So, as any good TiTtie will know, I already covered the first episode of Season 4 in Pt 2 of my Season 3 review (it seemed only fitting that TBOBW should have a review all of its very own?!).
The bar was raised extremely high with Season 3, concluding in that EPIC two-part finale! It quite literally blew Seasons 1 & 2 completely out of the water. As a result, I was (ashamed to admit) a little worried that Season 4 may be somewhat of an anti-climax. I mean, how could they possibly top THAT? What if TNG was one of those shows that went on a season or two past its peak? I had faith, because I know there is a lot of love out there for TNG and had it not been a success, it would never have spawned a hugely lucrative movie franchise, as well as subsequent hit series DS9, Voyager, Enterprise and even the (as yet untitled) 2017 project. But still, that little niggle of doubt was there for me personally.
Well, I needn’t have worried, because Season 4 was awesome, possibly my favourite so far!
It’s a bit of a chicken and egg kinda thing I feel. I’ve done some research (get me!) and as you would expect, the viewing figures increased steadily across the seven seasons, but spiked notably with Season 4. Setting budget increases aside, did the show’s popularity increase because the writing was getting (a lot) better, or, because more and more people seemed interested in this thing called “Trek”, they knew they had to up their game and write episodes that would impress their ever-increasing audience? I expect it was really a combination of the two? It scarcely matters now, and whatever the reasons, Star Trek got seriously good at some point during Season 3 and it just kept going! (I am in no doubt that the appointment of the amazing Brannon Braga for Season 4 was at least in part responsible!)
Having ridden the emotional rollercoaster that was TBOBW, I was definitely in need of a hot bath, a strong cup of tea (Earl Grey, hot!) and perhaps something a little more light-hearted, my nerves still frazzled from “The Borg Incident”, and that’s exactly what Family provided. A great little standalone episode where we catch a rare glimpse of a vulnerable and somewhat lost Picard. He is only human after all and it is perfectly natural that he would feel the aftereffects of what had happened to him. I am really pleased that the writer’s chose to incorporate his recovery into the story, rather than just brush over it in a “business as usual” kind of way. Such choices give the series as a whole a great deal more credibility.
One question: why would Picard choosing to go home leave him open to scrutiny? #confusedTiT
You will all know by now how much I love normal setting / off-ship type episodes, so Mon Capitan travelling home, to Earth, to his family, was always going to get a thumbs up from me! That, combined with the introduction of Worf’s “normal” (albeit, slightly eccentric?) parents – you can literally SEE the inner turmoil in him, struggling to cope with conflicting human and Klingon inclinations? The scene where Guinan tells them about his love of prune juice – intentionally hilarious of course – but the advice she gives them… well, I guess that’s just why we love her huh?! And of course, I shed a little tear (or two) as Wesley “met” his father. All in all, a great way to kick off Season 4! Well done guys!
If I had to sum up Season 4 in one word (besides epic/amazing/stupendous, etc) it would be family, and not just because of the aforementioned episode of the same name. This season had it all, right from the very beginning. Let’s recap…
- Picard’s journey home / Worf’s parents / Wesley’s Father (Family)
- Data’s Father/creator and brother (Brothers)
- Picard being forced to explore his “paternal side” with the human boy raised by a hostile alien father (Suddenly Human)
- Wesley’s desperate efforts to save his Mother from the static warp bubble (Remember Me)
- The introduction of Tasha Yar’s sister, Ishara (Legacy)
- The return (and heart breaking demise) of K’Ehleyr, and the introduction of Worf’s son, Alexander (Reunion)
- Chief O’Brien’s marriage to Keiko (Data’s Day)
- The alien offspring (Galaxy’s Child – okay, so stretching it a bit with this one?!)
- The heart-wrenching “Half A Life” (focused once again around the fabulous Lwaxana Troi!!)
- Worf’s quest to regain honour for his family (Redemption Pt I)
…Season 4 just had so much darn heart. At this point, I feel like I am really starting to get to know these characters? They have become like friends, I want to learn more about them, their backstories; I seem to have a vested interest in their safety, their happiness. I think that’s what ‘the powers that be’ were aiming to achieve with Season 4. They could have gone all-out, guns blazing, trying to out-do Season 3 with huge storyarcs and special effects (and not that there wasn’t plenty of that type of thing), but I think they were going for something a little more subtle. They’ve got us hooked already for sure, and now it feels like they’re reeling us in, making sure they have us right where they want us – we’re not getting away now!?
