Although we are done with STNG and now docked at Bajor for a romp through Deep Space Nine, that doesn’t mean you can’t go back and catch up on the episodes you missed. You can find the rest here!
This is it, the final episode of Star Trek the Next Generation Season One. It has been a fun ride so far, some great episodes, some not so great but this was the first year of the most exciting rebirth of a classic series. So, Originally airing on May 16, 1988, The Season FInale: The Neutral Zone.
Stardate 41986.0 The Neutral Zone
The Enterprise encounters a strange ancient craft containing the frozen bodies of ancient humans who once had chronic diseases. They are beamed aboard and revived despite the fact that they had already died when they were originally placed in stasis. Meanwhile the Enterprise has been called to the Neutral Zone to face a possible threat from the Romulans, who have not been seen in nearly 50 years.
The two main stories in this episode deal with A) the Romulan Threat on the Neutral Zone and B) the revival of the ancient humans.
We will start with the ‘B’ story. The three humans who are revived are revealed to be people who paid to have themselves frozen in the late 20th century since they knew that they were going to die. Unfortunately, they overslept due to the cryonic company that placed them into sleep put them into orbit and their craft was eventually lost in space.
The three were a homemaker named Clare, an Investment Banker named Ralph and a musician named Sonny. Ralph continues to insist that he needs to contact his bank to review his portfolio as he has ‘taken care’ of his future. Unfortunately he doesn’t understand that money on Earth simply doesn’t exist any longer.
This story deals with how these three deal with the fact that the future is not what they expected. Clare wished to reunite with her family, even if they are distant relatives, Sonny just wants to enjoy his new found life while Ralph is not happy until he sees what exactly the ships crew is nervous about. (hint, it’s the Romulan threat). They eventually are returned to Earth to find their way after the events of the ‘A’ story.
The ‘A’ story is by far the more interesting of the two as it deals with the return of the Romulans after being gone for some 50+ years. The Threat at the Neutral Zone gets bad as it is revealed that both Human and Romulan colonies have been completely obliterated ‘as if some great force just scooped it off the face of the planet’. The Romulans arrive believing the Federation is responsible and they are ready for war.
As Picard and the Romulan Commander debate who is responsible for the destruction of the outposts as the Romulans reveal that they know that the humans could never have caused so much damage. Picard recommends a cooperative effort to learn who may have caused this damage and the Romulans agree to the stalemate. The Romulans also tell Picard that, in their absence the Federation has grown too strong and for him to know that the ‘Romulans are Back!’.
As Picard says in the encounter, ‘I think our lives just became a lot more complicated.”
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
For the first Season Finale it is both fun and intense at the same time. The ancient humans not understanding their position in this universe makes for an interesting and sometime humorous time. The part that makes this the most interesting is we finally get to see the return of the Romulans and their massive Romulan Warbird. This starts what will become a continuing threat well into the later seasons. To introduce such a foe at the end of the first season was just genius.
This episode also gives Data, Troi and Picard some additional character development in their dealings with both the survivors and the Romulans. Data learns more about ancient humans and finds it fascinating while Troi gets to show more of her skills as ship’s counselor.
Picard, on the other hand, continues to be shown as a truly capable leader in this first re-encounter with an old enemy.
The Romulans become one of the very best adversaries of the season. I vividly remember seeing the Romulan Warbird for the first time and being enthralled at its size compared to the USS Enterprise. It instantly became one of my favorite ship designs to this day. Elegant and fearful, this ship is a pretty impressive site to be seen.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
This is the first appearance of an attack by the Borg as the colonies have been ‘scooped’ from the ground by unknown means. While they are not mentioned by name, this is marked as the earliest encounter with the future nemesis.
We get to see Worf’s hatred for the Romulans as they are responsible for the deaths of his parents at Khitomer.
Sadly we never find out what happens to the three ancient humans after this episode. It is assumed that they integrated into the new society of the future.
Actor Marc Alaimo appears as one of the first Romulans and would later appear as Cardassian Gul Dukat on Star Trek Deep Space Nine.
Riker Beard Countdown B minus 1 Episodes until Beard Emergence.
Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review and joining me in the entire First Season of Star Trek the Next Generation. I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: Star Trek the Next Generation Season 2 Episode One The Child.
If you would like to read more reviews I have a weekly series called Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday and for more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here.
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Late To The Game 5/18/2019 (originally published 02/26/18)
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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3 thoughts on “Retro TV Review: Star Trek TNG SSN 1 Episode 25 The Neutral Zone”
One of my favorite TNG episodes. Easily top ten.
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This one really showed the potential of this series. Then we got the extraordinarily rough season two. While it did have some gems, that season was a doozy.
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The episode is a very easy, satisfying watch for me. I like the tone and pacing of it, the dialogue. The cryo ship in the opening is a really cool set, as well.
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