Mon
Oct 31 2011 1:00pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Second Season Overview

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Second Season Overview by Keith DeCandidoStar Trek: The Next Generation Second Season

Original air dates: November 1988 – July 1989
Executive Producer: Gene Roddenberry
Co-Executive Producers: Rick Berman & Maurice Hurley

Captain’s Log: The second season is in many ways the first season of TNG the way people remember it. La Forge and Worf are permanently in the positions they would continue to occupy for the rest of the show’s run, Riker has a beard, Wes is in the pilot’s seat, O’Brien’s at the transporter console, and Ten-Forward is up and running with Guinan behind the bar.

That last is one of the two major additions to the show made during the second season — Whoopi Goldberg taking on a delightful role as the ship’s bartender — but the only one that would stick. This was the only season in which Diana Muldaur appeared as Dr. Kate Pulaski, and indeed she’d only be mentioned once again on the show. The character was an interesting experiment, and she certainly had her moments, but ultimately she didn’t entirely work as a character. She might have done, given more time, but she wasn’t given that time, since the second season’s end signalled the departure of Maurice Hurley as co-executive producer and head of the writers room. Hurley, by all accounts, did not get along with Gates McFadden, but with his departure, the door was open for Dr. Crusher’s triumphant return at the top of the third season (which will be discussed more in Thursday’s rewatch of “Evolution”).

In addition, steps were taken in the second season to expand the cast a bit. “The Schizoid Man” gave us Dr. Selar, a member of the medical staff who would continue to be referenced throughout the show’s run, even though she’d never be seen on-screen again. Attempts were made to make recurring characters out of Colm Meaney’s Transporter Chief O’Brien (which succeeded) and Lycia Naff’s Engineer Sonya Gomez (which didn’t).

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Second Season Overview by Keith DeCandido

Highest-rated episode:Q Who” with a warp factor rating of 10 (the first and only one thus far to rate that high).

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Second Season Overview by Keith DeCandido

Lowest-rated episode:Shades of Gray” with a warp factor rating of 0 (the first and only one thus far to rate that low).

Most comments (as of this writing): Elementary, Dear Data” with 39 comments. Amazingly, “The Royale,” of all episodes, is second with 37, and mention must be made of “Q Who,” which was third with 33 comments, including a nifty discussion of the nature of the Borg.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Second Season Overview by Keith DeCandido

Fewest comments (as of this writing):A Matter of Honor,” one of the stronger episodes of the season, which nonetheless only engendered 10 comments.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Second Season Overview by Keith DeCandido

Favorite Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity? From “Unnatural Selection”: Chief O’Brien suggests using the transporter trace to use as a guide to reconstitute Pulaski. Since the biofilter doesn’t work on the disease, he suggests using the trace. However, Pulaski has never taken the transporter, so they have no trace to work with — until they use a hair from her hairbrush. O’Brien comes up with a ton of technobabble to explain how difficult it will be to modify the transporter, involving terms like biofilter bus, molecular matrix reader, waveform modulator, regeneration limiter, first-stage circuit, and Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator. (I may have made that last one up). Regardless, he can do it. Because he’s just that awesome.

Favorite Thank You, Counselor Obvious: From “Time Squared”: At one point, the future Picard’s emotions are sufficiently turbulent and urgent that it seems to cause Troi physical pain. Well, either that, or give her an orgasm, it’s hard to tell from the way Marina Sirtis plays it....

Favorite What Happens On The Holodeck, Stays On The Holodeck: From “The Emissary”: Worf and K’Ehleyr use the holodeck the way you know that most of the crew probably really does use it: as a sex aid. The calisthenics program gets to be foreplay.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Second Season Overview by Keith DeCandido

Favorite No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: From “Loud as a Whisper”: Riva expresses an interest in Troi from the word jump, and they have dinner together, accompanied only by the member of his chorus that represents passion, leaving the other two behind (wah-hey!). Eventually, the third wheel leaves, and they manage to communicate more directly, with Riva using gestures to “speak” to Troi.

