TNG S03E14 A Matter of Perspective (3 out of 5 stars). Renaissance man Picard is failing art class (according to Data) but succeeding once again as an advocate. Guest stars include Mark Margolis, better known these days from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Riker’s skin-of-his-teeth transporting off an exploding space station is reason enough to accuse him of murdering its only occupant. So this is basically Poirot on the Holodeck, or maybe more accurately Rashomon since different witnesses remember the same events in different ways. Not quite the show that we generally get, and rather too in love with its gimmick, whether or not it makes sense (it never makes sense), but Frakes and Stewart are as good as ever and who doesn’t like a murder mystery? Remember how Geordi can tell when people are lying? Not to mention Troi, who sits there mute for the most part. The killer’s motive is purely financial, in this post-money society.

TNG S03E15 Yesterday’s Enterprise (5 out of 5 stars). In one of the best teasers in the whole of Star Trek, a big glowy thing is near the ship when suddenly – alakazam! – there’s a dramatic lighting effect and Tasha fucking Yar is back on the bridge. But, wait, that’s not all. They’re also nose-to-nose with the previous version of the Enterprise, NCC1701-C, from decades past. Only Guinan can tell that something is wrong, and you kinda have to give all the time travel technobabble an all-day travel pass, but if you do that, the rewards are tremendous, because, did I mention, Tasha fucking Yar is back on the bridge, and with a better haircut to boot. What’s gutting about this, of course, is they could have brought Denise Crosby back permanently, but here, for basically the first time since Farpoint, she’s actually called upon to act, play a character, affect the plot and so on. Rather like the Mirror Universe (oddly never mentioned) this is a glimpse of our regular characters in a very different situation than we’re used to. It all plays brilliantly, and everyone brings their A-game, not just Crosby who gets the meaningful death denied her in Season 1, but also Christopher McDonald, Tricia O’Neill and director David Carson. Worf’s big dick energy is a literal danger to fellow crew members.

TNG S03E16 The Offspring (2.5 out of 5 stars) Pinocchio recasts himself as Geppetto when Data builds himself a child. The episodic nature of the show means that we can be certain that “Lal” won’t become a regular member of the crew, or even the cast, but from the teaser it’s hard to tell whether this will be a rogue-technology-threatens-the-ship story or a let’s-take-a-moment-and-ponder-the-implications-of-our-actions story – but my money’s on the latter. What this also does is drag us back to the tiresome Picard-hates-kids plot line from Season 1, and uncharacteristically-secretive-Data from Pen Pals also makes an unwelcome return. We can’t really blame 1990’s René Echevarria for a rigidly binary view of gender, but the conversation clangs on the ear. Data says he was able to provide Lal with more realistic skin and eye colour, but I always thought this was a choice on the part of Soong to remind others that he wasn’t fully human. The contrived tug-of-love battle between Star Fleet and Data ends in the only way it can, but unlike The Measure of a Man, this story doesn’t tap into any deeper personal dilemma, so this feels dry and theoretical and ultimately all a bit of a muddle, reaching for a more philosophical and engaging story than it can grasp, and arriving at a conclusion driven by the nature of episodic television rather than its own internal dramatic logic. What I do appreciate is that Picard chews out Data because of his reckless stupidity but then he totally has his back when talking to Star Fleet top brass. That’s some good leadership, right there. Jonathan Frakes’s first time in the director’s chair. He gets better, and gets better material to work with.

TNG S03E17 Sins of the Father (3.5 out of 5 stars). Extraordinarily, the show remembers what happened in a previous episode and so this is the reciprocal exchange following Riker’s tour of duty on board the Klingon ship in A Matter of Honor. Playing Commander Kurn is Tony Todd which is a bit of a treat and, despite my anti-Klingon stance, it’s great fun to see him clomping about the bridge of the Enterprise, snarling at Wesley Crusher and shaking up the crew’s complacency. But soap opera shenanigans aren’t too far away as Kurn is actually – du-du-dum – Worf’s brother and this episode is really about a load of Klingon family history and backstory that I really, really struggle to care about. Kurn disrespecting Worf with ostentatious kindness and politeness is delightful but I’m more interested in the culture clash than the details of the Khitomer massacre which falls squarely into the category of people I don’t know talking about things I’ve never seen. And the officer-exchange programme and all the consequences of that just get shelved as soon as the Khitomer business takes over. The respect that Worf has for Picard and vice-versa is rather touching and Worf’s sacrifice at the end is well-played. As usual, a mystery which has persisted for decades is solved by the Enterprise in 40 minutes, even if they end up keeping the secret.

TNG S03E18 Allegiance (3.5 out of 5 stars) The poker game is back, in the middle of the episode this time. And Picard decides to join them – or does he? As noted, science fiction in general and Star Trek in particular loves a doppelgänger, whether it’s a transporter clone, a mirror universe counterpart, an android, an alien shapeshifter, a time-traveller or some other species of sciencey-sounding magic. Here, what looks like an extra-terrestrial photocopy abducts Picard and leaves a copy in his place. There’s no mystery as far as we are concerned – we immediately follow the real Captain and his fellow captives – so the fun lies in seeing how well the imposter will convince the rest of the crew as well as how escape can be accomplished. Rather niftily, the fake Captain explains to Riker that he is going to be acting out of character and craves his indulgence. Clever. Meanwhile, like something out of Sartre, the real Picard is trapped in a small room with three very different characters and trying to get them all to work together. The solution, when it arrives, doesn’t bring the episode to a climax, rather the drama just evaporates – a common failing of early TNG, possibly a hallmark of outgoing producers Manning and Beimler who get the screenplay credit for this episode.

TNG S03E19 Captain’s Holiday (4 out of 5 stars) Following a story in which Captain Picard acts erratically and the crew discover that he has been replaced by an alien duplicate, we get a story in which Captain Picard acts erratically but Troi and Crusher’s solution is simply to pack him off to The Eye of Orion pleasure planet Risa where he can cos-play as James T Shirtless. Once we arrive on Risa, it’s pretty much the Patrick Stewart show, paired with the lithe form of Jennifer Hetrick as (checks notes) “Vash”. There’s not much of substance to this episode, but it is very, very charming. I’m not sure which I like more, Deanna Troi manipulating Picard by inventing a story about her mother visiting the ship or Picard seeing straight through her deception but bowing to pressure anyway. Max Grodénchik, who we will be seeing much more of in DS9, makes his first Ferengi appearance. Gotta give ’em credit, as bad ideas go, the Ferengi do benefit from a refusal on the producers’ part to quit.

Trekaday 030: The Enemy, The Price, The Vengeance Factor, The Defector, The Hunted, The High Ground, Déjà Q
Trekaday 032: Tin Man, Hollow Pursuits, The Most Toys, Sarek, Ménage à Troi, Transfigurations