Thursday, August 13, 2009

Star Trek: The Next Generation--"The Neutral Zone"

In my continuing effort to be the Ed Wood of Star Trek critics (Who might be the Simon de Beauvoir?) I have mercifully reached the first season finale of TNG. Like most installments which came before, it is awful.

The biggest reason it is so bad is because of the characterizations, the main crew is back to being such incredibly pompous jerks, it is next to impossible to watch. It does not help much that the main plot involves people from the 20th century being revived in the 24th. In other words, a perfect opportunity for our heroes to flaunt their moral superiority to the backwards barbarians of the late 20th century.

Boy, do they go at it with reckless abandon. In the first place, Riker has command of the bridge when the cryogenics ship is discovered. He wants to leave it be, but data insists they explore it because they, you know, like explorers and stuff. Only three of the four bodies have survived, so Data has them beamed over to the Enterprise. Crusher treats the diseases that initially killed them as Picard comes down to sickbay to chew Data out for bringing them onboard in the first place. They were technically dead and anything from the 20th century ought to stay that way, it would appear. Picard issues strict orders to keep the three away from him while he works to solve the ystery of missing starbases.

I have to mention the plot of the missing starbases should have been the major plot here rather than playing second fiddle to gene Roddenberry’s contempt for contemporary man. The idea is this is supposed to be part of a trilogy which introduced the Borg, but some combination of budget constraints and the WGA strike of 1988 nixed that. As it is, the secondary plot is left dangling, with its only contribution a brief glimpse of the Romulans as they decide to join with Picard in investigating their missing bases and then can the idea all in a twenty second time period. Not particularly auspicious.

Which leaves us with Jane Goodall sneering at the chimps. It pays to note the three revived people are a mousy housewife, a country music singer, and aventure capitalist. Only the latter is in any way annoying and even his arrogant, greedy demeanor is undeserving of the contempt for which they are shown.

For example, after they are settled into quarters, Data remarks to Riker they are unlike any humans he has ever met before. Riker retorts they have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. It is a wonder humanity survived the 20th century with them running it That is right. Forget Nazi death camps, Stalin’s pogroms, Mao five year plans, Cold war nuclear chess games, ethnic cleansers from all corners of the planet, and brutal dictators from Latin America to southeast Asia. No, the biggest threat to civilization in the 20th century was Donna Reed, Garth Brooks, and Warren Buffett.

It is impossible to take seriously and, thankfully, one of the last times we will have to sit through such attitudes. Believe me, Picard’s lectures over the evils of capitalism is bad enough to have to sit through only once.

I did not like this episode. I believe TNG would have been better served foregoing this one and ending the season with ‘Conspiracy.” It had a better ending than this awkward return of the Romulans with more promise. That is, assuming the parasites story had ever been followed up on. At least the ending would have given us some suspense about things to come for the second season instead of limping into it like weare ging to do starting tomorrow.

Rating: * (out of 5)

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