Rewatching Star Trek: The Next Generation after a 20-year break.
The Enterprise spends a lot of time in a budget-saving black void, where the crew scans things, searches databases, launches a probe, navigates in circles, gives up, sets a self-destruct timer, philosophizes about death, shuts off the timer, and warps away.
I had never seen this episode before, so technically for me this isn’t a “rewatch.” I found the opening very slow, with Picard ordering the ship to make various maneuvers, the crew describing the results, and Picard trying something else.
I was surprised that this episode made a place as awesome as the Enterprise bridge look boring, especially as compared with the teaser, in which Worf nearly attacks Riker because he’s enjoying himself so much during a training simulation. (These early depictions of Worf almost losing control don’t fit with the Worf I remember, as he matured in later seasons of TNG and on DS9. But I digress.)
The bridge scenes don’t describe any sort of conflict or character development, and there isn’t much sci-if eye candy, as the Enterprise spends most of the episode trapped in a supposedly somehow unusual starless void.
We have brief encounters with a Romulan Warbird (which mysteriously disappears when the stock footage they are recycling suddenly runs out) and a “sister ship” that conveniently looks exactly like the Enterprise.
An away mission veers into the ludicrous, as Riker and Worf wander through the recycled corridor sets, make their way to the recycled bridge set, and open a door to find yet another bridge, with a duplicate of Riker. Enraged, Worf screams, “One bridge!! One Riker!!” The scene adds nothing to the story, and doesn’t develop Worf’s character any further than the “Worf can barely keep himself under control” moment from the teaser.
Near the end of Act IV some good interaction happens between Picard and Riker as they set a self-destruct timer, setting up a good scene in Act V where Picard chills in his quarters and philosophizes about death.
These were good moments, but we spent far too much time getting there. I felt bad for actress Diana Muldaur, who as Dr. Pulaski has to throw herself around the bridge, apparently being prodded remotely by an alien curious about how males and females propagate.
Some lazy scripting puts Wesley on the bridge, until for no reason he’s gone and a random newcomer is sitting in his seat. This newcomer is brutally killed by a callous alien, and then before you know it, Wesley is back at that post again.
Of course they didn’t want to kill a recurring character, but couldn’t Wesley have gotten a brilliant idea about the Macguffin generators, and requested permission to go to Engineering to try it out, thus putting someone else in his bridge seat? How would he have reacted upon learning of the unintended consequences? How would Data try to comfort Wesley?
In fact, I’d rather have an episode that starts in medias res with the self-destruct timer being set, and we follow all the various characters as they reflect in the time that remains, and as they start comparing stories about the moments leading up to the crisis, they start to notice discrepancies and think their way to an alternative solution.
As it is, we have almost two full acts of scanning a void, searching databases, sending out probes, dealing with phantom ships, and getting navigational fixes.
Pretty dry stuff.