Thursday, November 30, 2017

Field of Dreams (1989)

WARINING:  I’m going to give away details of the movie, including the ending.  If you haven’t seen the movie, you might want to wait before reading the review.

I’ve had the urge to watch old movies again.  I saw Field of Dreams many years ago.  When it became available on Netflix, I wanted to see if the movie would change with perspective.  I remembered a lot of it, but I wondered if the context had changed.  Is there anything that I’d pick up on now that I wouldn’t as a teenager?  The short answer is no.

For those that haven’t seen it, Field of Dreams is a movie about Ray and Annie Kinsella.  They buy a farm and live there with their daughter, Karin.  One day, Ray hears a voice telling him, “If you build it, he will come.”  Ray has no idea what it is supposed to be.  He’s given a vision of a baseball diamond, which he builds.  Apparently, Ray and Annie are hovering around the break-even point with their farm.  They have to clear their cash crop for the diamond, which will most likely bankrupt them.

They do it anyway.  Months pass and nothing happens.  One day, Shoeless Joe Jackson shows up in the diamond and asks if he can play there.   Jackson even brings the other players involved in the 1919 Black Sox Scandal.  Ray then gets another message from the voice:  Ease his pain.  Who’s pain?  Ray and Annie eventually come to the conclusion that the voice is referring to Terence Mann, an author who didn’t have an easy time with fame.  Mann also wanted to play baseball when he was younger.

Ray visits Terence in Boston.  The two eventually go to a baseball game, where Ray receives another message:  Go the distance.  He also sees stats for Archibald "Moonlight" Graham, who had played in just one game.  When Ray and Terence visit Minnesota to find Graham, they find that Graham had died years ago after becoming a doctor.

Ray is able to go into the past and meets Graham, who explains what the one game was all about.  Graham refuses Ray’s invitation to come back and play baseball.  Ray returns to the present and eventually goes back to Iowa with Terence.  On the drive back, they pick up a young hitchhiker names Archie Graham.  When they arrive on the farm, young Graham joins the players for a game.

The next morning, Annie’s brother, Mark, arrives to urge Ray to sell the farm, which he’s been refusing to do.  (Mark can’t see the baseball players.)  Ray knows that any subsequent owner will likely not maintain the baseball field.  An accident with Karin forces Graham to walk off the field, becoming the man that Ray saw in the past.  He helps Karin, then walks off into the corn field.  Mark is then able to see the players; he urges Ray not to sell the farm.

After seeing the movie again, I found that there wasn’t any special message hidden away.  It’s simply about a man who listens to a mysterious voice’s vague messages.  The one thing that had me wondering is how one baseball field would bankrupt the farm.  Granted, they were on the brink, but it looked like they Kinsellas had a pretty decent sized property.  I don’t know how selling corn works.  Are you able to get several crops during a season?

How would such a small part of their corn crop cause them to miss several mortgage payments?  I’m kind of wondering if this was done to give Ray something to worry about.  There’s no clear antagonist, so they had to have Mark try to get Ray to sell the farm.

I didn’t think the movie that great.  It’s not a story of conflict like you’d find in other movies.  The only real threat Ray has is the mortgage, which he deals with by ignoring.  Ray doesn’t seem to do much to earn additional revenue until the end of the movie, when it’s implied that he could charge admission.

Ironically, the actual diamond used in the movie still exists.  I’m not sure what kind of burden this placed on the actual farm, although the property has been sold at least once, according to Wikipedia.  There’s no fee for admission or parking, although there is a souvenir shop.

The movie is based on a book, although I’m not sure how true the movie is to the source material.  There do seem to be some differences, though.  In the book, Ray has a twin brother.  Terence Mann was actually J. D. Salinger.  (The name change was due to Salinger implying he’d sue if the character made his way to an adaptation.)

I’m not really sure what to make of the movie.  It’s enjoyable, but it’s not the kind of thing you’d watch over and over again.  It’s the kind of movie they might play in a waiting room.  It’s safe for most people.  It’s rated PG, mostly for some language in one scene.  (A woman accuses Terence Mann of masturbation and calls his work pornography.)  There’s also some cursing.  The only four-letter word is spelled out at PTA meeting.  Other than that, it’s mostly damn and hell.  It’s basically a great movie for streaming.  Unless you’re a baseball fan, I’m not sure if you’d want to buy it on DVD.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Gôruden taimu/Golden Time (2014)

I don’t imagine it’s easy being abandoned.  A television set is dropped of rather unceremoniously in a junkyard and basically left to fend for itself.  Soon after its arrival, it meets several other abandoned items.  There’s a fan, a windup toy, a chair and a bucket.  Each has presumably been discarded just like the new arrival.

The television has its only useful part, the CRT, removed by a recycling company.  (The TV set appears to be from the 1960s, but what I’ve read indicates that the story takes place in the 1980s.)  The TV set is   lonely and does try to escape, but does eventually find a new purpose.

The animation is only 21 minutes.  While some of that time is taken up with trying to dig under a fence, the five characters do have some interaction.  Most of that interaction is between the TV set and the windup toy, which is ostensibly a cat.

There’s no dialogue  It’s a fairly simple animation showing the five characters in a junkyard..  There’s nothing that parents would find objectionable.  (Netflix has the rating listed as TV-Y.)  It is a little sad at first, as we’re aware that the TV wants to get out, but everything seems to end well for the TV set.

I’ve been hoping to find more short films like this.  I don’t always want the commitment of a feature-length film.  Sometimes, I want something to watch before going to work or just before going to bed.  It can be difficult to squeeze a two-hour movie in sometimes.

It’s a shame that this is the director’s only credit.  I’d like to see more animation from Takuya Inaba.  I’m hoping that more might be forthcoming.  The movie was released only a few years ago.  It looks like there’s a corresponding book.  Amazon has the book release date as April 11, 2014 whereas Netflix has the movie release date as June 15, 2014.  Since animation takes so long to make, it’s possible that they were intended to be released together.  Information on either is nearly impossible to find.  If you come across anything, please leave a comment.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Twilight Zone (1959) -- Season 1 Episode 1 (Where Is Everybody?)

Mike Ferris wanders into town one day.  It’s a fully functioning town, just like any town you’d expect to find in a TV show of the 1950s.  The problem is that he can’t find anyone.  The church has a bell that rings, but there‘s no pastor or congregation.  The diner has food for customers that aren’t there.  When Mike wanders into the police station, smoke suddenly starts rising from a cigar that no one placed there.  Is Mike going crazy?  Is this purgatory?  Either possibility is likely, as this is The Twilight Zone.

Specifically, this is the first episode of what would become an iconic TV show.  The Twilight Zone has become synonymous with strange or eerie, and with good reason.  The show often had a twist ending long before the movies of M. Night Shyamalan.  With this each episode, you know that there’s going to be a big twist at the end.  You’re just waiting for the main character to figure it out.

In this case, Mike stumbles upon it accidentally.  Being that he’s the only person there, he goes from building to building until his frayed mind has him pressing a button for what would seem like no reason.  Then, we find out what that reason is.

Part of the greatness of The Twilight Zone is that it takes a problem and puts it on display.  Here, we have one man.  We see his isolation.  It’s pretty much the only thing on display for most of the episode.  This episode, like many of the others, is G-rated.  There’s nothing objectionable for children in this episode, such as sex or violence.  I would say that it’s more questionable in that very young children might not understand the loneliness that Mike has to go through and the effects it has on him.

