Warp Speed to Nonsense

Warp Speed to Nonsense

Monday, July 31, 2017

ST:TNG Season Three, Episode One "Evolution"

ST:TNG Season Three, Episode One "Evolution"
Production Order: 2
Air Order: 1
Stardate: 43125.8
Original Air Date: September 25, 1989

Our opening shot is fabulous here, super-saturated with bright color, showing the ship slowly moving near an astronomical event.
The next shot is great, too. We sweep across a table and instruments of a lab, finally resting on the face of a sleeping Wesley Crusher.
Riker calls him on the comm, and teases him about forgetting to set an alarm: kid is late for work. he apologizes in that stumbling way that says "too early for mouth to work properly," and he rushes to clean up his experiment mess before rushing out.

When he hits the bridge, Riker points to the conn, but he seems more amused than angry.

Picard's Log, 43125.8: "We're in this system with a binary star, and this dude, Dr Paul Stubbs, is with us to conduct an experiment. He's a pretty big deal."

Wes pops into the conn chair and Stubbs turns and is all, "Isn't this exciting?"
Whoa y'all, it's Dr Kelso from Scrubs. Look how young he is here, in his late forties.
Anyway, he exposits to the audience through Wes that the smaller of the two stars keeps sucking up energy from the bigger star, until it explodes, every 196 years. Then the process will begin again. And the explosion/new countdown is due to start in about 18 hours. He's pretty stoked.

Picard comes out of the ready room, and asks if Stubbs wants to inspect his equipment again, but Stubbs interrupts with a Sassy Moment:
"I have been inspecting The Egg for the last twenty years. You may lay it when ready."
"Cool," says Picard.
He sits down, and we get our first-ever Picard Maneuver.

A quick glance into the shuttle bay reveals that The Egg is actually the containment unit from season two's "The Child," just tipped on its side. (Good job, Budget.) The engineers get ready to put it out into space when all these klaxons go off, and the ship starts to shake, and all the actors do that "ship is shaking" bounce in their seats. Except for Dr Stubbs. He falls the hell over and bangs into the railing.
Everyone starts yelling in efficient fashion how they've lost control of the ship, even though read-outs show them being okay.
And now, they're in danger of drifting into the stellar matter stream between the stars, and they don't have any freaking shields.
Actual Ship-Disabling!

Dramatic music! Opening credits!

We get a slightly different set of credits with this new season, one that shows different planets and stuff. Neat.

Anyway, hurtling into the star-stream and shit.
Worf manages to get the shields up. Geordi reverses the engines. Unfortunately, they're still gonna drift into that stream, and the the best they can do is just brace for it. The impact is kind of quiet, and the ship rocks gently. Then they move it out of the stream, and basically what just happened is when you're on a boat and turn it suddenly, then kill the engine. The boat keeps drifting in the same direction for a while, and you gotta turn the engine back on, and redirect the energy in order to keep the drift from continuing.
"Hey, computer," says Picard. "What caused that malfunction?"
"Nothing," you can hear Majel Barrett shrug. "There wasn't a malfunction."

Star Trek: Tokyo Drift

Wes goes to sick bay, where they're caring for people who didn't brace for impact or whatever. There seem to be an awful lot of injured people in sick bay, and I think it really has more to do with how much money the studio has, than anything else. Studio has more money to spend on extras - that was a terrible accident, and there were tons of people injured. Studio is flat-busted broke - if we see sick bay at all, it'll be one medical assistant helping one patient onto a bed because this crew is ready for anything, and they braced for impact like good little Starfleeters. If the busyness of this particular scene is any indication, then the studio has plenty of cash, all of the crew were caught off-guard by this accident, and none of them bothered to brace.

There are at least six extras in sick bay here.

So Wes is here to talk to Stubbs, who is lying on his front on the exam table, being tended to by Dr Crusher, who... I guess is patching up his butt, or something? I have no idea how he's injured. H's here to tell Stubbs that Picard says that the experiment is good to go again, and the ship is ready to get back on track... because I guess the comm channels are down? Why did Picard not call him?
Stubbs replies by remarking that there are two Crushers onboard, and the elder Crusher backs up the weird hiatus by talking about how she did a year at Starfleet Medical.
"I missed about... two inches of him," she adds with a smile.
I kinda like that line.

"I def wouldn't wanna be stuck on a tin can in space with my mother," grouches Stubbs.
Turns out Stubbs' mother wrote an unauthorized biography of him, and Wes read it.
Another Sassy Guest Star Moment: "Doesn't this boy do anything but fly the ship and read? Doesn't he have any fun?"
Shut up. those things are fun!
Wes explains that he's training to get into the Academy, and that he earns credit for time spent working on the E.
His treatment completed, Stubbs invites Wes to go check on the Egg with him.
They leave, and Crusher notices that the food dispenser is continuously pouring a glass of some red juice or something.
"Computer, what's wrong with the food slot?" Crusher asks.
"Nothing," the computer shrugs.
Sassy Crusher Moment: "Check again."
"Dude, it's fine," replies Majel.
"Just... turn it off," says Crusher.

Crusher goes to see Picard, who is talking to Geordi over the comm. Geordi has also been receiving reassurances from the computer that there was no malfunction earlier, and that everything remains fine. Picard mentions that Crusher has already talked to him about the sick bay food dispensers. When he hangs up with Geordi, Crusher says she wants to talk about Wes.
She's worried because he's... too independent? Too focused on his future? Not getting into enough trouble? All of the above? She asks Picard how Wes has been while she's been away.
"A good officer," says Picard
"No, that's Starfleet crap," she says. "What is he like?"
"Like Jack," says Picard. "Honest and hard-working."
She smiles, but then wants to know things that a CO wouldn't know - does he have friends? Has he ever been in love?
Okay, so the answers are yes and yes, but... Picard is not Wes' babysitter. That was not the deal when Wes stayed onboard. The deal was that Wes would stay on the E sans mother, and the crew would keep an eye on him, but at 17, nobody is wiping his ass for him. And Picard isn't going to know that stuff.
He makes this face in response to the question.

