Friday, 22 June 2012

CAPTAIN'S BLOG: TNG 1.6-1.7

Well beyond time for some more instalments from The Next Generation.

1.6) Lonely Among Us

or

‘Today’s episode was brought to you by the letter “P”’

The Mission:
Ferry the ambassadors from two cultures vying for Federation membership to their conference planet. Don’t stick your noses in any alien space clouds on the way.

Planets visited: None as such, but the Enterprise beams up ambassadors from Antica and Selay, the two inhabited planets of the Beta Renner star system, and is taking them to the planet Parliament.

Spatial Effects: There’s a great big blue cloud in space on the way, so, in spite of being on a time-sensitive mission, Picard decides to go and have a quick look. Despite looking like any number of nebulae, the cloud is apparently composed of pure energy. They only take a quick gander, but it’s long enough for an alien intelligence to get scooped up through the sensor beams by mistake.

Alien Life Forms:
Anticans: Mammalian creatures from Antica, with dog-like faces and extended skulls. They are passionately carnivorous, believing the replication of meat to be barbaric; they prefer their dinners to be delivered live to their rooms. They do cook their food, though - they try to get the ship’s chef to cook one of the Selayan delegates.

Selay: Archenemies of the Anticans, the Selay, or Selayans, are reptilian humanoids with green scaled skin, clawed hands and cobra-like heads. They’re snake-people basically, ssssspeaking sssssibilantly. They seems a little more sophisticated than the Anticans, but not by much. They insist on being upwind from their enemies. They later go on a hunting expedition of sorts, with a lasso on a stick. Frankly, both parties of aliens are nutters and the idea of them putting aside their differences and stopping eating each other long enough to actually join the Federation seems unlikely.

The space intelligence: Completely incorporeal, composed of energy that manifests as blue bolts of lightning when it jumps from host to host. Frightened at being removed from its natural habitat, the intelligence leaps from crewmember to crewmember, taking a turn in Worf and Dr Crusher, before it enters the computer system and absorbs enough data to understand where it is and how to use the ship. It accidentally kills a crewman named Singh, before finally merging with Picard.

The Picard Manoeuvre: Weird. He doesn’t get possessed like the others do when the alien jumps to him, but actually seems to merge with it, with parts of his personality coming through. Assuming the intelligence is speaking truthfully, Picard is seduced by the idea of becoming pure energy and existing in space, able to explore the universe (perhaps his meeting with Q has given him some strange ideas). We’re genuinely led to believe that Picard decides to jump ship, using the transporter to convert to energy. It doesn’t take, and he has to come back, entering through the computer system and being reconstituted in the transporter. He has no memory of these events, which is probably for the best.

Number One: Poor Riker gets lumbered with looking after the two alien parties, then tries to lead a very poor attempt at mutiny against his alien-influenced captain. Then Picard takes a sick day and leaves him in charge.

Elementary, my dear Data: Is nuttier than ever in this episode. When Picard considers the mystery of the cloud and the anomalies the alien is causing on the Enterprise, Data takes it as a cue to upload all of the Sherlock Holmes media into his head (just the canon, or all the other stuff too? Is Sherlock Holmes’s Smarter Brother in there? What about Benedict Cumberbatch?) Cue lots of scenes with Data pretending to smoke a pipe and saying “indubitably,” a lot.

Space Bilge: Crewmembers are being possessed by an alien intelligence, and are acting out of character. If only they had a psychic on board to help suss ‘em out. Oh, hang on, they do. Troi hasn’t a clue, though. Picard uses the ingenious technique of signing the computer readout with a ‘P’ when he beams himself back aboard to let the crew know what’s going on. Most glaringly, on a mission to transport to hostile alien races that are on the verge of killing each other, to an urgent conference, Picard elects to take time out to explore a space phenomenon that’s not going anywhere, is totally unknown and ends up putting ship and crew in danger. Twit.

