Star Trek: The Next Generation
"The Neutral Zone"
Air date: 5/16/1988
Teleplay by Maurice Hurley
Story by Deborah McIntyre & Mona Glee
Directed by James L. Conway
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Here's an episode that plays like the writers took two story pitches and simply filmed them, without bothering to develop a script for either one that would fulfill the requirements for an actual episode of television. To call "The Neutral Zone" half-baked would be an understatement. It's quarter-baked.
In story A, Data and Worf beam onto a drifting space relic and find three cryogenically frozen survivors from the 20th century. They bring them to the Enterprise and revive them. In story B, the recent mysterious devastation of Federation and Romulan outposts along the Neutral Zone prompt some new rumblings from the Romulan Empire. After a 50-year hiatus of having not come in contact with the Federation, indicators are that they might be returning as a possible cold-war threat. (Gee, what about the plot from "Angel One" where the Enterprise was supposed to rush off the Neutral Zone to ward off a Romulan attack?)
Neither of these plots is worth our time (and the point of putting them in the same episode escapes me, because they're incompatible). The Romulan storyline exists to tell us — and only tell us — that the Romulans are back from obscurity and available for future episodes. Beyond that, there's very little insight or point to any of this, except for Troi's scouting report about the Romulan persona — reported to be arrogant and more likely to test the enemy with mind games and vague threats before resorting to force. Unfortunately, this makes for a long setup to a non-payoff where the Romulans literally say, "We're back," and then turn around and leave.
The storyline involving 20th-century Americans waking up in the 24th century is even more of a nonstarter. We're given three characters who wake up and scarcely react to the new world that surrounds them. When they do react, their reactions are bland and obvious. The writers apparently thought it would be cool to try to use these characters as entry points with which we could identify. No such luck, because these are three exceptionally uninteresting guest characters. Better luck next season.