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Dan L again
Fri, Aug 5, 2011, 11:03pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S3: The Survivors

I'm looking back at my comments from July 27, 2008. Still feel the same way about the scene with Guinan and Picard. I didn't pass the exam then, but did pass, finally, and was admitted this year. The episode was in my thoughts for the two days where things worked out.

Jammer, you are quite right that "The Survivors" is an unsung gem. To me, the greatest mystery about the episode is why it is unsung.

The acting: The acting was the best it has ever been on TNG (the story somehow gains a bizarre poignancy by the fact that John Anderson and Anne Haney are now both gone). The final scene between Picard and Kevin - the direction, acting, writing, lensing, staging, sound and lighting came together to produce two perfect minutes of television.

The staging: Often it is said that a script's level of ambition counts for little if the level of execution is found wanting. "The Survivors" was an enormously ambitious episode whose execution matched the ambition.

The mystery and build-up of suspense: A mystery is only as good as is how good the placement of clues are throughout the story. Although the ending of course was a "Twilight Zone"-whoa type of ending (one wishes that Rod Serling, who had denigrated the original Star Trek, had been alive to see it, as it was as well-written as anything Serling came up with), when one rewatches the episode, one realizes that it played fair and did not cheat, in much the way "The Sixth Sense" played fair.

The intangibles: The moment where Picard informs the Uxbridges that Troi's mind is gradually being destroyed is followed by Richad's saying, plantively, "Kevin.... no...." in a voice that suggests controlled anger, frustration and fear all at once... so many nice little touches like that. The story was essentially free of contrivances and plot gimmicks, did not have to rely on pyrotechnics to compensate for lacklustre direction (which BBW Pt.1, as great as it was, did).

Great character drama, great action, seeking out new life (something TNG rarely did), thought-provoking... what more could a fan want?

Apparently the answer is "The Inner Light." That episode, although great, was nothing more (and less, i suppose) than a terrific example of audience manipulation and an attempt to manufacture poignancy that should have (and did come from, to some degree) come from the characters, not from the music or the speechifying. In this episode, one could feel the gears grinding. "The Survivors" unfolded so naturally, with such elegance and grace, as to, I am afraid to suggest, be simply too "reserved" to be considered great. And that's a shame. The episode is as fine as ANY hour of TNG.
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