This season certainly did not fail to indulge my Data obsession with fantastic episodes like Brothers, Data’s Day and Clues. Huge kudos to Brent Spiner for acting three parts, so very, very, well in Brothers, this episode really got me going at first, wondering whether Data actually had “gone rogue”. I get the feeling there is more to discover about this ‘emotion chip’ and that we haven’t seen the back of Lore just yet?! Does anybody else secretly have a soft spot for the “evil twin”? No? Just me then…
(Fact: I actually, totally unintentionally, re-watched Data’s Day ON April Fool’s Day! #spooky)
I have to admit though, the jury’s still out somewhat with regard to In Theory, I’m just not sure about that episode? Data having a “girlfriend” creeped me out a little bit, I don’t know why because I loved the friendship he had with Tasha?
The Geordi-centred episodes in this season were amazing! Slow to start admittedly (falling in unrequited love AGAIN in Galaxy’s Child, yawn!), but Levar Burton plays an absolute blinder in Identity Crisis (brilliant episode – LOVED IT!) and The Mind’s Eye. It really got me thinking about something that came up (oh er!) when the TrekkieGirls interviewed Robert Duncan McNeill and Manu Intiraymi at the SFBall 2015 (refresh your memory here). Robert was talking about prosthetics and how difficult it is to act when you can’t hear what your fellow actors are saying, because let’s say for instance, you’re dressed as a giant lizard?! (I’m sure this will all make sense when I reach Voyager?!) Anywho, Manu referenced his half-Borg character Icheb in the new Star Trek Renegades, who has one ear and one eye covered with Borg implants, and how he would find himself stumbling about between takes because two of his senses were effectively 50% impaired. Now, I’m not sure what Levar could actually see behind that visor, it may have in fact been like those pinhole sunglasses you can get (now there’s a future SarahKnowEyes blog post for sure?!), but let’s just say he spent SEVEN seasons acting blind, at the very least not being able to so easily read the visual cues of his peers. With that in mind, HUGE props Mr Burton! Bravo!
Even the smaller recurrent roles are having their characters expanded. It was great to learn more about one of my absolute favourites, Chief Miles O’Brien; about his past in The Wounded, and seeing him get married in Data’s Day. Y’all know how much I love me a bit of the hashtag…
Having spent the first two seasons screaming “SHUT UP WESLEY!”, I have to admit that I have actually really, really started to miss the boy genius, there is a hole in my #TNGrevisited experience that is as yet unfilled. Final Mission was a great send-off though – what a cracking little episode?! On the subject of Wesley, Remember Me was brilliant – one of my top three episodes of the season I think! A great story, that also marks the return of The Traveller. Why do I get the feeling we haven’t seen the last of him? Or Wesley for that matter…
Speaking of things that made me sad… I had absolutely no idea that K’Ehleyr actually dies (Reunion)?! I was genuinely shocked by this. Having witnessed the love for Susie Plaxton at DST3, I assumed she had had a much bigger role than that? Okay, so I know she’s Worf’s mate and mother of his child, but you know what I mean, I thought she recurred more than that?
Interesting theory about who really killed her…
Another disappointment for me is how long it’s taking for Riker and Troi to get together! Anybody that knows me will tell you I’m a hopeless romantic, and I know that these guys get it on eventually! After the likes of Shades of Gray (S2) and Ménage a Troi (S3), I had high hopes, but throughout Season 4 sadly their relationship seems to have cooled somewhat? Come on guys, where is the heat?!
I know, I know, enough with the negativity already! Instead, a big hooray for the return of John De Lancie in QPid – another absolutely fantastic episode! (Even if it did involve the return of Vash! Blergh!!) I always enjoy the light-hearted episodes, perhaps not coincidently because they tend to involve Q, and this, was no exception! On a similar note, seeing Whoopi Goldberg back as the ever-fabulous Guinan is always a pleasure, and when Picard takes her to meet Dixon Hill in Clues – oh yes please!!