"He doesn't get into enough trouble for being 17," she complains.
Lady, every mother on the planet is now rolling her eyes at you.
She's basically concerned that being on a spaceship with your mother should suck more than he lets on, and that he's too focused.
But he doesn't really have an answer for her.

Stubbs and Wes go down to look at the Egg in the shuttle bay, and Stubbs tells Wes about how he was a wunderkind, and how Wes is one, too.
"It's a burden," says Stubbs. "You'll never meet a greater adversary than your own potential."
Ain't that the truth.
Potential is a double-edged sword.
The klaxons go off, and the lights flash red.
Wes tells Stubbs that red alert means they need to go to quarters.

On the bridge, the computer has reported a Borg ship nearby, but they can't get a visual. They also have no shields. Supposedly, the ship is firing weapons at them, and while the ship rocks, there isn't any damage reported. Instead, the lift doors open and close.
"Computer, what's the fucking malfunction?" Picard demands.
This time, instead of insisting that there isn't one, Majel starts talking like she's playing a game of chess.
"WTH?" yells Picard.
Geordi says he needs to leave the bridge to check the engine and Picard sends Worf with him to check the shields.
"Meeting in the Obs Lounge," says an irritated Picard to Riker.

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Picard meets with Riker and Data about the ship malfunctioning.
"There hasn't been a systems-wide ship malfunction in Starfleet in seventy-nine years," says Data.
(Ugh, he's talking about the malfunctioning Enterprise-A from STV. Like, hooray for continuity, but can't we just call STV apocrypha and leave it at that?)
Troi comes in and starts to tell Picard that Stubbs is outside and wants to talk to him, but Stubbs just walks in behind her and steps all over the end of her sentence.
Again, I'm left wondering why no one is using the comm system. I mean, guests were not allowed to use the system (as per canon discussed in "The Neutral Zone"), and they weren't issued badges, but could they not have called someone with that person to talk to another on their behalf? Could Troi not have commed Picard about Stubbs?
Picard invites them to sit at the table, and right away Stubbs makes it clear that he blames Picard for this shit going sideways.
"Okay," says Picard, ignoring the slight, "if these malfunctions get worse, and we can't find the reason, we may have to leave, to keep the crew safe."
"I've been working on this for-fucking-ever," replies Stubbs. "I'd rather die than leave."
"I know how much this sucks -" starts Troi.
She's interrupted by Stubbs. "No offense, Counselor, but turn off your beam into my soul. I'll share my feelings when I want to."
Okay, two things here: one, that was fucking rude. Two, he's right. She just basically starts talking about other people's feelings all the time without considering whether or not they wanted others to know that shit. Sometimes she's careful about what she shares, knowing that some stuff may be sensitive, but what about when she runs into people like Stubbs, who are closely guarded and want nothing shared?
He storms out, and Troi tells Picard that his coolness is on purpose and used like a shield. She also says that Stubbs saying he would rather die than leave is the truth - he's wrapped his self-worth up in this experiment.

Wes is down in Engineering with Geordi, trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with the ship. Geordi isolates some tiny thing in some remote corner of the engine.
"I don't even know what that is," he laments. "It's like someone crawled in there and started taking things apart."
Wes gets an "oh, shit," look on his face.
He rushes back to the lab he vacated this morning and looks at a container that appears to be a futuristic Thermos. It's empty. Another "oh, shit" face.

Wes is crawling around on the floor behind the bar in Ten Forward, putting out these little round things. He is surprised to see Guinan, because it's still Red Alert.
"I'm not very good at being confined to quarters, as my husbands can attest," she replies.
Guinan... who you marryin'?
She wheedles out of him that he was doing a science experiment with nanites, trying to see if he could get them to work in tandem to do a better job. His theory was working, but he pulled an all-nighter getting his data, and fell asleep with the container open. He's afraid that the damage that Geordi found in the engines was caused by these two nanites, and might also be the reason that the ship is malfunctioning. So he's setting traps.
(By the by, Star Trek, what does one use to bait nanite traps?)
"It's just an experiment," he adds, as though that makes it okay.
"Yeah, I had a doctor friend tell me that once," she says. "His name was Frankenstein."
I... I can't tell if she's joking. I mean, she has to be, but...
Crusher calls Wes. She went by his quarters, and he wasn't there, and seeing as how it's Red Alert...
"Yeah, yeah," sighs Wes.
He signs off.
"Are you gonna tell anybody what I told you?" he asks Guinan.
She just stares.
"Yeah, I know. I'm gonna tell 'em. Like, if it turns out that that's what happened."
"Do you think you'll get a good grade?" she asks, as he packs up his traps and makes to go.
"I always get an A," he says sadly before going.
"So did Dr Frankenstein," she replies.
I... do not see the correlation between Wes accidentally setting nanites loose in the ship, and a 19th century novel about a guy looking for ways to cheat death, but okay...
Anyway -

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Picard's Log, supplemental: "So there's something wrong with the computer that suggests someone has been screwing with it, but we can't figure out who. If we don't get our shit together on this, Dr Stubbs' experiment may be over."

Stubbs shuffles across the bridge, while Geordi reports that the manual restart of the ship's computer has been completed.
"Cool," says Picard. "Launch the Egg."
The shuttle bay reports that the doors won't open. They try to bypass it on the bridge, but a Sousa march starts playing instead. Like at top level.
"The fuck?" demands Picard.
"It is Stars and Stripes Forever, by John Philip Sousa," starts Data.
"Shut up, I know!" barks Picard. "Turn it off!"
"It's on all the comm channels," Data replies.
"So shut off power to the bridge!"
The power goes down.
"Get us the hell out of this system," Picard adds.
Stubbs is pissed.
The E moves off slowly.