The show was an anthology; episodes were each self-contained stories with no relationship to other episodes, meaning you can view them out of order.  (For this reason, I’m not going to be as strict about grouping episode reviews by season.)  If you are watching the series on Netflix, this shouldn’t be as much of an issue.  Currently, they’re missing the fourth season.  If you’re renting the episodes on DVD, you don’t have to worry about the discs arriving out of order or one disc being checked out from the library.  You can skip that disc and come back to it.

Part of the significance of this being the first episode is that it seemed a little simpler than some of the other episodes.   There wasn’t as much of the supernatural or unexplained that I remember from other stories.  (Take Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, for instance.)  The show had yet to get established, although it did have a backdoor pilot of sorts with The Time Element.  It’s kind of difficult to think of an anthology having a pilot episode, but here it is.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Twilight Zone (1959) -- Season 1 Episode 2 (One for the Angels)

Lou Bookman is just an ordinary guy.  He sells toys, ties and whatnot on the street.  He’s well liked, especially by the children.  Everyone knows who he is and he seems to know everyone in the area.  It’s odd, then, when an unfamiliar face shows up one day.  He’s well-dressed and polite…and he’s asking questions about Lou.  Who is this gentleman?  He’s Death.  Lou’s number has come up; he’s to die at midnight of natural causes.

Understandably, Lou tries to get out of this.  Alas, there are three exceptions that will give Lou a reprieve.  The first is having a family to support, which Lou doesn’t.  The second is an impending breakthrough, which Lou can’t claim, either.  The third is unfinished business, which doesn’t seem evident at first.  Lou points out that he has yet to make a major pitch.  One that the angles would take notice of and would cause the sky to open.  Death reluctantly grants this, but doesn’t provide a timeframe.

Lou instantly realizes that he has an out.  All he has to do is not make a pitch and he’ll never die, but this comes at a price.  One of the neighborhood children is struck by a car; if death can’t have Lou, the little girl will go in his place.  When Lou realizes what he’s done, he pleads with Death to no avail.  The girl is to go at midnight and there’s no negotiating this time.  The only thing left to do is make a pitch for the ages.  By delaying Death past midnight, Lou points out that he’s made his pitch, allowing Death to take Lou as originally planned.

The episode is fairly simple.  Lou tries to cheat Death only to find out that it comes with a price.  He has to basically cheat death again to put things right.  I did some reading and there are two ways of looking at the episode.  One is as presented:  Lou cheated Death twice.  Another is that Lou only thought he cheated Death, but that Death knew what Lou was doing and got the better of him.

When I first saw the episode, I was inclined to believe the first interpretation.  To an extent, I still am.  Death seems genuinely surprised when Lou delays him.   I thing Lou got the better of Death at least once.  However, Death has seemingly been at this a long time.  He’s not some new guy.  Death seems more like a social worker making a call, just like countless other calls.

There are undoubtedly rules and procedures for a reason.  Death’s taking another person is probably a way of ensuring that people don’t cheat.  One might say that there’s no way for the general population to know about this, thus making it ineffective, but Lou did eventually go with Death.  Also, had Lou not done this, Death would have eventually been one death over.

Then again, I’m probably reading too much into this.  Twilight Zone episodes tended to make a point in simple terms.  Lou doesn’t want to die.  It’s normal to want to prolong your own life.  The question is at what cost.  The story is pretty straightforward.  Lou got himself into a mess and has to get himself back out.

The episode is safe for children in the sense that there’s no violence or gore.  When the girl is hit by a car, we don’t see the accident, but it’s evident what happened.  Also, when Lou finally does go with Death, we don’t see anything special happen to Lou; they simply walk off together down the street.  The depiction of death might be a little confusing depending on how young the child is, though.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Aventura Mall Food Court Sign revisited

Last year, I had a post on the sign at the Aventura Mall food court.  In it, I had wondered if the included photo of the sign might be the lst one I took of it.  It looks like the old sign is no more.  It has been replaced with a new sign.  The food court has been replaced with a food hall, which appears to include none of the old restaurants.  (Five Guy's moved to the third floor by the movie theater; Sbarro's is still in the mall by virtue of the fact that it was never in the food court to begin with.)

Most of the new restaurants aren't open yet. I'd be interested to see what they offer.  It looks like they'll be more upscale.  I'm not sure what they'll offer or what the pricing will be.  Maybe I'll get a photo or two if I get the chance.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Yellow (2006)

It’s funny how you go looking for something and find something else accidentally.  I started looking up District 9 and found that the director, Neill Blomkamp, had also made several short films.  One of these films is called Yellow, although is also called Adicolor Yellow.  It was made in 2004 as part of a viral marketing campaign for Adidas.  Through the magic of Youtube, I was able to watch the four-minute film.

In the short film, we see an android being made.  There’s a narrator explaining that five different androids were programmed, all using the same base code.  Different things were added, like emotion and memory.  One, identified by the color yellow, was given the ability to think and learn.  It escaped from the location where it was created and lived among humans for 18 months.  Eventually, a team catches up with Yellow and a firefight ensues.  The final part of the narration suggests that maybe it’s no longer humanity’s game any more.

I can see where this would work as an advertisement.  To me, it actually comes across more as a trailer for a film than a complete story.  The only voice is that of the narrator.  You get the basic idea of what‘s going on, but there’s no real connection to the characters.  Yellow is seen as being emotionless and maybe a little distant.  He doesn’t seem to interact with people at all, but we’re seeing `18 months condensed into four minutes.

It’s kind of hard to tell if Yellow is supposed to be a sympathetic character.  The android survived for 18 months, but what went wrong other than the escape?  The android isn’t depicted as hurting anyone.  I was left wanting a little more.  If this was actually a trailer for a feature-length film, I’d probably go and see it.  It seems like there’s a good story in there.

I could see someone looking this up on their own if they’re a Blomkamp fan.  I’m not sure that most people not familiar with his work would be interested in it.  Even with most casual viewers, it might be hit and miss.  If you do like his movies, you’ll want to see this one, too.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

A few months ago, my mother found out about a program called Moviepass.  It allows you to watch movies, in a theater, for $9.95 per month.  It’s somewhat complicated and the details really aren’t important right now.  What’s important was that my parents and I all signed up last week.  Our first movie?  Murder on the Orient Express.  We needed something that we’d all agree on, which basically meant this or The Man Who Invented Christmas.

The movie is based on the Agatha Christie novel, as you might expect.  It starts with Hercule Poirot in Jerusalem solving a crime by proving it wasn’t any of the three main suspects.  He ends up on the Orient Express through a friend that works on the train.  It isn’t long before the train finds itself snowed in…and with a murder victim.

You’d think it would be easy.  The train is trapped between towns, making escape difficult.  It should just be a matter of figuring out who’s connected to the victim.  Well, it turns out that most of the other passengers had some connection to him.  You see, Edward Ratchett kidnapped a child who subsequently died.  If a suspect didn’t know the child, they at least knew someone who knew the child or the family.  What we get is a moderate procedural.  Poirot asks questions of the suspects and gathers clues.  At the end of the movie, he’s able to gather everyone together and work out the solution.

Having the movie on a train does make for cramped quarters.  Everyone has a room and a narrow hallway to pass each other.  This makes for the use of a few overhead shots.  There were also a few times where I noticed the use of a wide-angle lens.  (It tended to be evident as much with motion as it did with people sitting on the edge of the frame.)

The pacing seemed a little slow to me.  It’s not to say that it dragged at all, but there were times that I was wondering when the next bit of action was coming.  I don’t know that anything could have been cut.  It just seemed drawn out.  I think this has more to do with what I’m used to than anything else.  The accents tended to be more of a problem for me.  There were one or two scenes where subtitles might have helped, but it didn’t really stop me from following the movie.

