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Film, DVD, and TV Discuss the latest movies at the theatre and on DVD, as well as what is on TV. ACG film reviews will also be found here.

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Old 02 Apr 12, 19:12
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Originally Posted by Martok View Post
So eventually, about January 10th of this year, preoccupied with other concerns I decided to take a break from the forums altogether.

Recently however I have begun to reconsider this combined effort, these two Star Trek threads which, honestly, have brought me so much enjoyment over time. I wondered if I would ever finish them and then move on to the topic I have wanted to address since I began, evaluating Star Trek Deep Space Nine. I even dreamed about this thread one night. I am not sure what that implies, exactly, but I decided it was my sub-conscious telling me to get back to it and finish. That thought combined with the remembrance of what the true purpose of creating these threads was motivated me to finally continue.

We all need a bit of escape from reality at times, after all.
Most heartily agreed. When life sucks, fun threads make all the difference. We enjoy reading them and keep up the good work!
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Old 05 Apr 12, 05:23
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In looking back on this thread I admit to having much more fun writing about the worst of the series as opposed to writing about the best. This stems from a simple philosophy, I suppose, grounded in the belief that regardless of my enthusiasm for Star Trek as a series, in context Sturgeon’s Law still applies and a bad episode is a bad episode. Illustrating the inherent and obvious flaws of these episodes with sarcasm, mockery, ridicule, and satire just seemed the best way to make that point.

I also realize and admit I have had my detractors, both here and on the Trek BBS. But then I suppose I would have detractors somewhere regardless of how I approached this topic. Given that fact, what I have consistently tried to do was present my views on why I considered a particular TNG episode as being bad in a humorous and entertaining manner. But humor is subjective, what is funny to me may not be funny to someone else. In light of that truth, I want to address one point concerning my “worst of” post.

Personally, I believe my treatment of the episode “I Borg”, as found on page five of this thread, to be my best effort from any of the “worst of” post. I think it hilarious, even given I say that about my own work. But in considering the overall effectiveness of that post I realize for someone else to consider it either funny or effective, they would have to be aware of a number of facts. First and foremost they would have to be familiar with The McLaughlin Group and how that show operates. They would also have to be familiar with the usual guest McLaughlin has on, and how he approaches a topic for discussion. Other important factors to be aware of would include who all of the other actual personalities I included as “guest” were, which side of the political spectrum they were on, what their viewpoints tended to be, and even how they spoke. To really get some of the jokes, a reader would have to be able to recognize the fact that many of the things I had these characters say in my post were taken from actual comments these people have made in real life. For example, Janeane Garofalo actually made that comment about the Limbic brain being larger in an Conservative as opposed to a “reasonable” person. Susan Sarandon has waxed poetic on more than a few occasions concerning the evil of Dick Cheney, as I had her do in my post, and Al Sharpton actually made his comment about evangelicals. I simply twisted those comments a bit to make them fit the Borg narrative.

And again, even though I do say so myself, I thought the result brilliant.

However I fully realize anyone reading that post who was not aware of any of the above would come away with a sense of “what was this idiot talking about?” That is not a poor reflection on any reader, by any means. It is simply a reflection of the fact I chose a very specific narrative from which to make my point, a very specific narrative not everyone was going to be familiar with. Readers would either get it or they wouldn’t. It is in this manner I have tried to construct all of my “worst of” post.

And in this manner I will continue, for my philosophy in including any humor in my writing is not to ask myself who will get this joke, but to craft the humor with the certainty that someone will get this joke.

Therefore, in that context and with the greatest appreciation for any and all who read what follows, I present my selections for the worst of Star Trek TNG, season seven.

THE WORST OF STAR TREK THE NEXT GENERATION SEASON SEVEN

1. Sub Rosa

“If there’s something strange
In your neighborhood…

Who ya gonna call?

Doctor Crusher!!”

“If your grandma’s dead,
And she don’t look good…

Who ya gonna call?

Doctor Crusher!!”

“I ain’t afraid of no ghost!”

Oh my gawd!! Star Trek meets “Wuthering Heights”, and “The Turn of the Screw”, and “The Witching Hour”, and “Tales From the Crypt”, and “Scooby-Do and the Ghost of the Scottish Moors”, all smashed together in one ridiculous Gothic love story centered around a woman who falls in love at first sight more often than Tim Tebow kneels.

A throwback for a moment, as I realize I have not used this particular narrative vehicle since my treatment of the worst of season one. But I think it fits here, so once again we insert ourselves into the midst of the TNG writers and producers brainstorming scripts to “green light” for season seven.

Doodoole do doodoole do doodoole do doodoole dooo…..

(because I need more sound effects in my post)

We are now in a large conference room featuring an oval table centered for access. A number of men and one woman are sitting around this table, discussing scripts for upcoming TNG episodes.

Producer One: “Ah, ok, it’s the last season and we have to give all our actors at least one of their own episodes, ah, except Geordi, of course, and, so….we need a Crusher episode. Any ideas?”

Everyone sits for a moment, looking at the floor, the ceiling, at their fingernails, anywhere except at Producer One. Finally someone speaks.

Writer One: “Ok, how about this? Crusher goes to a planet where Dinosaurs have been cloned from ancient DNA trapped in amber and has to try and save two children from being eaten by a T-rex.”

Producer One: “That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. I mean, who is going to believe a story like that? Dinosaurs? You might as well say they evolved into sapient creatures and are now running around in space.”

Writer One shrugs. “It was just a thought.”

Writer Two speaks up: “Ah, Ok, I got it! Crusher and three other crewmen step through this stable wormhole created by a giant ring-shaped device which sends them to a desert planet where they learn the pyramids were actually built by ancient aliens, and they have to fight Ra, the meanest ancient alien of them all!”

Producer One: “Alright guys, listen! I said I wanted some ideas for a Crusher episode, not some dime novel crap which will get us laughed off the air! Now come on!”

Everyone looks at each other for a moment, then another writer volunteers an idea.

Writer Three: “Soooo…..Crusher has to join a Federation ground army of some kind, as a Doctor, you know, and these guys are sent all over to fight these big bugs which come up out of the ground controlled by a massive brain-bug like thing, only the Federation army is led by a bunch of idiots who train them to mass together by the hundreds and use only small caliber weapons so they get slaughtered on a regular basis and Crusher has thousands of patients only most of them die because the bugs rip them to pieces because the soldiers only have pop-guns and are all massed together and Crusher falls down a hole and this giant bug crawls up to eat her brain but just in time Worf, Riker and Picard come down to save her, even though the odds are ten thousand to one.”

A big smile crosses the face of Producer One. “Yeah, now we are getting somewhere.”

There is a general hubbub for a few moments, interrupted when the lone female in the group slams her papers down on the desk and stands up. She glares at the men and then speaks.

Isabella Linton: “You have this all wrong! The fans are tired of action stories, of…of phaser battles and ships blowing up and Klingons hacking at each other with big swords! The fans want romance!”

Everyone stares at Isabella in dumb-found silence. Especially Producer One.

“Well, don’t you see!” Isabella cries, “We need to do a love story! We need to allow Doctor Crusher to be the woman she truly is, allow her to explore her femininity, her womanhood. For the female fans of the show.”

Everyone stares at Isabella in dumb-found silence. Especially Producer One.

One of the male writers finally speaks. “Another love story? We did all of that crap with Troi, and the only moment from all of them anyone remembers is that time she became an uber-**** and Riker found her…..”

“Oh, all right!” Isabella Linton huffs. She slumps her shoulders in resignation. “We can….add in a scene….where Picard unexpectedly…..walks in on her while she is…..having an orgasm.”

A moment of stunned silence, followed by cheers and agreement all around.

“Yeah,” Producer One says, “Green light that baby!”

In case you were not aware, Crusher is actually seen in this episode in the midst of a self-induced climax. So it wasn’t all bad. But before fans were allowed to witness Picard witnessing that particular manifestation of Beverly’s psyche, they would have to suffer through the first three acts of the episode.

And so do you!!!!!

So Beverly Crusher’s grandmother has died and the Enterprise has gone to Lasher Prime to allow her to attend the funeral. Ever wonder why the first three letters of the word funeral are F U N? Anyway, after the mayor of Hoo-ville…



 
…completes the eulogy with the ceremonial Lasher Prime Phrase of Finality:

“We buried her with dignity, we buried her with charm, we buried her with Twinkies and sprockets and yarn. Ashes to ashes, stone upon stone, let no one dig up this bag of bone.”

The congregation begins to separate and depart. But suddenly, accompanied by a soft yet eerily chilling gust of wind and the gentle whisper of leaves tumbling madly across the cold cemetery ground, Crusher spies a tall and mysterious yet dashingly handsome man draped in flowing black funeral attire graced with silky yet wistful golden locks invisible until a moment before who hauntingly turns to gaze upon her fleetingly with anguished longing in his eyes and in response to his thrusting and penetrating yet momentary glance she parts her quivering lips ever so slightly and with shivering anticipation immediately falls in love with him.

Pretty good, huh?

But that is the A plot, really. Girl sees boy, boy seduces girl, girl kills boy. Happens all the time, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. So Crusher heads over to the house her grandmother built to complete the family affairs. Inside she finds a small lantern with a candle inside, a family heirloom which has been in the Howard (Crusher) clan for generations. When lit, it is meant to represent the enduring Howard spirit.

Get it? The Enduring Howard Spirit? Heh….

So Crusher is milling about her new home when suddenly this guy barges in:



See, in one of the thrilling plot twist to this episode Lasher Prime was molded by the original colonist to resemble as closely as possible Earth’s Scottish Highlands, complete with Thomas the Rhymer singing Mull of Kintyre to the Monster of Glammis. The No True Scotsman Crusher has just met identifies himself as Ned Quint, her grandmothers caregiver. Quint demands Crusher give up the family heirloom because it is cursed. Cursed I tell ye! Crusher demands he leave, but before he does he delivers a cryptic warning with typical Scottish flair.

“I weel not be respon-sible fa wot ‘appens to ye if ya continues ta’ be stubbern ya ignorant Howard twit!”

But Crusher doesn’t listen and takes her cursed family heirloom back to the Enterprise with her. That night while sleeping in her quarters, to the tune of Unchained Melody an invisible hand slowly begins to pull her covers away, revealing her scantily clad form beneath. Then the clothing around her shoulder is stripped away, and the invisible hand begins to softly caress her supple neck. Crusher writhes and moans for a moment and then awakes with a start, sending chairs flying as someone in a stealth suit is knocked backwards. Crusher ask the computer to locate Captain Picard as the doors to her quarters open and footsteps are heard receding down the corridor.

No, actually it was the ghost in the candle. But I liked my scenario better.

The next morning Crusher talks to Troi, detailing the late night visitation she experienced. Troi assures her it wasn’t Commander Riker. Or Lieutenant Worf. Or the visiting Ambassador from Memnoch 3. Crusher explains whoever or whatever (dah dah duuuuuuhhh) it was knew exactly how to arouse her. So it sure as hell wasn’t Geordi LaForge. But this is the A plot, Crusher seduced by a ghost who’s only apparent redeeming quality is his ability to pleasure women. Or as phrased by the good Doctor:



Crusher then returns to Lasher Prime to visit her grandmother’s grave, where The No True Scotsman runs in to yell at her again.

