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10.16.20 USER RECS: Album Covers Q3 202010.14.20 Neek'd: Harry Potter (films)
09.13.20 Neek'd: The Killers07.25.20 Neek vs. Star Trek: TNG
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Neek vs. Star Trek: TNG

I've been raised by my dad on Star Trek, who was never a big fan of this show. We watched all of The Original Series and Deep Space 9 together (which we think are superior shows). I tried watching this on my own as a kid but never made it all the way through. Now it's time to see if it's overrated just like my dad thought, or if my dad is plain wrong.

S1:E1/2—Encounter at Farpoint: 5.5/10
This pilot does as many things wrong as it does right. It does a poor job at setting up the characters (aside from maybe Picard), but in some ways it’s a great thematic opener to the show. The idea of brains over brawn is present from the beginning, and Q provides a great dramatic tensions to prove how far humanity as come since the time we’re watching (even since TOS). It’s a good way to differentiate the shows in tone. Perhaps if the central mystery was the least bit engaging then it would’ve been a great pilot, but alas, it’s only fair. Not a great start to not a great season.

S1:E3—The Naked Now: 4.5/10
As bad of an idea that doing a sequel episode this early in the show’s run is, it is kinda cool to see the show fully embrace the nostalgia of Star Trek in a way I haven’t seen done so desperately by the franchise since… well maybe ever. The obnoxious fade outs into the credits, the musical flairs, it’s all fun copying. But this episode truly lacks the risks and characterization what made the OG episode work.

S1:E4—Code of Honor: 2/10
Rightfully maligned for being stupidly, stupidly racist, it’s ridiculous that anyone at any point ever thought this was a good idea. And then turning your female head of security into a damsel in distress? Stupid. Making her fight to the death in some weird mating ritual. Stupid. Oh my GOD is this shit stupid. No wonder she quit this show.

S1:E5—The Last Outpost: 5/10
If the Ferengi weren’t so horribly executed here, we might’ve seen some more from them. But alas, they’re quite shit here. The opening of both vessels thinking the other is more powerful is cool. The final conceit of the guardian ruling over the homeplanet of a long-lost civilization is also cool, as is Riker’s handling of the situation. But the fact that the Ferengi are so annoying is huge detriment to the episode working, as is the absolute cheapness of the sets and design of this episode.

S1:E6—Where No One Has Gone Before: 5.5/10
An early favorite of the critics for one good reason: There’s actual wonder here. It’s cool to see the writers take this characters somewhere truly new and exciting, even if they don’t find the right ways to make it work. The crew is still not used to each other here, and the reason for the whole situation is a bit ridiculous, but when they’re in it, there’s enough here to hold your interest.

S1:E7—Lonely Among Us: 4/10
In the middle of an extremely forgettable b-plot is an even more forgettable main story. I seriously don’t even remember this episode enough to whine about it. It wasn’t good.

S1:E8—Justice: 5.5/10
Okay, so there are issues with this one (and believe me, there ARE issues with this one), but I think it deserves a bit more than it’s predecessors for this central reason: The crew is finally clicking. For the first time in the show maybe, it feels like all the characters’ roles and actors’ chemistry are falling into place. It’s good to see them attack a situation as stupid as this one in a way that makes sense and has a sense of uncertainty rather than before. Not a good episode, but it’s progress.

S1:E9—The Battle: 6/10
You’ll find I give higher ratings to episodes that might be dumb, but consist of a strong narrative drive or mystery. This episode is not terribly well-written. But there’s a central mystery to crack, a goal the characters are working to achieve. The pressure on Picard and his shipmates is felt here. It’s not just arbitrary. The Ferengi here prove far more menacing than before, but it’s still easy to see why they were replaced with the Romulans later on.

S1:E10—Hide and Q: 6.5/10
Again, an enjoyable episode where things happen. A fairly straightforward action adventure, the central conceit of Q taking an interest in Riker is well executed, and even if the climax isn’t particularly convincing, it’s a great early example of the show solving problems with ideas rather than fists. It’s a great balance of action and headiness that the show will figure out better later on. For now, this episode will do.

