Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 7 Review

  • Series Title: Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Season: 7
  • Episodes: 25
  • Discs: 7
  • Network:  First-Run Syndication (produced by Paramount)
  • Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn
  • DVD: R1, NTSC DVD

The final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, as with the rest of the series, suffers from “hitting the reset button” in every episode, lack of an arc plot, and flat character arcs. Additionally, some of the episodes really felt like they had developed and filmed scripts that were rejected earlier in the show’s history – such as when Dr. Crusher is seduced by a ghost or when the main characters de-evolve back into animals. Guinan is gone by this point and she is sorely missed. Wesley Crusher returns for one episode ends up on a vision quest with some “Indians” and joins “The Traveller” in a higher form of existence. The entire episode was extremely uncomfortable because everyone from Picard to Wesley keeps referring to the Native Peoples as “Indians”, a pejorative term. Further, there is no groundwork laid other than in the episode itself for Wesley to suddenly abandon Star Fleet and join the Traveller. The planet Crusher stays on is also in Cardassian territory – leaving him vulnerable and unable to contact the Federation.

In Season 6, Captain Jellico admonished Troi for her unconventional dress sense. She starts to wear a standard blue Star Fleet uniform. In season 7, this lasts for a while, but we also see her in the god-awful lilac jumpsuit with the extremely deep V-neckline. The Star Fleet uniform is actually more flattering. And seriously, I never got why she was allowed to wear whatever she wanted. She’s not a civilian, she’s an officer and she should dress like one.

Ro returns, with a promotion to lieutenant. Picard and the admiral with a bad track record with Cardassians decide to send Ro into deep cover with the Marquis, a Bajoran resistance and freedom fighting group that is challenging the Cardassians. The Federation has signed a new treaty with the Cardassians, which, among other things, moves the border and creates a demilitarized zone. This does come up a couple of times in various episodes. The Cardassians, however, are harassing civilians in the neutral zone and those who have suddenly found themselves in Cardassian territory. It isn’t really surprising when Ro, pushed in a corner by the Federation and its politics decides to resign her commission and join the Marquis. Ro is one of the most fascinating characters in ST: TNG, but it was like the writers didn’t know what to do with her. She was strong-minded, had her own history, had her own culture, and had risen from a childhood of horrors to a Star Fleet lieutenant. Honestly, I would have watched a series about Ro and the Marquis – at least for a season or two.

The final episode is “All Good Things”, a two-hour finale. It brings back Q of course. I actually have always liked John DeLancie as Q, but his character is also a Deus Ex Machina, almost by definition. It’s a little disappointing to see him used to resolve the entire series. Picard seems to be moving back and forth in time, between a future 25 years from the current stardate and a past of the period of the first ST: TNG episode, “Encounter at Farpoint”. Slowly, Picard realizes that by investigating a new space anomaly, he causes it in the future – and if the anomaly of anti-time continues to expand it will threaten all life on Earth because it will never develop in the first place. It is a paradox and realizing it sets Picard on a journey to solve the conundrum. Picard, of course, realizes what he needs to do and not do, and he sacrifices three Enterprises in three time periods to stabilize the anomaly and control the anti-time in an artificial warp field containment shield. We get to see three Enterprises explode. But it works, the anomaly is contained and stops expanding, then collapses, and Picard returns to his current Enterprise.

Overall, I like the characters on Star Trek: TNG, especially Picard and Dr. Crusher (and the hint of their romantic feelings towards each other is wonderful), and I thought Guinan was great, even though she’s not in this season. I love Data and his cat, Spot! Geordie is an interesting take on an engineer, he’s a lot calmer than Scotty. And Worf is, well, he’s Worf. I never cared for Troi, but she does manage to deliver exposition when needed. I just feel ST: TNG could have been more than it was. Still, given its limitations, it’s worth watching at some point. I’m glad I was able to get the season sets on sale.

Read my Review of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 3.
Read my Review of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 4.
Read my Review of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 5.
Read my Review of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 6.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 6 Review

  • Series Title: Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Season: 6
  • Episodes: 26
  • Discs: 7
  • Network:  First-Run Syndication (produced by Paramount)
  • Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn
  • DVD: R1, NTSC DVD

As with all of my ST: TNG reviews I skipped the first episode of Season 6, which was reviewed with Season 5 and I also will include the first episode of Season 7 with this review. This is due to the season-ending two-parters. Much of Season 6 of Next Gen I found to be very flat, and at times even boring. The stories weren’t bad, but they weren’t good either. I’m not sure if this is due to the unhappy coincidence of having just watched series 11 of Doctor Who and season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale both of which are extremely good, or if, objectively Season 6 of ST: TNG just isn’t that good. I just felt that even in comparison to Season 5 of ST: TNG, Season 6 just doesn’t hold up. Season 5 gave us episodes with ideas to think about, even disagree with (“The Perfect Mate”) but many of the episodes of Season 6 are just there.

This season includes the two-part “Chain of Command” aka “Picard is tortured and develops Stockholm Syndrome”. In Season 5, rogue Star Fleet officers tried to use a Bajoran freedom fighter to involve the Federation in a war against the Cardassians. This time around, a Star Fleet Admiral relieves Picard of his command of the Enterprise and appoints the war-mongering Captain Jellico in charge of the Enterprise, and sends him on a “diplomatic mission” to meet some Cardassians. That’s right, this Admiral replaces Star Fleet’s best diplomat with a guy determined to start a war for fun. But that’s not all – Picard, Dr. Beverly Crusher, and Lt. Worf are sent “behind enemy lines” to a Cardassian outpost to search for WMDs, specifically a biogenic plague. Of course, when they get there, there is no plague and no weapons of any kind. Crusher and Worf escape but Picard is captured. A Cardassian (played with relish by David Warner) tortures Picard for information on the defenses of a Star Fleet Outpost – which Picard has no information about. Even after it’s obvious that Picard doesn’t know anything about the Outpost, the Cardassian continues his torture and mind games. Meanwhile, the Star Fleet Admiral and Captain Jellico seem determined to turn the diplomatic talks into a war. Eventually, events force the Cardassian to release Picard. And because there is no follow-up between episodes of ST: TNG, Picard’s severe physical and psychological torture is never mentioned again.

