Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Next Generation, Season 1: Too Short A Season

Airdate: February 8, 1988
11 of 176 produced
15 of 176 aired

Introduction

The Enterprise is sent to pick up the elderly Admiral Mark Jameson, who wishes to negotiate for hostages held by a former adversary of his, Karnas, the leader of Mordan 5. Unbeknownst to the crew, however, Admiral Jameson has overdosed on an experimental anti-aging drug in order to regain his vitality for the negotiation. Will a volatile situation spin completely out of control because of the reckless actions of a desperate man?

And will Admirals ever get a nice looking uniform?




Writing

Matthew: There is a pretty decent sci-fi idea here, with your classic "fountain of youth" story. It definitely conjures up questions for the viewer - would I do this?  However, it may have been more interesting if Jameson hadn't died in the end. If he were put in jail, it would be a nice ironic twist. If not, the character drama between he and his wife would be interesting, too. In the end, I think the sci-fi aspect was under-developed here.

Kevin: In the interests of editorial disclosure and accuracy, I have to admit, I played a little game with this episode. Every time Karnsas growls "I want Jameson!" or "Bring me Jameson or the hostages will die," or anything to that effect, I did a shot of Jameson. It made the episode go more...smoothly. I agree that the sci-fi story is under-developed, and even for what it is, it's not my favorite science fiction story in the pantheon. I think fountain of youth stories tend to get so wrapped up in the obsession of the main character that there's no room for the broader commentary that makes science fiction so interesting. I would have liked it more without the fountain plot and focused on the morality issues. This is actually a great example of why the Prime Directive exists, to save us from our hubris, and I think with more developed back stories for the guest characters could have carried a show.

Matthew: The main story as such is pretty political. There is very little sci-fi that animates it. To some degree, this is true of many season one shows - a lot of space politics. There is an interesting ethical conundrum, whether allowing the quick takeover by one faction would be preferable to a protracted struggle with more deaths. But basically, this is a story about two guys who hate each other's guts. The problem, perhaps, is that none of them are main characters. Our regular cast really just watches and moves people from point A to B. It's a bit inert.

Kevin: More practically, the episode just felt sluggishly paced. Maybe a little more involvement of the main crew would have broken up the story a little. I also have a few logical issues. Why would Picard still defer to Jameson after his admission. I understand not aborting the mission entirely for the sake of the hostages, but Jameson really has no more room to pull the "I'm the admiral" card. Also, why would the anti-aging process reverse a degenerative disease? And if it could, how did it leave the scar intact? And why would Karnas buy such an absurd story at face value after seeing what for the Enterprise crew would be an easily fakeable injury? Lastly, once Jameson is dead, Karnas is all "oh yeah...the hostages...I should totally let them go. Sorry about that." And everyone seems content to leave it at that. It just seems like for all the set up the politics plot got, there was no real resolution.

Matthew: Despite a lot of build-up over past episodes, Riker offers almost no protest over Picard beaming directly into a battle zone - with another flag officer to boot. There is some nice dialogue about how Glaxay class ships offer the luxury of companionship for married couples. The numbering of all planets kind of silly - why would Mordanites call it Mordan "5?"

Acting

Matthew: I thought there was pretty good guest acting overall, despite this story being very heavy on guest characters. Clayton Rohner did a good job with Jameson, and truly did seem old when the character was old. Marsha Hunt was particularly effective as Ann Jameson. She really seemed distressed over losing the husband she had come to know and live, and it was easy to empathize with her performance.

Kevin: I wasn't as impressed by Admiral Jameson as you, at least during the old bits. It always felt like he was trying to hard for me. Maybe he was trying to act through the make-up, and that's a hard thing for an actor unaccustomed to that much latex on your face to handle. I agree that Ann did a very nice job. She managed to do a really good job portraying the relevant emotions without stealing the scene from the other actors.

Matthew: The rest of our crew really didn't get much to do, so it's hard to critique acting. Nothing stuck out as bad, and the Doctor perhaps was pretty good.

Production Values

Matthew: After seeing a different variety on Q, we get the fugly admiral uniforms that would stick for 2 seasons or so. Ugh. 80's design at its worst.

Kevin: It's gonna be a long time before we get to what I think is actually the best admiral's uniform, the one for Admiral Ross is DS9. A long time.

Matthew: Jameson's wheelchair was reminiscent of Pike's from TOS, but with the beige color scheme of the Enterprise. His old age makeup was pretty good - better than that in TOS "The Deadly Years." I guess that's where all the makeup budget went, because the Mordanites were totally human, despite apparently being aliens.

Kevin: Pike's chair has a certain kitschy charm, especially with the one big beeping light in it. Jameson's chair felt clunky to me. It seems like they put a lot of resources into making the chair, then just ended up with this large piece of furniture to shoot around. I always thought it should have been sleeker and lighter, to actually give the impression that modern technology affords a wheelchair-bound person as much mobility as possible. And as for the make-up, I was not as impressed. I always thought that old Jameson looked a great deal like old McCoy, to extent I wondered if they used some of the same appliances. Also, there's a couple of intermediate stages that look less old, and more "I'm allergic to the shellfish I just ate."

Matthew: The backdrop in Karnas' office was pretty good, showing some nice dimensionality. The tunnel sets on Mordan were pretty good, too.  The giant "portable" viewscreen that showed Jameson's transformation was pretty laughable - like an old "portable TV." Speaking of future technology, why in the hell would a dresser have motorized drawers?

Kevin: The destroyed cityscape backdrop was a nice touch. The tunnels were neat too.

Conclusion


Matthew: Despite the relative lack of the main cast, I was actually pretty involved in the plot, and was reasonably entertained. It didn't hit on all cylinders and answer the questions I would have liked, but the human drama was pretty good. I'm going to call it a 3.

Kevin: I'm going with a 2 on this one. The make-up was distracting for me in places, and the plot never really gelled for me. Coupled with the fact that episode just seems to drag for me pushes this into below average territory. It's not a bad episode per se, I just think it's one of the weaker ones. Like you said for Haven, this is one I tend to skip when I am watching through Season 1. That makes for a total of 5.

1 comment:

  1. This one was relatively lackluster as an HD transfer. There were really no effects shots to speak of, many of the shots were static medium shots of two people talking, and the makeup was less convincing with the additional detail.

    ReplyDelete