A Look at the Star Trek Season Ending Cliffhanger’s (w/Les)
The other day I talked about TV shows that ended their season’s on cliffhangers, for good and for bad. In that article there was one glaring omission. I decided to devote a whole article to the many Star Trek cliffhanger’s. And to help me with this I asked my friend, and fellow Trek fan, Les to assist. Like with the other article in order to keep this from going on all day we are only reviewing the season ending cliffhanger’s. I may discuss the other two part episodes like “Chain of Command”, “Past Tense”, and “Year of Hell” some other time. We are also omitting the series finale’s, because those belong to a different category. Besides I’ve already talked about all of them except one.
RichB:Les, welcome back to my corner of the site my friend
LES: Hi richb. Congratulations on 500 blogs, my friend. That is quite impressiveâ€¦especially when you consider that a great majority of those blogs were exceptional. AH cliffhangers!â€¦..ever since â€œWho shot JR,â€ TV series have been attempting to recreate the best publicity that money couldnâ€™t buy in a never ending attempt to one-up the last show to attempt it to be as outrageous as possibleâ€¦.and coming up short, for the most part. However, Star Trek The Next Generation finally topped it with one episode that propelled it past TOS with authority:
â€œThe Best of Both Worlds”
And, for the record, I WAS PISSED BEYOND BELIEF WHEN â€œTO BE CONTINUEDâ€ CAME ON THE SCREEN!!!! How could they do that to us? You canâ€™t leave us hanging on an ending like THAT!!!(Just picture the Nostalgia Critic flipping out to the â€œBat Credit Cardâ€ and multiply it by 4, and youâ€™ll understand my frustration LOL!)
RichB:Oh believe me my friend. Let me take you back in time for a momentâ€¦..
So the year was 1990, and my brother and I were watching one of the most amazing Star Trek episodes ever unfold. The Enterprise fighting the Borg! Then Picard gets kidnapped by The Borg! Wow, are they going to turn him into one? Yep, and that reveal still gives chills. So the final scene is the crew on the Bridge while Picard/Locutus reveals they are about to kill them all. This is their only chance to use their special weapon, so the music builds as we zoom into Riker’s face. He says one word, â€œFire!â€ And thenâ€¦.TO BE CONTINUED!!! appears with that pounding music. Argh!!! My brother flat out left the room and I was stunned. This is the one that send Star Trek fans hearts into their mouths. It was a fantastic cliffhanger and I never get tired of watching it.
(I promise not to do this for every one but here is a clip of the sceneâ€¦one of Star Trekâ€™s finest moments, right HERE)
Thankfully the second half did not disappoint, it was full of tension and excitement. Getting Picard back made logical sense, and the creators didnâ€™t even use the â€œI donâ€™t remember anythingâ€ cop out. He remembered everything and to say the least, it became a major part of his character after this. This episode has it all!!
LES: Oh, without a doubt. â€œThe Best of Both Worlds Parts 1 and 2â€³ frequently top the top 5 lists of greatest Star Trek TNG episodes and itâ€™s well deserved. Sure, I was furious at the cliffhanger, but the payoff when they showed part 2 more than made up for it. First, when Riker invents new strategies to fight Locutus and they get the Captain back by outsmarting the Borg_YEAH! Put Riker Maneuvers one and two in the Starfleet Academy textbooks NOW!!!! Then, when Mr. Data links to the Captain to access the Borg network to find a weakness to exploit. Those last 3 minutes are pulse pounding as theyâ€™re literally moments away from destruction while Data and Picard attempt to pull a last minute victoryâ€¦which doesnâ€™t disappoint(I LOVE WATCHING THAT BORG CUBE EXPLODE WOOT!)
RichB:Itâ€™s quite and episode, in fact it put Next Generation on the map and people stopped saying it was just TOS clone. And I think it’s safe to say none of the following cliffhangers even came close to the excitement of this one. It truly does stand on its own as something unique and special. But they still tried. Speaking of that letâ€™s move on to the next seasonâ€™s cliff hanger.
In this episode the Klingon civil war reaches a head and Worf resigns so he can fight with them. And since the creators even knew that was a lame cliffhanger, the final scene we see the Romlan commander looks an awful lot like the late Tasha Yar. And this episode was real boring for me when I first saw it. I have seen it a few times since, and itâ€™s OK. Part 2 is better but still not great. The script was so dull they had to force some conflcts. For instance Data is in command of another vessel and the first officer has a huge bias against him, for some reason. What did they need that for? Itâ€™s not a Data episode! And gee big shock, Worf is back on duty by the end despite getting a huge sendoff. While it was nice to see that Klingon arc they had going finally end, this was a boring episode and a disappointing cliffhanger.
