The Next Generation (TNG) Season 6
Realm of Fear -
Man of the People - Relics -
Schisms - True Q -
A Fistful of Datas - The Quality of Life - Chain of Command I/II - Ship in a Bottle
Aquiel - Face of the Enemy - Tapestry - Birthright I/II - Starship Mine - Lessons - The Chase
Frame of Mind - Suspicions - Rightful Heir - Second Chances - Timescape - Descent I/II
Time's Arrow II
See TNG season 5
Stardate 46041.1: Lieutenant Barclay is afraid of using the transporter. He only takes the "bumpy ride" over to the disabled USS Yosemite after talking to Counselor Troi. While he is being beamed back, Barclay is confronted with his worst fear when creatures like huge maggots touch him in mid-transport. Barclay is aware that no one would believe him anyway and keeps the story secret. He thinks that he suffers from transporter psychosis that made him hallucinate the creatures. But then he discovers that the spot where a creature touched him is glowing. He orders O'Brien to take him into the matter stream again, where he courageously grabs one of the creatures. It turns out that it is one of the missing Yosemite crew members. The crew was trying to cleanse themselves of microbes that got caught in the transporter beam, upon which they got stuck themselves. Worf and a security team save three more of the Yosemite crew.
The most noteworthy thing about this episode is that we learn quite a bit about the working principle of the transporter and its side effects, and that we see the process from the perspective of the transported person for the first time. It becomes obvious that a person remains conscious in the matter stream in some fashion, despite being decomposed molecule by molecule. The idea of taking care of the fear of being transported is particularly interesting. Like Barclay, McCoy and Pulaski were not happy using the transporter, but in their cases it was more like a curious side note that they would prefer to take a shuttle. It never had a real impact on the story. Barclay's transporter phobia, in contrast, is worked out nicely. When he queries the symptoms of transporter psychosis, finding that they would all apply in his case, his hypochondriac reaction is priceless. I only think that the story development is too sluggish. During much of the episode Barclay is just feeling uncomfortable, while Geordi is conducting an investigation, which I find rather tiresome.
Other than that, "Realm of Fear" doesn't catch my interest. It seems that the Enterprise runs into disabled Miranda- or Oberth-class vessels every few weeks, whose crews have died or vanished under mysterious circumstances. Likewise, it is a very unoriginal idea that microscopic lifeforms are responsible for a malfunction of Starfleet's technology yet again. And despite the well-meant attempts at explanation it doesn't feel very realistic that the crew members of the science ship would survive in the matter stream for so long (which was never their intention).
- In this episode it becomes very clear that O'Brien (who wore lieutenant pips at the beginning of TNG and still in TNG: "Family") is no longer supposed to be an officer, but subordinated to Barclay. O'Brien is now wearing an empty pip, obviously denoting a rank lower than ensign, and he calls Barclay "sir".
- The Heisenberg compensators of the transporter system are mentioned for the first time. They apparently serve to compensate for the quantum uncertainty in the transported matter.
- Barclay will mutate to a spider in TNG: "Genesis".
- Remarkable scenery: The plasma streamer in the Igo system is re-used from TNG: "Evolution".
- Remarkable scene: O'Brien brings his eight-legged friend Christina to Ten Forward to show her to Barclay (who said he was never afraid of spiders). O'Brien then leaves to get a drink, and Christina climbs up Barclay's arm.
- Transporter psychosis was first diagnosed in 2209, but it hasn't been reported for more for 50 years, since the multiplex pattern buffers were perfected. The symptoms are "paranoid delusions, multi-infarct dementia, hallucinations... Victims experience somatic, tactile and visual hallucinations, accompanied by psychogenic hysteria. Peripheral symptoms include sleeplessness, accelerated heart rate, diminished eyesight leading to acute myopia, painful spasms in the extremities, and in most cases, dehydration." There is no known cure.
- O'Brien says he once had to work in a Jefferies tube that was occupied by Talarian hook spiders with 50cm long legs. After that he was no longer afraid of spiders.