“Face of the Enemy” has Counselor Troi turned in to a Romulan. The episode involves helping some of Spock’s Romulan Resistance members escaping and seeking asylum in the Federation. It’s actually a good episode, and one I enjoyed.

“Birthright” is another two-part episode, focusing on Lt. Worf, who is having a Klingon crisis of faith. He receives some information from an information broker that his father is alive and living in a Romulan prison camp. Worf’s father isn’t one of the survivors of Khitomer but several Klingons and their children, including children of Romulan/Klingon matings are living in a community on a hidden Romulan colony. At first, Worf is appalled – Klingons and Romulans have been mortal enemies for centuries. He begins to teach the children about their Klingon heritage and beliefs, something their parents and the Romulans in the colony haven’t done. Things come to a head as several of the children desire to leave the colony and see the Klingon homeworld. Eventually, Worf decides on a compromise – he will take the children and anyone who wishes to leave with him, but he will not tell anyone they are survivors of Khitomer, rather he will say he found survivors of a colony ship crash. Worf also will not tell anyone about the colony where Klingons and Romulans live together in peace.

“The Chase” involves an old archaeology professor of Picard’s showing up and offering him a new job on a fantastic project. Picard, of course, declines, because he doesn’t want to give up command of the Enterprise. Who could blame him? The professor is killed, but the Enterprise gets some of his research. Before long, the Federation, some Klingons, some Cardassians, and eventually some Romulans are all trying to crack the code of the professor’s research, which includes DNA fragments that are shared by all intelligent space-going races in the Federation. Dr. Crusher and Picard even convince some of the players to combine their resources and information to crack the code. They finally wind-up on a long-dead planet, where they find a tiny bit of DNA and play a message. the message is from a humanoid being who explains they left this message and coded it in the Primordial Soup of many planets because they were lonely in the galaxy, and wanted to help new life to develop in their image. The Klingons who wanted a weapon, the Cardassians who wanted a power source and the Romulans are disappointed, to say the least. And even the Federation who wanted information about the galaxy seemed to think this message wasn’t worth the hassle to get it. Essentially, the entire story seemed to be inspired by the folk song, “One Tin Soldier”. Also, it explains why “aliens” in Star Trek look so human.

“Descent Part 1” finishes the season with part 2 on Season 7. This episode brings back the Borg, Lore, Data’s “brother”, and the Admiral who was out to start a war with the Cardassians. A Federation Outpost is attacked and the Enterprise discovers it was a Borg attack – but these Borg seem different. The Admiral shows up, orders thirty starships into the area to defend the border, and reads Picard the riot act for releasing Hugh-the-Borg last season. Data starts to act weird. The Enterprise crew figures out that the ship that attacked the Outpost uses a “transwarp conduit” to get away. It’s basically an artificially generated wormhole. They follow. Data leaves the Enterprise. The Enterprise searches for him and discovers a planet of Borg with individuality. They are being led by Lore, who is using a carrier wave to control Data by feeding him addictive emotions. Although Data a first tortures Geordi at Lore’s command, in the end, with some help with Geordi and Picard rebooting his ethical program, Data kills Lore (who is later disassembled) and the Enterprise crew are rescued. Hugh is left in charge of the new Borg.

Overall, I just wasn’t that impressed with Season 6 of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I missed Guinan, who only seems to show up once. I even missed Spot, Data’s cat, who is mentioned but never seen. Although we do see Spot in part 2 of “Descent”. Still, it’s worth having the season set.

Read my Review of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 3.
Read my Review of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 4.
Read my Review of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 5.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 5 Review

  • Series Title: Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Season: 5
  • Episodes: 26
  • Discs: 7
  • Network:  First-Run Syndication (produced by Paramount)
  • Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, Colm Meaney, Whoopi Goldberg
  • DVD: R1, NTSC DVD

I skipped the first episode of Season 5, “Redemption Part 2” because I watched it and reviewed it with the previous season. Also, as this season ends with the cliffhanger of “Time’s Arrow Part 1”, I went ahead and watched Part 2 from Season 6 and will include that with this review. Season 5 starts strong, so strong I wrote-up a review of the episode, “Darmok” itself because I really enjoyed it. Other early episodes of Season 5 were very good, or thought-provoking, or at least entertaining. Unfortunately, by the time of discs 5 and 6 in this set, the quality really drops. One of the drawbacks of longer seasons is that episodes that would probably be rejected are produced instead. It’s almost a paradox – as fans or even casual viewers we always want more of our favorite shows – but the 1980s style of American TV production produced longer seasons with some excellent episodes, some really bad episodes, and many mediocre episodes. This was true across genres and production companies and was inherent in the production style of the 1980s and very early 1990s.

The other problem with ST: TNG is that there is no continuity between episodes, and everything is stand alone. This is especially true with season 5, which has no theme or real character development (with the exception of Alexander, but we will get to him). The need for Star Trek to “punch the reset button” after every single episode is one of the aspects of the show that irritated me when it originally aired, and now with nearly every show having an “arc plot” for at least the season, it really stands out as a problem. One of the problems with hitting the reset button so, so often, is that there is absolutely no sense of jeopardy for the characters, which undermines the plot.

