Sunday, December 20, 2009

TNG Season 4

Season Four of Star Trek: The Next Generation first aired during my senior year in high school (1990-91). For reasons I have previously mentioned, I missed most of it at that time. I picked up many of the episodes later in reruns. Foaming-at-the-mouth mad about Star Trek though I may be, I'll be the first to admit that missing this season was no great loss. It has some terrific episodes in it, but over all I consider it TNG's weakest season. In fact, there is such a streak of lameness through it that, in terms of The Original Series, I feel it would compare best to the disastrous TOS Season 3. But Star Trek survived, and this turned out to be the middle season of seven.

"The Best of Both Worlds, Part 2" wraps up the cliff-hanger that ended season 3. Picard has been borgified. Riker has trained the Enterprise's biggest guns at the Borg ship piloted by "Locutus" and ordered Worf to fire. What happens next? Er... nothing. The Borg are not affected by the weapon. They cruise right on by and take on the whole Federation fleet at Wolf 359. Remember that battle in case we ever get to "Deep Space Nine" Season 1. As if you can forget it, after seeing all those starships smashed and burned. You don't actually see the battle, but its after-effects are grisly. Starfleet will have a limp for the rest of the season at least. Luckily, the Enterprises capture Locutus, and Data figures out how to use his neural link to the Borg "hive mind" to send the whole lot to sleep. The Borg cube blows up in a truly excellent explosion, and Picard comes to with a nasty headache.

But soft! "Family" proves that, even in Star Trek, things aren't always back to normal by next week. Trek continues the process (begun in Season 3) of breaking out of its episodic straightjacket where each separate story is confined to its own hour of TV. This episode goes to heroic lengths to show that TNG's characters have depths, and history, and humanity, and can be changed by their experiences. While the Enterprise undergoes repairs following the Borg incident, Picard sees to his own need for healing by visiting the French village he came from, and the vineyard still run by his crusty brother Robert. The big crisis of the story is whether Picard will take a career offer from a "raise Atlantis" project on Earth, rather than return to the final frontier. He finds his answer in a muddy tussle with his brother. There really is no A story to this episode, but it's got two B stories and a good, solid C. The other B story is a visit from Worf's human foster-parents, memorably played by Theodore Bikel and Georgia Brown. The C story has to do with a holographic message Wesley receives from his dead father. There are no scenes on the bridge. No aliens. No clones. No rifts in space-time. It got the lowest ratings in TNG's history. But can you imagine not knowing what this episode reveals about Picard and Worf? Uh-uh.

"Brothers" is the one where a circuit goes "pop" in Data's brain, and he locks everyone out of the bridge and hijacks the Enterprise. It's pretty cool how he stays one step ahead of everybody while they try to get back in control of the ship. Turns out Data isn't really responsible for this, however. He has been summoned by his maker, the presumed-dead Dr. Soong, to receive a parting gift before the old guy kicks off. Soong has created a chip that should enable Data to experience human emotions. But before they can plug it in, the family reunion is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of Lore. Remember the evil twin from Season 1's "Datalore?" That guy. There is a three-character scene in which everybody is played by Brent Spiner. Neat stuff. While Soong is looking the other way, Lore knocks out Data, steals his uniform, claims his birthright, spits in the pottage -- OK, so it isn't exactly the story of Jacob and Esau -- and leaves with the chip after mortally wounding Soong. The aged cyberneticist dies in Data's arms. But stay tuned! You haven't seen the last of either Lore or Dr. Soong!

In seasons 1 and 2, the Talarians were frequently mentioned. "Suddenly Human" is the episode where we finally see them. I thought they were a very interesting race, with fierce yet honorable customs and funky foreheads. Strangely, I don't recall that they were ever seen or mentioned again after this episode. The only reason I can think of is that the Talarian code of honor (not to mention the skull) resembled that of the Klingons, whom the series went on to develop in great detail. Anyway, the guy in the picture is a Talarian. I thought he was cool. He threatens to go to war against the bigger and better-armed Enterprise when Picard refuses to return a human boy to him along with several young Talarians rescued from a wrecked cadet ship. The boy is the lone survivor of a Talarian raid on a Federation colony, so understandably Picard wants to return him to his family. But he is also the adopted son of the Talarian captain, whose cultural traditions allow him to replace his own dead son with the child of a slain enemy. The dilemma is particularly acute because, on the one hand, Jono is a very cute boy (played by Chad Allen of "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman"); while, on the other hand, he is also an irritating twit. When he splatters Wesley with ice cream, you start digging through the credits to see if David Gerrold was involved (because all Star Trek needed was a gay subplot). But then Jono stabs Picard in the chest and makes it all better. Sigh... Can you tell I don't care for this episode?

