"Well, they don't LOOK like Swedish tennis players..."
Release Date: 10 December 2012
1988-1989 | PG | 1001 minutes | £69.99 Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment Creator: Gene Roddenberry Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Wil Wheaton
Star Trek: The Next Generation’s debut run was somewhat rocky, with a new-born show unsteadily stumbling about, Bambi-like, on its new legs. Season two was where it really started to find its feet.
For one thing, it scored its first bona-fide classic, in the shape of Melinda Snodgrass’s courtroom drama “The Measure Of A Man”. Addressing the question of whether Data is a person or merely property, her script is an example of Trek at its thoughtful best, using an SF scenario as a means to discuss human rights.
Elsewhere, there are numerous examples of a series establishing templates which would serve it well in future seasons. “Elementary, Dear Data”, which pits Data’s Sherlock Holmes against a self-aware holographic Moriarty, is enormous fun; “Time Squared”, in which a Picard from a few hours in the future arrives in a scorched shuttlecraft, is an early example of the show’s mind-bending time travel tales; and the likes of “A Matter Of Honor” (in which Riker acts as second officer on a Klingon ship) start to properly develop the pasty-heads’ rich culture. Best of all, the thrilling “Q Who?” introduces the implacable Borg, a race with truly alien motivations who are surely Trek’s most formidable villains (or at least were, until Voyager screwed the pooch…)
On the bridge, there’s been the intergalactic equivalent of a cabinet reshuffle, and suddenly everybody feels like they’re in the right place: Geordi is now the chief engineer, Worf is head of security, and it seems inconceivable that they ever had any other role. The addition of Whoopi Goldberg as mysterious bartender Guinan is also welcome; when it comes to dispensing advice, she’s a considerably less annoying option than Troi… Dr Crusher is absent, after Gates McFadden found out the hard way what happens when you complain about sexist scripts, but has a worthy replacement in the shape of Dr Pulaski (Diana Muldaur) who is one tough broad. Gene Roddenberry’s misguided insistence that 24th century people have risen above most kinds of interpersonal conflict saw her potential stymied; even so, she adds a welcome touch of snark.
True, the series still wasn’t at its peak. In every example listed above, you can think of similar but superior instalments in future seasons: “Ship In A Bottle”; “The Best Of Both Worlds”; “Yesterday’s Enterprise”… The season also has its fair share of clunkers: the worthy-but-dull “Loud As A Whisper”; “The Outrageous Okona”, with its gittish intergalactic rogue; the abomination that is money-saving clip-show “Shades Of Gray”. But the important thing is that there’s a clear sense of a show stepping out of the shadow cast by its parent series and finally finding its own unique voice.
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