Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Star Trek: The Next Generation - "The Neutral Zone"

Spoiler Level: High

This episode we get a two-for-one in the "replace the Ferengi as main badguys" depart- ment.  First and foremost, we have the return of the Romulans!  Now with bumpier eyebrows!  And secondly... we have the set up for the Borg!  According to The Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion by Larry Nemecek, this episode was intended to be the start of a multi-episode story arc that would ally the Federation and the Romulans against the Borg, but the Writers Guild strike of 1988 caused the plans to get shook up and the Borg were introduced next season by Q instead.

While this episode specifically states that no one has heard from the Romulans for 50 years, that doesn't really mix with "Angel One" where Picard keeps saying the Enterprise is needed in a standoff against three Romulan battlecruisers.  Perhaps they turned out to be old, retired Romulan battlecruisers being used by pirates?  Hmm, I wonder if TrekLit has addressed this anywhere...

But in many ways the Romulans are the B Plot; the main story is about three humans found frozen in a drifting pod.  They were frozen at their time of death, in the hopes that they could be revived in the future when a cure was found for what killed them, something Data amusingly refers to as a fad from the late 20th and early 21st centuries.  It gives them plenty of "bash the 20th century" fodder, which the first season of Next Gen was just chock full of.  And of course, the irony is the man who was sure he still had everything-- his money, wealth and power-- discovers he now has nothing, and the housewife who thought she had nothing because her family had all passed away discovers she still has family in the form of her descendants.  It gives the story a nice human touch, and makes for some good Star Trek.

And with that, I have finally-- finally!-- finished the first season of The Next Generation.  When I started rewatching Star Trek back when Enterprise went off the air in 2005, I figured I would watch an average of two seasons a year-- figuring that most seasons have 26 episodes in them, and watching at a rate of one episode per week.  What I didn't count on is having weeks where I was already watching five new shows and didn't have room for Star Trek, and that I would hit blocks where I just didn't feel like it.  Mid-second season of classic Trek was a big one; that's where some of the best episodes are, but they're also ones I've seen the most, so I wasn't as excited to actually make time to sit down and watch them.  Similarly, the first season of Next Gen aired before my social life exploded in May of 1988 and never slowed down, so I was rewatching those episodes much more frequently as they aired... and then on top of that we had the writers strike which delayed Season Two, so these same episodes aired even more.  As a result I feel like I already remember them pretty well, so I kept stalling out in my current drive to rewatch all of Star Trek.  So instead of getting Season One finished in six months like I expected to, it's taken me two years.  Still, I have completed 5 seasons' worth of Trek in 5 years (counting the Animated Series and the six TOS movies as one season's worth), so it's still a reasonable pace.  And from here on out, I've only seen most of the remaining episodes once, so I'm more inspired to see them again. Mr. Data, ahead Warp Factor Two... Engage!

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