Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Next Generation Season 7: Sub Rosa

The Next Generation, Season 7
"Sub Rosa"
Airdate: January 31, 1994
165 of 176 produced
165 of 176 aired

Introduction


When she returns to the Caldos colony to attend her grandmother's funeral, Dr. Crusher is surprised to discover her grandmother's much younger lover, Ronin. But Ronin is not all that he seems - he is a "ghost" who has haunted Crusher's family for centuries, and has his sights set on her.
Dr. Crusher experiences the bliss of K-Y Green Mist Climax Enhancer ©



Writing

Matthew: So, the way this episode starts out gives you the immediate knowledge that this will be a change of pace. We have a funeral ritual, that gives us an interesting secular twist on a Christian funeral mass - we get ashes to ashes, but instead of certain hope of the life to come, instead it is "that she will be kept alive in all our memories." Then we learn that we are on a terraformed version of Scotland, with an alien governor. Things are a little off beat here. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. But what we get from the episode tends to be somewhat strange, a little bit uncomfortable, and not terribly rewarding. Many of the aforementioned details stick out precisely because they don't really impact the story meaningfully. Since when was Dr. Crusher's heritage Scottish? So what if the governor is an alien? What the hell was going on with the fog on the bridge? It's sort of the reverse of "Chekov's gun." Nothing in the backdrop really sticks. Which means the plot itself has that much more weight to carry in the episode.

Kevin: Based on some statements of Jeri Taylor, among other higher-ups at TNG at the time, this was TNG's attempt at a gothic romance novel, which in and of itself, I am not opposed to. Star Trek has done other genres before with skill and the results have been among the best of the franchise. This episode does not achieve that. I think the basic structural problem can be reduced to the fact that they don't really do anything with the genre. But for the Enteprise in orbit, this could be a pretty straightforward romance novel with fantasy elements. All that's missing is Beverly clinging seductively to a shirtless Ronin on the cover. Other genre breaks were categorized by an interesting use of the genre in science fiction, or as a straight humor episode. This is neither. Matt, I agree that the details they did add seemed odd, but even they coulod have been sculpted to make a more complete story. Given the number of alien cultures that reproduced Earth culture, I have no problem with humans wishing to do so, and given the number of humans to find meaning in alien philosophies, I have no issue with the governor finding the reverse, per se. Had they found a way to incorporate those details into the main story, it would have been a lot more interesting.

Matthew: The love story is... well, creepy. But not for the normal creepy reasons. A psychic ghost haunting the women in one family line? Creepy in a good way. A granddaughter reading her centenarian grandmother's erotic journals and getting turned on by them? Creepy in a very uncomfortable way. You just have to wonder why this portion was put in the story. It's another unnecessary detail. It also precipitates some orgasmic acting that I probably could have done without seeing. The actual horror elements were pretty good. The flowers on the gravesite and in the apartment, the reanimated corpse, Ronin in the mirror, the murder mystery, these are things that the Trek format can handle. They just would have been better utilized in service of a more interesting story.

Kevin: I am still traumatized by Troi and Crusher having girl talk over her grandmother's journals. I could just stretch my imagination enough to consider the possibility that in the future, where sex is no longer shameful, the thought of our relatives being sexual beings is not horrifying, but even that leap does not get us to grandma's sexcapades fueling our wet dreams. Who did not catch this? Between a writers' meeting, a table read, a rehearsal, a filming, and an editing process, who did not realize that Beverly getting off on her grandmother's May-December romance was really, really, really wrong. And after the century mark, does it become a May-January romance? So many unanswered questions...

Matthew: Overall, I feel like the punchline of the story was a bit too obvious. There really was not much mystery over whether Ronin was A. some sort of ghost, B. malevolent, and C. behind all the bad stuff going on. In addition, this seemed like a pretty obvious re-use of the story idea from TOS "Wolf in the Fold." So, although I think there is a decent sci-fi plot to be found here, it doesn't get developed in any interesting ways. If Ronin had been a little more morally ambiguous, with more good and bad, that may have helped. Instead he seemed like too much of a parasite. I did like how Troi's friendship with Crusher was explored a bit, with her counseling her on grief, and dealing with someone who is essentially an addict.

Kevin: Even with just a disembodied voice and the magic camellias, it was pretty obvious who the villain was. And after Quint's death, we were just circling the drain until Beverly realized what was going on. I do agree that, despite the only topic of conversation in their relationship is their love lives, the scenes with Troi and Crusher with Troi acting as counselor and friend were well done.

Matthew: Some random thoughts - I thought fire suppression systems would eliminate open flames on board the ship. Also, the fact that Crusher is given a maiden name raises odd questions of feminism. So Beverly changed her name? But then, Ronin keeps referring to the "Howard Women." So they didn't change their names? I'm confused. We get another resignation of commission here, with no consequences upon return.

Kevin: The "Howard women" thing nagged me, even as a kid. Collectively, the group of women who continued the Howard line are not genetically Howard by birth, unless of course, it was a really small, remote Scottish village, and that's a whole other layer of squick in this episode. And the green eyes thing...it's apparently noted enough to be a common family trait, but no one noticed it just changed in all these women around their mid-thirties?

