Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Neutral Zone

**** (4 stars out of 5)

Waiting for the Captain to return from a meeting, the crew get bored enough to wander around an ancient space vehicle. With disk drives and cryogenic freezers and door handles. And eight tracks. And straw boaters. And a spinning jenny. (I'm saying it's old.)

Data and Worf retrieve three intact frozen humans and Dr. Crusher thaws, resurrects, and cures them. When Kirk's crew did this, (as you'll recall) the 20th century types took over his ship and caused no end of trouble! Here the story is a little different: not ambitious supermen, but a homemaker, a financier, and a country-singing pill popper.

Crusher has to explain cryonics to Picard: informing us all that it was only a fad for a people frightened of death. Is she saying people are no longer afraid of death? And if so, when did that change and why?

Data welcomes them to the year 2364. Clare Raymond is mostly scared. Ralph Offenhouse wants his money. "Sonny" Clemonds hopes to drink the replicator dry and get laid.
Troi helps Clare trace ten generations of her descendants. Data replicates Clemonds a guitar. Picard slaps a wet blanket of massive cultural altruism back and forth across Offenhouse's face until he sees reason.

"People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of things... We have eliminated hunger, fear, want... Material needs no longer exist."

"Then what is the challenge?" barks the money man.

"To improve yourself, to enrich yourself."

If that weren't enough, somebody else from the past has also emerged. The Romulan Empire is stirring once more.

With several Federation Outposts completely destroyed along "The Neutral Zone" it looks bad. But Picard refuses to be goaded into firing first.

Forget Klingon designs: the Romulans have a fierce-looking new ship!

Romulan haircuts may not have changed in a century, but their skulls are looking a little more severe. Like the Klingons before them, bumpy foreheads are the trendy thing!

"Matters more urgent caused our absence... Do you understand my meaning? We are BACK!"

Audience and writers will soon respond "And...?"

The set up for next season would indicate more Romulans in the offing... but it's the "matters more urgent" that paves the way for even bigger challenges.

I feel ST:TNG has a weak start. Despite the lavish budget, driving classic 'Doctor Who' into hiding, and even my own instant and abiding love for it... this would have been cancelled if it came out today. So thank Worf it didn't!

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