The perfect example of this is “Ethics”. In “Ethics”, Worf and Geordie are in one of the cargo bays doing some sort of inspection, when a stack of barrels falls, knocks Worf to the ground and knocks him unconscious. He wakes up in sickbay, where Dr. Chrusher tells him his spinal cord has been crushed and he’ll never walk again. Worf, as part of his Klingon beliefs that we have never heard of before, then asks Riker as a friend to help him commit suicide because “Once a warrior can no longer stand to face his enemies – it is time.” There are, of course, multiple problems with this. First, it’s an ableist argument that “death is preferable to being in a wheelchair”. People in wheelchairs lead full and happy lives all over the world – the only “problems” they encounter are the obstacles put in their way by people who don’t rely on wheelchairs for transport – like stairs going into the main entrance of a building. Now in the ST: TNG episode both Riker and Crusher argue against Worf killing himself – going so far as to use his son, Alexander, against him, which of course has it’s own problems. But we don’t ever get a Klingon in a wheelchair. Because, wouldn’t you know it, an expert, experimental neuroscientist shows up, out of nowhere, with an experimental treatment where she essentially uses a 3-D printer to re-grow Worf’s spinal cord. Dr. Crusher has lots of discussions about using this experimental treatment which hasn’t even started human trials yet. And conveniently, there’s a disaster at a nearby Federation Colony and the Enterprise is turned in to a disaster triage center and sickbay. The experimental scientist, for no reason whatsoever, tries one of her other experimental treatments on a patient – and kills him. Dr. Crusher is livid, but her arguments in the episode make no sense. The first rule of being a doctor is: Do no harm. It’s made clear, there was an approved treatment for the patient’s issue, and it was a routine one. The experiment scientist ignores this treatment, in favor of trying her own. That’s a basic violation of medication procedure, medical ethics, scientific ethics, and logic. You always try the proven thing first – if it doesn’t work, or if the patient is known to have an allergy to the proven treatment, then you try something else. But you don’t walk in and try a brand-new experimental treatment, with no consent from the patient, before even trying the actual standard treatment. It’s dumb – and in a real hospital, the doctor who did that would be up on charges and probably have their license revoked.

In the end, though, the experimental scientist presents her experimental treatment to Worf. And the standard treatment of external neurostimulators on his legs hadn’t worked well for Worf (though it may have worked better given time). Worf makes an informed decision to try the experimental treatment, after discussing it with his son, Alexander, Riker, Crusher and the scientist. He understands the risks and sees it as “all or nothing”, which, frankly, makes sense for his character. He even explains both the possible benefits (he will walk again) and the possible risks (he will die) to his son. That works and makes sense. At that point, the scientist is following procedure. Her human (Klingon) experiment should be monitored by an IRB board, and a more general form of experiment would involve double-blind testing and a control group, but for this type of procedure, she is actually doing what she should be doing. During the procedure, things go well, and then they don’t. Worf “dies”. But of course, this is ST: TNG, so we know they won’t kill off a major character. And sure enough, when Worf is lying on his back, suddenly the monitors come back to life, and Worf survives. We see him getting physical therapy, but we know that he’ll be fine, and by the next episode, no one will even mention he broke his back. Sigh. There is absolutely no sense of jeopardy in the surgery scenes because we know Worf won’t die. There is very little sense of jeopardy throughout the episode because we know Worf won’t be permanently handicapped anyway. So the episode really ends up with the audience wondering, “What was the point?”

The episode “Violations” has Troi, then Riker, and finally Dr. Crusher, mind-raped by a telepath. Most of the episode focuses on Troi, who initially accuses the wrong telepath of the three on board the Enterprise. But Data researches several planets that the three telepaths visited, and discovers twenty-two cases of “unexplained comas”. The short coma was the first symptom of the attack (both Riker and Crusher also fall into comas). The episode, though, shows Troi’s attack several times and Riker and Crusher’s only once each. When Troi realizes that her attacker had planted a false memory of who attacked her to cover himself, and it correlates with Data’s evidence, she makes a formal complaint. The attacker will be dealt with severely by his people. The telepaths were “memory historians who were supposed to gently help people recover memories, which they then store. For people who voluntarily undergo the procedure – there are no negative effects. The rapist telepath was violating people without consent, and warping memories to make them traumatic. However, after Troi announces her mistake, the man she accused is let free, and the correct man is arrested – the episode just ends. Riker and Crusher are actually still in comas. And even, assuming they wake up in a day or two, all three of them (including Troi) are going to need considerable therapy to recover from their experience. The episode would have been more interesting if less attention had been paid to the attacks, and more to recovery – especially a realistic portrayal of recovery. This would have been especially true for Riker – it would have been interesting to see him vulnerable for a change.

