Friday, November 4, 2011

The Next Generation, Season 5: New Ground

The Next Generation, Season 5
"New Ground"
Airdate: January 6, 1992
109 of 176 produced
109 of 176 aired

Introduction

The Enterprise is sent to supervise an experiment in a radical new propulsion technology - warp without warp drive. In an utterly and completely unrelated circumstance, Helena Rozhenko visits with young Alexander in tow. And she's got a doozy to lay on Lt. Worf -- he's staying.


Hello, father. My name is "You'reNeverGoingtoGetaGoodTNGStoryAgain."


Writing


Matthew: This episode might represent the absolute nadir of "episodes with wholly unrelated A and B story relationships." It seems like a really inelegant shoe-horning of a sci-fi-ish story (new propulsion technique being tested) with a soap operatic tale (long lost son returns). Personally, I think the Soliton wave as it was presented should have just been dumped entirely. There is a legitimate and interesting science fiction tale to tell with regard to interspecies adoptions. It could comment quite a bit on our contemporary issues of adoption between countries and lifestyles, as well as introducing interesting wrinkles owing to the fact that Alexander is3/4 Klingon. The difference between human and Klingon attitudes to corporal punishment could also have been a central theme. Alas, we are forced to endure a meaningless science plot that relates to nothing at all we care about. They didn't even strand Alexander on the frickin' Soliton Wave ship in order to tie the stories together. A fire? Seriously? On a ship, made of METAL, with fire-suppressing force fields?  And did Riker and Worf really have to be the ones to go all the way from the bridge down to the stardrive? Alexander should have suffocated during the turbolift ride. Are there really no babysitters or child locks on the Enterprise? If anything, Worf should have had Alexander taken from him by the Starfleet DCFS due to gross parental negligence. Dumb, dumb, dumb. This story was penned by non-staff writers, and it unfortunately showed.

Kevin: There were some problems of basic fire safety here. Opening the door like that would only have given the fire a fresh supply of oxygen, making the problem worse. Why not use the shuttle transporters? Why not have handheld fire extinguishers? Why not aim the wave at a non-inhabited world. I like the idea of warp without warp drive, but it's pretty contrived.

Matthew: OK, all that said, I enjoyed the Worf/Alexander material for the most part. There were plenty of laughs to be had, given Worf's sort of "textbook" understanding of parenting.  It also gave Counselor Troi some very nice scenes, gently trying to bring Worf into a more flexible and sensitive state with respect to his son's as well as his own feelings. I also really enjoyed seeing the school in greater detail, as it served to make the ship feel more real, and fleshed out the whole "familes on board" idea much more than it had been to this point. And any use of Sergei or Helena Rozhenko is aces with me.

Kevin: First of all, I agree, Helena is awesome. I loved her scene with Worf talking about the lamp he broke running around the house. It was sweet and very genuine. This is a good episode for Troi. Her counselling seemed compassionate and intelligent. Overall, I think the episode had a pretty credible emotional through line. The little notes of Worf dealing with the logistical problems of being a working parent, and Picard's response were nice, too. The continuity of both Helena and the reference to K'Ehleyr's death were also nice.

Matthew: Although the nerd in me absolutely loves the re-use of Worf's calisthenics program, the new parent in me has some serious questions. Could Alexander really have taken a Bat'leth from his father's quarters, walked with it through the halls of the ship, and started a violent holodeck program all on his own, with no adult supervision or intervention?


Acting


Matthew: I will say, one of the things wrong with this episode is not the guest casting. Whereas the previous actor cast as Alexander was wooden in the extreme, Brian Bonsall did a pretty good job of seeming petulant, sad, confused, inattentive, and angry. I never hated him while he was onscreen. Was he given anything interesting to do? Of course not. But the actor did a fine enough job by the material.


Kevin: Brian Bonsall did a good job acting like an actual child, not a preternaturally mature little person. His anger in particular was very genuine and identifiable. His scenes with Worf were nice too. They read as parent and child.

Matthew: Dorn turns in another solid performance. He has the whole "plodding, stubborn straight-man" schtick down to a science. He had good chemistry with Bonsall, as well as with Sirtis and Stewart in their scenes together. Jennifer Edwards was also a teacher par excellence as Miss Kyle. Maybe the fact that she looks like my First Grade teacher is influencing me, but I think she did a good job.

