The Vengeance Factor

If you asked me what my favorite episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation was while it was on the air, the answer was simple: Tin Man. It had everything that made Star Trek great, and a lot of starship action that I loved when I was a bit younger. However, if you ask me what episode has stuck with me the most from ST:TNG’s seven seasons, that answer is actually episode 3X09- The Vengeance Factor.

I’m not sure why this episode is the one that’s stuck with me, maybe it’s the bittersweet romantic nature of the whole thing, or the questions of duty it raises. In either case, for some reason when I want to watch ST:TNG it’s pretty much my go-to episode, even though I can practically recite the dialog from it line for line. I find this episode also wears better with time, not worse, which is something you can’t say about quite a few of ST:TNG’s early episodes. For me, this was a crown jewel in the show’s best season (Season 3) and one of the reasons I will always be a fan of this series. (I have to say, the episode after it, The Defector, is also a classic of the show.)

Do any of you have an episode of Star Trek or another TV show that’s always stuck with you? If so, let me know in the comments below!

Rob

9 thoughts on “The Vengeance Factor

  1. Hmmmm….

    We’ve DEFINITELY had this talk before, but I noticed something pertinent recently.

    I never liked TNG; I found it WAY to antiseptic and sterile. (Given the chance I’d have slapped every crewman on the ship…. although that would invariably lead to legal action after I’d inadvertently killed Worf.) I still like the original, even though hating on it is the fashion anymore. I noticed a weird writing technique the original did that most shows…. especially nerdly ones…. stopped doing some time in the 80’s. Shows like TNG would do character bits; we’d see the crew playing cards, up to wacky antics on the holodeck, or inexplicably treating smooth jazz like real music. But that would all stop once the plot kicked in. When the random (likely tachyon related) space anomaly hit the ship character time would end and it’d be all business.

    The original did the exact opposite; they seldom allocated time for a character building scene, but would instead infuse the character into the regular action. I find that a lot more satisfying ‘cos it doesn’t interrupt the narrative. The TNG method feels like a “choose your own adventure” book. Everything is separated into neat chunks that only interact with each other on an extremely limited basis. It doesn’t feel like life, and it makes the characters feel muted. (Isn’t anybody in the 24th century ever surprised?) The original crew felt like distinct individuals ‘cos everything they did had a touch of who they were added to it.

    I suspect the newer technique became de rigueur as a result of the “No! Sci-Fi is hard!” movement. The characters are isolated from the “brainy” bits of the story, so’s not to contaminate it. The old show crew seems cartoony to a newer/modern audience ‘cos they’re so different from each other, and their reactions (contrasted with the newer template) messy and all over the place since they aren’t isolated to a few readily defined traits. (“Has Beard.” “Plays Jazz.” “Implied He Gets Laid a Lot; Even Though It Never Actually Happens During a Story.”)

    Don C.

  2. Interesting! I wouldn’t have put either one of your choices in my top wheelhouse picks, Rob. They were decent episodes, but nothing that resonated with me.

    I found TNG probably the second weakest of the Star Trek series (with Voyager being at the very top easily). But there were some pretty important episodes.

    While I can talk about how important “Family” was as a great character piece after the famous “Best of Both Worlds”, and while I love “Measure of a Man” I still came away with saying, “Yup Data IS a toaster”, there are some that are just classic Trek. Which is what makes them good.

    “Tapistry”. This is a beautiful “What if” story that works on the consistent but important conceit that reminds us. We are made of our choices and unmaking those unravels the ribbon of our lives.

    “Starship Mine” is simply fun as Jean Luc Picard tries on his inner John MacLean.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6KFMu1vr6Q

    “Chain of Command” is awesome mostly because of Jellicoe (Ronny Cox). While the “I see three lights!” is a powerful moment, its kind of shadowed by the better torture episode of Babylon 5 some years later.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtYDbGEeeug

    “The Chase” should have been called “Roddenberry’s Legacy”. This is the one episode that pretty much sums up The Great Bird of the Galaxy’s feeling about humanity and our place in the cosmos. After all, what better describes the vulcan IDIC? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqkCJvTGSEQ

    Still, the original bridge, empty has me in tears every time in Relics.

    • Interesting choices, Jack. My order for Trek series (from best to worst) are: TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY and ENT. (Although Voyager only beats out Enterprise because ENT was killed just when it was actually heading in a good direction, and there were a few gems in Voyager that lifted an otherwise lackluster series up a few pegs.)

