ago when they were in syndication. I hadn't really given any notice at all to Star Trek in the interim. What's interesting is, back then, I don't remember paying any attention whatsoever to Dr. Crusher in ... "that way." (Troi is another matter.) She was just this older woman, somebody's MOM for crying out loud. Now, 20 years later, I suddenly find her quite fetching. Hmmm ... I wonder what's changed!? :)

Mike Zimmerman said...

Also, a thought on "Justice" ... When I saw that episode (recently), I took it as a swipe at the Christian doctrine of "the wages of sin is death." More specifically, the idea that just one sin is all it takes to "fall short of the glory of God." It seemed to me designed to make us think, "See how silly it is to condemn someone to death (especially eternal death!) for just one tiny little inadvertent sin?" But that's not why the episode was stupid. It was stupid for all the reasons Wil Wheaton points out in that hilarious PowerPoint send-up.

AndrewPrice said...

Mike, You are correct, "After School Special." It's been a while since I've seen one.

I agree with you very much about "Symbiosis." Wesley's "why would anyone want to do drugs" speech was just hammy and eye-rolling. That line felt like a line a ten year old would say. And the response was just as bad. I almost expected them to break out charts.

I did think Picard for once made the right decision in that episode. And I agree that it made the prime directive sound conservative, in the sense of not saving others from their mistakes. But given how they used it and abused it later, I suspect that was all just accidental.

Mike Zimmerman said...

Thanks, Andrew! I should tell you I've been shifting to watching TOS episodes after reading your blog, and watching them with a fresh perspective (though "fresh" is probably not quite the right word, as I've never really watched them in the first place). I think my perception of the series had been clouded by several things, not the least of which being that it was a show my younger brother embraced when we were kids - I, therefore, had to hate it by default. I think I've probably also seen too many parodies of it. So maybe that's where the "fresh" perspective comes in. What I've mostly enjoyed so far is the glimpse it gives me into the 1960s, more so than the glimpse it gives me of the future. Comparing the 1960s TOS vision of the future with the 1980s/90s vision of TNG is also quite fascinating.

My only real beef is that they seem to move a little slow. I get a little impatient watching them sometimes. But that's an "era" thing too, I think. Takes a little getting used to. It's interesting to note, though, that the TOS episodes are all 50 minutes -- while the TNGs are all 41 or 42. More advertising in modern times, obviously. But I wonder how much difference the extra 8 or 9 minutes makes in the crafting of an episode (for better or worse).

AndrewPrice said...

Mike, I'm glad to hear it! I'm glad that you're taking a second look with a fresh perspective.

On the parodies, I never did understand why so many people seemed to love attacking the show. For years, everyone in Hollywood just seemed to love to deride the show. Now it makes total sense. They realized that TOS does not fit their ideology and so they've mocked it as just a stupid little space western, when it's really so much more.

That's a really great point too, about the glimpses into the 1960s and 1980s/90s. When I first saw TNG, I never thought a thing about it being a creature of it's time, but it truly is dated, as is TOS. It's a fascinating look at both eras.

What's funny about the run-times is that for years, I saw TOS in syndication and they seemed to keep getting shorter and shorter. Then I bought them and was shocked to see how much additional footage there was. And I do think it makes a huge difference because there is very little fluff in TOS.

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