From this point on, I am likely to review the show as I complete each disc of the box set.
With that in mind, here’s what I thought of disc two, which contained: The Last Outpost, Where No One Has Gone Before, Lonely Among Us and Justice.
1.05 The Last Outpost
Series villains the Ferengi make their on screen debut in this so-so caper.
In pursuit of a Ferengi vessel that is believed to have stolen Federation goods, the Enterprise arrives at Gamma Tauri IV. Both ships suffer crippling power drains, leading away teams to be sent to the planet surface. Upon arrival, both crews find an automated defence system left behind by the ancient – and long extinct – Tkon Empire.
As an introduction to the Ferengi and their ethos, the episode is serviceable yet unremarkable. It could and should have been better.
The early cat-and-mouse chases sequence is done quite well, and there’s some nice conjecture from Data, Riker and others that the Ferengi are a technological equal to the Federation. This leads nicely into a decent back-and-forth between Picard and the Ferengi leader. So far, so decent.
Unfortunately the episode takes a turn for the more ridiculous with the introduction of Portal. Actually, the character itself is okay – but the ‘test’ Riker has to pass at the end if laughable. After accusing humanity of being barbaric (Yes, not five episodes removed from the pilot episode, where they startlingly similar accusations), Portal steps forth and looks prepared to attack Riker. Riker’s response is to simply stand there and quote Sun Tzu at him (“Fear is the true enemy, the only enemy”). Suddenly, all is fine and dandy with Portal and the Enterprise is allowed to be on its way.
The ending feels so rushed that it weakens the whole experience. I understand where they were going with the Sun Tzu references (Riker gives a few quotes throughout the episodes), but it all feels forced. Maybe this would have worked better as two separate stories? Have the first episode be linked to a visit to (or near) the Federation outpost mentioned at the start of the episode, and have the ‘chase’ and the Enterprise’s ensnarement be the cliff-hanger at the end of the episode. The second episode could have been planet focussed, where Portal puts the humans and the Ferengi to the test.
A missed opportunity then, though it does continue the steady improvement in quality from The Naked Now, through Code of Honor and now to this. The Ferengi are handled quite well, and Armin Shimmerman shows the great potential he had at the time in his guest starring role.
The Verdict | Average and flawed, but with potential and a pretty good opening half.
1.06 Where No One Has Gone Before
The Enterprise is visited by propulsion expert Mr. Kosminksi and his alien sidekick, The Traveler. Whilst testing upgrades to the ship’s engines, The Traveler sends the Enterprise and its crew to distant parts of the Universe. At this theoretical ‘Outer Rim’, the crew begin experiencing lifelike hallucinations.
One of the better episodes in TNG’s early run, Where No One Has Gone Before stands out as it presents a storyline that rooted truly is science fiction. It is centred on an alien being with the ability to use thought to manifest propulsion far greater than any physical propellant could. For such a relatively young show, the move to present an episode in the realm of hard sci-fi (or even fantasy, depending on your viewpoint) may be considered ballsy and a risk. That said, it is generally handled well and anchored by some good performances from Stanley Kamel (as the arrogant Kosminski), Eric Menyuk (The Traveler), and of course Patrick Stewart.
One of the recurring themes around early TNG is that how brilliant Wesley allegedly is, and that he has fantastic intellectual potential. Some fans dislike the character, and this episode form a little of the reason why. Too many times in these early episodes does Wesley either observe or correct a problem that a qualified Starfleet officer has missed. In this case, it is only he who notices that it is The Traveler (and not Kosminkski’s upgrades) that propels them to the other side of the Universe. Furthermore, he is the only one that seems to notice The Traveler continually fading in and out of existence during the tests. Wesley is also the guy who works with The Traveler to get the ship home.
Whether the writers of the show should have been more sparing in their ‘Wesley saves the day’ storylines is for another time. In this particular outing, I was more bothered by Riker’s utter dismissal of anything Wesley had to say. It felt a little out of character for an officer portrayed as quite affable and approachable. It was a little jarring, though not episode-breaking.
Despite the above, there is much more to like than dislike going on. For one, the effects used for the Outer Rim are impressively and appropriately ethereal, and definitely worthy of the fantastical plot. Stanley Kamel plays the arrogant-yet-ultimately-naïve Kosminski spot on – you really do want to slap the pompous twit! The juxtaposition of his extrovert (misplaced) confidence and The Traveler’s quiet, calm subversive behaviour brings a refreshing dynamic, particularly in the first half. Of the regulars, Stewart once again leads the way with a good performance, peaking in a late scene where Picard accidentally manifests his long deceased mother (played by Herta Ware).