S1:E11—Haven: 5/10
Another suitably okay episode from early TNG, this one goes in the rom-com direction because why not? Of interest is Troi’s romance with her would-be husband. It’s cool that there’s a spark there and he’s not just some hack to resist against. The ensuing drama between Troi and Riker works, as does its resolution between the plot lines. What doesn’t work is the humor—ever. Outside of a few awkward beats between Picard and Luwaxanna, the humor is painful. Skippable for sure.

S1:E12—The Big Goodbye: 5.5/10
I watched a lot of these Season One episodes weeks ago and I’m catching up now. Apparently I thought this was okay, but I seriously cannot remember it. I guess this is the first big holodeck one? Right, with the film noir stuff. Normally that would be my thing, but I don’t know. I really can’t remember how I felt about this at all.

S1:E13—Datalore: 8.5/10
Finally. Thank you sweet Jesus. An episode with tension, action, character backstory, a mystery, and a past. This was a favorite as a child so I understand why others’ praise might be reserved, but compared to the rest of this season this episode is a godsend. While Lore’s motives may be extremely cliched, his interactions with Data are fascinating, as are the explorations into Data’s backstory. For once it feels like these things happening will have weight in their future. It’s a good feeling.

S1:E14—Angel One: 3/10
Taking place largely on a world ruled by women, this is hardly as sexist as “Code of Honor” is racist. Rather, the sexual interplay between Riker and Beata is fine, and the social commentary works, I guess. The biggest problem is that this episode is just fucking boring. So boring. Nothing happens really, and it feels like it. It’s all one big statement episode without the guts to really go anywhere. It’s strange for a competently made episode to get this low a rating, but this is a severely unenjoyable experience thanks only to poor plotting and pacing.

S1:E15—11001001: 7.5/10
This is often cited as the best of the first season, and I definitely see why. It’s got a great sci-fi story and ambiguous villains, and the back half of this really gets going. However, I simply cannot abide by how long it takes for things tog et going. I understand that it’s all set-up, but half an episode of exposition is a bit much. Still, some great holodeck stuff and the central mission are more engaging than 90% of this season so I have to give it that.

S1:E16—Too Short a Season: 3.5/10
Yeah so this one is just plain ridiculous. It’s clear that they just wanted to do some weird sci-fi “reverse aging” plot as the hook, and they threw together the most serviceable plot they could to fit it. The weird thing here is that the moral complexity that’s uncovered throughout the plot, and the ambiguity of Admiral Jameson’s actions would make a good Trek plot on their own if they were given the proper time to breathe. But this is season one we’re talking about. The ridiculousness of the acting and some character choices drive this into the ground.

S1:E17—When the Bough Breaks: 5/10
This episode works better than it should, in that an episode centered around Wesley and a bunch of kids should’ve been unbearable—but alas. A huge benefit to this episode is that the stakes feel real. Separating the crew from their kids not only emphasizes the importance of family on the family ship, but provides some serious tension from the crew solving the problem. The main computer and the solution are interesting additions, but this episode can’t overcome the problem of how dumb these people must be to concoct this plan. It’s a good effort, but it’s not enough.

S1:E18—Home Soil: 8/10
This is about as close to this show trying as you’ll get in season 1. It’s a pretty damn detailed sci-fi plot, one that grows in unexpected ways. It shifts from basic set-up to murder mystery to bizarre first contact story fairly quickly, and thanks to this quick pacing and strong supporting roles for the entire cast (except Worf), this is definitely a highlight for me.

S1:E19—Coming of Age: 6.5/10
This is about as pleasantly inoffensive a Star Trek episode you can get. Both plots are mildly engaging, and there’s some genuine thought put into all the characters here. We see a great opportunity to see how far the crew has actually come since the beginning of the season in their defense of Picard, and we also get our first good Wesley plot—Wheaton does some great stuff here. Neither plot is a weak link and they complement each other well.