“I’ll be buryin’ you next, lassie! The ghost is out, ya ignorant Howard twit!”

Back in the house her grandmother built, Crusher looks into the mirror and sees a second reflection. It is the mysterious man from the funeral, and he introduces himself as Ronin. Crusher turns and ask:

“Then how did you get to be tall and Japanese all at the same time?”

But Ronin tells her (and again, this is kind of the whole plot) he is a ghost who has possessed every Howard woman from generations past and now he is here to posses her. His pick-up line is to tell her he believes the Howard women “are the most beautiful he has ever known”, and that he is really good in bed.

To the tune of Unchained Melody.

Crusher spurns his advances (this time) and returns to the Enterprise. Troi comes to see her, and once again proves to all why the unique abilities she and she alone possesses qualifies her to hold the position of Counselor on the flagship of the Federation Fleet.

Crusher tells Troi of meeting Ronin, her grandmother’s lover. She blabs about the whole ghost thing and how he has been possessing Howard women for generations but it is really kind of cool because he is unlike any other man she has ever met primarily because of his passion. Troi’s response?

“It sounds like a strange relationship, but I am very happy for you.”

Nooooo, really? The chief medical officer of the Starship Enterprise has just told you she is shagging her grandmother’s lover who also happens to be a ghost and you, the ships counselor, don’t see a potential problem here? Something like, oh, I don’t know, this?:



Or perhaps something more germane to the welfare of the ship? Like Crusher is in the middle of surgery and suddenly she goes into an orgasmic trance because it isn’t like her ghost lover has to wait for her to get off duty or anything, he can simply float in and “possess” her whenever he likes, as long as she is burning the stupid Howard heirloom lantern and oh by the way there is a giant stack of candles next to her bed and maybe, just maaayyybe, this is a little fact the Captain of the ship need be made aware because his chief medical officer has just admitted to going bat-**** crazy! But no, nooooooooooooooooo! You, as the enlightened dim-witted Betazoid with a built in spider-sense which warns you of every evil thought any alien on the view screen may have, don’t manage to see a problem here?! You are happy for her?!

What were the writers thinking? If they were going to rip-off any number of literary works in order to produce this crap they at least could have had the dignity not to make their characters appear to be idiots! What are we to think here? What if LaForge came up to Troi and told her he was now dating the Warp Core Plasma Exhaust? Would she be happy for him, or perhaps conclude loneliness had finally overcome him and have him committed?

“Gee, I am very happy for you Greordi, try not to get burned.”

There is a B story here as well, some other crap about the weather control system of the remade Scottish highlands suffering a series of mysterious malfunctions and Data’s and LaForge’s attempts to correct the problems. But the only significant event in context of this is Quint, the No True Scotsman, is killed by an “mysterious” energy discharge from one of the systems conduits and the mayor of Hoo-ville blames it on the ghost. So in reality all of the Hoos in Hoo-ville know how bat-**** crazy Crusher is going but don’t know what to do about it except tinker with the Weather Control System.

So eventually Crusher decides to blow Star Fleet off and stay in the house her grandmother built to permanently become one with her ghost lover. And somewhere within the Space-Time Continuum the Space Hippies from TOS are all smiling and singing and shouting “We reach, man!” She turns in her resignation and beams down to what is now her house. Picard, of course, doesn’t want to give up his only source of afternoon delight without a good discussion, and he follows her down. Is there enough sexual innuendo in this for all of you?

Picard knocks on her door, but gets no response. So he just walks right in. And here is the true “climax” of the episode. He finds Crusher all sprawled out across a lounge chair wearing a scanty little thin white gown, writhing around in the midst of a bout of self-exploration. No, I am not making this up.




And the full body shot!!!



Picard watches for, you know, awhile, and then apologies for interrupting. Yeah….

WWKD: It is hard to imagine, or I suppose I should say painful to imagine, Kirk walking in and finding his chief medical officer in the midst of pleasuring himself and then have to listen to McCoy blame it on a ghost. But in response I believe he would have called Spock in to mind-meld with the good doctor, determine what was really going on, and then blast the stupid ghost-thing out of an airlock. And then hold the whole incident over McCoy’s head for the rest of his life.

But Picard insist on talking to Ronin, because that is how he solves almost everything. Meanwhile, Data and LaForge and Scooby have traced an anaphasic energy source back to the grave site of Crusher’s grandmother, and decide they want to disturb the bag of bones against the express wishes of the Mayer of Hoo-ville. Picard relays this information to Ronin, who first clocks Picard with his vaporous left-right combination of doom and then vanishes. Crusher then revives Picard who, AND GET THIS NOW, tells her to go after him!

WWKD: Oh, like you don’t know.

So Doctor Crusher runs into the cemetery to see Scooby and the Gang have not only dug up her grandmother’s casket but opened it to look inside. Lastat and Armond jump out but then run off as the hideous Grandmother monster pops up and zaps Data and LaForge with her Green Lantern ring and then begs Crusher to love and trust her.

“Well”, says Crusher, “since you resurrected my dead grandmother to use as a vehicle to try and seduce me again, and oh, by the way, you were really good until the Captain came in and screwed it all up, I only have one question for you. What does Marcellus Wallace look like?”

And because Ronin can’t answer she grabs a phaser and goes all Jules Winnfield on his ass.



For the record, Ronin wasn’t actually a ghost per se. He was simply another alien of the week only on this occasion an anaphasic life-form which had attached itself to one of Crusher ancestors and had been mooching off of them ever since. But by this point of the episode fans simply did not care. The climax of the story was an anti-climax to the climax which had come before, and nothing else in this episode would be remembered for anything other than stuff which happened to support that one scene. Which, seriously, seemed to be the only reason this episode was made, to give the writers and producers the opportunity to present Doctor Crusher in a "comprimising" position, and then laugh about it when the fans questioned their brilliance. See some of the commentary below.

The episode ends with Crusher and Troi back on board the Enterprise discussing the ordeal. Crusher says she is glad to have escaped the “family tradition”, well, sort of, but is still sad because whatever else Ronin may have done he at least had made her grandmother happy. Often and a lot.

As the ship warps away she slaps her hand to her mouth and says:

“Oh my God! Did they remember to rebury her?"

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: SUB ROSA

While reading this you may have noticed the references I included to Anne Rice’s “The Vampire Chronicles” series of books, specifically the inclusion of the character names Lasher, Memnoch, Lestat, and Armond. This was done to illustrate the fact many Trek fans were convinced the script for this episode was a direct rip-off of another of Rice’s works, her Mayfair witch story entitled “The Witching Hour”. All who have both seen this episode and read that work can see there is justification for making this claim.

Some fans dismissed this episode as “stereotypical romance-novel slush”. I found this comment posted on the Trek BBS to be illustrative of female fan reaction in particular. Quote:

“This is one of many instances where Trek producers have made statements suggesting that any clichéd formula for romance should make women happy, and I like to raise my hand as a female viewer who’d rather have no romance at all than this trashy stuff that I’m supposed to be thankful for.”

Agreed.

However Jeri Taylor denied the story was taken from Rice’s book. Of this she claimed:

“One of Brannon and my favorite movies is “The Innocents”, which comes from Henry James’ “Turn of the Screw”. We saw this episode as a homage, and we packed in every sort of Gothic ghost story trick that one could imagine."

Ok, so they just stole the idea from that. I am sure Rice was pleased.

Jeanna F. Gallo sold the original story concept to the TNG writing staff. Concerning the question of "Sub Rosa" being a either a rip-off of Rice's work or actually written under a pseudonym by Rice herself, I found this comment posted on IMDB by Jeanna F. Gallo, quote:

"Someone has altered my sole IMDb credit on this episode until I (Jeanna F. Gallo) appear as a pseudonym for Anne Rice. I am not Anne Rice and I alone sold the story that became this episode, "Sub Rosa." None of us, myself, Jeri Taylor, or Brannon Braga had ever even read Anne Rice prior to this episode being made, any resemblance to one of her stories that allowed some 'imaginative' Trek fan to assume that she must have played a hand in its production is entirely coincidental."

This reads as if Gallo was very proud of the fact neither she nor the primary TNG staff had never bothered to read any of Rice's works, as if her principal defense was "look guys, I am too ignorant to have stolen this idea because I don't read enough to know what to steal." But that could also explain why Gallo couldn't come up with anything better than the original idea she managed to sell to TNG. Then it was season seven, and as discussed earlier script standards were not so high as in seasons past.

Apparently the character of Ronin was given that Japanese name because it translates into “drifting person”. Which means if that was what they were after they could have called him “Jimmy Carter”, another aged energy sucking spirit who just will not go away.

One notable inside factoid concerning “Sub Rosa” can be seen during the burial ceremony. The prop guys listed the names of several movie characters on the headstones seen in the background, the two most notable being McFly and Vader.

“Sub Rosa” is one of seven Star Trek episodes given a Latin title. Actor Duncan Regehr, who played the ghost, went on to play the recurring role of Shakaar Edon in “Star Trek Deep Space Nine”. This is one of only five TNG episodes not to be given a designated Star Date.

According to “Captain’s Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages”, fan response to this episode was split along gender lines. Most men hated it, and most women with any class did as well. “Hard-core fans”, it was noted, really did not like it. Of this Brannon Braga once noted:

“I’ve come to notice that whenever you infuse a show with sexual themes, some of these fans seem to short-circuit. I mean, the weather array malfunction causing thunderstorms – it was fun!"

For who? Fans of soft-core porn? But he seems to have been implying here that Trek fans simply couldn’t handle an episode with a sexual theme. That isn’t true. That this story had a sexual theme was not the issue. That this episode sucked was.

Of Gates McFadden’s performance and the “climatic” scene, Rene’ Echevarria stated:

“Gates did a wonderful job. It just got bigger and broader and to the point of grandmother leaping out of the grave. Just having Beverly basically writhing around having an orgasm at 6 o'clock on family TV was great. For that alone it was worth doing. We got away with murder."

Apparently he was speaking for the "dirty old man" contingent of TNG writers.

In reference to the "climatic" scene, Brannon Braga would also state:

"It was the best performance I've ever seen. I just thought she did a wonderful job. Picard catches Beverly masturbating for crying out loud! What a tough role to play. When I was writing the words, 'She writhes around in the bed having invisible sex,' I just thought, 'Oh man, we're asking for trouble. Are they gonna be able to pull this off?' Thanks to [director] Jonathan Frakes and Gates, it was not hokey. It was very good. Sure it was racy. Even Rick Berman had said, 'I can't believe we're doing this.' I think they trimmed quite a bit out of the writhing sequences."

Well they only had fourty-eight minutes of air time to fill with an actual story. But this comment by Braga serves to illustrate my earlier point concerning this episode, in that it seems to have been "green-lighted" for production for one reason and one reason only, to show Doctor Crusher "writhing around in the bed having invisible sex".

