Star Trek: The Next Generation Re-Watch: Season 3 Wrap-Up

Has TNG finally emerged from its turgid first few seasons? I think our ratings speak for themselves.

Title Eugene’s
3×01 Evolution
Aired: September 25, 1989
3 3
3×02 The Ensigns of Command
Aired: October 2, 1989
4 3
3×03 The Survivors
Aired: October 9, 1989
2 4
3×04 Who Watches the Watchers
Aired: October 16, 1989
1 1
3×05 The Bonding
Aired: October 23, 1989
2 1
3×06 Booby Trap
Aired: October 30, 1989
4 5
3×07 The Enemy
Aired: November 6, 1989
6 6
3×08 The Price
Aired: November 13, 1989
Impulse Full Stop
3×09 The Vengeance Factor
Aired: November 20, 1989
Dead in Space Impulse
3×10 The Defector
Aired: January 1, 1990
5 5
3×11 The Hunted
Aired: January 8, 1990
Dead in Space 2
3×12 The High Ground
Aired: January 29, 1990
2 1
3×13 Déjà Q
Aired: February 5, 1990
4 6
3×14 A Matter of Perspective
Aired: February 12, 1990
2 2
3×15 Yesterday’s Enterprise
Aired: February 19, 1990
6 6
3×16 The Offspring
Aired: March 12, 1990
6 6
3×17 Sins of the Father
Aired: March 19, 1990
5 5
3×18 Allegiance
Aired: March 26, 1990
1 1
3×19 Captain’s Holiday
Aired: April 2, 1990
2 1
3×20 Tin Man
Aired: April 23, 1990
3 4
3×21 Hollow Pursuits
Aired April 30, 1990
3 3
3×22 The Most Toys
Aired: May 7, 1990
3 Impulse
3×23 Sarek
Aired: May 14, 1990
6 6
3×24 Ménage à Troi
Aired: May 28, 1990
Warp Core
Warp Core
3×25 Transfigurations
Aired: June 4, 1990
2 1
3×26 The Best of Both Worlds
Aired: June 18, 1990
 6 6

Are there any ratings you would change?

Eugene: Perhaps I was a bit too hard on “The Survivors.” I’ve been thinking about it some since re-watching it, which is always a good sign, and in the full scope of the season it performs far better than I originally thought–even if it still doesn’t hold up to my recollection of it being super awesome. Yes, the ending is startling and moving, but a good story needs more than a surprising twist. I’ll bump it up to a Warp 3, because it was definitely better than “The High Ground” and “Captain’s Holiday.”

Torie:  I would bump “Deja Q” down to a 5, because while I did enjoy it a lot it’s just not on par with the other great episodes we’ve seen this season. I would also bump down “The Ensigns of Command” to a 2, because I already forgot it and re-reading my recap it didn’t sound very good…

Best episode? Favorite episode?

Eugene: This is tricky and surprising, but I’ll call the best episode a tie between “The Enemy” (which I never would have seen coming) and “The Offspring,” which rates higher in my esteem now that I’ve become a sentimental sap. These two episodes are excellent science fiction stories, not just excellent Star Trek stories, which is how I would classify “Sarek.” You’d think the best would be “The Best of Both Worlds,” but that’s stuck forever in my mind as only half an episode. My favorite episode remains “Yesterday’s Enterprise” because parallel universe (duh) and I like inserting a little darkness into my Star Trek (as opposed to inserting Star Trek into darkness).

Torie: The best episode is probably “Sarek,” when you take into account the writing, the performances, and the really strong and coherent story being told. But I think my favorite is still “The Enemy,” because to me that marks a turning point in the series from all unicorns and rainbows and diversity and acceptance to a more realistic understanding that the characters are flawed, racist, biased, and still in the process of working toward the ideals that they so treasure. That said, a close second is “The Offspring,” which still makes me cry. 

Most disappointing episode?