I think this is one of those movies that most people will be able to judge for themselves whether or not they’ll like it.  Agatha Christie is well known, as are many of the actors.  There didn’t seem to be many surprises.  From what I’ve read, the movie follows the novel pretty closely with one or two exceptions.  I would say that if you do go to see the movie, it’s probably going to be either because you like Christie or you’re going to see it with a group, like I did.  Not being someone who’s read her work, I’d say that it’s middle of the road.  It’s enjoyable, but had it not been for Moviepass, I probably would have waited for this movie to become available on Netflix.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episodes 177 & 178 (All Good Things…)

Every show comes to an end.  Some, like the original Star Trek, get cancelled abruptly.  In other cases, the show ends on its own terms, having told the story it wants to tell.  Star Trek: The Next Generation came to an end after seven seasons, despite being contracted for eight.  The final episode was a two-hour episode called “All Good Things…”.

The episode begins with Troi and Worf exiting a holodeck and walking back to her quarters.  Outside Troi’s door, Captain Picard approaches them and asks what the date is.  He claims that he was moving around in time, having been to both the past and the future.  The details are blurry, but he’s certain that he’s moving through time.  Dr. Crusher examines him; after our first on-screen glimpse of the time shifting, she examines him again to find that he has two days of new memories.  There’s something to it.

There are three distinct timeframes, including what we would call Picard’s present.  The other two take place seven years in the past and 25 year in the future.  Why seven years in the past?  That’s when Picard first took command of the Enterprise.  As for 25 years in the future, why not?

The past is exactly what you’d expect.  Tasha Yar is still chief of security.  Riker, La Forge and a few other crewmembers are still at the Farpoint station.  Data is still unbearably inquisitive.  Picard makes a few mistakes, like telling Worf to do Yar’s job, but he starts to get the hang of it.

The future is one where Picard is suffering from irumodic syndrome, a degenerative neurological disorder.  Picard is shown tending his vineyard when he’s approached by La Forge.  It appears that Picard has retired to his family estate.  However, his health is deteriorating.

In the past and present, an anomaly shows itself.  In both cases, the Enterprise is called to investigate.  It would appear that events in one timeline don’t affect events in the others, other than Picard remembering and acting on them.  He keeps the past crew in the dark, mostly because they’re still new.  However, he mentions it to the present and future crews.

There’s still no news in the future about the anomaly, which is strange.  Picard, La Forge and Data have to arrange passage to the system, which is in the Romulan Neutral Zone, as Picard can’t seem to persuade Admiral Riker to give them a cloaked ship.  Who do they turn to?  Captain Beverly Picard.

This still doesn’t answer the question of who’s behind all this, although we have seen clues.  Those that have been watching the entire series will recognize Q’s handiwork.  Q shows up, or rather pulls Picard back to the trial he and the bridge crew faced in “Encounter at Farpoint”.  This isn’t a new trial; the original one never really ended.  It’s now time for Q to pronounce his verdict:  Guilty.  Humanity will be destroyed and it will ultimately be done in by Picard’s hand.  Will Picard be able to save humanity once again?

I’ve often thought about the choice of time periods.  There were a lot of other things that the series could have done.  They could have gone back to Picard’s time on the Stargazer.  They could have gone back to just after Picard graduated from the academy, as per Tapestry.  Ultimately, that could have gotten too muddled.  Instead, we have a nice set of bookends.

The future does make for more humorous notes, like Data using a skunk for a toupee.  (Well, not really, but his housekeeper seems to think so.)  We also get to see one possible future where Riker and Worf aren’t talking to each other.  Most of the characters have aged, some better than others.

There are a few questions that I’ve had, such as the anomaly growing bigger in each timeframe, despite being bigger in the past.  I suppose this could be accounted for by the fact that each timeline is separate.  The big question people have asked is why there are three Enterprise-like beams in the anomaly when one of them should have been from the Pasteur.  While it’s true that Data never said they were all definitely from the Enterprise, we don’t actually see the Pasteur sending any energy beam into the anomaly.  When Picard and Co. make it to the Anomaly, it’s on the Enterprise.  I would think that it’s more probable that a beam would have emanated from that ship.

One thing I had to wonder is what the universe would have looked like had the anomaly run its course. Q stated that it was supposed to wipe out humanity, even going so far to show Picard early Earth and the goo that would have hosted the first proteins.  If humanity never existed, would the Federation or something like it still have formed?  (For that matter, the anomaly is pretty big way in the past.  How did it affect only Earth?)

You’d probably want to watch the rest of the series first.  (I mean, really.  Who watches the series finale first?)  This episode would probably be a little confusing without a good deal of knowledge.  Fans will probably pick up La Forge’s mention of Leah, a probable reference to Leah Brahms.  I have to wonder, though, as Leah Brahms was a little creeped out by Geordi’s behavior, and rightfully so.  Either she’s gotten over it or he has a thing for women named Leah.

I will say that of all the finales for the modern Star Trek series, this was probably my favorite.  I never really liked what they did with Deep Space Nine.  I felt that having everyone go in separate directions was somewhat forced.  Voyager was exactly what you’d expect.  They’d be some big push to get the ship home, which would just barely work.  It would only come down to details.  As for Star Trek: Enterprise, they never really got the finale they deserved.  (Also, can someone explain to me exactly what the heck happened?  Were they trying to imply that the entire series was Riker’s doing?  He must have been spending way too much time in the holodeck.)

IMDb page

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 176 (Preemptive Strike)

WARNING:  I’m going to give away the ending to this episode.  If you don’t like spoilers, you might want to hold off reading this review.

Life was never easy for Ro Laren.  She was a Bajoran born during the Cardassian occupation of her home planet.  She was kicked out of Starfleet for not following orders, then brought back in for a mission of questionable morality.  When she disobeyed orders again, she was kept on the Enterprise.  Just when things were going well, Ro Laren, now a lieutenant, is given a mission to infiltrate a Maquis cell.

Who are the Maquis, you ask?  They came about after the Cardassians annexed the planets they were on as a result of a peace treaty.  Their goal is to fight back to the mistreatment they receive from the Cardassian government.  They are still Federation citizens, but choose to live in what is now Cardassian territory.  The Cardassians claim that the Federation is arming them, which the Federation denies.  (The Federation makes similar claims against the Cardassians, which the Cardassians deny.)

Being that Lt. Ro doesn’t like the Cardassians, it’s going to be a difficult mission for her.  She’ll be working against people who share her interests.  She claims she can do it; she wants nothing more than to prove herself to Captain Picard.  She soon realizes that it’s not so easy.  The leader of the cell is a man named Macias.   The more she deals with him, the more she comes to like and respect him.  He eventually becomes a father figure.

The longer Ro stays, the more conflicted she becomes.  Picard eventually has to threaten her with another court martial to get her to complete the mission.  It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Ro eventually defects to the Maquis, leaving Picard so mad that he can’t even talk to Riker in the final scene of the episode.

When I first saw the episode, I remember wondering why the writers would have a recurring character defect.  It kind of makes more sense now that I’ve had time to think about it.  We get the emotional impact of an established character leaving without having to sacrifice one of the main characters.

The writers would also have needed someone who is used to making tough choices.  On the one hand, the Maquis are getting more aggressive by this point.  So far, they’ve been taking defensive stances, warding off an aggressor.  Now, they’re looking to go on the offensive, possibly attacking the Cardassians.  On the other hand, it’s not so easy to be dispassionate about a group when you go to live with them.  It’s even harder when they agree with you from the onset.

Sure, any Bajoran could have been used.  However, useing a new character wouldn’t have had the same impact.  Her actual history keeps the lying to a minimum.  However, she owes Picard a lot.  This actually seems like the perfect story arc for Ro Laren.  If I had to write a way out for her myself, it probably would have looked something like this.

