The Good: Acting, Character, Special effects
The Bad: Plot and believability
The Basics: Pretty much the ultimate average episode of the series, “The Game” puts Wesley Crusher back on the Enterprise to save the ship from an alien game.
Many people who were fans of Star Trek The Next Generation begrudge Wesley Crusher his place in the pantheon. I think many were wrong to loathe the youth, especially seeing the early seasons of the series in retrospect. Wesley Crusher represented much of what humanity could be and actor Wil Wheaton accurately captures the energy and enthusiasm of youth. He's a nice contrast to Captain Picard's curmudgeon role, to boot. When Wil Wheaton left Star Trek The Next Generation in the fourth season, he took with him an important element of the cast. Fortunately, it was not his last appearance.
"The Game" finds Riker on Risa meeting an alien female who convinces Riker to try a video game. While on leave from StarFleet Academy, Wesley Crusher arrives on the Enterprise. Drawn to a young officer named Robin Lefler, Crusher avoids his friends for the most part to pursue the engineer. Shortly after Riker returns from leave, Data is incapacitated and the members of the Enterprise crew become addicted to playing the strange alien game. As one of the few to not try the game, Wesley Crusher becomes the last chance for the Enterprise crew to resist an alien invasion.
The understandable view that people who dislike Wesley Crusher comes at this point in the series. There's the general sensation that when Crusher returns, he will do something extraordinary. Thus, we come to expect Wesley Crusher to save the day and here is the prime example of that occurring. Instead of just having Crusher return, Crusher's return becomes the crux of resolving this episode. Somewhat essential to this episode is Wesley Crusher's new status outside the "family."
More than any problem with Wesley Crusher's character, this episode is plagued by a somewhat silly idea. While it's an intriguing idea to have a video game that interfaces directly to the central nervous system and rewards its players with an orgasm to advance each level and it's not an entirely bad idea to use such a thing for a smokescreen to an alien invasion, that the Enterprise crew so easily succumbs to it is hard to swallow. That is to say that certain members of the crew other than Data ought to have been just as immune to the effect of the game as the android. Worf comes easily to mind and the idea of Captain Picard even trying the awkward contraption is silly.
Once one suspends their disbelief to the mechanics of the plot, "The Game" works fine. This is a tense episode and it has the whole Invasion Of The Body Snatchers feel to it. While that has been done to death in science fiction, here they manage to pull it off just fine. The emotion behind the episode works.
While Picard's character does not entirely work, Wesley Crusher's works wonderfully. He has clearly developed in his time away from the Enterprise and that is immediately evident. Crusher's lack of interest and then open wariness toward the game make a great deal of sense as does the methods by which he foils the plot.
What keeps the episode flowing is the acting. Wil Wheaton steals the episode as Wesley Crusher and he returns to the series with more presence here, a confidence that translates from actor to character. One will quickly note Robin Lefler, the young officer Wesley falls for. She is played by Ashley Judd, the same Ashley Judd who is now an a-list actor. She portrays Lefler well as a young, ambitious, self-sufficient character. She uses her inner energy and charm that others would later recognize and use to cast her for parts.
"The Game" is a tough sell to those who are not fans of Star Trek The Next Generation. Anyone who likes suspense or science fiction will find something here to enjoy. The acting is good and the special effect when the game is first turned on is pretty cool. But if you don't like science fiction or suspense, this is not an episode that you're likely to want to see over and over again.
[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete Fifth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the fifth season by clicking here!
For other Star Trek episode, DVD or film reviews, please check out my index page on the subject by clicking here!
© 2011, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.