Thursday, 18 April 2013

CAPTAIN'S BLOG: TNG 1.10-1.11

Where does the time go? It's way past time I put up some new installments of the Captain's Blog. Here's a TNG one to be going along with, and expect some more TOS very soon.


1.10) Haven
or
‘I Dreamt of a Plague Girl’

The Mission: Sort out the wedding arrangements for the Deanna Troi and her betrothed, Wyatt Miller.

Firsts and Lasts: It’s the first appearance of Lwaxana Troi, Deanna’s mum. Hurray!

Planets visited: Haven, “the Beta Cassius planet.” Presumably that’s the name of its star system. It’s a beautiful class-M planet. It’s a popular tourist destination, and the two parties have chosen it to be the location for the wedding. Legend has it that Haven has miraculous healing properties. The one inhabitant we see - the Electorine, a European-sounding bad actress - is human or humanoid. The planet has a treaty of protection with the Federation.

Alien Life Forms:

Betazoids: Practise arranged marriages, despite professing to be an enlightened culture. Whether Deanna can leave the arrangement isn’t really clear, but she seems to feel duty-bound to go through with it. Betazoids are highly telepathic, communicating psychically almost always; Deanna, who is only half Betazoid, has no trouble thought-speaking with her mother, but can only manage it with humans she is especially close to - like Riker. Betazoids are, due to their open thoughts and telepathy, extremely honest. They’re completely humanoid, but can be distinguished by their dark irises, and seem to have some kind of aristocracy, to which Lwaxana (and, by extension, Deanna) belongs.

Tarellians: Natives of Tarella, the equally humanoid Tarellians were divided into two power blocs that almost wiped each other out in a biological war. A few survivors escaped in spaceships, carrying the terrible plague from the planet but not immediately succumbing to it. They were thought to be extinct - the Alcyones hunted them down - but another ship turns up here, carrying the last survivors of the species. They’ve come to Haven to die.

Mr Homn: A very tall, pasty-looking humanoid who acts as Lwaxana Troi’s aide. He’s immensely strong, is adept in sign language, and can put away booze like a trooper. The only time he speaks is as he leaves: “Thank you for the drinks.”

Sexy Trek: The traditional Betazoid wedding requires that all present be completely naked.

The Picard Manoeuvre: Hilariously wrong-footed by Lwaxana’s in-your-face flirting. It’s great to see the normally unflappable Picard embarrassed like this.

Number One: Isn’t nearly as bothered by all the flirting, or the naked wedding idea, but naturally has problems with Deanna’s marriage plans.

Feeling vine
Elementary, My Dear Data: Sees the big pre-wedding social as wonderful opportunity to observe humanoids and their rituals. He’s visibly fascinated by the blazing arguments. “Could you please continue your petty bickering?”

Trek Stars: Majel Barett-Roddenberry plays Lwaxana. She had, of course, been there from the beginning, as Number One in ‘The Cage,’ became Christine Chapel in the series proper, provided all the Starfleet computer voices from TNG to the 2009 movie (after her death), and was married to Gene Roddenberry. If there’s any one actor who is more a part of Trek’s ongoing story, I cannot think of one.


Future Treknology: Some interesting things pop up in this episode. The wedding invitation that’s beamed aboard is a silver box with a face on it (it’s Armin Shimmerman, who’s already appeared as a Ferengi and will go on to be Quark, although this was recorded early and is actually his first Trek role). It talks and explodes with jewels, which makes Tasha go all girly. The Tarellian ship is pretty cool, a proper spacey-looking thing with a big, purple sphere in the middle. Intriguingly, the Electorine of Haven mentions that it came through their Stargate, but we get no elaboration on this.

Space Bilge: No two people pronounce Tarellian the same way. The pseudo-mystic explanation for how Wyatt and Arianna have dreamt of each other for years is so vague they’d been better off leaving it completely unexplained.

Hair of Tomorrow: My God, the haircuts in this episode! Deanna’s space-age hippy beehive with tail! Lwaxana’s feathered birds’ nest! Wyatt’s sexy romantic man-locks! Tarellian lover-girl’s 80s uber-perm!

Missing: Worf and Wesley take a holiday this week. Not together, I’m sure.

Verdict: Lwaxana Troi is a hoot. Barett and Stewart have some brilliantly uncomfortable scenes together. The storyline is pants, a cod mystical fairytale about destiny and other such things that seem very out of place in Star Trek, but introducing Lwaxana makes up for that.


1.11) The Big Goodbye

or
‘Of Hats and Holograms’



The Mission: Meet with the Jarada foran important diplomatic encounter. Do not get stuck in the… oh, never mind.

Planets visited: None.

Future Treknology: It’s the first proper holodeck episode, which means, of course, that it’s our first holodeck malfunction. Over the course of the next couple of years, the holodeck will usurp the transporter as the most malfunction-prone piece of Treknology, causing all manner of amusing and deadly crises. Safety protocols are supposed to prevent people being hurt or trapped in the holodeck; unfortunately, it seems that safety protocols can fail.

How's it hanging, Dix?
The Picard Maneuvre: Who’d a thunk Picard would be into 40s detective fiction? His choice of holo-adventure is a trip to 1941 Frisco, to play at being Dixon Hill, the eponymous hero of his favourite book series. He clearly loves the chance to play the gumshoe who gets all the dames, and is almost knocked off his feet when Dr. Crusher arrives in costume. I can't blame him, she looks amazing; 40s chic is definitely her look.

Elementary, My Dear Data: Gets to be Picard’s sidekick in the Dixon Hill adventure, passed off to the ‘locals’ as being from South America, which is odd. He gets the idea to start reading Sherlock Holmes stories in this episode. This will have consequences.
                                                              
Alien Life Forms: The Jarada (pronounced Harada, with a Spanish ‘J‘), an insectoid species from Torona IV. They refuse to show themselves to the crew, which is handy from a budgetary point of view. They have an insanely intricate language, and take offence suddenly and violently. They’re stroppy bastards, altogether.

Metafiction: Dixon Hill appears in the short stories ‘Dixon Hill in The Big Goodbye,’ ‘Dixon Hill in The Long Dark Tunnel’ and ‘Dixon Hill in The Black Orchid,’ which is named after a Doctor Who serial.

Verdict: The holodeck seems like an insanely dangerous bit of tech – one malfunction and people are being shot! What’s more, aborting the programme can apparently cause everyone inside to vanish. At least telly only kills you by slow increments. Walen, the 20th century historian, is clearly there just to get injured and up the stakes without risking any of the main cast. It’s a shame we never get to see the aliens, but they aren’t the point of the episode. Holodeck episodes become massively overused in future, but that’s not the fault of this episode. There's a weird existentialist moment towards the end, when the holodeck characters start questioning what happens when the programme is switched off. Clever stuff, and tremendous fun.


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