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Crusher to the limit...
...a really strong plot in the beginning, sadly this episode finally turns in one of the famous deus ex machina solutions so often used in Star Trek. Dealing with an interesting scenario around questioning one's own mental health (in this case Dr. Crusher's) this one has its strong point. How is it possible to distinguish if it is you that's mad or all the people around you? Beverly has to face a situation difficult (and nearly impossible) to cope with. She's feeling totally sane but her behavior creates serious doubt in all the crew-mates around her... what makes her think they are crazy... in the end it turns out that not the inner but the outer space has been altered by a warp drive experiment carried out by Wesley. So she is completely sane as are the others but it is not her reality but some kind of alternate universe constantly shrinking as Wesley's "Warp Bubble" collapses...
Gates McFadden's acting abilities are definitely put to the limit by this one and she isn't always able to deliver the necessary credibility of a woman close to breaking down and even on the edge of losing faith to herself due to changes in her outside reality. Although she's trying hard... and maybe that's the point. One can feel her trying and that's a step behind what would have been needed here... But except these (little) flaws in McFadden's performance and the return of the traveler whose potential is wasted once more this is a highly recommendable episode with a psychological edge to it... Even Wesley is likable...
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Edward the artist
"Edward Scissorhands" surely can be understood as a (post)modern fairytale. But below that surface it is (like every other fairytale) a bit more than just a tale. So my review here is to be understood more in the way of an interpretation but not to analyze the movie in a scientific way but to shed some light on it from a slightly different angle.
To me "Edward" will always be the story of an artist. Created by genius (the inventor) but left unfinished an unprepared to take part in social life he lives hidden from the outside world until somebody discovers him (more or less by coincidence). First of all, everyone he meets is struck by his appearance for he has got scissors instead of hands but what are hands other than tools. With Edward's (scissor)hands it becomes almost obvious that he is born to use them. They are not useful in helping him through the day (he always cuts things and even himself) but they are wonderful instruments of creation. When he uses them to create works of art and design everyone realizes the beauty that resides inside his mind. A Beauty that is not to be seen in his outward appearance (except for those who really love him). But of course there are those who aren't able to reach that deep so they are afraid of his looks and jealous about his talents. Some even try to use Edward himself as an instrument (of crime in this case). His innocence and inability to get the point of morality is another hint to his identity as an artist. Art never can be a moral instance. The artist always includes some kind of ambivalence and maybe even indifference concerning moral issues. That often results in conflicts with instances of morality, religious as well as socio-cultural because he is not able to integrate himself in such a strict and even rigid forms of life. What he desires most of all is love and that at all costs even if it involves the death of another person....
Man vs. Man
I don't think there's much to add here but just grant me a few remarks. To me (and I guess I'm hardly the only one) nearly every Star Trek Episode has its point beyond what is shown on screen. So this is the one that started it all (at least officially). Star Trek is always about mankind, the "human equation" one might say. For that it seems quite reasonable to establish that kind of equation in the first episodes and that is what is taking place in "Where no Man has gone before".
By trying to pass the galactic barrier Captain Kirk is confronted with a situation that challenges him personally as well as professionally. His friend Gary Mitchell has turned into some kind of super human with God-like abilities. So Kirk gets caught between his command of the ship and his compassion for his friend who must be marooned on Delta Vega to save the ship threatened by him. Kirk taking his responsibility for his ship defeats Mitchell in a fight and finally saves his crew.
Not much to it one might say. But lets take a closer look. Is it really just Kirk who fights Mitchell in the final scene? Or is he stepping out of his character, representing mankind itself in a desperate struggle against its worst enemies: megalomania, selfishness, arrogance, immorality (which all can be interpreted as facets of "Evil")? Mitchell suddenly able to reach way beyond human possibilities stands for the power corrupted megalomaniac. He has the powers of a God but has to deal with them in a human way. He is not able to cope with the situation and gets mad for it is not (or should I say not yet) possible for man to take that many steps in evolution at once (if at all). Kirk stands on the other side. He realizes that there is no way to convince Mitchell to cooperate and decides to fight him. Kirks point is to stress that the human strengths don't lie in his physical or mental powers (an increase of Power will always lead to corruption and injustice) but in reason and moral duty. The best line of this episode delivered by Mitchell makes it clear: "Command and compassion, that's a fool's mixture." Mitchell gets it but misses the point. That's what Kirk and the Federation or Starfleet stand for in their early days. Technically highly developed but morally as well to keep the balance. They aren't pacifists, they know when to fight (also an element of reason and duty) but they don't enjoy it.