Acting

Matthew: I am a huge fan of Gates McFadden. I think this is clear from previous posts of mine. I am not, however, a huge fan of McFadden's orgasmic "what's happening to me" acting in this episode. On the other hand, when she was rebelling against Ronin's influence, and killing Ronin, her acting was pretty good. So it's a mixed bag overall.

Kevin: The early scenes with dialogue were pretty off, but I have to say, the scene in the cottage on the recliner was almost upsettingly well done. I almost can't believe that scene made it prime time television. If I were Gates McFadden's husband, I would be pretty insecure for the rest of my life, because I would have no way of knowing what was real and what was acting when it comes to her orgasms. I did like the way she acted having her head cleared when Picard got attacked. That managed to keep the episode form outright character assassination.

Matthew: Duncan Regehr was very "soap opera" as Ronin. He had a very European look and an odd accent. I never believed him as a personality. Was he given a wonderful script? No. But we've seen a handful of actors overcome worse. So let's just say his name won't ring in the annals of TNG guest stars. Speaking of guest stars, how would you like to be the actor who answers the following casting call - "Need actress to play extremely old corpse. Will be reanimated." Well, Ellen Albertini Dow did about as well with it as might be imagined.

Kevin: Agreed on both. I do have to give a special shout-out to Groundskeeper Willie...I mean Ned Quint. The script needed him to be Scottish, and by golly, did he deliver. For the rest of my life, any time I see someone light a candle, I have to suppress the urge to tell them "Dinna light tha' candle!" I also liked the governor, aside from the implicit script problems. Had he been simply human, he would have been a sympathetic, engaging administrator.

Production Values

Matthew: Whatever the problems were with this show, none of them resided in the production. The sets were lush, layered, and interesting. The house looked great, really cozy and believable as a lived-in retirement home (and sex den apparently) for an older woman. The weather substation has nice retro look to it, too, with the blue graphics of the Enterprise C era.

Kevin: The okudagram touch on the weather station was nice. My only production complaint is the candle itself, which clearly came from a Los Angeles-area Pier One Imports. Don't get me wrong, if I ever am in such a store and see that candle, I will immediately purchase it, just so I can tell people "Dinna light tha' candle!" Hours of fun, I'm certain.

Matthew: The planet looked really good, especially when it was combined in the optical shot of the planet, the ship, storm, and phaser effects. The green effects of the Ronin cloud were OK, but not superb. Overall, the lighting of this show as a bit too dark for my tastes,

Conclusion

Matthew: This is pretty much the definition of a 2 for me. It has redeeming facets, such as its production values and some performances, but it is plagued by serious structural problems and a heaping helping of the sexual creeps. I feel bad that Crusher's spotlight episode this season was wasted on this stinker.

Kevin: You don't tend to see this level of ick factor in a Star Trek story outside of slash fiction. The grandmother thing alone is enough to consign this episode to the depths of the rating system. Still, Gates McFadden gave her best, and particularly in the last scene with Ronin in the graveyard, looked fantastic. In a "so bad it's good" kind of way, this scrapes by with a 2 for me as well, for a total of 4.

7 comments:

  1. I have distinct memories of watching this first run with my mother.

    I can't believe she let me watch the whole thing, orgasms and all. I mean, Beverly was essentially raped until she liked it and got addicted to it, and Mom saw no issue watching that with a twelve year old?

    I liked this episode when I was younger. A lot. Which is funny, because it's not even like I was into romance stuff. Watching it again... it seriously creeps me out. (I still love all the atmosphere, though.)

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  2. I know this was written a while back, I'm just going through every season for the first time and have been enjoying reading your reviews after each episode viewing to see your responses (and great writing).

    But as a Scot I have to say, Shay Duffin, as good an actor as he was, couldn't do a Scottish accent (though most likely to an untrained ear it's convincing enough). And dear writers/captain Picard, please do not refer to Scottish people as "Scotch", Scotch is a drink, and only foreigners refer to it as such anyway, in Scotland we call it whisky.

    I look forward to catching up with you on your venture through DS9 when I get to it after TNG. Keep up the good work.

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  3. Sikido,
    Keep commenting as you make your way through! We get notifications when you comment, so it matters not when a post was published.

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  4. Btw, my knowledge of Scottish accents has now grown to include Craig Ferguson and Karen Gillan.

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  5. Speaking of accents, how is James Doohan's perceived among the Scottish folk?

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  6. It's kind of mocked as a bad accent I think, along the lines of groundskeeper Willie but a bit more realistic. Doohan certainly gets a lot more leeway in my book because for one, he's Canadian, and two, the character is so fully fleshed out.

    In my experience of all English speaking societies the Scottish accent is often the most unintelligible to outsiders, indeed within Scotland there are certain regional accents that are difficult to understand for other Scots. I think this would put the Scottish accent up there as the hardest to mimic convincingly.

    Presumably you've seen Karen Gillan on the Craig Ferguson show, could you tell they had different accents?

    I just checked Karen Gillan's wiki page to see exactly where she's from and it turns out I went to Telford College at the same time as her!

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  7. I did see her on Craig, and I almost couldn't take the confluence of charming accents and smoking hotness (on her end...)

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