Fri
Feb 22 2013 6:00pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Lower Decks”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Lower Decks“Lower Decks”
Written by Ron Wilkerson & Jean Louise Matthias and Rene Echevarria
Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont
Season 7, Episode 15
Production episode 40276-267
Original air date: February 7, 1994
Stardate: 47566.7

Captain’s Log: Riker and Troi are doing crew evaluations in Ten-Forward. At another table, four junior officers—Ogawa, along with three ensigns, Sito Jaxa (last seen as a disgraced cadet alongside Wes Crusher), Sam Lavelle, and Taurik—are playing a board game. Lavelle is a nervous wreck, as he’s up for promotion and really wants it, despite the urging of Sito to just relax and the mocking of Taurik, who doesn’t think crossing his fingers, closing his eyes, and chanting “Promotion, promotion, promotion” over and over again is a particularly effective strategy for achieving an upgrade in rank. The Ten-Forward waiter, Ben, then lets them know something he overheard: that Lavelle and Sito are both up for the gamma-shift ops position.

Riker runs a battle drill on the bridge. Lavelle is at conn for the simulation, while Sito is at tactical. Riker tells Sito about a trick with locking phasers that will enable her to do so faster in a battle situation, something they don’t teach at the Academy, and he also responds to Lavelle’s overeager “Aye aye, sir” with a bit of a slapdown. Picard then comes onto the bridge and orders a course change to the Argaya system, which is near Cardassian space. The senior officers go to the observation lounge to discuss their change in mission, and Sito takes over at ops, where she and Lavelle chat for a bit.

In engineering, Taurik shows La Forge a new warp-field configuration he’s working on. (“Have you been improvising again, Ensign?”) He’s also been working on other ways to improve efficiency, which La Forge encourages up to a point.

In sickbay, Crusher lets Ogawa know that she’s up for a promotion to junior-grade lieutenant, and they also talk about Ogawa’s burgeoning relationship with Lieutenant Andrew Powell.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Lower Decks

In Ten-Forward, Sito talks with Worf about her assignment at ops. She’s not even sure why she, a security officer, is being considered for an ops position, and Worf reveals that he recommended her. Across the way, Lavelle is wondering what they’re talking about, leading Taurik to snidely suggest he learn to lip-read. Ben also recommends that Lavelle get to know Riker better. He goes over to the bar and tries to chat Riker up and crashes and burns rather spectacularly.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Lower Decks

The Enterprise arrives at the Argaya system. They detect an escape pod in Cardassian space, leading Riker to speculate that “he” had to abandon ship, and Picard angrily wonders how they’re going to get it out of there. He orders La Forge to boost the transporter so that they can beam him out without crossing the border. La Forge and Taurik work to do so (La Forge has to stop Taurik from performing a life-form scan, snapping, “Nobody told you to do that, Ensign”). They succeed, and they beam the occupant to sickbay—Crusher asks Ogawa to leave the room before the transport, and Sito has been assigned to guard sickbay, not letting anyone other than the senior officers in. When Picard arrives at sickbay, he gives Sito a significant look before entering.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Lower Decks

Alpha shift ends, and Lavelle asks Riker if he can take another shift, but Riker says now’s not a good time. Even as Lavelle leaves disappointed, Sito is surprised when Picard exits sickbay and tells her, “Ensign, you’re with me.” As they go to the bridge, Picard asks if she’s a certified pilot, which she confirms.

In Picard’s ready room, Picard expresses concern about Sito’s record, specifically what happened in “The First Duty,” and tells her that the cover-up she participated in speaks poorly of her character, that she should’ve been expelled, and he’s not sure how she managed to get assigned to his ship. And then he dismisses her.

In the shuttle bay, La Forge has Taurik firing a phaser rifle on a shuttlecraft. La Forge says it’s to test hull resiliency, but Taurik figures out that the pattern of firing La Forge has asked for is consistent with a shuttle fleeing an attack while engaged in evasive maneuvers. La Forge insists it’s a startling coincidence.

In sickbay, Crusher reads Ogawa in on the mission, as she needs a nurse for surgery. The patient they beamed on board is a Cardassian military officer, and he needs surgery on a subdural hematoma.

That night, two poker games are being played. One is in Lavelle and Taurik’s quarters, and also includes Ogawa, Ben, and a very subdued Sito. Ben speculates that the person in the escape pod is Ambassador Spock. The other is in Riker’s cabin, and includes Worf, La Forge, Troi, and Crusher. Both tables range in conversation from Sito’s qualifications for promotion (with Worf very much pushing her as a worthy candidate for promotion, and Sito convinced that Picard will keep her an ensign forever) to Lavelle’s prospects for same (Lavelle is convinced that Riker hates him, and Troi—who knew Riker at that age—pointing out that Lavelle’s a lot like Riker himself, to the latter’s horror) to Ogawa’s relationship with Powell (Crusher saw him with another woman in Ten-Forward, and Ogawa is disappointed that he had to do another shift and couldn’t make it to the poker game). Tellingly, Riker wins big and Lavelle loses just as big. And when the ensigns’ game breaks up, Ben gets up and goes to join the other game, taking La Forge’s seat.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Lower Decks

At the end of the next morning’s mok’bara class, Worf keeps Sito behind, telling her she may be ready for his advanced class. But first she must pass the gik’tal, an ancient Klingon ritual, in which the student is blindfolded and must defend herself. After she gets knocked on her ass for the third time, she rips the blindfold off. When Worf tells her to put the blindfold back on, she refuses, saying it’s not a fair test. Worf nods and compliments her on passing the challenge. Sito also gets him to admit that he made up this challenge, and he says that maybe next time it won’t take so many bruises before she points out that she’s being judged unfairly.

Sito goes back to Picard’s ready room and says that the time for him to complain about her assignment to the Enterprise was when she was assigned, not seven months later, and it isn’t his place to judge her for what happened at the Academy. Her record has been exemplary, and he should judge her for who she is now, not who she used to be (unconsciously echoing Picard’s own words to Q seven years earlier...).

Picard reveals that he was no more being straightforward than Worf was: he was actually assessing her for a very dangerous mission, one that would force her to deal with a situation far more traumatic than a dressing down from her captain. He also reveals that he specifically asked for her to be assigned to the Enterprise, because he thought she deserved a fair shot at redeeming herself.

We finally find out what the heck is going on. The Cardassian they rescued is named Joret Dal. He’s not only a military officer, but also a Federation operative, who has brought valuable intelligence. He needs to be returned to Cardassian space, but his ship was destroyed. He’s going to use the shuttle that La Forge and Taurik distressed and claim he stole it—but the crossing will be easier if he poses as a bounty hunter who has captured a Bajoran terrorist. That’s where Sito comes in: she gets to be the captured terrorist. Once Dal gets past the border patrol, he’ll put her in an escape pod and the Enterprise will pick her up.