The ongoing struggle in Star Trek is that of man against himself, in this case represented by Kirk and his good friend Mitchell. That's the point and even if there will be a lot of alien races and unknown phenomena in shows to come there's always a human facet to it...
A strong point for an all time classic episode starting off an all time classic SF series.
Star Trek Noir
"The big goodbye" introduces us to the first holodeck adventure, in this case Captain Picard posing as private investigator Dixon Hill. This episodes creates some sort of standard pattern, repeated several times on TNG as well as DS 9 and Voyager. After entering the holodeck something goes wrong and the characters have to deal with the program under different circumstances beyond playing a game (represented by the failure of the holodeck's safety program).
This concept is used to expand Star Trek's possibility and enabling a kind of genre-mix. Picard's Dixon Hill stories are examples of 1940s crime fiction and their representation on the screen are referred to as Film Noir often having the stereotype antihero in the lead (see for example Chandler's Marlowe stories or Polanski's all time classic "Chinatown"). Star Trek never focuses on the story (mostly it's a simple "how-do-we-get-out-of-here" scenario) but enables the actors to take a different approach to their characters. Those Holodeck "games" are commonly used for recreation and reflect the private interests of the crew members. Therefore the technical aspect is always neglected and from that point of view the stories are never sound (but did Star Trek ever had a technical, scientific point to it, I mean besides some utopic concepts?).
"The big goodbye" shows a relaxed Patrick Stewart, a McFadden that hardly ever looked better in a Star Trek episode (at least the early ones) and Data has some great scenes, too (although I find it hard to believe that pulling the lamp's plug out of the wall would have really surprised him, for the fact that he'd done research on that period and its customs). Wesley continues turning peaceful Trekkies into potential murderers (why didn't they take him to the holodeck and let the gangsters finish him off?) but all in all this one's fun...
The Troi Ladies
"Haven" is fun. A strong guest cast and finally some adding to Troi's character and a new facet on the Captain's are way enough to make this one of the better first season's episodes. Majel Barrett's great as is Patrick Stewart (who' show almost go stolen by her) and even Marina Sirtis, now that she's given the chance to bring some life to Troi tries hard but finally doesn't succeed in developing her character (besides her looks, although her diner outfit is terrible).
We see Riker's quarters for the first time and of course his holo projector (yes, the 24th century really has something to it). And interestingly, they seem to have wall sockets on the Enterprise or what was that Tasha got in touch with before diner? Ariana wasn't as dreamlike to me as to Wyatt but this part of the plot isn't the one to focus upon. It is the first time that real social interaction took place on the new Enterprise and look how that puzzled Data. That's the way to really get to know Humans and of course Betazoids. I admit, all this has a little soap feeling to it but finally it's just fun to watch the actors enjoying the easy mood, dominating this one.
"Hide and Q" just doesn't work for me. Surely, confronting man with the possibility of unlimited power is a challenging concept but I think the way presented here isn't the one to deal with such matter. First of all, Riker is the obvious choice for the "God candidate" (who else should it have been, Worf?). But to be honest I can't stand him laughing. He overplays his new role to the limit with his meaningful looks and clumsy arrogance. Sure, Riker's an eager officer and loyal to his colleagues but what I had wished for was reaching deeper into his character to clearly state out what his new powers could mean to him... Idon't know if Frakes would have had the ability to do so at the time (I would almost say no) but such a highly complex matter deserves to be taken seriously. Wouldn't it have traumatized him or given him a mental breakdown or simply blown his mind? And honestly: Riker's conflict about having been able to save the child. Is that all he was thinking about at the moment? Here comes the point which makes clear that this is just another episode awkwardly trying to create a pseudo-theological conflict. It's not Riker we're interested in but only the "what-would-be-if" kind of thing finally resulting in the overly simple solution of realizing that keeping to our true selves is the best thing to do. But the script's way too superficial on that. Shakespeare knew what he wrote about and his lines weigh a lot and it's quite a shame to abuse his work for such purpose (although the Q/Picard "Shakespeare-battle" is a funny thing).