Eugene: So many! I rated episodes low this season most often because they failed to live up to an excellent premise. But I’d say the most disappointing was “Who Watches the Watchers?” which really could have been incredible but failed at every turn. Fortunately, they’ll tackle a first contact scenario many more times in the series, with greater success.

Torie: I can think of two episodes with wonderful conceits that are poorly executed: “The Hunted” and “A Matter of Perspective.” 

Eugene’s final thoughts on Season 3: Weirdly, although the ratings bear out that this season is a marked improvement over the first two, it wasn’t the home run I was expecting either. It turns out that saying “TNG gets really good in season 3” really means “there are six amazing episodes in season 3, and you can tell the show is getting better.” I suppose I was hoping for more consistent quality over the course of the season. It’s kind of all over the place, and six standout episodes (those that received warp 5 and 6 from both me and Torie) out of twenty-six is an improvement, but it’s not all that good either.

Okay, many of the other episodes came close and I think we hover on the higher end of the scale on average, but the low points are still really low, and on the whole, the show’s shortcomings are only emphasized more when you see how good it can be. It’s also surprising (or maybe not so surprising) that episodes I loved when I was younger are now complete duds, and I’m overall much more critical of even the best ones. I’ve changed a lot as a viewer, favoring more complex stories and characterization, original plots, and stories that present thought-provoking questions. TNG still isn’t quite delivering on all those things, at least, not always at the same time.

But we are absolutely on an upward swing, and “The Best of Both Worlds” is a hell of a note to end on. After the slog of seasons 1 and 2, I’m looking forward to revisiting more episodes in season 4. Will this be the grand slam I’ve been waiting for? Looking over the episode list, I’m very optimistic. Let’s see what’s out there.

Torie’s final thoughts on Season 3: This house had the season 3 DVD set before any of the others (thanks, Eugene!) and that speaks for itself. It’s hard to believe that this is the same show from the first two seasons, with “Code of Honor,” “Justice,” and “Up the Long Ladder.” *shudder* I think the difference for me isn’t necessarily the science fiction–those first two seasons have some great science fictional ideas–but the complexity and nuance of the storytelling. The best episodes, like “Sarek,” “The Enemy,” “The Offspring,” “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” and “The Best of Both Worlds” are tinted with a bit of darkness. They’re not merely let’s-go inspirational adventures about how great the future can be if we just try (which admittedly appeals to me), but they show the chinks in the armor and the flaws that people as they are now would have to overcome to make that future possible. Yet despite everything, the stories are not sad or gritty, because the implication is always that the darkness precedes the dawn. Worf may be irrationally racist toward that Romulan, but he’s really one of the last guys with a grudge–the rest of the world has moved on. Sarek may have “fallen” from the great repressed Vulcan he once was, but he also gets the rare gift of being able to express to his wife, his son, and his friends all the love he has bottled up over the centuries. And sure pretty much everyone dies in “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” but they die to build a better world. That core optimism is there, but it’s finally tempered by meaningful difficulties and sacrifices.

And while I credit Eugene that the show isn’t excellent quite yet, it has still very much turned the corner. Those first two seasons are barely watchable! And it’s interesting to see what aspects of the show resist any kind of improvement: for example, anything to do with women. That’s actually just going to get worse. (Crusher ghost sex: still pending.) But while it struggles to make its women real people, it’s doing a great job making its aliens real people, and you have to take your joy where you can find it. Looking at Season 4, I am so excited about the new challenges these characters will face, and I’m especially excited to see what you all have to say about them, too.

About Torie Atkinson & Eugene Myers

TORIE ATKINSON is a NYC-based law student (with a focus on civil rights and economic justice), proofreader, sometime lighting designer, and former blog editor/moderator. She watches too many movies and plays too many games but never, ever reads enough books. EUGENE MYERS has published short fiction in a variety of print and online zines as E.C. Myers. He is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop and a member of the writing group Altered Fluid. When he isn’t watching Star Trek, he reads and writes young adult fiction. His first novel, Fair Coin, is available now from Pyr.