So, is the third season of TNG better than the first two?
I think so. Dr. Beverly Crusher is back on the Enterprise in Season 3, and Dr. Pulaski is gone forever. While I appreciated Pulaski more the second time around, she was no Beverly, and Dr. Crusher’s return immediately brings the series back up a notch.
But, the series rarely revolves around Beverly Crusher alone. This season, while demonstrably better than the first two, is still uneven and most of the episodes are average or slightly better than average, with a couple of exceptions.
One of the exceptions was “Yesterday’s Enterprise” which I’ve already discussed in my review of the episode. The other, of course, was the series finale, “Best of Both Worlds,” which was the first part of a two-parter that concludes when the fourth season kicks off. I plan to review Parts I and II together, so I won’t say much about it here except that it was a standout in a mostly middle-of-the-road season.
But, middle-of-the-road isn’t bad. In fact, there was only one episode in this season that I rated less-than-average. That was “The High Ground,” an episode that I think was supposed to be about terrorism. It involved the kidnapping of Dr. Crusher, and the moral of the story is that terrorism is bad. At least, that’s what I think it was about. It was preachy, with long speeches, and seemed to be full of intent, but ultimately went nowhere. But, that’s one dud in a season that was mostly—well, okay. A better performance than the first two seasons. I’m willing to admit that others may view “The High Ground” in a better light; it just didn’t do it for me. The penultimate episode of the season, “Transfigurations,” almost joined the terrorism episode on the substandard list, with its person on the Enterprise developing god-like powers story that harkened back to the Roddenberry days. But there’s enough that I like in the story (John Doe giving Giordi LaForge his mojo; Miles O’Brien’s love of kayaking and his dislocated shoulder problem introduced; little stuff like that) that it earned at least 3 out of 5 stars.
Other highlights of the season:
Episode 3.7 “The Enemy” is a memorable one. This was the second time I’ve watched it, and I liked it both times. Geordi LaForge and a Romulan soldier trapped on a planet and must cooperate to escape alive.
Episode 3.13 “Deja Q” is, of course, another Q episode. I generally consider Q to be a pleasant diversion, and this episode was no exception.
I also liked the locked-room mystery aspect of Episode 3.14 “A Matter of Perspective,” in which Riker stands accused of murder.
Episode 3.17 “Sins of the Father” was better than average, but not quite a 4-star episode. It was a Klingon episode, and we discover that Worf has a brother, Kurn.
Lt. Reg Barclay is introduced in Episode 3.21 “Hollow Pursuits,” and is a refreshing change of pace from all the other eager, achievement-oriented Starfleet officers. Plus, he’s played by the same actor who used to be Howlin’ Mad Murdoch.
In Episode 3.23 “Sarek,” Captain Jean-Luc Picard mind melds with the aging Vulcan ambassador Sarek (you know, Spock’s dad). The result is a one-man show put on by Patrick Stewart that is truly impressive.
The worst thing I can say about most of the rest of the season is that the individual shows are forgettable. The show tends to lapse into a formula during episodes of no particular distinction. In these shows, the techno-babble seems even more profuse and the plots are almost interchangeable. I find some formulaic structure comforting, even enjoyable to a degree, but it seems to be the shows that surprise me in some way that I can recall later.
The season ends on the swell of a good episode. Let’s see if the series can continue to ride it into the fourth season.