HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 January 2016
The first season of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" was a complete mess. So the next season had to be much better, right?
Well, yes and no. "Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season 2" was a definite improvement, especially since it lost much of the stifling smugness of the debut season... but it still wasn't terribly good, especially since it disposed with the likable Dr. Crusher in favor of the prickly sneering Dr. Pulaski. It has some truly classic, beautifully-written episodes ("Q Who," "Elementary Dear Data"), but it also suffers from some staggeringly awful ones ("Up The Long Ladder," "The Outrageous Okona").
Since Dr. Crusher has vanished without a trace (don't worry, she comes back), the Enterprise welcomes a new doctor, Dr. Pulaski (Diana Muldaur), who turns out to be obnoxious, condescending, demanding and picks on Data (Brent Spiner) for fun. She also arrives just in time for Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) to inexplicably become pregnant, after being essentially raped by a ball of energy. Much drama ensues.
Among the other adventures the crew has: Geordi (Levar Burton) accidentally creates a self-aware hologram; a deaf ambassador is left helpless when his assistants are killed; a dying scientist wants Data to help him achieve immortality; an aging virus threatens Pulaski's life; a destructive computer virus runs rampant through the ship; Data befriends a young child from a self-destructing world; a future version of Picard is found adrift, having survived the Enterprise's destruction; and Riker gets jabbed by a toxic thorn that triggers a clip show.
There are some staggeringly awful episodes in this season, such as "The Outrageous Okona" ("If you put funny teeth in your mouth, and jump around like an idiot... that is considered funny") or "Up The Long Ladder" (a ham-handed and irrational sermon on abortion, rife with grotesque Irish stereotypes). The show hadn't yet fully shaken off that first-season ridiculousness and preachiness, even though the quality of the overall season is substantially better.
... and yet, it also contains some staggeringly excellent classics, such as "The Measure of a Man" (in which Data must fight for his rights as an individual, rather than a piece of property) and "Q Who" (Q throws the Enterprise across the galaxy, warning them of a terrifying alien threat that is coming for them).
In other words, the second season of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" tended to seesaw wildly in quality, swinging between the sublime and the ridiculous. One thing was certainly improved -- there was greater depth and intelligence in these stories, and an increased awareness that moral and ethical issues do not (and should not) have an easy answer. Even the trickster Q reveals that he has more dimension and depth. Yes, there are some lapses (Riker killing his clones in "Up The Long Ladder"), but most of the time we have deeper examinations of the Prime Directive, the nature of artificial life, and so on.
Most of the other episodes are... okay. Neither brilliant nor staggeringly bad, they have the Enterprise crew embarking on some solid one-off episodes that puts them up against Klingon sleepers, a computer virus, diplomatic problems, and so on.
It also succeeds in making the characters much more likable -- Picard has softened considerably into a more paternal figure, Riker's youth is explored somewhat, and we see more of what shaped Worf into the Klingon he is today. But the greatest development is to Data -- he continues to branch out with the eagerness of a child, from the idea of having a "grandfather" to his continuing interest in Sherlock Holmes. And of course, he ceases to be just the token android, and instead must present himself as a sentient individual with rights.
And of course, there is Pulaski. I can only assume that the writers thought she would be like Leonard McCoy from the original series, with her prickliness, irreverence and aversion to transporters. But her traits are so exaggerated that she just seems condescending and demanding, without any warmth or redeeming characteristics. And her almost-obsessive picking on Data is like watching someone repeatedly kicking a child.
"Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season 2" is a vast improvement on the first season, but it was not yet the brilliant show it would later become. It's certainly worth watching, but some of the episodes should definitely be skipped.