The Maquis was never really The Next Generation’s thing.  It was used more on Deep Space Nine, which dealt more with Bajorans and Cardassians.  The shame is that we never see Ro Laren again in any of the TV shows.  It would have been interesting to have heard from her on Deep Space Nine.  Instead, we’re left to assume.  Interestingly, the character of Ro Laren was supposed to be Deep Space Nine’s first officer.  When Michelle Forbes didn’t want to join the cast, the part was rewritten as Kira Nerys.

I do recommend watching the episode.  For those that are watching on Netflix or on the season sets, you’re going to want to wait to see this one.  There were so many things over the previous three seasons that led up to this.  You don’t necessarily have to have watched DS9 to understand the episode.  It’s fairly self-contained in that respect, but you probably should have some background with The Next Generation to fully understand what’s going on.

IMDb page

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 175 (Emergence)

It seems that there are two times when things go wrong on The Enterprise: during a routine mission and during some critical state of an important mission. In this episode, The Enterprise is on a routine mission. Picard and Data are in the holodeck when the nearly get run over by the orient express. That, alone, is troubling since the holodeck is supposed to have safety protocols to prevent injury and also Picard had called for the program to end several times. What’s puzzling, though, is that they’re running a Shakespearean program. They shut the holodecks down while repairs can be made.

Later, The Enterprise jumps to warp and comes out of warp a minute later. No one can offer an explanation except to say that had The Enterprise not jumped to warp, it might have been destroyed. Coincidence? It must have been. There isn’t anything about the ship that would make it do that on its own.

This leads to the discovery of several strange nodes throughout the ship. Also strange is the fact that the holodeck is still running. Data, Troi, and Worf enter and investigate to find the Orient Express still running. Onboard is a strange set of characters. There’s the conductor and engineer, who both belong, but there’s also a knight and a Chicago-style gangster. (If you look closely, many of the characters resemble characters from previous episodes. The knight and gangster may be references to the original series.)

The Orient Express is on its way to a place called Vertiform City. (It’s later realized that the ship needs a particle with a similar name.) There seems to be a direct relation between the holodeck program and the Enterprise. When the train stops, the ship stops. When the program experiences an earthquake, the ship also shakes.

Eventually, the crew realizes that the ship is trying to create a new life form. Should they try to stop it? Should they let it go on? They decide to let it develop. At the end of the episode, Data is worried about unleashing an unknown life form on the universe. Picard tells Data that the life form was created out of the ship’s programs, the crew’s logs and so on. How bad could such a life form be?

Parts of the episode seemed contrived. At the very least, the writers could have come up with a better name for Vertiform City. The concept of the Orient Express is explained, at least in part, by Dr. Crusher who notes that all sorts of people could meet there. There’s also a reference to Prospero, who could sense his career winding down and wanting to go out with a bang. (This is the third-to-last episode of the series.)

The episode starts to make sense when you look at many of the parts. I was going to bash the episode in this review, but I started to realize things as I was writing it. In a way, that’s the fun of a lot of the episodes. You could go back and watch this episode several times and start to pick things up. I’d definitely recommend that you buy this episode if you’re looking to buy them on tape. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 174 (Bloodlines)

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

One of the problems with continuity is that it’s sometimes a stretch. In the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, we learned that Captain Picard had commanded a ship called the Stargazer long before taking command of the Enterprise and while commanding the Stargazer, Captain Picard ordered the destruction a Ferengi ship. Picard claims it was in self-defense, but the destroyed ship’s daimon (the Ferengi equivalent of a captain) had a father (also a daimon) who wanted revenge. After a failed attempt to get his revenge, he was stripped of his command own command and sent to prison.

That brings us to this episode. Apparently, Bok bought his way out of prison and is trying once again to get revenge. He’s using a holographic representation of himself to tell Picard that he knows about Picard’s son. Picard is somewhat mystified since he has no children. After some thinking, Picard realizes that the child that Bok referred to might be the result of a relationship he had with a woman about 28 years ago. She did have a child, Jason Vigo, who is about 27 now. Picard tracks him down and has him beamed aboard the Enterprise. Unfortunately, the mother died a few years ago and only told Jason that his father was in Starfleet.

Dr. Crusher performs a test, which reveals that the two really are father and son. Picard has to figure out how to protect someone that seems resistant to that help. Mostly, Jason is resistant to Picard. He grew up not knowing his father and seems to resent the intrusion now. He doesn’t want to be held on the Enterprise and doesn’t like having security guards follow him everywhere. Then, there’s the issue of how Bok is performing his tricks. He can seem to appear and disappear at will. Obviously, this presents a very big hole in security.

In the end, it turns out that Bok had actually manipulated Jason’s DNA to make it look like he was Picard’s son. It was all an attempt to make Picard feel the pain of losing a son. It’s obvious that Jason’s mother had another relationship. (Whether or not he was in Starfleet is up for debate.) I had to wonder if Picard was mistaken about the timeline or if Jason’s mother had two relationships within a few months of each other. The exact dates were never mentioned.

This was one of the better episodes. One of the major issues that comes up throughout the series is the balance between family and career. A lot of the episode deals with Picard getting to know a son he never knew he had. It’s not easy to meet your father and find out that someone’s out to kill you at the same time. I think what I like best is that it didn’t really rely too much on Bok. Another character could have just as easily been used. However, there are those that don’t give up.

I think that this episode was well placed near the end of the series. With the show nearing its end, I don’t think the writers could have a story that looked to the future. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 173 (Firstborn)

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

Worf is a Klingon and proud of it. Klingons are a warrior people with a long, proud tradition. Being a Klingon parent, Worf wants his son to grow up with said Klingon traditions. Unfortunately, Alexander doesn’t want to grow up as a Klingon. Alexander spent the first few years of his life with his mother, K'Ehleyr, who was half human. (Alexander is 3/4 Klingon and 1/4 Human.) She didn’t particularly embrace Klingon traditions and values and passed this sentiment on to her son.

It hasn’t been easy for Worf to instill Klingon values in Alexander. It comes to a head in this episode when Worf wants to have a talk with Alexander about the first Klingon Right of Ascension. The First Right of Ascension is a coming-of-age ceremony where a Klingon dedicates himself to the ways of the warrior. Alexander has the right to refuse to undergo this, but if he doesn’t do it before his thirteenth birthday, he can never do it.

Alexander finally becomes excited when he and Worf visit a Klingon outpost that the Enterprise happens to be near. There’s a festival underway, which would be a good way for Alexander to see part of what it means to be Klingon. Alexander does get excited about his Klingon heritage and has a chance to meet other Klingons his own age. However, when Alexander and Worf are heading home, several Klingons attack them. Another Klingon comes to the rescue. He identifies himself as K’Mtar, who Worf recognizes.

K’Mtar is a trusted member of Worf’s house. (Here, house is used in the sense of noble family.) Worf’s brother, Kern, sent K’Mtar to protect Worf and Alexander. The word is that the Duras sisters are out to assassinate someone in Worf’s house. (The Duras sisters are members of a rival house.) The Enterprise eventually tracks them down. When presented with the evidence, one of the sisters notices something strange. Eventually, the truth comes out. For the sake of not ruining it, I won’t give it away. However, Worf and Alexander seem to come away understanding each other a little better.

The latter part of the final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation had a sort of lame-duck feel to it. The series got to end on its own terms, which meant that everyone knew that the end was coming. You can see it in a few other episodes. They all seem to be preparing for the final episode, which ties everything together.