Favorite The Boy!? From “The Dauphin”: This is The Episode Where Wes Falls In Love. It’s the classic story. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl meet cute. (Actually, they meet geeky; she identifies the engine part he’s carrying to engineering.) Boy and girl each inquire about the other to third parties. Girl contrives a feeble excuse to get boy into her quarters. Boy and girl share chocolate mousse and go to the holodeck. Girl’s guardian turns into a slavering hairy monster of doom, and then girl does likewise, putting a damper on boy’s feeling. Boy and girl say goodbye before girl turns into glowing ball of light. Like I said — classic story.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Second Season Overview by Keith DeCandido

Favorite There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Also from “The Dauphin”: Worf gets his ass kicked by an old woman.

Favorite If I Only Had a Brain... From “Elementary, Dear Data”: Data throws himself into the part of Holmes with even more gusto than he did in “Lonely Among Us,” and this time the references and dialogue are actually straight out of Conan Doyle, complete with explicit references to “A Scandal in Bohemia,” “The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” and “The Red-Headed League.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Second Season Overview by Keith DeCandido

Favorite I’m a Doctor, Not an Escalator: Also from “Elementary, Dear Data”: Pulaski insists that Data is incapable of solving a mystery he isn’t familiar with. While the mystery is cut off at the pass, Data does, in fact, do just fine on the original parts of the mystery, and solves another murder along the way. Sadly, thanks to Pulaski being abducted by Moriarty, she doesn’t get to see how wrong she is. Which is really too bad, because I wanted Data and La Forge to do a victory dance in front of her...

However, like Worf (and Picard, Data, and La Forge), she looks phenomenal in period dress.

Favorite Syntheholics Anonymous: From “The Measure of a Man”: Guinan helps Picard realize that they’re not really talking about Data — and any other androids Maddox might create as a result of studying Data — being property, they’re talking about them being slaves.

Favorite Welcome Aboard: Lots of good guest stars this season. You’ve got great character actors doing fine work, from Seymour Cassel in “The Child” to Billy Campbell in “The Outrageous Okona” to W. Morgan Sheppard in “The Schizoid Man” to Brian Thompson in “A Matter of Honor” to Carolyn Seymour in “Contagion” to Sam Anderson and Noble Willingham in “The Royale” to Barrie Ingham in “Up the Long Ladder” to Robert Costanzo in “Manhunt” to Roy Brocksmith and Armin Shimerman in “Peak Performance.” John Putch comes back as a different, more arrogant Benzite in “A Matter of Honor,” John deLancie makes a triumphant return as Q in “Q Who,” Amanda McBroom is superb as Picard’s romantic foil in “The Measure of a Man,” Lycia Naff is delightful as Ensign Sonya Gomez in “Q Who” and “Samaritan Snare,” and we get Majel Barrett and Carel Struycken back as Lwaxana Troi and Mr. Homn in “Manhunt.”

We get our share of Robert Knepper moments. Among my personal favorites are a pre-Desperate Housewives Teri Hatcher in “The Outrageous Okona,” a pre-Las Vegas (not to mention pre-pubescent) Nikki Cox in “Pen Pals,” a pre-24 Glenn Morshower in “Peak Performance,” and a pre-Drew Carey Show Dietrich Bader in “The Emissary.”

But the standout guest of the season has to be Suzie Plakson, who appeared in two memorable roles: Dr. Selar in “The Schizoid Man” and the spectacular K’Ehleyr in “The Emissary.” Two of TNG’s most memorable roles, both played by the same amazing woman. Brava!

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Second Season Overview by Keith DeCandido

Favorite I Believe I Said That…: From “Q Who”: “You can’t outrun them, you can’t destroy them. If you damage them, the essence of what they are remains. They regenerate and keep coming. Eventually, you will weaken — your reserves will be gone. They are relentless.”

Q, describing the Borg.

Favorite Trivial Matter: The many times I got to reference the Starfleet Corps of Engineers eBook series I edited.

Make it So: Some dismiss the second season, casting into the same this-sucks dustbin as the first, but that’s not giving the show anywhere near the credit it deserves. No season that includes such brilliant episodes as “The Measure of a Man” or such far-reaching ones as “Q Who” or such standouts as “Elementary, Dear Data,” “The Emissary,” “A Matter of Honor,” and “Peak Performance” deserves such dismissal.

Plus this is the season when three of TNG’s best writers — Melinda M. Snodgrass, Richard Manning, and Hans Beimler — cut their teeth, and also when Winrich Kolbe — one of the finest TV directors ever, and certainly a Trek mainstay — started his superb work.

