Star Trek: The Next Generation (1989) – Evolution, and The Ensigns of Command

Captain’s log: stardate 43125.8

This is the season that things really start to gel for the series, there are new uniforms, stronger writing, even better visuals, and Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) returns. And it all starts with a Wesley (Wil Wheaton) story.

Evolution was written by Michael Piller from a story he and Micheal I. Wagner came up with, and season three premiered on 25 September, 1989.

The Enterprise is helping Dr. Stubbs (Karl Jenkins) in his study of a binary star system. Stubbs has been preparing for a singular moment coming up – an explosion that can be studied and advance his work.

Unfortunately, one of Wesley’s experiments, a study in nanites, has escaped and is causing problems aboard the enterprise. As they begin to evolve and work with one another, the nanites grow smarter perhaps even becoming sentient. But will Stubbs destroy them for his own work?

While not the strongest episode of the season, I remember being floored when I first saw this episode back in 1989. Everything looked new, amazing, and, well, more. It looked to be a more realised world than the first two seasons appeared to be. This is due to the uniforms, the lighting, the changes on the set, all of it added a depth to the series that wasn’t quite there before.

That and the fact that at three years in the show was becoming smarter, more entertaining, and seemed to have finally found itself.

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Captain’s log: stardate 43133.3

This Data-(Brent Spiner)centric story first aired on 2 October, 1989. It was written by Melinda M. Snodgrass and despite lots of problems behind the scenes, it comes across as a fairly solid episode.

The Enterprise hears from the Sheliak, a strange alien race who look similar to the Excalbians from The Original Series episode The Savage Curtain (or at least a duvet-like relation). It seems they are travelling to a planet that falls within their jurisdiction and belongs to them according to a treaty with the Federation.

Unfortunately, there is a human colony there, despite a strange radiation that prevents the Enterprise crew from travelling there themselves.

The assignment falls to Data, who, on arriving on the planet discovers not a small colony, but a thriving human population.

Data, with the aid of a young woman, Ard’rian (Eileen Seeley), who is crushing on Data a little, must confront and convince the colonists to leave, otherwise the Sheliak will wipe them all out.

Spiner turns in a fine performance here, and shows he can very handily carry an A-story on his own. The character grows, learning through his decisions the onus of command and the choices he must make.

While Data is doing that, Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the rest of the crew, including Geordi (LeVar Burton) and O’Brien (Colm Meaney), are trying to figure out a way to help their android companion as well as come up with a way to stall or negotiate with the Sheliak.

It’s a solid episode, and still shows the new look of the third season, including the new hand phasers, eschewing the dustbuster model of the previous two seasons.

The Human Adventure continues on Thursday…

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