ST:TNG Treadmill Review #41: Suddenly Human

Suddenly Human
Season 4 Episode 4
Original airdate: October 13, 1990

Netflix Synopsis

On a rescue mission to a Talarian shipwreck, the Enterprise team discovers that one of the alien crew is a young human.

My Brief Review

Wow, season four is all about family, isn’t it? In this case, Picard spends a few days as a surrogate father to an angsty teenager. Fighting over loud music, even.

The boy was captured by the Talarians, a patriarchal, warrior race, and raised as one of their own. But when he comes aboard Enterprise, it’s discovered that he’s actually the son of a Starfleet commander, who had been killed in a battle with the Talarians. His grandmother is a Starfleet admiral. Which place is his home? Is his Talarian father a serial abuser? Will Captain Picard survive young Jono stabbing him while he sleeps? (Yeah, that happens.)

In the end, Jono makes his choice, but he learns a lot about being human along the way.

Memorable Moment

Jono creeping up on a sleeping Picard and thrusting a dagger into his chest is certainly memorable, but the moment from this episode I immediately remembered from years ago is him sitting in Ten-Forward with Wesley Crusher, jabbing a spoon violently into a banana split, and splattering blue (?) ice cream all over Wesley’s face. Wherein Data gets a lesson in slapstick humor.

Crew Rando

Crewman Martinez (a.k.a “backflip master”) appears here, but I think we only see the back of his head. But in a more general “rando” sense, let’s talk about Jono’s Talarian father, Captain Endar. He’s played by Sherman Howard, who has appeared in a million small roles, including a bunch of Star Trek stuff as well as tons of video game and cartoon voice work. But his most memorable moment may be as playing Roy, Elaine’s ex-boyfriend in the Seinfeld episode The Junior Mint. Yes, he’s the patient who’s being operated on when Kramer drops a Junior Mint from the viewing gallery.

Distance Rating: 4K

IMDb score: 6.5/10

ST:TNG Treadmill Review #40: Brothers

Brothers
Season 4 Episode 3
Original airdate: October 6, 1990

Netflix Synopsis

After an accident aboard the Enterprise leaves one of its children in danger, Data commandeers the ship and charts a course to an unknown destination.

My Brief Summary

Full disclosure/reminder to my future self, who is the only person who might even possibly care about this: I actually watched this episode two days ago, but circumstances prevented me from taking the time to write this review until now.

I’m a big Data fan, so I always like any episode that features him prominently. The only problem is, I actually find Brent Spiner’s acting as any character other than Data to be hammy and annoying. So this one is tough for me: Brent Spiner plays three roles in this episode: Data, his creator Dr. Noonien Soong, and Data’s “evil” twin, Lore.

The side story about the kid who’s about to die is kind of a weird distraction. I mean, given that the title of the episode is Brothers, we’re probably supposed to see parallels between their story — where a boy played a prank on his younger brother, which backfired and led the younger brother to eat a poisonous plant — and Data’s encounter with Lore, but honestly it’s lost on me. Mainly because I’m not inclined to give it much thought.

It’s always fascinating to learn more about Data’s origins though, and here we get the bulk of that exposition, through a meeting with his dying creator. A meeting prompted by Dr. Soong setting off a homing chip inside Data, which leads Data to craftily take over the Enterprise, and one which inadvertently also summons Lore, through his own homing chip. (Dr. Soong believed Lore to still be sitting, unassembled, on a shelf on an abandoned planet. Oops!)

The thing about this episode that really bothers me is the simple fact that Data is able to do all of the things he’s able to do in taking over the ship — simulating Picard’s voice, embedding an insanely complex security code in his command overrides, cutting life support on the bridge, among other things. It is painfully clear from this episode that Data is far too dangerous to be allowed to remain in Starfleet, even if he wasn’t in fact malfunctioning and he never intended to cause the damage he did.

Still, it was an enjoyable episode. (Another note to my future self: I only ran 2K on this day because I really should have taken a day off entirely, but I was trying to achieve an award on my Apple Watch’s Fitness app.)

Memorable Moment

After forcing everyone else to evacuate the bridge by cutting off life support, Data locks the rest of the crew — including Captain Picard — out of all ship controls by speaking in Picard’s voice, and issuing the most rapid-fire complex vocal string of digits ever heard on TV until Bender Bending Rodríguez.

Crew Rando

Crewman Martinez shows up (again), but let’s talk about children on board the Enterprise. It still just does not make a damn bit of sense. So to that end, we have the randos Jake and Willie Potts, the brothers who make up the pointless side story in this episode.

Distance Rating: 2K

IMDb score: 7.8/10

A Bernie cutout done right

This meme is already dead, but I needed a decent version of the Bernie cutout for something I’m working on, and every one I’ve come across so far is really sloppily done. Too much reliance on the magic wand tool; not enough attention to the finer details. Granted, the flyaway hair on top of his head is almost impossible to deal with, but I’ve seen some of these that cut off the bottom of his shoe or are missing part of the crossbar on the bottom of the chair. Come on, people!

So, I went out and found the highest-resolution version of the original photo I could, and I did my own cutout — entirely by hand, the way it needs to be done if you want it done right.

I’ve saved it as a PNG so it has a transparent background. Feel free to take this and use it as you see fit!

Bernie cutout

Photo credit: Brendan Smialowski.

