- 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.