Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Next Generation, Season 1: Haven

The Next Generation, Season 1
Airdate: November 30, 1987
4 of 176 produced
10 of 176 aired


The Enterprise, in orbit around the planet Haven, is visited by Lwaxana Troi, Counselor Troi's mother. When Deanna was a child her parents betrothed her to the child of family friends. That family has reappeared, seeking to fulfill that marriage vow. Though the young doctor she is to marry seems kind, Deanna will have to give up her life aboard the Enterprise to marry him. To make matters worse, the two families soon start bickering over details. Making matters more dangerous is the appearance of a Tarellian plague ship. Long believed extinct, these group of eight survivors have come to Haven to die. Captain Picard must now balance the desire of these people to live their last days under an open sky with the risk they present to the population, while dealing with possibly losing a valued crew member.

Congratulations, Wyatt Miller, you've just been inducted into the Swishiest Swishes Who Ever Swished a Swish Hall Of Fame!


Kevin: I'm torn on this episode. It introduces a character that I absolutely adore. I understand that the episodes in which Lwaxana appears can be hit or miss, and the comedic can sometime swallow the episode, but there's something about Lwaxana herself I have always found endearing. We've discussed before that a well executed comedy episode can be as rewarding as well executed drama, so the question here is does the comedy succeed? Well, the answer is yes and no. There are several scenes that are pitched perfectly and highly entertaining, the dinner scene in particular always cracks me up. But by and large, the marriage plot feels labored. It always felt unrealistic that a woman who expected to be married off at some point would join Starfleet, or more practically, that Lwaxana would allow it. Especially given Lwaxana's later demonstration of a woman standing up to tradition, it's almost out of character that she would agree to it in the first place. Why would Deanna's human father agree to this? Why would a human couple go along with it? It's just a means to create tension for a main character, and it feels pretty artificial.

Matthew: Yeah, "arranged marriage" doesn't strike this viewer as the biggest hot button available for Trek to do an allegorical take on. At least not as portrayed - this is clearly not a big deal in Betazoid society, given Lwaxana's having married a human for love, and her flippant attitude towards decorum in general. So you're kind of just left wondering "WTF?" I don't remember ever wondering if Troi would leave the show. There was essentially no tension. It was just an exercise in seeing how the writers would extricate Troi from this non-threatening and unbelievable situation.

Kevin: The B-story of the Tarellians is pretty much dead on arrival. We get another sermon about the stupidity of late twentieth century Earth and their silly ways. The idea that Wyatt and Arianna have some mystic connection just never came together for me. It's actually kind of creepy to me to think "I've been seeing accurate images of you since you were a child." Lwaxana's Yoda-speech about whatever non-trademark infringing version of the force the Star Trek universe has aside, it's just silly. It would have been more credible and more interesting if he simply fell for this woman after interacting with her. Maybe that would be too hard to fit in an episode, but as is, it's not working anyway. Also, they make it quite clear that not only can non-Tarellians contract the plague, but fatally. What's to stop Wyatt from quickly dying on their ship? The whole plot seemed shoddily assembled.

Matthew: I get the distinct impression that these two stories were placed in an arranged marriage with each other. The producers had two pitches: "Troi gets married," and "bio-weapon creates pariah culture." It was decided (rightfully so) that neither could sustain more than about 25 minutes alone. And so a brilliant solution was arrived at: just smoosh them together! And "smoosh" pretty much describes how organic these story ideas feel to each other. There are probably ideas and details that could have made either thread more credible and interesting. Betazoid society could have really been portrayed as an Indian-style arranged marriage sort of thing. There could have been drama - maybe Lwaxana agreed to it in order to keep the Sacred Chalice of Rixx or something, and then is prevailed upon to give up that stuff in order to keep Deanna happy. The other plot was probably harder to rescue, given its lack of connection to our main cast. But seeing as how we were only told briefly about the horrors of bio-weapons, and told briefly how idyllic Haven is and the threat that the disease posed, one can see how more drama could have been generated by a more thorough exploration of ideas. Refugee stories are inherently interesting, and an ethical stance taken by TNG could have been interesting. Alas, we get none. Miracle cure, no more desire to land, blah blah blah, conflict magically resolved.

Kevin: For all the plot issues, there are some nice character moments. Lwaxana's steamrolling of/flagrant hitting on Picard is always a hoot. She's like a benign version of Q in her ability to pull focus and disregard Picard's authority casually. The holodeck scene between Riker and Troi was nice, and it added a lot of depth to their character history, though I always thought Riker came off a bit petulant. It's not like she chose Wyatt, and even if, hell... especially if she did, they've been broken up for ages, and it always seemed like it was his call to end things in the first place, so he doesn't really get to complain now. But in a way, it's nice to see our characters with a few flaws. It makes them more interesting.

Matthew: Comedy and character moments are really the only highlights here. The gong scene is great, no doubt about it. And although I question this purported "Career vs relationship" dilemma (they ARE on a Galaxy Class starship with hundreds of civilians, after all, and Troi is a glorified massage therapist who could go on any given mission), it's nice to see some fleshing out of the Imzadi relationship. A flashback to their parting really would have sold me on this episode, even though flashbacks are almost non-existent in Trek. They were both still young enough to pull it off, and an opportunity was missed.


