The Thinker

Second Viewing: Star Trek: The Next Generation (Season 4)

I may be ODing on STTNG. Last night Patrick Stewart/Capt. Jean Luc Picard kept coming in and out of my dreams. It still amazes me that I purged most of this stuff over the years. In a way that’s good because it’s like seeing STTNG for the first time 25 years or so later. Season 3 was overall very good and ended up with a nasty encounter with the Borg. Except for the cliffhanger from Season 3 in the first episode, there are no more Borg encounters in Season 4. But the Klingon Empire is on the verge of a civil war and the Romulans seem anxious to find a pretext to start a new war with the Federation. Capsule episode reviews follow, so if you are seeing the series for the first time you can use these to skip the good stuff.

  1. The Best of Both Worlds, Part II. Captain Picard is still Locutus of Borg and has his mind tapped by the Borg to learn about the Federation’s weaknesses. To cope, the new albeit temporary Captain Riker has to develop some new strategies that Picard/Locutus could not infer. The Enterprise is severely disabled by its encounter, but at least it survives. The Borg destroy a fleet of starships then beeline for Earth, followed by the Enterprise once it affects repairs. Naturally using unorthodox strategies the Borg ship is destroyed and the captain is rescued, but just barely. Picard feels mentally raped and struggles to resume his command. A+
  2. Family. Trying to get his shit back together and since the Enterprise is back at Earth getting repaired, Picard takes a holiday with his family at their vineyard in France. Family turns out to be his grouchy and insular brother, his sweet sister-in-law and his “uncle”, actually his nephew. This is really a continuation of the last episode and shows just how ripped apart Picard became when captured by the Borg. Patrick Steward does some of his best acting of the series in this episode as Picard works through control issues with his brother. Meanwhile, Worf has a reunion with his adopted human parents while Beverly discovers a dated tape of her late husband who has a message for Wesley. A
  3. Brothers. Presumably Brent Spiner (Data) got paid extra for this episode as he meets his dying “father”/creator Noonean Soong (played by Spiner) and reunites with his evil “brother” Lore (also played by Spiner). Unfortunately, Data hijacks the Enterprise in the process but it’s not his fault; his homing beacon is built into his firmware and Dad wants to give Data an emotion chip before he dies. C
  4. Suddenly Human. The Enterprise rescues a Talarian vessel with five boys, one human. The human boy Jono was adopted by a Talarian (Endar) after the Talarians killed his parents and many other humans. The war-like Talarians are very anti-human but Jono seems attached to them. Picard exposes Jono to his real family, setting up a huge cognitive dissonance episode in the boy. Where does he belong? B
  5. Remember Me. In typical Star Trek fashion, the highly atypical thing happens but it’s all Wesley’s fault when his science experiment goes awry again. This generates what seems to be a cascading series of events where the Enterprise crew keeps mysteriously shrinking but only Dr. Crusher can remember the way things used to be. Although the crisis of the day seems too familiar, surprisingly this is actually a terrific episode as it plays mind games with you. Gates McFadden again gets to prove she can be a hell of an actor too when given a chance to shine. Good stuff. A
  6. Legacy. Tasha Yar’s sister shows up when the Enterprise shows up at their late security officer’s home planet. They are there to rescue people from a Federation freighter that crashed on the planet. On the planet two groups of rival gangs fight an endless battle for control. Tasha’s sister Ishara is used by one side to try to gain leverage by one group with the Federation, while the Enterprise crew tries to make her feel at home and offers her a chance to leave the planet for good like her sister did. Ishara seems willing to help and to leave, but is she really being duplicitous? And is her friendship with Data real or just a tactic? B
  7. Reunion. Klingons sure are a lot of bother and will become more so later in the season. In this episode Worf’s half human/half Klingon love interest/infatuation from Season 2 (K’Ehleyr) returns with a boy that bears an uncanny resemblance to Worf and turns out to be his son. K’Ehleyr is trying to mediate a succession dispute within the Klingon empire because its leader has been poisoned and is nearing death. In addition, an explosion is determined to be due to a Romulan bomb, suggesting that the Klingon Duras who quests for power is in cahoots with the Romulans. All this while Worf is officially “dis-accommodated” adds up to a big power struggle that Picard gets pulled into. B+
  8. Future Imperfect. During an away mission, Riker mysteriously awakes sixteen years later. He is the Captain of the Enterprise but everyone assures him he was suffering from a condition that would cause this memory loss. Or is something else going on? Of course it’s the latter but getting there is half the fun. B
  9. Final Mission. Wesley finally gets a call to attend Starfleet Academy but before he leaves he and Captain Picard end up on an away mission with a crusty miner whose badly maintained vessel ends up on an inhospitable planet. Wesley and Picard get to tell each other how much they really admire each other, and Wesley also gets to save the captain’s life. This feels like a creepy bromance written to satisfy the fans, but it’s utterly predictable and uninteresting. On the plus side, the Enterprise doesn’t have Wesley to muck things up anymore, at least not for a while. C-
  10. The Loss. Troi mysteriously loses her empathic powers and she finds it is devastating. It doubtless has something to do with the two dimensional creature off the helm and a powerful nearby cosmic string which of course looks lethal and will tear the Enterprise apart if our heroes can’t figure it out in time. Marina Sirtis does a great job here as a hobbled empath but otherwise the jeopardy feels kind of forced, like the basic plot that we see over and over. B
  11. Data’s Day. Data documents his day for a researcher and learns to dance from Dr. Crusher all while Chief O’Brian’s fiancé Keiko (Rosalind Chao) abruptly calls of their wedding. Meanwhile, to give the episode some semblance of a plot, there is an encounter with the Romulans and a spy on board. Keiko became a semi-regular of the show in this episode, at least until the producers spun off Star Trek: Deep Space Nine where the two lovebirds eventually migrated to. C
