Series: Star Trek The Next Generation
Episode: 1.26 Neutral Zone (05-16-88) (SEASON FINALE)
Redshirt Status: 0 /3
Notable Guest Stars:
Marc Alaimo – Tebok. Alaimo would return as several characters over the course of the series, but he is probably best known as Gul Dukot. Who I will probably rant about when we get to DS9
Anthony James– Thei. He was a character actor on several TV shows.
Leon Rippy – L.Q. “Sonny” Clemonds. He appeared along with Jonathan Frakes on the miniseries North and South. (Never seen it, you should. Just make sure you get the one about the civil war and not industrial England (although also good))
Grace Harrison – Clare Raymond. She doesn’t have an extensive list of credits but she appeared as Bitty Stonecipher on Designing Women and Susan Slater on the TV series Melba from 1986.
Peter Mark Richman– Ralph Offenhouse. He voiced “old” Spiderman in the animated series from 1996.
This episode has two drastically different stories going on, that meld together into a somewhat interesting episode. However, it does cause some continuity issues, but TNG struggled with that a lot in the beginning.
The first story that comes up is that the Enterprise, under Riker’s command, has found a derelict ship. They are awaiting Picard’s return, so he gives Data permission to explore and learn from it while they wait. However, instead of just finding a historical find, Data finds people in suspended animation. He and Worf beam them over to deal with later now that Picard has arrived back with an urgent mission.
Which begins story 2- The Romulans appear to be back after a half century break. It’s a little vague as Worf was the victim of a Klingon massacre that occurred in 2346, which is less then twenty years before the episode occurred. He was one of the few survivors and has deep held hatred and distrust of Romulans. However the Federation has it down that it has been 50 years since they had actively seen them. So The Enterprise is being asked to go into the Neutral zone to investigate as distress signals from several outposts have been received.
Picard spends this whole episode in a vague level of annoyance. Annoyed at the Romulans for coming back, annoyed at Data for bringing the people back, annoyed at Ralph Offenhouse as we all are.
This episode was apparently planned to be a two parter to introduce the Borg, but unfortunately it did not end up that way. So the episode is interesting but fails to follow through to a conclusion and just seems…underwhelming. There is a lot of build up towards the Romulans and what their motivation was, and instead of getting a fully fleshed out interaction with them we get a ten-minute end of episode interaction. However, it is important to note that this is the first appearance of the Romulans in the TNG run, and also their first appearance with the new make-up. I am guessing this is to differentiate them from Vulcans other then they don’t hold back on emotion.
In Data’s plot line we have an interesting situation, but it feels a bit too much like Space Seed only with people who don’t want to take over the universe. Clare Raymond had the most interesting plot points, having Troi help her find her family. I think this is the first time we really see Deanna as a counciler instead of Picard’s feel-o-meter. Which is good. “Sonny” Clemonds is basically comedic relief and doesn’t really get developed much other then that. Ralph Offenhouse just becomes annoying and we are all with Picard when he says to get that man off his bridge.
Given the amount of issues at work at creating this episode, I’m not surprised that it lacked the ability to be developed well. There was a writer’s strike, which caused this to be written in just a few days by a producer and have no revisions on the script. So it was a first draft. Considering, its pretty good with all that was against it.
I do think they should have found a way to finish it later in the series, even if they threw out the Borg element. Instead it just seems unfinished, and a failed finale. We never find out how things go with the Romulans, who caused the bases to go missing, none of that. So it just hangs as a big plot hole.
- Written by Maurice Hurley based on the fanfiction by Deborah McIntyre and Mona Clee.
- Directed by James Conway
- Introduction of the Romulan’s new look
- This was originally supposed to introduce the Borg but failed to come to be. There was a writing strike in 1988 which postponed filming enough that they couldn’t fit it in. It was also not a revised script because of the strike which might explain some of the problems
- Gene Roddenberry’s production assistant won a bet and got to play an extra on the set of this episode. Her name is Susan Sackett and she would eventually join the writing staff. Which is pretty neat.
- Data’s curiosity about humanity is expressed
- Deanna Troi gets to be an actual counselor.
- This is disjointed and feels unfinished. Almost like it should have been two episodes as well. Given the writing strike I’m assuming it was written in a rush to get something filmable.