Star 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).
Highest-rated episode: “Q Who” with a warp factor rating of 10 (the first and only one thus far to rate that high).
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.
Fewest comments (as of this writing): “A Matter of Honor,” one of the stronger episodes of the season, which nonetheless only engendered 10 comments.
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.
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.
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.”
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!
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.