Thursday, August 07, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Star Trek: The Next Generation, season 4 (1990-1991) ****

TV-PG, 26 45-min. episodes
Creator: Gene Roddenberry

Directors: Cliff Bole, Les Landau, Rob Bowman, Gabrielle Beaumont, Robert Sheerer, Jonathan Frakes, Corey Allen, Chip Chalmers, Robert Wiemer, Tom Benko, Weinrich Kolbe, Robert Legato, Marvin V. Rush, David Livingston, Patrick Stewart

Writers: Gene Roddenberry, Michael Piller, Ronald D. Moore, Susanne Lambdin, Bryan Stewart, Rick Berman, John Whelpley, Jeri Taylor, Ralph Phillips, Lee Sheldon, Joe Menosky, Thomas Perry, Jo Perry, Brannon Braga, Drew Deighan, J. Larry Carroll, David Bennett Carren, Kacey Arnold-Ince, Hilary Bader, Alan J. Adler, Vanessa Greene, Harold Apter, Stewart Charno, Sara Charno, Cy Chermak, Philip LaZebnik, William Douglas Lansford, Bruce D. Arthurs, Dennis Bailey, David Bischoff, Marc Scott Zicree, Maurice Hurley, Thomas Kartozian, Pamela Douglas, Shari Goodhartz, Timothy De Haas, Ira Steven Behr, Randee Russell, Peter Allen Fields, Ted Roberts, Michel Horvat, Rene Echevarria, Ken Schafer

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Wil Wheaton, Majel Barrett (voice)

Guest starring: Elizabeth Dennehy, George Murdock, Colm Meaney, Whoopi Goldberg, Jeremy Kemp, Samantha Eggar, Theodore Bikel, Georgia Brown, Cory Danziger, Adam Ryen, Sherman Howard, Chad Allen, Barbara Townsend, Eric Menyuk, Bill Erwin, Beth Toussaint, Suzie Plakson, Robert O’Reilly, Patrick Massett, Charles Cooper, Jon Steuer, Andreas Katsulas, Chris Demetral, Carolyn McCormick, Patti Yasutake, Todd Merrill, April Grace, Nick Tate, Kim Hamilton, Mary Kohnert, Kim Braden, Rosalind Chao, Sierra Pecheur, Alan Scarfe, Shelly Desai, Marta DuBois, Paul Lambert, Marcelo Tubert, Pamela Winslow, Rhonda Aldrich, George Coe, Carolyn Seymour, George Hearn, Michael Ensign, Steven Anderson, Sachi Parker, Bebe Neuwirth, Susan Gibney, Lanei Chapman, Jana Marie Hupp, John Vickery, Duke Moosekian, Craig Hurley, Brian Tochi, Maryann Plunkett, Amick Byram, Jim Norton, Kay E. Kuter, Saxon Trainor, Page Leong, Dwight Shultz, Jennifer Hetrick, Clive Revill, John de Lancie, Bruce French, Spencer Garrett, Henry Woronicz, Earl Billings, Jean Simmons, Ann Shea, Majel Barrett, David Ogden Stiers, Michelle Forbes, Terrence E. McNally, Carel Struycken, Barbara Tarbuck, Nicole Orth-Pallavicini, William Newman, Franc Luz, Larry Dobkin, John Feck, Edward Wiley, Michelle Scarabelli, Tony Todd, Barbara March, Gwynyth Walsh, Ben Slack, Nicholas Kepros, J.D. Cullum

Going into it’s fourth season, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” finishes perhaps its most influential storyline of the entire series as we learn of the fate of Captain Picard, who was assimilated into the hive culture of the Borg race under the identity Locutus. The show runners wisely follow that episode up with an epilogue episode to deal with the ramifications of Picard’s capture and rescue.

Much of this season’s episodes fall along such considered choices. The season sees the marriage of two recurring characters, a few looks at the humanization of the android Data, Troi’s mother finds true love, Crusher falls for an alien that switches body vessels regularly, Wesley finally exits for Starfleet Academy, we see the return of a face from the past but in an entirely different context, and Warf discovers he has a son and his sacrifice of family name at the Klingon High Council culminates in another cliffhanger season finale. The mythology of the series grows immensely this season and it’s really quite amazing how well its episodic nature ties together considering how many writers are involved. Can you imagine a series like “Lost” making any sense with so many different cooks in the kitchen? Wait a minute. “Lost” made sense?

Anyway, season four of the first “Star Trek” spin-off series provides a clue as to why the producers of the film series felt it was time to retire the original crew and send the Next Generation crew into cinemas. I’ll admit it. When they switched to TGN for the movies, I wasn’t sold on this new version of Star Trek. The characters seemed somehow nerdier to me. They sold me on “First Contact” however. Now, that I’ve finally gone back and started consuming the television series, I wish everyone had given them the shot that I didn’t at the time.

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