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Go Back   The Trek BBS > Star Trek TV Series > The Next Generation

The Next Generation All Good Things come to an end...but not here.

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Old January 22 2013, 09:10 AM   #1
Captrek
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Episode of the Week: The Neutral Zone

I don't remember reacting so strongly to it before, but this episode is repulsive. Gene Roddenberry could be such an arrogant jerk sometimes. He's not credited with the script but his prints are all over it.

He wanted to impress with his vision of enlightened 24th century humans. To do that he drew a contrast with his commentary on his contemporary humans. We get this insulting portrayal, including one who embodies every negative stereotype about the 1% there is. The enlightened 24th century man looks down his nose and renders judgments like:
RIKER: Well, from what I've seen of our guests, there's not much to redeem them. It makes one wonder how our species survived the twenty-first century.
What can one say but ?

The Romulan storyline is comparatively well done, at least through the first four acts. Unfortunately, every time it starts to draw me in it gets interrupted by the 21st century assholes, undermining the dramatic tension while, paradoxically, inducing a tension headache (probably from all the ing).

In Act Five, the Romulan story reaches a resolution so anticlimactic it's almost a joke. After all the grand buildup, the Enterprise finally encounters the Romulans, they have a short, unremarkable conversation and go their separate ways. It is far short of a worthy heir to the mantle of "Balance of Terror" and "The Enterprise Incident."

I also really don't like the reimagining of the Romulans, with unattractive cosmetics and Mark Alaimo oozing villainy. Mark Lenard and Joanne Linville had charisma! It's a big part of what makes those episodes so engaging and memorable. What convinced TPTB to go to the opposite end of the spectrum for TNG?
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Old January 22 2013, 10:28 AM   #2
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Re: Episode of the Week: The Neutral Zone

The more I watch this episode, the more I wish Conspiracy was the Finale to the first season. It's not bad, but I wish the Romulans were in it more and I could have done less with the 20th century humans.
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Old January 22 2013, 11:17 AM   #3
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Re: Episode of the Week: The Neutral Zone

To me it feels like there's something a bit "off" about this one. Like it kind of doesn't quite seem to gel, somehow. The two subplots seem entirely seperate from each other, almost as if the script needed an extra rewrite that it just never got, to really pull things together. I'd even go as far as saying I suspect it was affected by the Writer's Strike. It's as if they got so far with it and then the writers have just downed tools and gone home, leaving the producers to film what they've got and make the best of it. The "frozen humans" subplot doesn't seem quite polished enough (there are some nice moments, but it still doesn't feel substantial enough for what it is), while the Romulan reveal is, as the OP says, terribly anticlimactic. Neither subplot dove-tails with the other one the way they probably ought to have.

I do like the scene on the bridge at the start though, with Riker, Worf, Deanna and Data just shooting the breeze. That bits a good show of the cast chemistry.
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Old January 22 2013, 11:19 AM   #4
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Re: Episode of the Week: The Neutral Zone

Well, in stardate order, the big goodbye for the season is "The Big Goodbye"...

Of course, "The Neutral Zone" was not intended to be a self-contained Romulan adventure, but rather a lead-in to a series of episodes featuring the Romulans and the new super-adversary that gobbles Neutral Zone outposts for midnight snack. As such, it could have been followed by any sort of light filler, until the other shoe dropped a few episodes into the second season. Except that it didn't.

Which makes me feel the Romulans were the ones who could have been dropped from the plotline, or reduced even further in prominence. Say, our heroes go to the Neutral Zone and encounter the devastation, but never the Romulans themselves, and nothing about this "B-plot" is concluded yet...

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Old January 22 2013, 11:27 AM   #5
Lance
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Re: Episode of the Week: The Neutral Zone

^ re: Stardate order. It does make me wonder how much of the broadcast schedule was changed following Crosby's departure, and whether there was an intended running schedule that was disrupted because of it. IIRC an earlier episode ("Angel One"?) sees the Enterprise getting an urgent communique from Starfleet about activity along the Romulan Neutral Zone, and the episode ends with a cliffhanger of sorts: the crew racing off to deal with it. Yet, nothing. No follow-up the next week. Tasha Yar was still in that episode, and I'm left to wonder if the idea of using the Romulans had been in place for a while, but they were forced to seperate the episodes after they had to deal with Crosby leaving. They couldn't show "Angel One" as the penultimate episode of the season anymore, and "The Neutral Zone" goes out of it's way to write the apparent Romulan incursion as being something that has only happened recently.
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Old January 22 2013, 11:31 AM   #6
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Re: Episode of the Week: The Neutral Zone

Timo wrote: View Post
Which makes me feel the Romulans were the ones who could have been dropped from the plotline, or reduced even further in prominence. Say, our heroes go to the Neutral Zone and encounter the devastation, but never the Romulans themselves, and nothing about this "B-plot" is concluded yet...
That may sound like a viable option now, but in 1988, you couldn't just assume that the audience knew what Romulans were or what they looked liked. You had to show them onscreen at some point.
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Old January 22 2013, 11:47 AM   #7
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Re: Episode of the Week: The Neutral Zone

There's lot of potential for story arcs at this point in the series. Lots of lovely little nuggets of episode-to-episode continuity. Just think, between the "Conspiracy" aliens sending off a message to more of their kind, to the outposts being destroyed, and then the introduction of the Borg next season (who were originally supposed to be insectoid creatures like the "Conspiracy" aliens)... the potential was there for 'epic'. One wonders if the writer's strike did more damage to the plans of the production team than most of us assume?
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Old January 22 2013, 11:59 AM   #8
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Re: Episode of the Week: The Neutral Zone

Despite all its problems, as noted in this thread, I personally found this episode to be above average, when compared with the rest of the first season.

