25 Days of TNG, Day 6: The Best and Worst of Season 2
Season Two is generally considered to be the worst of all the TNG seasons, and with good reason: there were some truly atrocious episodes. Of course, the Borg were introduced in Season Two, so it can’t be totally discounted.
Best Episode: Season 2 had “Q Who” (2.16) and 21 other episodes. That’s really how I think a lot of people see it. Q returned to menace the Enterprise and introduce them to villains that they had no chance of defeating. The crew tried everything they could, but in the end it came down to Picard admitting to Q that he needed help, that he couldn’t win this battle without it. And, unlike “Conspiracy”, these villains returned. Honorable mentions: Time Squared (2.13), Measure of a Man (2.09), Elementary Dear Data (2.03)
Worst Episode: There was so much wrong with Season 2 that I really couldn’t begin to pick a single “worst” episode. However, I’m going to go with “Manhunt” (2.19) — a waste of a great guest star in Majel Barrett, a waste of an appearance by Mick Fleetwood, a waste of some really good makeup on the Antedeans, and overall a waste of 45 minutes of my time. If I never saw this episode again, it would be too soon. Honorable mentions: Shades of Gray (2.22), The Icarus Factor (2.14), The Royale (2.12)
Most Underrated: My personal favorite episode of Season 2 was “Where Silence Has Lease” (2.02). It was a surrealistic mystery piece where the ship was trapped in a region of null-space for the amusement of a being called Nagilum*. We had the first true death of a red-shirt, Picard threatening to destroy the ship, and a pretty good line from Riker at the end. Though we never revisited Nagilum or his void, we got a strong episode out of the deal. Honorable mentions: Samaritan Snare (2.17), Contagion (2.11), The Schizoid Man (2.06)
Most Overrated: “The Measure of a Man” (2.09) was a good episode, to be sure, but I think we may have gotten it a little too soon in the run of the show. With Tasha’s death only a dozen or so episodes before, it was highly unlikely that Data would leave the show. When I first saw the episode, I believed it, but now I can see that the writing is a little too heavy-handed in that regard. It can certainly be held up among TNG‘s best, but I think it’s overrated in that there are many more great Data episodes. Honorable Mentions: The Child (2.01), A Matter of Honor (2.08), The Emissary (2.20)
Best Guest Star: I know John de Lancie is kind of a gimme here, but I’m going to hand it to Roy Brocksmith, who played Kolrami in “Peak Performance” (2.21) and also that guy in Total Recall who Arnold shot in the head when he saw him sweat. Kolrami was a complete and utter asshat who nonetheless was doing exactly what Starfleet paid him to do — analyze the crew’s efficiency and battle tactics and provide a guide for improvement. Everyone loved to hate him, and when Data frustrated him in the Stratagema rematch, we all cheered. Brocksmith did a masterful job acting this character, and was one of the best guest stars of the season. Honorable Mentions: John de Lancie (Q), Majel Barrett (Lwaxana Troi), Howie Seago (Riva)
Worst Missed Opportunity: The B-plot of “Samaritan Snare” was a huge missed opportunity, in my opinion. We had a chance to see the Enterprise crew solve a big problem while Picard was completely incommunicado and was in no way able to help out, and what was the problem? They were tricked by a bunch of galactic dumbasses and ended up shooting a pink cloud at them to scare them into giving back Geordi. I mean, really, was that the best the writers could come up with? Why not have them deal with something a little more difficult, or that gave us a little more action? Why utterly waste twenty minutes of my time on an alien race that we never see again, except as extras? Just… ugh.
Strangest Thing: Season Two was a schizophrenic season. I know that, at the start of this article, I said the season shakes out into “Q Who” and 21 other episodes, but really there were a lot of good things as well: “Where Silence Has Lease”, “A Matter of Honor”, “Time Squared”, “Peak Performance” — all episodes that I’ll gladly watch again. Unfortunately, the writers and producers also put out a bunch of epic stinkers and a few others that were just completely forgettable — I mean, who thinks about “Pen Pals” or “Contagion” (although the latter might come to mind if you read the Gateways novel series)? So much was left on the table with Season Two, and it’s really a shame because there were a lot of decent ideas here. Unfortunately those ideas came with some uniformly-poor execution. At least the third season made up for it.
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* Fun fact: Nagilum was originally supposed to be portrayed by Richard Mulligan. Look at it backwards.