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Season Two:
-127: "The Child"
-135: "The Measure of a Man"
-136: "The Dauphin"
-139: "Time Squared"
-141: "Pen Pals"
-142: "Q Who"
-147: "Peak Performance"
-148: "Shades of Gray"

-Season 2 Rankings

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Shades of Gray

(Star Trek - TNG episode production code 148)
  • story by Maurice Hurley
  • teleplay by Maurice Hurley and
    Richard Manning & Hans Beimler
  • directed by Rob Bowman
  • music by Ron Jones

Shades of Gray

A lot of fans seem to really hate this episode and rate it as worthless. It's a clip show, and I'm certainly no great fan of those either. However, I don't mind this one so much. Part of the reason is undoubtedly that it was only the second episode of Next Generation that I ever saw. The numerous clips from previous episodes were not re-runs for me. They all constituted new material, teasers that hinted at what this show had been like in its first two years, what I might see as I got caught up on all the season 1 and 2 episodes I had missed.

The opening is solidly rooted in the present time. It's hard to truly believe in the planet-side set though, because the regulars are all a bit too comfortable walking atop the little river, as though they KNOW there's a solid studio floor beneath that will totally support their full weight. If it really were a planet full of unknowns, they should be far less sure of their footing, the depth of the region's rivers, the solidity of the mud or whatever else lay below unseen.

That said, the opening bits work well enough to further demonstrate the characters, although it's not the most riveting drama possible.

Riker's upbeat exterior is showcased, and we get some nice teamwork from Data and Geordi, with an assist from O'Brien. Dr. Pulaski rightly remains quite busy and likeable in this one, and emerges as the most heroic crewmember of all. Too bad this turned out to be her last episode, but in that case, it's not a bad one to go out on.

Riker's dreamy memory-clips gradually take over much of the running time, and demonstrate that he was probably the easiest character for which to find lots of footage from the first two seasons where he could seem to be the primary experiencer in a wide variety of situations and backdrops. The first clip, introducing a mysterious planet-side landscape, where a lone Riker calls out for his unseen crewmates, actually works really well. Riker's first meeting with Data was also worth repeating, being one of the best scenes from TNG's pilot. Most of the other clips really struggle with having content that is relevant to the storyline of this episode though, and the heavy serving of emotional mush isn't all that entertaining.

Surprisingly, there's a lot in this episode surrounding the Riker-Troi relationship, both in and out of the flashback clips. It's nice to have both a past reminder and a present re-inforcement of their standing with each other at this point. Perhaps a stronger focus on this might have improved the episode's ratings, but "stronger focus" in this case wouldn't necessarily be to add more footage of it, but rather more importantly to remove some of the other less-than-inspiring promiscuous relations that detract. Indeed, the Riker-Troi scene repeated from "The Icarus Factor" seems to work better here than it did in its original episode.

In the end, this is a bit of a bizarre outing for Star Trek, and not being a fan of clip-shows anyway, I'm thankful the concept was never repeated anywhere else in Star Trek. But I didn't mind this one so much, seeing it as my second TNG episode. While going through the rest of the first two seasons in re-runs, I always got a little bit of extra excitement anytime I saw a scene I recognized as having appeared as a clip in this one, so it did manage to make TNG a bit more fun for me. No, it's not a great episode by any stretch, but I'd still rate it as okay.

Season Two Wrap-Up

Although Star Trek: The Next Generation delivered a lot of good episodes in its second season, three of them really stood out as being of a higher calibre. These were: "The Measure of a Man", "Q Who", and
"The Emissary" (production code 146) which was a great break-out story for Worf and introduced another fan-favourite recurring minor character.

Thankfully, episodes as good as these three would become more and more frequent as "The Next Generation" entered its third season....

But I did find that this season, particularly in its more popular episodes, really shied away from letting our regular characters (a) get off the ship, and even more rarely (b) get down to explore any strange new planets. (Season Four may be equally challenged in this regard.) So, one of my criteria in ranking these episodes became simply how many of the crew got off ship during an episode, and whether or not it was to a decent planet worthy of exploration that we could see on screen. It seems a simple consideration, but it was noticeably refreshing on the few occasions when it actually happened....


  1. The Measure of a Man
  2. Q Who
  3. The Emissary (a great break-out story for Worf, introducing another fan-favourite recurring minor character.)
  4. Contagion (nice mystery, action, & away mission for Picard, Romulan challenges good, Enterprise malfunctions interesting. Best planet of the season. Long live Ikonia!)

  5. Peak Performance

  6. The Dauphin (archetypal story strengths, emotional truth, and good direction make a unique winner out of this one, but the set-up is awkward in many places. The high expectations for Seleya to succeed as mediator seem ridiculously unreal - too much rigid ceremony, not enough practical flexibility. Starfleet/Federation cluelessness is at odds with their involvement.)
  7. Elementary, Dear Data (good idea, many characters off to a great start, but several scenes show Data wimping out of his main mission in too pronounced a fashion. What really is/was the answer to the main question?)
  8. A Matter of Honor (a decent primer for Klingon culture [plus Benzites' to some degree], neither culture being a great draw for me. Plot a bit pedestrian, but it works, with some good twists on the ending.)
  9. Up the Long Ladder (a bit defocused, and it seems not all the intended humour works, but we do get an interesting contrast of a variety of cultures here, plus our characters go down to a planet worth visiting. One of Pulaski's better episodes. I like this one.)
  10. Samaritan Snare (doesn't have any great draw for either of its two main plots, but both are done decently, giving us a visit to a planet [SB515], and a second helping of Ensign Gomez. A decent ep., but not great. Interesting choice of actor for the Pakled captain... now everytime I watch the Klingon captain from "A Matter of Honor", in my head I'll see his alter-ego Greblednog!)

