It’s taken me a while to get to it, but here at last is the summary of the seventh and final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It’s a season that manages to leave a good taste in the mouth mostly because the finale, All Good Things, is so outstandingly enjoyable that it almost manages to wipe away the memory of all the sub-par episodes of the year. But then you’re like, “Oh yeah, Masks, and Sub Rosa, and that one with the train on the holodeck…. And so it goes.
That’s not to say that All Good Things is not the only good episode of the year, not by any means, actually. A quick review of story titles reveals several worthwhile installments. But nothing like what we’ve had for the previous five years. And there are far more bad ones, sadly. And there are a number which give a sad “lame duck” feeling to the show. Often you can feel that the series is ending soon, and there’s the sense that nothing really important can happen here either, because it’s being saved for one of the spin-offs. It’s a strange position for the series to find itself in.
But as I said, there are good episodes. In addition to All Good Things (which really is outstanding), there’s another one of my favorites, Lower Decks. I’m also a big fan of Attached, though I admit that’s not as strongly put together. I also enjoyed Parallels, Thine Own Self, The Pegasus, and the Gambit two-parter. And Preemptive Strike was a lot better than I remembered. One of my regular commenters liked Dark Page a lot, but it didn’t really gel for me.
As for bad episodes, well the worst of lot for me was Masks, which is almost excruciating to watch. But Sub Rosa is pretty awful, as well as Force of Nature. And then there are just piles of episodes which are really flawed or really bland or just feel pointless, or some combination of the above, like Interface, Liaisons, Eye of the Beholder, Genesis, Journey’s End, Firstborn, and Emergence. Really, most of the rest of the season.
Each time I do one of these summaries, I try to pick the best episode for each character. Today, we select…
• Picard – Of course, he has several starring roles, though many are only average this year. The best is, unsurprisingly, All Good Things (though I also liked him in Attached)
• Riker – I think The Pegasus is all right, but he shines brightest in Gambit parts I & II.
• Geordi – His starring role is in Interface, which is not a great episode but does showcase Geordi well.
• Worf – Without a doubt, it’d be Parallels. But I also like him Lower Decks.
• Dr. Crusher – Her starring role this year was in Sub Rosa, but the less said about that the better. My favorite use of the character this year was certainly in Attached.
• Troi – Genesis, where she turns into a fish. Just kidding! Um, I think I have to pick Parallels, which was a supporting role for her but a touching one (as well as surprising!)
• Data – None of his starring roles really stood out to me this year. What I do remember was his turn as a starship Captain in Gambit part II.
Some other notable comments about Season Seven:
• Number of Omnipotent, Semi-Omnipotent, Locally Omnipotent or super-highly advanced beings / races encountered by the Enterprise crew (aside from Q and his relatives): One – just the Traveler from Journey’s End, if he still counts.
• Number of characters Brent Spiner got to play (counting characters Data was playing): Twelve – Data, Lore, Data as Propero (Emergence), Dr. Soong (Inheritance), Jayden (amnesiac Data from Thine Own Self), past & future Data (All Good Things–come on, let’s count them!), and five of the aliens from Masks: Ihat, Masaka, a child, a Masaka-follower, and Masaka’s father.
• Recurring Characters (or characters who reappear from previous seasons or series): Twenty-Three – Hugh the Borg, Eric, Admiral Nakamura, Lwaxana Troi, Dr. Soong, Wesley Crusher, Alyssa Ogawa, Sito Jaxa, Barclay, Admiral Nechayev, the Traveler, Jack Crusher, Gul Evek, Alexander, Quark, Lursa, B’Etor, DaiMon Bok, Ro Laren, Tasha Yar, Miles O’Brien, Tomalak and Q. Also, Lore and Crosis reappear from the previous season’s cliffhanger finale.
• New characters to watch out for in the future: Umm, I don’t think any. I can’t think of any characters who debuted during this season who had any sort of future in the Star Trek franchise on TV or movies.
• Number of guest actors who later went on to have major roles in other Star Trek series: One – Penny Johnson Jerald appeared in Homeward, and later played Kasidy Yates on Deep Space Nine. Armin Shimmerman shows up for one episode as well, but he’s actually playing Quark, so I don’t think it counts.
• Number of Holodeck episodes (where a significant portion of the plot requires the Holodeck): Four – Emergence, Thine Own Self, Phantasms, and Firstborn
• Number of Holodeck malfunctions: Er…Zero? Can you count Emergence? It’s not exactly a holodeck malfunction, I guess. Just the whole ship giving birth to a sentient life form, because of…uh, space-reasons I guess.
• Number of Time Travel stories: Four – All Good Things, Parallels, Firstborn, and Journey’s End (Wesley freezes time).