“Cause and Effect”, directed by Jonathan Frakes, is an episode I’ve seen before in re-runs and I really like it. Basically, the Enterprise gets stuck in a time loop that always ends with its destruction. Because it’s a time loop, we see the crew doing the same things, saying the same things, at least three times. Because it’s television, there’s a short period in each loop where the crew actually learns something new – but because they are in a loop, they forget it the next time around. Eventually, they realize this and Data sends a message of a single word. And Data figures it out, changing what they do, and breaking the loop. When the captain asks for a check on the time with Federation standard – they discover they have been in the loop for just over 17 days. But the other ship they nearly hit? It’s been in the loop for 80 years. That’s not the only thing I like about the episode though. The direction starts off pretty standard – over the shoulder shots, switching back and forth to medium close-ups of whoever is speaking, etc. Then, as the same actions and dialogue happen, again and again, the direction changes – so in the first shot, the camera is behind Dr. Crusher during the first deal of the poker game. But by the third time around, it’s behind Data instead. The scene of Geordi going to Dr. Crusher is also filmed in standard television-style the first couple of times, but then, by the third time the camera is looking up from the floor. These unusual shots or even changes in camera position do two things: first since the dialogue is the same it keeps it from being boring, and secondly, it’s an almost sub-conscience trigger to the audience that “something is wrong”. Normally, a television director would not want to use such low shots or move the camera around as happened in this episode, but here, it adds to the story. Still, I did wonder about the ship from 80 years ago. Picard says they are going to send them to a Starbase, but you’ve got a whole STARSHIP’S worth of people who are 80 years out of date. At the very least they will need a crash course in Federation history and culture. Will they fit in? How will the Federation deal with people who, presumably, were listed as “missing and presumed dead”? Can they vote? What about work? Any knowledge they have is 80 years out of date. To put it in perspective, it’s like if an entire steamship of people from 1939 suddenly turned up in 2019. Think about that – Would they even be able to adapt? I wouldn’t mind a short mini-series following the crew of this ship that Picard rescued from the time loop.

“Masterpiece Society” and “The Outcast” both deal with issues and do so badly. The “Masterpiece Society” both defends genetic engineering of people (and a society with no one who has a disability or is different) and ends with twenty-something extra people on the Enterprise who decide to escape their pre-ordained fate. “The Outcast” was meant to be a pro-LGBT episode, but actually manages to do the opposite, suggesting that a society of gays and lesbians would persecute straight, hetero people (which is, of course, ridiculous and an argument of Conservatives who hate those who are different. Also, whenever Civil Rights are granted to another group – that group never “turn the tables” on their former oppressors – the people tend to be too busy living the lives that were formerly denied to them). “Cost of Living” has Deanna’s mother nearly marry exactly the wrong guy. Oddly enough, Alexander manages to dissuade her, simply by asking the types of questions a child would ask.

The less said about “The Perfect Mate”, the better. It’s a sexist disaster and I may write up a review of it by itself. But it basically suggests the true purpose of women is to serve men by becoming what they want. It’s terrible. That Picard buys into this idea and seems to agree that women are not people and don’t deserve protection by whatever the Federation has in terms of a charter of Rights and Freedoms of Individuals, makes it worse.

“The Next Phase” was interesting because Ensign Ro and Geordi get turned into ghosts by a combination of a disaster on a Romulan ship and a transporter accident. Of course, they figure out how to fix it, and do so just in time to prevent the Enterprise from being destroyed by the Romulan ship, but it’s nice to see Geordi and Ro paired off. The engineering aspects of the entire story are interesting too. The “reset button effect” is there (we know Ro and Geordi aren’t dead) but the story still manages to be interesting anyway.

The season ends with the two-part “Time’s Arrow”. Data’s 500-year old head is found by archeologists in a cave in San Francisco. In part 1, the Enterprise crew, especially Picard, try to avoid the inevitable. In Part II, Data ends up, by accident in San Francisco in the 1880s where he meets Samuel Clemens, Jack London, Guinan and eventually the main crew of the Enterprise who are trying to rescue him, as well as some aliens who are killing humans for “energy”. Part 2 suffers a little bit from the “reset button effect” – we know that Data will survive and everyone will end up back where and when they belong. But there are some interesting twists and turns none the less.

Overall, Season 5 started very strong, lost its way in the middle of the season, and picked up with the season finale. I can recommend it, even with the flaws, except for “A Perfect Mate”, and even Classic Trek had a few really bad episodes.

Read my Review of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 3.

Read my Review of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 4.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 4 Review

  • Series Title: Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Season: 4
  • Episodes: 26
  • Discs: 7
  • Network:  First-Run Syndication (produced by Paramount)
  • Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, Colm Meaney, Whoopi Goldberg
  • DVD: R1, NTSC DVD

The first episode of Season 4 of Star Trek: The Next Generation is actually part two of Season 3’s cliffhanger, and since I watched and reviewed it with Season 3, so I skipped it here. The first episode I watched (the second of the season) was “Family” which shows the aftermath of the Battle of Wolf 459. Picard returns home to France on Earth and his brother’s family vineyard. He spends time with his nephew, his sister-in-law, some old friends, and naturally – his brother. His brother is rude, mean, self-centered, and practically Amish in his attitudes towards technology (he uses only traditional methods to harvest his grapes and make wine, he doesn’t allow his wife to use a replicator and forces her to spend hours cooking from scratch, and he constantly discourages his son’s interest in technology, space, and especially Star Fleet). The brother is extremely rude and mean to Picard as well. Meanwhile a friend of Picard’s shows up to talk to him about his plan to raise the ocean floor to create a new continent and more living space on Earth. Picard suddenly shows an interest in this fantastic project, having read the relevant journal articles. His friend comes back with a job offer, stating they need to have someone in charge of the project who has a real sense of command and commitment. Picard considers it, but when he runs into his brother on a walk in the family vineyard the two start fighting. The verbal insults turn physical and the two end-up literally rolling around in the mud. Eventually, they break out in laughter. Picard and his brother finally talk and Picard admits he was terrified and disturbed by his experience with the Borg. The brother tells him, “Well, What do you know? The great Picard is human,” or words to that effect. Picard returns to the Enterprise. The secondary or “B-plot” of the episode has Wolf hosting his human adoptive parents on the Enterprise. They are Russian Jews but did not force their culture on Wolf – in fact, his mother says that Wolf insisted everything be Klingon as he grew up, including his food. Wolf’s parents did their best to raise him in his own culture instead of their own.