Stubbs and Wes are back in the shuttle bay. Stubbs tells Wes that failure sucks, but never getting the chance to go up to bat is worse. He asks if Wes knows about baseball, and Wes replies that his father taught him. Then Stubbs talks about how he likes to imagine plays in his mind, as a reward for working hard. He goes over a bunch of classic baseball games in his imagination, with all the greats playing.
Then, as they're leaving the shuttle bay, he says sadly, "A brand-new era in astrophysics, postponed 196 years... on account of rain."
Okay, that baseball-astrophysics thing seemed a bit mismatched as well, but it came off less-awkwardly than the Frankenstein thing.

Wes is in the lab checking his traps. He finally gets a signal from the machine that his trap has caught something (again, what bait did he use?).
Crusher comes in. "Hey, what are you doing?"
"Setting traps to see if I can figure out why the ship is malfunctioning."
"Like, on whose orders? You're not on duty now."
"Nobody's. Just helping out. We need to figure this shit out before we run out of time for Dr Stubbs' experiment."
"WTH? You're 17, and why do you have the whole world on your shoulders?"
Wes gets mad. "I just do, okay? I'm an active crew member and I have to fix this!"
"... let me help you," she suggests softly. "I know I haven't been here, but I'm here now."
He hesitates.

We switch scenes. Now we're in the Obs Lounge, and Crusher is giving a PowerPoint on nanites to the others. They're tiny robots for medical use only, to go in and repair cells, and are kept in non-responsive states in storage when not being used. But Wes ends up admitting that he accidentally let them out, after having them work together and allowing them to become enhanced. They're now reproducing mechanically. Wes puts a tiny amount of computer core in the trap with the nanites, and projects the inside of the trap on the Obs Lounge viewscreen. The blue nanites are going over the gold core sample, and turning everything blue.
"They're eating it up like candy!" says Riker.
I... feel like this is not so much science, as just... they couldn't figure out how the nanites were changing everything, so they just kind of implied that the nanites were eating it, or something.
"This is fucking up the last twenty years of my research," says Stubbs. "Call an exterminator and get rid of them."
Crusher raises an eyebrow. "Um, they're now working together as a collective, and teaching each other new skills."
"No way!" says Stubbs. "This is not a new civilization of computer chips! They're made in a plant in Senegal!"
He tries to compare it to viruses and bacteria, demanding to know how many bugs Crusher has killed. Not the same, though.
"Yeah, this might be intelligent life," Picard tells him. "We still have time to do the experiment. But Wes and Data will work together to see if we can remove them safely from our systems."
"If we die in the process, we'll still get into the history books," says Stubbs darkly.

Stubbs goes to see Wes, Geordi and Data in the computer core. He reminds them that the computer needs to be at 100% in less than eight hours.
"We're trying low-level gamma radiation to slow them down," explains Wes.
"How about high-level?" asks Stubbs.
"That would kill them," Data replies.
"I know," says Stubbs, and he shoots the core with a phaser.

Picard and Riker are in the ready room discussing temporary tactics on how to function until the nanite thing is resolved, when they smell something weird in the air. They run out onto the bridge, which is filled with smoke.
"Nitrogen oxide, in toxic levels," says Riker, reading the science station screen.
He manages to switch environmental controls over to manual.
Power fluctuates on the bridge as the lift doors open, and Worf hauls Stubbs out, followed by Wes, Data and Geordi.
"He killed all the nanites in the upper core," says Worf.

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

The ship is rocking, and the power keeps going on and off.
"What the hell have you done?" demands Picard.
"The only way to get rid of these dumb machines is to kill them," Stubbs answers.
"You just proved that wrong," Data puts in. "You just killed a bunch of them, and they are retaliating by fucking with our life support systems."
"Seriously," says Picard.
"Extermination may be the only answer at the end of the day," says Worf.
"Dude, confine Dr Stubbs to his quarters," says Picard.
Worf hauls the bad doctor away.
"Can you figure out how to talk to the nanites?" Picard asks Data.

Troi goes to Stubbs' quarters.
"I'm afraid your single-mindedness here will be your destruction," she says. "I think when you finally fail, it'll snap you in half."
Creepy, WTF response from Stubbs: "When this is all over and I'm successful, I'll take you to (fabulous city) on (some planet) and we'll drink champagne and laugh."
"... that's creepy," says Troi. "Your self-image is really practiced. I'm worried what's underneath."
"Nothing is underneath," he answers.
She gets the fuck out of Dodge.

Data researches how to change the universal language program to talk to the nanites.

Stubbs is in his quarters, laid out in a chair, talking to himself about baseball and falling asleep. He doesn't see that the screens in his quarters are all going blank and crackling with energy. Then the energy zaps him. He screams, but the doors have clamped closed, and the Gold Shirt in the corridor can't get in to rescue him. Then the door opens, and he falls onto the Gold Shirt.

Stubbs is hauled off to sick bay, where he is being tended to by Crusher.
"I don't think this attack was an accident," Picard tells her.
Stubbs grabs the front of Picard's uniform. "You have to protect me!"

Picard goes to the bridge. "I think we need to think about radiating the computer consoles to get rid of the nanites," he tells Riker.
Behind him, Worf makes the preparations. But in front of him, Data has been quietly working with the universal translator. The screen starts turning up binary.
"Made contact," says Data.

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Now more people are gathered behind Data, watching the binary pile up.
"Each new generation of nanites is learning to communicate with us from the previous one," he says.
"Can we actually talk to them?" asks PIcard.
"Worth a try," says Data.
"Go get Stubbs," Picard tells Riker.

Riker leads Stubbs down the corridor to the lift.
"This is a shitty idea," says Stubbs. "They already tried to kill me once."
Sassy Riker Moment: "Another way to get into the history books, doctor?"

Everyone is gathered behind Data now.
"Tell them the mofo that killed their people is here, and wants to talk," Picard instructs Data.
"This is stupid," says Stubbs.
"Fuck off," Picard replies. "You're gonna apologize and fix this shit."
"Do you want to negotiate face-to-face?" asks Data. "I can make that happen. If they hop into my circuitry, we can talk."
"That's what they were actually designed to do," says Crusher.
"But that's a terrible idea," puts in Worf. "They'll have access to a Starfleet commander."
"Yeah, that's true," says Picard. "How can we be sure they'll leave when we're done?"
"It's a risk," shrugs Data. "But it would be an act of good faith on our part."
He proposes the idea to the nanites, who agree.

