Friday, 20 April 2012

CAPTAIN'S BLOG: TNG 1.4-1.5

1.4) The Last Outpost
or

‘Enter the Ferengi’

The Mission:
Recover a stolen energy converter from the mysterious Ferengi, and learn as much about them as possible in the process.

Planets visited: Delphi Ardu IV: class-M, just about, a planet of lightning storms, gigantic crystals and much dry ice. The entire planet was converted into an energy store by the ancient Tkon Empire; it was their outermost territory and is the sole remaining Tkon outpost.

Alien life forms: The Ferengi, after much rumour and nailbiting, finally make their debut and their first contact with the Federation. They’re rubbish.

In fairness, the make-up is impressive, giving them a very distinctive look with enormous ears, livid orange skin, snaggle-toothed mouths and lumpy heads suggesting a different brain structure to humans. However, they spend most of the episode jumping up and down, waving their arms about and squawking. They’re described as supreme capitalists (or Yankee traders by Data), but for all their talk of profit, they seem more concerned with strutting about trying to appear threatening, something that they singularly fail at. The Ferengi were supposed to be a major adversary for the TNG crew, but it’s clear from the outset that this was never going to work.

The Tkon Empire ruled this part of the Galaxy 600,00 years ago, and was tremendously advanced; they had the technology to move stars. Somehow, they still managed to get taken out by a supernova. The last representative, Portal, has existed in suspended animation on Delphi Ardu IV for even longer than that; judging by him, they were pretty much human-looking (he looks a bit weird and wrinkly, but this might just be an attempt to make him look very ancient). He also seems to be telepathic, although he may just have instant access to the information downloaded from the Enterprise.

Trivia: The name Ferengi comes from firinji, an Arabic word that has spread into many Asian languages and can mean ‘foreigner,’ or, more specifically, ‘European.’ Farang is the Thai word for a white or European person, while the Malay word for foreigner is feringgi.

Future Treknology: The Ferengi ship is pretty cool; it carries the looks of the Ferengi into its design, an orange horseshoe shape. It’s neck seems to be extendable, although this doesn’t come across well in the episode. Their level of technology is pretty much on a par with that of the Federation (later episodes will suggest they bought most of it from other civilisations). The use big blue whips that fire bolts of energy that stun like phasers. The Tkon, on the other hand, have left technology on their planet that is capable of freezing both the Enterprise and the Ferengi ship in orbit and draining their power.

Future History: While this represents the first official contact between the humanity and the Ferengi, subsequent episodes have pushed the date of initial contact back much further. Enterprise has Archer encountering them over two hundred years previously in 2151, while Quark and his family manage to end up in Roswell in 1947 in the DS9 episode ‘Little Green Men.’

The Picard Manoeuvre: Picard’s as cool as a cucumber here, not worrying at all when the Ferengi attack, taking the energy drain in his stride and then taking advantage when the Ferengi think the Enterprise is responsible for the energy drain.

Elementary, my dear Data: Data seems to be experimenting with inappropriate comments in this episode. Judging from his colleagues’ reactions, he’s got it down to a tee. Mind you, Geordi seems a bit mental too. “WOO-WEE!”

Sexy Trek: Ferengi don’t allow their females to wear clothes, because it tempts males to unclothe them - deeply perverted, in Ferengi eyes.

Funny Bits/Space Bilge: Data gets stuck in a Chinese finger trap. This joke is then stretched out for the remaining half of the episode. Why they have a boxful of finger traps on the Enterprise is never explained.

Verdict: Pretty poor, all things considered. It’s a Riker episode, but he does very little, just throws a few Oriental proverbs at Portal which somehow convinces him to spare the ships. The Ferengi make an impression, but not the right kind. The script is dreadful, and the cast seem to be doing their best to lower their standards of acting to match.



1.5) Where No One Has Gone Before

or

‘2364: A Wesley Odyssey’

The Mission:
Test out Kosinski’s revolutionary new warp drive modifications - try not to end up at the edge of the Universe…

Planets visited: None, although Tasha does get a flashback to life on the rapist planet she grew up on.

Galaxies visited:
The first warp experiment sends the Enterprise to M33, aka the Triangulum Galaxy, 2.7 million light years from home. It’s seems to be a primordial place, full of gigantic stars and planets. The next attempt blasts them a billion light years in the other direction, into a bizarre realm full of clouds of unknown matter and sparkling bolts of energy. In this region of the Universe, space, time and thought are intertwined, and the crew’s imaginings and memories come into real existence.

Alien life forms: The Traveller: a native of the planet Tau Alpha C (presumably his people have another name for it), described by Riker as “very distant.” He’s humanoid, with a bulbous forehead and big, three-fingered hands, but his internal physiology is completely different. The Traveller is acting as warp-theorist Kosinski’s assistant, but is actually responsible for the super-fast warp jumps. His people are far in advance of humanity, and have come to understand that there is no boundary between thought and reality. He is possibly from another time, although he speaks as though this concept has little meaning where he is concerned.

Targs: a Klingon animal. Worf conjures up his old pet targ on the bridge. It looks like a warthog with spikes down its back.

Personnel roster: Kosinski is brilliant: completely arrogant and certain of his incomparable genius, convinced that it is his own gibberish theories that are powering the warp jumps. He’s hilarious as he goes around belittling the crew. He really gets Riker’s back up.

Argyle is the Chief Engineer on the Enterprise at the moment. MacDougal has vanished. Argyle is a northern bloke who seems to be TNG’s attempt at their own Scotty.

Boy genius:
Wesley Crusher finally gets some good material. In this episode, he manages to be clever and enthusiastic without being cringe-inducingly irritating. He’s actually really likeable. He gets shot down by both Picard and Riker when he tries to help, but the Traveller sees something special in him (and not just his taste in jumpers). He reckons he is a genius when it comes to the concepts of space, time and propulsion, and instructs Picard to encourage him. The captain makes him acting ensign on this advice.

The Picard Manoeuvre: Picard has a vision of his old mum. She actually sounds French, and not like she’s from Yorkshire, unlike her son.

Sexy Trek: Is the Traveller only interested in Wesley for his great mind? He does have that look in his eye (urgh, you just now there’s some Wes/Traveller slash fiction out there somewhere.)

Verdict: The first genuinely good episode of The Next Generation, this is a perfect example of outlandish space exploration, with some impressive visual effects - the warp jumps, with their swirls of colours and galaxies flying past, are reminiscent of the Star Corridor sequence from 2001. The visions/alternate realities are nicely surreal once they get going (Yar’s is genuinely disquieting). Kosinksi and the Traveller are both memorable guest characters, and Wesley finally feels like he belongs in the show. Great stuff.

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