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Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season Six

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12 Face of the Enemy

The change in television dynamics since the mid 90s has seen a shift in TV production standards. Another show from this era, The X-Files, recently came back to air with a six-episode season, and many US series, particularly those airing on subscription channels like HBO and Netflix, now opt for shorter lengths. With The Next Generation produced during the standard era of 26 episode seasons, it does cause at least two or three episodes per year to be "fillers", and Face of the Enemy is up there as an inessential instalment.
     That's not to say that it isn't quite exciting in places, as Troi goes undercover as a Romulan, but the theme of the episode is one already covered in the original series story The Enterprise Incident. Probably the most significant event in Troi's development during the sixth season was her being ordered to wear more conservative clothing by a temporary Captain in Chain of Command... consequently allowing the actress to have more dignity on screen. Face of the Enemy gives Marina Sirtis a bit more meat than her usual role, but is fundamentally skippable.

11 Rascals

An episode that should, in theory, be quite awful, yet works almost despite itself. Picard, Guinan, Ensign Ro and Miles' wife Keiko (or "Cake-o" as he would have it) are all involved in a transporter accident that reduces them to the age of small children. What makes it fun is the variable skills of the cast... David Birkin as young Picard doesn't really come off, perhaps because he can't even pronounce "Picard" properly, even after playing his nephew René in the fourth season episode Family. Yet it's amusing because of it, and he went on to have a sizeable career, most recently appearing in the 2014 movie The Ninth Cloud. Sadly, despite her skill at portraying a young Guinan, Isis Carmen Jones' only other screen credit has been in Sister Act, where she played... a young Whoopi Goldberg.
     Containing some situations that go beyond what The Next Generation is used to (Miles to Cakeo: "You're still my wife... but you're also ten years old") it produces awkward laughs in an episode that is fundamentally cheesy yet also quite engaging. Sadly, however, the final act brings the quality down somewhat. The Enterprise is taken over by Ferengi commandeering two Klingon Warbirds, with the four kids obviously banding together to defeat the invasion. Reputedly the producers thought it would be too incredulous for the kids to defeat Klingons, so downscaled the threat... but this does, unfortunately, leave the rest of the crew looking like fools after a gang of Ferengi are shown to be able to outwit them.

10 Starship Mine

Reputedly based on Die Hard, this episode sees Picard alone on the Enterprise during a cleaning update, and having to defend it against pirates. While suitably engrossing if never quite exciting, the ending is a strange one as it sees our very own John McClane, Captain Picard, being beaten up by a girl. This could be seen as a way to avoid showing violence against women, but Picard does get in one slap during the battle.
     On the planet below are the rest of the crew, all somewhat smugly not giving their talkative host the time of day. While Commander Hutchinson (David Spielberg) is a little verbose, he's not a bad person, and yet they don't give him a chance... all, that is, except for Data, who attempts to mimic his ability to engage in "small talk", with non-hilarious results.

9 Realm of Fear

The third of five appearances for Dwight Schultz as Barclay, a character that went on to appear in First Contact and six episodes of Voyager. Schultz (most famous, obviously, as Murdoch from The A-Team) is always a likeable presence, and, sadly, the character of Barclay is arguably more dynamic and engaging than at least half the regular crew. However, a story where he gets frightened of using a transporter isn't perhaps something that can stretch to an entire 45 minute story, even if part of that story sees him menaced in the transporter ray by a giant floating phallus. That this is one of the best episodes of season six says a lot about the general quality of the show at this stage of its run.

8 Timescape

One of the better episodes of season six, whereby a shuttle crew composed of Picard, Troi, Data and Geordi return to the Enterprise to find it trapped in a distortion of time. While Star Trek should be fundamentally about space and little else, time travel and disturbances in time are something that work consistently well in TNG, producing some of its finest episodes. Timescape isn't up there with the best of them, and does get sillier as it goes on, but remains a diverting 45 minutes that rarely drags.

7 Relics

Perhaps the most distancing thing about the entire Star Trek franchise is the lionisation of the original series. The final two series were largely forgettable so do no real harm, but even as recently as May 2016 Rolling Stone magazine was declaring The Original Series (with its unfortunate acronym of TOS) the greatest science fiction series of all time. While the original show is far from awful, it's a very mainstream series that fails to "boldly go" where the most intelligent science fiction goes, and the overpraise it receives can be a little galling on occasion.
      Relics marks the third of four times that an original crew member appeared with the Next Generation cast. Dr. McCoy had a cameo in the series opener Encounter At Farpoint, Spock took part in the two-part season five story Unification and Kirk got lost in time to end up in the first TNG film Generations. Scotty gets perhaps the most incongrous visit, having been lost in the transporter field for several decades, before emerging on the new Enterprise and finding himself the "relic" of the title. While there are obvious nods to the past, including him recreating the old Enterprise on the Holodeck, and an entirely expected "Scotty gets chance to save the day" resolution, this instalment largely avoids the back-slapping and self-congratulation that could have made it all so wearying.