The Latin phrase "Sub Rosa" translates into "under the rose", and refers to something which is best kept secret or confidential. In context of the script what was meant to be kept secret was the nature of the relationship between the Howard women and the family ghost, except of course as this was revealed to Doctor Crusher by the ghost. As viewers we must be made aware of this at the same pace Crusher is, but not necessarily in the same manner.

Star Trek fans are not so prudish as to believe none of their favorite characters engage in sexual relations. That is part of being human. Nor are Trek fans so prudish as to be offended simply because the sexual nature of humanity is referenced as a plot point. As long as it is a useful plot point which supports the story. Here, the story could have been as easily and effectively advanced without having Picard walk in on Crusher while the Doctor is in the midst of an orgasm. But the entire episode existed to support that one scene, as opposed to that one scene serving to support the episode. That is why fans overall thought “Sub Rosa” a failure.

But the TNG staff defended their work. Jeri Taylor commented:

"The lovemaking without a partner – this is not easy stuff to do and she committed herself to it completely."

Practice makes perfect!

Jonathan Frakes, who directed this episode, noted:

“I drew a good straw because it wasn't a Star Trek. It was more like “Tales from the Crypt”. Gates and I have worked well together and she was never better than in 'Sub Rosa' and never looked more beautiful. She looked like a movie star."

Ok, I will let that one go.

All in all a perfectly forgettable TNG episode. Except that all of you who have read this are now forced to remember.

"Bustin' makes me feel good!"

More to come.
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Last edited by Martok; 05 Apr 12 at 19:06..
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Old 07 Apr 12, 16:42
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martok View Post
We are now in a large conference room featuring an oval table centered for access. A number of men and one woman are sitting around this table, discussing scripts for upcoming TNG episodes.

Producer One: “Ah, ok, it’s the last season and we have to give all our actors at least one of their own episodes, ah, except Geordi, of course, and, so….we need a Crusher episode. Any ideas?”

Everyone sits for a moment, looking at the floor, the ceiling, at their fingernails, anywhere except at Producer One. Finally someone speaks.

Writer One: “Ok, how about this? Crusher goes to a planet where Dinosaurs have been cloned from ancient DNA trapped in amber and has to try and save two children from being eaten by a T-rex.”

Producer One: “That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. I mean, who is going to believe a story like that? Dinosaurs? You might as well say they evolved into sapient creatures and are now running around in space.”
Do I detect a Gorn reference?





In all honesty I played the Gorn almost as much as the Klingons in the computer game. Humans sucked either way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martok View Post
See, in one of the thrilling plot twist to this episode Lasher Prime was molded by the original colonist to resemble as closely as possible Earth’s Scottish Highlands,
It did seem like many alien planets of the earlier generation all had the climate of California!

Keep up the good work!
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Old 07 Apr 12, 16:58
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pirateship1982 View Post
Do I detect a Gorn reference?....
Actually it was a reference to a Voyager episode in which they encounter a species which had evolved from Dinosaurs. Its been awhile since I have seen that one but as I recall some Earth parallel in which Dinosaurs had survived to become the dominant species and subsequently evolved to become a space faring race. In other words, another stupid Voyager epidose.

But the Gorn were a good computer game species. Have fought them many times in the MMO game.

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Originally Posted by Pirateship1982 View Post
Keep up the good work!
Thanks! More in the works, and as a heads-up the episode I am currently writing about is one that has been lurking around in my head ever since I started this project, so it is taking some time.
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Old 07 Apr 12, 18:45
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Welcome back Martok! It's great to read through your stuff and refresh my Star Trek memories.

Things I've learned:
a. I don't recall much about the episodes in season 7, what year did it air? I'd either quit Star Trek by that point or it may have coincided with a busy time in my life.
b. Judging by the review of Sub Rosa, I think I may have surpressed the memory of seeing it (PTSD - Post Trek Sub-Rosa Denial).
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Old 09 Apr 12, 03:39
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STAR TREK TNG THE WORST OF SEASON SEVEN CONTINUED

As stated earlier, this episode has been lurking around in my head like a bad memory from a long ago first date ever since I began this thread. And now, finally, it has surfaced demanding to be addressed. And hopefully excised.

2. Genesis

“Genesis?! Genesis is episode forbidden! Permits many….money more!”

It is hard to know where to begin, as there is so much wrong with this episode this could easily be the longest TNG post of any to date. But in for a penny in for a pound, so I will attempt to address each point seriatim and then judge what is ultimately produced. Additionally, I suppose it is fitting this episode follows my treatment of “Sub Rosa”, as that one featured Gates McFadden in the preeminent role and this episode was directed by her. But I really like Gates McFadden, having had the opportunity to meet her and all, so to an extent I do feel a bit of remorse in trashing her episodes.

Not enough to stop me mind, but you know, enough to cause me to mention it.

But to the episode. Over time the characters of TNG went through various permutations in their characterizations. In context of each, as a viewer I have articulated it thusly in the past. Worf began the series as the Untermensch, the loyal but often idiotic underling useful primarily to be denigrated by the others. Troi was the sex-symbol, and in context of Roddenberry’s vision the character meant to insure the absence of conflict between the other characters. Picard and Data were the Ubermensch, those promoting the ideal of a better, superior, humanity. Riker was the Kings First Hand, Geordi the necessary handyman, and Crusher the familiar matriarch.

But then Roddenberry died, and true conflict between the characters slowly began to creep into the extended story lines. Consequently, or perhaps simply out of necessity, the presentation of the characters began to change as well. Worf became more of an equal and was actually written to display intelligence. Troi sought to become greater than the sum of her parts. Picard was shown to have all too human flaws, and Data flawed in his quest to become all too human. Riker’s attributes to command were subtlety displayed proving they would eventually eclipse those of his Captain. Geordi triumphed in part by embracing his inadequacies. Crusher grew acceptable as a slave to her emotions.

At times season seven took the totality of that character growth and evolution and blasted it right out the shuttle bay doors. In order to accomplish the completion of certain scripts as finally presented, Picard and company were not only stripped of portions of their character identities, they were stripped of their dignity as well. “Genesis” takes that notion and carries it to the extreme, elevating the characters to new levels of absurdity via use of a story apparently written specifically to determine how many different ways the individual crew members could be denigrated, demeaned, and ridiculed.

Not all fans will agree, of course, and I suppose if someone finally chimes in to challenge my interpretation of a TNG episode, it may be in response to this review. Regardless, while admittedly curious concerning potential response, I will acknowledge that in one limited context “Genesis” was an effective episode worth watching. If viewed only as entertainment, and I stress only as entertainment, then “Genesis” is generally considered to have been a success. But this is in context of achieving one particular goal, and to achieve that goal the viewer was forced to suspend all disbelief, question nothing, and process the presentation in a vacuum free of the influence of any TNG episode which came before. Step outside of those parameters, however, even to the slightest degree, and “Genesis” rapidly de-evolved (pun intended) into the abysmal state of a poorly researched, poorly written, poorly constructed, character and viewer insulting mind-numbing piece of crap. Most damning is that after having watched it, one got the clear impression it was intentionally constructed to achieve just that abysmal state, and designed with the ultimate goals of demeaning the primary characters and insulting the viewer.

So how to best illustrate that point. As a primer to the story this may help, especially the moment when Mo wanders by going in the opposite direction.



Ultimately what I decided to do was simply review the episode, with specific attention paid to the number of times the individual characters on board the Flagship of the Fleet were denigrated, demeaned, and ridiculed. Which, as stated, seemed to be the primary point of "Genesis". Well, that and stuff happening in dark corridors.

The episode begins in Sickbay, where Nurse Ogawa is removing spines from the back of Commander Riker. Thus wasting no time we encounter demeaning point number one, as Riker got these spines in his back while rolling around with some un-named female crew member in the arboretum, resulting in his only close encounter being with a Cyprion cactus. Also in Sickbay is Lieutenant Barclay, who is whining to Doctor Crusher he has contracted some rare and deadly illness which will kill him at any moment. Thus demeaning point number two, as prior to this moment the character of Barclay had been presented as a shy introvert who feared personal interactions with his crewmates, but never as a psychosomatic idiot. Crusher ensures him he isn’t suffering from Rigel 7’s version of the Bubonic Plague but instead has a mild case of the Urodelan flu. Which, by the way, wiped out the entire population of Urodelan.

Crusher does use this moment to set up the underlying plot device when she informs Barclay that typically humans would be naturally immune to the Urodelan flu, but the T-cells which normally fight the infection are dormant. She therefore has to employ her technologically enhanced God-like powers to activate that one particular gene necessary to fight the infection by injecting him with a synthetic T-cell. Data then walks in with his cat Spot, there for a checkup due to a severe case of feline pregnancy and the expectation her litter will arrive within the week. This prompts Nurse Ogawa to announce she is pregnant as well and Doctor Crusher to nervously scan herself with a tri-corder.

Meanwhile, on the bridge……



"Captain's Log, Stardate 47653.2. We're performing field tests of our new tactical systems and weapon upgrades. Mr. Worf is supervising the exercises."

See? Worf is now being presented as more capable of upgrading the ship’s weapons than the weapons engineers back on Utopia Planitia. Until he actually fires the photon torpedoes into an asteroid field. One of them immediately veers crazily off course, managing to miss each and every one of the other six thousand asteroids floating around and escape a giant asteroid worm trying to eat it. Both Riker and Picard look at Worf like he is the perpetual dumb-ass he has just been reduced to, and crew denigration point three is scored.

Worf does manage to run a sensor scan and informs the Captain the errant photon torpedo has miraculously run itself right out of phaser range. In response Picard decides to abandon the very thing he is trying to protect and orders Data to accompany him in a shuttle to track the torpedo down. Because if they don’t the torpedo, having a fuel supply of infinity, will certainly find its way to an inhabited system and destroy some random civilization. However this does serve to get Picard and Data off of the ship, a circumstance necessary to advance the plot.

Data leaves his cat in the care of Barclay……yes, Barclay…..and then departs with Captain Picard.

And then the construction of this episode suffers a direct hit. Picard and Data are off of the ship, and in order to enhance the “mystery” element of the plot, all that is required is their subsequent return at some later point to find the ship adrift and the corridors all dark and foreboding. But no, we as viewers are instead treated to various and sundry scenes of the crew beginning to act strange. In other words, being shown the exact nature and cause of the malady affecting the crew which Picard and Data will later have to discover for themselves upon their return, forcing we the viewer to suffer through watching them discover what we the viewer already know.

The writers may have so constructed the plot narrative in deference to the sixth season episode “Timescape”, in which Troi, Data, and Picard returned on a shuttle to find the Enterprise frozen in time and subsequently had to piece together why. Or perhaps they wanted to show the crews entry into and progression through the de-evolution process, because that was something heretofore unseen in any Trek episode. Or perhaps they just wanted to continue riding the crazy train of ridicule speeding down the tracks toward the unfinished bridge over the ravine. Regardless, the result served to waste the viewers time in a manner not even scary dark corridors could overcome.