Another episode, I found, perfectly illustrates both the best and the worst of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and that is “Data’s Day”. The episode is told in first person from Data’s point-of-view as he writes a letter of a typical day aboard the Enterprise to a friend and colleague. Data is meant to be “father of the bride” to Keiko for her wedding to O’Brien. Keiko gets cold feet but the wedding eventually goes on as scheduled. Meanwhile, we discover that Data has a cat (whom we will later learn is named Spot). I like Data – and I love his cat, Spot – who’s adorable. I can even forgive the issue that several different cats played Spot – and it’s a bit obvious. And I like this episode – nothing Earth-shattering is going on, it’s just a character-focused episode that’s enjoyable to watch. But it perfectly illustrates major issues with Next Gen. First, who is Keiko? I think we might have seen her once – in the background, maybe, and now she’s marrying O’Brien? Did they ever think of maybe introducing this relationship just a little bit more gradually? Keiko says she wants Data to be the father of the bride because he introduced them – and that’s all the background we get. It would have been much more satisfying if the relationship between Keiko and O’Brien had been teased throughout the season with the wedding at the end of the season. Second, Where did Spot come from? Now, I love Spot – and I’m a cat person. And I actually think it makes sense to have a cat on a spaceship. Sailors had cats on their ships to catch mice and rats. And considering that cats are proven to have a calming effect on people, it makes sense to have them on a spaceship. And I’m sure they have some type of technology for cleaning the litterbox. But where did Spot come from? I missed Spot in season 3 – and I was hoping that by watching ST: TNG in order I would find out where Data got Spot. Was Spot found on a rescue mission? Did Data adopt the cat from a previous crew member? I even did an Internet search on the subject and nope – Star Trek: The Next Generation just never explains the addition of a new cast member.

The second to the last episode of the season is also a Data-heavy episode, which has a wonderful scene with Spot. “In Theory” begins with Data and a young woman working together in Engineering. It’s obvious the two are friends. Their friendship develops into a romantic relationship – but in the end, she dumps Data because he isn’t human. But the final scene of the episode has Data sitting in his quarters, in semi-darkness, when Spot meows at him, comes over and jumps on his lap. Data continuously strokes his cat as the episode fades into final credits. First, this shows Spot’s emotional acuity – s/he knows Data’s hurting (despite his insistence he has no emotions) and seeks to help his owner. Second, Data is stroking his cat, both seeking comfort and offering it. Spot purrs, and the bond between android and cat is obvious. It’s a bittersweet ending to the episode.

The rest of the season consists of mission episodes, episodes focused on a single cast member, one episode featuring the return of Q (played brilliantly by John DeLancie) – this time with a Robin Hood theme, and another episode with Barclay (played by Dwight Schultz). It’s pretty standard, though the writing quality and the direction is definitely improving. Some of the episodes are depressing – but not as many as in Season 3.

There is a bit of a not-quite season-long arc plot as we are used to in US television now, but more of a theme and that is the relationship between the Federation and the Klingons and also the Romulans. The Federation is now allied to the Klingons. However, the détente between the Federation and the Romulans seems to be breaking down. Last season, Worf experienced discommendation (being formally dishonored) by the Klingon Empire. His father (deceased) was blamed for selling out the Klingon outpost at Khitomer to the Romulans. Even though Picard and Worf had not only found evidence that Worf’s father was innocent – but that the actual traitor was the father of Duras who was maneuvering his way into a majority position in the Klingon high council. Fearing a Klingon Civil War – Picard and Worf decide to let Worf take the blame. In Season 4, this comes back to haunt them both. The Leader of the Klingon High Council chooses Picard to be the Arbitrator in choosing the next leader of the High Council. He also tells Picard he knows he’s been poisoned – and then he dies on the Enterprise. There are two candidates for the position- Duras and Gowran. Duras is a traitor and in league with the Romulans. Gowran is violent, stupid, much older, and not well liked, especially by the Klingon military. In the final two-part episode (which again carries over to Season 5) Picard and the Enterprise travel to the Klingon homeworld. Picard chooses Gowran as the new leader of the high council. Although Worf had killed Duras in a previous episode – his “long-lost son” appears and tries to take his father’s position on the council. Picard and the temporary Klingon leader shoot this down. Work comes clean about his father’s innocence and presents evidence to the Klingons against Duras and his family. The entire mess leads to the feared Klingon Civil War. Worf resigns from Star Fleet to join his brother in the war. Picard goes to extraordinary lengths to try to stay as neutral as he can and to observe the Prime Directive. But he does convince the Federal high council that even though they need to stay out of Klingon affairs – they can prevent the Romulans from “secretly” arming the Duras side in the war. He gets Star Fleet to set-up a blockade at the border between Klingon and Romulan space. Picard meets a Romulan commander who claims Tasha Yar was her mother. Guinan, a time-sensitive, thinks this is somehow possible – and mentions the disappearance of Enterprise C at Khitomer – she also says Picard may be to blame. Besides this continuing Klingon plot – there are other episodes in which the Romulans are shown to be behind various nefarious events such as trying to start civil wars on Federation colonies, etc.

