Memory Alpha Entry
After 21 episodes, we finally come full circle with the mixed bag that is Season 2 of Star Trek: The Next Generation. A season that started out badly, and with this episode it ends badly. Not in the same way like with "The Child" that ended up being a dumb and quite offensive episode, but in an incredibly lazy "I don't give a sh**" kind of way. Oh, Maurice. If there was ever a writer who summed up the reason why this episode is as bad as it is, you nailed it.
"I was on the way out the door."
How can you even call yourself a professional when there's such scathing evidence that showcases how you are a bona fide quitter who won't put in any effort into something just because it had to be a clip show? There are so many other cost effective ways of doing a show that takes place solely on the ship. "Where Silence has Lease" did a great job with this concept and as did many other episodes of Star Trek.
What little story there is in this episode all boils down to Riker being stung by a plant that is attacking his mind, and Troi and Pulaski have to work on forcing Riker to relive past memories in order to beat the infection. It's almost disturbing how much medical science has advanced in such a way that you can literally cause a patient to have nightmares. How anyone thought that would be useful in any situation outside of this I have no idea.
In regards to the clips themselves, there does seem to be real potential in using clips from previous episodes without outright being moments from those previous episodes. When the doctor first tries to induce a memory, it's when Riker is beamed onto the planet from "The Last Outpost". I could have easily have seen this as the present Riker being trapped and alone in his mind without simply going back to the events of the said episode. Don't know how long that would last, but at least it's something. If you check out SFDebris' review, he has some pretty good ideas in how you can build a story around a clip show in more interesting ways rather than simply relying on it to kill time. One idea he had was to have Lore try to acquire certain memories from Riker to use against the Enterprise. That way you don't have to hire a new actor for the role, and there are certain memories that Riker has that could very well be used against the Enterprise, like the self-destruct code for the Enterprise as seen in "Where silence has lease".
But if there's one thing about this episode that stands out as actually having some share of quality to it, it's Ron Jones. Throughout the entire length of the episode, he's the only person who is bringing in his "A" game into the mix and really puts in a great effort in trying to sell something that is flat out ridiculous. And as SFDebris pointed out, Ron Jones was the only person associated with this episode that Rick Berman fired at the end of Season 4. Yep, the one person who was responsible for the only good thing in this episode and Rick not only didn't want his talents on the show, he actually brought back Maurice Hurley to write another episode in a later season. How's that for quality assurance?
While this episode is certainly one of the worst, the elements that make it bad are thankfully limited to the writing being horribly lazy and unimaginative. It's not offensive like "The Child", it's not painfully annoying like "The Outrageous Okona" and it does have something that's kind of happening in it which is more than I can say about "The Manhunt". Overall, it's not an unwatchable episode, it's just an episode that, with the exception of the music, had zero effort put into it. At least when Xena: The Warrior Princess had a clip show, they used clips from Spartacus!