The script could do with a slight polish in places, but shows great promise of things to come. The pace is fine, and it is directed well.
The Verdict | Worlds away from the underwhelming efforts on disc 1, Where No One Has Gone Before shows exactly what kind of a show TNG could (and would) go on to become. Very good.
1.07 Lonely Among Us
The Enterprise is en route to the planet Parliament for a peace conference involving delegates from the perennially warring Selay and Antican races. During the journey, a non-corporeal alien entity takes possession of various crewmembers, and eventually the ship.
Critics are often quite harsh when reviewing Lonely Among Us, with both the political subplot and Data’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes coming in for strong, though not-universal, criticism.
For what it is worth, I think the episode is a perfectly fine (if silly) filler effort.
The main arc involving the non-corporeal alien is handled fairly well, and makes for an intriguing storyline. Patrick Stewart and Gates McFadden in particular seem to have a fair bit of fun when in their ‘possessed’ states, and it leads to some interesting interactions with the crew. Some of the delivery is over-the-top, but for the time period the show is from I think it is acceptable – if done today, I’d expect a much more subtle shift in character traits.
The subplot involving the Selay and the Antincan delegates was – for me at least – interesting, if not particularly noteworthy (I don’t believe either make another appearance on the show). The costumes are pretty tacky, but in a loveable Original Series sort of way and just adds to the fun. It is also the first time in this iteration of Star Trek that we’ve properly seen a fairly different set of humanoid races (The Traveler in Where No One Has Gone Before is still quite human looking). The whole thing serves as a plot device to enable Data to play out his Sherlock Holmes impression, which I found quite entertaining. Yes, it is silly stuff, but it is also just meant as a bit of light entertainment to break up the episode, whilst giving Data a little character development in the process.
The ending is what will likely seal the deal on opinions of the episode. It involves some really tenuous pseudoscience that results in Picard ‘becoming one’ with the entity and beaming himself into space, only for a combination of Troi and Data to locate and beam Picard’s physical self back to the Enterprise without the entity’s consciousness. It’s pretty ridiculous.
(a generous) 3/5
The Verdict | A tonally split episode that would not be for everyone. This is still entertaining (if filler) fun.
Whilst on shore leave on an idyllic planet, Wesley Crusher is sentenced to death for inadvertently breaking one of the planet’s laws. Captain Picard has to weigh up whether to violate the Prime Directive to save Wesley’s life, whilst also dealing with a mysterious powerful force looming in orbit around the planet.
Justice could have been an amazing episode if produced correctly, maybe even as a two-parter with a cliff-hanger finale. Alas, a few key aspects hold it back.
For those who haven’t seen the episode, one of the Edo children (natives of the planet) throws a ball for Wesley to chase and catch. It overshoots Wesley and the young Crusher blindly chases and leaps for it, leading to him smashing the window of a low lying green house. The choreography of this scene is a bit of a mess. The camera’s perspective is set up in such a way that the audience can see not only what is going to happen, but that Wesley should comfortably avoid it. It makes him look really stupid (which, jokes aside, is massively oxymoronic given how he is portrayed in the show), and this hurts the episode.
That the capital punishment is only enforced is randomly chosen zones (that only the law keeping forces know of) just adds an over complication to what should be a relatively simple intrigue. At the time of Wesley’s accident, the zone they are in is, of course, the active one. It just feels thrown in to add extra tension, when just having the extreme form of punishment would do the trick.
The subplot involving a mysterious near-omnipotent race that the Edo worship as God(s) is okay, but not very well explained or resolved. However, there is a very good scene where an Edo is taken to the Enterprise and shown the entity – promptly causing them to prostrate themselves before the presence of their ‘God’. It is well executed.
Despite my complaints above, the episode is generally pretty good. The ideological conflict between the crew and the Edo presents a moral dilemma for the Captain, and Stewart shines in the role. Gates McFadden also puts in a second good outing in a row too as the near-frenzied mother trying to protect her son.
Ultimately Picard chooses to violate the Prime Directive to take Wesley back, and informs the ‘entity’ of their intention to leave. This decision angered many a Trekkie, but I don’t see how else they could have ended it and kept the status quo on board. It is more frustrating that they backed themselves into a corner in the first place, than Picard actually breaking the prime directive. Still, you’re only eight episodes into a brand new show and you’ve already broken “the one rule that must not be broken”? Hmmm…
The Verdict | Breaking the prime directive was silly, and the cinematography could have been better. Despite these flaws, this is a good episode that has an enthralling ideological debate at it’s core.