Friday, August 11, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 150 (Second Chances)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Could you imagine being stranded on a remote planet for eight years? The Enterprise goes to a planet that Commander William Riker visited eight years prior while he was serving on the Potempkin. They want to retrieve data, but something in the planet’s atmosphere only allows use of the transporter every eight years. Commander Riker was the last one off the planet and he barely made it. So far as he knows, there shouldn’t be anyone down there. However, after beaming down, the landing party hears someone approach. The person is someone that looks exactly like and even claims to be Lieutenant Riker.

The other Riker is beamed back to the Enterprise to be examined. Genetically, he’s identical to Commander Riker. Brainwaves are nearly identical, which is impossible to fake. So far as Dr. Crusher can tell, Commander Riker and Lieutenant Riker were the same person up until eight years ago when a transporter accident created the other Riker, who was beamed back down to the planet.

The information from the planet still needs to be retrieved and since Lieutenant Riker made a lot of modifications to the planet, he is the only one that knows how to get at it. Lieutenant Riker and Commander Riker don’t get along. The lieutenant is late and often argumentative. Then again, how do you boss yourself around like that?

Fortunately, everything works out, even though there are a few tense moments. I think it would have been too easy to have Lieutenant Riker die. From what I’ve read, one idea was to have Commander Riker die, have the necessary promotions and have Lieutenant Riker join the ship. However, those in charge didn’t like the idea.

It was kind of confusing for the crew to have two Rikers. Riker and Troi had a romance going right about the time of the transporter accident. Since Lieutenant Riker doesn’t know what happened, he’s still interested in pursuing something with her. There was also the issue of what to call Lieutenant Riker since their ranks won’t always be different. (Lieutenant Riker decides to go with their middle name.)

The effects were pretty good. Usually, in an episode like this, there’s a tendency to avoid shots where the actor has to play both characters at the same time. (Usually, we see one of the two characters and a stand-in, if necessary.) However, in this episode, we get a lot of shots of both Rikers looking at each other. There were only one or two scenes that didn’t quite look right, but it was done well, overall. I suppose it helps that this isn’t the first time that one actor has had to play two roles or himself twice. There was an early episode where Picard gets to meet his future self. There were also times when Brent Spiner had to speak to himself when Lore, Data’s ‘twin brother’, or Dr. Soong, Data’s ‘father’, appeared.

I just had a few questions about the episode. I have to wonder why the station was built in the first place. If they knew that the opportunity to transport occurred every eight years, that would mean that there have been several cycles. Why would you build a station on a planet that was so hard to evacuate? Also, I don’t recall anyone mentioning the idea of using shuttlecraft. You have to admit that it was convenient that an evacuation attempt was necessary right when the transporter window was available. What would have happened if evacuation was necessary one month earlier or later?

I’d give this episode four stars. (Actually, I’d give it a little less, but I’ll round up.) Lieutenant Riker will appear in a Deep Space Nine episode, so we will get to see what happens to him. Despite the issues I had, it’s an interesting episode.

IMDb page

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