Top 10 Best Star Trek Episodes #8: Tapestry

tapestryQ was introduced in the series pilot as a villain, sort of like Roddenberry’s idea of what he imagined God to be like, a chaotic despot with no regard for humanity. However, by the third season, Q evolved. In the episode “Q Who”, he became human and learned to see how much humans value each other, even those who annoy them. In fact, my theory is that it’s Data’s actions in that episode that inspired Q’s motives in this episode.

Here we see a different side to Q, one I like more than how he started off. To me Q is at his best when he is chaotic neutral rather than chaotic evil. He does what he wants, but not for evil intent. He does it instead to teach Picard something he should have learned from his youth.

The episode builds on something that was revealed in season 2: Picard’s artificial heart. He had to have a transplant at an early age in order to lengthen his life after a moment of egotistical weakness made him value his pride over his life. Since then, he had often wished he hadn’t made that near-fatal mistake. Especially at the start of this episode when he learns that the very thing that saved his life so long ago is now killing him.

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Top 10 Worst Star Trek TNG Episodes #9: Who Watches the Watchers

When I posted my Top 10 Worst episodes from the original Star Trek, I included “The Apple”, in which Roddenberry raved about how religion impedes scientific progress and we’d be bored in the Garden of Eden. In the 80’s, Star Trek TNG’s second season was in full swing, and Roddenberry proved he still hadn’t moved on past his rants he had during the heyday of peace, love, and hippies.

In Who Watches the Watchers, once again Roddenberry brings up an old argument. He says that the Vulcans are so much better than 20th century Earth because they outgrew the “superstitions of old”. When they mistake Picard for a god, we get the worst of his speeches, where Picard tells us just how awesome atheism is.

So why do these kind of Star Trek episodes bother me? Is it just because I’m Christian? Actually no. They bother me because they go against what the ideals of the Federation are. Starfleet’s future is supposed to be one where aliens of all races and cultures band together for common goals, defending themselves against common enemies and engaging in altruistic reform. One would think that all cultures would also include a future where religion would still exist. And it does. In Deep Space 9, we see that at least the Bajorans managed to progress far enough to develop warp core technology despite having religion. And so did the Klingons. It’s a total contradiction.

Fortunately, this is the last episode in the Star Trek franchise that would address this bugbear. Perhaps the writers that continued on realized that it was an argument that people grew tired of hearing.

 

Top 10 Best Star Trek TNG #9: Ship in a Bottle

shipinabottleThis is an episode that I think isn’t talked about much, and I have to ask why. It’s well-crafted, and it has a great premise.

Before I start talking about this episode, I have to talk about a couple episodes that precede it. First is “Elementary, Dear Data”. In that episode, Data and Geordi are playing Sherlock Holmes on the Holodeck with Dr. Pulaski, who replaced Dr. Crusher for the second season. Geordi got sick of Dr. Pulaski constantly ribbing Data about his only following the script of what normally happens in a Sherlock Holmes mystery and not doing actual detective work. (Dr. Pulaski, just because Data doesn’t have emotions doesn’t mean he has to put up with your attitude. I can totally understand why Geordi was annoyed with you. Man I hated Dr. Pulaski) So to prove a point, he asked the computer to create an opponent based on Professor Moriarty for Data to defeat. The result is a completely self-aware version of the brilliant criminal. He’s like the Holodeck on God Mode. The only reason he stops is that Picard convinces him that it would be in his best interest, that someday they may learn a way for him to leave the Holodeck. This would lead some elements that would be explored with Star Trek Voyager’s Emergency Medical Hologram.

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Worst Star Trek TNG Episodes: Skin of Evil

skinThe first 2 seasons of TNG are universally regarded as the worst part of the show’s history. If you want the whole sordid story of why these seasons are such a mess, I suggest watching  Chaos on the Bridge, the 1-hour documentary about the beginnings of the show.

One of the biggest problems with the first season is definitely Tasha Yar, played by Denise Crosby, who was chief of security in that season. We know very little about her, and she was one of the few characters who didn’t get a spotlight episode in the entire history of the show. This is her only spotlight, and–spoiler alert–she dies! Is it any wonder why Denise Crosby wanted to leave?

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Top 10 Favorite Star Trek TNG Episodes: Lower Decks

lowerA few years back, I reviewed what I considered were the best and worst episodes of the original Star Trek. While I was writing those posts, I had started rewatching the 80’s version, Star Trek: The Next Generation. Now that I’m on the final season, I’ve decided to do a retrospective for this series as well (And DS9 fans, your day is coming. I’m in season 5 of that now.