Picard won’t order her to go on the mission, but she volunteers, even though, as a Bajoran, she knows full well what Cardassians do to prisoners, particularly ones they think are Bajoran terrorists. Crusher paints some bruises on Sito to make it look good and off they go.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Lower Decks

Back on the Enterprise, Lavelle is speculating wildly about what happened to Sito, but Ogawa and Taurik—who actually have an idea what’s going on, Ogawa thanks to her assisting Crusher, Taurik through his own deduction—gently ask to change the subject. They can’t always know everything that happens aboard ship.

The Enterprise arrives at the rendezvous, but there’s no sign of Sito’s pod. After 32 hours, Worf launches a probe, despite the risk—it’s a treaty violation—and it detects debris consistent with the remains of an escape pod. Later, they receive intelligence that Cardassian Central Command reported that a Bajoran terrorist escaped from the bounty hunter who captured her and was killed when her escape pod was destroyed.

Picard announces her loss over intership, describing her as the finest example of a Starfleet officer and a young woman of great courage and strength of character.

We close as we began, in Ten-Forward. Worf is sitting alone, brooding. Lavelle joins Taurik and Ogawa with his shiny new hollow pip indicating that he was promoted. He feels terrible, thinking he got it only because Sito was killed, but Ogawa and Taurik buck him up. Taurik, with an impressive level of sentimentality, says that the best way to remember her is to excel at his new position.

Ben goes over to Worf and claims he has to move the table he’s using, but there’s a spare seat over at Lavelle’s table. Worf sees through the ruse, and says he was only her CO—they were her friends. Ben—serious for the first time all episode—assures Worf that he knows for a fact that Sito considered him a friend.

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: At the Academy, Taurik got to see some preliminary work by Dr. Nils Diaz on warp drive that hadn’t yet been published—so La Forge is unfamiliar with it. However, Taurik does apply those theories to his proposal for reconfiguring the warp engines, including an uneven plasma flow to the nacelles.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi dings Riker for judging Lavelle too harshly, reminding him that he was just as eager to please at that age—for example, he joined the poker game on the Potemkin so he could hang out with the senior officers.

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: For the first time, we get to see how Worf interacts with the people under his command. He has taken on the role of Sito’s mentor, recommending her for the gamma-shift ops position and also encouraging her to stand up to Picard. Even though both La Forge and Worf are supposed to be in charge of entire staffs, we rarely get to see them in the role of supervisor—La Forge has been able to a couple of times, at least, but this episode gives us a long overdue look at that element of Worf’s job as security chief.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Lower Decks

In the Driver’s Seat: Lavelle serves at conn throughout the episode, and does well during a battle drill. At the end of the episode, he’s promoted to junior-grade lieutenant and becomes the gamma-shift ops officer. Sito’s piloting ability also comes into play for her mission, since she serves as the copilot on the shuttle.

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Ogawa expresses concern about the direction her relationship with Andrew Powell is going—right up until he asks her to marry him, which she accepts.

I Believe I Said That: “Do you think Worf is chewing her out?”

“No, he always looks like that.”

Lavelle and Ben while observing Worf and Sito’s conversation from afar.

Welcome Aboard: Patti Yasutake gets her biggest role to date as Ogawa, and Shannon Fill reprises her role as Sito Jaxa from “The First Duty.” Alexander Enberg, having previously played a reporter in “Time’s Arrow, Part 2,” plays Taurik; he’ll be back in the recurring role of Vorik on Voyager. (Why they didn’t just carry the character over to the new show is an exercise in speculation left to the reader, since Vorik is basically the same person doing the same job, but whatever.) Rounding out the cast are Dan Gauthier, delightful as the eager-but-nervous Lavelle, Bruce Beatty, hilarious as the rumor-mongering busybody Ben, and Don Reilly, convincingly patriotic as Dal, who does not consider himself a traitor, but who wishes to save Cardassia from the corruption of Central Command.

Trivial Matters: This episode serves as a semi-sequel to “The First Duty,” following up on Sito, one of Nick Locarno’s group of disgraced cadets. (Wes will get his own followup in “Journey’s End” later this season.)

The producers considered the possibility of an episode of Deep Space Nine that had Sito being found in a Cardassian prison camp, but it never got produced. Former Simon & Schuster editor Marco Palmieri, who was in charge of the post-finale DS9 fiction, also considered bringing Sito back in a similar manner. Neither came to fruition, which, in your humble rewatcher’s opinion, is for the best. The episode is stronger if she really does die.

Speaking of DS9, this episode makes use of the deepening of the history between Bajor and Cardassia provided by that show, particularly in the conversation between Dal and Sito in the shuttle.

Taurik and Lavelle have continued to be used in tie-in fiction, especially the former. The pair of them played a large supporting role in the Dominion War novels Behind Enemy Lines and Tunnel Through the Stars by John Vornholt. An alternate future version of Lavelle also appeared as an aide to Admiral Riker in Michael Jan Friedman’s novelization of All Good Things... (Ben appeared in that novel as well.) Taurik, meanwhile, appeared in the short story “’Twould Ring the Bells of Heaven” by Amy Sisson in The Sky’s the Limit, and he has been a regular in the TNG novels starting with A Time to Sow by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore, and in lots of TNG fiction published since then, serving on the Enterprise-E as La Forge’s deputy chief engineer as a full lieutenant, being promoted to lieutenant commander in the Typhon Pact novel Paths of Disharmony by Ward.

Nils Diaz was named after scripter Echevarria’s godfather, a Cuban nuclear engineer who is a propulsion systems researcher.

Story writers Wilkerson and Matthias—who also wrote “Lessons”—were partly inspired by the 1970s British TV show Upstairs, Downstairs.

Make it So: “Her loss will be deeply felt by all who knew her.” One of my consistent frustrations with all the Star Trek series has been that they take place on ships (or a space station) that has a crew complement in three figures or higher, yet the same group of less than a dozen people seem to do all the work. Part of that is the simple nature of television and actor availability (and the need for your opening-credits regulars to have something to do most every week), but it’s still maddening. Indeed, when I was developing the Starfleet Corps of Engineers eBook series for Simon & Schuster with John J. Ordover back in 2000, one of the things I insisted on was a small ship with only 42 people on it, so we could better show everyone involved in the ship’s operation.

So an episode like this one is particularly welcome to me. I always prefer it when Trek shows give a good idea of the larger community on board ship (or station), and this is the gold standard for such.

For all those reasons, I adored this episode when it first aired, and it charms me more every time I rewatch it. It’s nice to get the perspective the lower ranks have on the senior staff, see how the “extras” respond to them going off and having secret meetings and flying near enemy borders and things.

What’s especially entertaining is the different dynamics, which reflect the area of the ship the people work in as much as anything. Lavelle and Sito are intimidated by Riker and Picard, respectively, though Sito is able to overcome her intimidation with a push from Worf—but they’re bridge officers, where discipline must be tight. Down in engineering, where tinkering and futzing around is encouraged, Taurik is utterly unintimidated by anybody, and gets an interesting combination of encouragement and discouragement from La Forge. And then there’s Crusher and Ogawa in sickbay, who spend as much time gossiping as friends as they do discussing duty, and the ranks are almost irrelevant—though the importance of that “almost” comes into play when Dal is beamed on board.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Lower Decks

Worf gets to be in an interesting middle ground here—yes, he’s a senior officer, but he’s also only two grade ranks ahead of Lavelle, Taurik, Sito, and Ogawa, so he’s kind of a bridge between the upper and lower ranks. This is something Ben reminds him of at the end.

Speaking of which, there’s also Ben, the civilian, who doesn’t give a good goddamn about any of that military crap. He flows easily from one table to another, bantering as much with Riker and Troi as he does the ensigns, and able to go from one poker game to the other without it being a problem. I also love how much misinformation Ben spreads—that Riker’s Canadian, that they beamed Spock on board. The civilian population on board the ship has been even more neglected than the Starfleet crew, so Ben is a particularly nice breath of fresh air.

Best of all, though, is that this episode gives us five compelling characters whom we come to care about a great deal in a short time. Really, they’re all new characters, aside from Ogawa—yes, Sito was in “The First Duty,” but her actual role in that episode was minor—and yet we get to know them well and intimately. The teaser is a tour de force, establishing Lavelle and Taurik’s relationship as roommates, Lavelle’s nervousness about his career, Taurik’s snottiness, and Ben’s gossip-mongering ways.

The acting is stellar throughout. Dan Gauthier deserves particular credit for not making Lavelle as obnoxious as the role could have been—his eagerness doesn’t bleed over into annoying. Alexander Enberg is also magnificently snotty as Taurik, and Shannon Fill is incredibly compelling.

The regulars also shine here, especially Michael Dorn and Jonathan Frakes, but tremendous credit should go to Sir Patrick Stewart. His dressing down of Sito is utterly convincing, because he was similarly hard on Wes in “The First Duty,” but so is the revelation that it was a test of character—and that Picard in fact gave Sito the chance to redeem herself that another captain might not have.

Without a doubt, this is one of the finest episodes of Star Trek ever produced. In fact, it even has its own category on TV Tropes, and if that’s not a sign of greatness, well, then, I don’t know what is...

 

Warp factor rating: 10

 


Keith R.A. DeCandido is at MystiCon 2013 this weekend, along with Peter Davison, Orson Scott Card, Larry Elmore, Bella Morte, Rich Sigfrit, Tom Angleberger, Steve Long, and Mike Pederson, and many others. Keith’s schedule is here.

68 comments
Ginomo
1. Ginomo
I fully admit to scrolling to the bottom first and saying "If Krad doesn't give this a 10 I am never reading another thing from him," LOL.

I think my favorite part was how the senior staff would just dispappear. That happens ALL.THE.TIME yet we always get to go with them and see what's up. This time we had to sit back with the rest of the crew and wonder. Great stuff.

Love, love, love this episode. Frankly, they owed us this one after Sub Rosa.
treebee72 _
3. treebee72
I went to college with Shannon Fill, so this ep will always be 'The one where those f'ers killed Shannon!' to me. Started to get sad just reading the recap!

And a part of me still thinks - well, they didn't find a body...
adam miller
4. adamjmil
The warp factor rating is wrong. It should be 11.
Keith DeCandido
5. krad
adamjmil: If I gave the episode an 11, everyone reading it would turn into a salamander....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Michael Ikeda
6. mikeda
krad@5

Plus, warp speeds that high do too much damage to the local space-time continuum.
Drew Holton
7. Dholton
I too loved this episode, even when it first came out, and especially Shannon Fill. I am saddened when I check on IMDB and see she didn't do much afterwords.:-(
Cain Latrani
8. CainS.Latrani
@5 krad

I'm perfectly okay with turning into Natsu, and this did deserve an 11. My favorite episode of the entire series.
Ginomo
9. Clomer
@5 krad

Lol, nice reference to the worst episode in all of Trek.

That said, I have always felt that Lower Decks is one of the strongest ones. I'm sad to see Sito get killed, but I agree that it makes the episode that much stronger. Kudos to the writers to have the courage to do a story like that in what is otherwise a show where everything works out in the end.
Joe Romano
10. Drunes
One of my favorite episodes... I wish it had been spun-off into its own series.
Christopher Bennett
11. ChristopherLBennett
I'm more lukewarm about the episode. It's a nice idea, a long-overdue fleshing out of the rest of the crew, and I think it would've been great if they'd done it years earlier and set up a recurring cast of supporting players they could periodically revisit, the way DS9 did with its ever-growing supporting ensemble. But I wasn't as enamored of the guest cast as you were, Keith. Particularly, I didn't much care for Alexander Enberg here. Granted, it's not easy to figure out the right way to play a Vulcan, and he got somewhat better at it in his recurring role on VGR, but I found his delivery here kind of off-putting, like he was trying for something he wasn't able to achieve. Also, the fact that he's Jeri Taylor's son (with sportscaster Dick Enberg) makes me wonder if nepotism played a role in his casting.

As for his VGR character -- introduced in a script by Wilkerson & Matthias -- I've heard that it was supposed to be Taurik, but the producers changed it because they felt "Taurik" sounded too much like "Tuvok" (although I would've thought it was because it sounded even more like "Torres").

But Taurik and Vorik are both recurring characters in the current TNG and VGR novels (respectively) from Pocket, so as far as the literary continuity is concerned, they are two different people. I tend to assume they're twin brothers.

In a lot of ways, "Lower Decks" is like a TNG version of Diane Carey's TOS novel Dreadnought! A lot of people interpret that book's lead character Lt. Piper as a Mary Sue, but I think that's missing the point. Rather, the novel was meant to be the same kind of "view from below" story that this was, centering on a cast of characters who were essentially less experienced junior versions of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Scotty, letting us see a Star Trek adventure from a different perspective and show how the younger generation of officers was learning from the veterans. (Although Piper did become somewhat more Mary Sue-ish in the sequel Battlestations!, I felt, getting promoted to Kirk's inner circle of friends a bit too quickly and helping to save the Federation from the second conspiracy within its ranks in as many months.)
Ginomo
12. Ashcom
I also think Alexander Enberg was the weak point of this episode. His characterisation just came over to me as a little smug. I think, to be fair, it is difficult to play the Vulcan attitude of "oh these humans and their emotions" without a little smugness creeping in, but Leonard Nimoy and Tim Russ and others have managed it nicely over the years, and Enberg just didn't.

Having said that, in all other respects I agree that this is a truly excellent episode and it is the reason I had slight problems with the 10 rating for the two earlier episodes because it kind of negates the fact that this one was just better and deserved that recognition. Although I will admit that this is an episode which could not exist if a sufficient level of excellence hadn't been established by the series in advance.

I think it was a fine idea to flesh out those characters that we periodically see wandering the corridors or sitting at the conn. A particular standout is the scene in ten forward towards the end where Taurik and Ogawa know what is happening but won't say, a moment that reminds you that these are starfleet officcers first and foremost, and people who are destined one day to occupy the positions that the main cast currently hold.

But my favourite thing about the whole episode is that the writers avoided a cop-out ending. You keep expecting that they are gong to pull some kind of deus-ex-machina which will allow Sito to arrive, and it is a surprisingly emotionally crushing moment when you realise it isn't going to come.
Ginomo
13. TBonz
This is one of my favorite TNG eps and in the top 5. It's interesting, engaging and poignant. It's damned near perfect.
Ginomo
14. critter42
I just simply cannot be objective about this episode. I was in the Navy during this time period and was an enlisted schlub working in the Reactor Department of a carrier (actually had a chance to serve on the Big E, but turned it down so I could work on the Navy's newest carrier at the time - THAT was an agonizing decision for this Trek fan...), so this episode had (and still has) a LOT of resonance with me. I was IN that poker game (granted the nuke program was still all-male at the time so it was a bit...um...bawdier?) on the lower decks. More than a few times (tho' we tended to play cutthroat Spades a lot more often). A lot of dialogue among the junior officers rang as true as if they were enlisted - or at least as true as one could get on over-the-air television :). I love this episode.
Ginomo
15. killtacular
lol, totally agree with the first comment. I did the exact same thing.
Mike S2
16. MikeS2
@11 ChristopherLBennett

Something always bothered me about this episode, and I think you finally nailed it: It's too late. Much earlier, an episode with this focus could have lent life to background extras through the series moving forwad, by letting us know what they are doing in general, providing some vocabulary to sprinkle into dialogue regarding their positions on the ship and their positions in their lives, and at least reminding us they are human (or Vulcan or whatever).

This episode can't do that as a retcon because nothing in this episode is really set up beforehand. (Sito is setup as an individual character, not as a class of people.) It actually doesn't bother me that the series is about our heroes the herioc senior officers. But since we've seen so little of the lower ranks before, seeing them here, so close to the end, they feel like an afterthought. Because they are.
Heather Dunham
17. tankgirl73
Interesting.

I've always felt this to be a GOOD episode... but not a GREAT one. 8, probably.

It's a great concept and mostly well-done, yeah... but it just doesn't sparkle for me. The acting IMO is flat. The characterizations (plucky overeager guy, showoff brain, lacks confidence but ends up being strong, etc) are formulaic and utterly predictable. And it's "talky". Which doesn't HAVE to be a bad thing, but combine 'talky' with 'cliche characters' and 'flat acting' and you have an hour of... well, waiting for something to happen.

Or in other words... I loved the *view*, the whole idea of the senior officers being the side characters. That was great. I just didn't actually come to care about the junior characters, except for Ogawa. They were basically just throwaways.

And yeah, it was brilliant that they did actually kill her, and you felt the crew's pain. But I didn't feel too much pain myself... I wasn't invested in her. She wasn't compelling. Not in the way K'ehleyr was, it MEANT something (emotionally speaking) when she died.

This is a good episode, but compared with Four Lights, the Inner Light, Cause and Effect... it's just okay. Not a 10, not for me.
Mike Kelmachter
18. MikeKelm
Chris and KRAD, you both took a lot of my points. This episode has great writing, in that we take interest in 4 officers we've never met before and who are relatively unimportant. It is unique in that its the only episode where we (the audience) knows less than the command crew does. We get to see department heads running their departments.

But Chris is very right that this should have been a season 3 episode that introduced supporting cast to revisit. Rather than Counselor Troi in command of the enterprise when it hits a cosmic string, what if its a lieutenant 2 years out of the academy during gamma shift, when absolutely nothing happens? What is life onboard the ship? Do junior officers complain about drills and have to share quarters? What do the other 1000 people besides the command crew do during crises?
If you wanted to be really gutsy, do the same episode twice... Say Beat of Both Worlds... What is it like to be a crewman during a fight with the Borg... Do the regular episode one week, then the lower deck version the next...

If there is a weak link, it's enbergs portrayal of Taurik, but as we've discussed, both writing for and playing vulcans is a challenge, as its too easy to be emotionless rather than in control of emotions. Lavelle is pretty good at desperate pursuit of a promotion (something a lot of us probably know), then being crushed when he gets it but feels he shouldn't. He probably showed emotions we have never seen from the command crew..

Bottom line- in the 173 episodes of tng, there is nothing quite like it, and that's a good thing.
Joseph Newton
19. crzydroid
I really like this episode, not just for the unique perspective on the crew, but also because the ending just really hits me. I think you're right that we get to care about these completely new characters in a short amount of time, and especially Sito. Her character here (and Fill's performance) really give me the impression that if I were on this ship, I'd be friends with her. She's like that college classmate that everyone likes (though maybe treebee can say whether or not this is actually true). So it's especially moving at the end when Picard is announcing her death. You can also empathize with the other junior officers at the end--for whatever reason, I feel like this episode sold me on this group of characters as the cast faster than any of the series did for all of the leads.

One thing that I don't really like though (though I would still give this a 10) is that Taurik is the one shooting at the shuttle. It seems like it's just because the script calls for the junior officer principals to be involved and to partially figure things out...realistically, it seems like Data should be doing this. Even if you complain about the main characters doing all the work on the ship, this seems to make the most sense. Granted, we have Data on a solo mission right after this as an explanation.

I had to laugh at the mention of Upstairs, Downstairs...while looking through Sesame Street videos on youtube for my son to watch, I came across an episode of Monsterpiece Theatre spoofing on Upstairs, Downstairs....it was basically Grover going up the stairs and down the stairs repeatedly.
Jenny Thrash
20. Sihaya
I remember watching this and wondering if it was setting up another spinoff. It made you invest in the characters, thinking that there was a possibility that they were part of a future series that we should be campaigning for. And the ensemble gelled really well. And then they pulled a Holly Gribbs. It was extremely effective. I agree with your whole assessment, krad.
Sara H
21. LadyBelaine
Keith @ 5:

"adamjmil: If I gave the episode an 11, everyone reading it would turn into a salamander...."

Yes, but we all have to mate and have salamander pups to abandon on another planet? Hmm?

This is one of three of my favorite episodes (Q-Pid, and Inner Light obviously, being the others, obviously) and I actually cried when they discovered that Sito was killed but I will always remain perplexed at the sudden, I dunno, ubiquity and interconnectivity of Ben, the bartender whom we've never heard of yet plays poker with the senior staff and knows everyone's deal.

I have heard tell on the internet (so it must be true) that it was supposed to be Guinan who was the catalyst/matchmaker/Greek chorus in the middle but Whoopi was unavailable - can anyone shed some light?

edit: Ben the bartender, not Ben the batrender which sounds like someone who rips apart flying rodents.
Ginomo
22. harmonyfb
I remember this as being one of my top five favorite episodes of Next Gen - it showed us how interesting it would be to see more than the big-gun characters on a weekly basis.
Ginomo
23. Lalo
By far my favorite episode, Sito was the sort of continuity that I love in Star Trek and wish more shows would adhere to you know?
Ginomo
24. Gilbetron
LadyBelaine: I had heard the same thing. I checked my TNG Companion, and in it staff writer Rene Echevarria says that they intentionally added a character like Ben as someone "who hitches aboard the ship for fun, who's unconcerned about rank, and who passes along stupid rumors!" This quote could reflect what the writers decided upon after Whoopi turned out to be unavailable, though.

I agree with the consensus here. My only irritation is that Voyager never feeled followed up on this idea of having visible secondary characters. Yes, they did have some (Seska, Carey, Vorik, to name three), but they appeared in clumps and then were never heard from again. Carey was heavy in Season 1, then not seen again until so late in the final season that I found it hard to swallow that he had been there all along. Same with Vorik, who was featured prominent in Seasons 3-4 and then disappeared from view only to reappear much, much later. It's just a lost opportunity for Voyager, since it's an area where DS9 excelled.
Christopher Bennett
25. ChristopherLBennett
@24: One thing early VGR did well was setting up recurring characters who would just be around for a while and then have something big and permanent happen to them -- Seska was in several episodes before being revealed as a spy, Durst was killed in his second episode, and Hogan was in six episodes before dying in "Basics, Part II" (and he even made a return appearance, for his skeleton was retrieved by the Voth in "Distant Origin"). That was a nice approach, because it gave us a chance to get acquainted with those characters and get used to having them around, so it was a surprise when they died or turned traitor or whatever (or at least it wasn't contrived that they suddenly turned up out of nowhere). One wishes they could've done the same with Lon Suder, but Brad Dourif was too big an actor to have him just show up in a nondescript background role for a few weeks. Then there were the bit players who stuck around constantly, the main one being Tarik Ergin as Mr. Ayala.

The inconsistency in background-character continuity on VGR probably has something to do with the changes in the writing staff and showrunners over the course of the series -- first Michael Piller in season 1, then Jeri Taylor in 2-4 (simplifying, since there were periods when Taylor was running the writers' room but answering to Piller), then Brannon Braga in 5-6, then Kenneth Biller in 7. As I mentioned, Alexander Enberg is Taylor's son, which could explain why we saw less of Vorik once Taylor left.

Of course, there's also the fact that recurring guests can't necessarily be relied on to be available for the whole run of a series. They might get other jobs that make them unavailable for a while.
Ginomo
26. RobinM
I enjoyed being a spider under the table I just wish they could have done it a few seasons earlier and we good have revisited them more than just Nures Ogawa. I would have also liked it if Sito reappered in the tie-in fiction; on air would have been to much to ask but I kept hoping until the very end. It makes me sad. I didn't realise Taurik and Varik were to different people until you mentioned it. I just saw "Varik" on VGR and thought hey it's that guy from Lower Decks how did get on this ship?
Christopher Bennett
27. ChristopherLBennett
@26: No reason Taurik couldn't have transferred from the Enterprise to Voyager, seeing as how VGR didn't premiere until nearly a year after this episode aired. In fact, as I said, the character was going to be Taurik until the producers decided on the name change.
Jordan DeLange
28. killtacular
17@tankgirl : "
And yeah, it was brilliant that they did actually kill her, and you felt
the crew's pain. But I didn't feel too much pain myself... I wasn't
invested in her."

What??? This is still pretty much the only episode that routinely makes me feel like the room is a little ... dusty ... (also Inner Light) every time I watch it.

@Taurik/Varik : isn't it the same reason that Paris wasn't actually Lacorno (sp)?
Amir Noam
29. Amir
I love this episode. It really is a breath of fresh air and offers a unique perspective regarding life on the Enterprise.

The one thing that bothers me, though, is Riker and Troi doing crew evaluations in Ten Forward, just a few tables away from the people they are discussing. As experienced officers they should know how bad this can be for morale, and be the source of harmful rumors (as indeed happens via Ben).

As someone who's been involved many times in employee performance evaluations (though not in a military setting), we'd always get a private room for such discussions.
adam miller
30. adamjmil
I loved seeing our staff in roles as mentors/leaders of people, and thought it was an interesting contrast between Worf's style (creates a fake test to boost confidence and get a message across) vs. Riker's (publicly rebuke someone for saying "aye" twice).

And yeah, crew evals in 10-forward makes no sense.
Matthew Abel
31. MatthewAbel
Just watched this last night and it was such a good story. I really would love to see a whole show like this. Or a similar episode once or twice a season - cast a lens on the civilians or something.

I found Taurik's characterization far too snide and smug as well. I don't know if its because that was how he was to be played, or the limitations of the actor.

I also would have liked a quick Riker/Lavelle exchange at the end - not just the promotion. A "good job, Lt." or what-have-you. I suppose it would have detracted from Sito's death which was quite powerful.
Christopher Bennett
32. ChristopherLBennett
@28: No, it's different from the LoCarno/Paris situation. Paris was a regular character, and if they'd gone with LoCarno instead, they would've had to pay his creators a royalty for every episode of the series. (This is also why Enterprise created T'Pol rather than making T'Pau a regular as they'd originally considered.) But Vorik was only an occasional guest character, so the same problem didn't apply.

It's interesting that this issue didn't stop DS9 from using O'Brien as a regular. But given how gradually O'Brien's character evolved, I'm not sure if any one person would count as the character's creator. The recurring "Transporter Chief" character debuted in "The Child," so I guess Maurice Hurley would count as his initial "creator" (since there's no corresponding character in the initial Phase II script by Jaron Summers & Jon Povill), but he wasn't named O'Brien until "Unnatural Selection" by John Mason and Mike Gray, and he wasn't named Miles until "Family" by Ron Moore. And eventually the nameless conn officer Meaney had played in "Encounter at Farpoint" by D.C. Fontana and Gene Roddenberry was retroactively identified as O'Brien. So who would get royalties?
Ginomo
33. MDS
As others have mentioned, the different perspective from the junior officers made this very special. I liked the very different view of Worf, as an extremely supportive senior officer to the young officers. Too often Worf was the cranky, grumpy (which of course, is true as well) senior staff officer, so it was nice to see how the younger people respected him. I liked the extra time that he would volunteer, like his mokba class and advise to Sito.

@30 - good point about Worf's superior mentoring abilities over Riker's. Teaching Sito in private about standing up for her own rights, rather than publicly rebuking her, is an excellent management technique.

This episode also makes me think of the crew members who are even further in the background: i.e. the non-speaking extras, especially those whom we see repeatedly throughout the years. Three stalwarts in the background appear in this episode: Nurse Martinez, Ensign Jae (Ops) and Ensign Kellogg (Tactical). I realize they're background extras, so it's contradictory to ever do an episode where they would get a speaking role and we would find out more about them. But in the case of those three, it's amazing how many episodes they were in, including being extras in the TNG films.

BTW, there seems to be an erroneous rumor that the actor who played Kellogg, Cameron (Oppenheimer), used to be in the adult film industry. I think this was started in a couple of blogs about a truly abysmal B-movie, “Samurai Cop”. While Cameron was indeed in that awful film, the writer(s) of the blog mistakenly linked this actress to one in the adult film business who happened to use the name “Cameron” as one of her many stage names. The two actresses are years apart in age, as well as height and looks.
Ginomo
34. Sypher
@30 - I think the differences in style are a great point. Riker is the ships XO, so he is a little harsher when it comes to business. With Worf, he can have a bit more leeway with his style due to his position and rank. I think that this episode, while show casing the lower deck crew members also greatly defines the main cast as well. There is great subtlies to the way their portrayal appears to the junior officers. It gives them a chance to flex their acting a bit and show sides of their personalities not normally apparent.

The only thing I thought was strange was when Picard tells Sito he doesn't know how she got on the ship. I found that unrealistic, as anyone who is in command or a manager in a store generally has a say over who is transfered in or hired. And, even assuming she was forced on him by someone else, he still knows why. It's just an odd line.
Ginomo
35. MDS
I believe Picard's claim that he didn't know how Sito got assigned to the Enterprise was part of his testing Sito's strength and resolve, during their first private meeting. He was lying to her, in order to provoke a response.

In the second private meeting, he admited to Sito that he did know why and how she was assigned to the Enterprise. Picard had requested her to be assigned to his command, so that he could ensure that she was given a fair chance to redeem herself after her conduct at the Academy.
Ginomo
36. CounsellorDeannaTroi#1Fan
I loved this episode too when I first saw it, and I still love it when I see it today.

The only thing I didn't understand about it was the ending. Why would the Enterprise have a crewman floating in an escape pod in enemy territory in a location where its occupant could not be immediately transported out? It seems like an absurd risk to take with the life of a crewman.
Ginomo
37. CounsellorDeannaTroi#1Fan
Regarding the confusion over an actor's name:

There's an extremely famous British adult film actress that has same screen name as a university classmate of mine. She gets at least one or two messages per day on Facebook from people mistaking her for the porn star.

It's hysterical.
adam miller
38. adamjmil
@36,

Because the plot demanded that she undertook a dangerous mission which would ultimately get her killed?

Yeah, they probably could have come up with a better plan, but it's not obvious (to me anyway) what it would be.
Ginomo
39. MDS
@37
Ouch! Hope your classmate has a good sense of humour about the situation.
Ginomo
40. CounsellorDeannaTroi#1Fan
She says she often feels like she's a presenter on Babestation! haha
Ginomo
41. Sypher
@35. I mean, I understood the story implications and the reasons given in a story. I just meant from a practical point of view, it was a comment that in real world context, wouldn't have made sense for Picard or any manager to say. Unless, once again, you take into account that Sito's past is really hanging so heavily over her that she wouldn't rationally think about it. Just a thought
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
42. Lisamarie
I couldn't help but think of Worf/Picard's testing of Sito as like the Wise One testing Aviendha has to go through in Wheel of Time (to mix up my fandoms here). I actually am pretty sure I would fail that kind of testing, actually, heh.
Lee VanDyke
43. Cloric
I LOVE this episode, and was thrilled to see it got the 10 it deserved, but while watching it, I just wanted to know why Troi is the only one who ever gets to be in anything other than her uniform.
Chin Bawambi
44. bawambi
Got a minor question here which I just thought of even though I've seen this episode several times. At a few points during the series and in the movies it is mentioned how money isn't used anymore - so how is Ben "cleaning up" in the lower officers game? With what Monopoly money - how does that get him a seat in the command staff game? Just a poker players musings...
Ginomo
45. Scavenger
@41: It's been seen in the past (I can think of the episode where Picard gets a girlfriend) that all postings to the Enterprise don't go thru him. I imagine that lower ranks, are filled by Department heads, possibly consulting with Riker as the XO. I don't think you'd bother the captain of the flagship with the individul postings of the 1000 crew members.

@34: It's worth noting that while we see Worf mentoring Sito, Riker is explicitly NOT mentoring Lavelle. The two scenes are Worf off duty with his protege, and Riker on duty with a subordinate.

-----------

My big problem with this episode is Ben. Who the hell is Ben? We've never seen him (or really any waiters) before, and we never see him after. He's a "civillian" but really? Some random civillian serving on the flagship? Guinan makes sense, due to Picard, but this guy is out of the blue as a motivator in the episode. It's just always felt to me like his story role was ment to be for Guinan (obviously differently written). But as is, especially the scenes with the main characters just has a feel of "BEN, our good good friend we've never mentioned ever before!"
Ginomo
46. Ashcom
@43 - but when we did see Picard out of uniform, he was wearing silky hot-pants. So it's probably for the best.
Beccy Higman
47. Jazzlet
@ Scavenger Yes, who the hell is Ben and why do we not see him before or after. Personally I found him a very irritating cliche.
Joseph Newton
48. crzydroid
@45: No comment on Ben specifically, but we've seen those waiters all the time.
Christopher Bennett
49. ChristopherLBennett
Ben makes sense to me in the context of the episode. The whole thing is about shifting focus away from the regular characters who are in the top positions to the more junior members of their respective staffs -- Lavelle for Riker, Taurik for LaForge, Sito for Worf, Ogawa for Crusher. Ben, as a junior counterpart to Guinan, fits right into the paradigm of the episode. Maybe it would've worked better to have Ben hanging out with the junior officers and Guinan hanging out with the officers, thus maintaining the duality; but as a civilian, not a member of the ship's hierarchy, it makes sense that Ben is someone who could cross the line between "upstairs" and "downstairs."
Rowan Blaze
50. rowanblaze
This episode more than deserves that 10; and like several others, I went straight to the score just to make sure. (I know, it's the least important part of the ReWatch.) I enjoyed the POV of the junior officers, but like other commenters, I feel they could have done so much more with it, if they'd done some kind of "Lower Decks" earlier in the series.