• Relatives of main characters who appear (aside from Alexander & Lwaxana): Eight – Geordi’s mother & father; Data’s brother, father, and mother; Worf’s foster-brother, and Troi’s father & sister. Also, in a potential future Picard and Beverly are divorced, and in a parallel universe Troi & Worf are married. And Picard meets his fake son in Bloodlines.
• Number of (Potential) romantic entanglements or heavy flirtations for regular characters: Five only! – Jean-Luc & Beverly (Attached & All Good Things), Worf & Troi (Parallels, Eye of the Beholder & All Good Things), and Beverly & Ronin (Sub Rosa). Also, Riker and Lt. Correll look very friendly in Eye of the Beholder, and Geordi is married in the future in All Good Things. Am I missing something? Do Picard and “Anna” count? Young Jason Vigo makes a play for Deanna, but thankfully she’s having none of it.
• Number of Enterprise crew members who die: at least Four. A crew member in Gambit part I, Ensign Sito (presumed) in Lower Decks, Lt. Daniel Kwan in Eye of the Beholder, and Ensign Dern in Genesis. Everyone three times over, and especially Deanna, in All Good Things.
• Number of episodes in which a main character is possessed or otherwise mentally controlled: Five, sort of. – Data in Descent Part II, arguably Data in Phantasms, Beverly in Sub Rosa, Data (again!) in Masks, and Troi essentially dreams of being mentally controlled in Eye of the Beholder.
• Number of New Life Forms Encountered for the First Time, not counting races of basically humanoid aliens: Three – the Subspace creatures who live in a gas planet’s atmosphere in Interface, and the interphasic organisms that are basically eating everyone in Phantasms, and whatever that was that the Enterprise gave birth to in Emergence.
• Main Characters who didn’t appear in episodes: Just one, when Geordi doesn’t appear in Attached.
• Number of Actors who Directed episodes: Four – Patrick Stewart (Phantasms, Preemptive Strike), Jonathan Frakes (Attached & Sub Rosa), LeVar Burton (The Pegasus), and Gates McFadden (Genesis).
• Number of direct references to other incarnations of Star Trek: Um, none that I could think of.
• Episodes with…
– Klingons (beside Worf or Alexander): Six – Gambit part II, Firstborn, All Good Things (ships only)
– Romulans: Five –The Pegasus, All Good Things
– Vulcans: One – Gambit Part I & II, Lower Decks
– Ferengi: Three – Force of Nature, Firstborn (via Quark guest starring), Bloodlines
– Cardassians: Three – Parallels, Lower Decks, Journey’s End, Preemptive Strike
– Borg: One – Descent part II,
• Number of times Picard orders Tea, Earl Grey, Hot: Four – Twice in Bloodlines, and twice in All Good Things, with both times being played for humorous effect.
• Number of Poker games played on the ship: Four – Liaisons, Lower Decks (two parallel games) and the closing moments of All Good Things.
And finally, the Season Seven essential viewing: (not the best episodes, but the ones that are most important for the overall story of the series)
Definites: (almost none)
Descent part II – To resolve the previous cliffhanger, and also to explain the presence of Data’s emotion chip in Star Trek Generations.
Parallels – Simply because it introduces the relationship between Worf and Troi, which we could actually skip all together except for the fact that it plays a small role in the next episode on this list.
All Good Things – To provide closure for the series, including bookending Encounter at Farpoint and providing as much resolution as we’re ever going to get for the relationship subplots of Picard & Beverly and Worf & Troi.
Secondary (not critical, but you might need them, depending on what else you’re watching)
Attached – brings up and deals with, to some degree, the attraction between Picard and Beverly
Force of Nature – Just so you know what they are talking about the couple of times that “Warp Speed Limits” are mentioned
Thine Own Self – In case you’re paying really close attention and you’re wondering how Troi became a Commander
Journey’s End – For those who want a follow-up to the story of Wesley’s encounters with the Traveler
Firstborn – Sets up, after a fashion, where things went with Alexander the couple of times we saw him on Deep Space Nine
Preemptive Strike – If you are wondering whatever happened to Ro Laren
And that’s it for Star Trek: The Next Generation, the TV series! Thanks so much to my friend Brad for lending me all those DVD’s, for fellow-blogger xmenxpert for commenting on almost every singe episode, and for the website Chrissie’s Transcripts site for the invaluable resource of providing transcripts for every episode!
Not sure where we’re going to go with all this next. Some have wondered if I’m going to do Deep Space Nine or Voyager next, but I honestly can’t bring myself to tackle a job that big right now. I have been thinking of going through Quantum Leap, or maybe rewatching and blogging on Community, but we’ll see. I think I will hit the four Next Generation movies at least, hopefully sometime soon.
In the meantime, thanks for reading!