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Joe Boster
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Joined: 29 April 2004
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Posted: 06 October 2017 at 7:59pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

You are to commended on your studious work, Mr. Kirkman! Sadly I have taken a pause on this, epic project. I find I cannot DS9 and TNG at the same time. So once I finish season 4 of DS9. I shall Catch up on my TNG, 2 a days. 

I just wanted you to know you project is appreciated and being read. Good day to you sir. 
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 07 October 2017 at 1:45am | IP Logged | 2 post reply

"Symbiosis".


Heavy-handed in its anti-drug message, to say the least, but this is still a solid entry. And, in an unusual coincidence, we have not one but two WRATH OF KHAN costars appearing in this episode: Merritt Butrick and Judson Scott. I believe this episode also marks the first use of a simple nose appliance to create an alien race-of-the-week.

This episode, more than perhaps any other seen thus far, feels most like what TNG will end up becoming, complete with an ending where Picard basically condemns a planet to terrible suffering in order to uphold the Prime Directive. Of course, his intent is to allow the drug trade between the planets to break down (since there will be no way to transport them once their freighters break down), and to force the Ornarans to go through withdrawal, as a result, but this solution still seems like the less-heroic way to go about it. I find myself wondering what Kirk would have done in this situation.

And, of course, there's that fun little moment at the end of the episode, with Denise Crosby waving goodbye in the background as the cargo bay closes (since this was her last filmed episode, although she appears in the next episode aired).
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 08 October 2017 at 11:52pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

"Skin of Evil".


This one marks a major turning point on several fronts. First and foremost, it's the first time a TREK regular has been killed, but not resurrected (although this would not technically be the end of Denise Crosby/Tasha Yar'd association with the series). I think it also marks the beginning of TNG moving out from under the shadow of TOS by employing genuine growth and change for the characters, rather than keeping the status quo intact for its entire run. 

As for the episode itself, I like it quite a bit. It's very simplistic, but it moves by at a good clip, has genuine stakes, and builds tension. It's pretty much just an hour of the crew being tortured by an oil slick, but it's never dull. And, of course, Tasha is killed in Act Two--a mere 15 minutes in. That really sets the tone. I know that there was a lot of controversy over how quickly and easily she was dispatched, but this was apparently at Roddenberry's insistence. He wanted her to die in the line of duty, rather than in some big, heroic moment. After all, she was essentially just a redshirt...er...goldshirt...who merely happened to have billing in the opening credits. Having her killed in such an offhanded way was a bravely realistic way to go, I think.

That said, there's still some cringe-y stuff in this episode. Holo-Tasha's parting line, "Hailing frequencies closed, Sir." almost comes across as an unintentionally funny meta-reference. After all, for years, Nichelle Nichols had often felt relegated to just sitting at her station and saying that line, and Crosby had also started to fall into that same trap. The whole bit with Tasha going down the list of characters and saying how they've inspired her also comes across as a bit forced, since the relationships between the characters still aren't all that well-developed, yet. 

At the end of the day, I kinda think that Tasha's death worked out to the show's benefit. Yeah, it's a drag that the character--interesting on paper, and given charm whenever possible by Crosby--was never properly utilized, but killing her off gave TNG's troubled first season some weight and emotion that it would not otherwise have had. It also cleared room for Worf to step into her role as security chief and become a deeper and more prominent character, which is a path the character was clearly already on.

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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 09 October 2017 at 9:27am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

I've always felt that Tasha was created specifically as sacrificial cannon fodder but Crosby was never told of this -- and in a huge coincidence when Denise asked to be written out Roddenberry already had the exit written (at least in his head).  With the show's production schedule it seems pretty convenient that there was a ready-made episode slotted near the end of the season with the perfect bad guy to dispose of the character.

It's pretty obvious that the 'Spock role' (aka finding your humanity) was split between Worf and Data (the two most obvious 'alien' characters in the cast) and they were always intending for Worf to take a more prominent role.  That progression is clear in the scripts even before Crosby started making noise about wanting out.

Compare Crosby's departure to McFadden's...  McFadden leaving was something they *hadn't* anticipated and it shows.   Most of Pulaski's lines are Dr Crusher lines with an extra snarky comment pasted on.
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Joe Boster
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Posted: 09 October 2017 at 12:37pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply

Actually in The Fifty Year Mission, Piller, I belive it is, talks about how they had to go over Gene's head to do the first Worf-Centric episode.I don't think anything was clear that first season. 
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 10 October 2017 at 12:18am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

"We'll Always Have Paris".

