Star Trek: The Next Generation
"Shades of Gray"
Air date: 7/17/1989
Teleplay by Maurice Hurley and Richard Manning & Hans Beimler
Story by Maurice Hurley
Directed by Robert Bowman
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Worst. Finale. Ever. I might as well get it out of the way and call it the most pointless episode of TNG ever made. Honestly, was this episode even meant to be taken seriously, or were the creators as hopelessly desperate to fill the hour as it looks? Part of me thinks it's unfair to even assign a star rating to a clip show, but I'm going to do it anyway and assign it, let's see, no stars. (I suppose every Trek series has to have one.)
Not only are the choices of clips mostly bad (not that they had much to choose from at this point), the framing device is terrible: Riker is infected with parasites on an away mission, and the only way to keep them from destroying his brain are to combat them with endorphins by triggering his memory. His memories, of course, are all clips from previous first- and second-season episodes of the show. How convenient. Or, for us, inconvenient.
One nice aspect of this episode is that it took me about 25 minutes to watch on DVD because of the fast-forward button and the fact that I've seen all these other episodes in the last few months and don't feel obligated to watch excerpts again. (I can't imagine watching this episode again without a fast-forward button.) But, for the record, the clips are from the following episodes, in this order: "The Last Outpost," "Encounter at Farpoint," "The Dauphin," "The Icarus Factor," "Justice," "11001001," "Angel One," "Up the Long Ladder," "Skin of Evil," "The Child," "A Matter of Honor," "Conspiracy," "Symbiosis," "The Last Outpost" again, "Skin of Evil" again, "11001001" again, and "Heart of Glory." And, of course, a montage where lots of stuff blows up (including Remmick's head from "Conspiracy," which is almost worth a free half-star by itself, but I'll resist).
While there are clips from a few good shows, many of the clips are from some of the series' worst episodes, and there's no reason to be repeating them. The episode's "original material" depicts how happy memories strengthen the parasites while painful ones ward them off. The scenes in sickbay with Troi and Pulaski employ much unendurable medical babble that seems to be repeating on an endless loop. I seem to remember there was a writers' strike either before or during this season of TNG. Based on this episode, they should've taken more time off.