The Good: Moments of character insight
The Bad: Acting, Horrible clip selection, Lame plot, Poor acting
The Basics: A horrible episode, "Shades of Gray" is a lame, insipid clip show that closes the second season.
A season finale is a series' best chance of having an audience the next season. It is, therefore, baffling whenever any series has a substandard season finale. It's like a government not putting money aside during a surplus year. Given "Shades Of Gray," the second season finale of Star Trek The Next Generation, it's downright amazing that there was an audience to come back for season three.
"Shades Of Gray" finds Riker wounded on an alien planet. Once he is beamed back to the Enterprise, he becomes seriously ill, unconscious and his body invaded by an alien parasite. As he dies, Dr. Pulaski and Troi attempt to find a solution to the problem. The alien invader resists all attempts to kill it until the medical team realizes that memories are affecting the growth of the creature.
The problem is that the memories that cause and thwart the spread of the parasite are a cheap excuse for a clip show. "Shades Of Gray" is a lame episode that pastes together scenes from prior episodes of Star Trek The Next Generation under the pretense that Riker is fighting for his life with them.
The problem is that none of the clips are terribly compelling. They degenerate into explosions and screams as Riker fights the creature using his memories. Even more awkward, there are clips that have moments Riker is not even in. How is he supposed to remember things like a setting before he beamed into it?
This is a poorly edited episode. The clips are poorly chosen, the bits between are poorly acted. Most of the episode is shots of panning in on Riker's head. Occasionally, we are begging for the clip just to not be looking up Riker's nose any longer.
In the long run, this episode comes closest to the dangerous point of "Worst Episode Ever" (a title which I still assert belongs to the second season episode "The Royale"). It is simplistic and it adds nothing to the series as a whole. Riker never suffers the massive psychological consequences stemming from this episode.
None of the actors do an interesting, competent job. None of the characters advance. There is no plot here. The direction is weak, the special effects are non-existent or horrible.
This is a sad exit to Dr. Pulaski. Diana Muldaur, and the character of Pulaski, deserved better. At least it wasn't her who nearly sank the show. Riker came close with this finale. Funny, he never has the opportunity again. "Shades Of Gray" marks the last episode that Riker truly moves an episode exclusively. He never has another season premiere or finale. Sure, in the third season he's still around, but it's a diminished capacity. Following "Shades Of Gray," Riker is a lost character; the writers don't know what to do with him. Well, except mess around with his head. At least the fans get better.
This episode has nothing to recommend it to non-fans of the series. In fact, it has nothing to recommend it to fans of Star Trek The Next Generation. This is the least inspired episode of the show.
[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete Second Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the sophomore season by clicking here!
For other Star Trek reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011, 2008, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.