Saturday, 12 October 2013

Star Trek #2

Next Generation Favourite Episodes - Season Two

So, the mighty Star Trek was reborn and its first season largely deemed a success by most fans, old and new. Looking back on it now, however, it's definitely the odd season out. This isn't due its quality though, it's more related to small character and personnel differences, and most of these have been rectified for season two. For example, Cmdr Riker now has a beard, Cllr Troi's hair and cleavage-displaying outfits are correct, Geordie and Worf are now wearing yellow, the former is now chief engineer, the latter is now wearing his metallic sash rather than the flappy fabric one... They're all small differences but the show now feels more like home.

That is with one exception - everyone's favourite redhead physician, Dr Crusher, had unfortunately been fired since the first season ended due to her character not being interesting enough, supposedly (although I think most Trek fans would argue that Troi should take that honour - maybe Gates McFadden should've shown her knockers off a bit more). Her replacement was the more abrasive Dr Pulaski who spends most of the first few episodes just arguing with everyone. I guess that's what makes characters interesting! Anyway, the good changes outweigh the bad if you ask me, and the second season, while probably having a stronger first half, was another good one. Here are my favourite episodes from it:

Where Silence Has Lease (Episode 2)

While most episodes of TNG are busy writing the new and improved Trek bible in the background, this one just felt like pure old-school Trek to me. It features a 'spatial anomaly', of a kind never seen before, obviously, which Captain Picard can't resist checking out. They get as close as possible to this region of pure blackness, fire probes into it which disappear, and then it suddenly lurches forward and envelops them! Once inside, they're unable to find a way back out but are teased with apparent exits and visions of other vessels. Of course, it soon dawns on them that they're being toyed with by a curious-yet-not-altogether-benevolent intelligence calling itself Nagilum whose experiments "shouldn't take more than a third of the crew, maybe half" (which includes a redshirt whose only purpose on the bridge was to be killed). Will Picard stand for that? Of course not! Nothing of consequence really happens in the episode though, it's just one I find interesting. I'm just a sucker for 'spatial anomalies' I guess!

A Matter of Honour (Episode 8)

Maybe it's just me and my cynical ways but I couldn't help but laugh out loud when I heard in this episode that the Federation had instigated an 'officer exchange program'. As well as receiving a weird fish-like alien (who has a suspicious-looking smoking device), however, they also send good old Riker to serve aboard a Klingon vessel! Once there, he punches his second officer, impresses the crew by eating the live squid things they eat, and (probably) shags a couple of toothy females before their Bird of Prey develops a major problem. Who do they hold responsible? That's right, the Enterprise, which they vow to destroy in revenge, and with Riker's help! Again, it's not an important episode really, and Riker is just a little too smug in his flawless assimilation (tee hee!) of Klingon ways, but the pasty-headed oafs themselves always make for entertaining viewing.

The Measure of a Man (Episode 9)

For this episode the Enterprise is docked at one of Starfleet's mighty impressive Starbases, aboard which is cyberneticist Cmdr Bruce Maddox who wants to spend some time with Data in order to better understand - and hopefully then duplicate - his construction. It later transpires, however, that to do that he needs to transfer his memories into a mainframe and disassemble him - eeek! Data is understandably far from keen to undergo this potentially-damaging procedure but apparently has no choice as he is designated as equipment and the property of Starfleet rather than a sentient being. Picard then convinces the resident judge to hold a hearing to determine Data's legal status - Picard will argue on his behalf but Riker is forced to argue against him. So basically it's Trek does courtroom drama but it's a superb episode which raises some major moral questions - ones we'll no doubt have to answer for real some day. That's assuming we haven't destroyed ourselves by then, obviously...

Time Squared (Episode 13)

Every now and then TNG does one of those episodes where the first few minutes reveals a strange occurrence or mystery that leaves you stroking your chin, wondering what the hell's going on. These are often among my favourite episodes and this is one of them. It begins with the Enterprise detecting a small, powerless spacecraft adrift. When they tractor it aboard they find that, not only does it bear Enterprise markings (identical to a shuttle already in the bay), but that it also contains an unconscious Captain Picard. The crew struggle to access the shuttle's computers (and therefore logs) but when they do they find that the duplicate Picard is from six hours into the future and that he is the only survivor from a catastrophic accident that destroyed the Enterprise. Do they continue on their current course or turn back? Whichever option they go for could be what caused the accident to begin with. Hmmm indeed! If you don't like time paradoxes then this one might blow up your head but it's worth watching just for the tortured look on the 'out of phase' future-Picard's face alone.

Q Who (Episode 16)

Apparently Mr. Roddenberry didn't want the Klingons or Romulans to play major villain roles in TNG so they decided to invent a new race to be the series antagonists. Amusingly, their choice for this role fell to the immensely-unscary Ferengi! When they were deemed a failure, a rather more villainous alternative was required. Step forward the Borg. This 'race' of cybernetic beings reside in the Delta Quadrant, which is of course many thousands of light years away from Federation space, but a visit from our old friend Q, who's intent on showing Picard that the galaxy contains "terrors to freeze your soul", brings their first meeting forward somewhat. It proves to be a splendidly entertaining encounter for us but a rather more foreboding one for the Enterprise crew who barely escape from what basically amount to interstellar Terminators ('they can't be bargained with, they can't be reasoned with', etc). Q episodes are rarely among my favourite but this one's pretty damn awesome!

Look out for my Season Three picks soon!


  1. Do you remember our infamous CRT "Nagilum Incident", which was inspired by "Where Silence Has Lease"!?. "Measure of Man" and "Q Who" my favourites episodes. Well chosen, Dude!

  2. Cheers buddy :) I have no memory of this Nagilum Inicident you mention - please remind me :P

  3. Your CRT was on it's "last legs", and displayed a green discolouration on screen, upon power on if memory serves! CRTs: Those were the days...

  4. Ah yes, I remember my poor old CRT doing that distortion thing (as well as randomly turning itself off) but I didn't know we'd compared it to Nagilum. Seems like a reasonable enough comparison though :P