Here, the acting was pretty good, as was the script and the sets. However, they weren’t great. When K'Ehleyr and worf were together, they served as great foils for each other. It took a while for Alexander to fill that role. In previous episodes, he always appeared a little out of place in the episode. Even in this episode, Alexander seemed a little awkward. The character was just about where he needed to be, but not quite. (Alexander appeared in a few episodes of Deep Space Nine, but was played by a different actor and had started to accept his role as a warrior.)

It’s a good episode, but not excellent. It’s somewhere between three and four episodes, not really average but not really above average. I’m more inclined to give it three stars.

IMDb page

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 172 (Journey's End)

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

Way back in the first few seasons of The Next Generation, it seemed like Wesley Crusher was always there to save the day. It earned him a bad reputation because it seemed like this teenage kid knew more about the ship than all of the engineering personnel on the flagship of the Federation. Eventually, it came time for Wesley to go of to Starfleet Academy. It seemed like the natural progression of the character. However, things may not have been what they seemed.

In “Journey’s End,” Wesley returns to the Enterprise as the ship is about to go to the newly formed demilitarized zone, or DMZ. In a treaty with the Cardassians, the Federation handed over several colonies. The residents of those colonies have to be relocated before the Cardassians can properly claim their new property and start surveying it. The trouble is that the residents of one of the planets don’t want to leave. Even though they’ve been there for only 20 years, they feel an attachment to the land.

The Enterprise has been sent there to mediate things and see if he can get the colonists to leave. Picard is to use whatever means he sees fit to remove them. Wesley sees what’s going on and feels that it’s wrong. He openly defies the captain and makes things worse. Picard calls Starfleet Academy and finds out that this isn’t unusual; Wesley has been acting up in class lately. Upon being questioned about it, Wesley admits that he’s dreading his graduation from the Academy. He doesn’t want to be in Starfleet.

A solution is worked out that isn’t exactly what Starfleet expected, but is acceptable to everyone. I don’t want to give away how the episode ends. What I will say is that you have to have seen the rest of the series prior to this episode to fully understand it. I don’t think someone could fully understand Wesley’s history by being told. There are several aspects of the series that come into play in this episode. Also, this episode sets up episodes of Deep Space Nine and hints at the series Star Trek: Voyager. This episode is not for the casual viewer.

The writing for this episode is great. Captain Picard is given a difficult problem. Like Wesley, he also knows that what he’s been ordered to do is morally wrong and the admiral giving him the orders argued against it. However, Picard has too much invested in his career to risk it over this. Even if he did, Starfleet could simply find another captain to command the Enterprise.

I’d give this episode four stars. As I said, it’s not for everyone, but someone collecting the episodes on VHS should buy this one. I’d say that it’s not really essential, but has a high replay value.

IMDb page

Friday, November 17, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 171 (Genesis)

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

Those that have watched Star Trek: The Next Generation are familiar with Lieutenant Reginald Barclay. He’s recurring character that’s a hypochondriac who usually assumes the worst. He reports to sickbay reporting symptoms of yet another deadly disease. Dr. Crusher gives him a shot to activate some sort of latent RNA. Meanwhile, Spot is expecting kittens and soon. (Spot is Data’s cat.) It turns out that Nurse Ogawa is also expecting.

On the bridge, the crew is testing out upgrades to the weapons systems. Captain Picard and Data have to take a shuttlecraft to retrieve an errant photon torpedo. When they return, they find that the ship has gone to the animals – literally. It seems that something about the shot that Dr. Crusher gave to Barclay did more than she expected. It spread to the entire crew, causing them to turn into less-evolved creatures. Even spot has turned into an iguana.

Data is immune to it, but Picard soon realizes that the same fate will eventually befall him. When Data notices that Spot’s kittens have not been affected, he realizes that Nurse Ogawa might provide a solution for the rest of the crew. Unfortunately, they have to deal with a de-evolved Worf, who’s hot for Counselor Troi and is willing and able to pound his way through anything that stands between them. Fortunately, Data saves the day, finding a cure that can be spread through the air. Everyone returns to normal and Barclay even gets a disease named after him.

There are a few minor problems. First, it looked like Spot’s kittens, while unharmed, hadn’t been fed for a while. It would have been nice, at the end of the episode, to see Data holding a litter of kittens saying how everything worked out. I realize that it’s a minor point, but a lot of people seem to bring this up. However, Spot’s gender is firmly established. In previous episodes, Data had referred to her as either her or him.

Also, how is it that Spot turned into an iguana? Supposedly, the disease affected parts of human (and non-human) DNA that held the genetic codes that we had accumulated over eons of evolution. Even if cats and iguanas do have a common ancestry at some point, I don’t think that Spot would have access to the genetic code for iguanas. Theoretically, Spot should have turned into a less-evolved feline. (On that note, Troi should have had access to two sets of species to de-evolve into since she’s half Betzoid.)

One thing that caught my attention was that Nurse Ogawa was pregnant. Granted, it was necessary to give Data something to work with, but how is it that she goes from being uncertain about her boyfriend a few episodes ago to having his child? There are over a thousand crewmembers, presumably half of which are female. Out of 500 women, Nurse Ogawa is the only one that’s pregnant?

It’s a great episode that’s hampered by a few too many mistakes. If you can get past these things, it’s an enjoyable episode. I’d say that regular viewer and new viewer alike could watch this episode. As much as I liked it, though, I can’t give it more than three stars. There are just too many gaps in the story.

IMDb page

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 170 (Eye of the Beholder)

WARNING:  I’m going to give away the ending of the episode.  If you haven’t watched it, please take note.

Lt. Daniel Kwan seemed like such a normal person.  Then, he jumped into a plasma stream.  His last words were, “I know what I have to do.”  This leads Worf, chief of security, and Troi, ship’s counselor and resident empath, to investigate.  There seems to be no reason why Kwan did what he did.  He was happy.  He had a girlfriends.   He even had a hot date with her to look forward to.  Why did he have to do what he did?

Troi comes to have an empathic vision of a couple kissing, then subsequently laughing at her, or whoever she’s standing in for.  The only other person she sees is a man in a Starfleet uniform.  She follows the clues and finds that the man, named Lt. Walter Pierce, worked at Utopia Planitia, which is where the Enterprise was built, as did Kwan.  Coincidence?  Probably.  Kwan arrived a few months after Pierce left.

It turns out that the entire thing was a hallucination.  Well, most of it.  I’m not exactly sure, but Pierce murdered the couple that Troi saw, then committed suicide, himself.  All three of them went missing.  Pierce was part Betaziod and left some sort of cellular residue that both Kwan and Troi picked up on.  Much of the episode passed in a few seconds.

There are a few things that bother me about the episode.  First, it’s very subdued.  Since the episode starts with suicide, there could probably be more dealing with the motivations of why someone would do this.  Instead, it’s mostly the obligatory, “but he was so happy.”  Why does everyone always say this?  Because Kwan had a lot going for him, does that mean that he can’t be unhappy?  There was no mention of possible mental illness.

If someone is a miserable loser, does it follow that they must commit suicide?  You never see anyone asking why someone hasn’t jumped yet.  The natures of depression and suicide are far more complicated than that.  No one mentions this.  I’m not a psychologist nor have I ever had such impulses.  It would have been nice to get some understanding about it.  Instead, the episode treats suicide as nothing more than a plot point.

Also, the ending was a little confusing.  I’ve seen the episode several times and I’ve never been certain how much of the episode was in Troi’s head.  Was it from the first visit?  Was it from the second?  How much of the episode was for our benefit?