"Remember Me" is the episode in which Dr. Crusher delivers the best Star Trek line ever: "If there's nothing wrong with me, maybe there's something wrong with the universe." By the time she figures this out, you've been pounding your head against the TV screen for at least 15 minutes. It begins when one of Wesley's warp-field experiments has a "hiccup" while his mother looks on fondly. Afterward, as she goes about her duties, Dr. Crusher notices that people are disappearing around her. Not only are they vanishing off the ship, but all record of them, all memory of them, seems to have been erased from existence. Except in her mind. Is she going crazy? Or has the universe gone mad? Well, I'm staying out of that one. But I can tell you that Wesley's warp-field experiment is involved, and so is the Traveler (in his first appearance since Season 1's "Where No One Has Gone Before"), and those sideways whirlwinds that keep trying to suck Beverly into them are actually attempts to rescue her from sure and certain oblivion. It's a rather lame episode, but it does put Dr. Crusher and "fun to watch" in the same room for a while.

"Legacy" is the one where the Enterprises visit Turkana IV, the planet Tasha Yar escaped from. It's a lawless place, run by corrupt gangs who care about nothing except killing each other. One of those gangs has taken the survivors of a Federation shuttle crash hostage. The rival gang offers to help. And one of their members develops an unlikely relationship of trust with Data, aided by the fact that she is Tasha's kid sister. Ishara Yar turns out to be scamming the Enterprise folks, though. Poor Data, how he does get kicked around!

"Reunion" reunites us with several Klingon characters we have met before. Chancellor K'mpec reveals to Picard that he has been poisoned. He anoints Picard as the arbiter who will choose his successor as head of the Klingon Empire, warning that one of the claimants will be his killer. Assisting Picard in navigating the labyrinth of Klingon law will be K'Ehleyr, Worf's mate, who shows up with a cuddly little Klingon in tow: Worf's son Alexander. Worf is upset about this, because he cannot acknowledge the boy as his son without bringing disgrace on him (see Season 3's "Sins of the Father"). And finally, Duras (whose false accusation dishonored Worf's family) arrives to claim the throne. His only rival is the crazy-eyed Gowron (Robert O'Reilly in a recurring role that would cross over to DS9). What happens when all these players are on the board? I don't even know where to begin. Let's just say it ends in blood. Lots and lots of sticky Klingon blood.

Nearly everything that happens in "Future Imperfect" turns out, in the end, not to have really happened. Which, in a way, is a pity. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Riker beams down to some planet or other... and wakes up in sickbay 16 years later. What happened? Nothing much. He got promoted to captain of the Enterprise. Got married, had a son (named "Jean-Luc" after the Admiral, don'tcha know), lost his wife, lost his memory all the way back to the away mission where he picked up the virus that caused the whole memory loss problem. Now he's got to take part in diplomatic talks with the Romulans, with no memory of what led to that point. Luckily, it turns out to be a Romulan ruse to get the Enterprise's access codes out of him. He's really their prisoner in a holographic interrogation facility, along with a boy who looks exactly like young Jean-Luc but is really just an orphan named Ethan. But--whoops!--Ethan slips and calls Commander Tomalak "Ambassador Tomalak," and that gives away the fact that the Romulan base is another holographic ruse, and that it's really a young alien's way of... whatever. I thought Chris Demetral (late of "Dream On") was fun to watch as Riker's ersatz son, and found myself wishing it hadn't all been a cheat after all. Unlike certain other young guest actors this season (coughChadAllencough), this kid really would have made a nice addition to the cast.

Don't worry. "Final Mission" isn't the end of the series. It's just the end of the run for Wesley Crusher, apart from a handful of guest appearances in later seasons. Some fans celebrated his departure, but they were jerks. They sent Wesley off with a really good episode, though. For his last mission before going off to the Academy, he gets to accompany Picard and a local pilot on a diplomatic mission. Their rickety craft starts coming apart, forcing an emergency landing on a moon that looks suspiciously like Death Valley. Their survival is hampered by the stupidity of the local dude, the deadly force field surrounding the one fountain of water they find, and the captain's injuries in a rock fall. Wes mans up and gets them through until rescuers arrive. Awwww. Ickle Wesley is all growed up! In a way, I feel it's a shame he left the show. It left a lot of character potential unfulfilled. But people grow in different directions. If he hadn't left TNG, perhaps Wil Wheaton wouldn't have had time to formulate "Wheaton's Law" of online gaming ("Don't be a dick"). Where would we be then? (Hint: Where are you right now?)