From http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/The_...ode)#Reception:

Director James L. Conway remembers about this episode considered one of the weaker first season shows, "It was the last episode of the first season and there was a writers' strike underway. I think it was a first draft, and since there was a strike, no one could do any work on it. Gene and the producers couldn't do rewrites, so we had to shoot what we had. If there hadn't been a strike, I think it would have been a better script." (The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine Vol. 19, pp. 49-50)
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Old January 22 2013, 12:02 PM   #9
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Re: Episode of the Week: The Neutral Zone

^ Many thanks for that, it's exactly what I suspected. The episode really did need another draft or two, just to polish things off and maybe tie up the two subplots a bit tighter.
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Old January 22 2013, 01:26 PM   #10
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Re: Episode of the Week: The Neutral Zone

The episode was an absolute mess. I too think Conspiracy should have been the finale, assuming they had any plans to go further with that storyline, which we now know they had none.
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Old January 22 2013, 03:28 PM   #11
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Re: Episode of the Week: The Neutral Zone

Well, "Conspiracy" was a conclusion of a story - the one vaguely introduced in "Coming of Age". Carrying a storyline across more than two episodes would probably not have occurred to the writers, what with it being so damn difficult to keep things coherent even as was. But any of the later Season 1 episodes could have launched its own two-story arc:

-"TNZ" could have been followed up with Romulan or new-and-scary-adversary stories.
-"Heart of Glory" could have expanded upon the Klingon Honor Movement in a sequel (and it sort of did - Worf suddenly jumped to the forefront of TNG storytelling - but only much later).
-"We'll Always Have Paris" could have done what "The Naked Time" once failed to do, and what "Time Squared" would again fail to do - turn the incidental element of time travel into the central plot of a sequel.
-Heck, even "The Arsenal of Freedom" could have ushered in some character development, a bit more on Minosian weapons on the loose, whatever.

Only "Skin of Evil" was tightly written to be totally concluded in 45 minutes, and the point of "Symbiosis" was that our heroes created consequences but wouldn't need to revisit those because they were the problem of the villains now...

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Old January 22 2013, 03:45 PM   #12
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Re: Episode of the Week: The Neutral Zone

Another one I liked.
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Old January 22 2013, 03:57 PM   #13
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Re: Episode of the Week: The Neutral Zone

Timo wrote: View Post
Well, "Conspiracy" was a conclusion of a story - the one vaguely introduced in "Coming of Age". Carrying a storyline across more than two episodes would probably not have occurred to the writers, what with it being so damn difficult to keep things coherent even as was. But any of the later Season 1 episodes could have launched its own two-story arc:

Timo Saloniemi
I don't know if we can call Conspiracy a conclusion of a story. I mean it obviously ended up that way seeing as they never did a follow up episode. However, you can't deny that the ending of that episode was anything other than foreshadowing of a later encounter with the parasites.
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Old January 22 2013, 07:32 PM   #14
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Re: Episode of the Week: The Neutral Zone

BillJ wrote: View Post
Another one I liked.
Same here. Maybe the 21st century characters are written a bit broadly, but you could say that about a lot of characters and episodes in the first season.

And I think they were probably meant to be slightly exaggerated "types" anyway, representing the excess, greed, and small-mindedness of the era (which I think is a pretty damn fair assessment, myself).
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Old January 22 2013, 08:21 PM   #15
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Re: Episode of the Week: The Neutral Zone

Lance wrote: View Post
There's lot of potential for story arcs at this point in the series. Lots of lovely little nuggets of episode-to-episode continuity. Just think, between the "Conspiracy" aliens sending off a message to more of their kind, to the outposts being destroyed, and then the introduction of the Borg next season (who were originally supposed to be insectoid creatures like the "Conspiracy" aliens)... the potential was there for 'epic'. One wonders if the writer's strike did more damage to the plans of the production team than most of us assume?
I'd really like to know how this was all initially conceived. It's always been my understanding that the Borg-to-be-insectoids were supposed to be directly linked to the "Conspiracy" aliens. Yet, the way they were introduced in the two episodes, makes it seem like they're independent.

Then in Q flings them off to galaxy-parts far, far, away giving us the impression the Borg are no where near Federation territory. And of course, in BoBW, we get the refrain back to TNZ. It's like the writers couldn't make up their minds.

BillJ wrote: View Post
Another one I liked.
Me too. It's one of my favorites from season 1. Rippy alone is worth the price of admission.
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