Friday, December 7, 2018

December 7: Happy Things

You don't have to read this. But I wanted to write it for a long time. My ten favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes, in mostly no particular order:

1. Chain of Command I and II: Picard goes on a mission deep in Cardassian territory, gets captured and slowly tortured. Doesn't sound like a popcorn episode, and it isn't, but it's a commentary on torture and it lets Patrick Stewart really act.

"What I didn't put in the report was that at the end he gave me a choice – between a life of comfort or more torture. All I had to do was to say that I could see five lights when, in fact, there were only four."

"You didn't say it?"

"No! No. But I was going to. I would have told him anything. Anything at all! But more than that, I believed that I could see five lights."

2.Clues: The Enterprise goes through a wormhole that knocks everyone out except Data, the android. But nothing seems right. And as they begin to investigate the truth, their chances at survival diminish.

"Then, Mister Data, I'm going to ask you again, and I order you to directly answer me. What really happened to us?"

"I cannot answer that."

"What would you have me do, Data? How would you handle this if our positions were reversed?"

"I am apparently guilty of falsifying the Enterprise's records, of interfering with an investigation, of disobeying a direct order from my commanding officer. Your duty seems clear, sir."

"Do you know what a court martial would mean? Your career in Starfleet would be finished."

"I realize that, sir."

"Do you also realize that you would most likely be stripped down to your wires to find out what the hell has gone wrong?"

"Yes, sir. I do."

3. Sins of the Father: Worf's father is accused of treason and he has to decide what is best for him but also what is best for the Klingon Empire. It starts an arc of Worf being out of step with his people in a very public and humiliating way. And there's the Klingon food critique here:

"How long has this bird been dead? It appears to have been lying in the sun for quite some time."

"Well it's not dead, it's been replicated. And you do understand that we cook most of our foods…"

"Ah yes, I was told to prepare for that. I shall try some of your burned replicated bird meat."

4. The Drumhead: A witch hunt on board the Enterprise. A kangaroo court gets set up, Worf gets carried away by the guest litigator in his search for justice, and things nearly unravel.

"Sir, the Federation does have enemies! We must seek them out!"

"Oh, yes. That's how it starts. But the road from legitimate suspicion to rampant paranoia is very much shorter than we think. Something is wrong here, Mr. Worf; I don't like what we have become!"

5. The Survivors: The Enteprise encounters a dead planet with one tract of land still intact with two people living there without any explanation. The episode isn't especially spectacular except for one scene, in which the away team approaches the house and the elderly man residing there tries to fend them off with a phaser, which Worf can easily tell is nonfunctioning:

Sir, may I say your attempt to hold the away team at bay, with a non-functioning weapon, was an act of unmitigated gall."

"Didn't fool you, huh?"

"I admire gall."

6. Who Watches the Watchers: A simple little story where a science team is secretly watching a group of stone age equivalent aliens. Something goes wrong, and the existence of the Federation team inadvertently changes the primitive society to believing that the Captain is their god. The rhetoric between the tribal leader and Picard as he tries to convince her that he is not a deity is nicely layered together.

"Look at me... feel the warmth of my hand, the rhythm of my pulse. I'm not a supreme being. I'm flesh and blood, like you."

"Not like me."

"Like you. Different in appearance, yes, but we are both living beings. We are born, we grow, we live... and we die. In all the ways that matter, we are alike."

7. Cause and Effect: The episode opens with the destruction of the Enterprise. Then it backs up. I usually don't like time travel episodes but this one has a tiny loop and they are caught in it, being destroyed again and again, trying to send a message into the next iteration. It's a good mystery/pace to it and the scene where they start picking up minute sounds from previous iterations is like a haunting shortwave station from the past.

"Somehow we've entered what seems to be a temporal causality loop. We think we're stuck in a specific fragment in time and that we've been repeating that same fragment over and over."

"Is this what's causing our deja vu?"

"Yes, but it's more than that. In deja vu, you only think you're repeating events. We actually are."

"Our theory is this: every time the loop begins again, everything resets itself and starts all over. We don't remember anything that happened before, so each time we go through the loop, we think it's the first."

8. Yesterday's Enterprise: An alternate reality episode, with a single decision altering the past and the present. Everything is different, and everything is wrong. And prune juice. The bartender, played by Whoopi Goldberg, sits down with Worf and hands him a glass. Worf drinks it and asks what it is. She tells him it's from Earth, called prune juice.

"A warrior's drink," he declares.

9. Darmok: In an attempt to communicate with a species that speaks only in reference to shared mythology and legends, the Captain and another ship's captain go down to a planet alone to fight a beast. It is a truly nerdy episode, one I still quote and only other nerds have any idea what I mean.

"Temarc! The river Temarc in winter!"


"...and Jalad at Tanagra. Darmok and Jalad... on the ocean."

"Sokath, his eyes open!"

"The beast at Tanagra. Uzani, his army. Shaka, when the walls fell."
- Picard and the Tamarian first officer, finally able to understand each other
10. Inner Light: a probe in space zaps the Enterprise and knocks out the Captain. While he is comatose, he essentially "lives" an entire lifetime of a person from the long-dead civilization that sent the probe before their planet was destroyed by natural causes in the hopes that it miht one day find someone and tell them their story. It is HEARTBREAKING and makes me cry every time and cry when I try to describe it. It's so haunting. It's so good.

"We hoped our probe would encounter someone in the future. Someone who could be a teacher. Someone who could tell the others about us" 

"Oh... Oh, it's me... Isn't it? I'm the someone. I'm the one it finds. That's what this launching is. A probe that finds me, in the future."


  1. "... the road from legitimate suspicion to rampant paranoia is very much shorter than we think." I like that.
    Also, you've made me think about watching that last episode.

  2. I'm embarrassed to admit I have only seen a handful of Star Trek episodes and only the old series.

  3. "But the road from legitimate suspicion to rampant paranoia is very much shorter than we think." Yes! And "I admire gall." I can just hear my friend, who sounds exactly like Worf, saying that. I watched that show all the time while it was on, but not after, and I remember some of was great. My favorite Star Trek.