Besides Riker, interestingly it's Data who ruins this show. What had happened to him? Did he just out of nothing develop a kind of conscience? How that? And what's his silly question at the end about Q having problems to deal with humans? I'm glad the producers dropped that kind of Data-parts soon...
Another thing is the "game" Q creates. First of all the set. It's so bad that even the most talented director couldn't have made anything out of it. So, no fault on behalf of Cliff Bole. Wouldn't it have been "game" enough for Q just letting the crew execute their rescue mission and watching how Riker behaves? Wouldn't that have been temptation enough? I do think so... And once again Wesley. Why didn't Riker just let him die? Second opportunity missed...
It's quite a torture to see Star Trek struggling for its way and dealing with quite intelligent concepts in a silly, childish and one dimensional way. Please Mr. Roddenberry, let go... (He finally did and look what became of TNG).
Riker's worst performance so far and Q's much better than in the pilot (although deLancie almost gave in to the temptation of falling back to classic 60s villainy). A new set of the Enterprise's corridors was introduced here and for my part that's all to mention here.
Picard in conflict with his past
"The Battle" is the first ST episode ever that really started to explore one single character (Picard, in this case). And that's not just mentioning some facts about his former life but really making him relive his past experience. The Ferengi "thought maker" and the revenge plot around Daimon Bok wanting to make Picard pay for killing his son in the Battle of Maxia are just McGuffins to enable Patrick Stewart to add some depth to his character by exploring it. So Star Trek is not always about exploration of the outer space but also of the inner space (the human mind, memory, psyche or whatever you want to call it). Patrick Stewart has the chance to carry the whole show and he delivers a marvelous performance, dropping his shield of reason and authority and portraying a weak and almost helpless Picard tormented by a strange pain (although created by the Ferengi device on screen, this represents his unfinished business with this event of his past in the subtext). Dr. Crusher is also convincing as the caring physician trying to help the pain ridden Captain and stating that for her the Captain's health is not only a matter of duty but of deep personal care.
Rob Bowman (director) moves on with creating modern ST aesthetics by delivering some nice shots of the improved Captain's quarters set and supporting Stewart's acting abilities with some close up shots gratefully taken by the latter. This episode marks the point in Star Trek where "real" acting moved in. This moment at the latest should have made it clear to the producers that they had a first rate actor on top of their show granting them much space to play with the character...
But as many good points this one may have, it's again Wesley Crusher who almost ruins it with his silly moments (incidentally finding out about the connection between the Ferengi and the Captain's headache and his silly remark on "adults", intended as a comic relief but resulting in hating that character even more. Character? That would be an exaggeration, wouldn't it?)...
First season's worst one
This episode does contain everything a really bad Star Trek show needs. A plastic conflict, created merely for moral purpose, a sentimental, naive way of raising theological and philosophical questions and an easy one dimensional solution at last. Furthermore there's not the slightest moment of suspense or innovation to this one. It's plain boring... Questioning death penalty is a highly complex matter, as is comparing different law and moral systems. But the biggest impudence is that God thing. Couldn't they have thought of something more intelligent and original?
The cast seems to have felt as uneasy with it during production as I did while watching. McFadden is unconcentrated and delivers one of her worst performances, showing that there is everything but a loving relationship between her and Wesley (or Will Wheaton). Picard's overly harsh treatment of Data quite set me up as well as the latter one's relapse to an earlier state of development. We may be in the 9th episode but Data already has learned a lot about humans, though surely not enough to prevent any conflict sufficient to know what is considered important. Picard's silly speech at the end finishes this one off and leaves the audience in despair (or should I say outrage?)...
The Edo do have some lovely girls and the idea of a paradise-like society is as old as mankind itself but that's not enough to get away with. We see Picard's quarters for the first time (why does Dr. Crusher enter without permission?) and the opening shot, showing the Captain's face from a low angle while circling around him has something to it but all the rest is pure rubbish (should I exclude Worf's remarks on Klingon sexuality?). And honestly, has anyone ever believed, Wesley would die in the end (I for my part kept hoping, although I knew better)?
I want to watch Star Trek to get inspiration and not a lecture on simple solutions.