LES: Yeah, they didnâ€™t do much with the Commander Sela(Denise Crosby as a Romulan) story, eitherâ€¦.with the possible exception of the Spock episodeâ€¦that I suspect is worth a mentionâ€¦sure, Unification parts one and two arenâ€™t season cliffhangersâ€¦but the build up of having Mr. Spock on the show make it an episodal cliffhanger that paid off in the second part of the episodeâ€¦but I digress. In actuality, the Worf avenges his father Mogh in a late season episode of Deep Space Nine where he finally kills the last member of the House of Duras, so to fully appreciate the ongoing story of Mr. Worf, you really have to follow him all the way to the film: â€œStar Trek: First Contact.â€
RichB:Yeah at the time I hated Worf stories, but have come to appreciate them they were usually well written. Since it takes place before the next, yeah Unification was a good episode though the meeting of Picard and Spock was a bit of let down. But hey if you can get Leonard Nimoy on the show you can have him read poetry for all I care. Now to the next cliffhanger, which of course is :
Timeâ€™s Arrow (TNG)
This episode sets up a fantastic time travel premise, but the second part kind of falls flat. After Dataâ€™s head is found in San Francisco itâ€™s clear that Data will be sent back in time at some point and be killed. The investigation ends up sending Data back in time, where he meets a younger Guinan and Samuel Clemens. The cliffhanger is really nothing, just the crew entering the rift and vanishing into the past. I gotta agree with SF Debris on this one, the second half focuses to much on Clemens and doesnâ€™t really let us know who the villains are. As a result the suspense is pretty muted. The whole thing feels a little to easy, though the twist of Dataâ€™s head being years older than the rest of his body was kind of clever. Itâ€™s not a bad episode, in fact itâ€™s one of my favorite time travel episodes, but as a season ending cliffhanger it leaves a bit to be desired.
LES: Yeah, you nailed it, my friend. Anti-climactic finish and way too much emphasis on Mark Twainâ€¦.and Jack London, now that Iâ€™m thinking about it. The way this episode was set up had all the makings of another classic like â€œThe Guardian of Foreverâ€ episode from Star Trek TOS. As a matter of factâ€¦I believe Data homages it when he claims heâ€™s making a mnemonic memory circuit using stone knives and bearskinsâ€¦.
RichB:Star Trek loved setting up their cliffhangers with no idea how to end them, and in some episodes like this itâ€™s very obvious as part 2 feels like it takes a total different direction from part 1. Watch them both youâ€™ll see what I mean. Now on to
This was another Borg cliffhanger (yeah get used to me saying that) and this one was a bit dark. In fact, it doesnâ€™t even feel like a regular episode of TNG and unlike Best of Both Worldâ€™s I mean that in a bad way. The episode involves Data feeling anger, and in the end of the first part we see he has joined with Loreâ€“and a bunch of Borg! Honestly, once we see Lore the suspense is ruined. We know why Data has been acting weird and we know he will be back to normal at the end of the next episode somehow. Heck, the second episode doesnâ€™t even pretend to wonder how it happened as Picard asks Data if Lore is using the stolen emotion chip in the first two minutes! Itâ€™s also pretty weak as Borg episodes go, itâ€™s more of a Lore story and the Borg are almost irrelevant. I get the analogy to cults and all that but for the most part this episode is just uncomfortable and not a favorite of mine.
LES: Wellâ€¦it is very uneven to say the least. I did like one thing, and that was the way Dr. Crusher saved the ship(yeah, she was left in command facing a Borg shipâ€¦.). She didnâ€™t get many moments to be great on the show, but this was one of them.
RichB:Yeah but even that couldnâ€™t save this one. And to be fair that last scene with Geordi and Data was petty good too. Alright, so now we leave Next Generation and move on to Deep Space Nine. Where there is a small problem.
Call to Arms (DS9)
I talked last time about how Roseanne didnâ€™t need cliffhangers because the show had regular story lines. The same can be said about Deep Space Nine, the cliffhangers werenâ€™t special double episodes wrapped up nice and quickly but just extensions of the larger story. Still, I decided there were two worth discussing and this is one. It was basically the offical start of the actual war, after a few seasons of teases, and itâ€™s a tense episode. For once we feel the weight of the situation. The real amazing part is that this is not, as I assumed when I first saw it, nearly tied up in the next episode. This was the beginning of an SIX episode arc before we finally saw the events in this one tied up. The Dominion war was a treated very seriously and there was actual a feeling that Federation could lose! That was what made DS9 so different and so well liked by itâ€™s fans.