So what becomes of the crew while Picard and Data are away? Worf begins to display only two moods, angry and more belligerent. He also becomes famished, a condition which leads him to Ten Forward to eat two Targs with all the fixins, a plate of Klingon eggplant, and a giant octopus.


 
Troi starts whining about how cold it is and cranks the heat on board up to ninety degrees. But then anyone who has ever been married knows there is nothing unusual about that. Barclay becomes extremely energetic and begins to talk very fast, while Riker begins to slow down and can’t seem to understand or remember what anyone is saying anyhow. Geordi suddenly begins to turn all the women around him off.

No, wait…..

The problems continue and the “Lets Ridicule Riker” team scores another point when he is shown to be growing more and more stupid with every passing moment. He can’t remember recent events or even how to respond to a Starfleet hail, a condition compounded by his inability to stand up straight. Barclay continues to hyper-accelerate as Geordi continues to slow down. Worf blast Doctor Crusher in the face with his Klingon breath of Doom causing her to have to be placed in stasis until she finishes directing this fiasco, and then lumbers off looking for Troi. She is hold up in her bathtub, silently blowing bubbles into steaming hot water. Nurse Ogawa, now acting as Chief Medical Officer, tries to brief Riker on the situation but is distracted by a banana.

So what is going on? Nineteen Eighties alternative rock has the answer.

“They tell us that we lost our tails evolving up from little snails, I say it’s all just wind in sails, are we not men?”

“We are Devo!”

“We must be men!”

“D E V O…”

Yes, borrowing a theme from an old punk rock song, the writers have forced the pride of the Federation Officer Corps into de-evolution. For some as yet unexplained reason, the crew is “de-evolving” into various other forms of life. I will deal with the “science” behind this plot device in a bit, but for now I simply add that not only are the characters de-evolving into lower life forms, but lower life forms which further serve to denigrate, demean, and ridicule the characters themselves. Troi is reduced to an amphibian state trapped in her bathtub breathing like a fish. Barclay is turning into a spider, Ogawa into a baboon, and Riker into Al Franken. Not even the pets are immune, as Picard’s fish somehow magically turns into a jelly-fish (no metaphor there, I’m sure), and Spot the Cat into a lizard. But before any of this can be resolved Picard and Data have to return and learn what we already know.

"Captain's Log, supplemental. Commander Data and I have recovered the stray torpedo after a three-day search. We are en route back to the Enterprise."

Three days for one of the best pilots in Starfleet accompanied by his loyal android companion to track down one photon torpedo?



But they do manage to find the Enterprise, which thankfully didn’t drift into the asteroid field Worf was using for target practice but away from it, and board the ship. What greets them is a series of dark corridors they must traverse in order to piece together what has become of the crew. Data reports the thousand or so humanoids assigned to the Enterprise have all vanished to be replaced by a “near-equal” number of varied and sundry creatures, most of whom seem to be congregated in the arboretum.

Patience, I am getting there.

So the intrepid two follow the dark corridors to Troi’s quarters and interrupt her bath. She is now unable to either leave or be taken from the water, so Data and Picard skulk through more dark corridors which lead them to the bridge. Here they find one dead crewman at Ops and Commander Riker in the ready room stupidly trying to break into Picard’s aquarium and eat his fish. Riker has now fully de-evolved into a Cro-magnon version of himself (which is some aspects wasn’t much of a leap), and is now far to stupid to figure out how to break glass. When discovered pawing at the aquarium Riker turns and looks menacingly at the Captain.




Or maybe that is desire, it is hard to tell.

Data shoots him, and then he and the Captain drag the corpse off to sickbay for examination. Yeah, yeah, Riker isn’t really dead, just his dignity. They bring Troi to sickbay as well, but don’t bother to hook her up to a water supply, and Data’s runs some quick analysis on the two.

And we come to it at last.

Data informs Captain Picard that a “synthetic T-cell” has invaded Riker’s genetic code and begun to activate his “latent introns”. Introns, he explains, are sequences of DNA which are now both inactive and unnecessary but millions of years ago provided both physical and behavioral characteristics to evolving organisms. In other words, human introns, at least according to Data, still contain the genetic codes for all of our evolutionary ancestors, and because the synthetic T-cell which somehow spread throughout the ship is targeting different introns in different crewmen there are a wide variety of transformations occurring among the crew. But the crew, he explains, is de-evolving into earlier forms of ancestral life. Data then delivers the hammer blow, the denigration of all character denigrations, the penultimate smack-down striking to the very core of Picard’s nature as a developed character. He states with typical Data emotionless efficiency the Captain is infected as well, and will de-evolve into an early form of primate, most probably a lemur.

A fracking lemur! So not only is Picard going to turn into a lower life-form, he is going to turn into one that sucks.

At this point a number of issues must be addressed.

1. Ever since season one of TNG began to air fans have been arguing the question of, between Kirk and Picard, which Captain of the Enterprise was the best. At the beginning of this thread I stated at some point I would address this question as well, based primarily on my series of WWKD moments inserted throughout. Never mind all of that, as I realized when watching "Genesis" in preparation for writing my review, the question of who was dominant between Kirk and Picard truly was answered for all time at this moment in the plot narrative.

Picard is going to de-evolve into a Lemur. You know what a lemur looks like? The look like this:



They are skittish little pack animals which survive off of a diet of fruits, leaves, and insects, and spend most of their time trying to prevent being eaten by something else. So when the writers were deciding for each individual character what they would de-evolve into, it was decided the great Captain Picard would naturally revert to his apparent primal state, an inherently cowardly little fruit eating primate swinging through the dark corridors trying to avoid contact with everything else on board.

Apologies, but this is a real WTF moment. By this time in the series Picard had already proven his superior metal on at least two occasions; his assimilation by the Borg, and his torture at the hands of his Cardassian captors. He may have been a better diplomat than he was a fighter, but he was no lily-livered coward. Well, at least until now, as in essence that is what he will be reduced to. And why? The only answer I can come up with is a deliberate attempt on the part of the writers to demean his character.

How do you suppose this question would have been answered in the case of Captain Kirk? What would he de-evolve into?

“Captain, I believe you will de-evolve as well, probably into a member of the cat family, a fracking saber-tooth tiger.”



Which means Kirk would have been roaming the dark corridors eating everything he came across.

OK, I know I am getting a bit long winded here, but consider this for a moment. Suppose this had been a TOS episode. How do you think the fans would have reacted to the notion of Kirk being transformed into a lemur? As a life-long Trek fan I know the answer. They would have called for Roddenberry’s head on a platter. But Picard? Fan reaction to this episode was mixed, but most took the notion of Picard’s ultimate humiliation with either indifference or resigned but conscious acceptance. Which should not have been the case. True, I believe Kirk to be the better Starship Captain of the two, a point made again in “Star Trek Generations”, but I also believe this revelation by Data concerning Picard’s ultimate de-evolutionary fate to be both insulting and just plain wrong. Why demean his character to this extent? What were we as fans suppose to take from this moment?

The writers wanted to poke fun at Patrick Stewart? They wanted to take him, or at least his character, down a few pegs? Or perhaps they were sick of the show, knew the end was near, and so went after everybody to some extent in “Genesis”? I don’t know, but I do know this revelation by Data to be unnecessary in order to advance the plot. And, as stated, it served to answer the question of who was the better Captain once and for all, even if the writers had no intention of doing so.

2. The science behind this plot device is ridiculous. Data speaks to how, as a result of the T-cell virus, the crews genes are being re-sequenced. To begin, that is not what the term “re-sequencing” means, and the process would not lead to the result as depicted in this episode.

The term “DNA sequencing” refers to a process used to determine the order of the nucleotides of a particular gene. All humans differ from each other in the sequence of their genetic code by about one base out of every 1000. Thus, when one human DNA sample is sequenced, that same sample taken from the next human will, of course, be different. The term “DNA re-sequencing” simply refers to re-sequencing that same segment from another source, looking for the differences in the alleles.

As applied to the episode “Genesis” the term “re-sequencing” or “re-sequenced” implies an active process in which the DNA of all the crew-members was being altered by a synthetic T-cell virus. In other words, the crews DNA was being actively changed in order to have it express a completely different genotype. This process is known as Mutation.

T-cell viruses are actually RNA retroviruses associated with cancer, a disease in which human cells are mutated into creating something they were not meant to create. Mutations of this type are typically severely detrimental to the host organism.

The T-cell referenced in the episode “Genesis” was said to be activating the “latent introns” of the crew. According to Biology Online (and any number of other sources), Introns are “non-coding, intervening sequences of DNA that are transcribed, but are removed from within the primary gene transcript”.

In other words they don’t code for anything, and certainly not for every evolutionary ancestor found in humanities past. One origin for Introns is they were originally retroviruses themselves which attached to our genetic code and are now still along for the ride. But note that in the formation of mRNA (messenger RNA) they are deleted completely.

If Riker’s, and everyone else’s, latent Introns were being activated, any code they contained would have to be transcribed onto the Exons, or coding sequences, of the DNA. Such a process would lead, again, to genetic dysfunction, or disease, rather than genetic alteration leading to genetic re-expression.

So ultimately any such T-cell virus would simply kill the crew. Picard and Data would have returned to a ship full of dead people, and not to a ship full of evolutionary ancestors.

One further point concerning this issue. Supposing a human could "de-evolve", they would not do so onto another branch of the evolutionary tree. Once they hit the "common ancestor" of man and ape, they would then have to "re-evolve" into an ape in order to become an ape. So again, the premise of the story seemed to have involved no more research than the "pitch an idea" discussion held around the Paramount cafe table.

3. Accepting for a moment the premise of the de-evolutionary plot device, another question arises. Given the crew was changing into a variety of animal life forms, it stands to reason some percentage of the crew would de-evolve into predators and an equal percentage into prey. Therefore, even when Data was able to determine a cure and implement it ship wide, for a significant portion of the crew it would be too late. All it would take would be a few good snakes lurking around, a feral cat or two, a wolf, or even a grizzly bear, and, well, you get the idea. This aspect of the story line is never addressed, except with Data’s comment concerning the “near equal” number of creatures detected, but hangs in the background like a vampire bat.

Unfortunately for the crew and the viewer alike, the episode continues.

Data and Picard return to the Commander’s quarters to find Spot has delivered her babies, even though earlier in the series Spot was a male. They find Spot him/her/itself has changed into a lizard, but the kittens are still kittens. This leads them to Nurse Ogawa, who now resembles Doctor Zaius from “Planet of the Apes”.



Upon examining Ogawa they find her baby is also unaffected by the T-cell virus. This leads Data to conclude her placental barriers and amniotic fluid are filtering out the virus, a fact he can use to create an retroviral antidote for the de-evolutionary plague.

But then there is a knock at the door.

Worf, who has de-evolved into a proto-Klingon, is still searching for Troi apparently in order to engage in some form of proto-Klingon mating ritual with his new main squeeze. In order to allow Data time to complete his work Picard must lead Worf away using pheromones extracted from Counselor Troi. This results in a merry chase throughout the ship with angry proto-Klingon Worf smashing his way after the frightened lemur-Picard. The Captain lures Worf into the Jefferies tube near a ruptured conduit and electrifies him, just in time to hear Data announce he is ready to introduce his retrovirus and save the crew.

