Memory Alpha Entry
With the rough take off of Season 1, and the very bumpy climb of Season 2, we finally enter smooth cruising altitude with Season 3 of Star Trek: The Next Generation. And what a way to open a season with a beautiful, newly created shot of the Enterprise. Things are really starting to look promising until..... yep. We open with Wesley sleeping. Despite the promise of how much this show will improve with this season, we still have to open with a Wesley episode.
Season 3 introduced a lot of changes to TNG both in front of and behind the camera. The main cast got new uniforms, the crew finally settled on a film stock that looked good (Seriously, Season 3 looks fantastic in HD!), and what can surely be called the best thing to look forward to from here on out, Maurice Hurley was GONE! A change so big that Gates McFadden returned to the show! Though there are those who would still prefer Pulaski over Crusher, and this episode demonstrates one one of the many valid reasons for this. She can't stop talking about Wesley in this episode.
Evolution also introduced us to Michael Piller, a writer who despite having some reservations about Gene's vision of Star Trek, managed to accomplish two seemingly impossible tasks in order to land the job. Write a story that pleases both Gene Roddenberry and Rick Berman. Ok, not exactly impossible since I'm assuming all it took to please Gene was simply saying "It's a Wesley episode!", but pleasing Rick Berman? That was going to be tough. Thankfully, it seems that lady luck was smiling on Michael because if there's one thing Rick loves more than Star Trek and great musical scores, it's baseball.
"As it turned out, Rick Berman shared my love for baseball and that speech hit him right between the eyes. And so a partnership was formed."
Note to all you potential future writers who want to get a job writing for an ongoing series. Don't indulge the producers with a good story, indulge them with a story that has things that they love in real life. Not saying it was a bad speech (it's actually a really good one), but incorporating baseball into Star Trek isn't exactly my idea of qualifying attributes in giving the franchise new life.
Now onto the episode itself. It's just mediocre. I do give Piller points in depicting Wesley as an actual character rather than a caricature of Gene Roddenberry's self-indulgance, but it still showcases him as an incredible genius who can create something that even Starfleet engineers can't even fathom. Again, why is Wesley's dream job at the Helm? Promoting him to chief engineer would have made more sense than giving the position to Geordi. At least Wesley never shouted "Yahoo!" when doing his job.
Also, if Michael Piller was ever given a "Bechdel Test", he'd fail the into the ground. Outside of that one scene where Beverly is treating Stubbs after he was attacked, every freaking scene that features Beverly is all about her talking to Wesley to everyone. My annoyance with this has more to do with the fact that Beverly is not a character of her own, but more of an observer who's sole purpose is to further Wesley's own plot.
Also, this exchange.
Wesley: Do you recreate them on a holodeck?
Stubbs: No. In here. (points to his head) With the knowledge of statistics, runs, hits and errors, times at bat, box scores. Men like us do not need holodecks, Wesley. I have played seasons in my mind.
What's this? A self-consious character who shuns technology in favor of what he could do for himself? That's a sure way to get the audience to hate him. Hope Michael doesn't make a whole movie out of that premise.
: While mediocre to a T, "Evolution" is a far better start to a season of TNG than "Encounter at Farpoint" and most certainly "The Child". One unfortunate side effect to Michael Piller's long term position in this series is that from this point onward, "Evolution" is the last "stand alone" episode to open a season of TNG (i.e. Not have a "Part 2" in the title). While I honestly believe that Michael Piller would bring some great stories into Star Trek, there are some issues with this episode that will continue to stick with Piller all the way to "Star Trek: Insurrection". But you take what you can get, and thankfully his best work is yet to come. Rest in peace Michael, and thank you for the adventure that lies ahead of us.