For many fans, Star Trek’s core episodic nature is a part of the franchise appeal, and sometimes why they might not have been able to enjoy DS9 and Enterprise as much as TOS, TNG or Voyager ( or The Next Next Generation as JD and Fez would say). For me personally I have always loved DS9 and Enterprise for having these huge story arcs that would span multiple episodes if not seasons. They made it so you were going on this long adventure with them. If you stuck with it and watched every episode then you were always in for a huge treat at the end. It really helped build the excitement and anticipation; it made the week drag because you couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen. Though Enterprise and DS9 embraced the continuing story arcs, the rest of the series left me feeling slightly disappointed that they couldn’t deviate from the formula to which they all had to adhere. This isn’t something that I felt back in the day, this is something that has grown within me over the years since they finished.
Now I know alot of people will argue that this episodic nature is exactly what made the series so approachable for new viewers and for any fans who may have missed a few episodes or even seasons. I agree, being so episodic meant that you could easily jump in or out of the series at your own pleasure. However, don’t you ever wish you could just see how the decisions of the crew of the Enterprise really affected the people species they had met 2 years ago, the Mintakens for example. Now I know what you are going to say, “What are you talking about, they did that all the time!” Trust me I remember when they revisited certain characters or places (The Borg, Seska, The Crystaline Entity, The Mudd brothers, Hugh, Lore). In fact my favourite one of these call backs is simply the connection Picard made with Lt.Cmd Daren over their love for music and he shares his Ressikan flute with her. This is probably my favourite because not only is “The Inner Light” my favourite episode ever but it in moments it took me back to the very emotions I felt when I first watched Picard’s life on Kataan unfold.
Speaking of “The Inner Light,” this episode brings up exactly what I felt the series lacked. Being such an episodic series, our crews would go on so many wonderful adventures and quite often find themselves in unquestionably life changing events. Except it never really had an impact by the time that the next episode roles around. There was one episode that I felt managed to capture the magnitude of the previous episode, and it was “Family”. In “Family” Picard is struggling to come to terms with how he had been violated by The Borg and isn’t managing to assimilate back into his normal life (pun intended). Seeing Jean-Luc being so vulnerable and deeply affected by everything that happened made him more human, which in turn for me made him more relateable and a stronger character. Things are forgotten far too easily, I’m not saying that every adventure needs to be followed by a “Family” episode. However, they need to be recognised and remembered.
Now back to my example of “The Inner Light.” Our captain has spent an entire life time on an alien planet, he has made friends, had a wife, children, grandchildren, he has had ones that he loved die and watched the planet he come to know as home slowly become less inhabitable. Yet when he is ripped from this existence, by the next week he is over it and is back to his good old self. What is wrong with people in the 24th century, do they suffer from short term memory loss or are they hardened to these events as they are a daily occurance?
So how do we fix this unrealistic ignorance of past events? Simple, talk about it! I’m not saying that every mission needs to be discussed in following weeks, but there are these big events that do. How easy would it have been to have Picard sitting down in his ready room or maybe having dinner with Beverly just talking about some of the things he experienced on Kataan and debating whether he made the right decision to be a career man and forgoing a family life. This could be altered for any character in any situation. For example, the writers could have shown Data discussing Lal with Geordi whilst they are on the holodeck, Riker coming to terms with having a clone whilst having a drink with Guinan or Troi bragging about pulling off a convincing Tal Shiar impression.
There have been plenty of under par sub plots that go on behind the episodes’ main event, wouldn’t it be logical to insert something a little more meaningful instead?