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Aug 23, 2016

Star Trek Phase IV

The Animated Series
This is the final blog post in a series (start here) celebrating 50 years of Star Trek. Previously, I've commented on about 40 episodes from the original 1960s Star Trek. Here I will provide comments on 10 episodes from post-1960s Star Trek shows.

I never saw any of Star Trek: The Animated Series. The only Star Trek movie that tickled my fancy was Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. When Star Trek: The Next Generation came along I made sure to watch the pilot episode.
The Next Generation
Trek 41. I can understand that due to network meddling, 'Encounter at Farpoint' had to be padded and bloated to fill a two hour time slot. However, didn't they learn anything from previous movies where people fell asleep during endless views of star ship exteriors? If so, why the drawn out saucer separation?

Deja Q
And I was horrified by the battle of bombast and self-righteousness between Q and Picard. Was their mission to boldly go where no Star Trek fan wants to go? I was so distracted by the idiotic trial that I never made it to the end of the pilot episode. In fact, it was not until the show was eventually in re-runs that I gave ST:NG's 'Encounter at Farpoint' a second chance and I finally got to see the ending and the glowing alien space creatures.

Borg
Eventually, I came to appreciate some of the fun that could be had with the Q. Still, my preference would have been that they find a way to better account for the Q Continuum rather than the cobbled together bits of nonsense that accumulated during all the Q episodes of the series.

Trek 42. When I heard that Stephen Hawking was going to make an appearance on Star Trek, I ended my self-imposed embargo on watching ST:NG. When I watched 'Descent' I was appalled by Lore and the Borg.

Data's positronic brain
After many years of despising endless Klingon and Romulan squabbles, ST:NG went out and made things worse with the Borg. I have almost no interest in fictional politics inside a science fiction story and I out-grew military science fiction by the time I was 13 years old.

For a television show that includes a character with a positronic brain, my expectation was that ST:NG could have shown more respect for the legacy of Isaac Asimov. Asimov grew up wanting to write stories with a thoughtful approach to robots.

Guinan must position Yar in order to save the Federation
Of course, "thoughtful" is not a word that we associate with Hollywood which is an alternate universe that seems destined to just give us more and more of the murderous, clanking robots like those populating the stories that poor Asimov had read as a child and that he grew to dislike for their bland sameness.

Trek 43. I'm a huge fan of time travel stories, so 'Yesterday's Enterprise' might seem a good match for  my interests.

I really like the idea that Guinan has a connection to the "Nexus" that provides her with awareness that the timeline has been changed upon the arrival of the Enterprise C.

Scotty on the Enterprise D
I still don't know what to make of the "rifts in space-time" that magically pop up in so many stories set in the Star Trek fictional universe. When the deadline is fast approaching for completion of the next episode, I guess you need to be able to whip out some lame plot device such as a rift in space-time.

Trek 44. As a fan of the original Star Trek, I was excited to see 'Relics' and the return of Montgomery Scott. Despite the annoying on again-off again behavior of the abandoned Dyson sphere and all the mopping around by Scotty, this episode was tolerable.

The idea of having Scotty "preserved" in a transporter device makes sense. What does not make sense is why this "trick" was not routinely used to store humans or even make multiple copies of humans.

The return of the flute.
Trek 45. 'The Inner Light' is great science fiction, a fine story that seemed a perfect fit for Patrick Stewart. 'The Inner Light' is usually compared to "The City on the Edge of Forever", but I think a better match is the original tribbles episode.

Sometimes everything comes together in a magical way for an episode of a television series. And then attempts are made to re-capture that magic in subsequent episodes.


visiting Deep Space Station K7
Trek 46. That's Star TREK. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is an oxymoronic distortion of the Star Trek concept. They should have called it 'No Trek'. 'Trials and Tribble-ations' was a masterful visitation to the original series by some of the DS9 characters.

First Contact
Trek 47. 'Carbon Creek' had fun with a science fiction plot device: the idea that alien visitors to Earth in the past have provided Earth with certain technological advances.

In this case, the idea is that Vulcan visitors to Earth in the 1950s provided velcro to Earthlings.


Trans-dimensional photonic lifeforms
battle Captain Proton!
Trek 48. 'Bride of Chaotica!' makes the point that holodeck programs are more interesting than the "lives of adventure" led by characters in Star Trek.

However, many of the holodeck episodes that tried to blur the boundary between reality and virtual reality failed to work as science fiction. In the case of "Bride of Chaotica', the silly premise was played out at the expense of having a coherent "future science" back story. Don't ask questions, just go along for the ride... and be thankful that you are not being forced to endure yet another hour of some excruciatingly slow ride across the galaxy.

Wesley creates nanorobotic life
Trek 49. The  ST:NG episode 'Evolution' should have been called 'Wesley Hears a Who'. As part of a science project, Wesley has managed to give nanites the ability to evolve. Soon these experimental nanites escape and begin disrupting the function of the Enterprise.

Lucky for all, during a one hour episode, the nanites evolve into civilized beings who can transmigrate into Data and negotiate their release from the Enterprise onto a suitable planet.

Odo
Trek 50. 'What You Leave Behind' I suppose there are probably better episodes that could be selected to represent the Founders.

Female Changeling
"Changelings were at least partially composed of morphogenic enzymes, the molecules responsible for their shapeshifting ability."

It would be silly to imagine that Rick Berman, Michael Piller or anyone associated with Deep Space Nine ever gave any thought to what it means to be a liquid organism. Life is completely about structure, and no liquid retains a structure.

Wagon Train to the stars
source
The Changelings could have been given a meaningful nanotechnology backstory, but Deep Space Nine was only marginally science fiction. From the very start, writers of Star Trek episodes were told to use a futuristic setting, but the stories were to be character-driven, not technology-driven.  Stories had to fit the conventional television "action-adventure" rules that applied to other settings such as the Western or a police detective drama.

Ferengi rule of acquisition 217: once you have
some tribbles, you can never give them back.
Given these constraints, it was probably inevitable that Star Trek would become mired in endless imaginary wars and fantasy politics.

Was there ever anything more futile than the "Dominion War" and all the imaginary religion mumbo jumbo of Deep Space Nine? How Gene Roddenberry would have hated to see Star Trek dragged down by dreary tales of religious fanaticism.

'Bones' by Andy C. White
Lucky for viewers, the tedium of Deep Space Nine could be temporarily forgotten by slipping into Quark's bar.

Next: the Final Collaborator
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