This was near the end of the final season for The Next Generation.  I’m not sure if the writers were trying to stretch out the season or if they had senioritis.  The writing here could have been a lot better.  This episode had so much potential.  The whole dream thing is kind of cliché at this point.  If you’re going to do it, at least do it well.  This episode could easily be skipped without much loss.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 169 (Masks)

With television series, there’s no promise that every episode is going to be perfect.  Occasionally, one or two episodes will hit it out of the park.  Everything comes together just right.  Others are more of a perfect storm.  You realize that each element of the episode ultimately detracts from the whole.  Masks was such an episode for Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The Enterprise finds what they assume to be a comet that they age at 87,000,000 years.   Some sensor feedback catches them off guard, but it doesn’t seem to do any damage to the ship.  The only indication that anything is off is Counselor Troi finding an ornamental statue in her quarters.  From there, things get stranger.  Various parts of the ship are transformed.  More of those ornamental items pop up throughout the ship.  Strange icons appear on display screens.  Oh, and Lt. Cmdr. Data starts to display multiple personalities.

When the Enterprise hits the comet with a phaser beam, the comet disintegrates revealing some sort of computer archive.  It’s responsible for all of the strange happenings on the ship.  Presumably, some ancient civilization built it 87,000,000 years ago and sent it out into space.  Eventually, the bridge crew is able to figure out that Data’s main personality is some sort of sun goddess.

By activating the archive’s program for the moon good, maybe they can end whatever’s going on.  What they get is a mask similar to one that Data made earlier.  Picard decides to wear the mask and try to bluff his way past the sun goddess.  He knows enough about archaeology that he’s able to make the program end, thus returning the ship to normal.

A great many things bother me about the episode.  In fact, the more I look for answers online, the more questions I come up with.  For starters, 87,000,000 years is a long time.  By comparison, the Earth’s age is in the billions.  Recoded history is something like 5,000 years.  It’s conceivable that a planet was able to form with life evolving quickly and so forth, but how could a civilization develop to where they could have launched something so complex so long ago?

For that matter, why would they go through the trouble if building the thing only to have it replicate primitive artifacts?  Wouldn’t it have been easier to download information into the ship’s computer?  Wouldn’t they have had more information like scientific developments or a detailed account of their history?  I mean, I’m assuming that it’s supposed to be an archive to preserve their culture.  Any way you look at it, having Data act out several personalities is a bit odd.

That brings me to another point:  What if Data hadn’t been on that ship?  It’s possible that if the archive hadn’t found a proper receptacle for the personalities, nothing would have happened.  It’s also possible that the bridge crew would have been screwed.  You’d have the ship transforming into some sort of ancient city with no way of stopping or reversing it.

Another thing that occurred to me is that if the ship had had several androids, would each android gotten its own set of personalities or would all of them have become the sun goddess?  It is possible that the creators of the archive intended another android or suitable equivalent to become the mood god.  (On that note, could you imagine the Borg finding the archive?)

The episode bears a striking resemblance to Inner Light.  In both episodes, one character is chosen by a probe of some sort to receive information from a lost civilization to carry on knowledge of that civilization.  Both characters get an artifact as a memento.  The Inner Light was a great episode, mostly because of the emotional connection.  Masks was the opposite mostly because there’s no real connection to the story.  This episode looks like a rejected idea for Inner Light, in fact.  I could see something like this eventually becoming a decent episode except that it was already done.

IMDb page

The episode is never referenced again on The Next Generation or in any of the subsequent series.  We don’t even know if this is how the archive is supposed to behave.  We’re left to assume that it is, but it could easily have been a glitch.  Being that the archive was 87,000,000 years old, it’s impressive that it worked at all.  It would have been interesting to have an episode of Deep Space Nine or Voyager come across the planet that launched the archive, as both series dealt with distant parts of our galaxy.  Then again, it’s probably just as well to forget about it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 168 (Thine Own Self)

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

There are a lot of Star Trek episodes that actually do pretty well in conveying a message. Others simply mean well. I think that this is one of the latter kind.

Counselor Troi returns from a class reunion to find Dr. Crusher on the bridge. As chief medical officer, Crusher isn’t required to stand watch on the bridge, but she does want to. Normally, Data would be standing watch that shift, but he’s away on a mission to retrieve some radioactive material. It gets Troi thinking of what it was like when she had been in command a while ago.

Her rank is lieutenant commander. To be promoted to Commander, she’d have to take the bridge officers test. After talking it over with Commander Riker, she decides to go for it. She passes most of the tests; the only exception is the engineering qualification. She can’t seem to figure out how to keep the ship from blowing up. It’s only with a slight nudge from Commander Riker that she’s able to finally pass.

Meanwhile, Data has crashed on the planet that he was supposed to get the material from. The society there is pre-industrial, which means that Data isn’t supposed to have any contact with them. However, he wanders into one of the villages carrying a case containing the radioactive material and no memory of who he is. He can also read the word, radioactive, but has no idea of what it means.

The case is opened and half of the material is distributed around town. Pretty soon, many of the people in the village come down with radiation poisoning. Data is able to create a cure, which he puts in the village’s only water supply right before he is apparently killed. Riker and Crusher go to the planet and find Data buried about two meters below the surface. They beam both Data and the radioactive material back to the Enterprise. They’re able to repair Data, who has no memory of what happened after the crash.

First off, we have Skoran, played by Michael G. Haggerty. He’s the blacksmith who buys Data’s metal. He’s also the one that leads an angry mob of villagers once people start to blame Data. There’s just something about an angry mob that seems too easy. It’s like the writers need a threat to Data, or at least some sort of time limit. (Data has to cure the village before the mob destroys him.) It works in this episode, but I generally don’t like it.

Also, Data seems to have patch memory while on the planet. He seems to know that there’s more to science than what the villagers know about it. He’s able to find a cure using an empirical method. However, he doesn’t know what radioactive means and he doesn’t recognize his own name, even when someone says it in front of him. (Someone says, “I want to examine your data in detail.” It didn’t seem to phase data.)

Also, Data is told that he’s ‘obviously’ an iceman based on his appearance. The village’s doctor/scientist/teacher seems to know quite a bit about science and is able to ‘deduce’ this. The village’s level of scientific understanding seems to be a joke about primitive science and how wrong it was to think that way. Her speech about scientific understanding is similar to a Saturday Night Live skit with Steve Martin where he’s a medieval doctor. (Martin’s character said that in his father’s time, a patient’s illness would have been attributed to demonic possession, but he now knows that it’s probably a small imp or gnome in the lower intestine.) On a similar note, Data’s repetition of the ‘fact’ that he’s an iceman is similar to his saying that he was a Frenchman in time’s arrow.

I’m going to have to say three stars for this episode. It’s too bad that Troi didn’t get a promotion until so late in the series. It would have been interesting to have had the chance to use this in later episodes, but it isn’t to be. It is, however, the second of two back-to-back stories involving a promotion. (We have three promotions over the span of two episodes.) I really don’t think that someone who’s never seen the series before would enjoy the episode as much as someone who’s seen the entire series. (This seems to be common among seventh-season episodes.) At this point, I could recommend buying this episode on VHS to a fan of the show, but I think that most people would be better off considering the seventh-season set of DVD. 


Monday, November 13, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 167 (Lower Decks)

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

Every so often, there’s an episode of The Next Generation that at least mentions crew reviews, but we rarely ever get to see those crewmembers that are affected by those decisions. In “Lower Decks”, there are four ensigns that are worried about their crew reviews. One is Nurse Ogawa, who finds out a little early that Dr. Crusher is recommending her for a promotion. Two other ensigns find out that they’re competing for the same promotion. (One of them is Sito Jaxa, who was in “First Duty”.) There’s also Taurik, who’s apparently not up for a promotion, but is a friend of the other three.