Which works, of course, and everyone is miraculously returned to normal.

The episode ends where it began, in Sickbay with Doctor Crusher and Lieutenant Barclay discussing his culpability in the whole affair. But the good Doctor once again affirms her incompetency by stating it was all her fault due to her activation of a dormant T-cell which activated all dormant T-cells in turn. And score another point for the “Demean The Crew” team.

Lucky for Doctor Crusher the writers had no idea what they were talking about and she wasn’t saddled with the burden of having killed the entire crew.

ADDITIONAL NOTES: GENESIS

As stated earlier, this episode was directed by Gates McFadden. It was the first episode ever to be directed by a female cast member of Star Trek.

According to the book “Star Trek 30 Years”, make-up director Michael Westmore said the work required by the script as written was his most challenging:

“Everybody mutated – Riker became an Australopithecine, Troi an aquatic animal, Barclay a spider. We never would have been ready if the episode hadn't miraculously fallen right after Christmas. We worked through the holiday."

But not without notice. “Genesis” received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Makeup for a Series. This episode did win an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Drama Series.

Dwight Schultz would make his fifth and final appearance as Reg Barclay in this episode. He would reprise this role in “Star Trek First Contact” and in a number of Voyager episodes.

This was the first episode to feature Counselor Troi in command of the Bridge since her promotion to command rank. And all she did was whine.

One final comment. “Genesis” as viewed by the casual Trek fan may not come off as a bad episode. Some die-hard fans actually liked it, and in truth that is fine. However, my main problem with “Genesis” was what had to be the intentional and unnecessary denigration of the primary characters. In this episode, Riker is stripped of his intelligence and reduced to a comic Australopithecine. Troi is reduced to, in effect, a fish. What this says about her character I will leave to you, the reader. I have an opinion on this, but it is neither positive nor suitable to print here. Ogawa is reduced to a baboon, while Geordi LaForge’s ultimate transformation remains unseen. This was a cop-out, as the writers probably felt they could not display him as having transformed into anything without facing the wrath of the politically correct. So instead they did it to Ogawa, who was apparently deemed a safe target. Then, of course, you have Picard, stripped of his very manhood by what lay dormant in his genes. Casual fans could easily have been caught up in the creepy dark corridor aspect of this episode as filmed and either not noticed the above concerns or simply dismissed them. But as a dedicated fan I could not.

Could they have done it differently? I believe the answer is yes, and done so in a manner which would have maintained the “fear and creep factor” of the episode. The entire crew could have simply been de-evolving into proto-humans and proto-Klingons or proto-whatevers. This would have led to the same ultimate conclusion if not stopped, the crew destroying itself in a frenzy of primal combat. Picard could still have been chased around the ship by proto-Klingon Worf only without having to suffer the humiliation of having his character destroyed by the knowledge of what he would become. With the same, of course, true for the other TNG characters.

So why write the script in the fashion it was written? In the grand scheme of things I fully realize this question is beyond trivial and ultimately pointless. But this is a thread about “Star Trek the Next Generation”, and in that context the writers spent the better part of six seasons developing these characters into the pride of the Federation, only to trash them with a pointless and, again in my opinion, spiteful plot device which only served the petty interest of a few members of the writing staff.

Make of that what you will. But I suppose the final analysis must fall along the lines of while although “Genesis” may be fun to watch when viewed only as entertainment, in any other context it leaves a very bad taste in your mouth.

In all sincerity, thanks for reading this. More to come, and with the next episode reviewed I will endeavor to be a bit more light-hearted.
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Old 11 Apr 12, 09:15
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Great as always Martok. Now wasn't there a TOS episode with a similar premise? A star about to go supernova and the population retreated into the planet's past (while taking some precautions) Kirk jumps through and ends up in a "medieval" setting while Spock and McCoy end up in an ice age epoch. Here they meet a beautiful exile and Spock begins to devolve and lose his emotional control and threatens Bones. Pretty cool episode for that alone.
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Old 11 Apr 12, 12:16
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Thanks, Joea!

Yeah, that episode was "All Our Yesterdays" from season three, and it was one of my favorite TOS shows.
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Old 11 Apr 12, 17:17
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I myself would love to be Picard if I could be physically assaulted and "tortured" by some Kardashians, rather than mentally tortured by their incessant presence on the flat screen...

OH...CARDASSIANS!! I thought you said...nevermind.
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Old 16 Apr 12, 14:49
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THE WORST OF STAR TREK TNG SEASON SEVEN CONTINUED

3. Masks

“Hey Chromedome…..heh heh…heh heh….Masaka is waking, yeah….heh heh…heh heh..…dumbass.”

The Enterprise discovers a really old tinker toy floating in space and Data begins to suffer from Multiple Personality Syndrome while the ship is transformed into the Temple of Doom. Really. That is basically the plot.

In writing this review I will try not to fall into this trap:



Because in discussing this episode over analysis would be an easy pitfall, as it would take pages on pages of discussion, in effect with myself, to try and figure out what “Masks” was trying to accomplish. Originally I wrote the preceding sentence as “trying to figure this crap out”, which also fits. But one example of the Omni prescient pitfalls of over analysis lurking around “Masks” before moving on. During the first, second, and third turnings of the plot revelations, was Data suffering from Multiple Personality Syndrome, Demonic Possession, or simply projecting computer programs fed to him by an alien archive? In context of TNG this is a legitimate question for Trek nerds to bandy about. But in context of this episode, by the time it is over no one cared, they are simply glad it is over. As Star Trek episodes go, some were simply bad, and some were abysmally stupid. This one managed to be both at the same time, thus destroying any desire on the part of the viewer to waste another moment of their lives attempting to analyze such esoteric questions.

Unless, you know, one is engaged in the perfectly understandable and extremely laudable pursuit of writing a review thread on Star Trek the Next Generation.

But in context of a review it is interesting to note this episode was written by Joe Menosky, arguably one of the better members of the TNG writing staff. Menosky’s TNG credits include such respectable episodes as “Darmok”, “The Nth Degree”, and the two part episode “Time’s Arrow”. That “Masks” failed so miserably was therefore a bit of a shock, until I learned Menosky was on vacation in the Swiss Alps when this script came up for production. It therefore fell to the other TNG writers to bring it to the screen, a task apparently beyond the Ouija board they consulted attempting to figure it out. The final product was worth viewing only to watch Brent Spiner act, but otherwise left one questioning what had just happened in much the same fashion as having a schizophrenic nightmare or watching the movie “Tank Girl”.



The episode opens with the Enterprise putzing along through sector 1156 and Data attending art class with the other school children. The topic is sculpting, and Data efficiently shapes a Starfleet data pad from his blob of silly putty. This prompts Troi to tell him he possess all the imagination of George Lucas, to which Data responds:

“Meesa gonna cry now.”

And he leaves for the bridge.

Where the crew has encountered a rogue comet. They scan it and inside find another Q……no, wait, that was actually a pretty good Voyager episode….inside they find an alien artifact which Data reports to be over 87 million years old. They really built stuff to last back then. But suddenly the Enterprise becomes awash in a brilliant white light, the Trek standard portent of doom soon to be followed by subtle changes being discovered around ship.

Seems like I just wrote this.

Troi and Doctor Crusher go to the Counselor’s quarters and find a phallic-looking object now sitting on her table. Crusher muses it might be a gift from Commander Riker, but Troi responds it is much too big for that. So they leave it be, but after exiting the room the object begins to furiously jump up and down resulting in a mysterious symbol appearing on top.

Back in Sculpting class Data creates a mask, telling Troi he used his imagination to create the clay model of an image which appeared in his mind. So, was it his imagination or did an image appear in his mind? Note at this time Data did not enjoy the use of his emotion chip, so it is hard to imagine even a sentient computer having much of an imagination without the influence of emotion, but I must move on as I have stumbled near a pitfall of over-analysis! Run Away! Run Away!

Data’s crafting of his mask is followed by a series of strange symbols appearing on various computer screens.



Since none of these symbols are found in the Federation database this episodes manifestation of the Three Stooges, Data, Riker, and LaForge, gather in Engineering to try and figure them out. After three head slaps, two eye pokes and hitting Riker in the head with a hammer Data states he can read the symbols, and proceeds to do so.

“Commander, the symbols are representative of various other concepts. Specifically they represent Birth, Mother, Cousin, West Virginia, Blight, Ignorance, Shotgun, Preacher, Dirt, Burial, Wash, Rinse, Repeat, Voyager, Khan, Search, Whale, God, Suck, Obituary, Past, Future, Two Captains, Futility, Oblivion, something about television writers not knowing crap about movies, Strife, War, Girl Scouts, Indigestion, Landshark, Comet Cleanser, the AFLCIO, and this last one means Doom.”

“But Data”, Riker interjects, “this last one is a picture of Nancy Pelosi.”

“Yes, as I said Commander, Doom.”

To make matters worse the symbols have invaded the computer core and are reconfiguring everything to produce only tea, Earl Grey, hot, so Riker orders Worf to blast the comet to see what is inside. What they find Data categorizes as an “informational archive”, which he must be in contact with because of, you know, all of this new imagery clogging up his positronic net.

Riker goes to see Picard, who is in his Ready Room happily fondling the phallic symbol Troi found in her quarters. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so…………enjoy:



Whoever blocked this scene should have been given a job on “Glee”.

Meanwhile, back in Engineering, LaForge is running a level one diagnostic of Data’s positronic net. Suddenly the Starburst Fruit Chew symbol appears on Data’s forehead and he says to LaForge:

“….heh heh, hey Buttmunch….heh heh, you want to see my bunghole?”

What follows is a series of conversations between Picard and Data’s multiple personalities, during which the Captain learns someone named Masaka is coming (hide your heart, girls) to destroy them and they all better be long gone before she arrives. LaForge suggest taking their X-Box 360 offline to see if that will block the signals into Data’s head, but Picard instructs him to access the archive himself.

Which could easily be done by talking to Data, but, you know, Geordi has to have something to do.

So Picard confines Data to his quarters and then goes there to speak with him. Beevis is still around and in his special way tells Picard that Masaka is a Queen who sleeps a lot and you best not wake her up because, you know, mornings can be a real bitch.



Picard suggest keeping her asleep but is informed only The Great Cornholio can do that…

“Are you threatening me?”

But before Picard can ask any more questions Data’s Starburst symbol is replaced by the symbol of Turner Classic Movies. Data jumps up and with the voice and mannerisms of a little girl starts singing:

“The sun will come out tomorrow! Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, they’ll be sun!”

Ok, if you are confused by your reading thus far, then score one for me because that was my intent. Well, that and cheap references to as many genres as I could thus far squeeze in. But for clarity, what is actually occurring in the episode is Data is manifesting various characters fed to him by the archive, warning of Masaka’s impending arrival. Masaka is represented by a sun symbol and Korgano, her rival, is represented by a moon symbol. At one point Troi states the two cannot co-exist, proving her complete ignorance of how the moon revolves around the Earth and that once again she is best seen and not heard. But the symbols being bandied about are only the first part of what the archive has in store for the Good Ship Lollipop…..er, I mean Enterprise.