Wesley leaves early in Season 4 to attend Star Fleet Academy. His last episode is actually pretty good as he, Picard, and a miner are heading back to a planet when their shuttle crashes. Wesley has to deal with an injured Picard and a pig-headed miner as well as an unusual alien on a dessert moon. The limited cast is used to good effect, and Wesley gets to “do stuff” without being an overly arrogant brat. Meanwhile, Riker is on the Enterprise stopping a spaceship of radioactive waste from crashing into a densely populated planet. Even though they eventually get a report that Picard and Wesley’s shuttle never arrived at its destination – Riker cannot leave right away, an entire planet’s population is at stake and Riker does the smart thing and takes care of that first. This is a major change (and a good one) from Classic Trek. Kirk would drop everything to save one crew member, especially one of his bridge crew (such as Dr. “Bones” McCoy or Spock) – Riker, quite rightly, decides that saving an entire planet is a bit more important than trying to find two people from his crew – even someone as important as Picard. He has people from the planet do searches and contacts Star Fleet for help but stays on mission helping the Federation colony. This makes much more sense, frankly, even if it might seem a bit cold. And, as pointed out earlier – Wesley and Picard bond, but Wesley also has to care for Picard and solve problems on his own, so I quite liked the episode.

Overall, I thought Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 4 was better than Season 3, and I will continue watching and reviewing this series eventually between other shows. The series really suffers from “punch the reset button” issues and not being willing to have true arc-driven plots. The stand-alone nature of the series is annoying and detrimental to the series. As I pointed out in my Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 3 Review other series at roughly the same time such as Babylon 5 and Buffy the Vampire Slayer were starting to have season-long continuing plots. British series from the 1970s and earlier also had continuing plots, so a decade before Next Gen. It just doesn’t make sense for the network and producers to assume the audience can’t remember what happens from week to week on a television series, or to ever show any change occurring for the main characters.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 3 Review

  • Series Title: Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Season: 3
  • Episodes: 26
  • Discs: 7
  • Network:  First-Run Syndication (produced by Paramount)
  • Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Wil Wheaton, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, Colm Meaney
  • DVD: R1, NTSC DVD

I remember when Star Trek The Next Generation was first announced, and watching the entire first season and hating it, so at the time – I didn’t watch any more. I have watched the show occasionally in re-runs since then, so I know it improved from the first few seasons. Due to several factors, I’ve purchased Seasons 3-7 (Amazon’s massive Star Trek sale last year helped a lot) so I will be watching and reviewing all the seasons, plus the Complete Star Trek: Deep Space 9, eventually. But for now, I’m going to focus on season 3.

The third season of ST: TNG seems to be a transitional season – it still has some of the problems of the earlier seasons, but there are some good elements here as well. The early episodes of the season feel very cold and emotionless. They are also surprisingly depressing or sad for Star Trek. There’s an episode where a child loses his mother in a senseless accident. There’s an episode where Data creates a child for himself – and loses her. And just the general feel of many of the episodes is not the hopeful tone we normally associate with Star Trek.

However, about the midpoint of the season, things start to change. First, as is common for ensemble pieces, several episodes focus on specific characters – giving them each more of a chance to shine, rather than a single line in the episode to justify their name in the credits. Second, characters who will become semi-regulars, or at least, frequent guest stars show-up for better or worse. One of my favorites was Lt. Barclay, played brilliantly by Dwight Schultz. In “Hollow Pursuits”, Barclay is a newly transferred lieutenant in engineering. We can see he’s painfully shy, so much so he even stutters on occasion. LaForge is getting annoyed by his constantly being late, and general lack of confidence. Picard, however, noticing that Barclay has been transferred from ship to ship, decides they will help Barclay come out of his shell and become an Enterprise-class officer. So he orders LaForge to make Barclay his special project. LaForge actually takes to the task – giving Barclay additional duties, encouraging him, asking ship’s counselor Deanna Troi how to help him, etc. Troi mentions Barclay is very imaginative. Between Deanna and LaForge, they find Barclay had created a number of adventures in the holodeck – adventures featuring characterizations of the crew. In the adventures, Barclay speaks like an old-time movie matinee idol and works out his issues (among other things, he has a crush on Troi, which becomes a problem when he’s ordered to seek counseling with her). The ship is also experiencing intermittent problems, and it’s Barclay who comes to the realization as to what the problem is – which he works with LaForge to resolve. I liked Barclay – and I know from seeing this show in re-runs we will see him again. But I also enjoyed seeing an entire episode devoted to the engineering crew (we see a lot of O’Brien as well).

We meet Deanna’s mother – who largely seems to exist to annoy Deanna and bug her about getting married. Sigh. Yes, it is as annoyingly “old-fashioned” as it sounds. The Ferengi show up in several episodes – they are disgusting, annoying, and basically “nerdy” – which isn’t the best villain to have in a show like this. For most of the season, the Romulans are also villains. Starfleet is now allied with the Klingons but seems to be close to war with the Romulans. Q shows up once, and even though the character is an updated version of “The Squire of Gothos”, DeLancie is so much fun, I can’t help but like him. Not a character to have to show up every episode though, just the one episode in the season is fine.

One annoying, really annoying, problem with Next Generation is that constantly hits the reset button with every single episode or two-parter. We know characters are never really going to die, or leave, or get married, or have children, or basically change – because, in the next episode, everyone has to be the same. The show is incredibly static, and there is very little, if any, growth in the characters in season 3. This really irritates me – and it irritated me back when the show aired (season 3 would have aired in 1989-1990). Other shows were beginning to show character-development and change around then. Babylon 5 managed to more-or-less follow the show runner’s plan for a 5-year run. And of course, British dramas weren’t afraid of permanently killing off characters, or changing a television series to fit the times. I wanted to see character change and development – and there was virtually none in the entire season.

