Petratishkovna (retsuko) wrote,

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ST: TNG ReWatch, "The Last Outpost" & "Where No One Has Gone Before"

Before I begin, a brief side note: last time I posted, foreverinasmile and I were talking and she graciously listed her 5 favorite episodes, and then asked me the same question. I suddenly realized that aside from "The Inner Light" (which is one of my top 5 science fiction stories EVER, which is why I know the name), I had almost completely forgotten the actual episode titles, but rather, the arresting plots and images that came out of some of my favorites. So, without any further ado, the things I'm looking forward to:

1) Holodeck episodes: Data as Sherlock Holmes and Geordi as Doctor Watson; Picard as a film noir detective.

2) Character development episodes/scenes: Crusher teaching Data to dance for Chief O'Brian's wedding; Data's daughter; poker games; Worf attempting to be a parent to Alexander; Spot, and Data's efforts to learn music; and that one where Picard and Crusher almost but not quite confront their UST because of some crazy alien hostage situation.

3) Crazy images: Cellular peptide cake (with mint frosting!), which is probably the most bonkers episode that stands out in my memory; that one where everyone de-evolves for some reason; Worf delivering Keiko's baby in a turbolift shaft; the Borg (all of the stuff involving the Borg); and the Cardassians (who I will hard pressed not to type up as Kardasians.)

Things I'm not looking forward to include: Barclay and the holodeck (*cringe*); the Cardassians (ugh, just thinking about that torture scene); that one where it turns out Starfleet Command has been infiltrated by mind control aliens and the plot line is never brought up again; that one where everyone is addicted to a stupid game except Wesley and some girl he has a crush on; and more Ferengi nonsense.

Speaking of Ferengi nonsense, let's get to the rewatch stuff, because the Ferengi figure prominently in the first episode! "The Last Outpost" is a really good example of an episode with an excellent first half and a lackluster second half. In the first half, the Ferengi are built up, and in a really fine fashion, too: no one really knows much about them, except they're sort of piratical uber-capitalists whose technology is mostly on par with the Federation's. Troi can't read their thoughts, which is interesting, and I wish had been more of a plot point; however, this does lead to Picard saying, at least twice, that he wishes he knew what they were thinking, so at least there's some second-hand appreciation of what Troi would bring to the table. Because of this doubt, and the situation that the Enterprise is stuck in (both it and the Ferengi ship, which looks like an angry, floating mushroom cap, are caught in an energy-draining beam from the planet below), we get to see more of Picard's leadership in action, and he's a very benevolent elected leader, asking for everyone's opinion, vetoing most ideas without being too much of a stone-cold douchebag about it. (He saves that coldness up for the next episode.) In the end, he goes for the negotiating with the unknown option.

When the Ferengi finally do appear on screen, it's first on the communicator screen on the bridge, and I love how the giant image is falsely familiar; even with all the so-called communication, the Ferengi are still a pretty unknown option, and their negotiation with Picard is tense and weird. Picard convinces them that both ships should send an away team down to search the planet and find out what's happening. When the Ferengi finally appear in reference to Enterprise crew in the second half of the episode, things begin to fall apart. Although they manage to knock out everyone except Yar (who appears, cavalry-like, to fairly dispense with these baddies), the Ferengi aren't really that threatening. They're short, cowardly, and ill-equipped to face real foes with their electric eel-like weapons. As the episode moves on, they start carrying themselves more and more like a Planet of the Apes audition gone wrong. Meanwhile, Riker and the crew square off against the guardian of the planet, an emissary from a long-dead empire who's been looking after the planet's defense system, which is what's draining both ships. Riker gets a Total Badass Moment when he faces the guardian dude in combat and doesn't flinch as the guardian threatens to chop off his shoulder with a naginata/halberd. In the end, it's Sun Tzu for the win on a classic, old-school Trek craphole planet made from props and dry ice. Not the best episode, but not the worst, either. Way better than "Naked Now."

Most awesome moment: I misheard Riker's line to the Guardian as, "The true enemy is beer." Oops, it's fear! Well, both are good.

Worst Moment: One of my most hated parts about the Ferengi is the way they pronounce the word female as "Fee-MAYL" in a tone of voice that 7-year-old boys reserve for boogers and slime. I counted Fee-MAYL five times in this episode, and that was five too many.

So, as a palate cleanser, "Where No One Has Gone Before" presents us with a smarter alien presence, and a much more interesting adversary: distance. An Arrogant Engineer Guy (AEG) and his Mysterious Assistant (MA) come to the Enterprise to "fine tune" its engines, having been successful twice before. Riker and the Chief Engineer are suspicious because the AEG's academic work is apparently jargony gobbledegook that means nothing. But because this is the plot and Star Fleet demands it, AEG and his MA are allowed to tinker with the ship's engines. The MA is so good at this that he takes the ship over 2 million light years away, and then, even farther again, to a place where thought and space become one. This effort is so taxing, though, that it nearly kills the MA, but not before everyone figuring out that the AEG is basically a fraud, and the MA identifying Wesley as Speshul. (More on that later.)

The place where thought becomes form is actually a really gorgeous image: creatures or beings made from tiny lights fly into blue waves as the Enterprise hangs, unmoving in space. It's really quite lovely, and it nicely sets the stage for what comes next: the crew's thoughts become real. Worf sees his beloved childhood pet; Picard tries to have a conversation with his French grandmother. Random crew members freak out over nothing, and Picard chews out one of them for not imagining a solution to imaginary fire quickly enough. (Chill, Jean Luc, this shit is crazy for everyone!)

This leads to Picard's discussion with the dying MA, who reveals himself to be an alien called The Traveller, who trades the use of the engines to get places in the universe in order to learn new things and find important people (Ahem, reminds me of a certain Time Lord, but...) And guess who's important?! Wesley Crusher, our most speshul of snowflakes. This particular plot point is annoying: it would be one thing if it were a revelatory payoff that explained things about a previous series of unanswered questions, but instead it feels false and rail-roady, as if the writers have a megaphone and are standing right next to me yelling, "HE IS SPESHUL AND IMPORTANT OK!" I would have preferred that Picard ask more questions about how the MA did what he did with the engines, or why he allied himself with the AEG, but this was the plot, and there's no arguing now. In the end, the MA dies, or phases out of our dimension, but not before Picard entreats the crew to lend him their mental strength, in a shout-out to Peter Pan (in which the audience is asked to "clap your hands if you believe in fairies!" to save Tinkerbell.) Thank goodness this isn't played for laughs, because it could be super-cheesy and awful. Instead, it's actually kind of sweet, and the relief on everyone's face when they get back to their own position in space is palpable.

Most awesome moment: Some random crew member, whose name we never learn, hallucinates himself into a chamber music ensemble in period clothing. Speaking as someone who imagines herself doing just that, and being magically awesome at the violin, I say PROPS to you, random crew member. He looks so disappointed when they disappear!

Worst moment: Yar references the rape gangs again, and because this is where thoughts become real, we actually sort of see one, although it appears to be dudes with flashlights. UGH. This idea is the worst, and I have no idea why it keeps coming up.

Signs it's THE FUTURE:
* Even though everyone references it, except for the Captain's Log, it appears that no one has to do any paperwork! Hooray!
* Engineering has barstools. Seriously. Hooray?

Signs it's NOT THE FUTURE:
* Aside from ragging on the awful sweater crocheted abomination that Wesley wears in the second episode, I've got nothing. Other than sickbay's bizarre lighting, these episodes manage to stay firmly in future tech territory.
Tags: fannish babblery, poison, rewatch, tv shows: star trek: the next generation
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