"The Loss" is the episode where Deanna Troi loses her empathic abilities. She doesn't take it very well, either. I find it hard to believe that a trained psychologist like Deanna wouldn't be able to continue counseling people without her Betazoid crutch to lean on. But Deanna seems determined to quit her job and spend the rest of her life being miserable about her disability - which only, after all, puts her on the same level as everyone else on the ship! Luckily, it turns out that her problems are caused by a flock of 2-D critters who have surrounded the Enterprise. Caught in the flow of their migration, the ship is in danger of being pulled into a piece of Cosmic String, which apparently got chewed off and left lying around by a Cosmic Kitty-Cat. Seriously, though, it's like being dragged toward a black hole, only the special effect is purple. Luckily, the Enterprise is able to distract the 2-D thingies with a cosmic-string decoy, long enough for them to break free of the num num num -- sorry, I'm fresh out of technobabble.

"Data's Day" presents 24 hours in the life of the Federation's favorite artificial life form. Narrated by Data as a letter to Dr. Bruce Maddox (see Season 2's "The Measure of a Man"), it blends humor, irony, and warmth with the android's observations of the progress he is making in understanding human ways. He stands as "father of the bride" at the wedding of Miles and Keiko O'Brien (Rosalind Chao's first appearance as Keiko). He takes dancing lessons from Dr. Crusher. He investigates the apparent transporter-related death of a Vulcan ambassador, who ultimately turns out to have been a Romulan spy faking her death as she returned to her people. The 24-hour cycle of this episode, its observations of mundane crew activities, and its development of the O'Brien couple (who eventually crossed over to DS9) make this an interesting episode, albeit a little off-formula.

"The Wounded," on the other hand, is an exceptional, classic episode. It also shows signs of being a step toward making O'Brien a principal character on DS9. But more importantly, it's the episode that introduces the Cardassians. Marc Alaimo (later "Gul Dukat" of DS9 fame) plays the first Cardassian captain in Star Trek, who comes aboard the Enterprise with two subordinates to observe Picard's pursuit of a renegade Starfleet captain. The peace between the Federation and Cardassia is too new and fragile to allow a hotshot like Capt. Maxwell (Bob Gunton of "Shawshank Redemption") to destroy it. When Picard catches up to him, Maxwell claims that the base and ships he destroyed were arming the Cardassians for an offensive against the Federation. Tragically, even though Maxwell turns out to be right, Picard is obligated to arrest him in order to prevent another war with the Cardassians.

"Devil's Due" takes another Star Trek-sized dump on religion as Picard matches wits with a con artist posing as the devil. Marta Dubois plays Ardra, or rather an alien grifter playing Ardra, the incarnation of evil on the planet Vendax. The locals believe they owe their late millennium of peace and prosperity to a bargain with Ardra, who was supposed to return at the end of that time to claim what was hers. Unfortunately, the Ventaxians are quite convinced that the signs and wonders that have been happening in their world correspond to predictions of Ardra's return. It's up to Picard to prove under Ventaxian law - under the supremely unbiased judgeship of Data - that Ardra, while no angel, is also no devil. It's really a fun episode, its goofiness excused by the twinkle in everyone's eye.

I think "Clues" is the episode that begins with Picard sharing his Dixon Hill holo-program with Guinan, a.k.a. "Dolores from Cleveland." He soon puts his sleuthing skills to better use when the effect of a wormhole suddenly opening near the Enterprise knocks out the entire crew except Data. When they all wake up, Data claims they were only unconscious for a few moments. But strange inconsistencies quickly multiply around Data's story. A laboratory specimen shows a day's growth. Worf's wrist was apparently broken and mended. The ship's clock has been tampered with. These and other disturbing clues make Picard increasingly unsure whether Data can be trusted. It turns out that he has simply been following captain's orders never to discuss what happened in an incident whose very memory means death to the entire ship. It's an intriguing episode, but after so many "Data scares," one wonders how Picard can keep trusting him.

