Watchers: Mike & Brendan
It’s a very exciting day!! I’m up to one of my all time favorite Star Trek episodes in my TNG re-watch and I’m watching it with my good friend, Jason! I’m watching this one slightly out of order with the rest of the season– as will often be the case when I have a friend watching with me. I do my best to pair the episode with the person. So when my friend Brendan agreed to be a part of this project I knew I needed to pick episodes that he would take advantage of his sense of humor. We’re in Season 2 and the show hasn’t quiet found its legs yet. The funny episodes that are to come (like “Rascals”) are very far away. In season 2 they were still taking themselves too seriously and playing it a little flat. So what did I pick? Two of the worst episodes I could think of!
Or “Wesley’s first girlfriend turns out to be a Wookie”. I remember loving this episode when I was a kid. In hind sight, it was probably cause I had a crush on young Wil Wheaton (what gay boy in the 80’s didn’t, right?) But re-watching the episode today it doesn’t really hold up.
As Brendan pointed out, the cast plays it as “ridged”. As if they are afraid to move off their mark. I think this is a problem the show had early on– like they wanted it be taken seriously. THIS IS A DRAMA, DAMNIT! This same direction caused Shatner to over act in the original series.
All the shape shifting moments– especially the ones that are supposed to be scary– are HILARIOUS! I mean, my stomach was hurting from laughing. The best was when Anya interrupts what we can only assume is Wesley’s first kiss ever. Anya is in monster form and Wes has a WTF reaction. Then his new girlfriend also transforms into a Sasquatch and HIS MIND IS BLOWN! I mean, this is seriously going to give him trust issues and probably ruin his love life forever.
Speaking of Anya, it’s pretty terrible that she is set up as the episode’s antagonist but in the end she’s suddenly nice and gets off scott free. I mean, Worf suddenly wants to be her pal! She faces no repercussions for threatening to kill that guy in sickbay, for attacking a Starfleet officer, or for generally being a menace. Nope. “We’re cool.”. WTF?
Another Brendan observation, why was the Enterprise acting as a transport ship for these people that WE KNOW NOTHING ABOUT? Maybe someone should have done some research before inviting these powerful and irrational beings onto the Federation flagship.
After we finished the episode I asked Brendan my standard question: “How do you think this specific episode would do on TV today? Does it hold up? How would today’s writers and producers do things differently?” I’ll directly quote his answer below.
B: No, I don’t think that would hold up at all. Far too awkward. However, I am probably wrong. Based on how teens are motivated by shows like Teen Wolf and Twilight currently, there might be a large following in that demographic for a guy who falls in love with a shape shifter. The episode would need far more danger in it though, the threat of the guardian would have to be more ominous and wesley and the future president lady would have to be pushed away from each other by the crew/guardian more. There isn’t enough at stake for them. Also, Whoopie needs to be in the remake.
So there you have it. I can’t agree more. There is potential in the story but it would be handled very differently today. Next?
Brendan had enough time to watch 2 episodes today! For my second pick I went with “Samaritian Snare” or “Geordi gets kidnapped on a short bus”. Sorry if that’s insensitive but the actors portraying the Pakleds were clearly directed to act “under developed”. It makes the episode an easy target for ridicule.
But far worse writing happens in the B plot. I love that we learn the story of a young Picard thinking he was invulnerable and taking on 3 Nausicaans at once. It gives us a great peak into this character and provides us with the framework for one of my favorite episodes: “Tapestry”. But Wesley is super weird in the shuttle. Clearly he wants Picard to be a father figure– but dude, you’re talking to the Captain. Why are you asking if he wants kids? Or if he was ever married? It’s not like Wesley is young enough to fall under the “kids say the darndest things” category. He’s old enough to know better. Someone re-cut that section to make Picard’s reactions much more realistic. Here it is– if you want a laugh.
I asked Brendan his opinion on how this episode holds up as well. Here is his response:
B: This could probably work really well. It would need a re-write, for sure. It gives us a nice chance (though it doesnt happen in the episode) for wesley and picard to bond. It also gives the uptight captain a chance to realize he can trust and depend on his crew and that they follow him unconditionally (again, this didn’t happen in the episode). Another opportunity would be to show that the crew can function on their own, or to bring out some good traits/qualities in the second in command. This kind of happens in the episode, but it feels flat. And also they should listen to Rolf [ed: I think he means Worf. Unless we’re doing a Muppet parody! Not a bad idea actually].
He’s totally right. Picard comes across as an asshole here. He’s so afraid of his image that he acts like a jerk to Riker, Pulaski, and the surgeon. He opens up to Wesley a bit but that scene also falls flat. Clearly they haven’t got his character right yet– I can’t wait for the Picard we meet later.
Also, Worf is right when he asks: “Do we have to send them our chief engineer because they have a little problem?” Maybe they should have at least sent a security team with Geordi when he goes to board this UNKNOWN SHIP. Then Troi says that Geordi is in danger and instead of beaming him back immediately they call him up and say “You doin ok?” It’s like Riker was left in charge and he totally messed up. He didn’t weigh the gravity of the situation correctly. I’m sure he violated some regulations. And then once they get Geordi back, they just let the Pakleds go. They don’t take back any stolen equipment or report them to any other authorities. They just let them go to continue to trick, rob & pillage the galaxy. Good job, Will!