S1:E20—Heart of Glory: 7/10
All in all, “Heart of Glory” is a solid introduction to the new Klingons of Trek. What’s even more impressive is that the screenwriter allegedly wrote it in two days—his complete focus as opposed to the obvious hive-mind writing mentality of the rest of the season is likely what made it work. Add some solid direction and a suitably compelling plot, and you’ve got a winner of an episode that works both on its own and as a part of the deeper mythos.

S1:E21—Arsenal of Freedom: 7/10
As solid an action outing we’ve gotten so far, this time we get a few decent storylines here that all add up to be a bit more than the sum. The central parable of arms dealing works better than one might expect—as does the amusing solution of simply “buying” the weapon, and we get a lot of good moments here with Crusher and Geordi. However, even if this has more engaging pacing than pretty much anything else this season, it’s hard to imagine this episode being even close to memorable if this came out at any other point in the show’s run.

S1:E22—Symbiosis: 1/10
I beg someone, anyone, to convince me that this is a satire. Proof that this kind of a future is so impossible and futile that it might as well be made fun of. Yet, I think it’s simply some of the worst directed, written, and produced television I’ve ever seen. Apparently the actors were reading their lines for the first time right before delivering them because the re-writes were changing their motivations minutes before shooting. The “drug” theme of this episode is rightfully maligned, a horrible centerpiece of a social issue in an episode so ill-equipped to take it seriously. Everything about this is wrong. Tone changes every line, each reaction feels like it was shot a different month from the rest, and all the chemistry the cast has worked all season to scrounge up has dissipated. There is something so fundamentally wrong with this episode on a basic filmmaking level that it almost disproves Roddenberry’s vision by being so goddamn sincere in its bullshit.

S1:E23—Skin of Evil: 7.5/10
Okay so I was high during this one, but I’ve got to admit I was really impressed with it. Rather than crafting the episode around some random event that got Tasha killed (the originally proposed plot), it felt that the writers really took the time to make this episode ABOUT what it was like to lose a good friend suddenly. Even the villain, as shittily designed and acted as he is, is arguably written to symbolize that depression. Troi, the empath, is at the center of that depression and loss, continuously trapped by this formless black of a being, and her only chance of survival is her friends continuously trying to reach out to her in the face of what this depression might do to her. Am I reaching? Maybe. But I really think it’s all there in the script, despite some very rough direction. It’s an engaging episode due to these high stakes, and so what if I’m reading too much into it? That’s what Trek is for.

S1:E24—We’ll Always Have Paris: 6/10
Here’s another episode that just got shafted by the writer’s strike. It’s a pleasant episode through and through, but it could have been a stellar one if the sci-fi B-Plot (which is interesting at first glance but never given the time to be convincing) was woven to match the themes of lost love and do-overs (which like, it literally was this close to being), it could’ve been a powerful metaphor. Sci-fi romances like this are continuously thrown away by this show, which is a shame because that’s a subgenre that Trek is specifically written for. Regardless, the drama has a true human touch here and the acting is convincing. This is oft maligned, but I found it more memorable and warm than people give it credit for. It’s a missed opportunity, but far form a painful one.

S1:E25—Conspiracy: 8.5/10
A full on Trek paranoia thriller is about as fun as it sounds, even at this point in the show. They take some really creative steps to make this much more thrilling than your average season 1 episode, pulling out all the stops as far as makeup effects and thriller beats go. This was a childhood favorite just because of how far the episode goes, and its a shame that they never properly followed up on it, because it’s honestly quite chilling.

S1:E26—The Neutral Zone: 5.5/10
I agree with the general consensus that this is pretty much a non-starter of an episode. While the prelude to the Romulans sets up some serious tension, it’s hard to say that the show does anything worthwhile with it. The meeting with them is well done and tense, but hardly the resounding note to end a season on. The B-story here too is completely pasted on of course. Reviving some late-20th century citizens from cryosleep provides a few nice dramatic and comedic beats between Troi and Data, and Picard laying down the law provides some of the clearest thematic statements the show has made yet about what “progress” means for the show, which is pretty compelling… but thrown all together none of this adds up to much, making for a frustrating finale rather than an engaging one.
A Rush of Blood to the Head

