Tuesday, August 16, 2011

When Did Dr. Crusher Become So Dimwitted? “Sub Rosa”

The Good: Costuming
The Bad: Character, Acting, Plot, Sensibilities (or lack thereof)
The Basics: When Dr. Crusher goes to her grandmother's funeral, she hooks up with a ghost man who has been "in the family" with the women of her family for 800 years.

The more reviews I write for individual episodes of Star Trek The Next Generation from season seven, the more I think I overrated the Season 7 DVD set. I'm not even sure why I am finishing these reviews. The idea, when I started out, was to rate all of the individual episodes of Star Trek The Next Generation so people would be able buy individual episodes on video, but now video is almost as dead as records and the reviews I write for things like Star Trek The Next Generation will be largely worthless because people will soon only be reading the DVD reviews.

All of that questioning and common sense reasoning is more than the combined intellectual capacity of all of the characters in the Star Trek The Next Generation episode "Sub Rosa" (and you thought I was just complaining! Ha!). For a group of characters who travel the stars week after week exploring the unknown, there is not a single episode where they are all as singularly dimwitted as in this episode.

Dr. Crusher and the Enterprise crew journey to a planet where Dr. Crusher's Grandma Howard has just died. It's the Scottish Planet In Space and shortly after she arrives, she meets a mysterious stranger, Ronin, who convinces her to light an heirloom candle. Dr. Crusher does and soon, she and Ronin are having the most fabulous sex to the point that Dr. Crusher is willing to leave the Enterprise and settle down on Caldos IV. Having lost all capacity for logic and reason (and common sense), the intoxicated Dr. Crusher ignores everyone she cares about and settles into the house her grandmother owned while Ronin continues to pleasure her.

It's obvious to anyone with half a brain that Ronin is tied to the candle. The way he constantly insists Dr. Crusher keep it lit should make her suspicious, but it doesn't dawn on her until the very end of the episode. So, as Dr. Crusher watches Picard and Data and a colonist tormented by a plasma creature (Ronin in his natural form), it does not occur to her to simply blow out the candle. I'm glad I don't have to rely on her cunning to save my life.

"Sub Rosa" takes some sexual risks that Star Trek The Next Generation almost never did. Dr. Crusher is seen being pleasured by a non-corporal Ronin at various points throughout the episode. But, like most of Brannon Braga's limited writings, Ronin is not a ghost, but some form of anaphasic lifeform feeding off a body (he wrote an episode of Star Trek Voyager - "Flashback" - with essentially the same creature). I suppose that taking a spiritual and sexual risk in the same episode would have been too much for the franchise.

The problem - outside the pathetically weak and obvious script - is that none of the actors are playing their "a" game here. Patrick Stewart seems like an accessory throughout the episode and Duncan Regehr whose three guest appearances on Star Trek Deep Space Nine are pleasant outings, seems to be utilized too obviously as an intended sex symbol. That is to say Regehr looks all right in "Sub Rosa," but there's little beyond that to explain why Dr. Crusher would fall for him, especially after it becomes clear he and the doctor's grandmother were intimate for decades. In short, Regehr utilizes none of his personality to actually make Ronin sexy outside of his looks and it's not enough to sell us on this episode.

Particularly horrible is Gates McFadden in this role. Her acting is consistently over the top as Dr. Crusher, playing the heaviest moments of hurt and realization like a high school theater actress hamming it up for the parents on opening night. That she doesn't seem to realize that she is being melodramatic and out of character - i.e. we've never seen Dr. Crusher so oblivious or expressively passionate before now - just makes the performance that much worse.

At the end of the day, this is another stupid Braga reversal story. I've said all along he is a one trick pony who had three great Star Trek The Next Generation episodes, but this is long after he jumped the shark. This episode only goes to prove that he cannot write romance, either. Outside fans of the series - who by this time must be getting woefully disappointed by Enterprise crew family stories, all of which seem to have sucked this season - there is nothing here. It can't even be recommended as a Star Trek The Next Generation romance or soft porn. Instead, it views like a piece of fan fiction and some of the worst of that.

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


For other Star Trek reviews, please click here to visit my index page!

© 2011, 2008, 2004 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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