July 19, 2015

Five Great Trek Episodes That Should Have Sucked

It takes a very good writer not to mention fantastic actors to take an idea which is absurd or makes no sense, and turn it into one of the best loved episodes of a series. In fact some of the best episodes of Star Trek involve plots that would be, well, really silly or even stupid. Not to mention laughably impossible or make no sense. But through great writing and acting, fans are able to overlook the goofiness or blandness of an episode, and find what’s really good.

For instance, last April for fun I nitpicked “City on the Edge of Forever”. And yeah, it has it’s flaws and things you could roll your eyes at. But the script is so well written and the acting, especially Shatner and Joan Collins, is so captivating that you can’t help but be taken in. And it’s one of the finest hours of Star Trek ever produced. Here are five more episodes like that :

“The Naked Time (Star Trek-TOS)

I can prove how bad this idea really is with just three words. “The Naked Now”. Why is this episode considered a classic when the Next Generation episode is considered one of the worst of the entire series? I mean, when you think about it the idea is just primed for goofiness. A disease makes the crew act crazy and release their inhibitions? Ooooh, what groundbreaking sci fi! And a lot of it is like that, like Sulu and his sword playing or Riley and his annoying singing which are just silly moments. But the tide is turned after Spock is infected, and we see him try but fail to control his inner feelings. It was one of the first signs of what made the guy tick, and a fantastic piece of acting by Nimoy. Then Kirk is infected, as we get insight into his character and his love for the ship. Spock sees his friend suffering and that helps him to fight the disease and resume control. The episode works because we’ve gotten to know these characters, so the goofy stuff is funny and the serious stuff is very introspective. Unlike TNG which did this with their second episode, before we really knew anyone, and the whole thing just sucked.

“The Inner Light” (Star Trek-TNG)

I once talked about how god awful boring I found this episode..at first. The truth is I just didn’t get it and it’s a really beautiful episode that I have leaned to love. But….think about it. Picard gets zapped by a probe and lives a whole other lifetime in twenty minutes?? How is that even remotely possible? How could that society even create the probe in the first place? Did I mention zero action? Yeah this episode should have sucked! But it works. Between very strong writing and fantastic acting specially by Patrick Stewart we get a very touching, moving episode which almost everyone considers one of Trek’s finest. In fact it’s considered one of the finest hours of science fiction period, and who am I to disagree? The episode basically shows snippets of this guys life, and we find out in the end that the aliens did this so that someone would remember their long dead civilization. Truth is every time I see it I feel like it goes by to fast and wish we’d had more of this “other life”. It takes a good episode to make you want more.

“It’s Only a Paper Moon” (Star Trek-DS9)
This episode had so many things working against. Focus on Nog? Yawn. Lots of Fontaine? DOUBLE Yawn. No B story and hardly any of the main cast? Yawn!! But, the truth is there is some great stuff here. After Nog lost a leg during combat, he comes back to DS9 suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He gets lost in the world of the holosuite and Vic Fontaine. To my surprise, it’s a very moving episode! I even cared about FontainE a bit, what are the chances? The best part comes when Nog is forced to accept reality, and finally breaks down and cries, getting out his grief and explaining how he never thought he could get hurt and can’t deal with it. The thing is, he is doing it to Fontaine! What could have been a silly scene becomes one of the best I’ve ever seen on this show. But what is even better, I love that follow up moment when Nog rejoins his family with a big hug. The Ferengi are usually played as jokes, here it is played straight and you really feel like they are not only people but a family who love each other. Fantastic!!

“Real Life” (Star Trek-Voyager)

I had to really think about this one, and it may be a cheat. That’s not a slam on Voyager. It’s just every “best of” list seemed to have different episodes on them. So I chose this one, which is not on many that I saw. It’s not really one of their best, one reason being that the A story sucked. But the B story is the real focus here. It would be sooo easy to nitpick the story here regarding The Doctor and his fake holodeck family. Oh, are we supposed to really care for these characters who aren’t real and who never appeared before? This episode had boring written all over it. But after Torres fixes it so the family is realistic, The Doctor’s daughter ends up hurt, badly. Rather than face the situation he ends the program. The best part is the exchange he has with Paris, and Paris sympathizes that anyone probably would do that if they could. And it’s true, if you could turn off painful experiences wouldn’t you? But then Paris reminds him that tragedy is part of life. If he wants to know what real life is like, you need the good with the bad. If the doctor wants to know what it means to have a family he should experience everything. So The Doctor resumes the program and plays the tragedy out. Ok the weight is not as strong as could have been, but it still works.

“Twilight” (Enterprise)

This episode surprised me. Yeah it can be nitpicked. Oh another “Reset button” episode where we know it’s going to be undone in the end? And Archer has a condition where he can’t retain long term memory? Sure haven’t seen that yet in “Finding Nemo” or “50 First Dates”!! How dull! But the truth is, it works. First of all we see the possible end result of the Zindi war, and the destruction of the Earth is one of the best Trek teaser’s since “Cause and Effect”. Also, Scott Bakula isn’t always my favorite actor but he really sells the scenes he is in. We feel what he is going through. If you didn’t get the premise from my snark, an accident causes Archer to be not able to retain any memories past a day. We then flash forward and see how this affects T’Pol and the others. Long story short T’Pol has been taking care of him and we get hints that their relationship has evolved but it’s never made clear. The end is what you would expect to happen on a “reset button” episode, but the stuff in the middle with T’Pol and Acher is very good stuff. And for Enterprise, that’s high praise!!

When I finished this I realized that these episodes had one very big thing in common. They are all character pieces, and when we get good characters that we care about and want to learn about then we can ignore lack of action of the fact the plot is a bit silly.

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