Far too many people say that TNG didn’t come into its own until the third season, and frankly, I think that that estimation comes a year too late.

 

Warp factor rating for the season: 7


Keith R.A. DeCandido has a story coming out in November called “Ragnarok and Roll” that will be in Tales from the House Band, edited by Deborah Grabien. His most recent critically acclaimed novels are Guilt in Innocence, part of “Tales from the Scattered Earth,” a shared-world science fiction concept, and the fantastical police procedurals SCPD: The Case of the Claw and Unicorn Precinct. Find out more about Keith at his web site, which is a portal to (among many other things) his Facebook page, his Twitter feed, his blog, and his podcasts, Dead Kitchen Radio, The Chronic Rift, and the Parsec Award-winning HG World.

21 comments
don3comp
1. don3comp
"Air Dates: November 1988 – July 1988"

Snark of the day: is that bit of time travel due to the events of "Time Squared?" : )

Otherwise, good job! I continue to enjoy (and for the most part, agree with) these rewatches. And I agree about the second season. The third season gave us the first episode of "The Best of Both Worlds," but it had its share of weakness and filler, as I'm sure will be discussed soon enough. The second season was an important stepping stone, and the series definitely progressed from the first season.
Michael Burstein
2. mabfan
I was just going to mention the time travel...

I think the problem with this season, despite some of the excellent episodes, is that it still feels too much like they're getting their bearings. The fact that Pulaski is around instead of Crusher also makes it feel off when it comes to watching later seasons.

- Michael A. Burstein
don3comp
3. Mike S.
Congrats on finishing two seasons, Keith!

I'm with Mabfan, in the fact that they are still getting their bearings this season, as a lot of episodes fall flat, and are topics that are not addressed with much frequency again (medical shows in particular)

However, I agree with Keith in that this season also begins to show us what type of episodes worked on this show. Even a show like "Time Squared", which missed the boat in spots, was a concept that would be used more frequently (and effectivly) as time went on.

We also see more fleshing out of characters this year, particularly Data and Riker. A bit for Worf too, but seasons 3 and 4 are really when his charcter starts to take off, IMO.

All in all, this season is not deserving of it's reputation, IMO, but it still falls behind seasons 6,3, and 4 (and neck-and-neck with 5) on my personal list.
don3comp
4. ChrisG
Thanks for all these rewatches; I'm very much enjoying them.

I have tended to dismiss Season 2 into the Season 1 bin, but this rewatch has reminded me again of the good parts. (I had skipped the Season 2 DVD's, but I think I'll pick them up.)

The series does, I think, click at a new level in Season 3, but we can see it starting to come together here.
don3comp
5. Scavenger
I think part of the ...problem..with season 2 is that it begins and ends on such weak notes. When the bread is stale and moldy, you don't remember how good the fillings of the sandwich were.
Chin Bawambi
6. bawambi
My problems with this season mainly have to do with Pulaski vs Crusher. There wasn't much to redeem Pulaski as a character at all so my teeth are on grate in almost every scene she is in.
Keith DeCandido
7. krad
Mike S.: I'd say it was a good season for Worf, notably the look into his psyche in "Where Silence Has Lease," the look into his culture in "A Matter of Honor" (a lot of that episode's stuff would be used in later Worf episodes), and most especially "The Emissary," in which he shined.

Everyone: Thanks for the continued comments. I also want to give a shoutout to this rewatch's unsung hero, Chris Lough who puts it all together at the end, especially by picking the pictures. He always does a good job, but he outdid himself on this one. Bravo, Chris!

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Nate Shouse
8. MnemonicNate
@Chris: Seconded! Excellent choice of images. Keep 'em coming!

