Nerd School: THERE ARE FOUR EPISODES!? pt. 2

by Joe on September 19, 2011

Last week I discussed why CBS is putting out a Blu-ray of only four episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. This week I dig deeper into those four episodes and decide if they are really the four we should have.

“Encounter at Farpoint pt 1 and 2”

The first two episodes of the series, EaF is a great transitional episode between what the original series was and what The Next Generation would become.

The episode begins with our series protagonist, Jean Luc Picard, reporting for duty as the captain of the USS Enterprise-D. The ship’f first mission is to visit Deneb IV but first he has to stop at Farpoint station to pick up his first officer, the beardless Riker.

Needless to say not everything goes to plan, as the Enterprise encounters the reoccurring villain Q for the first time. Q puts humanity on trial (literally), stating that the human race is more naturally suited to violence then peace. However, Picard defends humanity, and challenges Q to observe his crew to see if humanity is worthy.

When the ship finally reaches Farpoint, not everything is going as smoothly as they predicted. The friendly Farpoint station is  eerily idyllic with everything you want appearing before your eyes. Everything goes to hell when a mystery ship appears and begins blasting the Farpoint station.

Here, Picard has to make a decision, does he attack the ship and destroy it, or let it continue to attack Farpoint. Picard, of course, figures out at this point that the alien ship isn’t really attacking Farpoint, but the old city next to it. Coupled with the weirdness of Farpoint itself, Picard realizes Farpoint is alive and uses the deflectors to set it free. It then joins it’s shape-shifting mate (the mysterious ship) in space. Q impressed by Picard allows humanity to continue for now.

Why is this episode should be on the disc:

Well simply put, it’s the best introduction to the show.  Aside from being a good episode, you get to meet all the cast, and you get a pretty good introduction to their personalities. Aside from Riker being beardless, all of the supporting characters that will be present for the next seven seasons are present. Yeah, Worf seems a little one-note, but his lines about retreating make him fun to watch.

Also the episode is very effects heavy. Granted the effects are late 80’s early 90’s model work mixed in with trick photography and Amiga computer effects. However when cleaned up or redone, like the ToS episodes where a couple years back, it could look amazing. You even get to see the saucer separate from the main body of the ship, which it only ever does again (for the last time) in Generations. (It is worth mentioning that there are no rumors about the effects being redone.)

Finally I think this episode deserves to be on this disc because it is a great transition between ToS and TNG. Q is nearly identical to the alien beings in “Arena”. The plot is not the whiz bang action of the movies, but moves at a slower pace showing that Star trek isn’t about lasers so much as philosophy and the betterment of humanity. As much as Kirk solved nearly 90% of his problems with violence, he ended every show lamenting it and talking about how humanity shouldn’t use it. Oh yeah, Bones shows up too.

Why this episode shouldn’t be on the disc:

If I could best describe this episode in one word it would be: “Bloated”. It is a two hour episode, half of the episode is dedicated to the plot, while the other half is spent with exposition about the characters and Enterprise. Don’t get me wrong, I love what they do, and it was ambitious for the 80’s, but today’s audience especially in a post Lost world would consider this episode information overload.

This episode is incredibly dated, even for the Rick Berman era Trek. I know Roddenberry wanted to try some new crazy things, but there is a dude in a skirt.

Also the way everything in the show looks, from the hairstyles to the furniture just looks like it fell off the set of Hart to Hart.

Why did everyone look like this?!

Verdict:

Encounter at Farpoint~ Joe’s rating for episode choice:  B

This is a bit of a gimme, if Encounter at Farpoint was a one hour episode, it would be a no-brainer, but adding that second episode just makes it feel like eating at McDonald’s it’s awesome until you’re half way through the meal.

“The Inner Light”

The crew of the enterprise encounters a probe and as it scans Picard, he collapses and awakens on an alien world called  Kataan. Picard is conflicted as he is told that his real name is Kamin,and he has been hallucinating the Enterprise.

Picard then goes on through the episode living his life as Kamin learning to love his “new” wife and having children. Meanwhile Picard is passed out on the bridge of the Enterprise. seconds pass in our reality, while Picard lives out years. His friends on Kataan live and die, and he learns to play the flute.

Eventually Picard, being very old, finds out that his planet is dying as their sun is slowly expanding. The government of his planet which he had been at odds with reveal that they are aware of this, and there is nothing they can do as they don’t have space travel capabilities. They eventually send out a probe with their life and culture in it so they can live on in the memories of those who find it.

Picard wakes up on the bridge of the Enterprise,  as the alien probe breaks contact. After the initial disorientation, he discovers that he has lived an entire lifetime in the course of 20 to 25 real-time minutes.  Later, Riker delivers to Picard a small box found inside the alien probe. Picard opens it to find the flute which he still vividly remembers from his life as Kamin. Picard then plays the song he had been learning throughout his life on Kataan.

Why this episode should be on the disc:

The Inner light more than any other Trek story emphasizes that humanity must always be present in Star Trek in order for it to be successful. Picard’s story on Kataan is almost heartbreaking when you realize what is going on about 2/3 of the way through the episode. This episode is also a showcase for Patrick Stewart’s acting.

This episode is also pretty important pop culturally in terms of TNG. Picard’s flute becomes a fixture on the Enterprise, and Picard never really gets over the feelings he had as Kamin. One could argue that these emotions where part of what screwed Picard up in Generations when he learned his brother and nephew had died.

