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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
ST:TNG:127 - "Time's Arrow, Part II" (Stardate: 46001.3) - this is the
1st episode of the 6th season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
In this closing part of a 2 part caper, The Enterprise crew (Picard, Riker, Troi, Crusher, Geordi) enter a time portal on the planet Devedia II in order to rescue Data (who went back in time in 1890s San Francisco) and to figure out why there are aliens inhabiting this era of Earth's history. Picard and crew, with the help of 1890s Guinan and Mark Twain, learn to figure out what's happening - and what they find out surprises us all.
Trivia note: Jack London (a pioneer in new world of commercial magazine fiction, he was one of the first Americans to make a huge financial success from writing) is the bellboy of a hotel Data is staying at (and under the suggestion of Mark Twain, he should go into writing himself).
Also, a mention is made to the not-yet-happened 1906 earthquake, with one guy scoffing that there hasn't been an earthquake for 30 years, not believing one is possible in the near future.
In part one, Data was beamed back to San Francisco in 1893 and he
cannot get back to the Enterprise. But the crew are able to come up
with some confusing way to join Data and they learn about the weird
creatures that have come to Earth's past to kill people and harvest the
energy in the victims' brains and spinal columns. Naturally they have
to stop this as well as all return to the present. There is a slight
glitch, however, as Mark Twain (yes, THAT Mark Twain) learns about
their plans and threatens the timeline because of this.
I enjoyed part one more than part two simply because I didn't love the Mark Twain angle and I also thought the character was a bit too hammy. He wasn't terrible--I just didn't like this in the story. Worth seeing, however.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This great episode was completely spoiled for me by this obnoxious
character portrayal of Mark Twain or Samuel Clemens. Why on earth make
him such a silly squeaky voiced obnoxious character. Such a great story
- ruined by this actor.
Maybe Jerry Hardin - the actor who played the character - is famous in his own field, but in this episode he was an unwanted, over-played, irritating presence. He took over most of the scenes he was in, but not in a way that endeared you to him. He was a complete distraction to the plot with his silly squeaky voice.
I hope I never see him again.
There's a bit of Mark Twain in an episode that features his character. The whole crew finally ends up together along with Guinan. Data's dismembered head is the critical thing. After a narrow escape from the evil space cannibals, Data, driving a horse and buggy, drives everyone back to the aforementioned cave. There they are to meet their adversaries. All is going well until Mark Twain shows up and throws a monkey wrench into the works. All manage to escape to the Enterprise to continue pursuit, but Picard and Guinan are left behind along with the head of Data. Also in the cave is one of the dying aliens, who tells Picard that if the Enterprise attacks her planet, they will destroy themselves. Twain has caused huge damage to the process. He is going to cause more trouble so the crew beams him aboard. The way they ultimately get a message back to the ship is so far fetched that it is beyond the pale. Still, it is a bit of fun.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I always find this the weakest of the two-part episodes. It is a pretty
good story, marred by some flaws of logic. I shall simply list some of
o It was previously established that *only* Data's doohickey could provide the needed sensitivity to allow for the phase change. That was a crucial point, because it was the *only* reason that Picard allowed Data to go on the mission at all. Now, all of a sudden, Geordi can build another one, no problem. If Geordi was able to build one, why didn't they try that *the first time*, instead of risking Data?
o When the landing party is assembled to go after Data, its makeup makes no sense. The initial party is supposed to be Riker, Geordi, Worf, Crusher, and Troy. OK, Riker to lead the mission, makes sense. Geordi to run the technical gadgetry, OK. Worf because who knows what dangers they'll encounter, makes sense. But Troy and Crusher? Seriously? Troy and Crusher? Because Data's going to need a doctor? Or a *counselor*??? Wouldn't a couple of security guys make more sense?
o But it gets worse. Then Picard decides to insert himself into the mission. So who does he send back to the ship? The useless Troy or Crusher? No. The now useless Riker-- (Picard himself will now obviously lead the mission)? No. Worf. The one guy it would make sense to bring when you're going up against some unknown, unseen aliens. But this is beyond just a bad assessment of the away team. Consider *the ship*. If Picard goes on the mission, *and* Riker, *and* Geordi-- and Data's already missing-- you now have *every* top officer missing from the Enterprise. When Worf is sent back to the ship-- he's actually *in command*! He's the ranking officer! You're up against mysterious aliens of unknown and apparently hostile intent, and you're going to leave the flagship of the Federation under the command of a mere Lieutenant? In the whole rest of the series we never see Worf in sole command of the ship (yeah, once he sat in the chair while Picard was waiting in the next room). *** Wouldn't it have made VASTLY more sense to send Riker back instead of Worf ***?
(Of course, these flaws stem from lazy writing. The writer, already knowing what they were going to encounter in San Francisco, had hand-picked the landing party in a way that Picard could not. For instance, they needed Crusher to discover the truth about the plague, and they needed to *not* have Worf, so as not to need to explain his Klingon appearance to the 19 century folk)
o The entire, problematic appearance of the landing party in 19th century San Francisco is completely skipped over. How did *all five* of them suddenly appear there, in Federation uniform, without causing anyone to notice or be concerned? Where did they get their 19th century clothes from? And if they were able to get clothes, why weren't they able to get rent money? Crusher was working as a nurse, that should have provided enough income to afford their one room.
o Riker asserts that if you were a time-traveling species that wanted to kill humans without attracting notice, that you'd go to some plague-ridden time. Which makes sense. So wouldn't 12th century Europe-- at the time of the actual Black Plague-- make much more sense than 19th century San Francisco? I think history provides *tons* of better choices than 19th century San Francisco. How about the Irish potato famine? World War II Stalingrad?
o Why on earth didn't Data and Guinan take Twain into their confidence? Guinan knew Twain, knew him to be an intelligent and sensible man, why wouldn't they trust him with the truth? Telling him lies and stories was obviously only making him more suspicious and paranoid.
o Um, why is Twain portrayed as such a frothing Luddite? I can find no evidence that the real Mark Twain was one. In fact, he was an early adopter (for a while, at least) of that new-fangled invention of the era, the typewriter.
OK, so far these are all somewhat minor. But this is the big one:
o Explain to me how it makes any sense at all that the *only* food these aliens can eat is human neuro-chemical energy. *Human*. Vulcan or Klingon won't do. Has to be human. The humans have never even *heard* of these people, how do the aliens even *know* about humans? How does a race on one planet evolve such that its only source of food comes from beings on a planet a zillion light years away? And all this, to get what? "electrochemical energy"? What's so unique about our electrochemical energy? It's really just chemical energy. And not even that much of it, how much voltage is there in the human nervous system? How is this not something they could create artificially? Or for that matter, why not just use animals? Humans differ from animals in the complexity of their brain structure, not in the fundamentals of neurochemistry. There's no good reason why the aliens couldn't eat cow energy. This whole we-must-eat-human-energy thing ***makes no sense***.
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