"First Contact," not to be confused with the TNG feature film by the same name, is the fourth-season episode where Riker is injured while paying an incognito call on a xenophobic, pre-warp alien race. At about a present-day state of development, these folks are not quite ready to entertain visitors from outer space. So it comes as a shock when Riker's doctors discover that their patient is an alien. This complicates the process of "first contact" with a society at the threshold of space travel. Cultural and political forces at work in this particular world threaten to make Picard's mission a disaster. Guest star Carolyn Seymour ("Mirasta Yale") also appeared on TNG as two different Romulan commanders, and also played a character in Capt. Janeway's holonovel in two episodes of Voyager. Michael Ensign ("Krola") appeared once in each Trek spinoff series, twice as a Vulcan. George Coe ("Chancellor Durken") was one of the original cast members of "Saturday Night Live." And yes, the alien chick who tells Riker, "I've always wanted to make love to an alien," is played by Bebe Neuwirth of "Frasier" and "Cheers."

"Galaxy's Child" brings back Leah Brahms (see Season 3's "Booby Trap"), one of the Enterprise's designers. This time, however, it's the real Leah and not a hologram. Geordi gets all sweaty and confused as he tries to deal with the reality behind his fantasy. The real Leah is brusque, jealous of her design, and skeptical of Engineer LaForge's reasons for fiddling with it. When she discovers her holographic double, look out! Nevertheless, the two engineers form a workable partnership when it comes time to save the Enterprise from the obligatory power-drain crisis, this time coming from a deep-space alien baby that has imprinted on the Enterprise as its mama. The void-cruising critter looks like an elaborate piece of home-made ravioli. OK, maybe that's cruel. Manicotti? It's up to Geordi and Leah to wean "Junior" off the Enterprise's power supply before (A) the batteries are completely drained and (B) the approaching group of adult space-ravs get nasty. Sci-fi has never been so appetizing!

"Night Terrors" is a somewhat slow episode. Watching it, one guesses the folks who made it were having trouble figuring out how to fill an hour with the material. Amazingly, I have read that they actually had to cut scenes from this episode to save time. The uncut episode would surely be a cure for anyone's insomnia, which is precisely the problem in "Night Terrors." No one on the ship can sleep, and they're starting to go crazy from dream deprivation. Only Deanna can catch any Z's, but she keeps waking up sweaty from terrifying nightmares. The same thing happened before, to another starship trapped in the same area of space; the entire crew died except for one Betazoid officer, who remains catatonic, driven insane by the nightmares. Now it's going to happen to the Enterprise, unless they can find their way out of the time-space rift that holds them. Luckily, Deanna realizes that her nightmares are a sort of signal from the crew of an alien ship trapped on the other side of the rift. Once communication has been established (via a bit of "directed dreaming"), there may be a chance of both ships working together to escape from the rift. If not, it will be the last episode ever. I'm sorry if my grouchiness offends you. I didn't get enough sleep last night. And besides the one scene where Beverly turns around and finds all the corpses in the morgue sitting upright, this episode isn't as scary as advertised.

Well, clearly they got out of that rift, because that episode was followed by "Identity Crisis." This one's another creepy mystery, focusing on the crew of an away mission five years ago. One by one, the surviving crewmen are disappearing, and the trail of clues leads back to the planet where they all apparently caught whatever is causing them to disappear. Geordi and his friend Susanna Leijten are the last ones left. And now they're starting to go too - starting to morph into invisible lizard-people whose major arteries glow bright blue under UV light. I remember the shiver that went down my spine the first time I saw the scene where Geordi used the holodeck to reconstruct the source of the unexplained shadow in the old mission records. The other lizard-folks were played by syndicated radio hosts Mark (Thompson) & Brian (Phelps). How better to show a "face for radio" on TV than under one of the heaviest make-up jobs in film history?

Reg Barclay returns in "The Nth Degree," where an alien probe zaps him and super-accelerates his intelligence. Pretty soon Barclay has connected the ship's computer directly to his brain, using a crazy-looking chair surrounded by flashing laser-beams which I probably should have put here instead of this picture. But I thought the Cytherian was so cute that I coudln't resist using his picture instead. The Cytherian who, you ask? The Cytherians are aliens who live in the center of the galaxy. Their strategy for exploring the universe is to send out probes like the one that zapped Barclay, and bring other beings to visit them and exchange knowledge. Until this is made clear, it looks like Barclay may fall victim to a tragedy similar to Captain Kirk's good friend in the TOS second pilot episode ("Where No Man Has Gone Before"): namely, he grows so far beyond humanity that he becomes a threat and must be destroyed. Luckily, once Barclay has brought the Enterprise to meet the Cytherians, his super-smart condition is reversed. Mostly. Deanna: "Reg, I didn't know you play chess." Barclay: "I don't!"

