Season One of Star Trek the Next Generation ended with an episode that was intended to start something bigger. That, for reasons of a writer’s strike, never happened. But they started something that never quite came to pass, and Jimmy and Tom had some thoughts on that.
“The Neutral Zone”
Something is taking out Federation outposts near Romulan space, but the Enterprise has other problems when they find three frozen people from the 20th century in a piece of space junk!
jimmy: Pretty tame for a season finale.
tomk: It was a first draft script and supposed to set up a future storyline when season two came along but didn’t.
jimmy: Writers strike strikes again?
tomk: More like “writer’s strike still”. It went on a lot longer than anticipated.
jimmy: I mean, it wasn’t a bad episode per se, but besides reintroducing the Romulans for a little posturing, it amount to a whole lot of nothing.
tomk: It kinda showed the crew were a bunch of jerks.
Look at those pathetic people! Unsure of their place in the universe, missing three centuries or so of history, and missing long dead loved ones! What losers!
jimmy: They were a bit jerky now that you mention it.
But that old guy deserved it. “Call my law firm. I know it’s 300 years later, but they’ll still be around.”
tomk: Did the mother?
jimmy: No. They were a bit more sympathetic to her.
tomk: And the business guy arguably broke the Romulan stalemate.
But Riker lumped all three of them together with a smirking, “Can you believe how backwards these people are?” Picard found them exasperating. Beverly apparently never heard of substance abuse for the musician. No wonder Tasha had to explain drug addiction to Wesley.
jimmy: Didn’t they just have an episode where Beverly was the first to point out drug addiction?
tomk: It’s only when the woman started crying that someone said, Hey, maybe we should get Troi down here to do her damn job.
Beverly did do that…gold star for Jimmy being better at continuity than the show itself.
jimmy: And good point on Troi. She should have been there from the moment they woke them up. Not Worf.
tomk: Yes, well, clearly Riker skipped sensitivity training.
jimmy: Almost seemed a bit out of character for Riker.
tomk: He needed a session with his Harp Girls.
jimmy: Or they were still cleaning up after the last session, hence they never took the frozen people to the holodeck.
tomk: Yeah, that would have worked out. Here’s your family! Oh wait, these are holograms!
jimmy: That would have ratcheted the jerk factor up to 11.
tomk: They came close!
And then the Romulans said “Hold my beer!”
jimmy: Ok, history time. I assume the Romulans showed up in TOS?
tomk: A few times. Heck, this episode worked a lot like their first appearance…which is actually a great episode. They explained what the Neutral Zone was and everything.
Their first appearance, Kirk and Co. talked about how the Federation and the Romulans went to war in the past but somehow they never saw a Romulan before, and when they finally did and they looked like Spock, one asshole decided Spock might be a spy or something.
jimmy: I never trusted that Spock! Even when it was the bears, I knew it was him!
tomk: Oh, and the Romulan commander from that episode was played by Mark Lenard, best known for playing Spock’s father Sarek.
jimmy: Sarek was a great character too.
tomk: Yes. Yes, he was.
But Sarek isn’t in this episode. Neither is Mark Lenard.
jimmy: Just a couple of random posturing Romulans.
tomk: Right. And one of them was Marc “Gul Dukat” Alaimo.
jimmy: Riiight. Another great one.
tomk: Apparently, everyone gets to play a Romulan sometime. You probably didn’t know the other one was Ryan.
jimmy: I knew from the Krull medallion he wore.
tomk: On the other side, it says Jumanji was better than Thor: Ragnarok.
tomk: But then there was the menace in the background, the promised threat the Federation and the Romulans said they’d work together to defeat…and nothing ever really comes of that. Not with the Romulans anyway.
jimmy: That’s ominous.
Seems there were a few false starts with season one, but I’ll give them credit for ambition and future planning.
tomk: Yeah, and they’ve since said it was the Borg doing that stuff.
jimmy: In the show?
tomk: It was supposed to be.
jimmy: That doesn’t jive with my memory of the introduction of the Borg, but we know how good my memory is.
tomk: The aforementioned writer’s strike meant the episodes were never written. The plan was to use the start of season two to introduce the Borg, and they may have been more of those bluegill things. Instead, they came later and were something else.
jimmy: Again, I think that worked out for the best. Maybe I won’t be saying that when we start season 2.
tomk: Yeah. See how you feel when they really start recycling old scripts.
jimmy: Anything else to add on this one, or should we through out a few “end of first season” thoughts?
tomk: Not really. So-so episode to end a so-so first season.
jimmy: So-so is a good way to put. I thought the season as a whole was mostly ok. Some lows, no really big highs. As I mentioned, “Encounter at Farpoint” was the only episode where I thought “this rewatch might have been a mistake”. Stuff like the bluegills/Borg never panned out, but I did like that they were trying to set up long term storylines. Which is interesting for a first season that mostly ignored continuity.
tomk: And for a show where most stories were stand alone episodes.
jimmy: That’s what I mean. Outside of Tasha being gone, you mostly could watch them in any order.
And even then, as long as you didn’t watch her death prior to episodes where she appears, you wouldn’t notice much difference as many episodes had characters not appear at all.
tomk: Heck, her arm appears in an episode after she died because they used footage originally filmed earlier in a later episode.
jimmy: Not surprising, but I never noticed. Her name is still in the credits too.
tomk: Yeah, but given what came later, this is still rather disappointing television.
jimmy: In hindsight. Sure.
tomk: And clearly, we both stuck with the show, hence this being a “rewatch” though I don’t know that I was the most faithful of viewers prior to Picard’s assimilation.
jimmy: I’m pretty sure I watched it all from start to finish. Though 12 year old Jimmy clearly didn’t have as refined a palette for things as current Get Off My Lawn Jimmy.
tomk: Young Jimmy hadn’t met Watson yet.
jimmy: And Current Jimmy wishes he hadn’t.
tomk: Maybe Future Jimmy will be happier with season two.
jimmy: Make it so.
Sweet Home “Episode Five”
Noteworthy Issues: The Amazing Spider-Man #62 (July, 1968)
The X-Files “Home”