A TREK riff on CASABLANCA, and not a particularly remarkable episode. Some good moments, though. It should also be noted that absolutely no mention of Yar's demise is made, and Denise Crosby's name still appears in the credits, just as it will for the remaining episodes of the season. I do actually find myself missing her, though.

This episode also gives a bit more backstory on Picard, but it all feels rather superficial and tangential to the plot. No real drama comes of it, and the overall time-hiccup plot isn't particularly compelling, either.
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Jack Bohn
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Posted: 10 October 2017 at 8:16am | IP Logged | 7 post reply

I'd taped the first season only keeping the ones that would be worth rewatching. "Skin of Evil" put a crimp in this. When Crusher reports that Yar is dead, Picard asks how quickly she can be revived, a story beat from "Code of Honor," which I'd already recorded over. Parts of "The Naked Now" inform Holo-Tasha's testament, and later in "The Measure of a Man" we'll find Data keeps a copy for reasons he can't quite explain, pulling the episode out of the iffy category.

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Brian Rhodes
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Posted: 10 October 2017 at 11:51am | IP Logged | 8 post reply

And, in an unusual coincidence, we have not one but two WRATH OF KHAN costars appearing in this episode: Merritt Butrick and Judson Scott.

Truly a "next generation" episode, as the kids of Kirk and Khan have at it...
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 11 October 2017 at 12:53am | IP Logged | 9 post reply

"Conspiracy".

Despite featuring a story that goes nowhere (despite the tease for a follow-up), I do like this one quite a bit. It builds tension, and is still rather creepy (despite the dated stop-motion parasites). It's also notable as being the only TREK episode to air with a viewer discretion advisory, due to the violence and body horror.

Speaking of which, Picard and Riker--without hesitation--kill the innocent Remmick, who is hosting the "mother" creature. I mean, yeah, the creature appeared to be an imminent threat, but still...


Anyway, I've read that this episode was originally intended to feature a military coup within Starfleet, rather than an alien invasion. Roddeneberry strenuously objected, and so the story was rewritten. Due to that change, the episode basically becomes a monster hunt, with very little to chew on in terms of themes and subtext. That being said, there was a lot of potential for this story, both in regards to a potential follow-up, or even as a season-long arc (not that TNG would have ever gone down that road). 

As it stands, it's a sort of weird, creepy. experimental one-off. A tense and fast-paced episode which ends up being rather inconsequential, in the long run.
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Michael Roberts
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Posted: 11 October 2017 at 1:29am | IP Logged | 10 post reply

I remember watching "Conspiracy" when it first aired, and I was completely pulled out of the episode by the prop for the container that held the parasite. It was actually a Trapper Keeper-alternative hard plastic binder that had come out at the beginning of the school year. I had one in my backpack at the time. All they did was cover the logo.


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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 11 October 2017 at 2:24pm | IP Logged | 11 post reply

Ah, "found" props!

I just noticed the very 20th century, height-adjustment levers on the undersides of the Observation Lounge chairs while watching an episode, the other night!
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 11 October 2017 at 11:28pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply

"The Neutral Zone".

The first-season finale was affected by the 1988 writers' strike, and it shows. The story is a sort of,strange hybrid of "Space Seed" and "Balance of Terror", and features uncharacteristic behavior from Riker (who has no interest in investigating a space vessel launched from Earth, centuries prior) and Picard (who would have preferred leaving the dead, frozen HUMAN BEINGS WHO COULD EASILY BE REVIVED drifting in space).

There are still some good moments and character bits in this one, although the overall episode is rather weak. The return of the Romulans is played with a lot of menacing overtones for future episodes, but this all ends up being a red herring of sorts. We also have Worf referring to the Romulans as being "without honor", a statement which foreshadows future exploration of the whole Klingon-honor thing, as well as TNG's cultural flip-flopping of the Romulans and the Klingons. This episode also introduces the Romulan brow-ridge makeup appliances, which are a stupid change, and apparently only serve the function of distinguishing Romulans from Vulcans.

More importantly, this episode provides the first hints of the Borg. I get the impression that the Romulans were perhaps intended to be TNG's recurring Big Bad, after the Ferengi failed miserably in that regard, but the Borg ended up taking over that role, of course.