Kevin: I really like Troi this time. It's really nice to see her get to sense something other than deception, and her empathy and professionalism really shined. Burton's scenes were short, and not terribly consequential to the plot, but they were still nice. It was nice to see enthusiasm for something not an unobtainable woman.


Production Values


Matthew: As inconsequential and pointless as the plot was, the Soliton Wave and Wave Ship both looked really nice. It's too bad they weren't featured in a more extensive and organic way, plot-wise. Alexander's make-up looked good, as did the Soliton Wave scientist's.

Kevin: The wave itself was pretty awesome, no two ways about it. I would have like to have seen it spun off into its own episode and really get the attention the effect deserved.

Matthew: The gilvos were pretty obvious hand puppets. They weren't as bad as the five fingered flower from TOS, but they weren't far off. A more artful way of concealing their bottoms should have been found by the director in the fire scene.

Kevin: None of the animal lab scene stuff really set me on fire, if you'll pardon the pun. Nothing looked like a real living creature.


Conclusion


Matthew: This is pretty much a textbook 2. It has redeeming facets, but is plagued by a schizophrenic story and a raging case of the dum-dums. Either one of the stories could have been developed in interesting ways. But the Frankenstein's monster we are given is just sort of a lurching, shambling crap-pile.


Kevin: This just squeaks into a 3 for me. The episode still has some solid emotional chops and the individual scenes are quite nice, and contain a pretty high level of emotional literacy, dealing with loss and resentment, etc., so this just gets into average territory. A more integrated, non-contrived threat to Alexander would have made this episode better. That's a 5 from the two of us.

5 comments:

  1. Also, how exactly do communicators work? Is there no way to set it to go to voicemail if you're in the captain's office? It seems like it would be really distracting if every time someone called someone else, everyone heard it and knew who was calling them. Can you ignore a call? Why don't we regularly hear people's communicators going off on the bridge, in the corridors, etc, with people asking each other to dinner or whatever? I'm willing to accept that maybe a distracted Worf forgot to set his to silent or whatever, but it really demonstrates how much we don't know about communicators and how writers in a pre-cell phone age were unable to predict how it would change our lives.

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  2. Kelly: excellent point! Kudos!

    Kevin: Another great point about the fire safety issues, and awesome attention to detail. Yay!

    The Soliton was stupid all the way around. Hey, let's designate lots of resources to a new technology that gives no benefits we don't already have. What if you need to change course? What if you need to return. What if something gets in your way? What if something interferes with the wave and now you have no warp drive.

    About Brian Bonsall: Clearly he WAS petulant, sad, confused, and angry! Might not have been much acting needed there.

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  3. Who cares about fire safety dudes? Come on... :P

    Well, maybe you do but for me this episode was fun and entertaining because it was interesting to see Worf now becoming a father, the continuity with Kheylarhow Worf, this Klingon man, was navigating parenthood and its various aspects after he was just thrown into the whole thing, overnight.

    That Worf was a Klingon who was not raised by Klingons and torn between two worlds, sometimes, further added to it.

    I like how the story wasnt spinned to be one of son and father meeting and loving each other and the kid being really happy that he had daddy around....yaayyy!! but that there was something a bit more problematic between the two and they had to build their relationship. Alexander's defiance, his lack of interest for honor and the way of the warrior and all those other Klingon things. how much that bothered Worf for whom these were very important aspects around which he centered his idenity etc.

    I just loved how all this was explored, and that we also got some sort of a slice-of-life feel, especially in that scene where Worf is in Picard's Ready Room and gets interrupted by everyone about Alexander. Or Deanna asking about the field trip, or Alexander stealing the display figure during the field trip and how he handled it and how his teacher confronted him about it - all this really brought the episode to life for me and made me interested in Alexander and Worf's relationship wondering how things will ultimately work out for Worf who now is the father of a child. And i mean really - Klingon parenting. Up until then it felt as though Klingons grunted their young into adulthood, but here you got a Klingon child who needs to be raised by a not so typical Klingon father.

    This is one of the strengths of TNG - it brings Star Trek to life and because it has that B story, it did not feel soapy to me at all. Had the episode been all about Worf and nothing about the ship's business, it would have been soapy. But this made a "another day on the Enterprise" story. It was real and it added yet another layer to the characters and their friendships. I was not bothered by the sci fi in this one, because I dont think it was the core of the show. It was a filler to set the stage.

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