Picard, Data, Riker, Worf, and Stubbs all go back down to the computer core. Data works at the console for a moment, then puts his hand under some kind of microscope with crystals. The microscope shows multiple magnifications, and you'll be pleased to know that Dr Soong gave Data fingerprints. The nanites go in through there, and he stands up, a new man. Or you know, a series of new... people.
"You are... weird-looking," says Data-nanites.
"Yeah, we've done a lot of traveling," replies Picard. "We've seen a lot of weird-looking people, too."
"Why did you attack us?" asks Data-nanites.
"When you started expanding, it messed with our ship," says Picard. "We thought you were attacking us."
"No, we were looking for materials to help us replicate."
"Yeah, mistakes were made on both sides," Picard answers. "We wanna leave peacefully, though."
Data-nanites focuses in on Stubbs.
"I, um. I killed your people," says Stubbs.
"We know," says Data-nanites. "Why'd you do it?"
"When you were expanding, it messed with the ship, and threatened an experiment. The experiment is my life's work, and I overreacted. I'm... I'm really sorry. I'm at your mercy."
"What does "at your mercy" mean?" asks Data-nanites.
"He's asking for forgiveness," supplies Picard. "We want peace."
"Yeah, us too," says Data-nanites. "Okay, we forgive you. But you need to get us the hell out of Dodge. There's not enough space on this ship."

Picard's Log, supplemental: "For some reason, Dr Stubbs has the power to give some planet to the nanites, so once they helped us repair the computer core, we transferred them to that planet. Then we launched Dr Stubbs' experiment in time."

The star explodes. Stubbs monitors the experiment at the science station while everyone else watches on viewscreen.

Dr Crusher goes to Ten Forward. She sits at the bar and asks Guinan if she has kids.
"Lots," replies Guinan.

"Ever have trouble relating to any of them?"
"Just one," says Guinan. "He wouldn't listen to anyone, which is weird in a species of listeners. But I got him to come around after a few hundred years, just by listening to him. Mothers shape their kids in ways they don't realize." The door opens, and Wes comes in with a girl. "That's a cute couple."
"See? That's what kids Wes' age do! They hang out with kids their own age. And that girl looks way into him, too..." She turns back to Guinan suddenly. "Tell me everything you know about that girl!"

Light-hearted music! End credits!

So this is definitely an episode about Wes, about growing him as a character from some kind of smart kid to a young adult who does other things than study and do Starfleet stuff. It's pretty much assumed that Stubbs is Wes in about forty years, and maybe Wes and Stubbs had similar upbringings with similar paths. And maybe Crusher sees this and worries that Wes will become an anti-social asshole like Stubbs, a little too into himself and his work to function normally in the word.
This is not the first time we've seen the wunderkind all grown up and battling with his own potential. Remember Dr Daystrom? Same thing. And neither of these wunderkinds grew up to have normal lives. They were always attempting to out-do themselves, to stay relevant, and make better work. Daystrom ended up kind of losing it by the end of the episode, but at least made his mark, as the Daystrom Institute was named after him. Here, Stubbs commits genocide, but his apology manages to make things right, and his experiment goes off nicely, probably gaining him the results he wanted.
So there's one goal in our plot - Crusher is concerned that Wes will become another Stubbs. But she's also concerned that her kid no longer relates to her or needs her. He's been living on his own for a year, and has taken on the responsibilities of an adult. Truthfully, if he hadn't had those qualities when she left and he opted to stay behind, then they wouldn't have let him stay in the first place. If he was some kind of screw-around, they'd have booted him back to Starfleet Medical.
We have two Wes-based plot points and one scientific - that of the ramifications of Stubbs killing a large number of life-forms in order to get his experiment up and running. It's a bit... Nazi scientist. There wasn't any backlash from it, either. Just "I killed them, I'm sorry, and I have a place for you to live and expand." It wrapped up a bit too nicely. Writers Piller and Wagner didn't really have a good ending for this episode, and so just kind of tied up some loose ends. Stubbs having access to a planet with the right conditions for the nanites, and just being able to give it to them, was a bit convenient.
Overall, this episode wasn't the worst ever, but it did have some stumbling blocks. There are a few points on which I agree with the writer and producers here - it's not bad, and I like having Crusher back. It gives Wes another person to relate to (or not). But this episode couldn't decide whether this was a family problem episode, or an episode about science. It kind of tried to be both, and while it left the Wes-Beverly problem open to exploration, it just kind of dropped the moral ramifications of genocide.
If I were to give this episode a letter grade, it's be like a B- or C. Not awful. Not amazing. A little more than middle of the road.

Fun Facts:

- Though the main characters received the new uniforms with the high-collars and separate pieces, background characters got stuck wearing the season one and two spandex unitards. The new costumes cost about $3000 each.
- Data's remark about how there hadn't been a systems-wide ship malfunction in 79 years was probably writer Michael Piller's nod to STV. This was the first thing filmed after STV was released in theaters.
- Between seasons two and three, Geordi received a promotion to Lieutenant Commander, and Worf went from Lieutenant Junior Grade to Lieutenant.
- The baseball game that Stubbs daydreams about before the nanites try to kill him was the 1951 tiebreaker game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants.
-This is the second time we see the sick bay lab. The first time was in "Home Soil" (ironically, also an episode where a non-living thing is declared to be living and tries to kill someone). The lab set here has been slightly altered from the one previously.
- This is the first time we see one of the computer core rooms. It was built on the bridge set from the films.
- Michael Piller credits his addition of baseball to getting the head writer job. Rick Berman was also a baseball fan, and Piller said that he felt the baseball connection forged a partnership between them.
- This episode was inspired in part by K. Eric Drexler's theories on nanotechnology.
- Quite a few scenes were cut from this episode that might have taken it in different directions. for instance, a whole sideplot about some of Wes' friends ended up on the cutting room floor. Eric, his unnamed girlfriend, and her friend Annette wanted Wes to come on a holodeck skiing trip with them as a double-date (Annette being the blonde girl that Wes is seen entering Ten Forward with in the last scene). Wes turns them down, as he is going to check on Stubbs in sick bay. Later, Annette is helped to sick bay with a broken leg when the holodeck malfunctions due to the nanites. This would have altered the story slightly in two ways. Firstly, kids Wes' age have not really been shown before on the Enterprise. We've seen younger kids, but not teens. Secondly, the nanites only try to kill or hurt Stubbs. Harming Annette, even unintentionally, would have shifted the balance of blame between the humans and nanites here. There was also a scene cut where the nanites electrocute a medical assistant. This would have further added to the blame game, and not in the nanites' favor.