Using a tractor beam, of all things, the archive sends over an energy pulse which begins to seize control of the ship and change it all around. Worf reports most of deck twelve is now a Slip and Slide, the Observation Lounge is a swamp, and Ten Forward has changed into Moe’s Tavern. Unable to follow Worf’s suggestion to simply blow the archive up Picard demands answers. This allows Doctor Crusher her one moment in the episode to inform him the archive is magical and can turn the ship into anything it wants, so if they don’t act soon the Enterprise will be transformed at the molecular level into Hogwart’s Castle. Or the Temple of Doom. Whichever.

So with the clock ticking Picard decides to take action. He goes to talk with Data once again.

You know, I really thought about inserting a WWKD interlude here, but…….geez. I mean, really? Some space tinker toy is changing the Enterprise into a temple for Snow White, Kirk is losing control of his ship, no one can tell him squat that means anything and what is Kirk going to do? Picard, as the man of action he is, decides oh well, WTF, I need more information before any decision can be made so I will go talk to my schizophrenic android again to see how many voices he can use to toss riddles at me because I love a good mystery! shrouded in riddle wrapped in an enigma so I can pad the episode a bit dragging this nonsense out to its inane and degrading conclusion before I, the great Captain Picard, actually do anything. But Kirk? That quick-tempered bad-ass gun-slinging cowboy diplomat who saved the Earth more times over his career than Picard managed to suffer the wiles of female companionship? Kirk? Who shot the Gorn with a cannon made out of bamboo? Kirk? Who almost single-handedly stopped a Klingon occupation, preserved the entire Federation timeline, beat the Romulans at their own game and kicked V-ger’s ass! You ask me….

What Would Kirk Do?

A four minute interlude packed with real drama to address this question.



Give me back my ship, you twit of an alien intelligence, or I will blow it up! Huh! Think you can take my dignity!

Yeah…..guess that answers that question.

I feel better. So back to the melodrama.

Picard visits Data, arriving to find his second officer has now built a fire in his quarters and in the voice of an old man is griping about the cold. But then Beevis returns and tells Picard he must build Masaka’s temple if he wants to take the even more exciting action of talking to her. Suddenly he says:

“Oh crap, heh heh….she found me.”

Beevis breaks wind really loud and vanishes, to be replaced by the old man. Picard convinces him to reveal the symbol necessary to summon Masaka, or Cornholio, I don’t know which and neither does anybody else, to the temple. Jimmy Stewart replies:

“Well, you see, it is a line, like the horizon stretching all the way to Bedford Falls!”

But then the old man vanishes to be replaced once again by the little girl who tells Picard Masaka sent them all away where it will take them days to die because:

“It’s a hard knock life, for us! It’s a hard knock life for us! Instead of kisses…we get kicks! Instead of kisses…we get kicks!

It’s a hard knock life.”

Back on the bridge Picard finally decides he has had enough and won’t allow the ship to be fully transformed into some alien city.



Like that was going to happen. But to prevent the apocalypse Picard instead demands to know what Geordi is going to do about it. No, really, Captain Picard does just that, demands to know what Geordi is going to do about it.

Examination of the symbols floating around on the computer screens has revealed one in particular as “the final symbol”. It is thought to represent Cornholio, Masaka’s lover or opposite or mortal enemy or whatever, none really know and by now fewer care. Geordi states that even though inputting this symbol into the computer system could lead to turning the Enterprise in a giant rock in space, by doing so they would at least be able to determine the ultimate outcome of recent events. Whatever outcome that may be. Not being able to come up with a better idea Picard orders Cornholio’s symbol input into the ship’s disk operating system.

In response part of the ship transforms into a temple five times the size of the corridor it was before, Data puts on the mask he made in art class and after kicking the crap out of two security guards in the hallway outside his quarters walks off, and Picard has a second mask appear before him on the bridge computer console. Data is subsequently found sitting on a throne strategically situated on a dais near one end of the temple wearing his Masaka mask, so Picard decides to don the second mask and play the role of Cornholio. A role he was born to play, no doubt.

Those expecting some sort of cataclysmic battle between the two, well, should have known better. See, Data/Masaka is now the Sun and Picard/Cornholio is now the Moon. But in this universe only one of these can be visual at a time, so they are in eternal conflict chasing one another through the heavens. Yep, that’s it. The entire conflict was one of ego between Masaka and Cornholio over who can be ascendant.

So all of Data’s demonic possessions and all of the alterations of the ship and all of the symbolism climaxed in a lover’s spat over who could be on top. And to end this the argument Picard/Cornholio makes to Data/Masaka is an admission he is not complete without her (OMFG, “You Complete Me?” Why didn’t Picard just say “I wish I could quit you?” and really end on a high note?), that she lives for the chase like he does but she is getting tired as it is difficult to “brighten the sky forever”.

To which in response Data/Masaka falls asleep.

Which causes the entire ship to magically return to normal!!!!!

Can you hear my screams, dear reader? Can you feel the anguish of my soul?! What the frak was all of this about?!!

Aaaaaaaaaaaggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!

Consider this again. Kirk was willing to blow up his ship in order to keep it from being commandeered by two petty corn-holes fighting their last battle and ultimately, preserve his dignity. What was Picard willing to do to preserve his ship, to preserve his dignity?



Put on a fracking mask and bore some dizzy broad into falling back to sleep. Excuse me, but I feel the need for a testosterone injection from just looking at that picture.

The rape of the crew’s collective dignity as accomplished in the episode “Genesis” was still two weeks away when this episode aired, but here is the concept in full evidence again, only on this occasion limited largely to Picard. Ok, well, also to Troi in regard to her insipid comments concerning the celestial activities of the Sun and the Moon. And also to Riker in context of his insipid comments concerning the masks. And also to Data in context of being possessed by Beevis, Jimmy Stewart, and Little Orphan Annie. So in reality the one clear achievement of “Masks” was another assault on the dignity of the TNG primary characters, a theme often encountered in Next Gen’s final season. But here Picard suffered the most obvious denigration, having to don a mask which made him appear as a reject from “La Cage Aux Folles”.

Whatever Menosky had originally envisioned when he wrote the script for “Masks” the product as finally produced was without a doubt the most mind-boggling, disjointed and poorly thought out piece of crap since the first season episode “Code of Honor”. You remember that one, don’t you, “The Planet of the Really Pissed-off Black People”? My review of it is on page one if anyone wishes to refresh their memory. But I suppose all I can say to sum this up is, it was now season seven, and for the most part, frankly my dear, no one gave a damn.

ADDITONAL NOTES: MASKS

The other night I was talking to my friend Mike, known here as Welshdragon, about this thread. I mentioned to him I was writing this particular review, and that I intended to include as representing one of Data’s alien manifestations the character of Andrew Dice Clay. I even had a version of “Hickory Dickory Dock” partially worked out, but in the end couldn’t really fabricate a version which wouldn’t have set off all the red alert alarms on the forum, so I ditched it. The particular moment it was to be included coincided with Data’s first sight of Troi after transforming into Ihat, the annoying little scamp personality represented here as Beevis. In the episode Data/Ihat sees Troi and immediately drops to his knees in worship, believing her to be Masaka come to kill him. But he shouldn’t have worried about that, unless she took him on as a patient.

The original idea for this story came from Michael Piller, who wanted to do some sort of take on the ancient Library of Alexandria found floating around in space. One explanation offered in context of the tinker-toy archive was for it to be an “advanced Genesis device” which mistook the Enterprise for an entire planet worthy of being transformed into the archives’ original builders society. But any society which would build something stupid enough to mistake a single Starship for an entire planet wasn’t worthy of being reproduced anyway. Except perhaps in Hollywood.

On Menosky’s script Ronald D. Moore once stated:

“I remember seeing the initial story and saying, 'Jesus, what is this?' It was pretty out there and then the script came in and we all sort of scratched our heads and looked at each other and wondered what he's smoking out there in the Alps? But when we started to examine it and get into it a little more, we saw what he was doing. He has some real interesting ideas and he approaches things from a fresh angle."

Maybe it was the altitude. Or maybe the other writers were smoking something as they consulted their Ouija board trying to figure the script out.

As detailed in “Captain’s Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages”, of this episode Brent Spiner once said:

“I had some good stuff seventh season. I just wish they had been scheduled differently. I got the script for 'Masks' on the night before we shot it and I was finishing “Thine Own Self” the midnight before, so I didn't have the time to even absorb the script and digest it and figure out who these people were that I was playing...I think I said to Jeri at the time, 'Give me six months and I think I could give all the characters their due,' but as it was, I didn't know who these people were and so I was doing instant acting and just coming up with whatever I was coming up with because we had to put it to film."

True, the one redeeming quality of “Masks” was Spiner’s performance, however rushed it may have been. But even given his talent, the pitfall he laments above was clearly evident.

The temple as seen in “Masks” was built on DS9’s stage 18, and was later reused in the DS9 episode “Blood Oath”. The rogue comet as encountered by the Enterprise was created by the same effects team which rendered the comet seen in DS9’s opening credits. The melting the comet away from the archive scene was so well crafted the production staff insisted this shot be extended by three seconds, roughly the same amount of time it took Riker to become “excited” in response to spying a new female member of the crew. This melting shot was later reused in the “Voyager” episode “Death Wish”. I hinted at this episode early in the review, a very good “Voyager” episode in which another Q is found to have been held prisoner by the Continuum inside the comet.

The episode as aired did not go over well, even with the TNG staff. According to “Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion”, writer Naren Shankar once commented:

“Joe has a magnificent imagination, he thinks in a deep way. But in this case it was too much...We had to make it more understandable, make the clues clearer. And the end result is...it's still kinda confusing."

You betcha!

Robert Wiemer, who directed “Masks”, wasn’t fond of it either:

“I always look and find a meaningful subtext of some kind in all of the shows I've done; more often than not they're little morality plays, and I was unable to find that in "Masks"... it ended up kind of an exotic adventure story, but it didn't have any heart."

But the icing on the cake, for me at least, is found in the words of Worf, Son of Mogh. At a Star Trek convention in 1997, when asked about this episode, Michael Dorn stated:

“It was my least favorite episode of TNG and all associated with it should die in dishonor.”

Ok I made part of that up, but he did state it was his least favorite of all the TNG episodes. Which made me wonder what he felt about “Code of Honor”, but I digress.

Time, however, seems to alter ones perceptions a bit, I suppose. Earlier this year Brent Spiner was interviewed by TrekMovie.com, and “Masks” was brought up. This episode was first aired on February 19th, 1994. Here is what Spiner said about it in 2012:

“There was one that we thought was terrible while we were doing it. We were laughing at each other’s faces at the acting we were doing in "Masks," but that is a fan favorite. I am always hearing how fans love it and let me tell you, we could not look at each other. Colm Meaney was laughing at me, Marina was laughing at me. I was laughing at Patrick. He was laughing at me. We were thinking "this is preposterous," but you cut it together and add the music and it works."