As an admittedly somewhat obsessive compulsive person, continuity is something that I hold in quite high regard, and that’s one of the things I really love about Star Trek (like the ‘hand over’ at the beginning of each new series) and TNG in particular (obvs. because that’s as far as I’ve watched!). Season 4 was a prime example, not only are they (with hindsight) building bridges to the future, but they are also constantly linking back to previous seasons, for instance, with the reappearance of several characters. Guinan, Barclay, lovely to see the memory of Tasha Yar brought back to life in Legacy and the (dare I say?) emotions that this stirs up in Data? And Leah Brahms is back in Galaxy’s Child much to Geordi’s dismay. TNG holds firmly to its roots huh? Me likey :))
Great to see Riker back to his cheeky self in First Contact! Absolutely loved the concept of this episode! We all assume that you’d want to know if there were more to life than just your planet, more “out there” – but what if someone doesn’t? What if they’re genuinely not ready for that kind of knowledge? A very thought provoking episode, and case in point that you should not judge everybody by your own standards. The Prime Directive tested once again, and also in the likes of Suddenly Human, and in Galaxy’s Child to some extent. I relish watching Picard’s inner turmoil in these types of episode, always trying to work out what the right thing to do is?! Oh, and his face when he realises they’ve killed the soon-to-be-revealed-as-pregnant alien *tears*! I love it when ST addresses big issues, Half A Life and The Host in particular, stand out as episodes that really moved me, and somewhat shook up my way of thinking.
Probably the character that had one of the biggest boosts in Season 4 is Worf. I. Am. Loving. Him. From meeting his parents and being reunited with his mate, K’Ehleyr, and learning he is a Father; to seeing how much his discommendation is affecting him in The Drumhead. The fact that the season finale and subsequent Season 5 opener are basically centred around him, is a huge testament to the strength of this character, the audience’s interest in, and love of him, and the amazing job done by Michael Dorn in playing him. I am especially enjoying watching the development of the relationship/friendship between Worf and Picard. The mutual respect forming between them is beautiful to watch. Dare I say that Picard is almost a father figure to him?
This is a somewhat amusing ongoing theme in Season 4, as it’s well established that Picard doesn’t particularly like children – we see him struggle to relate to Jono/Jeremiah in Suddenly Human, yet his fondness of Wesley is obvious in Final Mission. But I digress… I can’t wait to see what Season 5 has in store for my favourite Klingon!!
Like I’ve already said, I think you can tell that the network knew they had a hit on their hands with Star Trek. The renewed enthusiasm for the franchise, supported by steadily increasing viewing figures, meant that they were able to invest a significant portion of airtime in to forming and continuing storyarcs. Although there are some fantastic standalone episodes in Season 4, such as Future Imperfect, Devil’s Due, and the amazing The Nth Degree (the Psychologist in me is fascinated by the events in Night Terrors), I just can’t shake the feeling that they were beginning to think about the “bigger picture” at this point (1990-91)? It was great to see more of the dastardly Romulans (The Mind’s Eye), and knowing now what I do about the franchise beyond this point, with the introduction of the Cardassians in The Wounded, it is clear to see that they were definitely gearing up for “other things” (namely DS9 – 1993?!). There was the definite early sowing of seeds in Season 4, and this becomes even more apparent in Season 5, when it’s blatantly obvious that there were plans afoot (y’all know what I’m talking about?! #nospoilers, that’s a topic for the next review!).
I’m intrigued to know if anyone watching TNG for the first time, back in the day, felt like they were witnessing the evolution of something special? I worry that my interpretation is somewhat jaded by watching it so far down the line, knowing what comes next?
On the other hand, maybe I worry too much… :op
However, something Dominic Keating said during our interview at the SFBall 2016, that I’d managed to “struggle through” the first few seasons, got me thinking (fingers crossed this interview WILL go live at some point!)…
Now, not that I am in any way berating him for what he said, but it occurred to me that as corny as those first couple of Seasons of TNG were, they were the foundation for what became arguably Gene Roddenberry’s greatest success. It succeeded where TOS had failed in securing a much wider audience, and an extra four series run. It was because of TNG that DS9, Voyager, Enterprise, the Abramsverse and the 2017 series exist. We owe a lot to those first 2 1/2 crappy series of TNG, so maybe we should give them a little more credit? And it is for that reason that they will hold a special place in my heart from here on!
One last thing. I’m just going to leave these here…
#24thCenturyfashion #whatwheretheythinking #itsnotgettinganybetter