Monday, September 7, 2015

ST:TNG - The Battle

In an effort to relive my early teens, I am re-watching old episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It is both better and worse than I remembered it, as was my youth most likely.

Seriesdate: 1.09

The Battle

So... Picard doesn't remember the solar system in which he scuttled his first quadrillion-quatloo spaceship and invented his very own famous military maneuver which put him in academy textbooks? Even though he remembers all other details about the event and rattles them off like your drunken uncle re-telling his traffic accident for the hundredth time? See, it's little gimmicks like such unnecessary set-ups for expository dialogue which jar the audience out of their requisite suspension of disbelief.

However, aside from that and some overacted headaches on Stewart's part, this seems the first truly good episode of this series. Not just an overly-theatrical re-hash of Original Series tropes like The Last Outpost or a blatant pretext for testing the audience's preferences like Lonely Among Us, it manages a workable story in itself while advancing the series' meta-plot. The Ferengi, though still buffoonish, were greatly toned down from their original showing as drooling bald baboons into a much more believable spacefaring race. The cackling villain playing with a torture device in darkened rooms is balanced by his second-in-command's much colder profit-minded attitude, and several interactions, whether friendly or hostile (the two captains, Riker and his Ferengi counterpart, captain and doctor) are pleasingly egalitarian.
Die! Well! Kahp-ten!
Even the Wesley Crusher role was for once actually well-written and fit into the setting and action, offering up the fruits of his genius to solve a couple of puzzles while not saving the universe by his mere existence or overstepping the bounds of his rank.

Historically, the most interesting observation is that this is basically a story about post-traumatic stress. Its inspiration, however, may not be instantly obvious to today's viewers. Written not only a decade and a half before King Bush II's decision to pour gas on the middle east's various fires but years before his father's own invasion of Iraq, this episode is a product of the mid-80s realization that the Vietnam War's scars were not healing. "Combat fatigue" didn't neatly end with the end of combat and people beaten and brainwashed into becoming murder-o-matics weren't turned back into model citizens by a parade and a medal. It may seem like good, clean fun but Picard's closing line "let the dead rest and the past remain the past" was and should still be considered controversial in its various possible interpretations.

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