- Another scene has Worf expressing the opinion that an outside foe has been causing the malfunctions to the ship, but everyone else just kind of shrugs and says "maybe?" They don't follow up on it at all. And Troi says she doesn't think it's any living thing, because she can't feel any new emotions related to that. In a different eliminated clip, she decides that she can feel another presence, meaning that the nanites have evolved emotions. This makes no sense, as she can't even sense Data and Lore.
- Further deleted moments discuss Stubbs' misogyny. Along with his creeper remark about sipping champagne with Troi, he demands to know why "women want to try to de-mystify me."
- In one scene I would have liked to see stay, Stubbs approaches Wes about possible extermination of the nanites, and Wes does not agree. Stubbs likens Wes to a younger version of himself, and declares that "no one understands us or how important our work is to us!" Wes flat-out tells him, "If I don't get into the Academy, I'll be okay. I have other things to live for."

You can watch the deleted scenes here. Scrolling down to the bottom of the article will link you to a second article with the other set of deleted scenes from "Evolution."

Red deaths: 0
To date: 0
Gold deaths: 0
Blue deaths: 0
Unnamed color crew deaths: 0
Obnoxious Wes moments: 0
Legitimate Wes moments when he should have told someone to go fuck themselves: 0
To date: 0
Sassy Geordi moments: 0
To date: 0
Sassy Wes Moments: 0
To date: 0
Sassy Worf Moment: 0
To date: 0
Sassy Riker Moments: 1
To date: 1
Sassy Picard Moments: 0
To date: 0
Sassy NPC Moments: 0
To date: 0
Sassy Data Moments: 0
To date: 0
Sassy O'Brien Moments: 0
To date: 0
Sassy Crusher Moments: 1
To date: 1
Sassy Troi Moments: 0
To date: 0
Sassy Guest Star Moments: 2
To date: 2
Number of times that it is mentioned that Data is an android: 1
To date: 1
Number of times that Troi reacts to someone else's feelings: 2
To date: 2
Number of times that Geordi "looks at something" with his VISOR: 0
To date: 0
Number of times when Data gives too much info and has to be told to shut up: 1
To date: 1
Picard Maneuvers: 2
To date: 2


Monday, July 24, 2017

ST:TNG Season Two Review

ST:TNG Season Two Review

So here we are at another milestone, the end of season two. I know some of you are now scrolling backward in confusion, wondering if you missed the review of the season finale, and no you didn't: the season finale was the clip show. Because nothing says "please tune in to our show in the fall!" quite like a series of two-minute reruns sandwiched between new scenes of Troi crying and Pulaski looking worried.

Let's dive in with...

The Good

"Elementary, Dear Data"
Episode 3

The costumes and sets for this episode were sumptuous, and the overall story not terrible. Data's Sherlock Holmes was a tad heavy-handed at times, but guest-star Daniel Davis was a great choice for Moriarty, playing him as both dangerous and likeable. We'll see him again, and that does not make me sad.

"Loud As a Whisper"
Episode 5

Howie Seago, who plays Riva, approached the producers about making an episode about a deaf mediator. I loved the story. I loved the costumes. I loved that they used a deaf actor rather than hire a hearing actor who knows sign language. I loved the unusual conclusions they had arrived at by the end of the episode. I feel like this episode doesn't get enough credit, which is disappointing.

"Unnatural Selection"
Episode 7

Interesting medical and science concepts. Hard-to-watch scenes where they blow up a quarantined ship for safety's sake. Fairly solid sci-fi. Pulaski gets over her robophobia.

"A Matter of Honor"
Episode 8

A student exchange program in space leads to a Benzite working on the E, and Riker working on a Klingon ship. Not only do we get to see the difficulties of each, but we get a lot more background into how a Klingon ship functions, what kind of foods they eat, and how they regard elders. Not to mention the fact that the conclusion of the conflict was unusual and handled well.

"The Measure of a Man"
Episode 9

It doesn't matter how often I watch this episode, it always punches me in the gut. It's cleverly disguised as an argument concerning the rights of a single android officer, but it truth, it is a much larger and far-reaching topic. Top to bottom, its discussions on how human attitudes towards others shapes the futures of many, are conversations that we need to keep having, and while it may be surprising that we still need to have them in the 24th century, they way that they're handled is poignant. I feel like this was not only one of the best episodes of season two, but also of this particular series, and the entire franchise.

"Q Who"
Episode 16

Q, kicked out of the Continuum, requests that the E take him on as a crewmember. When Picard tells him to go fuck himself, he introduces the Borg to that sector of space earlier than anticipated. Q claims he's only doing it to test Picard and the E, and to prove that he would be useful to the crew, but you know that shit was done out of revenge. We're introduced to what I would consider to be a much better Big Baddie than most of the villains have been on this show thus far, and we learn that Q is acquainted with Guinan, though we never really find out more about that.
Team Borg!

"Samaritan Snare"
Episode 17

A lot of this episode was just okay, with a plot that included Geordi getting kidnapped by space-hicks, but it's filled out nicely with conversations between Picard and Wes, on their way to a nearby starbase. We get a good backstory about Picard, one that leads to a really fantastic episode later on, and he and Wes share some good moments on a forced roadtrip.

