Saga of the Jasonite

The continuing adventures of that eternal man of mystery…

Review of Episode 25: The Neutral Zone

They’re baaaack!

Plot Synopsis:  After rescuing three ancient humans from cryogenic stasis, the Enterprise is ordered to the Romulan Neutral Zone on an important mission that could lead to war.

Plot A and B Analysis:  The teaser here is alright I guess. Captain Picard is away on an emergency meeting so the Enterprise is hanging out watching an old derelict Earth capsule floating through space. Data wants to go over and investigate, but when he and Worf beam over they find there are cryogenic tubes inside, some of which contain intact humans. Plot A here involves the Romulans, plot B involves the ancient humans. Plot A isn’t all that strong, and plot B is probably weaker. Data has them beamed on board, and Picard returns with sobering news:  several Federation starbases and colonies along the border of the Neutral Zone have been destroyed, presumably by the Romulans. Dr. Crusher wakes up the three frozen folks, and it turns out they’re from the 20th century. One of them wakes up, sees Worf, and passes out again. This will be the high point of comedy in this episode. Plot A is alright, there is some actual tension toward the end of the episode, even though the actors playing them aren’t very good. The only problem is that plot A, while much more interesting, doesn’t get much screen time. Plot B is pretty bad. Each of the three 20th-century folks is marginally likable, but really you spend most of the episode just wanting to smack them and shut them up.

Favorite Scenes:  There’s not a whole lot here, but there are some that work. The ready room meeting about 21 minutes in is something of a template for what follows in the subsequent seasons: Picard elicits comment from his officers, then makes his decision. Once he makes it, end of story. In fact this dynamic becomes so strong that if it’s a mistake or he later changes his mind it becomes a plot element. The scenes at the climax of the episode where Picard confronts the Romulans works pretty well too, there is some real tension there.

They're less annoying when they are like this

They’re less annoying when they are like this

Use of Cast/Characters:  Wil Wheaton had this episode off. Most everyone else has something to do though. Picard comes across once again as the wisest person on the crew–you see why he’s the captain. He keeps his cool when the Romulans are attempting to provoke him, and even pulls out a cooperation agreement with them (which never actually comes into play, but still). Riker gets some screen time, and you can see that his character still has some growing to do. He would’ve made some understandable mistakes with the Romulans, and meets with mixed success working with the humans. Troi gives us the summary of who the Romulans are and what they are like in a concise, cogent way; I like it, it’s a good intro for those who didn’t follow the original series. She also does some actual counseling which is ok. Data gets a good workout too, having some good interaction with the humans. Geordi doesn’t have a lot to do other than a few lines from the bridge. Worf does get a little more background info regarding the Romulans killing his parents, which makes it more satisfying later in the series when he gets to pound some Romulans. Doctor Crusher is involved with reviving the humans but doesn’t contribute much more than that. Still, at least she’s a part of the episode. The guest stars aren’t too bad, with Leon Rippy who portrays Sonny Clemonds as the only really likable one of the three ancient humans. Marc Alaimo is in this episode as one of the Romulans. He’ll be better remembered as the first Cardassian on TNG, then as Gul Dukat on DS9 for seven seasons.

Blu Ray Version:  Nothing to write home about here other than the HD treatment lets you see a lot of the scoring and aging that took place on the ancient capsule when Data and Worf are over there.

Nitpicks:  Look at the above photo and you’ll see how darkly lit some of these scenes are. From the actors’ shadows you can tell the light source is obviously from next to the camera, instead of from the ceiling where it should be in a sick bay. I mean the woman and medical officer in the back are practically working in the dark! No episode would be complete without those black cards on the back of the bridge. Looks like the 20th-century woman found makeup only moments after waking up, that’s convenient. How is it that these humans of really unknown intent from the greedy, avaricious 20th-century have absolutely no security around them and it takes almost no effort to intrude on meetings and even on the bridge during a confrontation with the Romulans? Even the security officers that attempt to get him off the bridge don’t do their jobs.

Overall Impression:  The overall quality of the episodes have improved somewhat from the beginning of season one to this, the final episode. Compared to the first several episodes of TNG this episode is an improvement, but only compared to them. Every time I watch this episode I think about the prospect of watching those irritating 20th-century people and it turns me off. The only thing I enjoy about this episode is the last 10 minutes with the Romulans. What’s frustrating is Plot A is where the episode gets its title, but more screen time is actually given to the non-enjoyable plot B. We would’ve benefited from better pacing and making plot B more of a side plot than the main plot, or at least changing the title so we don’t think the episode will be about the Romulans. I stand by my statement that Conspiracy would probably have been a stronger choice to end season one. I rate this episode 1.5 out of 5 stars.

Romulan Warbird

Romulan Warbird

Behind the Scenes/Trivia:  This is where we learn exactly what year TNG begins: 2364. I personally think 2387 would’ve been more appropriate, for added verisimilitude, but oh well. This episode is meant to be foreshadowing a new enemy to the Federation and a major recurring villain to TNG: the Borg. Their introduction would have come even sooner in season 2 if not for the writer’s guild strike. When Troi is uncovering the family tree of one of the humans, the console on Troi’s desk displays a list of the first six actors who starred as The Doctor in Doctor Who, as well as television characters Mary Richards, Lou Grant, Kermit T. Frog and Miss Piggy. This is the first time we see a Romulan warbird, and the ships will maintain this overall look throughout TNG, DS9 and Voyager. This is also, I believe, the first time we see Romulans with those ridges on their brows. In TOS and even as late as Star Trek VI they basically look like us, but throughout TNG and each subsequent series they have this look.

Missable/Unmissable?  Missable. There’s not a lot here, but if you want to see the very beginning of the Borg presence this is where you begin. Still, overall it’s not worth it.

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2 thoughts on “Review of Episode 25: The Neutral Zone

  1. I liked plot B enough that I still remember it, while I don’t recall anything about plot A. It’s kind of fun to think about what it would be like to wake up far in the future. Our three guests represented some of the different reactions. But, yeah, they weren’t the best actors around. They would have fit better in a melodrama.

    • Fair enough. Yes it is fun to think about what it would be like to wake up in the 24th century or something equally cool, but if i did I hope I wouldn’t be as annoying as these guys were. Granted I’d probably be more boring, lol

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