Things get complicated when an escape pod is found adrift in Cardassian space. It’s just close enough that if the transporter is pushed a little beyond its limit, the occupant can be safely beamed aboard. Everything about it is top secret. With the episode done from the perspective of the four ensigns, it isn’t until later in the episode that the audience finds out what’s going on: it was a Cardassian who was in that escape pod. Ogawa is the first to find out when she’s called in to sickbay to help. Sito is the second to find out when she’s asked to pilot the shuttle that takes the Cardassian home. It’s a risky mission, but Sito volunteers for it. (Taurik figures some details about the mission, but isn’t told anything.)

I don’t really want to go into how the episode ends. I don’t think that it’s necessary. It’s an interesting episode that deals with crewmembers of a lower rank. The only problem that I had with it was that it seemed like a token episode. Ogawa is the only one of the four ensigns that had any real history. Sito may have been used because the writers needed someone with her background. I have to admit that it was convenient to have that character there. However, she had been on the Enterprise for seven months and this was the first we had seen of it. Granted, this is one of the final ten episodes, but it would have been nice if we could have seen more of the other two ensigns.

Those that have never seen the series before might find the story interesting, but will probably have some questions. Sito Jaxa’s history is explained, but those watching this as their first Next Generation episode won’t really know the significance of who she is. There’s also the history between the Federation and the Cardassians as well as the relationship between the Bajorans and the Cardassians. Again, someone would be able to follow the story and infer many of the details. However, I don’t think I could necessarily recommend this as your first Trek episode.

I definitely recommend this to people that have an understanding of the Trek universe. It looks like the writers were trying to have some continuity in the final half of the last episode and this episode does do well. It also does well with the writing and acting. I’d say that this is one of the better episodes. I’d give it four stars. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 166 (Sub Rosa)

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

I’m a big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation. However, even The Next Generation had a few episodes that were so bad as to be totally beyond my understanding. “Sub Rosa” is just such an episode.

Dr. Crusher is attending the funeral of her grandmother on a planet with a Scottish feel to it. During the funeral, she sees a strange man place a flower on the coffin. This isn’t just any flower, though; it happens to be her grandmother’s favorite flower. Crusher finds out that the man’s name is Ronin and that he was her grandmother’s lover. She was 100 and he appears to be in his thirties. That’s not all. He appears to be interested in a candle that’s been passed down from generation to generation. Specifically, he wants to keep it lit, despite warnings from someone else.

You see, as long as the candle is lit, Ronin can take corporeal form. This is what allows him to have great sex with Dr. Crusher and, presumably, her late grandmother. Crusher has been manipulated by Ronin and is even willing to leave Starfleet to stay with him. Eventually, a rational explanation is figured out, but Dr. Crusher has to come to the realization on her own: Ronin is an anaphasic life form that’s been using the Howard women for many generations. Crusher is the first one to have the sense to overcome his manipulation and do something about it.

There are a lot of problems with this episode. First, the feel of the episode is different. I’m not just talking about the film quality, either. With the exception of Dr. Crusher, the main characters seem to be going through the motions. That leaves Gates McFadden to carry the story. She does have a few good episodes, but this isn’t one of them. There are several scenes that require a lot of her and she doesn’t seem to be able to pull it off well. It’s either too flat or too much.

Also, a few people have brought up the issue of the Howard name being passed down. I’m searching for an explanation, myself. It seems odd that the name would be passed down for whatever reason and then, Dr. Crusher would change her name, especially considering that most doctors keep their names if the maiden name is on their degrees.

Also, Dr. Crusher doesn’t have a daughter. Even if Ronin had managed to convince Crusher to stay, he’d have a lot of explaining to do when it came time to turn to Wesley. (I think at one point during the development of the show, Wesley was actually female. I wouldn’t have had this issue had that happened. However, Wesley does ‘ascend’ at one point, so Ronin would still be out of luck.)

This is a one-star episode if ever I saw one. The episode seems like a cross between a cheesy Halloween episode and amateur soft-core porn. The ‘sex’ scenes with Crusher and Ronin are so over the top, it’s almost ridiculous. I came away from this episode asking myself if this was really a Star Trek episode or if someone had put me on. Do not buy this episode. If it comes on TV, don’t watch it. If you have the season set, skip this episode. It’s that bad. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 165 (Homeward)

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

WARNING: I’m going to give away major details about this episode that will probably ruin it for you. If this bothers you, don’t read this review.

You’ve been warned…

The Prime Directive is a rule that prohibits any Starfleet officer from interfering with the natural development of a planet. (Usually, this only applies to planets that don’t have warp drive, but there have been exceptions.) When the Enterprise responds to a distress call, they find that Worf’s adoptive brother, Nikolai Rozhenko, has made himself known to a population that he was supposed to be observing from a distance. He had the good sense to surgically alter himself, but it still would seem like a violation of the Prime Directive.

The reason for the distress call was that the planet’s atmosphere is about to go bad and the entire population of the planet will die. Nikolai wants to at least save the one tribe that he’s been watching. However, Captain Picard will have no part of it. Not one to take no for an answer, Nikolai beams the tribe up and puts them in a holodeck recreation of their planet. Picard is upset, but there’s not much that anyone can do about it.

Once a new planet is found for them, the Enterprise is off. The terrain in the holodeck is changed to match the terrain of the new planet as the group travels through caves and up to the surface. Things get complicated when one of the people, the tribe’s chronicler, wanders off and out of the holodeck. He finds his way to Ten-Forward, where Commander Riker and Counselor Troi see him walk in. Knowing that this is really bad, they try their best to contain the situation.

However, his memory can’t be wiped which means that he’ll either have to go back to his tribe knowing what he knows or he’ll have to stay on the Enterprise. Ultimately, he decides that he can’t go back to the tribe. He wouldn’t be able to tell anyone, but he wouldn’t be able to keep the secret, either. He ends up committing suicide rather than have to live in exile.

The tribe makes it to their new home. Nikolai decides to stay with them. Some of it probably has to do with the fact that his career is over. However, most of it has to do with the fact that he’s going to have a child with one of the women in the tribe.

The story is primarily a story about the Prime Directive, which is nothing new. The Enterprise can’t interfere in the natural development of a culture. However, isn’t it equally as wrong to let them die? They can’t save the entire planet, but they can at least save one tribe.

It also ends up being adoptive brother against adoptive brother. Worf was always the honorable, noble brother while Nikolai was the emotional, selfish one. Nikolai attended Starfleet Academy, but dropped out after a year. He always seemed to be getting into trouble that someone else had to get him out of. (On that note, Nikolai will have a lot of explaining to do when the child is born.) This sort of relationship is kind of cliche, especially when the two brothers come to some sort of mutual understanding or compromise. I didn’t find this to be an exception.

Speaking of when the child will be born, one of the problems with this episode being so late in the series is that there is no chance to follow up on it. Since Worf transferred to Deep Space Nine, there was at least some remote possibility that he might go back to visit his adoptive brother. There was some doubt expressed in the episode as to what might happen to the tribe. It would have been nice to go back in a couple of years and have Worf visit his nephew. (I really do want to know how Nikolai will explain why the child has a less-pronounced nose ridge.)

I’d give this episode three stars. It’s interesting, but not spectacular. It’s basically an episode where the crew of the Enterprise is thrust into a difficult situation and they simply have to take the course laid out for them. I wouldn’t really recommend buying this episode. I don’t really think it’s worth that much to get on VHS unless you can get some sort of great deal on it. 