"The Emissary"
Episode 20

An old flame of Worf boards the ship. The amazing Suzie Plakson plays K'Ehleyr, who has been sent to help the E with a difficult situation involving Klingons from a bygone era. K'Ehleyr is complicated, as is her relationship with Worf, and this episode will cause ripples in the series and beyond going forward. I like the costumes, the casting, the conclusion. We never did find out what happened to them earlier, but it's a decent trade-off, as the rest of the episode was pretty solid.

"Peak Performance"
Episode 21

Parts of this episode were okay, but there were two big highlights for me: one was the ingenuity of the Hathaway crew, finding unusual strategies and solutions to unwinnable situations. The second was the relatability to Data's conundrum of a loss of confidence. Picard's assertion that "one can make no mistakes and still lose" is a bitter pill that we all must swallow sometimes, and was an important lesson for Data to learn.

The Bad

Truth be told, I didn't really feel like there was anything overtly awful this season, especially in comparison with season one, which had some real dogs. Sadly, I found that there were far more episodes that were just downright forgettable, or not quite executed well.

"The Child"
Episode 1

An interesting concept - passing alien decides the best way to find out about humanoids is to be born, live as one, and die - but it turns up as more forgettable than anything. It's kind of super-creepy that an alien impregnated Troi without her consent, and... different that Troi would elect to carry a possibly dangerous creature to term. However, I did like the kids they hired to play Troi's kid Ian, and the death scene wasn't the worst ever.

"Where Silence Has Lease"
Episode 2

The E finds itself in some kind of space lab, where they are experimented on by some entity calling itself Nagilum. Nagilum itself is pretty creepy, but then it demands that Pulaski fuck some random male crewman to demonstrate how sex works. Space pervs. Space pervs everywhere.

"The Outrageous Okona"
Episode 4

Some rogue ship captain comes onboard, screws Ensign Terri Hatcher and others, and turns out to be some kind of messenger, ferrying a young star-crossed pair of lovers to each other. Eh. I frequently forget about this one.

"The Schizoid Man"
Episode 6

In what will become a hallowed tradition of claiming that you are a relative of an android, some guy says he's Data's human "grandfather" before dying and secretly uploading his douchey consciousness to Data's memory banks. Meh. The only good thing about this episode is the Vulcan Dr Selar, played by Suzie Plakson. Sadly, we'll never see her again.

"The Dauphin"
Episode 10

Wes crushes hard on an alien who turns out to be a shape-shifter. This episode carries the new-fangled moral "being a princess sucks ass, stop wishing to hold that particular position in government." Two decent moments: Riker and Guinan demonstrate how to flirt to Wes, but get caught up in the moment. Also, Guinan consoles Wes with good life advice at the end.

Episode 11

I wanted to like this one more. It's about archeology. But I can never remember what it's about, which is just sad.

"Time Squared"
Episode 13

There's a weird time anomaly, creating two Picards. Time episodes I take or leave. They're either kind of cool or complete crap. This one was kind of crap.

"The Icarus Factor"
Episode 14

Riker's estranged father comes on board to discuss a possible promotion for Riker. Lots of arguing and hurt feelings. Each plays the blame game in the death of Riker's mother. They hug it out in the end. I'm sort of okay with them resolving their differences by episode's end, mainly because they didn't conclude things as BFFs. Some okay background information for Riker. Turns out Pulaski was almost his stepmother. A mostly forgettable episode.

"Pen Pals"
Episode 15

Does anyone remember the episode where Data breaks the Prime Directive to save a little girl he's been talking to through the CB radio? Nope? Okay, then.

Kinda Funny, Nice Try

"The Royale"
Episode 12

Riker, Data and Worf get trapped in a casino from a cheap novel. They later discover a skeleton upstairs and figure out that the casino is "set dressing for a dead man." The skeleton is of a long-dead astronaut whose benevolent alien saviors thought they were building an accurate human habitat. Sam Anderson plays the hotel's assistant manager, and some funny moments occur, but it ends on a bittersweet note, because that "lost at sea" astronaut spent decades living in that crap before dying by himself. A bit creepy and sad.

"Up the Long Ladder"
Episode 18

The E stumbles upon two lost colonies of humans, one Luddite, one technologically-driven. The Luddites' planet is dying, and the tech-driven colony is suffering for viable genetic material, so Picard suggests that they all just fuck each other. They reluctantly agree. Despite some glaring stereotypes, the first part was funny. The second part was sci-fi-tastic. The problem was that it felt like two different episodes melted into one.

Episode 19

Lwaxana Troi comes back on board, looking for a husband. There wasn't really any sci-fi here, just Picard trying to avoid Lwaxana's attention. He hides on the holodeck while she tries to sink her claws into Riker. The entertainment value comes mostly in watching Picard squirm, and then in Lwaxana trying to flirt with a holodeck character. This episode ended up getting the lowest ratings of the season.

WTF? Award

"Shades of Gray"
Episode 22

I couldn't figure out where to put this anomaly, so I stuck it here, in its own category. The show had no money but the producers needed another episode, so the studio insisted on a clip show, rather than just letting the budget-conscious show think their way out of this box. Fortunately, it's the only one of its kind.



Our uniforms are changing - hooray! Truth be told, I never really dug the Type A uniforms from seasons one and two. The torso and pants are okay, but I don't care for the piping at the shoulders and lining the front cut-away at the cuffs of the pants. The cut-away remains in the Type B (which I guess I hadn't noticed before). Instead, we'll get a Nehru collar on the shirt, and the piping for the Type B will be added around this collar. ALSO: we'll switch from a one-piece uniform to a two-piece. The cast complained vociferously about how uncomfortable the one-piece uniforms were. Bonus: we'll now get the resolute and sometimes irritable tugging-down on the bottom of the jacket that will become known as "the Picard Maneuver" a joke on the set about Patrick Stewart tugging down his uniform jacket when standing. (Remember the Picard Maneuver? Picard pulled this ruse against the son of Daimon Bok in "The Battle" and it became legendary at the Academy.)

