Sunday, May 19, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Star Trek: The Next Generation, season 2 (1988-1989) ***

TV-PG, 22, 45-min. episodes
Creator: Gene Roddenberry

Directors: Rob Bowman, Winrich Kolbe, Robert Becker, Larry Shaw, Les Landau, Paul Lynch, Robert Sheerer, Joseph L. Scanlan, Cliff Bole, Robert Iscove

Writers: Gene Roddenberry, Jaron Summers, Jon Povill, Maurice Hurley, Jack B. Sowards, Brian Alan Lane, Burton Armus, Les Menchen, Lance Dickson, David Landsberg, Jacqueline Zambrano, Tracy Tormé, Richard Manning, Hans Beimler, John Mason, Mike Gray, Wanda M. Haight, Gregory Amos, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Scott Rubenstein, Leonard Mlodinow, Steve Gerber, Beth Woods, Kurt Michael Bensmiller, David Assael, Robert L. McCullough, Hannah Louise Shearer, Thomas H. Calder, David Kemper

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Wil Wheaton, Diana Muldaur

Guest starring: Majel Barrett, Whoopi Goldberg, Colm Meaney, Seymour Cassel, R.J. Williams, Earl Boen, Daniel Davis, Alan Shearmen, Billy Campbell, Douglas Rowe, Albert Stratton, Rosalind Ingledew, Kiernan Mulroney, Joe Piscopo, Teri Hatcher, Marnie Mosiman, Thomas Oglesby, Leo Damian, Howie Seago, W. Morgan Sheppard, Suzie Plakson, Barbara Alyn Woods, Patricia Smith, J. Patrick McNamara, John Putch, Christopher Collins, Brian Thompson, Amanda McBroom, Clyde Kusatu, Brian Brophy, Paddi Edwards, Jamie Hubbard, Peter Neptune, Mädchen Amick, Cindy Sorensen, Thalmus Rasulala, Carolyn Seymour, Dana Sparks, Noble Willingham, Sam Anderson, Jill Jacobson, Leo Garcia, Mitchell Ryan, Nikki Cox, John de Lancie, Lycia Naff, Christopher Collins, Leslie Morris, Daniel Benzali, Barrie Ingham, Jon de Vries, Brenna Odell, Robert Costanzo, Carel Struycken, Mick Fleetwood, Lance Le Gault, Roy Brocksmith, Armin Shimerman, David L. Lander, Leslie Neale, Glenn Morshower

The second season of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” finds a much more relaxed Enterprise. The actors are more relaxed. Their characters are more relaxed. You can almost feel how the film crew is more relaxed. Director Rob Bowman handles most of the directing duties for the more important episodes of the season, and its clear he’s really hitting his stride as a television director. Bowman would go on to become the go to director for the television series “The X-Files” and even some feature films.

There’s a major personnel change in the position of the chief medical officer. Dr. Beverly Crusher was replaced, due to the firing of Gates McFadden, and replaced with television veteran Diana Muldaur as Dr. Katherine Pulaski. Muldaur had played two unrelated characters in two different episodes of the original series. Her character only lasted one season on TNG due to “lack of chemistry” according to producers. Her character is much colder and analytical than Crusher, who would return for good in season three. However, I wonder just how much of the change back to Crusher had to do with fan pressure.

Muldaur’s work is solid in this season and the writers worked hard to develop her. She was never given a regular cast billing, which may mean the change was always intended to be temporary, or perhaps the producers knew the chief medical officer was always going to be a tough fit and didn’t want to make another major casting commitment only to change their minds again. Whatever the case, I enjoyed Muldaur’s character, but will welcome the return of McFadden.

As for the rest of the season, that relaxed atmosphere may have been a little too infectious, as many of the episodes seem to lack a certain degree of conflict. Sometimes the subject matter is really just too basic to carry a full hour of programming with a high energy level. Yet, other episodes were some of the best of the series so far.

The best episode of the season marked the third adventured spurred on by the trickster alien known as Q and introduced the most formidable and interesting of all of Star Trek’s alien race villains, The Borg. The episode ran far over budget and the producers made the unfortunate choice to cut the budget of the season’s final episode, which has gone down as the worst episode of the entire TNG run. It’s bad enough that they actually resorted to a clip show in only the show’s second season, but to have a clip show act as the season finale is just inexcusable. Despite some of the show’s miscalculations in season 2, it still operates on all the levels in which Gene Roddenberry originally conceived the Star Trek universe.

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