Well, Ok, from a fans perspective I respect Spiner as an actor and for his monumental contribution to The Next Generation. But also as a fan it doesn’t bother me in the least to state one more time this episode sucked, and I am glad to be done talking about it.

One final note. I must give credit to the website tng.trekcore.com for the screenshots I have been using of late. They have a photo archive which is second to none, and I would never have been able to find the shot of Picard and Riker as used above without their help. So I give credit where credit is due.

Thanks for reading, and more to come.
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  #131  
Old 16 Apr 12, 15:16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martok View Post
Not all fans will agree, of course, and I suppose if someone finally chimes in to challenge my interpretation of a TNG episode, it may be in response to this review.
I actually liked this episode, mostly because the "wandering darkened corridors" bit with the flickering lights, strange noises, and bizarre creatures gave it a survival/horror Resident Evil style of twist. Take back a drifting ship that has gone feral. Might have made an interesting video game. Yeah, scientifically it's silly but so is the T-Virus zombie horde.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martok View Post
Barclay had been presented as a shy introvert who feared personal interactions with his crewmates, but never as a psychosomatic idiot. Crusher ensures him he isn’t suffering from Rigel 7’s version of the Bubonic Plague but instead has a mild case of the Urodelan flu. Which, by the way, wiped out the entire population of Urodelan.
The only thing I remember about Barclay was the episode where he was seeing things in the transporter. I think they called him a psychosomatic idiot in that one too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martok View Post
And then the construction of this episode suffers a direct hit. Picard and Data are off of the ship, and in order to enhance the “mystery” element of the plot, all that is required is their subsequent return at some later point to find the ship adrift and the corridors all dark and foreboding. But no, we as viewers are instead treated to various and sundry scenes of the crew beginning to act strange. In other words, being shown the exact nature and cause of the malady affecting the crew which Picard and Data will later have to discover for themselves upon their return, forcing we the viewer to suffer through watching them discover what we the viewer already know.
True there.

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Originally Posted by Martok View Post
Yes, borrowing a theme from an old punk rock song, the writers have forced the pride of the Federation Officer Corps into de-evolution. For some as yet unexplained reason, the crew is “de-evolving” into various other forms of life. I will deal with the “science” behind this plot device in a bit, but for now I simply add that not only are the characters de-evolving into lower life forms, but lower life forms which further serve to denigrate, demean, and ridicule the characters themselves. Troi is reduced to an amphibian state trapped in her bathtub breathing like a fish. Barclay is turning into a spider, Ogawa into a baboon, and Riker into Al Franken.
Rimshot!
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Old 16 Apr 12, 16:48
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pirateship1982 View Post
I actually liked this episode, mostly because the "wandering darkened corridors" bit with the flickering lights, strange noises, and bizarre creatures gave it a survival/horror Resident Evil style of twist. Take back a drifting ship that has gone feral. Might have made an interesting video game. Yeah, scientifically it's silly but so is the T-Virus zombie horde.
In one sense I agree, "Genesis" was a fun episode to watch strictly as entertainment. And McFadden did a nice job with creating the forboding nature of the creepy corridors bit.

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Originally Posted by Pirateship1982 View Post
The only thing I remember about Barclay was the episode where he was seeing things in the transporter. I think they called him a psychosomatic idiot in that one too.
I actually watched that one not to long ago, and yeah, the others initially thought him "over-reacting". Overall I thought Barclay a good character, and therefore under utilized.

Thanks for the response!!
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Old 18 Apr 12, 14:46
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STAR TREK TNG, THE WORST OF SEASON SEVEN CONTINUED

And this time, it is a whopper of a crappy episode.

4. Force of Nature



The crew of the Starship Enterprise discover Al Gore is alive and well and living in the 24th Century.

Or at least his philosophy that corporate man is evil and destroying the fabric of all that is holy by callously exploiting the environment in the pursuit of wealth while crushing the poor and down trodden beneath his gold plated boot-heal with the only remedy available capable of thwarting the evil corporate man being to destroy Capitalism in the name of Science and redistribute all the wealth to him. Only now the evil corporate man has been replaced by the Federation and the use of evil oil has been replaced by the use of evil Warp Drive. Which is, admittedly, a perfect allegory for a zealot with a typewriter to draw, equating 21st century man’s dependence on the use of oil with 24th century man’s dependence on the use of Warp Drive. The very substance which allowed modern man to build his society is now said to be threatening the survival of that society, juxtaposed on the notion the very device which allowed the United Federation of Planets to be conceived, implemented, and then exist is now found to be polluting the fabric of space-time causing planets to suffer the ravages of Global Warming.

Or this episode is about Data’s cat. The writers apparently weren’t sure which gripping societal story they wanted to tell.

The original idea for this travesty of an episode was derived from a premise created by writer Joe Menosky, meant as a TNG allegory for the environmental issues of the day. Apparently he came up with this idea before jetting off to the Swiss Alps for vacation. Ok, Menosky wrote some very good episodes for Trek over the years, including one of the best for “Voyager” entitled “The Thaw”. But I have to wonder, when he made his decision to vacation in the Swiss Alps, how did he think he was going to get there unless he hopped on a jet operated by an evil corporation fueled by evil oil derivatives? But then Al Gore uses more electricity to light his palace in Tennessee for a week than some entire towns do over the same time period, so this apparent contradiction in ideals is nothing unusual for the high priest of environmentalism.

As detailed in “Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion”, toward the beginning of the seventh season producer Jeri Taylor sent Brannon Braga and writer Naren Shankar off to a breakfast meeting of some environmental watchdog group in Hollywood. They came back all “inspired” and “galvanized”, leading Shankar to voice his desire to take Menosky’s idea and bring it to the screen. Of this Taylor said:

“It was a story I really wanted to do and I think it does make an important statement, but dramatizing a huge issue like that is always the trouble. We then started the whole little thread of Geordi in competition with the engineer from another ship so we could show Geordi's deeply felt belief in technology and the benefits of technology, so that he would be at war with himself when realizing that it was contributing to something disastrous.”

Of course! That is how we tell our viewers how full of crap they are to have believed in the potential of the core Trek message and the beneficial use of technology as we have presented it for six plus years, by suddenly having Geordi realize what a slave to the man he has been all along! He hasn’t been out there exploring strange new worlds, he has been puttering through the universe doing the will of those evil bastards sitting comfortably back at Starfleet Command who knew he was actually polluting the space environment! Brilliant!

So how did the TNG staff lead the fans to this epiphany? In part by presenting enviro-Marxist as they actually are.

The medical transport ship USS Fleming has been lost somewhere in the Hekaras Corridor, a region of space twelve light years long surrounded by intense tetryon fields. The corridor is a commerce route primarily used by transport ships conducting commerce, but due to the nature of the surrounding space ships can only traverse the corridor at Warp speed.

In searching for the Fleming the Enterprise encounters a Ferengi vessel, apparently adrift. After a brief firefight the Ferengi commander, one DaiMon Prak, is brought on board where he immediately accuses the Enterprise of being the aggressor. He states his ship was attacked by a Federation signal buoy as they approached it, disabling the warp drive. Picard then learns Prak did encounter the USS Fleming a few days before, and ask what that ship’s heading was. But Prak refuses to answer, instead using Picard’s desire for information as a bargaining chip to gain assistance in repairing his ship.

This is, of course, classic Ferengi behavior. As stated before, the Ferengi race was originally conceived to be the default nemesis of Picard and company and were introduced as such in season one. But as presented they were so comical no one took them seriously, so they were transformed into annoying and petty little Capitalist always looking for a quick way to make a few bars of gold-pressed latinum. Prak’s behavior is therefore to be expected in context of who he is, a point worth remembering later when the scientist featured in this episode are introduced.

All of this so far has been intertwined with scenes featuring Data and Geordi arguing over Spot, Data’s male/female cat. Admittedly some of the dialogue between these two was funny, but ultimately only served to confuse the viewer as to who or what the episode was actually about.

Subsequent searching for the Fleming leads the Enterprise to a large debris field thought to be the remains of the lost medical transport. Data detects a probe of some kind moving toward the ship which begins to generate a verteron field. He warns the Captain, but before Picard can call a staff meeting to discuss it the ship and crew are bathed in another flash of brilliant bright light. As long suffering TNG fans know only to well, this bodes ill for someone or something, and true to form the Enterprise is found to have lost use of all sub-space systems, including the Warp Drive. As previously detailed this was the same fate suffered by DaiMon Prak’s ship.

For once wasting no time on a quick interlude with Spot the Cat, suddenly an unidentified vessel approaches the Enterprise, manned by a crew of two. They beam into Engineering and capture the ship without a fight. The two identify themselves as Rabal and his sister Serova, scientist from the planet Hekaras II. Serova claims they came aboard to inform the Enterprise crew that Federation actions within the Hekaras Corridor are not only killing them, but all the inhabitants of their home planet.

In response to disabling his ship and then boarding it without authorization, Picard invites them to the observation lounge for a talk. With all the righteous indignation he can muster, the Captain demands an explanation. He gets one.

These two scientist claim to have conducted research which proves the use of Warp Drive, which in order to operate as it does creates a Warp Field, is slowly damaging this region of space and if allowed to continue their home world will inevitably be rendered uninhabitable. Sound familiar?



But Geordi isn’t buying it, reminding the Captain that some years before the Federation Science Council reviewed their research and dismissed it for lack of convincing evidence. Picard suggest the two re-submit their research for further consideration, but Serova balks. Their method of drawing attention to their concerns, she states, would result in a faster response from the Federation.

Riker wants clarification concerning this “method” of drawing attention to their concerns. The scientist cheerfully explain the Federation signal buoys floating around the Hekaras Corridor have been modified by them to automatically attack any ship which comes within range by emitting a verteron pulse, thus disabling the Warp Drive of whatever ship happens by. In other words, they are willfully attacking Federation ships, placing their crews in danger in order to get the attention of those evil Federation bureaucrats who dismissed their research, all in the name of a greater good.

Riker ask how they can justify this, but Serova dismisses his silly concern out of hand by stating since no one has yet died and no “serious” damage was done, their actions do not qualify as an attack.

Well, since you put it that way……

Unlike the good Captain however this “justification” only serves to infuriate Commander Riker, but neither scientist is going to back down or apologize. Instead they continue to reasonably plead their case.



Followed by actions worthy of a Ferengi.

Picard learns from LaForge it will take thirty-six hours to repair the Warp Drive. He insist that both Serova and Rabal assist not only in the repairs but in disabling the remaining modified probes deployed throughout the corridor. Serova refuses, but Rabal strikes a deal. He demands Picard review their research in exchange for their help in repairing the damage they caused.

Ferengi Rule of Acquisition Number Nine, “opportunity plus instinct equals profit”.

