Aug 18, 2017

[TV] Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season 4 Review

Netflix makes it crazy convenient to watch entire runs of shows and over the past few months my idle time away from Tobie often leads to watching the various Star Trek shows on the platform. A lot of these shows originally came out well before DVRs and streaming on demand so one could only watch them by catching broadcasts on TV. And if you missed a night, you'd have to hope the show would cycle through syndication or something.

My current project is filling in the gaps of my knowledge of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Despite it initially airing on local TV and again on the cable channel Star World. I never quite caught all the episodes. And it's only now that I'm really going through each and every one of them.

And this fourth season really had me expecting a lot given how it starts. And I think that it certainly has a great start and a great end to it. The middle bits were a little all over the place.

Synopsis: Star Trek: The Next Generation is a science fiction TV drama series created by Gene Roddenberry. By this time Rick Berman was firmly established in the role of Executive Producer for the show.

The season starts strong with the conclusion of one of the best stories in Star Trek - The Best of Both Worlds Part II. And how can you not look forward to the Borg attacks on the Federation and the ever infamous battle of Wolf 359. The eventual rescue of Picard (Patrick Stewart), who had become Locutus of Borg, is a key plot point and one that will affect the character in the seasons and even movies to come.

The season ends with the beginning of the Romulan-influenced Klingon Civil War. This story had been brewing since Season 3 and fully comes to a head at the end of this season. We also saw some interesting character development for the crew, particularly for Chief Miles O'Brien (Colm Meaney) and his eventual wife Keiko (Rosalind Chao).

What I Liked: The big set pieces at the beginning and the end of this season are some of the best moments in the entire TNG run, in my opinion. And they're hey historical events that really shaped the political landscape of the show and the personal situation of many characters. It's bad enough that Picard later invokes being the Arbiter of Succession almost every time he encounters Klingons, but then he also has  his Locutus fears to boot. But still, great moments that really defined the direction of the show.

The maturity of the show by this point allowed for more creative adventures with different characters. I rather enjoyed what they did for Reginald Barclay (Dwight Shultz) in The Nth Degree beyond yet another holodeck addiction story. And this season gave us The Host, thus introducing us to the species known as the Trill and a weird sub-plot for Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden). I even enjoyed the Wesley (Wil Wheaton) and Picard bonding episode that was Final Mission.

What Could Have Been Better: The experimentation also resulted in some really weird episodes. The obligatory Q episode Qpid was not one of my favorites given the odd premise of sending the crew to the fictional realm of Robin Hood. The episode Devil's Due felt like the sort of story you'd see in Season 1 or 2 given the odd pseudo deity angle.

While the era of Star Trek was known to be mostly episodic, I had hoped they would have had more meta-plot oriented stories to keep things going. But the sheer diversity of story subjects in this season made it feel a little disjoint. At least they got to develop some character stories like Miles O'Brien, who eventually had enough back story to move to Deep Space Nine.

TL;DR: Star Trek: The Next Generation is still a decent enough venture whose flaws are understandable as they writers had more wiggle room to experiment. As least you have the massive stories that bookend the season to keep you going. Thus the season gets 4 Romulan agents at work in the Federation out of a possible 5.

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