Future Treknology: The PADDs make their first appearance in this episode, prefiguring the iPad by a couple of decades. Replicators make all the food on the ship - no one eats real meat anymore.

Trivia: The Antican leader is named, improbably, as Badar N’D’D according to the script. No, we don’t know how to say that either. He’s played by Mard ‘Gul Dukat’ Alaimo under all that latex. Another familiar face is Colm Meaney, making his second appearance as the as-yet-unnamed O’Brien. We love him.

Verdict: Pretty average. The alien delegates are fun, if silly, and it’s nice to have some less humanoid creatures in the show. The possession plot is clichéd and poorly played out, though. It’s a throwaway sort of episode.





1.7) Justice

or

‘Mission to the Porno Planet’

The Mission:
Take some shore leave (oh dear, this never goes well…)

Planets visited: Rubicun III, an Eden-like planet in a stellar cluster that contains thousands of planets including the recently colonised Strnad system. It’s “unusually lovely” according to Picard.

Alien Life Forms:
The Edo: Humanlike natives of Rubicun III. They’re all young, blonde and bouncy. They’re a hedonistic race of nymphos, who offer themselves sexually to pretty much anyone and “make love at the drop of a hat.” Be careful not to drop your hat in front of the wrong man. They run everywhere, for maximum bounciness. However, they’ve got a mental legal system, which randomly selects punishment zones in which any kind of infraction is punishable by death. This has kept Edo society crime-free for centuries. The Edo are pretty useless as a society, but they’ve had help from:

The Edo God: Vast, multidimensional entity/entities in orbit of the planet. It appears to be somewhere between a life form and a spaceship, existing in multiple locations and dimensions at once. It appears as a translucent blue structure in space. They controlling intelligence seems to be formed of a group of hyper advanced beings, and it views the Edo as its children, and defends them aggressively from interference.

Sexy Trek: Where to start? It’s the planet of the nymphomaniacs. Riker and Tasha have never looked happier.

The Prime Directive:
It’s TNG’s first Prime Directive episode, beginning a long and tedious tradition. Even though the Edo don’t seem to have warp drive, the Enterprise crew have no qualms about contacting them, and they don’t seem to surprised by alien life (Riker has been, ahem, working with them for some time though). But when a local law is broken, everything reaches crisis levels, with Wesley sentenced to death and the crew unable to interfere and save him. However, it certainly sounds like they would have simply broken the Directive eventually if the Edo God hadn’t been threateningly judging them by their own rules. Certainly, the Edo would be a pushover without their God hanging around.

The Boy: Faced with a bunch of horny, nubile young blondes, Wesley freaks out and opts to play ball games. Then he gets arrested for stepping in someone’s greenhouse. He’s pretty brave in the face of imminent execution, however. Everyone is still calling him “the boy.”

The Picard Manoeuvre: He’s the once who tells Wesley to go down to the planet as part of the first away team. He probably thinks the kid will less of an insufferable oik if he gets laid. Picard agonises terribly about whether or not he should break the Prime Directive to save Wesley, and puts off telling Dr Crusher as long as possible. He beams one of the sexy girls up to meet God just so he gets a positive ID on the thing, and the poor girl nearly breaks down.

Elementary, My Dear Data: When the God-sip sends a probe over to the Enterprise, a booming voiced glittery sphere, it identifies Data as a perfect interface medium and knock him out for several hours while talking to him. Data comes to the realisation that he babbles. He seems crestfallen, poor love.

Verdict: The Next Generation is at its worst when trying to be like the original series. Justice is a very TOS-style episode, but filtered through TNG-levels of tedium and po-facedness. It’s far too serious for its own good. Only the Ent-D crew could go to a sex planet and utterly fail to get laid. Picard changes God’s mind with a short platitude. Kirk would have shagged half the female populace before the first ad break then spent five minutes rescuing Wesley before defeating the Edo God with the Corbomite Manoeuvre.

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