So how would one classify these two scientist? They have a cause in which they believe they are correct and the Federation Science Council is wrong. But because they can’t get a seat at the table they resort to violence in an attempt to alter that circumstance. As militant activist go Serova is the more callous and caustic of the two, displaying her contempt and disdain for these Federation lackeys when she delivers an apology dripping in sarcasm in response to Geordi’s announcement it will take a week to recalibrate the engines even after they are made operational. Which is, of course, quintessential leftist with a cause behavior. Her concerns, she says, are “more important” than the mission of the Enterprise to find the USS Fleming. Rabal reveals his sister’s true goal, convincing Starfleet by any means necessary to prohibit the use of Warp Drive anywhere in the Hekaras Corridor. Never mind this would effectively isolate Hekaras II from the Federation and end all commerce running through it, the cause is all that matters. As subsequent events will reveal, the phrase “by any means necessary” is one maxim, however sententious it may be, Serova truly embraces.

Data reviews their research, because, you know, Picard is to busy replenishing his supply of smug, and reports the scientist fear is the continued use of Warp Drive will result in the creation of a subspace rift within the corridor. How this is going to destroy their planet isn’t addressed, but Data does state the only way to prove this claim would be to expose a region of space within the corridor to Warp Field energy at least a million times greater than that normally generated by a Starship.

Again, why is it always a million times?

Regardless, Rabal insist the effect is cumulative, that each time an evil Federation ship passes through the corridor at warp they are contributing to the slow, gradual process of creating a subspace rift which someday will open to swallow them all. Picard attempts to mediate, suggesting again that Data and Rabal collaborate on a new research proposal for submission to the Federation; an effort he will, of course, fully support. But Serova dismisses them as “pseudo scientist” and refuses to participate in anything which will delay the achievement of her ultimate aim.

Stupid evil Federation. Don’t they know she has a compassion card, and isn’t afraid to use it?

A concept taken to the ultimate in absurdity when Serova returns to her ship, flies off a bit, and overloads her own warp engines (what is she doing with a ship equipped with Warp Drive, if Warp Drive is the root of all evil?) causing them to explode. As a result the Enterprise finds itself staring down the abyss of a massive purple cloud in space.



Of course this is the very subspace rift Serova and Rabal predicted. Of course. And to make matters worse the USS Fleming is now found to be trapped inside of it. And to make matters worse the Enterprise can’t possibly use its own Warp Drive to go and rescue them because that would only cause the rift to grow larger. And to make matters worse attempting to get to the Fleming without the use of Warp Drive would take weeks, time they don’t have. So, you know, everyone is screwed. Especially the Federation.

Did the writers really think this story would be effective in preaching the evils inherent in the rampant use of technology by the ignorant family of man, destroying his own life by stupidly pursuing Capitalist desires through use of said technology? First they got us all worried about the welfare of Data’s cat, but now here we all are standing on the brink of disaster trying to determine which course of action is better. Use the very technology which caused the disaster in order to save lives, or refuse to use that technology in order to contain the disaster and let those lives be lost. Which runs parallel to the question being bandied about today. Continue to use naturally forming fossil fuels to drive our economy and thus destroy the planet, or dump fossil fuels to save the planet and issue everyone a horse. Except, of course, for those promoting doom, because they have a compassion card to play which allows them to continue to use fossil fueled transportation just as Serova used a ship equipped with Warp Drive.

The ramifications of this extend all the way back to the Federation Council. If the use of Warp Drive is fracking up space in the Herakas Corridor, then it is fracking up space everywhere. The Federation can not possibly continue its mission without the use of Warp Drive, or even the reduced use of Warp Drive, primarily because of its long established interactions with other space faring species. Would Serova’s prohibitions be extended to the Klingon empire? In all probability would not the Romulans simply tell the Federation Council what it could go do with itself? The Ferengi Alliance wouldn’t bother to slow down, their entire economy is dependent on establishing trade and the economic exploitation of others, acts rendered near impossible without the unrestricted use of Warp Drive. So who stands to lose the most from the imposition of any restrictions placed on the inhabitants of the Alpha Quadrant? The answer is the Federation, the long since established allegory for earth’s Western Democracies.

This notion strikes at the very core existence of the United Federation of Planets. The Federation simply can not be the Federation without the unrestricted use of Warp Drive. What happens the next time the Borg come calling? Some bureaucrat on the Science Council Sub-committee charged with Preventing the Exploitation of Space issues a memo demanding the fleet only respond at speeds no greater than warp three?

“Now, now, Admiral, I know you think you are defending Earth, but I have a compassion card! No greater than Warp Three!”

Likewise, Star Trek itself is undermined by this notion. The admirable premise of boldly going where no man has gone before and then returning to tell about it becomes an exercise comparable to launching a combustion fueled rocket to Neptune and back. Sure, you could probably find people willing to go, but what becomes of them during the trip? What is the point in going if the time it takes to complete the voyage renders the purpose of the voyage moot? In any society which utilizes advanced technology to support that society speed is important. Not that such a society would instantly collapse into oblivion as the result of a self-imposed speed limit, but its growth would be severely retarded, especially in circumstances where the unrestricted use of speed had previously been a given. Such a retardation could naturally lead to disastrous results for such a society, especially a space faring organism like the United Federation of Planets. Where is Star Trek going to go, if it takes forever to get there?

As depicted in this episode Serova was the quintessential environmental extremist, willing to do anything to prove her point and advance her cause.




Forgive my language here, please, but on this occasion I feel it justified. One interpretation of Serova’s message is quite clear. All of you Federation ****ers must be prohibited from using the very thing which allows you to be Federation ****ers, but not me! Because I am the messenger, and therefore exempt from any prohibitions resulting from my message. That she was willing to blow herself up adding an exclamation point to her message does not alter this interpretation, as zealots with a cause are all to often willing to die in forcing others to pay attention. And the result here was the same as in most of those instances, innocents are made to suffer. An entire ship full of Federation officers and crew will die in less than twelve hours as a direct result of her actions, unless the Enterprise crew can solve their catch-22 and determine a means to save them. However this is resolved, Al Gore would surely be proud.

The Enterprise crew rises to the occasion, as if anyone thought they wouldn’t, by compromising. Utilizing a short burst of speed generated by the Warp Drive they coast toward the USS Fleming and, after a close brush with DOOM, rescue the stranded crew.

As for the newly discovered evils associated with the use of Warp Drive? The Federation Council issues an edict.

“Until we can find a way to counteract the warp field effect, the Council feels our best course is to slow the damage as much as possible. Therefore, areas of space found susceptible to warp fields will be restricted to essential travel only, and effective immediately, all Federation vessels will be limited to a speed of Warp five, except in cases of extreme emergency."

And back on Earth the Hump-backed Whales smile in approval.

A Star Trek Nerd question, but an apropos one. What is the quantified difference between traveling through the vastness of interstellar space at Warp five as opposed to Warp nine? Restricting our response to traversing the distance equal to one sector of Federation space, the answer is at Warp five it takes one month to cross that sector, while at Warp nine it takes five days.

Ferengi Rule of Acquisition number one sixty-two, “Even in the worst of times, someone turns a profit”.

The episode ends with the following revelations. Worf reports the Klingon Empire will observe the restrictions but the Romulans will not. The Ferengi and the Cardassians? Well, no one knows for sure. The subspace rift caused by Serova’s suicide, an act performed in the name of saving her planet, has already begun to effect the planet by altering its climate. No irony or allegory there, I’m sure. Picard and LaForge share a final moment in which Picard laments learning his forty-three year career was actually spent destroying the very thing he held so dear. But Geordi reassures him by taking a line from a Greenpeace leaflet:

“We still have time to make it better.”

Of course you do! All you have to do is destroy your way of life while the other space faring species relax and bide their time!




Sue me.

ADDITIONAL NOTES: FORCE OF NATURE

Of course this silly notion wouldn’t last. The restrictions on the use of Warp Drive would only be mentioned on two subsequent occasions during the final episodes of TNG. References would be made to the new speed limit in the episodes “The Pegasus” and “Eye of the Beholder”. One of these references consisted of Picard stating they were going to ignore it out of necessity. Heh…

According to “Star Trek: Voyager Technical Guide” (yes, Pirateship, I actually bought that book), co-writer Michael Okuda stated the subsequent use of “variable geometry pylons” in new Starship design negated the detrimental impact of Warp Fields on habitable planets, the effect as established in this episode. So even though Janeway stranded her crew half-way across the galaxy, at least she wasn’t polluting.

As stated earlier, much of the first two acts of “Force of Nature” was dedicated to “The Adventures of Spot”. Concerning the terribly weak link between this as a B plot and the environmentalist A plot, writer Naren Shankar attempted to explain it.

“The slightest dramatic connection between those two is the notion that you can't control a force of nature like a cat."

If you say so. Of course one could just phaser a cat.

Bio-mimetic gel, a substance which would become important in later episodes of Deep Space Nine, was mentioned for the first time in “Force of Nature”. Science Consultant to TNG Andre’ Bormanis based it on a report of Cambridge researchers developing a material which could mimic certain cellular level biological activities.

This is the episode in which Data’s cat, Spot, is first identified as being female after having been male for the entire six seasons which came before. This alteration in her sexuality was never explained, except perhaps that the writers needed Spot pregnant for the episode “Genesis”.

As was usual with crappy episodes the producers subsequently ran for cover. Of “Force of Nature” Michael Pillar later stated:

“I think this is the worst show I collaborated on this season. It certainly inspired us to have several meetings on where the season was going because I felt we were letting it slip away."

Jeri Taylor commented:

“I’ve been on enough series and tried to do environmental issues to realize that they are so hard to dramatize, because you're talking about the ozone hole, and...it's so, so hard to make it emotional and personal and give impact on that kind of level."

She also referred to Shankar’s script as suffering from a “doomed premise”. Makes you wander what was consumed at that environmental breakfast. Shankar would later lament this episode as not one of his finest moments. As a TNG fan I would be hard pressed to identify any of his finest moments.

Brannon Braga also weighed in:

“There were preposterous moments in that show. On the other hand, we knew the risks, but we felt it was real important to at least try to do an environmental show. We struggled with making it a personal story and in the end it just didn't work as well as we wanted it to. We couldn't find a personal angle. When you limit warp drive, the rug is being pulled out from under Star Trek. I wish more time had been spent with that, and less time with Spot the cat."

No, you should have spent more time with Spot the Cat and dumped everything else.

One episode left, and then it is on to “All Good Things…..” Following that review I do have a surprise of sorts planned before moving on to the TNG movies. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading.
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Last edited by Martok; 18 Apr 12 at 16:31..
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Old 18 Apr 12, 16:01
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Admiral Greentard Gorebot: Until we can find a way to counteract the warp field effect, the Council feels our best course is to slow the damage as much as possible. Therefore, areas of space found susceptible to warp fields will be restricted to essential travel only, and effective immediately, all Federation vessels will be limited to a speed of Warp five, except in cases of extreme emergency.
If Roy Spencer had been in that episode, he would have replied...
It has been said that regulating warp drive use will make the Federation the most time-space continuum-friendly Third Rate power in this quadrant. I have no doubt that the Ferengi, Romulans, Tholians, Cardassians and every other sane power in this quadrant will continue to take full advantage of warp drive. And whoever takes the greatest advantage of warp drive will control the galaxy.
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Old 18 Apr 12, 16:44
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"When the bow breaks" is an episode of such immense awfulness that it just beyond words....
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