It’s back to the Enterprise D for more Star Trek The Next Generation. Judging by a) the looser costumes, b) Dr Crusher’s presence and c) Ten-Forward would tend to place this as third season or later.
The first episode here is The Ensigns of Command, one of the first from season three. A small population of humans is discovered living on a planet belonging to a fairly unfriendly alien race.
Rather than watching my VHS rip, I’ve started watching it on Netflix, and I’d say the picture quality is barely any better than my VHS copy.
They do like their cloaks on TNG. Not a fashion choice I’ve ever seen within the federation, but as soon as they go to a planet colonised by humans (albeit colonised 90 years ago) they’re all dressed up like Jedi.
This is one of the many metaphorical episodes, with a long-term human colony threatened by the imminent arrival of ‘Alien settlers’, so cue lots of negotiation and argument about the rights and wrongs of both sides. Of course, by casting the settlers as blobby inhuman creatures who are rigid adherents to the word of a treaty, it’s hard not to see where the sympathies of the writers lie.
I love The Next Generation. Picard is the best Star Trek captain, and here he proves it by beating the aliens by reading the EULA very carefully.
There’s loads of Data in the episode too, which can sometimes get a bit tiresome if you don’t really love Data.
Next on the tape is Who Watches the Watchers. Federation scientists are using a holographic projector to hide their research station so they can observe a group of proto-Vulcans without their knowledge (thus preserving the prime directive).
Ray Wise (Leland Palmer off of Twin Peaks) makes a guest appearance as one of the aliens who get a glimpse of the federation crew, thus leading to a crisis.
As a parenthetical aside, it’s strange that the previous episode and this episode both feature significant elements which later turned up in the plot of Star Trek: Insurrection (one of the odd-numbered, not so good Star Trek films).
I never really bought the whole Prime Directive thing. The idea that it’s unethical to interfere in any way with the development of pre-warp civilisations seems overly strict – when anthropologists try to do it here, when they discover ‘untouched’ pockets of humans in remote areas, it always seems a little harsh. If I lived somewhere where I had to eat bugs and had a life expectancy of 28 years, I’d probably appreciate the chance to have decent healthcare, iPhones and Shreddies. But that’s probably just my privilege showing.
Naturally, things go a bit wrong, and the accidentally make the aliens believe that ‘The Picard’ is a supernatural being. So Picard has to try to undo the damage, and in the end, all the talk about swearing an oath to uphold the Prime Directive turns out not to be all talk, as Picard takes an arrow to the knee chest to prove he isn’t invulnerable. The man walks the walk, and that’s why he’s the best.
Before the next episode is a bit of A Question of Sport, followed by a trailer for the George Pal version of War of the Worlds.
Then, another TNG episode, The Bonding. A crewmember dies on an away mission, leaving her child orphaned. Worf feels responsible, as the leader of the away team, so he copes with mood lighting and unusual tableware.
The young boy is told of his mother’s death. He seems stoic. I worry that he’s composing a manifesto in his head.
Worf wants to perform a Klingon ritual of ‘The Bonding’ with the boy. Wesley Crusher (the Internet’s Wil Wheaton) is reminded of when his father died. And lest this whole episode becomes a protracted conversation about grief and loss, an alien ‘presence’ from the planet comes aboard and takes the form of Jeremy’s dead mother, who wants to take him down to the planet.
This episode is about facing up to death. In the end, Jeremy takes part in Worf’s Klingon ritual. “You will become part of my family, now and forever.”
So we never see or hear of Jeremy ever again.
This is followed by Booby Trap. It’s a fun, Geordie-focused episode. The Enterprise sets off a hundred year old booby trap which is draining energy and flooding it with radiation. There’s limited time to work out how to get out. Geordi consults the records of the Enterprise designers and finds out that one designer, Leah Brahm, was most involved in the propulsion system. He creates a replica of her on the holodeck to consult on the project, and naturally he falls a bit in love with her, which is a bit creepy.
There’s also a lot of frankly puzzling resistance to the idea of the ship’s computer making lots of tiny course corrections every second, because somehow that removes the intuition of humans. Now, granted, this was written a long time ago, so perhaps the idea of computer-controlled vehicles wasn’t commonplace, but today, in a world where most new aircraft rely almost exclusively on rapid computer control, their reluctance seems quaint. I realise the writers were trying to make a point about ‘the human touch’ but it just seems ill-informed now.
Following this episode, there’s a trailer for Dawn French’s portmanteau comedy show Murder Most Horrid. Then the briefest snatch of some football – Poland v England – before the recording stops.