Stardate 46071.6: Lumerian ambassador Alkar comes aboard the Enterprise to conduct peace talks between Rekag and Seronia. He is accompanied by his unsympathetic mother Maylor, who tells the baffled Deanna not to pursue her son. Maylor dies some time later. Alkar performs what he calls a "funeral ritual" with Deanna, and soon she exhibits a strange behavior and, moreover, begins to age rapidly. Alkar actually uses Troi as a "receptacle" to dump his negative emotions on her, in order to keep his own mind clear for his negotiations. Maylor was not Alkar's mother but just his previous victim. Picard and Beverly fake Deanna's death, so that Alkar would have to seek a new victim among his aides, but they have her beamed out in time. There is no one Alkar could link to. He ages quickly and dies just like his victims.
"Man of the People" doesn't feel like an episode of the sixth season. It repeats all the mistakes from early TNG. Most obviously the plot abounds with stereotypes. We've got yet another peace mission on a faceless planet-of-the-week, yet another mediator who is the only one the two factions would accept, yet another high-ranking guest who is keeping his true nature a secret, yet another time of suffering for Deanna, and yet another miraculously fast recovery. The story is so bland that it was apparently deemed necessary to cheer it up with Deanna being horny (when she takes the young crewman to her quarters) and violent (when she hurts Picard with a knife). Kudos to Marina Sirtis, who mastered the unusual challenge (still better than in "Power Play"), yet it feels gratuitous.
There are only a few interesting aspects about the story. I like the scene in which Deanna, already under Alkar's influence, is very uncooperative to the young female officer who is seeking her advice. More than most that we have seen of Deanna's work before, this shows how important the counselor's position is on a ship with 1000 crew members, as someone who cares for their individual problems.
I also appreciate how it is Riker all the time who is concerned about Deanna's misbehavior. Although the course of action is predictable, surprisingly the episode becomes quite exciting towards the end when Picard, against all orders, decides to end Alkar's misdeeds and to help Deanna. He first allows Beverly to perform the autopsy on the body of Alkar's "mother", then takes Alkar to task for his unethical actions, and eventually approves of Beverly's plan to save Deanna at the expense of Alkar's life. Although it doesn't make the medical miracle in any way more credible, it is quite satisfactory to see the poetic justice when Alkar ages as Deanna is regaining her youth.
Regarding Ves Alkar's ability to dump his "darker thoughts", the women that he connects himself with serve much the same function as Armus in "Skin of Evil". It is disappointing in hindsight that Deanna doesn't feel anything wrong about Alkar's "mother" but her malevolence, something that was obvious to everyone without being empathic. I would have wished for her to be a bit more apprehensive.
I also have a problem with the morality of the episode. Ves Alkar transfers his "unwanted emotions" to his "receptacles". These include jealousy and mistrust, but also sexual drive. While the latter may be an impediment in his work, it can also be interpreted as "being horny is bad", especially since sex is hinted at only when immoral guests are aboard (just as in Okona's case).
- Continuity: Worf's mok'bara class appears for the second time after "Clues".
- Remarkable ship: The Dorian is a re-use of the Angosian ship from TNG: "The Hunted", and as such, of the Straleb vessel from TNG: "The Outrageous Okona".
- Remarkable fact: Lumerians are empaths, but only among their own kind.
Stardate 46125.3: The Enterprise discovers a Dyson sphere, an immense artificial structure built around a star. The starship USS Jenolan has crashed on this sphere, and surprisingly its transporter is still operating in a continuous diagnostic cycle after 75 years, preserving the pattern of one survivor: Captain Montgomery Scott. Scotty is sad that he isn't of much help in the 24th century, so Picard assigns him to help Geordi examine the Jenolan, while the Enterprise continues the study of the Dyson sphere. The Enterprise, however, is drawn into the sphere when the automated doors are accidentally activated. On the Jenolan Scotty and Geordi devise a plan to free the Enterprise by reactivating their ship and using it as a "doorstop". The Enterprise escapes, and the two officers are beamed out from the Jenolan just before the Enterprise destroys it with torpedoes, in order to clear the door. Picard borrows Scotty a shuttle so that he can engage in new adventures in the 24th century.