Partial chart swiped from sumghai.deviantart.com
Uniform fun facts: Gene Rod believed that spandex was the fabric of the future, and that it should fit tightly, so he put everyone in spandex uniforms that were two sizes too small. LeVar Burton complained about not being able to gain even a little weight, or else it would show. Patrick Stewart's doctor told him that he couldn't wear the uniform anymore, as the too-small costume was destroying his back. Season 2's uniforms will initially be made of wool gabardine, which looks a bit like spandex on camera but doesn't pull the same way.

Dr Pulaski

Here's our saga so far: at the end of season one, Gates McFadden quit (or so the studio says), or was fired (so she says). They were subtracting McFadden but not Wil Wheaton, so they wrote her off as taking a position as the head of Starfleet Medical. They claimed that wes was going to join her, but then he requested to stay on board, which they formally granted, so McFadden was out, and Wheaton remained. Enter Diana Muldaur, guest-star of two episodes of TOS (two pretty good episodes, actually). She didn't want to be listed in the opening credits, and opted to get a "Special Appearance" credit for each episode she appeared in.

Right from the get-go, Pulaski was patterned after Dr McCoy. Irascible, grouchy, and prone to mansplaining, she shared his passion for medicine and his reticence for certain kinds of technology. Some people will claim that she's only loosely patterned after McCoy, but they gave her his fear of transporters, FFS. She was a female McCoy. Now, this is not in itself terrible, but it presents some problems. McCoy had balances, in the form of Spock and Kirk. They were the Golden Trio of TOS. Pulaski does not have those balances. Picard is not Kirk, and their arguments about duty and regulations don't seem so Odd Couple, as... uncomfortable. What's more, her Spock is Data. Data is not Spock by any stretch of the imagination. McCoy taunts Spock and makes racist remarks about him, but Spock always gave as good as he got. No one had the upper hand there.
Here, they've made Data an extension of Pulaski's dislike of technology. She starts out completely robophobic, mispronouncing Data's name, calling him "it" and insisting that Data is inferior because he's a machine.

With McCoy/Spock, the good doctor makes a racist remark, and Spock parries and makes a dry, unflattering observation back. There is give and take. In TNG, Pulaski makes some remark about Data, and he factually corrects her, but with none of the sting of Spock. This is not a fun/funny moment, as she comes off like a bully, and he like the smaller kid resignedly handing over his lunch money. Geordi will sometimes interject on Data's behalf, making him more Kirk than Picard is, but even then, there is not the same balance. She comes off like an asshole. What's more, Data is a fan favorite. It appears that this new doctor, who does not have the same history or will-they-won't-they with Picard that Crusher had, simply walks onto the ship and starts spewing epithets at some nice guy who didn't deserve that. She was not popular.

During "Unnatural Selection" Pulaski seems to have a change of heart. She is trapped in a science lab with a contagious disease, and Data, who is not prone to illness, is allowed to leave. He opts to hang back and help, and Pulaski begins changing her mind about Data. It is subtle. Suddenly, she stops talking shit about him. She asks for his opinion without ragging on him. Her mansplaining takes on a softer tone and she comes off as far less irritating. Irascible and grouchy, yes, but much less of an asshole. By the end of this season, she now seems to count Data as a friend. There's still a small-ish problem with this, though - if one is watching reruns of TNG in syndication, and the episodes are shuffled, she does not appear to have changed her ways at all. "Unnatural Selection" is the seventh episode, and she appeared in 13 others. She is tolerant of Data more often than not over the course of the season, but if all you remember of her (as I did before this project) was that she treated Data like shit, then you wouldn't have recognized those better moments at all.

While her relationship with Data seems most important, there are a few others that comes into play as well. She first interacts with Troi, and they form a quick bond. Possibly the younger woman's empathic abilities enable her to cut to the doctor's true feelings on things, but the rest of us must be brought around slowly through actions. Troi tells Picard early on that she's "never met a more dedicated doctor," but we must see it to believe it over the course of the season. Pulaski often goes to Troi for advice on how to approach others, and while I understand that their similar medical backgrounds give them an in with one another, it sometimes seems like Troi is used like a crutch - "you like this person - tell me how to interact with them!" Pulaski sought out her opinions on dealings with others, and everyone else sought Troi out for tips on how to approach Pulaski. There is nothing wrong with seeking advice from someone on how best to deal with someone else. It's actually a pretty good idea. But because it seemed like Pulaski vs the Enterprise for the first half of the season, Troi started coming off as the doctor's handler. Fortunately, once the writers realized that writing Pulaski as some jerk was not going to work, other crew members began interacting with her without needing to consult the ship's counselor first.

The other person I wanted to talk about vis-a-vis Pulaski is Worf. Pulaski had a handful of interactions with Picard where they mostly butted heads. She had one or two good conversations with Riker, and almost no time at all with Wes or Guinan. She interacted briefly with Geordi concerning his eyes, and often because he's Data's best friend. But the person she seemed to get along with best outside of Troi was brusque Worf. In "Up the Long Ladder," Worf catches the Klingon measles, and she covers for him to avoid embarrassment. As a thank you, he performs the Klingon tea ceremony for her, and she inoculates herself against the poisonous tea so that they might share the tea together. She joined in the weekly poker games with him, and attended his Rite of Ascension ceremony. In "Measure of a Man" she offers him a friendly debate about Klingon novels. She seems to appreciate certain aspects of Klingon culture, and gets on with Worf rather well. Is it because her tough personality means that she is sometimes an outsider, like he is?

The long and short of Pulaski tenure on this show is this: I hated her from the word go, because I'd only ever watched this show in shuffled syndication, and so I assumed every episode that featured her with also feature some woman being an asshole to one of my favorite characters. But watching in order, and spending nearly 200 hours with this woman has allowed me to see where she ditched that attitude seven episodes in, and treated Data in a more fair manner going forward. She wasn't terribly fleshed out (all we know of her past is that she was married three times and is friends with all of her exes, and that she dated Kyle Riker), but I kind of grew to like her at times. Might she have been a better character across the seasons had she been allowed to continue? I'm not sure.