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Film Freak: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

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Twenty-five years ago, Star Trek wasn’t just in theaters, it was on TV too. The Next Generation was a hit, and a spin-off called Deep Space 9 was also produced, the first to be done without any involvement from Gene Roddenberry. Star Trek V was by almost all accounts a terrible movie, but this was the anniversary. Something special had to be done. Paramount was poised to start a new series of movies, this time focusing on The Next Generation. To begin, the torch had to be passed, and we needed a proper movie to make it work. Once more onto the breach, to quote Shakespeare. In fact, Shakespeare is appropriate, as the subtitle is also a Shakespeare play reference. Did I mention there’s a scene where the Klingons quote Shakespeare as well?

This movie brought everything full circle. As in Wrath of Khan, the crew is once again feeling their age. Sulu is now the captain of the Excelsior. Kirk is expected to give up his grudge against the Klingons, a grudge fueled by the death of his son in Search for Spock. Kirk has discovered that two Klingon dignitaries have been killed, and he is the prime suspect. With the murder of his son, Kirk has a proper motive.

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Best Star Trek Episodes #1: City on the Edge of Forever

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Well folks, here it is, the all-time greatest episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. This isn’t just my opinion, it’s also Roddenberry’s favorite, tied with “The Menagerie” (which was a re-working of the original pilot episode “The Cage”).

From the series’ inception, Star Trek actually had the support of elites in the sci-fi community. When “The Cage” was shown by NBC and Roddenberry to these people, Isaac Asimov himself was in attendance and personally congratulated Roddenberry. But he wasn’t the only elite that supported Roddenberry. He also had Harlan Ellison, who had a special story he wanted to write for the show.

Harlan Ellison was a sci-fi writer who wrote novellas, screenplays, and even scripts, and not just for Star Trek. In fact, when Twilight Zone was revived by CBS in the 80’s, Harlan Ellison was brought on as the show’s executive producer, and wrote many of the scripts. (By that time, Rod Serling had died.) He actually was not pleased with this episode, as he and Roddenberry had disagreements over how the script was supposed to be written. These disagreements soured his relationship with Roddenberry, which is why this is the only story he ever wrote for the series.

The story begins with McCoy treating a comatose patient, and injects him with cordazine. The drug has the potential to cause insanity, but the patient does not appear to be affected.  However, when the Enterprise is rocked by a galactic distortion, he accidentally injects himself with too much of the drug, causing him to become paranoid. Driven by his paranoia, he beams down to the planet’s surface, with Kirk and Spock chasing after him. When they arrive, they discover a “time tunnel” (no relation to the short-lived TV series), which is causing the distortions. McCoy runs through the tunnel, and moments later, Kirk discovers that the Enterprise no longer exists. In fact, neither does Starfleet itself!

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Worst Star Trek Episodes: Spock’s Brain

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And here it is folks, my #1 pick for the worst Star Trek episode of all time: “Spock’s Brain”. This is a legendary episode, and in every bad way possible. There’s a story around that Gene Coon, who produced Star Trek along with Roddenberry, and wrote many of the episodes, wrote the script of “Spock’s Brain” as a joke because he didn’t like the idea of Fred Frieberger replacing Roddenberry as producer. Prior to working on Star Trek, he was on Lost In Space. Personally, I have to disagree with this. Yes, Lost in Space was less serious than Trek, but I still consider it part of the sci-fi genre.

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Best Star Trek Episodes: Space Seed

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When Nicholas Meyer signed on to direct Star Trek II, he actually had little knowledge of what he wanted. To prepare, he watched several episodes, including this one. In fact, if someone had never watched Star Trek, this is an episode I would show.

The story begins when the Enterprise finds the starship Botany Bay. They board the ship with historian Lt. Marla McGivens accompanying them. When they beam onto the ship, they discover there are inhabitants in suspended animation. These are the notorious Khan Noonian Singh and his followers.

Everyone is intrigued with the idea of reviving Khan and his followers, despite their reputation. I like how Spock is bewildered that Khan is actually revered despite his tyranny. This is realistic. There are many notorious people who are still admired to this day.

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Worst Star Trek Episodes: Plato’s Stepchildren

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Gene Roddenberry wanted Star Trek to be an inspiration to the future. In fact, it’s one of the few optimistic visions in science fiction. It is a future in which all colors and creeds of the human race come together to explore the final frontier.

“Plato’s Stepchildren” is probably Star Trek’s most controversial episode. It features TV’s first interracial kiss. So, why do I place it here? Because I cannot let controversy make me give it a pass. I have nothing against the scene personally. But how we got to it is a path I did not like.

The story begins with Kirk, McCoy, and Spock beaming down to a planet, investigating a distress call. They are greeted by a friendly dwarf named Alexander. They meet the planet’s inhabitants, (called Platonians) who have created a society based on the ideals of the Greek philosopher Plato. These Platonians are ageless, and with the exception of Alexander, all are telekinetic.

The Platonians have actually lured the crew because their leader, Parmen, is ill. Parmen isn’t alone, but Kirk objects. The Platonians demonstrate their abilities on Kirk and McCoy, making them dance like jesters and imitate horses, with Alexander riding Kirk. This was the moment that made me hate the episode.

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