Why this episode shouldn’t be on the disc:

This episode, though fantastic, feels more like an Outer limits episode than Star Trek. This episode could have been transported into any sci-fi genre show of the mid 90’s and it could have worked. The quintessential piece of the crew working to solve the problem is a 5 minute B story. This is a Picard story plain and simple, and if this disc was a Picard sampler I would pick it right away, but this is a sample of TNG.

Verdict:

The Inner Light~ Joe’s rating for episode choice:  B-

Though I’m going to get killed for saying this, not all great episodes make for an introductory sample. I think with the Blu-ray clean up this episode will look beautiful, but it simply isn’t TNG enough for me.  To put it in comparison, the best Doctor Who episode of the new series is “Vincent and the Doctor”, and it is emotionally equivalent to this episode, but it never strays outside of the DW universe, in fact it plays with the notions of what makes Doctor Who successful. The “Inner Light” never achieves that level of meta.

“Sins of the Father

This episode is incredibly complicated to summarize, I’ve tried twice now. But I’ll try again:

“As part of the Federation-Klingon officer exchange program, Klingon Commander Kurn has requested to be placed aboard the Enterprise as first officer. His command style aggravates the crew, particularly Lieutenant Worf. Worf confronts Kurn alone, where Kurn reveals he is Worf’s younger brother; when the rest of Worf’s family left to the Khitomer colony, he was left with a friend of their father, Lorgh. Kurn was raised as Lorgh’s child, unaware until recently of the massacre at Khitomer. Kurn tells Worf that their father Mogh is being charged posthumously as a traitor by Duras, the son of Mogh’s rival, in the Khitomer massacre, which will mar the Mogh family name for generations. Worf requests a leave of absence to defend his father’s honor. Picard believes that Worf’s action as a Starfleet officer in his father’s defense will be of significant interest to the Federation, and directs the Enterprise to the Klingon homeworld so they may monitor the events. En route, Kurn volunteers to be Worf’s Cha’DIch, a second to stand with Worf during the challenge. Worf agrees, but warns Kurn to not reveal his bloodline.

At the High Council, Duras reveals evidence of Mogh sending Khitomer’s defense codes to the Romulans. Worf challenges this, but is told privately by K’mpec, the Klingon Chancellor, to drop the challenge and return to the Federation. Worf discusses this curious request with Picard, who also finds it strange and orders his crew to examine the evidence. Meanwhile, Duras has ambushed Kurn, aware of his Mogh bloodline, and attempts to get him to betray Worf. Kurn refuses and is seriously wounded, no longer able to support Worf in front of the Council. Picard accepts Worf’s request to take Kurn’s place.

The Enterprise crew find evidence that the Khitomer logs have been modified, and soon discover one more survivor of the massacre, Worf’s nurse Kahlest. Picard is able to convince Kahlest, who knows Mogh was loyal to the Klingon Empire but does not know who the true traitor was, to help in Worf’s challenge. Picard brings Kahlest to court, and bluffs that she knows who the true traitor was. K’mpec calls Worf, Picard, and Kahlest into his private quarters and reveals the truth; the Council is well aware that Duras’ father was the Khitomer traitor, but exposure of this, given Duras’ high political capital, would certainly lead to civil war within the Empire. The Council only accepted Duras’ charge of treason against Mogh believing that Worf would not challenge it. K’mpec imparts that the Council must condemn Worf and Kurn, but Picard refuses, a situation that could end the Klingon-Federation alliance. K’mpec, Picard, and Worf agree that the only course of action for Worf is to accept a discommendation, tantamount to admitting his father’s guilt; in exchange, the knowledge of the proceedings, including Kurn’s true bloodlines, will be covered up. In the council, all of the assembled Klingons, including Kurn, turn their back to Worf in his disgrace, and he and Picard silently leave the hall.”

OK, I stole that from Wikipedia, but it was REALLY REALLY hard to do on my own.

Why this episode should be on the disc:

This episode is a tightly wound political thriller, weaving plot into plot. Sytar Trek is essentially a political show, Picard and the crew of the Enterprise are ambassadors to a whole galaxy in which they are only a fraction. It is important to sometimes go outside the confort zone of the Federation and see the rest of the universe. The Klingons are as essential to Star trek as the Enterprise. In fact most people who make fun of Trekkies often pick on our knowledge of the beautiful Klingon language. Not to mention the acting is first rate from Stewart and Michael Dorn both.

Also something to be mentioned is that this episode looks beautiful, everything about this episode is custom designed to give the Klingon race a unique feel.

Why this episode shouldn’t be on the disc:

If you have only four episodes to showcase the Next Generation, Do you choose an episode that is very heavy with the political intrigue of an alien civilization? It’s true this is one of my favorite episodes of TNG, the amount underlying knowledge you need to get what is going on in this episode is pretty heavy. Putting it alongside “Encounter at Farpoint” is a good starter because you get some Worf, but there is so much more you miss without watching about a half dozen other episodes.

Verdict:

Sins of the Father~ Joe’s rating for episode choice:  A

Even though you have a lot of subtext missing, this is a solid entertaining episode. It works as almost a procedural, and the way the Enterprise ralies around one of their own really makes this a classic episode.

Read Joe’s other articles: Doctor Who Season 6 Round Up, ConanPrimer, GOT COK: Casting Roundup  1 + 2, Trek in your Queue 1 and 2, Game of Thrones Primer II,  Obama Trek Mutant Fatigue Sci-Fi A-Team Star Trek: A Different Generation, An Alternate History of the Doctor, Inn at the Crossroads interview, A Love Letter to Natalie Portman, Failed Star Trek Spinoffs, Thor Primer, Doctor Who Season 6 primer, A Game of Thrones Primer, More

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