Arguably no other TNG episode is so full of trivia. There are references to Montgomery Scott's past ships, crewmates and missions, as well as allusions to how he made his work look like miracles of engineering. The story draws on Scotty's glorious past and on his present problems to get accustomed with the 24th century and to be useful again. I am glad that it doesn't get completely lost in nostalgia or "continuity porn". This is because Scotty's guest character is embedded in an intelligent plot, one that would have been great even without his presence.
Just as well as from the inimitable James Doohan, the episode benefits from the bold concept of the Dyson sphere, the by far biggest artificial structure ever featured on Star Trek. Although it is a mystery how it could have been built (it would have required to completely demolish thousands of planets), the concept is credibly presented. The Dyson sphere clearly stands out from the many ancient civilizations, energy lifeforms or anomalies of the week. The only slight disappointment is that we never learn who built the Dyson sphere. But this is not the fault of this episode but rather of the fact that no one bothered to care for a follow-up.
Still, I think the episode should have been a two-parter, which would have given more time to develop the story, to involve more members of the TNG crew and to wrap up everything. I am usually not a fan of filler scenes, but I would have loved to see how Scotty speaks with Troi (a scene that was cut from the episode), how crew members assemble around the living legend in Ten Forward or how Picard talks with Scotty about Spock's Romulan mission. More time could also have alleviated the problems with the uneven plot development pertaining to the Dyson sphere (which is too much subordinated to the one about Scotty) and with the prevalence of technobabble in this episode.
Despite some small problems, each time I watch "Relics", it is an entertaining, heartwarming, informative and also thrilling experience.
Nitpicking: Scotty says, "The Enterprise? I should have known. I bet Jim Kirk himself hauled the old girl out of mothballs to come looking for me." However, in "Star Trek Generations" Scotty will witness Captain Kirk's apparent death in the Nexus. This isn't a really hard error, because who wouldn't be confused after 75 years in a transporter?
The Enterprise has only the thrusters to evade the central star of the Dyson sphere and enter its orbit at as few as 150,000 kilometers. In a later scene solar flares of increasing intensity threaten to destroy the ship with its weakened shields. There is no mention of whether the propulsion systems are functional again. It looks like the Enterprise is still in low orbit around the star. Yet, the impression is created that the ship could escape immediately if only the gate could be opened again. What about moving the ship away from the solar flares, closer to the inner surface? But this doesn't actually happen until Geordi signals that the Jenolan is keeping the gate open (the impulse engines now having 60% power).
Geordi and Scotty are beamed through the shields of the Jenolan. Perhaps they transmitted the frequency so the Enterprise transporter could get a lock.
- Continuity: Scotty mentions the events from TOS: "Elaan of Troyius" (where Elaan complained about the size of her quarters), "Wolf in the Fold" (where Scotty "got into a wee bit of trouble" - a wee bit of an understatement) and "The Naked Now" (when he had to come up with a new procedure to start the engines while the ship was spiraling). Data doesn't recognize the Aldebaran whisky that Picard gave to Guinan, and describes it to Scotty with the words: "It is... it is... it is green", just like Scotty in TOS: "By Any Other Name". Finally, Geordi tells Scotty of the baby space whale whose milk he soured in TNG: "Galaxy's Child".
- "Yeah, well I told the Captain I'd have this analysis done in an hour." - "How long will it really take?" - "An hour." - "You didn't tell him how long it would really take, did you?" - "Of course I did." (Geordi and Scotty)
- "There have been five Federation ships with that name. Please specify by registry number." - "NCC One Seven Oh One. No bloody A, B, C - or D." (Computer and Scotty)
- "The first ship I ever served aboard as captain was called the Stargazer. It was an overworked, underpowered vessel, always on the verge of flying apart at the seams. In every measurable sense, my Enterprise is far superior. But there are times when I would give almost anything to command the Stargazer again." - "It's like the first time you fall in love. You don't ever love a woman quite like that again. Well, to the Enterprise and the Stargazer. Old girlfriends we'll never meet again." (Picard and Scotty)
- "Shunt the deuterium from the main cryopump to the auxiliary tank." - "The tank can't withstand that kind of pressure." - "Where'd you get that idea?" - "What do you mean, where did I get that idea? It's in the impulse engine specifications." - "Regulation 42/15, pressure variances on IRC tank storage?" - "Yeah." - "Forget it. I wrote it. A good engineer is always a wee bit conservative, at least on paper. Just bypass the secondary cut-off valve and boost the flow. It'll work." (Scotty and Geordi)
- "Do you mind a little advice? Starfleet captains are like children. They want everything right now and they want it their way, but the secret is to give them only what they need, not what they want." (Scotty, to Geordi)
- "It is... it is... it is green." (Data, about the Aldebaran whisky)
- Remarkable joke(?): Data reports that the distress signal is from the USS Jenolan, a ship missing for 75 years. Riker immediately orders, "Code one alpha zero. Ship in distress." He's always been quite an optimist.
