ST:TNG:5x19: The First Duty

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"At the time I thought you were a mean-spirited, vicious old man."

Hidden among the general mediocrity of Season Five are a few of the most memorable episodes Star Trek: The Next Generation ever produced, and right up on the top is “The First Duty,” if only because Picard’s line in the fourth act – “The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth!” makes pretty much every Next Gen clip reel ever. (And, of course, it’s in The Picard Song.) It’s Jean-Luc’s A Few Good Men moment, and as we’ve come to expect from Picard/Stewart, it’s also the performance highlight of the episode; hell, of the whole back half of the year. “The First Duty” is also far and away the best Wesley episode ever, although I suppose that’s not saying too much. Nonetheless, it’s a really solid piece of drama, showing us Starfleet Academy for the first time, and giving Wes a moral dilemma whose resolution is pretty much the series’ final (useful) word on the character.

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ST:TNG:5x06: The Game

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“Is it true what they say about your birthmark?”

Wesley Crusher returns to the Enterprise in a goofy little episode that, as far as “Wesley Crusher saves the ship” shenanigans go, is quite probably the very best one. While Wesley’s busy making nookie with Ashley Judd, the entire adult crew gets hooked on a cortex-stimulating video game that turns them into the Stepford Wives. Given that Riker picks up the game on Risa from one of his fuckbuddies, it’s nearly an STD… which makes the first act scene where Troi has a near-orgasmic experience with a dish of chocolate ice cream while Riker is trying to pawn the game off on her all the more amusing.

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ST:TNG:4x09: Final Mission

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“I was always proud of you.”

Wil Wheaton’s proper swan song with the franchise (complicated by the fact that he returned later for a couple of really good episodes, and a couple of really poor episodes) finds the young ensign on his way to Starfleet Academy at last – but not before he’s given one last opportunity to save the universe with his pluck and his tricorder. Well, not the universe this time, or even the ship; but as a fitting apotheosis for the character, Wesley saves Captain Picard.

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ST:TNG:4x05: Remember Me

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“They all do. They deserve so much more.”

The best Beverly episode and therefore one of my five or six favourite episodes of all time, “Remember Me” is spooky and unsettling in turns, and genuinely thrilling as it races to its climax. It has a strange, Twilight Zone-ish premise that is credibly executed thanks almost entirely to the commitment of the cast. The episode has a fiendishly complicated scenario to describe, yet Gates McFadden plays it as adeptly as if people get stuck in static warp bubbles every time they go to the grocery store. Which, on reflection, they just might.

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ST:TNG:4x04: Suddenly Human

“As captain of the starship Enterprise, I ask you not to make that sound.”

The fever of five-Enterprise episodes of Next Gen breaks with “Suddenly Human,” which feels altogether like a holdover from the first season – and not in a good way. Teen heartthrob Chad Allen, with his perfect shampoo hair, plays a human boy named Jono who was raised by the villainous Talarians, who gets rescued by the Enterprise after a training accident, and opts to spend a little quality time with Captain Picard.

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ST:TNG:4x02: Family

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"Yes… but let him dream."

The third part of an unofficial triptych, bringing emotional closure to the two “Best of Both Worlds” episodes, “Family” is very nearly better than both of the Borg shows, and is in many ways one of the finest episodes that Star Trek: The Next Generation ever put together. It is a marvelous example of experimentation with form, doing away with all of the presumptive expectations of an episode of this series. There is no alien menace-of-the-week or holodeck malfunction. There is no science fiction concept to unravel or message about the human race to allegorize. There isn’t even the usual A-plot / B-plot structure, but rather an A-plot / B-plot / C-plot triad, playing like Mozart variations on the episode’s basic theme of - that’s right - “family.” And by laying bare an unusually poignant vulnerability for three of the male members of the principal cast, it’s a beautiful piece of work.

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ICYMI: It’s your Saturday content recap! Cuz blue.
Podcast: Mamo got esoteric for show 316, talking TV, porn, and fan advocacy.
Column: World War C, looking at the relevance of film critics (again)
Blogging the Next Generation: Sexley Crusher gets his big boy pants in "Menage a Troi" and nothing particularly interesting happens in "Transfigurations"
Watched: Only God Forgives The Bling Ring, no truer statement ever stated
All this and more at tederick.com!

ICYMI: It’s your Saturday content recap! Cuz blue.

Podcast: Mamo got esoteric for show 316, talking TV, porn, and fan advocacy.

Column: World War C, looking at the relevance of film critics (again)

Blogging the Next Generation: Sexley Crusher gets his big boy pants in "Menage a Troi" and nothing particularly interesting happens in "Transfigurations"

Watched: Only God Forgives The Bling Ring, no truer statement ever stated

All this and more at tederick.com!

(Source: genie-in-the-bottle)

ST:TNG:3x24: Ménage à Troi

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“Females do not deserve the honour of clothing.”

Let me begin by thanking “Ménage à Troi” for forcing me to look up the meaning of its title when I was thirteen, thereby introducing a whole new video game level to my masturbation fantasies as a teenager. Let me continue by averring that I flat-out fuckin’ love this episode. There are a few episodes in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s third season that are unabashedly unafraid to have a bunch of foolish fun (“Deja Q,” “Hollow Pursuits”), and this one’s my favourite, even though on its merits alone it’s probably the thinnest (and most troublesome). I don’t care. It has the fizzy glee of a Shakespearean comedy performed in the park on a warm summer’s night. It’s my favourite Lwaxana episode of the whole run of the character. It’s also the best Will+Deanna=4EVR episode, like, ever. And if you don’t spend the last ten minutes of the show – from Picard spouting love poetry to snatch Lwaxana back from the grips of the Ferengi, to Wesley stepping onto the bridge in Starfleet red – grinning from ear to ear, you and I are not the same kind of fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

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ST:TNG:3x05: The Bonding

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“Go on. You’ve wanted to tell him for a long time.”

I really hated this episode back when it first aired. It’s better than I remember, but still skeeves me out – something in the execution is way, way off. There’s too much going on at an emotional level, for one thing – three major characters (Worf, Wesley and Beverly) and one guest star (Jeremy Aster) processing variations on the grief of losing a family member on a Starfleet mission; the de rigueur alien-menace-of-the-week driving the back half of the plot; and Counselor Troi flitting about, acting as Greek chorus to the entire affair, describing aloud (often to the captain) what each of the characters is going through.

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ST:TNG:3x01: Evolution

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“I run a clean place.”

“BACK BECAUSE YOU DEMANDED IT!” screamed the cover of Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine’s issue #9, proudly trumpeting the return of Dr. Beverly Crusher to the series as though it were the modern equivalent of the letter-writing campaign that had saved the original Star Trek. I don’t know the real reasons behind Gates McFadden’s return, though I doubt it was anything so dramatic; nonetheless, no single piece of entertainment news probably made me happier in the entirety of the 1980s. Dr. Crusher easily cemented herself as my favourite character throughout Season One of Next Gen – and the Dr. Crusher who returns to the ship after a year at Starfleet Medical in Next Gen’s third-season premiere, “Evolution,” is even more my favourite. Call her Dr. Crusher 2.0.

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