  11. Pen Pals (a real mixed bag with a questionable main premise, wasting equestrian production value in the holodeck again. But, it gives a good slice of life aboard a ship that does science exploration, and gets everything in its ending as correct as if there were no prime directive, save Sarjenka's memory, and even that is mitigated by a singing stone. Still better than half of the season's other eps.)
  12. Unnatural Selection (good focus on Dr. Pulaski, fleshing out her backstory, and allowing her to get around to all settings including shuttle and planet with Data. Darwin Station crew's innocent ignorance not credible though, and how are they not in violation of Eugenics laws? This well-made tale has a bit too creepy a central concept for my tastes.)
  13. Loud As a Whisper (an episode with much Trekkian merit and production values, with full landing parties on 2 planets, plus a richly tranquil score. But Riva and his chorus feel like pretend mediators, too obsessed with strict ceremony and protocol to function practically. Instinctively, their reputations feel inflated and/or solely enabled by the monarchy Riva is descended from, rather than any particular merit or skill that he/they can demonstrate. They have their own tranquil vibe, yes, worthy of exploration. But are they any good at inspiring others to feel it, or would others prefer to avoid their ceremonial rigidity? Additionally the story is abandoned rather than concluded, its final test [though interesting and theoretically plausible] not even begun. What the hell? Can Starfleet not maintain the presence of some support personnel here for him, whether from the Enterprise or some other more dedicated ship?)
  14. The Schizoid Man (covers some well-worn territory with competence, but not quite brilliance. We get S2's first planet, and Drs. Solar and Pulaski! And Data's beard... he strokes it thusly. Good ep, but emotional direction and conclusion not great.)
  15. The Child
  16. The Icarus Factor (How does today's supposed issue between Riker & his father cause someone as promising and brilliant as Riker to be such an unwatchable total a-hole all episode? Worf's ritual is equally unhinged, while the connection between Riker's dad and Pulaski has more intrigue and draw in theory than in practice. The issues feel artificially imposed to create a drama that never gels and has no point to it. Hard to feel that anything is resolved either, since we never see Riker's dad again. O'Brien is the winner of this one - he's everywhere, getting a bit of charm in. And all production value is confined to the Enterprise interior; no one gets to explore anything off-ship.)

  17. Shades of Gray
  18. The Royale (without stronger humour, this episode is sorely missing its raison d'ĂȘtre. It has good bits, including its concluding sequence, but it commits sins elsewhere such as having the regulars critique dialogue and appear bored, encouraging the audience to do the same. Very much lacking a strong unifying draw to pull us through the story. Today's planet is only slightly better than another holodeck malfunction.)
  19. Manhunt (very de-focused, almost like an endless series of false starts. The regulars really play this one like pawns, suffering whatever the script wants to chuck at them next. There is some charm in some moments, but no scenes have true repeat draw to them. Production value went to the holodeck again, no regulars manage to get off the ship, and we see nothing of any planet.)

  20. The Outrageous Okona (a rogue with no real charm, a plot that does not engage, and Data explores humour while nothing in the episode is funny. Wasn't anyone on this production able to tackle these subjects well? This cardboard adventure fell on its face and laid an egg. And all in space; no one goes down to [or sees] any planet.)
  21. Where Silence Has Lease (early bits okay, but this scrapes the bottom of the barrel for some aspect of the human condition to explore, leaving a cruddy aftertaste. Worf seems off-character here. Production value went to the holodeck, instead of getting the Enterprise crew down to a planet. End sequence a re-run of 11001001.)
  22. Time Squared (bad science, loose reasoning, and brainless contrivances lead our regulars to abominable self-destructive behaviour. And nothing makes any sense in the end. This one has not aged well.)

These Next Generation Season Two stories are available on DVD and Blu-ray:

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season Two (1988-1989):

Includes 22 episodes @ 45 minutes each.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the desired disc format and location nearest you for more information:

DVD Canada

6-disc DVD set

DVD Canada


DVD Extras include:

  • Mission Overview (14 min.)
  • Selected Crew Analysis
  • Starfleet Archives
  • Departmental Briefing: Production (17 min.)
  • Departmental Briefing: Memorable Missions (16 min.)
Blu-ray U.S.

NEW for
Dec. 4, 2012.
Blu-ray Canada

NEW for
Dec. 4, 2012.
Blu-ray U.K.

NEW for
Dec. 10, 2012.
5-disc Blu-ray box set

Blu-ray features add:

  • 2 Audio Commentaries:
    • "The Measure of a Man" by writer Melinda Snodgrass and scenic/graphic artists Mike and Denise Okuda.
    • "Q Who" by director Rob Bowman, visual effects supervisor Dan Curry, and the Okudas.
  • TNG 25th Anniversary Cast Reunion (HD, 62 min.) with
    Patrick Stewart (Picard), Jonathan Frakes (Riker),
    LeVar Burton (Geordi), Michael Dorn (Worf),
    Gates McFadden (Dr. Crusher), Marina Sirtis (Troi),
    Brent Spiner (Data), and Wil Wheaton (Wesley).
  • "Making It So: Continuing The Next Generation" (HD 2-part documentary, 81 min.)
  • Energized! Season Two Tech Update (HD, 8 min.)
  • Gag Reel (HD, 10 min.)
  • Deleted Scenes
  • "The Measure of a Man" HD extended version (57 min.) and hybrid version (56 min.)
  • Promos for each individual episode
  • plus, all featurettes from the DVD version.

Article & reviews written by Martin Izsak. Comments are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

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Read the next Star Trek review: "Evolution"

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