LES: Oh, without question. Deep Space Nine was a show you couldnâ€™t really watch willy-nilly. You needed to follow it from the start and not miss any episodesâ€¦and, for the most part, that time isnâ€™t wasted. That long running story line was very well thought out and I can only think of one other science fiction show that did a better job of this: Babylon 5â€¦but thatâ€™s for another discussion. Call to Arms psyched you out to see the upcoming action and drama of the Dominion War, which was dark, brutal and never dull.
RichB:Indeed my friend! As someone who tried to be a casual viewer I failed miserable.
Tears of the Prophets/Images in the Sand (DS9)
And things really got serious in this 6th season finale. As we see the story lines start to heat up. The war is still going on and in fact will still be going when this episode is over. We also see Dukat become one with the Pah Wraiths or whatever they are, and manage to close the wormhole! Itâ€™s quite an intense episode but the most controversial part is that popular character Jadzia Dax is killed off. This was because Terry Farell was leaving, and the death is considered one of the biggest cases of character assassination ever on a Trek series. She is killed easily with very little struggle and in such a â€œnon heroicâ€ it makes poor Tashaâ€™s death look noble. The cliffhanger is basically, what happens next? It takes two episodes to fix this mess as we meet a new Dax and Sisko manages to restore the wormhole. Honestly I didnâ€™t see both of these episode because I was getting bored with this show by then. But the war would continue until the series finale before it was finally resolved after two full seasons!!!
LES: Yeah, Dukat becoming one with the Pah Wraiths was a chilling moment and a powerful moment of tragedy for poor Jadzia. It took me quite a while to warm up to Ezri Dax, but I finally did when she came to terms with Worf.
RichB:I never really liked her, but that’s another discussion. So letâ€™s move on to the hit or miss Voyager. I admit I liked Voyager though I do get why many did not. Itâ€™s a guilty pleasure to be sure. The first big cliffhanger they had was really coolâ€¦.for the first half anyway.
What happened? Oh nothing, the crew just lose Voyager and get abandoned on an alien planet! Gotta be honest, thatâ€™s a hell of a set up. To bad the follow up episode fails to really deliver. The solution is a little easy and most of the suspense doesnâ€™t go anywhere. This can be blamed for the story they had in mind being changed before they filmed the episode. They even killed off Seska who was one of the interesting things this show has going for it. Though I thought the Kazon were boring. This is a pretty regular thing for Voyager, set up a great premise in part one but fail to do anything with it in part 2.
So Les were you a Voyager fan?
LES: Well, I was a Voyager fan a lot more when they deep-sized Kes and brought Seven of Nine on boardâ€¦and not just because she was sexy as hellâ€¦.no, reallyâ€¦.Iâ€™M BEING SERIOUS! Seven of Nine is one of the most interesting characters in the whole Star Trek universe. A Borg Drone since about age 6, sheâ€™s freed from the collective and spends the rest of the series recovering her humanityâ€¦THATâ€™S GOOD STUFF, my friends. Voyager took the requisite 3 seasons to find itâ€™s groove. I hated the Kazonâ€¦and the Phage aliensâ€¦â€Scorpionâ€ was when it all got better. when Q showed up, that also boosted the showâ€¦
RichB:No argument there my friend. I was only a passive fan before Seven of Nine. She made me a full fledged fan. Not because she was hot but because she was an interesting character. Jeri Ryan played her perfectly! Basics was very much early Voyager and it was OK, The next cliffhanger was a lot better. While the â€œcliffhangerâ€ part was only so-so on the whole the episode worked.
This is generally considered the best Voyager episode of them all. And I agree, I guess. The set up is pretty good tooâ€¦what if The Borg encountered an alien race tougher than they are? Thatâ€™s what happened as we met Species 8472. The cliffhanger is Janeway on the Borg trying to reach a deal so that Voyager can help them defeat this threat. Yeah, not much of a cliffhanger really. It feels more like a commercial break with no real suspense. The second half wasnâ€™t bad, but you just know this isnâ€™t how the idea was supposed to go. We meet Seven of Nine here and the episode ends pretty well. There is action, good dialogue between Janeway and Chakotay, and the episode does basically work. Itâ€™s a Borg episode sure, but it doesnâ€™t feel like a copy of Best of Both Worldâ€™s or as forced as Descent was (here The Borg make sense, there it could have been any alien race Lore found and took over). This is also the start of when Voyager would get lots better even though they ended up shafting Species 8472, but thatâ€™s another discussion.