One of first season's best!
"Lonely among us" definitely is one of the best first season episodes. The storyline, although somewhat confusing, creates a lot of suspense, supported by the creepy synthesizer-driven soundtrack. This is a typically "alien body invasion" scenario but finally turning out to no evil purpose (the death of assistant chief engineer Singh to me was an accident). The two delegate species deliver an entertaining frame (best make-up so far) finally adding a little black humor to the series (the final scene). Patrick Stewart obviously enjoys stepping out a bit of his Picard character and exploring some new terrain as does Data by posing as Sherlock Holmes (another all time classic). The special effects are also convincing and director Cliff Bole did his job well. He is the first one trying to compensate Trois lack in acting ability by improving her looks. She does look beautiful in some scenes and the neck of her dress improves her appearance a lot. Picard's "lightning-scene" on the bridge gives him a slight air of the emperor of Star Wars "Return of the Jedi" (which is a personal impression but made me smile).
There's also some playing with the lighting of the corridors (simulating night aboard) and the first moving camera, pulling back from Picard when he's entering the transporter room to beam into the cloud... Nice work. The clever cutting, creating continuing dialog through different scenes (Troi's hypnosis report) rounds up the impression of a really well crafted TNG episode. The first one, where even Wesley Crusher seemed almost tolerable...
The ending however is a bit confusing, just as if the producers were running out of time. "P for Picard" is a little far fetched and his return far too easy but that can be left aside regarding the many strong moments this episode has to offer...
Waste of potential
I'd like to make this short. Not too great a script that mainly serves to point out the special talents of Wesley Crusher, finally resulting in his promotion to acting Ensign. Kamel does his job as Kosinski, a dislikable, over-confident and arrogant Starfleet engineer quite well (but is there room for such a behavior in the 24th century?), although his humiliation in the end is a bit too peaceful. A man of his character should have fought harder for his reputation, shouldn't he? The Traveler as the "gentle giant" with all his understanding and care seems a bit too plastic, and the writers' intention of creating an antagonist to the Enterprise officers tending to not taking Wesley seriously, ignroing him or whatsoever is much too obvious. His merely being used for purpose destroys a lot of potential of this not revolutionary but quite intelligent set-up. After "The naked now" (TNG 1.2) this is the second episode blown by Wesley Crusher, my dislike of whom still growing from show to show.
There also could have been a philosophic point to the show by daring to further explore the time-space-thought connection but once again Roddenberry's view is too restricted to experiment. What this show needed was a real kick off, something avantgarde leading to finally overcome the 60s TOS concept. As stated before in other comments this show's special achievements lie clearly beyond the plot. Introducing Rob Bowman (also known for his work on "The X-Files" in the 90s) we see what an innovative style of directing can make of a show. Those low angle shots of some bridge personnel are really something new as well as the exploration of the engineering set. But as good as the directing was, engineering seemed a bit empty without a charismatic chief engineer. At this early time of the series the problem of not having included that character became a problem. Argyle isn't the one to do the job and Riker does his best to compensate but that's not enough... Special effects are OK (and even outstanding for a TV show at this time) as are the performances of the leads. Data has to step aside for this one, leaving space for the guest cast's "odd couple", who for a moment seem to carry the show but the weak exit of Kasinski and the sudden disappearance of the Traveler aren't satisfying.
Yvette Picard (the Captain's mother) leaves no impression, Worf's pet grants a minimal glimpse into Klingon culture and we hear some Mozart in space (one of the first influences of classical culture on the show).
But why of all Wesley Crusher? I mean there's Worf, Tasha, LaForge and Troi (and Dr. Crusher as well) waiting for a chance to extend their characters and lift them above mere sidekick status. There really isn't enough room for another bridge officer and that's what Picard's temporary loss of mind promised us. Another bad moment is the follow-up advise scene on the bridge with Worf, LaForge and Data all beginning with "Captain..." and delivering one line each (horribly static). And what happened to sickbay? Another power failure, leaving only emergency lighting? Or night aboard the Enterprise? One of the worst sets in ST history... on the other hand the engine room is quite good and saves the set design of the episode.
The first small step to leaving 60s movie aesthetics behind has been made but the writing concept still is stuck in its uninspired, anachronistic cage leaving only minimal potential for development...