S2:E1—The Child: 6.5/10
There’s a number of problems with this episode. Issues of abortion and even rape are glossed over (is it rape if it’s a non-sexual motive? I don’t know and the episode doesn’t seem to care), and a lot of the crew’s decisions are simply motivated by plot. But what is immediately apparent is how much better the show is in Season 2. Fantastic leaps in cinematography and production design have been made, and the crew sparkle with a comfortability and chemistry that wasn’t there until now. The first Guinan/Wesley scene shows how far the writing and directing have come, even on a weaker episode. It’s this energy that makes the drama and tension of the episode land, no matter how lightly it’s approached. But make no mistake, if they attempted this same script last season, it likely would’ve been unbearable.
A Rush of Blood to the Head

S2:E2—While Silence Has Lease: 8/10
This is great sci-fi. The way they approach the mystery and the slow creep of it unfurling. The sense of dread that comes in the final act and how they approach it with increasingly unhinged reason. I love how the void and the entity within gets to Picard by the end. He’s really not sure if he can believe his own eyes anymore. Idk, the dialogue and direction could be a bit on the nose at times, but overall the crew did such a great job of crafting this one. It’s tense as hell and enjoyable Trek through and through.
A Rush of Blood to the Head

S2:E3—Elementary, Dear Data: 7.5/10
As much as the “fun romp” elements of this can be a bit frustrating (the characters are still fairly undeveloped as we can see here), the way it slowly morphs into a bizarre character study and comparison between Data and Professor Moriarity is pretty fascinating. The final scene with Picard is handled very well, and Guinan’s influence remains helpful to the dynamic of the show. The biggest fault is likely that the stakes of Moriarty’s control of the ship never felt real, and the crew’s reaction felt more of annoyance than real danger. Not everything here adds up quite as it should, but it’s an intriguing episode that hints at the show’s great potential.
A Rush of Blood to the Head

S2:E4—The Outrageous Okona: 3.5/10
Alright, I was pretty high for this one, but wow this was not funny. The acting is honestly not terrible, but this “charismatic cool dude” persona does nothing for the show. And it’s also probably more sexist than any other episodes of the show up until this point. Idk, Idk what they were trying to do with this one but it just wasn’t fun.
A Rush of Blood to the Head

S2:E5—Loud as a Whisper: 6/10
This episode manages to say some intriguing things about disability (and smartly does not make it our guest star’s failing), and delivers some solid drama thanks to it. Marina Sirtis just shines here. She’s a much better actor than she’s given credit far, likely because she has more trouble delivering the shite lines her and her castmates most spit out regularly, but here she is quite convincing. Her pep talks to Riva get to the root of the drama, and this helps tide the audience past some of the more logic-jumping plot points. The point of the episode is made. This is decent Trek, and another example of how far the show has come since Season 1—this episode somehow works, if just barely.
A Rush of Blood to the Head

S2:E6—The Schzoid Man: 6/10
This one ain’t bad either. Despite being another “who’s pretending to be Data” episode, this one is intriguing in that Dr. Graves’ impersonation slowly wears off as he becomes more comfortable in his shoes. It becomes less of a crew-way-too-slowly-realizing-there’s-a-problem episode and more of a well-this-sucks-but-what-are-we-going-to-do-about-it episode. I was pretty high for this one (again, I’m sorry), but was pretty convinced by the end of it. It gets its point across while being mildly diverting. Hey, I’ll take it.
A Rush of Blood to the Head

S2:E7—Unnatural Selection: 5.5/10
By now, we’ve seen so many episodes that fell through due to poor dialogue and haphazard characterization despite boasting an idea brimming with potential; here’s finally an episode that’s the opposite. The episode at it’s core serves to emphasize Pulaski’s role on the Enterprise. This and her relationship with Picard are developed convincingly, largely thanks to fine acting and solid writing between the two of them. Unfortunately, the case of the week for her (involving a rapid-aging disease similarly featured on TOS and genetic engineering because why not) is wholeheartedly unconvincing. We go from one plot point to another, hoping the mystery will pan out, but alas, it doesn’t. Great acting, strong characterization, and good dialogue can save you from a lot—but not from a bad plot.
A Rush of Blood to the Head