I'm so excited for Guinan, you guys! Guinan has always been one of my faves, and it only makes things better when you realize that she was a successful actress who approached up the producers and said, "Hey, I'm a fan. Can I be on your show?"
And then, there she was - behind the bar in Ten Forward, serving kind-of-illegal booze in an organization that really only wants her to serve synthetic stuff. She says she's an old friend of Picard's, knows Q, and hints that she's very old. She's the mysterious lady who gets you the drink you didn't realize that you wanted, and dispenses the advice you didn't realize that you needed.
I suppose some people could say that the mysterious "listener" bartender isn't necessary in a ship that employs a full-time counselor, but there are times when one doesn't need a full-blown shrink, just an ear and a hot chocolate. She's even ended up counseling the counselor.
There is one thing that bothers me about Guinan though, and it's mostly because of uncertainty: I wonder if Guinan is a space-age Magical Negro trope. It bothers me because I think the answer is yes, but I don't want it to be yes. I want her to be just a character that I like who is coincidentally Black and gives good advice. But living in this country, I must question things like that. It is uncomfortable, but it is what it is, and I'll have to recognize and report on it if her character veers in that direction.

The Borg

The Klingons are great, but are no longer enemies of the Federation. Romulans bore me. The Ferengi turned out to be unintentionally comical. So far, we really hadn't had a good, scary villain. Sure, there's Q, and his vaguely threatening talk, but nothing as really hugely, fucking scary-as-shit as the Borg. Thee's something inherently terrifying about an opponent that you can't reason with, who is hell-bent on taking everything you have, including your consciousness. And if you come up on them, you're not walking away. You're not even dying. You're going to be conscripted into service against your will. They will take everything that you are, and make it theirs. Oh, you'll still exist in some form, but never as "uniquely you" ever again. The Borg are probably the reason why I find the Cybermen to be the superior villain in Doctor Who. That sort of villain is scary is fuck. (Also, Daleks whine like spoiled teenage girls. I'm not afraid of them. I want to tell them to STFU.)
When Q decided to introduce the Borg to the Alpha Quadrant earlier than projected, he also introduced us to a villain that almost always leads up to an unwinnable situation. In fact, the Borg have turned out to be so powerful, that they won't be used very often in the series - there isn't a good way to get rid of them, to fight them. You can only try to outrun them. I snort with derision when someone on screen announces, "Oh noes, it's the Romulans!" I mutter "oh, shit!" when they announce the Borg.


Space Douches

"Where Silence Has Lease"
This thing plays with its food before it eats.

Ira Graves
"The Schizoid Man"
This smug fucker thought it would be okay to upload himself into Data's memory banks.

Bruce Maddox
"The Measure of a Man"
Called Data "it" aggressively. Tried to force him to be part of some crappy experiment that would lead to a regiment of Datas, all wearing Red Shirts.

"Q Who"
Q makes the list again, this time sending the Borg an engraved invitation to fuck up all the shit.

Wilson Granger
"Up the Long Ladder"
Dude, I know you guys are desperate, but you can't just steal someone's DNA after they refuse to give it to you.

Sirna Kolrami
"Peak Performance"
This guy is smug AF. Definitely looking to knock Bem off his throne.

The Numbers

Red deaths: 2
Gold deaths: 0
Blue deaths: 0
Unnamed color crew deaths: 18
Obnoxious Wes moments: 0
Legitimate Wes moments when he should have told someone to go fuck themselves: 1
Sassy Geordi moments: 7
Sassy Wes Moments: 1
Sassy Worf Moments: 7
Sassy Riker Moments: 7
Sassy Picard Moments: 14
Sassy NPC Moments: 13
Sassy Data Moments: 7
Sassy O'Brien Moments: 3
Sassy Pulaski Moments: 5
Sassy Troi Moments: 1
Sassy Guest Star Moments: 5
Number of times that it is mentioned that Data is an android: 25
Number of times that Troi reacts to someone else's feelings: 30
Number of times that Geordi "looks at something" with his VISOR: 3
Number of times when Data gives too much info and has to be told to shut up: 14

- Crew deaths for season two are sitting at 20
The reason why this number is so high is actually because 18 people were lost to the Borg when they took a round "slice" out of the hull. According to apocrypha, those 18 people were assimilated, so they are technically not dead, but the Borg essentially strip away anything that makes you "you" so I'm counting those as deaths.
- Crew deaths for season two of TOS: 27
- Crew deaths since "Encounter at Farpoint": 29
- Crew deaths for the first and second seasons of TOS: 44
This info is why, if your name is not Leroy Jenkins, you wait a few years before trying something really new. Let other people cut the trail and die.
- Sassy Moments: 71
That's a sarcastic-ass show. And Picard is Captain Sarcasti-Pants.
- I wonder what that gold dude is?
- Damn Troi.

The Low-Down

So when you add up the numbers for the episodes that were either excellent or pretty good, you get nine. Bad, Nice Try, and WTF? add up to 13. That doesn't look real good for the season overall, until you start to consider the fact that there were very few episodes that I would categorize as just awful. Those last three categories consisted a lot of episodes that were okay, but didn't work well. Nice Try was mostly just for fun and not to be taken seriously. I don't even know how to count "Shades of Gray" here. If you actually subtract "Gray" and the just-for-funsies episodes, you end up with 9, making it about even. Then you need to add points into that Good category for episodes like "Loud As a Whisper" and "Measure of a Man" for being better than average. I might actually award bonus points to most of the episodes in that Good category, because frankly, they're head and shoulders above the episodes from season one.
Despite that pesky Writers' Strike that keeps rearing up, we got some decent writing. We've settled into the characters, reused costumes, props and sets, and we now have a little cash left over for more expensive good episodes like "Q Who" and "Elementary, Dear Data." While it won't quite make it all the way to the end (hello, "Shades of Gray"), the budget difference was like having 20 bucks to spend instead of a dollar-fifty.
And we'll never have to see another clip show again! Hooray!
Next stop: season three!

Willie thinks you're cute, too!