All things considered, TNG's first season was...rocky, to say the least. It did the job of laying the foundation for the series to come, but there was just so much lacking in terms of characterization, style, and depth. Still, the back end of the season is demonstrably better than the front. There's nowhere else to go but up, at least!
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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 12 October 2017 at 5:16am | IP Logged | 13 post reply

Speaking of which, Picard and Riker--without hesitation--kill the innocent Remmick, who is hosting the "mother" creature. I mean, yeah, the creature appeared to be an imminent threat, but still...

For me, it's the knowing *look* that Picard and Riker give each other before they blast him that chills me to the bone.   Sort of a "Yeah, I never really liked this a-hole either" look.   

While having to act in front of a special effect that you can't see isn't anything new (and is now the rule rather than the exception) you have to wonder what the director told them they were shooting at for that scene.

Also, isn't that the first (and only?) time that Starfleet phasers were shown to destroy tissue in that nasty way rather that just vaporizing the person outright?   Is it a lower power 'kill slowly' setting?   'Datalore' also suggests that TNG phasers work in this way when Lore threatens to turn Wesley "into a torch".  (and it's not clear whether he means a torch in the British or North American sense -- likely North American).
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 12 October 2017 at 11:27am | IP Logged | 14 post reply

I presume that the Wesley and Remmick bits would have employed lower "heat" settings of the phasers, rather than causing outright disintegration, although what happens to Remmick defies physics. Of course, we did see earlier how the parasites' influences caused the infected officers to be both superhumanly strong, and resistant even to phasers set on "kill".
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Peter Martin
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Posted: 12 October 2017 at 12:05pm | IP Logged | 15 post reply

I'm enjoying reading your reviews, Greg. Just watched that Conspiracy death scene, care of You Tube, and that's pretty graphic stuff. Not sure if the BBC ever showed that! I don't recall it, if they did.

Musing on my own memories of TNG -- in the UK the show had a substantial delay before it got aired, in the order of at least a year. I watched Encounter at Far Point as a video rental... If memory serves, the BBC didn't start broadcasting TNG until autumn of 1988. This had the weird effect of making Tasha Yar a member of the crew for a long time as far as my own personal experience went.

The only episodes I have strong memories of from that first season are the pilot, The Naked Now (especially, "you jewel", lol) and the one with the oil slick that kills Tasha.

I do remember it picking up as it went along, but didn't have, at the time, thoughts of 'this is crappy' during that first season, apart from maybe during the pilot.


Edited by Peter Martin on 12 October 2017 at 12:07pm
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Peter Hicks
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Posted: 12 October 2017 at 12:36pm | IP Logged | 16 post reply

"I just noticed the very 20th century, height-adjustment levers on the undersides of the Observation Lounge chairs while watching an episode, the other night!"
*****************************************************
Geordi's chair from Engineering was auctioned off a few years ago, and was revealed to be a store bought chair from an Office Depot type retailer.
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Steve De Young
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Posted: 12 October 2017 at 2:23pm | IP Logged | 17 post reply

Despite featuring a story that goes nowhere (despite the tease for a follow-up),
----------------------------------------
Star Trek Online followed this one up out of the blue, without warning.  It was one of the truly memorable surprise moments in that game when suddenly a completely unrelated (seemingly) story linked up with that episode.
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Shaun Barry
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Posted: 12 October 2017 at 8:04pm | IP Logged | 18 post reply


Interesting about "Conspiracy" and the supposed parental warning at the beginning... I saw this episode first-run, taped it off the TV, and watched it many times afterwards... never saw such a warning.

Was that in certain markets, perhaps?



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Shaun Barry
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Posted: 12 October 2017 at 8:11pm | IP Logged | 19 post reply


And for the record, those last few minutes of "Skin of Evil" always get me... wept when I was 15, and got misty-eyed all over again the last time I saw it (maybe 9 or 10 years ago?).

Amusing story:  I brought a TNG magazine into a high school class, a few weeks after "Skin of Evil" aired, and which featured Denise Crosby on the cover.  My high school buddy, being his normally insensitive self, took one look at it and said, "Isn't that the chick who died on that show?  Did you cry, Barry?"

Of course, I over-emphatically exclaimed, "NO!!!"  Fooling no one, I'm sure.



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Brian Hague
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Posted: 12 October 2017 at 8:23pm | IP Logged | 20 post reply

Rob, Marina Sirtis has spoken at conventions about how she had a very definite sense that she was going to be fired during TNG's first season, suspicions that were confirmed to her by Majel Barrett years later. Crosby's quitting the show in effect saved Sirtis's job. 