Kevin: Like I said, I always loved Majel Barrett in this role. Part of the fun of TNG for me is the camaraderie of the cast and the fun them always seemed to have together, and she fit right in with that. There's a great interview with Marina Sirtis where she talks about how everyone was nervous before she came on set because she's the wife of the boss and whatnot, and how pretty much immediately after she got there, it was one big party, and she was very close with both Gene and Majel afterwards. That friendship shines through in all their scenes, and even if the script around them wasn't the best, the scenes are always fun for me.

Matthew: Although her arc as an actor has highs and lows, mainly due to writing quality, Majel Barrett is always likable as Lwaxana.

Kevin: Wyatt did a pretty good job. He portrayed sensitive pretty well and he was just the right level of dickish to Riker in the holodeck. I also enjoyed Wyatt's mother who nailed stuffy aristocrat. The man who played Wyatt's father is the same actor who portrayed the Federation President in The Voyage Home. The Tarellians as a group were kind of non-entities for me. The story didn't make them credible characters, so their was nothing there for them to act.

Matthew: I think there's a fine line between sensitive and swishy. I also think that line was crossed here. I simply could not imagine Wyatt Miller sexually ravishing any female humanoid. I certainly couldn't imagine Deanna Troi willingly choosing him over the sex-tacularly hirsute man-beast that is Will Riker. I found the performances on his parents also to be lacking - they were essentially Thurston Howell III and Lovie from Gilligan's Island.

Production Values

Kevin: Haven (and again, we need...need to stop naming planets for what they do. We're better than this.) suffers the same wishy-washy imaging of the other planets in season one. The Tarellian ship is also mediocre. The bubble in the middle of the ship looks odd, and not in a good way. Is it an observation dome? I like interesting design, but I also like the ship to look like a functional ship.

Matthew: The Tarellian ship was an early experiment in CGI-enhanced model work. It's just too bad that "rainbow soap bubble" was pretty much the only Video Toaster effect they had available to them. We're talking bad 80's music video quality, and it sticks out like a big, dated sore thumb.

Kevin: Also, the holodeck was a little underwhelming this time. I would have loved for Wyatt to walk in and go "Wow, the holodeck's ability to project matte paintings is really amazing."

Matthew: I agree on the holodeck. Compared to "Farpoint" and "The Big Goodbye," this was pretty lame. The holodeck is supposed to be the excuse for using standing backlot sets. Not your regular old weak-ass  soundstage planet! The "Armin-Chest" was a strange idea, from concept to execution. Did Troi keep it in her closet? Does it keep talking to her every once in a while? Speaking of Troi's closet - there are some serious fashion atrocities let loose in this episode. Both Troi women display some hideous taste, and Wyatt Miller doesn't come in too far behind with his triangle-man outfit. Ugh.

Kevin: The Armin Shimmerman Face Chest replaced the whale in my nightmares.


Kevin: I love Lwaxana, and she was actually pretty well used here. Just enough to be comic relief without consuming the episode. Sadly, the rest of the episode may have deserved to be eaten. I am barely going to give this a 3. There's enough expansion of canon for Riker and Troi, and the introduction of enough eventually long-standing concepts about Betazoid society that coupled with a personal favorite guest star just nudge this into average territory.

Matthew: Nope, sorry, but this episode is a 2. A below-average A story and and utterly inconsequential B story conspire to sink this one. Keeping this from the bottom decile are a few funny moments, and Majel Barrett's good turn as Lwaxana. But the rest of the guest cast is pretty lame. This is an episode I generally consider skipping on a TNG run-through, which says a lot about it. That makes a total of 5.


  1. Ok. I agree that this storyline is just full of magic holes. But the most fun has to be the arranged marriage plot...

    So, the Betazoids are consistently shown later on to be a bit haughty and think of themselves as very enlightened - so the idea of arranged marriages still existing is fairly antithetical.

    But really? Betazoid arranged marriages?? Their WHOLE society would collapse. THEY. ARE. TELEPATHS! Can you imagine every single dinner...

    "(OH GOD I HATE YOU, I HATE YOU, FUCK YOU, I HATE YOU, I REALLLY FREAKING HATE YOU) Can you please pass the salt, dear?"

    "(SURE YOU BLOATED SACK OF..) Of course. Here you go."

  2. You forgot to add the sounds of intermittent gongs. :)

  3. HD Highlights from the Blu-Ray:

    1. The costumes. Wow. You can make out every sequin and jewel in Lwaxana's outfits, every awful crenelation in Wyatt's triangle ensemble, and the fantastically hideous design on Troi's... romper?

    2. The planet shots. I compared it to the DVD to be sure, and these ARE the original planets from 1987. They are really spectacular, and it's one of the biggest upgrades overall in the set. They look like mush on the DVD, and like vibrant, detailed globes on the Blu-Ray.


    1. The alien ship still just looks like an odd soap bubble conveyance.

  4. By the way, Worf's bizarre black leather bubble chair makes its debut on the Terellian vessel here. Also, apparently, the Terellians spend their time staring at spinning spirographs.