      Anyhow, I would also agree that most of your choices are standout TNG episodes; however, Starship Mine was just good in my opinion, not really great. Also, Chain of Command is a tricky episode. The second half, where Picard gets tortured, was indeed a powerful performance and is rightly remembered, but the first half had such a stupid premise I could never get over it. “We’re going to send the aging Captain of the Federation flagship, his ship’s chief medical officer, and head of (in)security on a covert black ops mission, even though there are literally millions of better qualified people in Starfleet and if these people are captured they represent a huge security risk to our entire organization. Great plan, eh?” I think “A Fistful of Worfs” was a more logical and better thought-out episode than Chain of Command (part 1). They should have just made it one episode, had Picard captured while negotiating something, and started with the torture and Jellicoe taking command in his absence. The stupid crap would have been kept offscreen and the interesting stuff would have been all we saw and remembered.

      “The Chase” is indeed the most Trek of Trek that ever Trekked!

      Rob

  3. Oh the maguffin in Chain of Command was problematic, but no more problematic than the entire concept of having the Bridge Crew as your main transport team to the surface.
    (So your helmsman. Your very best at steering the ship and your Chief Engineer are going down with your Captain AND your First Officer AND Chief Medical Officer to an unknown planet with unknown dangers? Nothing wrong with that).
    When you swallow the Bridge-Away Team conundrum- Chain of Command is chicken feed.

    I agree with Starship Mine, it’s not my favourite either. Just a fun one.

    But I don’t understand how anyone can with a straight face put Enterprise at the bottom of the heap and not the top. The only argument I can see about that is Trek Fatigue. Star Trek had been on the air for a long time. If Enterprise began as the first or second franchise it would have went at least seven years. As it was it went four.
    Why?
    1. The Crew. The crew in Enterprise was the best group since the original. Yes Picard is awesome and Worf really starts getting good in DS9, but person for person, If I had no original crew, I’d take the Enterprise crew over any of them. They were real characters, professionals, and they didn’t get along. I mean the conflicts with Malcolm alone were gold and let’s not get into Yoshi’s anxieties. These were real characters and the FIRST one that didn’t have a character you could hate. In TNG it was Wesley. In DS9 it was Jake (First) and Quark’s brother Rom that were terrible. In Voyager it was Neelix.
    Here was a crew again you could get totally behind.

    2. The Plots. I know you think that the plots were getting better as it aged. I think they were just developing more. Enterprise had a rich and open vista of story lines because it was happening before the original. I remember being excited the first time the Andorians were discovered, or the Romulans. The back stories were excellent and we got to find out exactly just what the hell happened with Klingons to change their appearance.
    Sure the time travel plots were tricky, but the actual GOING WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE part of Enterprise totally made up for it.

    3. ACTUAL VOYAGES OF DANGER. The Next Generation felt mostly like an expensive luxury liner ferrying people across known space, DS9 was mapped space with only small dangers before the war, and Voyager despite promising actual danger only had one part of it in The Year of Hell- which all ended up being a dream anyway. There was a real sense that these characters were doing what the original cast were doing. Flying in a ship that despite being the best they had could fly apart at any time. They didn’t even have shields. The transporters were dicey. Basically every space faring race could kill them. How awesome is that?

    4. Mirror Universe. While DS9 did some episodes that were decent, the Enterprise’s version AGAIN used awesome back story to build up the tension to create for when it would happen in Kirk’s time.

    Archer was very much a man of his time. He represented all those head strong leader types… like Kirk, like Horatio Hornblower, like they eventually had to write into Picard.

    The only downers was the terrible series ending story (TRIPPPP!) and the maudlin theme song.

  4. Hmmmm….

    > Voyager only beats out Enterprise because ENT was killed just when it was actually heading in a good direction, and there were a few gems in Voyager

    Towards the end Voyager had a LOT of near misses. They started doing a lot of character related stuff, but never took it to any reasonable conclusion. (Like the nebbish alien guy who dies and doesn’t find what his religion said there’d be in the afterlife. It’s an interesting, heavy idea that sort of goes away towards the end of the episode.) So it felt like MAYBE the show could be good, but it never quite got there.

    >no more problematic than the entire concept of having the Bridge Crew as your main transport team to the surface.