"Qpid" brings back not only John de Lancie for his fifth appearance as "Q," but also Jennifer Hetrick as "Vash" (see Season 3's "Captain's Holiday"). When both come to visit just when Picard is about to address the Archeological Society on the mysteries of a planet whose treasures are off-limits to off-worlders, the captain doesn't know which one to worry about most. Sure, Vash is probably going to steal some priceless artifact, or die trying. But Q can do so much more. For example, he can turn a boring episode about an archeology conference into a hilarious visit to Merrie Olde Englande. Q whisks Picard and his crew off to Sherwood Forest and sits back to see whether "Love conquers all." With Jean-Luc as Robin Hood, Vash as Maid Marian, and other members of the crew playing various roles -- Worf: "Sir, I protest. I am not a merry man!" -- there's no telling what might happen. Maybe Marian will change her mind and decide to marry Sir Guy of Gisbourne. Maybe Gates McFadden and Marina Sirtis, the only cast members who could actually fence, will have to break jugs over men's heads because, ironically, sword-fighting is for guys. Maybe, when Worf smashes Geordi's "Allan a Dale" lute against a tree stump, you'll laugh so hard that the mead shoots out of your nose. "Star Trek does this" and "Star Trek does that," not always successfully; but when "Trek does Robin Hood," it does it with humor, romance, and fine swashbuckling style.

"The Drumhead" is the episode that addresses McCarthyism, and ideological witch hunts in general. It starts when a Klingon exchange officer on the Enterprise is caught selling secrets to the Romulans. Unfortunately, this incident coincides with an explosion in Engineering, which at first looks like the work of a saboteur. Eventually it turns out to have been just an accident, but not before Admiral Nora Satie (played by Oscar-nominated actress Jean Simmons) begins an investigation of possible conspiracy in the Enterprise crew. The paranoia spreads: Worf believes Satie's claim that the threat of a conspiracy must be rooted out. But Picard risks his career trying to stop the witch hunt. It finally ends when Satie lets down her guard and tears into Picard in an irrational speech in front of Starfleet's head of security. Besides Simmons' magnificent performance, this episode also boasts appearances by Bruce French (Satie's Betazoid aide), who also appeared in the pilot for Voyager, as a Vulcan in Enterprise, and in Star Trek: Insurrection; Henry Woronicz (the Klingon J'Dan), who appeared as two different characters on Voyager; and Spencer Garrett (the young officer ruined by Satie's investigation), who also appeared on Voyager.

Lwaxana Troi makes her annual appearance in "Half a Life," also starring M*A*S*H regular David Ogden Stiers as an alien scientist who is close to finding a way to reignite his world's dying star. Just when Lwaxana seems to have found her soulmate, she learns that Timicin is nearing his 60th birthday. On his world, it is customary to commit suicide at that age. Their romance instantly flares into a furious and deeply moving portrayal of the life debate. Michelle Forbes, who later returned in the recurring role of Ensign Ro, makes her first Trek appearance here as Timicin's daughter, who comes aboard to beg him to do his duty for his family's sake. It's a balanced and thought-provoking hour of Star Trek that does what you never expected a Lwaxana episode to do: reduce you to a miserable puddle of tears.

"The Host" introduces a race that will become very important in DS9: the Trill. In their first outing, their appearance is quite different - bony facial ridges rather than spots on the skin, etc. - but the concept is nearly the same. The Trill negotiator Beverly loves turns out to be a "joined life form," consisting of a large, worm-like "symbiont" who lives inside a succesion of humanoid "hosts." The host dies in a terrible accident, but the worm -- good-looking feller, isn't he? -- lives on, at first in Riker's body, then (more permanently) in a Trill humanoid who happens to be female. This puts a serious strain on Dr. Crusher's ability to carry on the romance. So Trek's first lesbian kiss (also resulting from a succession of Trill hosts) would have to wait until the DS9 episode "Rejoined." Actually it's a fascinating dilemma, and any sci-fi enthusiast should be thrilled to consider it... but the subtext says: "Beverly just isn't an advanced enough humanoid to set aside a little matter of gender when it comes to being in love." Like, gag me.

