Star Trek: The Next Generation - Abridged Season Three
3x01 – Evolution
3x04 – Who Watches the Watchers
3x07 – The Enemy
3x10 – The Defector
3x13 – Déjà Q
3x14 – A Matter of Perspective
3x15 – Yesterday’s Enterprise
3x16 – The Offspring
3x17 – Sins of the Father
3x19 – Captain’s Holiday
3x21 – Hollow Pursuits
3x24 – Ménage à Troi
3x23 – Sarak
3x26 & 4x01 – The Best of Both Worlds - TV Summer Movie Presentation
Alright then. Back to work.
As expected, this season was more difficult to work on than the previous two or the lesser seasons of Voyager, of which Mr. Stockslivevan would say there were seven. (Your tacit dismissal of said series was noted. Additionally, Harry Kim made a sad face at this news, overshadowing his character development during all of seasons 3-5.)
As usual, I'll offer my method for narrowing things down, as well as the reasons for my choices. My initial run through of Season Three of TNG left me with 17 episodes I thought were especially noteworthy and fit all of the overarching themes, storylines, and character development I've been trying to work with. Of those, I had about 8 or 9 that I was confident would make the cut, then whittled the remaining ones down to essentials, trying to keep a balance between characters, story, and quality. It was perfect. And then I noticed that I didn't include "Who Watches the Watchers." That hiccup caused me a pretty big dilemma, which I'll explain at the end of the post, after I go through everything else.
We start off with "Evolution," absolutely my least favorite pick of this abridged season. I included it because it reintroduces Beverly Crusher (without the slightest regard for poor, dear Pulaski) and provides her with one of two episodes that give her any significant character development this season. She has a habit of being important in episodes that kind of suck (here's looking at you "Transfigurations"). Despite that, it's much more focused on Wesley. He's happy that Mommy's home because he was lonely. Why, oh why, couldn't Beverly have returned in a better episode? I suppose it could've been worse.
"Who Watches the Watchers" is next. Picard (and Beverly to a point) deal with the Prime Directive. Also, pre-warp people think he's God for a minute. After all, who wouldn't? It's never been a favorite of mine, but I think I always like it better when I'm watching it (no pun intended) then after the fact.
"The Enemy" is Geordi's only heavy episode this time. I really wanted to include "Booby Trap" but I had to choose between the two and "The Enemy" had more to do with everything else (aka Romulans) and not simply Geordi's failed love life. Though that was quite the theme on the show itself that looks like I won't be able to dedicate much to exploring. Still, LeVar Burton does some good work here and the rest of the cast has stuff to do in the episode as well, with Worf, Picard, and Beverly caught up in a great medical ethics B-plot.
The Romulans and Neutral Zone return in "The Defector." It's full of political intrigue and deception and drama. The kind TNG did really well before DS9 made the heroes all morally ambiguous too. It's really good but I don't have much to say about it specifically.
"Déjà Q" is a Q episode. The Q Continuum got mad at Q and made him human as punishment. Laughs ensue. Guinan even stabs him with a fork. Much lighter than the last Q episode with the Borg and such.
Fan favorite "Yesterday's Enterprise" is next up and it's a doozy. It's a Tasha Yar episode that doesn't suck, a time-travel causality loop episode that introduces a dark alternate reality you'd want to see get its own series, and an episode that shows you one of the two Enterprises we skipped to get to this one. And on top of that, Tasha falls in love with Shooter McGavin and goes back in time to have some sort of Romulan daughter or something that I know very little about at the moment since I never understood those episodes as a child. Very good.
"The Offspring" is where Data makes a daughter named Lal. It's better than it sounds, I promise. It's pretty much Data's big episode in this season. I included it because though there were two other good episodes that featured Data and his quest for humanity and family and such ("The Ensigns of Command" and "Tin Man"), this one was the strongest and felt like the most natural extension of the themes explored in "The Measure of a Man," a sequel episode of sorts.
Worf apparently gets one episode a season and this time it's "Sins of the Father." Thankfully, it's pretty awesome. Worf's story and background get kicked into overdrive and set him up for stuff that carries him all the way through DS9. Honor and disgrace and so on. Picard gets some good action here too. Top notch.
After all that heavy stuff, why not watch Picard go on vacation, make out with a pretty lady, and get bothered by a Ferengi and aliens from the future? (You remember the Ferengi, right? They're totally a threat and scary and stuff. Like Klingons only with... big ears? Okay, fine, they're comic relief now.) "Captain's Holiday," it is then! Not only is it fun, but Vash shows up later with Q, so it's a tad bit necessary, especially when you're trying to make story arcs, themes, and recurring characters happen.
Prefer a more terribly awkward and uncomfortable kind of fun? Reginald Barclay is your man in his debut episode, "Hollow Pursuits." It fits here because, again, he comes back several times, including later when Moriarty comes back to pay off the Sherlock Holmes episode from last season. Also, it's a good ensemble episode with stuff for Geordi, Riker, and Troi to do.
Then we have "Ménage à Troi." Now, I know what you're thinking. "Really? More Lwaxana Troi?" Yes, really. The catch is that it's not a bad episode at all. It features Ferengi in their most subdued form yet (much truer to the eventual characterization we see fleshed out in DS9). It has just the right amount of Lwaxana, also subduing her personality just a smidge. She make Picard uncomfortable without being obnoxious and Stewart gets to do some Shakespeareish acting. And it has a B-plot rounding out Wesley for the season and making him a field commissioned full Ensign because he missed out on Starfleet Academy again by virtue of him being just enough boy genius to save the day and not have us hate his guts.
"Sarek" shows up on the Enterprise-D and mind melds with Picard. This is important later when Spock shows up for a two-parter. Also, it's a good episode dealing with issues regarding aging and identity. Besides, you don't get much Vulcan action on TNG so you take what you can get. I put it at the end of the season so we didn't finish with Lwaxana Troi. Also, this makes it end on a very strong note for Picard leading into the summer...
...where we bridge between the 3rd and 4th seasons with "The Best of Both Worlds!" If you're in this thread, you either know why it's here or you need to see it without me detailing the plot. And making it a movie is absolutely a cheat, especially considering that cliffhanger, but there was too much good in the season to cut it all out and it gives me an extra episode of leeway in the Season Four, which is undoubtedly going to be really good too. Without the tight serialization that goes into the type of series we're trying to emulate, it helps to have the right balance.
Finally, I'd go into more detail about the ones I've cut, but the ones I haven't mentioned at some point already mostly just aren't very good. Mostly forgettable.
And now that that's done...
Despite what I said in my last post, I didn't want to wait to start Season Four before I worked on this one. I'm aware enough of the following seasons to make pretty good educated guesses. But in my general Wikipedia research, I realized that "Who Watches the Watchers" is apparently referenced in the following season in what appears to be a pretty important episode. I reworked my selections and decided to remove "A Matter of Perspective," despite the fact that I liked it better. THEN, after I fixed that, I realized that I forgot about "The Enemy" and that I'd have to lose "Booby Trap." This is when I went with the TV movie "Best of Both Worlds," since it meant that if I had to cut the related episode to "Booby Trap" in the next season, I may as well have another space open by stealing the second part of the cliffhanger. That makes "only" 22 episodes to have to narrow it from. Yeesh.
I'll do Season Four after I watch it. It might take me a while. It'll begin with "Family" though. Makes a nice mirror to the ending of Season Three with "Sarek," since Picard is at a weak point here and they go for a super personal story.