Finally, season 3 ends with “The Best of Both Worlds”, part 1 – so yes, I took out season 4 and watched part 2. It’s an episode I’ve seen many times, though not always in sequence – Picard is captured by the Borg and turned in to Lucius of Borg. Of course, by the end of part 2, he’s rescued and turned back into Picard. I will say, that considering the Borg are basically Star Trek’s answer to Doctor Who‘s Cybermen (who first appeared in the 1960s) – the Borg soldiers did manage to be quite scary, especially with their built-in weapons. I did find it weird that Star Fleet apparently sent every ship they had to the Battle at Wolf 359, but they all lost – and the Enterprise, all by itself, manages to defeat the Borg within sight of Earth. Really guys? The Enterprise is that good? Didn’t anybody else in Star Fleet have a clue about defeating the Borg? Come on, really?

Overall, the series is worth watching and Season 3 is recommended. I’m probably going to be skipping around between various series, but I will review additional seasons of ST: TNG and link them.

Superman Batman Public Enemies

  • Title: Superman Batman Public Enemies
  • Director: Sam Liu
  • Voice Director: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 2009
  • Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Animation, Action, Drama
  • Cast: Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy, Clancy Brown, CCH Pounder, LeVar Burton
  • Format: Color Animation, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“Luther did the one thing nobody was expecting. He made things boring again. And boring’s good, isn’t it? The economy’s back to normal, crime’s down, there are no wars or anything.”— Power Girl

“You mean those so-called super heroes?”— Lex Luthor

“They do work for you now, most of them anyway.” — Amanda Waller
“That’s to keep them from working against me. I’m not going to put the fate of this planet in the hands of… of freaks and monsters.” — Lex Luthor

“It doesn’t matter what any of us think, Luthor’s the president and what he says goes.” — Capt. Atom


“You’re not going to tell me you killed him for your country, are you?”— Batman

“Some of us still believe in putting our country first.”— Maj. Force
“Sorry, but I don’t see any patriotism here. All I see is a psycho who latched onto an excuse to kill people and who’s so stupid he doesn’t realize he’s being used by Luthor.”— Batman

This is the second time I’ve watched this film, and it does stand up to re-watching, something that’s difficult for animated films to do. The two Superman Batman animated films are based on a series of Superman Batman Graphic Novels. This film in particular is based on the graphic novel of the same name, which I loved, and I think it’s one of the best in an excellent series of books.

The film opens with a voice-over and video montage of economic collapse. Companies are laying off workers, people are demanding jobs in protests, people are getting evicted and living in tent cities, there are audio clips of politicians telling people to “tighten their belts”, there’s a corresponding rise in crime, and martial law is imposed. Into this walks Lex Luthor, campaigning for the presidency on a “third party” ticket. He wins.

And in his first speech, he attacks super heroes, while introducing the country to his own hand-picked super hero force: Power Girl, Captain Atom, Major Force, Black Lightning, and some other female hero (who’s neither recognizable nor important to the plot). They’re stooges, essentially, even Power Girl, who should know better than to trust Luthor.

Luthor then, privately, discusses the private threat he hasn’t yet revealed to the public – a meteor of pure Kryptonite is heading straight for Earth, and will hit the planet in seven days. Luthor’s plan?  Destroy it with nuclear missiles, of course. Amanda Waller, and later even Luthor’s own general ask Luthor to consider a back-up plan, but he ignores their advice, swearing he’s made the calculations himself and he knows he will succeed.

Batman and Superman are together in the Batcave below Wayne Manor when Luthor announces he wants a meeting with Superman to “bury the hatchet”. Both Bruce and Clark know it’s probably a trap, but they go anyway.  At the meeting, Luthor threatens Superman, then unleases Metallo – a Krypton-powered metal man whose very presence hurts the Man of Steel. Metallo and Superman fight. Batman arrives to rescue Superman, and is nearly strangled. Superman rescues Batman but gets shot with a Kryptonite bullet. Batman blows Metallo to smithereens, but Superman warns he’ll re-form. Batman and Superman are covered in the dirt, ash, and rock from the explosion. But before Batman can remove the Kryptonite bullet from Superman, he realizes that Metallo is after them again. Batman sets off another explosion, and he and Superman escape through the sewers.  The explosions catches them, though. Clark sees Bruce lying face down in the water, “Bruce! It’s not ending here… I won’t let it!” he gasps, and moves to his friend’s side, and pulls him out of the water. Bruce coughs up the water, somewhat recovered, and the two limp their way through the sewers to the Batcave. Bruce has Clark pull down the electric fence covering the opening. They are met by a startled but unflappable, Alfred.

Though Clark and Bruce are both weak and injured, they soon recover. Alfred is shown sealing away the Kryptonite bullet in a lead box. Alfred also returns Superman’s washed uniform shirt and cape.

As the two heroes recover in Bruce’s inner sanctum of the Batcave, Luthor gives a presidential address. He blames Superman for the death of John Corbin (Metallo), and shows an edited videotape of Superman attacking himself and Corbin “for no reason”, before showing Corbin’s burnt body. Then Luthor supplies an answer for anyone doubting that Superman could do something so evil — the approaching meteor is Kryptonite (true) and driving Superman mad (not true). Luthor closes his presidential speech by announcing a one billion dollar bounty on Superman’s head.

Batman and Superman attempt to investigate, but they are attacked – first by Banshee, then by a group of ice villians (Mr. Freeze, Captain Cold, Killer Frost, etc), then by Soloman Grundy and Mongo, then Sheba, then Night-Shade and Grog. Before long Superman and Batman are seemingly surrounded by every DC villain that could fit on the screen.