    There’s some sort of weird phenomenon that happens to collective memory over time wherein tropes become truth. This is one of them. I’ve been watching the old show lately, and I’ve noticed that they DON’T beam the whole bridge crew down all that often, and when they do there’s usually a reason. But over time that’s all sort of blended together into the idea that it was way more endemic than it actually was. (Although Kirk did put himself on the team way more than a real leader would, but that was kind of his personality.)

    Hayata losing the Beta capsule is another. It DID happen, but not every second episode like I remembered it.

    >I don’t understand how anyone can with a straight face put Enterprise at the bottom of the heap and not the top

    I didn’t like it because it was a REALLY typical sci-fi show, and they made such a point in the early episodes of dismantling the old continuity. Why bother making a Trek show if you apparently hate Trek?

    >The crew in Enterprise was the best group since the original.

    They’re also the crew from the Perry Rhodan novels. Hell; the Enterprise looked like the Glador with nacelles.

    >They were real characters, professionals, and they didn’t get along.

    But they didn’t get along in the same way as Voyager’s crew: all sorts of diverse character interaction until it got in the way of the plot; then it all went away. It’s a lot like the TNG problem, where the character bits were isolated from the story.

    >the actual GOING WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE part of Enterprise totally made up for it

    ….except that we TOTALLY KNOW where they’re going, ‘cos we’ve seen the other shows…. except where they changed things, which plays to my earlier point of “why bother?” It’s the same sort of problem that afflicts a lot of the nerdly arts these days: they want to cash in on an established property, but not suffer the constraints of actually USING said property’s setting.

    >Enterprise’s version AGAIN used awesome back story to build up the tension to create for when it would happen in Kirk’s time

    Like that. We KNOW how this ends, including it just feels like fan-wank. Same with throwing in the old races. The excitement is waiting to see how they work THIS time. I’d MUCH rather see something new. Trek has a HUGE setting; I’m sure cool stuff happens to ship’s not named Enterprise.

    > Flying in a ship that despite being the best they had could fly apart at any time

    ….except it doesn’t, until the plot calls for it. Although I think I’m biased on this point. Being a fan of Go Nagai and Spain, my idea of risk is a little different than most people’s.

    Don C.

  5. I guess I like “typical sci fi”. It’s pulp. That’s what Enterprise was. Great pulp action. And we don’t see that anymore. The original had it. No other version of Star Trek did.
    I can appreciate that I may be one of the few people who love it. But at least Enterprise did different things for Star Trek. Took chances and NO. It didn’t screw with the Trek time line. In fact, it treated it better than TNG who totally screwed up the inventor of Warp Speed (Who was from Alpha Centauri)

  6. >I guess I like “typical sci fi”. It’s pulp. That’s what Enterprise was. Great pulp action. And we don’t see that anymore. The original had it. No other version of Star Trek did.

    You’re right, and I love the ol “Tales of the Space Rangers” style stuff myself; but I found Enterprise was too self conscious about it. They WANTED the weird, over the top aliens and plots but were too hamstrung by the established continuity, and not deviating enough from the days accepted “right” ways of doing sci-fi.

    Plus, I loves me some Perry Rhodan, and the show seemed to borrow WAY too much from it.

    >and NO. It didn’t screw with the Trek time line

    We meet a Klingon in the first episode. They don’t show up in the generally accepted timeline until the Anaxanar incident. (They’re also supposed top be the “ruddy” versions then.) That didn’t bode well for me since it altered established history so’s to show one of the more popular fixtures of the old series. Later on they seemed to make a point of tying into the older series. (I heard that was because one of the chief people on the show quit, and that they hated the old show.)

    Don C.

  7. Actually they did explain that, right? The Klingon was simply not the first official contact of the race. That would happen even in the old days of seafaring exploration on Earth. There were small interactions with other cultures, but people didn’t recognize those until full contact was officially made.

    I like continuity. But that’s just personal appeal.

    • > The Klingon was simply not the first official contact of the race. That would happen even in the old days of seafaring exploration on Earth.

      That’s right, and it gets at one of my problems with prequels. According to the old continuity NOBODY had seen a Klingon prior to the Anaxanar incident. It’s possible that they found this guy beforehand, but since he was analyzed by the biggest wigs in the burgeoning Starfleet you’
      d think someone would have brought it up at some time during one of the later/earlier shows.

      So while it’s well within the realm of possibility, it feels awkward, raises more questions than it answers, feels like a cheat to squeeze some old school name recognition in, and is completely unnecessary. Especially considering the CURRENT reboot going on.

      *sigh*

      I may not have liked TNG, but at least it was something new and different.

      Don C.

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