Monday, November 22, 2010

The Next Generation, Season 1: Lonely Among Us

The Next Generation, Season 1
"Lonely Among Us"
Airdate: November 2, 1987
7 of 176 produced
6 of 176 aired


The Enterprise encounters a mysterious energy cloud en route to a peace conference to which it is transporting delegates. A mysterious form of energy comes aboard the ship and inhabiting members of the crew. Will the Enterprise crew figure out what is going on before it's too late?
It appears that the answer to this questio--IT'S BLINDING ME!!!


Kevin: I am not going to sugarcoat this. This is one of the most boring episodes of TNG ever. It doesn't even have the decency to be enjoyably bad or epically bad...just boring. The pacing is funereal and there is never any real tension and the solution is absurd, even by transporter-based absurd solution standards. Let's start with the energy cloud. They could have named it The Plot Device Nebula. It was defined only in terms of its undefinability, and it only exists to create the artificial tension of the episode. Worst of all, the crew is forced to act stupidly to move the plot. It verges on character assassination that Dr. Crusher would not remember getting to the bridge and then not report that.  It would not take Worf reporting the same thing to make her act. The same goes for the little meeting about the captain. Especially after he admits to Crusher he's possessed, they still act like they don't have enough to go on.

Matthew: I wasn't as annoyed or bored as you were, Kevin, but it is indeed easy to identify the flaws with this episode. It reminds me of "The Enemy Within" from TOS. The conflict is an alien entity as opposed to a transporter malfunction, but the arc of the story is similar - crew and or captain are debilitated or taken over by strange force, and act like someone else. Transporter fixes problem. End of episode. The problem here is that nothing illuminating is done for the characters. "Enemy Within" was a meditation on the different sides of human character and how they apply to making decisions. In the later TNG episode,  "Allegiance," we get a similar notion, a captain who is acting in a way that causes his crew to consider mutiny, and the level of trust and communication that the real captain has built with them. In this episode, we get a so-so scene between Dr. Crusher and Riker, considering whether the captain is of sound mind, but it doesn't go very far. Heck, she only relieves him of duty after he quits! She must have missed the day at the Academy when they taught "dramatic relief of command."

Kevin: The B-plot is also annoying. Neither the Anticans or the Selay were terribly engaging and their conflict I'm undeveloped enough to remain interesting. Also, "Parliment?" The name of the planet for the conference is Parliment? They'll do the same thing with the planet Haven, but naming the planet for what you do there is silly. Unless they go there for the funk. That would make sense.

Matthew: The Anticans and Selay were the definition of throwaway characters. I didn't care about them at all, and I wished they weren't on the screen. About the only worthwhile thing they precipitated was Riker's homily on replicated meat and how humanity has moved beyond "enslaving animals for our purposes." It introduced the concept of replicators more explicitly, and said something about the ethics of the culture. But I'm reaching, here.

Kevin: Sadly, unlike other weak episodes, there were no real character moments to salvage this. I was shocked to learn D.C. Fontana wrote this. There is none of her trademark character development. We do get Data's first foray into Sherlock Holmes, but it's clunky in its execution. Talking to Counselor Troi about the duality of the human brain was some nice dialogue for her, but problematic. If I'm pondering three choices, would she sense three people?

Matthew: Well, it was nice to meet Assistant Chief Engineer Singh. He might qualify as TNG's first "redshirt." Poor fella. The Sherlock stuff was funny to a degree, but the pipe and magnifying glass humor probably went too far. I can't imagine a truly serious command structure allowing for an officer diddling around with the pipe.
For the philosophers out there, this episode poses some metaphysical quandaries (and probably pretty badly). Can you beam your soul out? This episode seems to subscribe to a strong "dualism" theory of human beings, that there is a physical body and some sort of non-corporeal energy that can be separated from it. But then, the episode troubles this reading by having Picard not remember his time as a disassociated entity in the cloud. Just what did they beam back, anyway? It seems, if he doesn't remember his soul's journey apart from his body, that the new Picard is simple a replica. It's really kind of a mess, conceptually.


Kevin: There's not a lot of acting moments to discuss here. Brent Spiner had a few good lines as Holmes and the meeting about Picard had some good conversation, but overall nothing really good or really bad.

Matthew: Denise Crosby got a fair number of lines here. I generally like her, but she didn't run with them and make them interesting. She just seemed annoyed by the guests. Wil Wheaton was given some unfortunate lines ("Mom, I've learned more than they understand,") and he didn't transcend them, either. It was nice to see Stewart get to stretch a tad, acting like a disinterested and preoccupied alien. But it wasn't some sort of tour de force.

Production Values

Kevin: The cloud was okay. Just okay. The blue electrical arcs were clearly drawn on the film and it makes the actor movements look a little silly. The last scene on the bridge with the sparks and the light (IT'S BLINDING ME!) looked really cheesy.

Matthew: As far as costumes and props go, this is our first look at dress uniforms. They look pretty good. I prefer the slightly shortened look they settle on, but it's a strong design. Dr. Crusher gets to wear her AWFUL sickbay helmet/one-eye HUD. I'm glad they ditched this prop. Ugh. "Sensor Maintenance" was an OK setup, although it was pretty clear they just put a few displays up against a standing hallway set. Still, the more Okudagrams, the better.

Kevin: The make up for the Anticans and the Selay was so heavy it stopped the actors' faces from moving. This was Marc Alaimo's first Trek appearance; if he can't act through the make up, it's too much. And, lastly, what was with the prop Dr. Crusher had when examining Worf? It was some sort of diagnostic beanie. I'm glad they retired it after this episode.

Matthew: Yeah, this episode was not Michael Westmore's proudest moment. Luckily for us, he must have learned something from these get-ups, because TNG's makeup saw a stratospheric rise in quality very quickly. Minor note: Colm Meany makes his first re-appearance as a security officer now, with a gold uniform. I guess he's being transferred around until he finds his real calling.


Kevin: I am stuck between a 1 and a 2. On the one hand, there is nothing continuity shredding or offensive per se. On the other hand, the plot forces the cast to be stupid to advance the plot and it's really boring. I'm going to grudgingly go with a 2.

Matthew: Maybe it's nostalgia, maybe it's my inherent bias towards TNG as a show, but I find this episode bland and inoffensive as a way to pass the time. I agree with the 2 rating, but it's not a damning or even a "low" 2 for me. The episode has problems (especially metaphysical ones), but what the hey, it's TNG. That means our combined rating is a 4. 

1 comment:

  1. HD highlights from the Blu-Ray:

    1. Sensor maintenance. A nice bright set with zillions of little buttons.


    1. Lots of dark rooms with the aliens that ended up looking mushy on film.