Mark Watches ‘The Next Generation’: S01E26 – The Neutral Zone

In the twenty-sixth and final episode of the first season of The Next Generation, Data makes a discovery while an old enemy reappears. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Well, that was weird.

I get the sense that there must have been a lot going on behind the scenes at The Next Generation to explain why so many of these scripts are all over the place. With “The Neutral Zone,” I’ve now completed my first season of this show, and it’s been a strange experience. Some of these episodes? Great. A clear improvement over The Original Series. Lots of promise for what this show can be. Others? Well, it was a rough start, and there have been some absolute stinkers along the way.

But, as I’ve said before, I’m patient, and I still am. I’m hoping that what the show has established in this first season can carry over into the second season, particularly the new Romulan threat. That being said… what a bizarrely anticlimactic episode, especially for a season finale! We’ve got two major plots unfolding simultaneously here, and neither one of them is resolved in any significant way, and not in a clever cliffhanger either. It’s… weird! It’s unsatisfying, too, which sucks because there’s a lot about these set-ups that I like.

Let’s start with the whole cryogenics plot. I think that the very concept of exploring people becoming acclimated with life in the future is brilliant. Up until it was all hand-waved away, this was a fantastic attempt at telling that kind of story. Each of the three survivors reacts differently to their new lives. We’ve got Clare Raymond, who quickly lapses into an existential crisis about the weight of what’s happened to her. And that makes sense because she was the only person who didn’t sign up for this procedure willingly; her impulsive husband had done it. So she wasn’t emotionally prepared to deal with the immensity of reality. Everyone she has ever known is dead. Not just that, but so much time has passed that ten generations of her family have come to pass. That is a lot to deal with in the span of a few hours, you know?

I was thankful, then, that Deanna helped her to cope with this. And what a brilliant way to do so! She gave Clare something concrete to help her conceptualize all of this. The family tree makes this seem less like a concept and more like reality. Of course, then there’s Sonny Clemonds, who could not give a single fuck about the weirdness of this all. He’s ready to order martinis and resume inhaling illicit substances as soon as it’s allowed. No existential drama on his end, just lots of misogyny!

And then… lord. Ralph Offenhouse. OF COURSE THERE’S A GUY LIKE THIS. Here’s someone who so wholly believes in the institutions that gave him privilege and power that he throws an actual, literal tantrum when he finds out they all crumbled. Now, I have plenty to say about how this show tells us that Earth eradicated all oppressions and ills without showing us any of that. But I’m not gonna talk about that now because I WANT TO MAKE FUN OF OFFENHOUSE. I’m just so happy that he was upset! His shitty exploitation of everyone below him did not pan out in the end!!! HE LOST EVERYTHING.

I guess I’d feel more sympathy towards him if he wasn’t such an relentless asshole. Which is why I’m so confused about his role here. He provides the critical perspective on the Romulans when they confront Picard. Why? Am I supposed to feel better about him? That doesn’t count as growth, y’all. And aside from Clare, none of these new characters change. They just exist and then get dropped off with the USS Charleston, and that’s it. So… what? There’s nothing more?

The Romulan plot has the same issue. There’s a lot of build-up here, and it’s so fantastic! Honestly! We learn that it’s been over fifty years since anyone last saw the Romulans, and that adds an air of mystery to the destroyed bases that the Federation keeps finding. Why? Why would the Romulans come back? Where have they been? I was eager to find out what would happen, and I sensed that this would be a new chapter in The Next Generation. It was very exciting, y’all!

Except then we find out that the Romulans’ own bases were destroyed, they have no idea who did it, and oh! By the way, they’re totally “back.” Which means… I don’t know. There’s a hint towards what they were doing for the last fifty years, but it’s not enough for me to formulate a theory. That’s the case with everything here. There’s a premise, some story building, and then nothing at all. It all just disappears quickly, and the Enterprise continues on.

So yeah, it’s a tad disappointing. Surely, there’s got to be more to this, right? Well, I guess I’ll have to see if the season 2 premiere addresses any of this, then.

The video for “The Neutral Zone” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– The Mark Does Stuff Tour 2015 is now live and includes dates across the U.S., Canada, Europe, the U.K., and Ireland. Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be the remainder of The Legend of Korra, series 8 of Doctor Who, and Kings. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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