We don’t plan on doing comparisons after every episode, but the 2nd episode should be important. With the exception of TOS, the 2nd episode is really the first regular episode. In some ways it can give people a better sense of what the show is going to be like than the long premiere. It should address things that need to be dealt with, but couldn’t be done in the premiere, and it can go a long way to continue the themes of the premiere.
5. TNG: The Naked Now
TNG follows up the premiere strangely with the choice to depict the crew acting out of character before their characters had even been firmly established. I guess the idea was that right away the deeper, more personal elements of their identity would be revealed. To me it just seems like the crew is acting crazy and dumb.
4. TOS: Charlie X
Like TNG, TOS takes a weak step out of the gate. Charlie X is one of the worst episodes of season one. With TOS there wasn’t any overarching themes that needed to be dealt with, but they do touch on a theme (the temptations of power) that are much better represented in the next episode, Where No Man Has Gone Before. Unless you are a true Trek addict, there is no reason not to skip Charlie X and go onto the next episode.
3. VOY: Parallax
Similar to DS9, Voyager deals with general tensions through a story about a single character, in this case B’Elanna. The problem is unlike in DS9, B’Elanna doesn’t seem to have a reasonable dilemma. She acts like a jerk, and it isn’t justified to the audience. Any possible explanation for her anger, such as a lifelong hatred of the Federation, and frustration at being stuck in the Delta quadrant, isn’t explained to the point where I could be sympathetic. I feel like I was cheated out of a cool overarching story about the two crews learning to get along. It was appropriate to address this theme in the 2nd episode but ultimately the theme was wasted.
2. ENT: Fight or Flight
There are a lot of ideas that they continued in this episode: Humans being curious and compassionate, Vulcans being skeptical of earth’s first step into deep space, the NX-01 being vulnerable, and the ship needing work. While all this is happening the story is also about Hoshi finding confidence. It’s interesting that for DS9, VOY, and ENT, they each have a similar character arc that is being addressed. Hoshi’s story is probably in the middle of the two, in that the writers and actress make it understandable why she is so afraid, but they often go too far and make her seem pathetic.
1. DS9: Past Prologue
DS9 did a good job with the 2nd episode. They threw in the Duras sisters which might excite some TNG fans, and they told an interesting story to illustrate the political atmosphere of Bajor. The main character of the episode is Kira, and although I often have problems with her, Kira’s dilemma is emotionally nuanced and serves to flesh out the larger themes in an interesting way. Overall the episode was exactly what a 2nd episode should be.
Deep Space Nine seemed to have a goal of explaining some back-story of the Bajorans, and further introduce their relationship with the Cardassians. Enterprise does a good job of continuing the themes for the show, and thankfully resolves a hindering (and somewhat annoying) character trait for Hoshi. Voyager addresses a serious overarching theme, and practically resolves it. It would have been cool if this theme was deeper (perhaps even having the Maquis crew wait an entire season before taking on the Starfleet uniforms?). The Next Generation and Original Series seemed to be trying to weed out people that are put off by the sillier side of Star Trek. Not a good move. Here’s the next question: How far into each series will it be before the first great episode (aside from premieres)?