- Remarkable set: A partial set of the original Enterprise bridge was built for the episode. The wide shot of the empty bridge comes from TOS: "This Side of Paradise".
- Remarkable ship: The Jenolan was built using the executive shuttle from "Star Trek VI" and additional warp nacelles. There are additional modifications to the model, such as a bridge module. There is not the slightest doubt this is a fully fledged starship, and not a runabout as perpetuated in official publications. Moreover, if the Jenolan were less than 30m long, the diameter of the shield bubble would have been barely 80m, definitely not high enough for the Enterprise to pass through the already closing gate. The correct (and intended) spelling is "Jenolan".
- Remarkable effect: The visual effect and sound of the Jenolan transporter are the ones from TOS (rather than from the TOS movies).
- Dyson sphere facts: "In the twentieth century, a physicist called Freeman Dyson, postulated the theory that an enormous hollow sphere could be constructed around a star. This would have the advantage of harnessing all the radiant energy of that star. A population living on the interior surface would have virtually inexhaustible sources of power." (Captain Picard) The exterior shell is composed of carbon neutronium, impervious to the Enterprise's weapons. The central star is of the G type. There also appears to be a Class-M atmosphere clinging to the interior surface. The interior surface area is over 10^16 square kilometers. This is the equivalent of more than 250 million Class-M planets.
- Captain Scott facts: Scotty served on two Enterprises (-nil and -A). The first Enterprise was also the first ship he ever served on as chief engineer. He served aboard eleven ships: freighters, cruisers, starships. Before he retired, he was a Starfleet engineer for 52 years. He was a passenger on the Jenolan on the way to the Norpin colony. When the ship crashed and he was one of only two survivors, he locked the transporter unit in a diagnostic mode so it would just send his and Franklin's matter through the pattern buffer. Whereas Franklin didn't survive, his own pattern degraded by only 0.003% and could be retrieved.
- The duotronic enhancers of the transporter system were replaced with isolinear chips about 40 years before the episode. They are a lot more efficient.
- Synthehol (first mentioned in TNG: "Family") "is an alcohol substitute now being served aboard starships. It simulates the appearance, taste and smell of alcohol, but the intoxicating affects can be easily dismissed." (Data)
- There is a Constitution-class vessel in the Fleet Museum, according to Picard.
Stardate 46154.2: For several days Commander Riker is suffering from inexplicable exhaustion, along with amnesia and paranoia, as if he didn't get enough sleep. Some more crew members are plagued by similar symptoms, including Worf and Geordi. In the holodeck Deanna reconstructs what seems to be a common memory of all victims: an alien lab of some kind. Beverly's examination shows that Riker's arm was severed and reattached by someone. In addition, Data's memory of ninety minutes is missing, and there are strange readings of subspace energy in a cargo bay. The crew members were abducted to an unknown place, possibly somewhere in subspace. One of them dies after his return because his blood was turned into a polymer. Armed with a stimulant and a homing beacon, Riker volunteers to track where the missing people are being taken. He is abducted into subspace once more and wakes up in a lab with solanogen-based creatures. They are trying to keep the rupture open that Geordi wants to seal in order to prevent further damage to the ship. While the lifeforms are being distracted, Riker grabs the last missing crewmate and dashes back as the rupture closes.