Captain Atom arrives with his team and a Federal Warrant for Superman’s arrest. But Superman and Batman fight Luther’s heroes and defeat them, then Superman escapes with Power Girl, his cousin, Kara. Captain Atom and his group follow Superman and Batman, after receiving orders from Luthor to “do your job” and eliminate Superman. During that fight, Batman shows his skills not only at fighting, but at psychological manipulation, not only goading Major Force by calling him a psychotic murderer, but doing so in front of Captain Atom who hears every word, and takes it to heart.

Kara, however, has realized that her cousin is right and Lex Luthor is wrong, and attacks Major Force to defend Batman. Despite everyone yelling at her, she breaks Force’s containment field causing a radiation leak. Black Lightening and Captain Atom co-operate to contain Major Force. In the resulting explosion, Force is dead, and Atom appears dead. Kara, that is, Power Girl, decides to stay with her cousin.

Meanwhile, Luthor’s launched his nuclear missiles at the meteor. It doesn’t work. The meteor is still on course for the planet. Luther appears weak and sick. Power Girl takes Superman and Batman to Luthor’s hideout, but they are met by Hawkman and Captain Marvel who attempt to take the two out. When Superman knocks out Captain Marvel, and Billy Batson is left in a crater, a concerned Batman goes to check out the young teen to see if he’s OK. Batman asks the injured child to say something. Billy answers, “Shazam!” and becomes Marvel again. But, the two, with Power Girl’s help manage to convince Hawkman and Marvel to not listen to Luthor.

Meanwhile, Luthor claims the first attempt to destroy the meteor was a “fact finding” mission, but he can now put his plan into action. Not even the public is convinced by this, as rioting and looting breaks out.

Amanda Waller, shocked by Luthor’s inaction, discovers he’s taking steroids and liquid Kryptonite injections. Luthor tells Amanda he will let the meteor hit, so he can be in charge of the world that rises from the ashes. Dressed as Hawkman and Captain Marvel, Batman and Superman arrive. Luthor destroys all the information on the meteor, but Amanda gives them a back-up on a thumb drive. She also asks a general to arrest Luthor. Luthor, however, escapes, and takes more Liquid Kryptonite, before climbing into a robotic super suit.

Superman and Batman travel to Japan, to meet Hiro — the Toyman. Power Girl has arrived before them and acts as lookout to avoid the teen billionaire genius.

Toyman shows the two heroes a giant Superman/Batman Robot, he mentions it has manual controls, but he can control it from a nearby computer console. The Lex-bot arrives, takes out Power Girl, using Kryptonite blasts. He fights Superman, also using his Kryptonite gun. Then he destroys the control council. Batman heads for the rocket, saying “Goodbye” to Clark/Superman as he gets inside the robot and takes off.

Superman fights and defeats Luthor. Batman takes off in the rocket. “That was my best friend! And you just killed him!” Superman yells at Lex, before knocking him into next week. However, Luthor takes off again in pursuit of the rocket and Batman.

Batman manages to destroy the meteor using the rocket. Superman and Lex fight, and even though they’ve landed back in the US he finally knocks him out. Captain Atom has recovered and arrives with Power Girl and a message for Superman. Superman rescues Bruce who’s in a survival capsule shaped like a combination of the Batman and Superman symbols. He sets Bruce on a rooftop, and helps him out of the ship. Luthor is taken away. Lois arrives. Batman disappears as Superman watches the sun rise.

Again, this was an excellent animated film. It is a bit political in tone – rich businessman Lex Luthor, one of the most evil villains in the DC Universe, yet someone that Superman can never really stop because he can’t prove he’s broken the law – becomes president. And in the DC universe, Lex Luthor was president for awhile during the Bush years (besides harrassing Superman, he bombs Gotham City at one point to annoy Batman, making part of the city a wasteland). Although the film doesn’t state outright that Luthor caused the economic turmoil that he then exploits to get himself elected, it’s certainly implied. And the economic turmoil described in the film’s excellent opening sequence is half the Great Depression, and half every economic down turn since.

But what is even more striking about Lex Luthor is what an obvious xenophobic racist he is. He wants to get rid of Superheroes, especially Superman, not only because he doesn’t trust them, but because he considers them “freaks and monsters” – and not human. Luthor is one step away from openly declaring a war between humans and meta-humans.

But one of the best things about this film isn’t merely it’s politics – it’s seeing the glimpses of the close friendship between Bruce Wayne (voiced by the incomparable Kevin Conroy of Batman: The Animated Series) and Clark Kent (Tim Daly of Superman: The Animated Series). Though they don’t see eye to eye on how to solve crimes, or battle super villains, in this film they are nonetheless close friends – and it’s threats to Bruce that cause Clark to really go after Lex Luthor. Plus there’s some wonderful dialogue between the two.

If I had one quibble with the film, I could have done with less of the mega fight scenes, especially every super villain they could find being thrown into a fight with Superman and Batman, and more of the male bonding between Clark and Bruce. And more Alfred. I always like to see the more Alfred the better – he only gets one scene here. It’s a great bit, but once Batman sails off into what appears to be a one-man one-way mission to save the planet, you’d think someone would break the news to him. But I digress.

The Superman Batman Graphic Novels were known for their thought bubbles, yellow for Superman’s pov, and blue for Batman’s pov. I think the film could have used some voice-over between the two, because that was a big part of what made the graphic fun – seeing Clark’s view of  Bruce and Bruce’s view of Clark, or their situation or whatever. It was always great fun to see how iconic characters viewed each other. However, the film does do a great job, when we see Superman and Batman working together, of showing their different personalities and methodology. And that was terribly fun.

Recommendation: See it!
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars