Star Trek: The Next Generation Seventh Season
Original air dates: September 1993 – May 1994
Executive Producers: Rick Berman & Michael Piller
Co-Executive Producer: Jeri Taylor
Captain’s log: All good things must come to an end (that would make a dandy title…), and while TNG was at the height of its popularity, it was felt that they should go out on a high note. The actors had done seven years in the trenches, the original series had had their last hurrah on the big screen with 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and now it would be the TNG crew’s turn to do a movie every few years, and leave the television landscape to Deep Space Nine and the upcoming Voyager.
The season was written with at least one eye on the fact that it was ending. Family members we hadn’t seen yet were finally shown in La Forge’s parents (“Interface”), Worf’s foster brother (“Homeward”), and Crusher’s grandmother (“Sub Rosa”)—not to mention heretofore-unknown family like Troi’s sister (“Dark Page”) and Data’s mother (“Inheritance”), and nonexistent family like Picard’s not-really-his-son (“Bloodlines”). The Worf/Troi pairing that had been building since “Ethics” finally started to blossom in “Parallels,” “Eye of the Beholder,” “Genesis,” and “All Good Things…” and Picard and Crusher’s sexual tension was at last put front and center in “Attached.”
Plus several recurring characters got their final moment in the sun. Barclay got turned into a spider (“Genesis”), Wes (“Journey’s End”) and Ro (“Preemptive Strike”) both came back long enough to leave forever, and we found out that Alexander will grow up to be James Sloyan (“Firstborn”).
They also toyed with the formula a bit, to varying degrees of success, giving us a good old-fashioned caper story complete with space pirates (the “Gambit” two-parter), a Gothic romance (“Sub Rosa”), a monster movie (“Genesis”), and a look at how the other half lives (“Lower Decks”).
And, of course, the grand finale, as the show came full circle with “All Good Things…”
Most comments (as of this writing): “Parallels” with 84. Many-worlds theory is fun to talk about!
Favorite Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity? From “Descent, Part II.” A framistatal thingamabob on the Borg can be converted by total non-engineer Jean-Luc Picard, based on instructions from a blinded La Forge, into a doohickey that can send out a nonsense pulse that will reboot Data’s ethical program without his noticing it. Youbetcha.
Favorite Thank You, Counselor Obvious: From “Parallels.” We get to see Troi wear every outfit she’s worn on the show since the second season started over the course of this episode. (Her two first-season outfits—the miniskirt uniform she wore in “Encounter at Farpoint” and the brown thing she wore for the rest of the season—were left out for some inexplicable reason.) In one of the timelines, she agrees to become Alexander’sSoh-chim, which would make her responsible for Alexander should anything happen to Worf—it makes Troi, in essence, Worf’s step-sister. When Troi points out that that makes Lwaxana Worf’s stepmother, he is taken aback, but then bravely says that it’s a risk he’s willing to take.
Favorite What Happens On The Holodeck, Stays On The Holodeck: From “Phantasms.” Despite having a full-time shrink on the bridge, Data decides to have a session with Sigmund Freud on the holodeck. It’s more of a caricature of Freud than any kind of accurate representation, with simplistic references to Oedipal complexes, constant use of “classic” to define notions that were brand-new when Freud was practicing, and generally portraying Freud as an egotistical schmuck more interested in writing papers than helping patients.
Later, the holodeck is again used for research, as Data’s dream program is hooked up to it, enabling Picard and La Forge to observe the android’s dream. (At no point are there any electric sheep…)
Favorite No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: From “Eye of the Beholder.” There’s quite a lot happening sexually in this episode. Kwan and Calloway had a pretty strong relationship, and she’s confused by his suicide (it’s possible she’s also devastated, but Johanna McCloy utterly fails at conveying that). Riker is making the moves on a Lieutenant Corell in Ten-Forward. Worf starts making the first tentative steps toward possibly seeing Troi romantically, which Troi has picked up on enough of to have it influence her hallucination, and she and Worf do the deed. Then, later in the hallucination, Worf and Calloway are smooching. And the whole mishegoss started because of an affair Finn and another guy had when Finn was dating Pierce back on Mars. Wah-hey!
Favorite If I Only Had a Brain… From “Emergence.” Data’s attempts to understand the human condition via acting are still going strong, though his Prospero is a little stilted (his King Hal and Scrooge were far stronger). When the holodeck tries to stop him from depolarizing the nodes by running him over with a cab, he borrows from Superman and stops the car by holding it in place with a single hand, which is actually kind of awesome.
Favorite There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: From “Phantasms.” Worf is not at all happy that Riker has gotten Alexander interested in jazz, which he describes as “screeching, pounding dissonance.”
Worf also, to his regret, agrees to take care of Spot while Data is confined to quarters. Data asks him to feed him, provide him with a sandbox, and talk to him, telling him he’s a pretty cat. In response, Worf glares at Data and says, “I will feed him.” Seeing the expression on Worf’s face, Data agrees that that will be sufficient.
Favorite The Boy!?: From “Journey’s End.” Wes has the worst case of senioritis ever, and he’s not even a senior yet. He finally comes to the realization that a career in Starfleet is what everyone expected of him, but isn’t necessarily what’s right for him. (Given the greatness that the Traveler saw in him way back in “Where No One Has Gone Before,” becoming just another button pusher on a starship seems a bit of a comedown, anyhow…)
Favorite In the Driver’s Seat: From “All Good Things…” In the past, O’Brien takes the conn; he was first seen as a relief conn officer in “Encounter at Farpoint.” In the present, Ensign Gates flies the Enterprise one final time, while the Pasteur’s conn officer is Ensign Chilton, who’s killed during the firefight with the Klingons.
Favorite Welcome Aboard: This season had some seriously high-caliber guests: Eric Pierpoint (“Liaisons”), Madge Sinclair, Ben Vereen (both in “Interface”), Fionnula Flanagan (“Inheritance”), Terry O’Quinn, Michael Mack (both in “The Pegasus”), Paul Sorvino, Brian Markinson (both in “Homeward”), Dan Gauthier, Alexander Enberg (both in “Lower Decks”), Ronnie Claire Edwards (“Thine Own Self”), Richard Poe (“Journey’s End” and “Preemptive Strike”), James Sloyan, and Armin Shimerman (both in “Firstborn”).
A bunch of folks also returned to reprise previous roles one last time on TNG: former regulars Wil Wheaton (“Parallels” and “Journey’s End”), Denise Crosby, and Colm Meaney (both in “All Good Things…”), and past guests Jonathan delArco (“Descent, Part II”), Clyde Kusatsu (“Phantasms” and “All Good Things…”), Majel Barrett (“Dark Page”), Shannon Fill (“Lower Decks”), Dwight Schultz (“Genesis”), Eric Menyuk, Doug Wert (both in “Journey’s End”), Natalia Nogulich (“Journey’s End” and “Preemptive Strike”), Barbara March, Gwynyth Walsh, Brian Bonsall (all in “Firstborn”), Michelle Forbes (“Preemptive Strike”), John deLancie, and Andreas Katsulas (both in “All Good Things…”). Plus, Brent Spiner once again gets to play Lore (“Descent, Part II”) and Noonien Soong (“Inheritance”).
And we had a mess of Robert Knepper moments: Benito Martinez (“Descent, Part II”), Sabrina LeBoeuf (both parts of “Gambit”), Kirsten Dunst (“Dark Page”), Penny Johnson-Jerald (“Homeward”), Mark Rolston (“Eye of the Beholder”), and David Huddleston (“Emergence”).
Favorite I Believe I Said That…: From “Liaisons.” “I have heard that, in moments of diplomatic tension, it is often helpful to find elements of commonality.”
“Ambassador Byleth is demanding, temperamental, and rude!”
“You share all of those qualities in abundance. Perhaps you should try to build on your similarities.”
Data giving Worf some rather on-the-nose advice. Worf is cutting a slab of meat during this conversation, and after it ends, he holds the carving knife up as if ready to use it either a) on Byleth, b) on himself, or c) on Data.
Favorite Trivial Matter: “Masks,” which only had one paragraph, and I was hard-pressed to come up with that one…
It’s obvious that the production staff was overcommitted, and that TNG was getting the short end of the stick. Besides the expected fatigue after so many seasons, you had Deep Space Nine across the metaphorical hall (and DS9’s second season was when it really came into its own), Voyager being developed, and also gearing up for the motion picture Star Trek Generations.
As a result, the season is awash in a sea of missed opportunities, poor execution, and too many episodes that really give the impression that the entire cast and crew had a case of the galloping I-don’t-give-a-damns. It’s especially frustrating because there were a mess of story concepts in this season that could have worked well but were DOA: “Liaisons,” “Interface,” “Inheritance,” “Masks,” “Bloodlines,” “Emergence.” And some episodes you just look at and wonder what the heck they were thinking, from “Sub Rosa,” which seemed to be mostly an exercise in Gates McFadden faking orgasms, to “Genesis,” which may be the single dumbest script in TNG’s history, to “Homeward,” which turned our heroes into murderers.
On the other hand, when they did get it right, they really did nail it. “Parallels,” “The Pegasus,” and “Lower Decks” are three of TNG’s finest, and would belong in a top 30 or so of all of Star Trek. Plus “All Good Things…” was quite the perfect finale for the show, bringing it all ’round again.
And so the TNG Rewatch comes to a close. This has been a delightful experience for me, and I’d like to thank all you wonderful readers who’ve been going on this journey with me, and in particular all the folks who’ve been regularly commenting (you know who you are).
I must also take this opportunity to thank the mighty Chris Lough. With some exceptions, he was the one who picked the pictures for these rewatches, and to say he’s done a superlative job doesn’t come close to giving him enough credit.
The next four Tuesday-and-Friday slots will be taken up with looks at the four TNG movies. I, along with various other Tor.com folks, will take a gander at Star Trek Generations (Tuesday the 9th), Star Trek: First Contact (that one will be me, on Friday the 12th), Star Trek Insurrection (Tuesday the 16th), and Star Trek Nemesis (Friday the 19th).
After that, the plan is to kick in on Tuesday the 23rd of April with “Emissary,” thus launching the DS9 Rewatch. I hope you’ll all come with me.
Warp factor rating for the season: 6
Keith R.A. DeCandido has written a whole mess of books and you should go out and buy all of them right now. Yes, you, too. You know you want to.