My two complaints of the first two seasons seem trite, but I guess I might as well mention them: the all-synth soundtracks, and the low-cut uniforms. However, there were some solid episodes in Season 2 (as you've mentioned above), and this season resembled Season 5 in that we see more of the "behind-the-scenes" lives of the crew and their families. That takes more commitment from the viewer, I'd think (and helps cement more development later on). As usual, great work, krad.
don3comp
9. Rootboy
I dunno, my wife and I have been going through TNG in order for the past 4 months (we're in season 7, nearly done) and the Season 3 quality jump is really striking. It's like, how did this show suddenly become week-after-week amazing? Season 2 is a big improvement over Season 1, but it still feels like it's practice TNG rather than real TNG to me. Maybe it's just the unitards.
don3comp
10. Pendard
I always consider season two to be thoroughly mediocre. In season one they tried a lot of stuff and a lot of it fell flat. In season two they played it safe and a lot of it fell flat anyway. It might be perverse, but I prefer the more audacious failures in season one, when they were taking risks and testing the boundaries. It seems like they figured out what worked and what didn't in the first year, and then the second year they just treaded water while they waited for Michael Piller to come along.

There were some excellent episodes like "The Measure of a Man" and "Q Who." But most weeks we got "Samaritan Snare" and "The Outrageous Okona." And some weeks it was "The Dauphin" and "Unnatural Selection," or something equally painful.

I also think this season made a mistake by using Data too much. In addition to "The Measure of a Man," which is excellent, he has a starring role in "Elementary, Dear Data," "The Schizoid Man" and "Pen Pals," and a big supporting part in "The Outrageous Okona," "Unnatural Selection," "Contagion," "The Royale" and "Peak Performance." That's a lot of exposure for one character, especially when you consider there's only one starring episode each for Deanna, Worf, Geordi, Wes and Pulaski. I guess you could argue that the TNG writers knew what the audience wanted to see, and gave it to them, but it seems like the time might have been better spent trying to develop some of the other characters to be as beloved as Data was.

On to season three, at long last!
Keith DeCandido
11. krad
Oh, and thanks to Michael and Don for pointing out my temporal error, which has now been fixed. (Thank you, edit function, saving my ass since May 2011.....)

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
don3comp
12. skrunt
The season 2 highlight for me was always Guinan. Whoopi is such a strong actress that gives off such a “cool” vibe that she held me in every scene she was in. Also, I think all the negatives for this season can be solely placed at the feet of the unitard.
don3comp
13. Seryddwr
Broadly in agreement with Krad. There are a great many duff episodes here - broadly somewhere between one-third and half of the lot, in fact - but in 'The Measure Of A Man', 'Elementary Dear Data', 'Peak Performance', and 'Q Who', we have some of TNG's finest moments, as well as a fair clutch of solid eps. I feel it has got worse press than it deserves because it is followed by the incomparable season 3.
Chris Lough
14. TorChris
Thanks Keith and Nate! Sorting pictures for the ST:TNG rewatch has become an oddly therapeutic ritual. Patrick Stewart is the hidden MVP of the freeze frame face. It's a struggle not to paper the posts with just him...
Bob Weld
15. WaitingShadows
I would agree with most by saying that this season is leaps and bounds above the first. Many people have also mentioned that this episode doesn't even compare to Season 3. I would agree with that assessment as well. However, here is what I think the distinction is: If the show had ended directly after Season 1, IMO it may possibly have died. It may have lived on, but that would be questionable for all but the most hardcore of fans. However, if the show had ended after the second season, I believe it would have managed to maintain pretty much all of its original fans, and probably attract a some more, retaining full status as a cult classic.

However, it was allowed to grow past Season 2, and has become the show that not only kept most original fans and continued to collect new ones, but also began to make some pretty respectable dents in the ratings charts.

All in all, I like this season less than the seasons after it only because of the quality of those seasons. It has nothing to do with the poor quality of this season, because let's face it, there are lower quality episodes in every season. Still, I think this season cemented this series as at least promisimg if not already worthy of the original, and thus the name Stak Trek.
don3comp
17. Electone
When the Second Season first aired, I hated everything about it. Replacing Crusher with the crusty, Data-hating Pulaski was front and center. I had enjoyed the second half of the first season very much and then the second season started off with a bunch of bottle shows, very little exploration of other worlds, and little action. Well, having watched the entire second season umpteen times now, I can honestly say that it is probably my favourite season now. Character development was excellent - Picard mellows out nicely as do most of the main cast. Sure, there are some clunkers and the season ends horribly, but Q Who, Measure, Peak and Schizoid make up for any short comings. The introduction of Ten Forward was a stroke of genius - we get to see the main cast act like human beings in a relaxed setting.