  12. The Wounded. A highly regarded Captain is busy destroying Cardassian ships against the orders of the Federation High Council, as he suspects them of planning to restart a war. This is a terrific show and one of the highlights of the fourth season, with a delicious last minute or so when Picard has a little chat with the captain of a Cardassian ship. The Federation simply does not pay Picard enough! A+
  13. Devil’s Due. A mythical power returns after many millennium to a planet that seems eager to believe she must enslave them, as their predecessors had signed a contract with her for the long period of peace. Is she real or is there a man behind the curtain? Not hard to figure this one out so it’s easy to skip. C
  14. Clues. The Enterprise goes through a wormhole and loses 30 seconds … or was it 24 hours? This is actually a pretty clever whodunit with a twist ending you probably won’t see coming and very well done. It turns the normal jeopardy plot on its head. A
  15. First Contact. The Federation has been studying the humanoids on Malcor III and decides it’s time to make first contact and tell them about the rest of the universe. But are they really sufficiently advanced enough? Thinks go awry for Riker on the away mission, which sets up a massive case of future shock. B+
  16. Galaxy’s Child. Geordi gets to meet in the flesh Dr. Brahms, the designer of their engines he first “met” in a simulation on the holodeck in Season 3. He discovers that Holodeck simulations are not perfect leading to some embarrassing incidents for the infatuated Geordi. Fortunately Dr. Brahms is around when they uncover a one of its kind huge spacefaring creature. When it reproduces it finds itself drawn to the Enterprise and sucks its energy like a vampire with a fresh neck. Geordi and Dr. Brahms have to play nicely and wean this new “baby” off the hull before of course the Enterprise gets destroyed. C+
  17. Night Terrors. Why did the crew of the Brattain go crazy and kill themselves? The Enterprise crew gets the same symptoms when they investigate the incident, leading to literally sleepless nights, crew violence and the Enterprise getting trapped inside yet another rift. Nothing really new here. The crew didn’t get much sleep, but you might sleep through this one. C
  18. Identity Crisis. Geordi reunites with an old service friend and superior Susanna. They are the only two still alive from an away team mission both were on in a previous posting. On a new mission back to the place where the incident occurred, Susanna transforms into an alien creature with Geordi following suit. Can this be reversed before their entire human DNA is changed to the new species? Of course it can; Levar Burton had a contract to fulfill. B-
  19. The Nth Degree. Lieutenant Barclay from Engineering is back and having some success fighting his shyness but soon becomes extroverted and unnaturally smart, in fact sort of superhuman. It turns out he’s really channeling the powers of a race at the center of the galaxy. C
  20. Qpid. Vash is back and Q shows up for the ride. Q takes the key staff on a not so merry visit to Sherwood Forest and Nottingham. This is pure fluff and was written to perhaps give the cast a change of pace. It’s really just very irritating but with the occasional flash of humor. D
  21. The Drumhead. Is the explosion of a dilithium crystal chamber a work of sabotage? A respected retired ambassador with a chip on her shoulder arrives to find out and quickly turns it into an inquisition and fishing expedition. Naturally, Picard is greatly concerned by this 24th century McCarthy-ism. It’s not too hard to see where this is going but somehow it doesn’t matter as it is done so well and Patrick Stewart does such an adroit job with Picard’s untangling of this matter. A-
  22. Half a Life. Finally a Lwaxana Troi episode you don’t entirely cringe through. Since Picard won’t let her make his life miserable, she latches onto a visiting scientist from the planet Kaelon II (David Ogden Stiers, or Major Winchester if you remember M*A*S*H) who is trying to save his planet by fine tuning its cooling star. Dr. Timicin though is approaching age 60 and on his planet that means a nice life celebration followed by a peaceful death, and Lwaxana is not amused. Still not a great episode but the best of the bunch for the executive producer’s wife (Majel Barrett) seemingly annual guest appearance. B-
  23. The Host. Crusher falls madly in love. Unfortunately, she falls for a Trill without understanding it’s a species that lives inside a host’s body. The body dies and it moves temporarily to Commander Riker and finally to a female host. The idea of trill is actually one of the better ones that Star Trek writers kicked out and this one explores the meaning of love and actually shines some light on the subject. This is topical 25 years later as we struggle through issues like whether a transgender person can use the restroom of their choice. Good topical stuff all these years later. A
  24. The Mind’s Eye. When Geordi takes a shuttlecraft to a conference, he finds he is kidnapped by the Romulans, brainwashed and his visor is hacked to make him an assassin when he returns to the Enterprise. This time it is largely up to Data to figure out what’s going on, and he’ll need all the sleuthing powers of his hero Sherlock Holmes to figure it out. A-
  25. In Theory. Data gets hit on by the comely Ensign D’Sora and attempts to be her boyfriend, but of course android and human have inherent relationship problems. Data makes it seem like he has no experience in the lovemaking department but it’s not quite true. In Season 2, he related that he and Security Officer Tasha Yar were “intimate” so perhaps he had some tricks up his sleeve. Alas, it doesn’t look like this relationship was consummated. Data turns out to be D’Sora’s “rebound” boyfriend after a failed relationship. C-
  26. Redemption I. It’s time for a season cliffhanger, but no Borg this time, just more Klingon succession issues all while Worf tries to remove the unjust dishonor placed on his family. It looks like there are Romulans colluding with some Klingons to break the Klingon Empire’s relationship with the Federation. Worf, his brother and Picard quickly step deep into the doo doo. What’s really going on? And is that really Tasha Yar as a Romulan commander? The exciting conclusion awaits in Season 5, Episode 1. A
 

Leave a Reply

Switch to our mobile site