It's unlikely events would have gone that way if Tasha's death had been planned all along. Also, there was a strong dislike of Gates McFadden from one of TNG's execs, so her off-screen departure sans a spotlight "farewell" episode could be easily explained that way.

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Shaun Barry
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Posted: 12 October 2017 at 9:20pm | IP Logged | 21 post reply


In this current climate, almost makes you wonder what kind of crap Gates McFadden may have been putting up with at the time.





Edited by Shaun Barry on 12 October 2017 at 9:21pm
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 12 October 2017 at 9:57pm | IP Logged | 22 post reply

By coincidence, I watched this panel clip, last night:



McFadden was basically canned for speaking out against some of the skeezier stuff happening during that first year, at least in terms of the show's content.


As for Crosby, she clearly didn't want to get caught in the trap that TOS' secondary players had, and Roddenberry confirmed that was basically the formula he wanted to stick with--a focus on three main characters (Picard, Data, Riker), with the others as background support.

Of course, after Roddenberry became less and less involved, the show become more and more about the ensemble. If Crosby had stuck around a bit longer, she would surely have gotten some Tasha-centric episodes, just as the other regulars eventually had their own character-focused episodes to play with.




Edited by Greg Kirkman on 12 October 2017 at 9:57pm
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Brian Hague
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Posted: 12 October 2017 at 11:00pm | IP Logged | 23 post reply

The character-centric approach to storytelling came about mostly in TNG's third season. Crosby would likely have had to stick around for a while before seeing any measurable improvement.

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 13 October 2017 at 1:26am | IP Logged | 24 post reply

"The Child".


Speaking of character-centric, here we have TNG's second spotlight episode for Troi, the first being season one's "Haven". Of course, this episode was a reworking of the 1977 PHASE II script with the same title, as a result of the Writers' Guild strike still having an effect on TNG. And, since Troi was already based on PHASE II's Lt. Ilia, it was easy enough to plug her into Ilia's "unexpectedly expecting" role in this episode.

Meanwhile, this episode lays down a heck of a lot of familiar elements which are integral to what people think of when they think of TNG. Worf (now wearing his silver sash, instead of the first-season's TOS-style one) and Geordi (now serving as Chief Engineer) in Operations gold. The first appearance of Riker's beard (...which really does make the character, doesn't it?). The first likely appearance of the still-unnamed Chief O'Brien (outside of the bit part Colm Meaney played in the first season, a role later assumed to be/retconned into O'Brien after the character became, well..a character). The first appearances of Ten-Forward and Guinan.

Speaking of whom, I don't believe I knew until fairly recently that the idea behind the character was that she was actually Picard's great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, which is a rather interesting tidbit.

This episode also introduces TOS veteran Diana Muldaur as Dr. Pulaski. She's a fine actress, but the character clearly never quite fit properly into the show. I think a good chunk of that comes down to the fact that she basically has Dr. Crusher dialogue with McCoy-style crankiness and jokes occasionally tossed in. And, really, the whole idea of introducing a more McCoy-esque doctor seems like a step backwards, and the sort of thing one would have more logically expected during that shaky first season, when TNG was still trying to find its identity. McFadden/Crusher at least had spunk, whereas Pulaski is too laid-back to really work as a McCoy-type character, despite her having more biting dialogue than Crusher did.

That all being said, the whole bit with Pulaski and Data clashing over the pronounciation of Data's name is one of my favorite moments in the entire series. As Brent Spiner tells the story, everyone originally assumed it would be "Dah-tuh", back when the show was in development, but, at TNG's very first cast table-read, Patrick Stewart said "Day-tuh", and that was that. 

Also, Dr. Crusher's absense is quickly hand-waved, and Wesley's continued presence aboard the Enterprise-D is necessarily dealt with in a quick and lighthearted fashion. No doubt to the disappointment of many who had hoped he'd be leaving, too.

Anyway, this episode is rather "meh", overall, but is strong on character moments and interactions, which signals the beginning of the shift toward TNG becoming a genuinely good show with a strong ensemble. The overall feel and tone are mich more confident than most of the first season, and the cinematography and lighting are slicker and more refined. It's slowly starting to feel like "real" TNG.
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Peter Martin
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Posted: 13 October 2017 at 6:48am | IP Logged | 25 post reply

The first appearance of Riker's beard (...which really does make the character, doesn't it?)
---------------------------------------
I thought about writing something similar, but held off. Now that you've put it down, I completely agree!

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