Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode Guide - Season 2
What happened to the cast and creative team of Star Trek: The Next Generation between seasons 1 and 2? Strictly pragmatically speaking, we can include the one-season substitution of Diana Muldaur’s Dr. Pulaski for Gates McFadden’s Dr. Crusher, the introduction of the Guinan character and the unleashing of Commander Riker’s facial hair.
Aesthetically speaking, however, season 2 of The Next Generation represents the proverbial Making The Jump for this cast and crew. After a few more wonky efforts (traditionally blamed on the writers’ strike of 1988 which also reduced the season’s output to 22 episodes rather than the traditional 26), ST:TNG as a production had worked all the kinks to become must-see TV, consistently the best weekly non-comedy program in the U.S.
If the switch these guys flipped for ’88 still exists somewhere, please direct any of us mere mortals in that direction…
1. The Child – Those early, wonky episodes of season 2 mentioned above? Well, “The Child” is Exhibit A. Some kind of space spermatozoa/disembodied alien impregnates Troi, grows really quickly, dies and is never mentioned again. *
2. Where Silence Has Lease – Showing once again that this Enterprise crew hasn’t quiiiiiite escaped the shadows of the originals, this episode has the shipped trapped and its passengers toyed with by … an Insane God! **
3. Elementary, Dear Data – Lt. Commander Data and Geordi LaForge play Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in the holodeck. However, in order to create a mystery that Data cannot solve instantaneously, the two create a villain capable of defeating Data but not Holmes. Unfortunately for them, the set parameters lead the computer to create a Moriarty with actual consciousness. Though this one threatens to become just another Malfunctioning Holodeck episode, the cat-and-mouse game is fantastic. And Picard lectures on existence. ****
4. The Outrageous Okona – While a Harry Mudd-like scammer runs amok on the Enterprise, Data asks the holodeck to teach him about comedy, but the stupid thing sends him Joe Piscopo instead. Minus points for not providing the punchline to the joke which begins “A monk, a clone, and a Ferengi decide to go bowling together…” ***
5. Loud as a Whisper – As the Enterprise brings a deaf mute ambassador, his interpreters are inconveniently wiped out. The rest Is rather predictable and yet simultaneously implausible. *
6. The Schizoid Man – How often do you get a maniacal bad guy named Ira? The “Schizoid Man” of the title is Data, who’s become an unwilling host for the perished Dr. Ira Graves’s brain patterns and memory. ***
7. Unnatural Selection – Dr. Pulaski contracts a Space Virus which ages its victims rapidly. She gets old quick, hogs screen time, doesn’t die. *
8. A Matter of Honor – So yeah, the combination of Star Trek VI and The Next Generation in general bring more depth to the Klingons, but this episode really shines the spotlight on most ST fans’ favorite aliens. On an exchange program, Riker must adapt quickly when serving as first officer on a Klingon ship while the Enterprise hosts an interesting blue Benzite dude. ****
9. The Measure of a Man – Come on, Picard acting in an attorney-like manner while arguing the case for Data’s sentience, free will and rights against a stuffy Federation type? You know this one is talky, philosophical and impressive. ****
10. The Dauphin – A textbook example of The Next Generation’s inability to utilize Wesley Crusher in any sort of bearable fashion. Prospective ruler of Daled IV, Salia travels with the Enterprise while ol’ Wes’s hormones go into milkshake mode. Naturally, Salia is not quite what she seems. Bonus points for Worf’s amazing description of Klingon dating. ***
11. Contagion – Saving the Enterprise from a computer virus doesn’t sound all that exciting, but mix in some Romulans and the super-advanced technology of a planet called Iconia and interesting things happen indeed. ***
12. The Royale – A frequently silly plotline involving Riker, Data and Worf trapped within a pulp fiction novel’s narrative is redeemed by some amazing bits. A particular highlight for the season is Data’s high-roller demonstration at the craps table. ***
13. Time Squared – One of the first great “head trip” episodes of The Next Generation combines with another favorite, the time paradox. Picard comes face-to-face with a time-looped iteration of himself, and must deduce when to avoid a fatal mistake. ***
14. The Icarus Factor – A character-heavy episode featuring Riker and Worf: The former hosts his father, while the latter is visited by friends (or perhaps “allies” might be more appropriate for friendly Klingons) who pressure him to take part in an upcoming ritual. ***
15. Pen Pals – It’s Data vs. The Prime Directive! Data has been speaking via radio signal with a girl named Sarjenka for a few weeks, keeping his true identity a secret. When Serjenka’s planet faces destruction, complications ensue. In a subplot, Wesley leads a science team in his first leadership assignment. ***.
16. Q Who – In perhaps not the best episode of season 2 but certainly its most seminal, Q returns to show the Enterprise crew “what’s waiting” in an area of space about to be encroached upon by the Federation: The Borg, who rapidly get to work in opening up the Enterprise as though it were a tin can. ****
17. The Samaritan Snare – Bizarre aliens calling themselves Pakleds are idiots with regard to science, math and technology, but are pretty damn good at crime – like kidnapping, which they do to LaForge, who is made to get their ship operational. ***
18. Up the Long Ladder – The Enterprise goes on two rescue missions at once – the first involving protection of an agricultural colony populated by sexy Irish folks, the other a group of clones dealing with genetic degeneration. Riker contributes a healthy share of flirtatiousness before the solution which viewers deduce in 10 minutes is reached. **
19. Manhunt – The outrageous Lwaxana Troi is back aboard the Enterprise on the way to a conference and is going through “The Phase” (kinda like Pon Farr for Betazoids, but with far less over-the-top rage). She first chases after Picard, then Riker, before the voyage ends and she stunningly and hilariously saves the day from a totally unsuspected threat. A scattershot episode with lots of seriously funny bits. ***
20. The Emissary – Who wants more Worf? Lots of folks! So in “The Emissary”, Worf’s former lovergirl K'Ehleyr comes aboard to help deal with a ship full of Klingons who have been in suspended animation since the days of James T. Kirk who are unaware that peace has been brokered in the meantime. ***
21. Peak Performance – An episode with a couple of neat twists. Boarding the Enterprise is Federation battle strategy master Sirna Kolrami, who oversees a war game pitting Riker, Worf, LaForge and Wesley (who turns out to be useful; no, really) against Picard before a surprising third party makes things quite interesting indeed. In a subplot, Data seeks to top Sima in a game of Strategema, which makes 3-D chess look like Parcheesi. And Michael Dorn confirms that no one says “guile” like Worf. ****
22. Shades of Gray – A clip show about which we will never speak again.