I had thought the Taurik/Vorik thing was a royalties issue, but I guess I was confusing him with other characters like Locarno/Paris. It may be retcon thinking, but I can easily imagine Taurik as a younger Spock or Tuvok: intelligent, logical, but without the maturity to realize his condescension is not appreciated by the humans around him. He reminds me of the Vulcan diplomatic staff on Enterprise (including T'Pol, initially) who cannot quite mask their sense of superiority from the humans.

And yes, it does seem to be the XO's job to be the hardass, so the Captain can be the magnanimous leader. Note that in "Measure of a Man," Picard defended Data, while Riker had to prosecute. Remember Colonel Tigh in the BSG reboot? This has held true in my own military experience, and many Hollywood portrayals.
Christopher Bennett
51. ChristopherLBennett
Funny, I rarely even notice the numerical ranking Keith gives an episode unless it's mentioned in the comments.
Ginomo
52. killtacular
@32: Ahh, thanks. That makes a lot of sense.

@51: I seem to remember krad saying the numerical rankings are pretty meaningless to him. HOWEVA, once you do it, the best episodes have to have the top rating :).
Ginomo
53. JLPSAP
Brilliant Episode, very well cast, and produced. And it also managed to hold on to its mystery almost until the end, which is what all mystery drama should attain, and TNG has not done in a while.

The critiques of Enberg as the vulan here astound me. I found him much easier to watch than stupid Tuvok. I wonder if people went in knowing he was related to a producer and just assumeds he is bad in the part. Vulcans ARE SMUG!

the only negative in this episode is Ben. As was commented over on jammers blog, the consesus is that Whoopi was unavailable so the found a nice black guy to be a bartender. It really should have just been guinan. There is no reason to just add this nobody who acts like guinan and never shows up again.

This episode also shows how stupid "Thine Own Self" is with Trois' promotion. Here are people clearly working very hard and for years, and this episode shows the strict rank and promotion dynamicin starfleet, and the frakkin counselor jumps them all (and many others probably) because of one test??? (actually it is because Sirtis is a main character).
Christopher Bennett
54. ChristopherLBennett
@53: "I wonder if people went in knowing he was related to a producer and just assumeds he is bad in the part."

Absolutely not. I didn't find out he was related to Jeri Taylor until years after the fact.

And sure, the character was supposed to be smug, but that wasn't my problem with his performance. It wasn't about the choice of what kind of character to play, but more about the technical aspects of how well he was playing it, particularly where his vocal delivery was concerned.

And Troi didn't "jump" any of these characters. She was already a lieutenant commander from day one of the series, so she only advanced one step in rank to full commander. Lavelle, Sito, Taurik, and Ogawa were all ensigns, though Ogawa got promoted to lieutenant junior grade during the episode.
Ginomo
55. JLPSAP
@54, I will concede my point about Troi jumping rank, you are correct about her rank since farpoint, but I will just move my "goalpost" in the argument by saying that I think it is stupid that a counselor is even in sniffing distance of command of a starship of 1,000 people.
Christopher Bennett
56. ChristopherLBennett
@55: What's so awful about counselors? Surely someone who understands people's behavior and thinking and knows how to motivate them would be very well qualified to lead them. Good leadership requires an understanding of psychology more than it requires an understanding of how to fix machines or how to shoot people.
Jay Hash
57. JYHASH
One of the things that I enjoyed the most about this episode is how much it smacks of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, which should also appeal to many a Shakespeare fan out there. Being able to see how the rather neglected and small role characters advance the plot in their own way and concoct reasonings behind the main characters' impetus is always interesting. I find it like being in on a really good joke, and you have these new people all coming to their own punchlines. And I'm sure that's why Stoppard's R&G are Dead is also so popular. It speaks a bit to us normal people who aren't heads of state, or CEO's, or even retail managers: we come up with our own reasonings behind the actions of those we see in power to try and make sense of things and cope as best we can and advance our own plot. It allows us to become our own main characters.

To echo, I'm not the biggest fan of Eisenberg, not when this episode aired, and even less so when the rumor went round that he was the possible reason for Jennifer Lien being let go from Voyager. I was enamored with Shannon Fill as Sito, though. And her death did resonate. I know that something similar has been bandied about for a new Trek series with this type of episode as the main focus and the captain and serior officers rarely seen but once in awhile (much like how The West Wing was originally supposed to be formatted). That'd be a Trek I'd watch, instead of rehashing the same characters. You've got to wonder at what point it stops being interesting and becomes like the Stormtrooper Version of Clerks, though...
Brickhouse MacLarge
58. Midnightair
I am a bit late to the comments, but I had to have my say about this episode (I also went straight to commenting and looking at the score Mr. De Candido gave this first before reading his review!). It's the first time I have seen this episode, and I consider it one of the finest episodes of television, of any genre, ever! I must admit that I cried at the end. What a superb piece of television. Well directed, written, acted, and what a message. I also consider it probably the best episode of TNG for myself. Also, the actress playing Ensign Sito is so beautiful (she resembles Laura Linney), I will be sure to look up her body of work on IMDB. Powerful episode, this one sticks in my mind. Excellent.
Ginomo
59. JohnC
@44 - I too have always found the recurring poker game theme to be somewhat awkward. Money has been abolished, so what really is at stake? Why do they let an empath play? Ah well. A really great episode, nonetheless, for the reasons mentioned. I too found it long overdue that they give us a more detailed look at the grunts in starfleet....
Christopher Bennett
60. ChristopherLBennett
@59: Poker's not just about money, is it? I'm sure there are people who enjoy the competition and the challenge, or who see it as a game of skill at people-reading or strategizing (which can be useful practice for starship officers).

And of course there's always strip poker...
Christopher Bennett
61. ChristopherLBennett
Oops, double post.
Ginomo
62. JoshK
What bothered me about this episode is that Picard manipulated Sito into volunteering for the dangerous mission, and it cost her her life. He exploited her eagerness to please, her desire for promotion, and her vulnerability caused by the stain of her actions at the academy. Picard is a real shit in this episode. Gul Madred went too easy on him.
Ginomo
63. The Real Scott M
I get kind of tired of all the "TNG should have been a different show" comments. The idea that they should have done something like this far earlier in the series ignores three critical facts: 1) TNG debuted as a syndicated show at a time when almost all of televesion was exclusively episodic and relied heavily on the major cast members -- they would have struggled for ratings if they strayed too far from the norm; 2) The entire premise of the show was to be a new version of Star Trek, not some different show set in the same universe (a la, DS9); and 3) They DID essentially do this FROM DAY ONE.