Friday, November 10, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 164 (The Pegasus)

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

Everybody’s got a deep, dark secret. When Admiral Eric Pressman comes on the Enterprise on a mission regarding the U.S.S. Pegasus, Commander Riker knows that his dark secret has come back to haunt him.

12 years prior, Admiral Pressman was Captain Pressman, commanding officer of the Pegasus and Commander Riker was Ensign Riker, fresh out of Starfleet Academy. Something happened that caused Pegasus to explode. Pressman, Riker and a few others made it off safely, but they claimed that the ship destroyed. However, Starfleet Intelligence has reason to believe that the Pegasus is still out there and they have a pretty good idea where it is. Starfleet is pretty eager to get it back and they’ve put Pressman in charge of the mission. There is a Romulan ship out there looking for the Pegasus, so there’s a race to find it.

At first, Captain Picard doesn’t think much of the importance of the mission, but becomes suspicious when he calls in some favors and finds out that there was an alleged mutiny on the Pegasus just before its presumed destruction. Picard tries to pump Riker for some information, but Riker is under direct orders from Pressman not to talk about it. Picard is upset about it, but there’s little that he can do about it.

The Enterprise manages to get to the Pegasus first. Riker and Pressman beam over to the Pegasus and retrieve what they want, but shortly after they go back to the Enterprise, the Romulans seal them in. Fortunately, the device that they retrieved from the Pegasus is a cloaking device that uses phasing technology. When hooked up properly, it can make a ship become out of phase with normal matter so that it can pass right through it. Using this technology, the Enterprise is able to escape. (The reason that the mission was so secretive was that there’s a treaty prohibiting the Federation from developing cloaking technology.)

It was an interesting episode. It seems that the seventh season was trying too hard to deal with the main characters’ pasts, but I don’t think that this episode in particular did so. It had more to do with Riker’s involvement in a cover-up. He had hoped that this would never come back to haunt him and after what appeared to be the destruction of the Pegasus, there was a good chance that it wouldn’t. After facing up to what he did, Riker is essentially absolved of much of the guilt. It still doesn’t look good for him, but most of the blame is Pressman’s.

I really don’t know what happened as a result of the events in this episode. The Romulans now know what the Federation did, but there was no mention of what the Federation did with the cloak or what actions the Romulans took against the Federation as a result of what they did. Had this been done a few seasons earlier, there could have been a nice follow-up episode that dealt with it.

I’d say that this episode is worth four stars. It’s definitely one of the better episodes. For someone that hasn’t seen too many Star Trek episodes, this one will still be enjoyable. There really isn’t anything that isn’t mentioned in the episode that you would need to know and not knowing anything about Star Trek won’t really take away from this one too much. However, those that have watched the show will probably be able to understand it a bit more. The Riker that Pressman knew was a lot different than the Riker that Picard chose to be his first officer. It’s interesting to learn more about how the character has evolved. 

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 163 (Parallels)

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

Everyone’s been faced with a decision. Do you eat at McDonalds or Taco Bell? Do you take your umbrella with you or do you leave it at home? In theory, whenever someone is presented with such a choice, all possible outcomes exist. We simply decide which path we’re going to take.

After coming back from a competition, Worf walks into his quarters to find that a surprise birthday party has been thrown for him. That’s when things start to go strange. At first, it’s minor stuff. At first, Worf is told that Captain Picard can’t attend. Moments later, Picard is there. Also, the cake changes color and flavor.

At first, Worf thinks nothing of it, but the changes start to get more bizarre. While in engineering, Data and Chief Engineer La Forge switch places and Picard disappears. Later, a painting suddenly switches to a different wall and Counselor Troi’s clothing changes. Also, Worf had originally won first place in the competition. With each successive change, his rank in the competition gets lower; eventually, his log shows that he didn’t even compete. Something is going on and Worf knows it.

After some investigation, Data finds that Worf must have passed through an anomaly that intersects all possible realities. Whenever Worf came in contact with La Forge’s VISOR, he jumped realties. Data comes up with a plan to get Worf back to his home universe. However, a Bajoran ship attacks the Enterprise and causes the barrier between universes to collapse. Different Enterprises start entering Worf’s universe. Worf is immediately sent into the anomaly and told how to seal the anomaly permanently. With that, he’s sent back to the universe that he should be in.

This was a very interesting episode. Those that have watched the series regularly will recognize many of the turning points that created the various alternate universes. The one in which Riker is captain is the result of Picard being lost in “Best of Both Worlds”. Worf and Troi being married is the result of a different outcome in “Ethics”. Those that have never seen the series before should be able to follow it, but you’ll be missing out on a few things.

The only thing that really bothered me was that towards the end, it was just the various Enterprises that started popping into the universe. It seems odd to me that it would just be that one ship. Even if you were to say that it has to do with Worf serving on the Enterprise, there should be an infinite number of universes. In at least one of them, Worf should have served on a different ship.

I’d give this episode four stars. The acting was done well. Michael Dorn had an unusual job having to shift realities. All of the other actors did well having to adapt to slightly different roles. The story was also well written for the most part. Parallel universes and alternate realities are nothing new. However, the story handled it well and in a consistent manner.

IMDb page

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 162 (Inheritance)

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

Data’s family seemed to grow in small steps over the course of Star Trek: The Next Generation. In the first season, we met his evil twin brother, Lore. Dr. Soong, who created Data and Lore was also mentioned, but we didn’t get to see him until a few seasons later. Now, in the seventh season, we find out that Data had a ‘mother’ of sorts. While trying to help a planet with a core that’s turning solid, Juliana Tainer comes on the Enterprise. She seems surprised that Data doesn’t recognize her. When she tells Data who she is, he seems surprised.

In all of the previous episodes that dealt with Data and his family, there was no mention of her. Data’s memories of that time had been wiped and neither Dr. Soong nor Lore seemed compelled to tell Data about her. It’s because of this that Data is a little suspicious of her claim. He can’t find a marriage certificate, but she and Soong did book passage together to and from the planet where she claims that they were married. Eventually, he has to decide to simply take her word for it.

Not all is as it seems, though. Data has reasons to suspect that she’s an android. His suspicions are proven correct when they beam down to the planet together. She falls and part of her arm falls off. She’s knocked unconscious, but Data is able to get her back to the Enterprise. While looking insode of her, Chief Engineer La Forge finds a chip that contains an explanation from Dr. Soong. Juliana doesn’t know what she is. Soong feels that if she were to know this, she wouldn’t be able to enjoy life to the fullest.

Data has a choice to make: he can either respect Soong’s wishes and not tell her or he can tell her and possibly ruin what’s left of her life. He decides to not tell Juliana, knowing that he would only tell her for person reasons. It simply wouldn’t be fair. When she awakens, Data tells Juliana that she simply broke her arm. Juliana leaves the ship as if nothing is wrong.

This is another one of those episodes that has a few problems. This one has the advantage of being well written, but I find it hard to believe that Juliana had gone this long without being ‘discovered’. It took Data to figure her out. You’d think that someone would have at least suspected. Her body was capable of putting out a false image capable of fooling instruments. However, there are several empathic species. I can’t believe that she either never came in contact with them or that no empath ever suspected anything.

There’s also the issue of the chip. When Data talks to the image of Dr. Soong, Dr. Soong says that Juliana left him. If she left him, how would the chip be updated? It’s possible that the chip could be updated remotely, Dr. Soong foresaw the possibility or that the chip was somehow self-updating.

Overall, I’d say that this episode gets four stars. Both problems were minor problems in my opinion. The acting was good and the overall story was written well. Someone who has never seen The Next Generation probably won’t be able to follow this episode as well as someone who watches regularly. However, it is still enjoyable.

IMDb page