Aug 23, 2017

[TV] Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season 5 Review

So I'm still working through the seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix and I'm enjoying the experience. We're definitely in the territory where I had mainly seen the big double-episodes but somehow missed a lot of the episodes in-between for one reason or another. But I can't really complain - if anything re-watching TNG is just making me miss having Star Trek on the air at all.

The fifth season is known of a good number of reasons including some of the best stories in the show when you get down to it. I'll get into more detail later in the review proper but needless to say I really enjoyed what this season had to offer.

We also saw some interesting cast changes in terms of new members of the senior staff and we had some pretty notable cameos as well. Five seasons in, you can imagine that the writing staff must be fairly confident about the status of the show and are more willing to explore more possibilities. We saw that somewhat in the fourth season but I think they made some smarter choices this time around in this season.

Synopsis: Star Trek: The Next Generation is a science fiction drama series created by Gene Roddenberry. This the second live-action show to bear the name Star Trek and perhaps one of the most memorable ones for many Star Trek fans.

The season begins with the conclusion of Redemption and the resolution of the Klingon Civil War and ultimately the exposure of the Romulan involvement in aiding the House of Duras in their bid to overthrow Gowron (Robert O'Reilly). This season also takes us to the Romulan Empire more directly in the now classic episode Unification.

This season also introduces the character of Ensign Ro Laren (Michelle Forbes), a Bajoran with a colorful past and with quite a temper as well. Beyond the big episodes, this season has a number of memorable stories such as the linguistic challenge that was Darmok, the classic philosophical piece Conundrum and the Borg-centric I, Borg. There's so much to be said about this season.

What I Liked: What is not to like? I keep saying how this season has some of the best episodes in the show as a whole. Darmok of course is already a fan favorite. It's perhaps a more diplomatic spin on classic Trek stories like Arena from TOS. Cause and Effect is one of my favorite episodes and perhaps one of the better time-loop episodes in Trek history. And you get really thought-provoking episodes like Inner Light where Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) ends up living a whole different lifetime in less than 30 minutes. They really gave Stewart a lot of great stories in this season.

But this is the season that brought us all the way to Romulus itself in order to determine whether Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) had defected to the Romulan Empire. We hadn't had a chance to get this close to the Romulans in a while beyond old episodes like The Balance of Terror  and of course it was nice to see Nimoy as Spock again.

What Could Have Been Better: I'm not sure if the writers had clear plan for what sort of stories they wanted to tell with the character of Alexander (Brian Bonsall) the son of Lt. Commander Worf (Michael Dorn). They finally decided to revisit him in earnest in New Ground but it was basically Alexandar being an unreasonable kid sort of scenario that felt very typical. The euthanasia story Ethics tried to build on this but I didn't feel they really thought things through.

Attempts to continue to make Riker (Jonathan Frakes) our romancing Kirk stand-in got really weird in The Outcast since it just felt odd and how hot does Riker need to be in order to get a post-gender individual to decide she want's to be all feminine and in love again? And then we get to the season finale, Time's Arrow which was sort of okay but not quite as awesome as the season ending cliffhangers had been in the past few seasons.

TL;DR: Star Trek: The Next Generation's fifth season remains to be one of its strongest with a great mix of excellent high stakes stories and lighter fan service pieces. It's a lot of fun to watch and had a fair amount of growth for characters and definitely some great genre television. And so the fifth season gets a full 5 Romulan Warbirds out of a possible 5.

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