In the twentieth episode of the fifth season of The Next Generation, what the fuck. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Let’s just do this like so:
I am struggling to… understand this episode? I spent most of “Cost of Living” in utter bewilderment because… what the fuck, y’all. What was that? But I don’t want this review to portray an episode that was awful or terrible because that’s not how I felt about it. It’s just a mess.
So before we get to that, let’s talk about the two things that are great here. I can’t deny that watching Lwaxana interact with Alexander is a treat. It’s amazing because we get to see a different side to her mothering. She often exists as a foil to Deanna, but for Worf’s child? She listens to him; she’s honest with him; and she genuinely cares. It’s touching to watch because throughout all of this, Alexander forces her to be honest about herself. In the midst of all the chaos, absurdity, and mediocrity in this episode, the scenes between these two are easily the exception to the rule. It’s a treat to watch and a reminder that Majel Barret was a fantastic actress.
While I’m going to complain about the execution of it, I must admit that the idea of a metal parasite that leaves behind that creepy goo is pretty good. And in the final moments of the attack, there’s a claustrophobic sense of terror to this show. It works really well because the ship itself is literally melting into goo, and it’s all falling apart.
And that’s about all I’ve got to say about the coherent parts of “Cost of Living.”
Because what the fuck is this episode. There are at least two entirely separate episodes unfolding here, and neither one of them get the time to develop. That means we get scenes that are so rushed that they make absolutely no sense at all. What the hell are Lwaxana and Campio doing while the ship is slowly killing everyone? If you were from a species that had never been on a starship in your entire life, wouldn’t you be concerned about being nearly suffocated to death? But there’s not enough time to give us this part of the story, so the writers just skip it. When we see Campio and his assistant after the NEAR DEATH OF EVERYONE, they don’t even mention it. At all.
I don’t fucking buy it.
There’s the same problem with the parasite plot. Look, I know things need to be resolved in forty-five minutes, and I set my expectations lower for these stories. I’m not expecting or demanding intensely serialized narratives. But as I watched the life support systems fail on the Enterprise, I felt tension and a bit of a thrill from “Cost of Living.” This was great! And then, the parasite is tricked out of the ship, and suddenly, the Enterprise starts fixing itself??? The parasite wasn’t draining it of power; it was LITERALLY EATING IT AND THEN POOPING OUT SOMETHING THAT LOOKED LIKE HONEY. The pieces of the ship the parasite ate? THEY’RE STILL GONE. HOW DID THE SHIP REPAIR ITSELF???
But really, nothing is more confounding than the Parallax colony. IS THIS LIKE A WHITE THING. Or a straight thing? Am I predisposed to be horrified by everything we saw in the holodeck, or did the writers just utterly miss the mark here? Not one thing about that place seemed even remotely funny, amusing, entertaining, or relaxing. That clown-faced bubble? NO, THAT’S FUCKING TERRIFYING. The weird gnome-looking asshole who ATE ENTIRE PLANETS??? That is some acid-trip bullshit, y’all. There’s no way that’s entertaining. And how are an eternally-arguing set of friends meant to inspire joy in someone? How do you relax in a mud bath when tons of people are watching? Is it appropriate to take a child into a mud bath like that??? I don’t know, I DON’T KNOW THESE THINGS. It just feels so weird and surreal and I DON’T GET A SINGLE SECOND OF IT. As I said on video, it was like the people running this show just threw one random image and scene after each other, and I could not follow the story at all.
I get that Lwaxana is a chaotic force, but she’s written here as more careless than usual and deliberately annoying when normally she’d just be… sillier? Like, I don’t get what the point was for her to interfere with Worf’s parenting. What did that tell us? What was the intention of that storyline? To get her to realize… what??? That Campio wasn’t good for her? But couldn’t this have happened by just having Alexander seek out Lwaxana whenever he argued with his father? Why make her be so purposefully rude?
I don’t get it, y’all. This is a huge, huge mess, which is unfortunate because I thought the show had gotten away from stories like this. ALAS, they can’t all be good.
The video for “Cost of Living” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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