Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Tough Sell For "Angel One"

The Good: Costumes, Character Aspects, B-Plot
The Bad: Themes, Plot, Predictability, Much of the Episode.
The Basics: "Angel One" is a pointless episode that hinges on the viewer being impressed with the idea of a matriarchy as opposed to an issue of real substance.

Occasionally, there's an episode of even one's favorite series that comes along and is so thoroughly unmemorable that even after just seeing it, it has left no impression on the viewer and it is quite difficult to evaluate as such. "Angel One" is a Star Trek The Next Generation episode that is much like that; it leaves the viewer with almost no impression of what it is they just sat through.

"Angel One" finds the Enterprise arriving at the planet Angel One where the society is a matriarchy. This is supposed to be the big twist on the normal universe that is supposed to intrigue us for a full hour. It does not. The Enterprise is only bothering to go to this planet because a Federation freighter crashed there some years ago and now they are dissidents against the matriarchy, which the leaders of the planet want removed. Much of the episode is spent with Commander Riker talking with the leader of the planet about either finding the survivors or political reforms that ought to be enacted. While Riker dallies with her, Data, Troi and Yar go off to try to find the Odin survivors.

Because that is not the strongest plot in the known pantheon of storytelling, there's a b-plot and that involves those left aboard the Enterprise suffering from a disease that is incapacitating everyone. The Enterprise, in essence, becomes a plague ship and as the attempts to contain the disease fail, the mission appears less and less likely of succeeding. The way the two plots come together in the conclusion works out well.

The problem with the episode is that neither plot is terribly engaging. Neither plot leaves us guessing or makes us believe the events have any real importance. The Odin crash plot is an excuse to see Riker act like Captain Kirk and getting it on with a planetary leader despite an almost complete lack of chemistry between the two. And the issue being debated (if one wants to call it that) is not much of an issue. So what that the planet is a matriarchy? Who cares? Aren't we to the point where that ought not to be a big deal? I thought we were. And the time represented by Star Trek The Next Generation seems to indicate it as well, yet the Enterprise crew makes a fairly big deal over the whole thing. It's silly and the whole main plot takes a weak concept and attempts to make it big and important. It fails.

The b-plot isn't terribly engaging, but it does save the episode from being a complete waste. It gives us a chance to see Dr. Crusher in action, doing doctor work, which gives her a purpose and it works out well. In fact, even though I think the whole engagement is pointless, the truth is, Riker's behavior is consistent with his character. It's nice to see the characters behaving like characters, I suppose. But too much of "Angel One" hinges on the plots, as opposed to the characters and they are moved forward by plot events as opposed to moving the episode by their actions and abilities.

Part of what makes Dr. Crusher work even marginally well as a character in "Angel One" is the acting of Gates McFadden. McFadden lends a seriousness to Crusher that is welcome and embodies a sense of medical professionalism that is not evident in every actor's portrayal of a medical professional. McFadden here convinces the viewer that she is a doctor through her body language and the strength of her voice when ordering characters around. As well, she is quite able to work her way around all of the medical jargon and technobabble that could easily foul up a less professional actor.

And for his part, Jonathan Frakes keeps the a-plot moving by at least appearing like he's having fun playing the promiscuous side of Commander Riker. His boyhood joy in his facial expressions is almost enough to cancel out the eye rolling coming - not so much from the characters of Deanna Troi and Tasha Yar but rather - from actresses Marina Sirtis and Denise Crosby. Every scene Sirtis and Crosby are in conveys a sense that they feel the plot is somewhat ridiculous and beneath the show.

We agree with them. Basically, the weakness here is that while the a-plot hinges on something that is neither surprising nor interesting (i.e. women running a society and government), the b-plot offers nothing new. By this point, Star Trek has covered the disease storyline and we pretty much know that it will be worked out. "Angel One" is particularly unsurprising in this area.

While "Angel One" is not the worst episode, it has little to recommend it simply because it does not accomplish much on any front and there is little to bring one - fan or not - back to it.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete First Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the debut season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek episode and film reviews, please visit the index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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