LES: I honestly think that Janeway was the better captain to fight the Borg. She definitely got the better episodes that had far more satisfying endings that were at least as good as, if not better than â€œThe Best of Both Worlds.â€ I do agree with you that Species 8427 shouldâ€™ve gotten a better storyline, they were the Star Trek equivalent of Babylon 5â€™s Shadowsâ€¦.but I digressâ€¦sorryâ€¦ahem! I also liked how Seven of Nineâ€™s storyline wasnâ€™t finished in the next episode but a running plot that kept getting better and better.
RichB: It sure did she was an awesome character. And by the way why do so many people, like SFDebris, hate Janeway so much anyway? I thought she rocked!! Anyway, from the good to the not so goodâ€¦.
This episode is summed with one word-forgettable. It tries so hard and accomplishes so little. The crew discover yet another Federation ship in the Delta Quadrant. Ok I can get behind that. But the Equinox crew have advanced their tech by torturing some alien life forms they found. And now those alien form are pissed! Yeah the episode is a big ethics lesson and, again, the second half is rushed. The cliffhanger is the Voyager crew under attack and it looks like Janeway was attacked! This is because of the possibility Mulgrew would not return, but she did and the crew is fine. Scorpion works because Janeway was struggling with a major choice which would impact her life and her crew. Here, nothing is at stake and that makes the episode just boring. Itâ€™s also another argument between Chakoway and Janeway, which doesnâ€™t work because they seem only have these arguments during season finaleâ€™s and it never goes anywhere.
LES: Yep, good summation. Iâ€™ve nothing to add to it.
RichB: Lol! That pretty much says it all my friend
Ok so letâ€™s move on to one which is even worst (at least Equinox tried something different)
Unimatrix Zero (VOY)
This cliffhanger involves the Borg, and the captain getting assimilatedâ€¦.wait, where have I heard that before? Oh yeah Best of Both Worldâ€™s. Well anyway, Voyager encounters Borg who remember their individuality and want to leave the collective. Wait, wasnâ€™t that sort of Descent? Um, Janeway agrees to work with these drones to help them,â€¦.kind of like she did in Scorpionâ€¦But wait the Borg Queen confronts the captain and the captain decides she has to destroy herâ€¦kind of like First Contact.
Yeah sarcasm aside this episode is like they took every other Borg episode and blended them together to make this crapfest. Where Scorpion tries to explore new territory this is just rehash (not to mention the THIRD Voyager Borg two-parter) and while the shock value of seeing Janeway, Tuvok, and Torres assimilated was strong, it is quickly squashed when you realize they are fine mentally. Heck the cliffhanger is barely a cliffhanger since the next episode picks up hours later!!
Ok, there is one scene I do like at the end. Seven of Nine enters and Janeway (recovering from being assimilated) notes how hard it has been on her these last few years. The look on Sevenâ€™s face is priceless. This episode sucked.
LES: LMAO!â€¦I may have liked this episode a bit moreâ€¦but not much! Youâ€™re absolutely right. Itâ€™s 3 different Borg stories already told in one episode, and as such, fails to be one good story, but a hodgepodge of a train wreck. The one good thing in it is the Borg Queen(originally played by Alice Krige in First Contact, and by Susanna Thompson for all but the series finale of Voyager).
RichB:Yeah this episode just didnâ€™t work for me. Did I mention the series finale was the FOURTH two part BORG episode this series did? I was all for Borg on Voyager but man did they squeeze every drop they could out of those villains. Fans are right when they say Voyager ruined them.
Anyway my friend, I hate to do this to you but do you have any thoughts on “That other Star Trek show”, Enterprise?
LES:I never saw the entire run of Enterpriseâ€¦.and didnâ€™t even get through the first season all the wayâ€¦..I did see their Borg episode and it was exceptional
RichB:Yeah that episode was ok, to be fairÂ a few of them were but Enterprise is best forgotten and their cliffhangers were all crap as was the series. I don’t blame you for never watching it. So what do you say we end here. It has been lots of fun going through these episode with you, I hope we can do it again real soon.
LES: Thanks a lot, my friend. Itâ€™s always fun working with you. Peace.
Well my friends as you can see, cliffhanger’s can be good and bad. The bottom line, they bring the viewers back and if done right even get them talking about the show. Maybe some other time I will get into regular multi part episodes, but for now that’s it my friends. It has been a lot of fun doing these 501 blogs, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as much as I have creating them. What’s next? Only time will tell.
Till next time, be good to yourselves.