S2:E8—A Matter of Honor: 8.5/10
This is just a great Riker episode. While also getting to the heart of the Trekkian philosophy of cultural acclimation (and having some good points about it), we also just get a solid thriller episode. While the Klingon Captain’s initial response to the Enterprise’s “treachery” seems a bit forced, they do a great job of showing the layers to his—and all the other Klingons for that matter—character. By putting ourselves largely in Riker’s shoes, we come to the same admiration and respect that he does for Klingon culture. It’s a great way to invest the audience in the Klingon politics that will follow on this show.
A Rush of Blood to the Head

S2:E9—The Measure of a Man: 9/10
It’s hard to say much else that hasn’t been said about this episode—it really is the first classic episode of Trek. Even if I’m not quite convinced of it’s perfection (some of the writing goes a few steps too far—pulling back a bit would’ve proved much more subtle and intriguing), it’s just great to see Trek take such a strong sense in a parable like this. The sympathy for Maddox’s character is appreciated as well (a one-note villain would’ve doomed this). It finds such strength in the characters’ history and relationships, that it’s not hard to see why this is viewed as a turning point for the show.
A Rush of Blood to the Head

S2:E10—The Dauphin: 6/10
The “Wesley Romance” episode is not nearly as bad as it could have been. Advice scenes with Riker and Guinan are more potent than expected, and the sub-plot of Anya’s bodyguard is exciting enough to keep this episode from being a snoozefest. It’s an example of a pretty basic episode concept that they were able to keep themselves from ruining all the way through. Progress!
A Rush of Blood to the Head

S2:E11—Contagion: 7.5/10
I really don’t remember enough about this episode outside of the fact that I enjoyed it a lot. The destruction of the Enterprise’s sister ship early on sets up some serious (much-needed) stakes, and the drive of the episode continues full-throttle with the encounter with the Romulans. Even though the solution is very deus-ex (and horribly obvious), it’s a strong episode and well-executed throughout.
A Rush of Blood to the Head

S2:E12—The Royale: 5.5/10
Alright, so I definitely love these wonky mystery-driven episodes, but this is just too much. I’m not entirely sure what it’s trying to do outside of some bizarre comedy (and it is a funny concept, I give it that)—and it’s certainly not a boring episode. None of the elements fully gel, making it feel like a weird-ass outline for an episode that never got the treatment it deserved. Oh well, it’s one of the more memorable episodes, and it’s not nearly as bad as some say it is.
A Rush of Blood to the Head

S2:E13—Time Squared: 8.5/10
More proof that this show is improving considerably: this episode. That sense of dread that kicks off the moment Picard sees himself in that shuttle is stellar. This dark drive is rarely something we see in Picard, and the way he pushes his crew to solve this mystery makes for great science fiction. It’s a strong mystery with tight pacing. Even if the ending isn’t as solid as the rest, this episode exudes the confidence of the much better show it’ll soon become.
A Rush of Blood to the Head

S2:E14—The Icarus Factor: 6/10
This episode works better as a small scale drama than perhaps it should. The stuff with Riker’s dad is predictable but well-acted and engaging enough, as is the stuff with Worf. This, like other episodes this season, proves just how strong the family dynamic of the crew has become compared to the last. But this episode cannot just keep it simple enough, as the ridiculous fight between Riker and his dad in the future-y martial arts ring proves. Ah, well. It’s nice enough as it is.
A Rush of Blood to the Head

S2:E15—Pen Pals: 8/10
A surprisingly great episode on a few levels. First, Wesley’s subplot is well handled with actual strong advice for budding leaders. And Data’s subplot creates a strong moral uncertainty, which, if resolved a bit easily, provides for some really good crew debate and sets up, like “Measure of a Man,” that ethical precedent that we’ll see the show lean better into in the future. The scenes on the planet are effective, and the little girl is thankfully not annoying as shit once she reaches the ship. This episode works, largely thanks to the smart script by Melinda Snodgrass.
A Rush of Blood to the Head