Best Episode: Q Who
Worst Episode: Shades of Gray
Guilty Pleasure: The Royale
don3comp
18. Adam Goss
Regarding the season highlights you chose from "Time Squared" and "The Emissary:

1. "Time Squared" - YES!! even back in 1989 I th0ught Troi was having an orgasm!! Thank Zod I am not the only one to get that impression... Might explain why she and Worf worked out, however briefly - maybe she's into pain...?

2. "The Emissary" - If the holodeck does indeed get used a lot as a sex aid, I am forced to ask aloud something I've wondered for years and years. To put it delicately... um.. what happens to any, shall we say, "souveniers," if one has sex with a hologram and then the holodeck is turned off? Is there a panel installed in the control arch, behind which one finds a roll of towels, a bottle of disinfectant and a squeegee? Something to think about... or maybe not... (Maybe the replicator part of the holodeck system dematerializes "souveniers" with the same ease that it materializes water, ink and paper that can sometimes leave the holodeck... but I think my idea is funnier. "Barclay, is it just me, or do you often smell of Tidy-Bowl?" "Um, er, uh....")

I also agree that this season really saw the beginnings of high quality for the series with lasting elements. Yes, many important elements appeared in Season One as well, but Season Two really feels more fleshed out, a lot more stable, especially with regard to the characterizations (both in terms of what the writers gave the actors to say and how the actors delivered their lines - and I guess some credit must go to the directors as well for helping the process). For example, Picard in Season One often came off to me as a prissy ass who could vacilate between oddly warm and downright rude, while the writers and Stewart sought to figure out Picard. In Season Two, Picard is very much the man he should have been all along, and it just got better from there with each successive season.
don3comp
19. NullNix
Adam, there's a more fundamental problem with sex on the holodeck. Do we ever see anyone lock the door?

(But maybe everyone is an exhibitionist in the utopian 24th century. That doesn't explain why we hardly ever see people even kiss. I'd say the 24th century is much more prudish than present-day Earth, obviously due to lingering aftereffects of the 21st century mutAIDS epidemic or something.)
don3comp
20. Nick P.
I am with you on Season 2. I think it is seriously under valued. I kind of think of it the same way I think of the movies, 1 ehhh, 2-4 AWESOME, and 5-beyond unbalanced.

I would actually go as far as saying that this is the best acted season. Although 3 and 6 are good, for some reason this just seemed more natural, and I felt like Picard was still firmly in control. I feel like season 5 and after, the creators were trying so hard to make Picard "one of the friends" that he lost his "auctoritis" as the romans would say.

This season had some of my faves: "silence has lease", "Elementary dear data", "contagion", "royal" (guilty pleasure), "Time squared", "Pen Pals", "the Emmisary", "Peak Performance", and that is not even to mention the 2 episodes that are arguebly the 2 best of the entire run:"Measure of a man" and "Q Who".

Seasons 2-4 are the only seasons that I can be entertained by every single episode. Even that horrible clip show is watchable.
don3comp
21. David Sim
In best guest stars of the season, where's Daniel Davis' magnificent portrayal of Professor Moriarty? He plays the role as neither too evil, nor too civil, and the script provides him with plenty of wonderful dialogue. He easily lights up the screen whenever he's in it. Let's add him to the list Keith.
don3comp
22. heather d
Something I've noticed while reading through the recaps of the entire season... There's not a single episode of "away team explores a planet/strange new culture."

There are a few instances of meeting a new species or culture, but they happen on ships, in space, on viewscreens. At the most, there's a brief transport down the planet but no exploration. And even those are very rare.

The majority of this season happens on the ship itself - or in shuttlecraft, space stations, etc.

It just seems strikingly odd that one of the basic Star Trek episode archetypes from TOS, and from season 1 of TNG, is "away team goes to a new planet and explores" -- and encounter some bizarre or dangerous thing about the culture or the wildlife. Or both. Obviously this trope is much rarer in DS9, but is again quite common in Voyager.

I can't recall off the top of my head how common it's going to be in the later TNG seasons. If it's not common, then this season marks the beginning of this shift in focus, and this would be an important distinction from TOS. If, however, it is still quite common (I can certainly recall many episodes off the top of my head) then this season is a strange anomaly.

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