ST:TNG Treadmill Review #39: Family

Family
Season 4 Episode 2
Original airdate: September 29, 1990

Netflix Synopsis

The crew of the Enterprise returns to Earth for shore leave. Still recovering from his experience with the Borg, Picard meets up with his brother.

My Brief Review

This episode plays a little bit like an episode of Fantasy Island — three separate and, really, totally unrelated stories. The common thread is in the title: family.

The setting: Earth. Enterprise is under repair, and the crew gets some shore leave at home. In the main story, Picard, still suffering from his traumatic assimilation by the Borg, retreats to his family vineyard in France, where his elder brother is not exactly pleased to see him. In the second story, Worf’s human adoptive parents come on board and embarrass him. And in the third, barely developed story (which seems to exist only to pad out the runtime and underscore “family”), Dr. Crusher receives a container of possessions from her late husband Jack, including his Starfleet uniform (the style worn in the Original Series movies of the ’80s) and a holographic message he had recorded for the infant Wesley, shortly before being killed in the line of duty.

The Wes story is fine, but totally throwaway. The Worf story is humorous and… uh… well… humanizes Worf a bit. But Picard’s story is really the essence of the episode and is fairly powerful. How does one recover from a traumatic experience? Will Picard retreat to life back on Earth, hiding from the dangers in space? Or will he find a way to live with what he’s been through and persevere in space? Is his brother just a major dick, or is he trying to teach Jean-Luc a lesson? (Take a guess.)

I have one huge issue with a scientific detail in this episode. An old friend, Louis, is part of a massive project to try to — get this — raise a new subcontinent in the ocean (the project is even called “Atlantis”). It’s run into some technical issues, and could really benefit from a smart and decisive leader like Picard to get things back on track.

But here’s the problem: WATER DISPLACEMENT. This project makes absolutely no sense, because if that amount of land were raised in the middle of the ocean, it would cause a rise in sea level beyond the worst projections of 21st century climate change. The whole project doesn’t even make any sense. What’s the point? It’s purely a literary device in the show, so that the choice Picard faces is not just between staying in space or retreating home, but literally hiding at the bottom of the ocean. I get it. It’s just completely inane.

Memorable Moment

Jean-Luc and his brother Robert mud wrestling in the vineyard.

Crew Rando

OK, he’s not part of the crew, but he is Starfleet (retired)… Worf’s dad, Chief Petty Officer Sergey Rozhenko!

Distance Rating: 3K

IMDb score: 8.4/10

ST:TNG Treadmill Reviews #37 and #38: The One (I mean Two) with Locutus of Borg

The Best of Both Worlds, Parts 1 and 2
Season 3 Episode 26; original airdate: June 16, 1990
Season 4 Episode 1; original airdate: September 22, 1990

Netflix Synopsis

Part 1
Responding to a distress call on one of the Federation’s outermost colonies, the Enterprise arrives and must face a powerful foe.

Part 2
As acting captain, Commander Riker has no choice but to fire full force on the Borg starship, despite Capt. Picard being on board.

My Brief Review

I didn’t have a chance to write my review last night after watching part 1, but it’s just as well, so I can review the entire story here.

Season 2 ended on as low a note as imaginable, with a dreadful, hackneyed clip show. Dreadful and hackneyed even for a clip show. The producers were determined to do better this time, and ended season 3 with A CLIFFHANGER!!!

And what a cliffhanger! Not only does Picard get captured by the Borg and turned into Locutus of Borg but part 1 ends with Riker in command of Enterprise, and a special doomsday weapon made out of the deflector shield and the warp engine trained on the Borg cube — with Picard Locutus on board.

The last words we hear: “Mr. Worf, fire!”

TO BE CONTINUED…

And back in 1990 we had to wait all summer to find out what was going to happen. I’m trying to remember what it was like back then, without the Internet, relying just on whatever came out on Entertainment Tonight or in Entertainment Weekly, speculating for three months about what was going to happen. Did we know Patrick Stewart wasn’t leaving the show? Did we know Jonathan Frakes wasn’t leaving, for that matter? After all, the first half really set up the possibility that Commander Shelby might be a permanent addition to the crew.

…three months later…

“Mr. Worf, fire!”

(Voice of Majel Barrett): “And now, the conclusion.”

Of course they didn’t blow Picard Locutus to bits!

On the contrary, after the super weapon utterly fails (because, y’know, the Borg are, like, inside Picard’s brain now), a daring rescue is executed, involving separating the saucer section, “Captain” Riker commanding from the battle bridge, Worf and Data coasting in a powered-down shuttlecraft through the Borg shield, nabbing Picard Locutus, and high-tailing it back outside the shield just in time for O’Brien to beam them to safety moments before the Borg destroy the shuttle! (Of course!)

Oh, by the way, spoilers!

But I’ll stop there. Needless to say, it all works out in the end. As long as you don’t mind the destruction of dozens of Federation ships at the Wolf 359 outpost. (Oops. More spoilers.)

Memorable Moment

Riker with four pips! Enough said.

Crew Rando

A double episode leaves room for plenty of randos, including some who even get named! But I believe I’ll go for our old friend Ensign Russell, who accompanies Worf and Shelby on an away team to the Borg cube near the end of part 2. If any TNG character is going to get “red shirted” you’d think this would be the moment, but no! The away mission is brief and uneventful. (I mean, it’s, like, shockingly uneventful, especially for an away mission to a friggin’ Borg cube!)

Distance Rating: 5K + 5K

IMDb scores: 9.4/10 (part 1); 9.3/10 (part 2)