In "The Mind's Eye," Star Trek does The Manchurian Candidate. En route to Risa, Geordi is abducted by Romulans and brainwashed to serve their nefarious purposes. Once back aboard the Enterprise, he takes orders through the gizmo that connects his VISOR to his nervous system. His mission, unknown even to his own conscious mind, is to break up the alliance between the Federation and the Klingons. Eventually he is supposed to assassinate a Klingon governor, while Data races to get to the bottom of what's going on. It's an extremely weird, suspenseful episode: most entertaining. This was the first Star Trek episode directed by sometime producer David Livingston. He went on to direct a total of 62 episodes over four Trek series (though only one other TNG episode). Larry Dobkin, who directed the TOS episode "Charlie X," guest stars as the Klingon ambassador. The Romulan who brainwashes LaForge is played by John Fleck, whose Trek credits include three appearances on DS9, one on Voyager, and a recurring role on Enterprise as the villainous Silik. Edward Wiley (the Klingon governor) played a Cardassian once on DS9. And that female Romulan who stays in the shadows? Now, who could that be...?

"In Theory," the penultimate episode of TNG's fourth season, explores Data's chances in the world of dating. Data's friend Jenna, who works with him in the torpedo bay, has been crying on his shoulder for months over her the ups and downs of her relationships with men. Now she realizes Data is the kind of romantic partner she really needs. Finally: a guy who isn't out of touch with his feelings, because he doesn't have any! Data does what any good, positronic friend would do. He designs a program to provide Jenna with the appropriate responses to her couple-oriented stimuli. At first it really seems to be going well, but Data soon proves that he really doesn't know what he's doing. I'm paraphrasing, but my favorite exchange went something like this: *smooch!* Jenna: "Data, what were you thinking just now?" Data: "I was calculating pi to the bazillionth decimal place, running a diagnostic on the Enterprise's waste-recycling systems, calculating the precise amount of pressure I should apply to your lips, and arranging the piano works of Brahms for string quartet." Jenna: "Well, I'm glad I was in there somewhere." It's not the most fascinating piece of sci-fi to come out of Star Trek, but it does take Data's development to the next level. AND, it has one of those villain-free jeopardy situations (I believe the third one this season), resulting in the crewwoman's death pictured here. And it was the first of 5 TNG episodes directed by Patrick Stewart!

"Redemption" ends Season 4 with the first half of a two-parter. It also closes the circle of Worf's discommendation, which the Klingon Chancellor Gowron finally reverses in this episode. Gowron has been having trouble taking control of the Empire. Worf takes a leave of absence from the Enterprise, and prepares to bring some support to Gowron's side when he really needs it, hoping that the grateful Chancellor will do just what he does. We see Worf's brother Kurn again, and we meet Duras's wickedly sexy sisters Lursa and B'etor, who themselves become recurring villains. As for Picard, as soon as his duties as arbiter of succession are fulfilled, he backs away from the situation, knowing the Federation dare not become involved. So the episode, and the season, ends with Worf resigning from Starfleet, joining Gowron's crew, and facing the pro-Duras forces in what promises to be a nasty civil war. The last thing you see before "To be continued..." is this blond Romulan chick stepping out of the shadows. Does she seem familiar to you?

Season Four has its weaknesses. It has episodes that are scarcely science fiction at all. It repeatedly falls into a pattern of focusing on secondary characters and extracurricular interests, rather than on the main thing. It even gets a bit repetitive, because whenever the writers felt obligated to "stick in" a sci-fi concept in what little space the people-oriented "A story" left for it, the gimmicks they came up with took on a certain nondescript sameness. One episode ("First Contact") really took the point of view of the alien culture the Enterprise was visiting. Other obvious attempts to break out of the formula merely throw icewater on the viewer, such as "Family" (with its lack of bridge scenes) and "Data's Day" (with its decidedly anti-dramatic structure). On the other hand, it was also a season that brought a deeper background to the characters, and that bonded them to each other in new ways. It came in and went out with strong two-parters. And it brought laughter ("Qpid") and tears ("Half a Life") into our lives. I'm glad the other seasons were not like it. But I'm also glad Season 4 happened.

Want a refresher course on previous seasons of Star Trek? Click the following links to see my reviews of TOS seasons one, two, and three, and of TNG seasons one, two, and three.

1 comment:

Robbie F. said...

I miscounted the "villain-free jeopardy situations" in Season 4. There were 6 of them: the warp field experiment in "Remember Me," the 2-D critters in "The Loss," captain's orders in "Clues," Junior in "Galaxy's Child," the never-seen, unnamed alien ship in "Night Terrors," and the blobs of dark matter in "In Theory." Several more of the episodes didn't really have villains...but they didn't have real jeopardy, either. Hmmm.... That goes a long way toward explaining why this season leaves me lukewarm.