S2:E16—Q Who: 9/10
A hugely important turn for the show, where it saddles up its big-boy pants and churns out a fantastic episode about losing. Picard and Co. straight up lose here, and they have nothing to blame but their own arrogance, which is what makes this work so well. The slow unfurling of the Borg’s mystery is captivating stuff, and they’re presented with a sense of dread which the show so often lacks at this juncture. One point that I think hurts it is the lack of emphasis of the death of the crew members killed by the Borg. I understand if the assimilation aspect shouldn’t land yet, but they really should have killed that damn crewman they introduced at the beginning of this. Her death would have made the stakes feel so much more real.
A Rush of Blood to the Head

S2:E17—Samaritan Snare: 4/10
I know some people like to give this episode a pass, but I simply can’t. Outside of the moronic main plot of “stupid aliens,” which is just not dramatically satisfying or smartly resolved in the slightest, we also have Picard suddenly needing surgery, which of course goes wrong. Both of these plots are delivered with the most manufactured suspense and obligatory problem solving that it’s just hard to sit through. The only point in this episode’s favor is a surprisingly restrained beat of backstory for Picard in the Shuttle with Wesley. It’s a touching moment of chemistry we rarely see from these characters, and it goes a long way. Not far enough to save this episode though.
A Rush of Blood to the Head

S2:E18—Too Long a Ladder: 4/10
By this point in the show, we’ve come to expect a certain logical, philosophical approach to problem-solving that it’ll be known for in years to come. That makes season 2 a problem, because half the time we get episodes like this, which are so slap-dash and ill-conceived that their “solutions” stand in even higher contrast to the highlights they stand by. While this is certainly not a boring episode thanks to several (and I do mean several) side-plots and character bits, it never strives for any semblance of realism in tone, and the would-be immigration allegory is lost in the translation of poor direction. Luckily writer Snodgrass is a strong enough writer to smooth over the would-be sexist elements of the story, or else this could’ve been a lot worse than the ridiculous diversion of an episode that it is.
A Rush of Blood to the Head

S2:E19—Manhunt: 3.5/10
Mixing the usual lame rom-com elements with the flat, wannabe-noir shlock of the Dixon Hill crap, this one doesn’t work by any stretch of the imagination. Luckily, Johnathon Frakes’ amused reactions and a couple cute beats of chemistry of the cast keep this barely afloat. It’s faintly amusing enough to be passively bad instead of aggressively so. But it’s bad enough to keep me checking the time.
A Rush of Blood to the Head

S2:E20—The Emissary: 6.5/10
In line with the series recent emphasis on Worf, we get a proper Worf romance episode. And it doesn’t suck! In fact, the actress for his love interest is talented and sells their chemistry well. The ease of their relationship combined with the fact that the subplot of the Klingon cruiser is tied in cleanly to the main plot, creating a climax that satisfies both in a moderately compelling way.
A Rush of Blood to the Head

S2:E21—Peak Performance: 8/10
Here’s very competent episode with a strong sense of pacing and tight direction. You can tell they’re squeezing all they can out of the budget here, making for some exciting space battles (for once). The relationship and trust between Picard and Riker always makes for a good show, and the supporting cat has plenty of good moments too. The main issue is that we never get to see how their confrontation would have fully played out—but this is sacrificed understandably for higher stakes. There’s a solid subplot for Data here too, making for a great if not essential episode of TNG.
A Rush of Blood to the Head

S2:E22—Shades of Gray: 1/10
This is an episode of excuses. Excuses of low-budgets, time restraints, mean studio executives, etc. But that’s really no excuse for how bad this is. Plenty of shows have made incredible bottle episodes with tiny budgets and little time. This is a clip show with so bereft of creativity, nuance, or talent that it’s genuinely insulting to fans, and far less ironically enjoyable than other terrible episodes of this show. Perhaps that’s this episodes greatest sin—it’s bad and boring.

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