Wesley Crusher was strictly a civilian when the show started, and he never rose above the rank of ensign during his time on the ship. We also had Reginald Barclay, Ensign Lefler and Ensign Ro. They weren't exactly common sights in the Observation Lounge. True, we never had an episode told exclusively from their "alternate" perspective, but to imply that they were ignored is simply untrue. In fact, I would say the power of this episode is in seeing characters whom we DON'T see often (or even ever again) -- its power is in the brevity of the glimps we get, like a dash of pepper rather than a slathering of hot sauce.

I also don't know that this episode would have worked in the third season (or earlier) because they would have been almost compelled to make Wesley Crusher the linchpin, and the episode works so well primarily because these characters DON'T have such a connection to the main cast. It's what differentiates this episode from something along the lines of Data's Day.

Anyway, I think this episode works quite well on its own, and it feels like a subtle yet comfortable and effective way of making this final season feel different and complete, like the gaps are being filled in before that final curtain drops. And I think it's one of the reasons that TNG is so fondly remembered 20+ years later.
Christopher Bennett
64. ChristopherLBennett
@63: It's overstating things to say that "almost all of television" was strictly episodic. There were serialized shows in primetime, but they tended to be mostly nighttime soaps like Dallas, Dynasty, Knots Landing, and the like. Then there were dramas like Hill Street Blues which had a mix of episodic plotting and serialized story and character arcs. It would be better to say that such serialization was limited to certain types of show and hadn't yet caught on in action-adventure series.
Ginomo
65. The Real Scott M
@64, I said "almost all," not all. I will amend my statement to be "prime-time plus scripted syndication," which is what I intended. So take away about 5 television shows and you get what I said. To my mind, that is "almost all," considering 3 major networks, a fledgling one, and a boom of first-run syndication at the time.

Regardless, my point still stands. Many comments on these boards are made through the lens of 20+ years of television evolution and do not take into account the context of when the series was created, nor its original purpose. And the comments here don't take into account the fact that TNG did break from that mold from the very beginning. (I mean, seriously, at the time my cousin complained that it was difficult to "start" watching TNG because of the carryover storylines!)

Not to mention, it was TNG and its success as a sci-fi syndicated series that laid the groundwork for shows such as Babylon 5. TNG allowed them to take the next step. If TNG had tried such a thing to a more significant degree, the whole thing could have crashed and burned, and then where would we be? What you want is for TNG to be DS9, BUT IT COULDN'T BE! That's why they made DS9! (Well, that, and to cash in on Babylon 5's success, but I digress...)

I, for one, am thankful for what TNG was able to do, and I judge it based on its own terms. As such, while indeed there were some less than stellar (even truly awful) episodes, this was not one of them.
Christopher Bennett
66. ChristopherLBennett
@65: No, you're still overstating it. As I said, there was an entire genre of prime-time soaps, and it was more than "five shows." Serialization did exist; it was just concentrated within certain categories of TV series and hadn't yet spread to others.

Although TNG was not the first SF show to have serialized storytelling either. The original Battlestar Galactica dabbled in ongoing continuity and multi-episode story arcs, albeit in a crude way with plenty of discontinuity as well. The short-lived sequel Galactica 1980 was also surprisingly serialized, with events in one episode being followed up on in the next; for instance, the second storyline (a 2-parter) ended with the lead characters being called to a meeting which was seen at the start of the next episode, and a recurring antagonist who was injured in one episode was mentioned in a subsequent episode as being in recovery from his injuries. V: The Series was in rather a soapy mold, with continuing storylines from one week to the next and major, permanent changes in the status quo (though that was largely due to midseason retooling to cut budget and fight sagging ratings).

The thing to remember is that there's always been serialized storytelling, going back to the earliest radio soap operas and before that to magazine serials like those written by Charles Dickens. But in the early days of TV, serialization was the stuff of cheesy daytime soaps, while the classy, sophisticated shows were the play anthologies like Playhouse 90 and Desilu Playhouse. So anthologies were considered the more intelligent form of storytelling, and thus even continuing series aspired to an anthology model with minimal continuity between episodes. This also made sense in the context of the time, since they had no home video or Internet streams, no VCRs or DVRs, and even syndicated reruns were less common at the time. So there'd be little chance to get your memory of old episodes refreshed, and if you missed an episode of a show, you might never see it at all. Thus, it made sense to prioritize telling a complete, self-contained drama every week above telling an ongoing, interconnected narrative.

But in the '70s, syndicated reruns became more commonplace (partly due to the great success of Star Trek in syndication), and then home video came along, as well as early cable networks which relied on reruns for the bulk of their programming. So it became easier to get to know a series as a unified whole rather than a bunch of independent episodes, and so the serialization that had been concentrated only in certain genres began to emerge in others. It wasn't a new invention when TNG came along; it was just starting to become more popular as tastes evolved.
Ginomo
67. The Real Scott M
@66, I don't know how many prime-time soaps you think there were by the time TNG aired, but you seem to be overestimating. By my count, depending on requirements for success, and including Hill Street Blues, there were ABOUT 5 -- certainly fewer than 10 which included serialization to any significant degree. You are absolutely correct that it was mostly relegated to soap operas, which were mostly not prime time nor syndicated. Game Shows were also often serialized, but they also do not meet my (amended) criteria.

As for Galactica 1980 and V: The Series, do you honestly think that citing short-lived TV series (which, combined, had little over a full season's worth of episodes) serves to prove your point? I contend it proves mine: TNG did what it had to do to survive and then thrive, which succeeded in making the idea of first-run sci-fi syndication more acceptable. Then others could build on that by incorporating other narrative approaches.

As for rerun syndication, episodic series are still strongly preferred episodic shows as space filler, and in TNG's time rerun syndication was a BIG deal. It was years later, with the advent of full-season DVD sets, that shows like 24 could dare to tell a fully serialized story without worrying about long-term viewership. Which is good, because shows like LOST have had a very difficult time finding a home in rerun syndication.

But again, and I will restate this as often as it takes: YOU ARE IGNORING MY MAIN POINT. You are focusing completely on peripheral issues. The main point is that TNG's approach to television was completely within reason -- indeed, virtually required -- for its time, as well as a direct result of its intent. Many of your complaints even seem to ignore some of the chances they did take. If you want to discuss that, I will reply. Otherwise, I have nothing more to say.
Ginomo
68. Electone
I just watched this one again today and honestly, I don't see what all the hubub's about. It's good, in a different perspective kind-of-way, well acted and cast, but its another el-cheapo bottle show like most of the 7th season.

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