At first sight, there does not seem to be much special about "Schisms". Its basic idea, regarding Riker's sleep problems, reminded me very much of "Night Terrors" when I first saw it, an episode that I didn't care for very much. In this light it was definitely a good decision of the authors of "Schisms" to focus on a side plot at first (Data's problems of putting emotions into his poetry), and to develop the main plot quite slowly. While it is unusual to see Riker in disarray, we can't really tell whether this will important or whether he just needs more sleep or perhaps another vacation on Risa. Well, the crew's nightmares and the malfunctions on the ship are overused ideas at this point of the series. But the writing is skillful in that it gradually increases the suspense, from Riker's sleepiness over Worf's sudden panic when he sees Mr. Mot's scissors to the key scene of the episode, the eerie reconstruction of the alien lab in the holodeck. After "A Matter of Perspective" and "Identity Crisis" the holodeck proves to be great tool for crime scene reconstruction once again, and even more impressively than before.
Overall, the story proves that a horror motive may be incorporated in an intelligent fashion and that it doesn't need people running through shady corridors with rifles fighting scary creatures, like it will be commonplace in the later Star Trek series. There are scary aliens, but they don't appear until the very end of the episode. Until then, the horror just takes place in the crew's minds and is absolutely credibly presented without any particularly gruesome visuals. The episode's score and the unusual camera positions and movements (often filming from the ceiling) add perfectly to the overall mood.
In the end, the impression is created that the aliens, who have left something like a probe in our universe, would return in a future episode. But as it was already with the creatures in TNG: "Conspiracy", this won't happen. A missed opportunity in both cases, as I think.
- When Riker seeks Dr. Crusher's advice about his sleepiness, she mentions to him a possible lack of REM sleep (as experienced by the crew in TNG: "Night Terrors"), as well as Picard's Aunt Adele's recipe for hot milk toddy (which Picard mentioned to her in TNG: "Cause and Effect").
- The Enterprise explores the Amargosa Diaspora. In "Generations" there will be space station in the Amargosa system, and Soran will blow up the central star of that system.
- Remarkable technobabble: "It appears to be composed of spatially inverted tetryon particles. We believe they are emanating from a tertiary subspace manifold." (Data)
- Remarkable poem: Data recites his "Ode to Spot".
Ode to Spot
Felis catus is your taxonomic nomenclature,
an endothermic quadruped, carnivorous by nature.
Your visual, olfactory, and auditory senses,
contribute to your hunting skills, and natural defenses.
I find myself intrigued, by your subvocal oscillations,
a singular development of cat communications,
that obviates your basic hedonistic predilection,
for a rhythmic stroking of your fur, to demonstrate affection.
A tail is quite essential, for your acrobatic talents.
You would not be so agile, if you lacked its counterbalance,
and when not being utilized to aid in locomotion,
it often serves to illustrate, the state of your emotion.
Oh Spot, the complex levels of behavior you display,
connote a fairly well developed cognitive array,
and though you are not sentient, Spot, and do not comprehend,
I nonetheless consider you, a true, and valued, friend.
- Remarkable critique: "Well, it was very well constructed, a virtual tribute to form." (Geordi, about Data's poems)
- Remarkable scene: Everyone is observably bored by Data's poems, not just Riker who can barely keep his eyes open. Captain Picard and Ensign Jae raise from their seats, ready to leave, when Data announces his ninth poem to their displeasure. During Data's recital of "Ode to Spot", Riker eventually dozes off. Troi wakes him, upon which Riker spontaneously applauds.
- Remarkable facts: The alien lifeforms are solanogen-based, but no further information is given on what this actually means. In order to examine our universe, they couldn't come to our space. Instead of that, they created a pocket of our space in subspace to keep those they abducted alive. This raises the question why they could exist in this pocket of space, rather than coming to our space themselves.
- Crew death: Lt. Edward Hagler
Stardate 46192.3: Young Amanda comes to the Enterprise for an internship. She has only recently discovered that she possesses supernatural powers, which she shows impressively when she stops a warp core breach on the ship. Q appears and claims that the girl is a member of the Q Continuum. It was him who initiated the warp core breach, in order to test her abilities. Q wants to take Amanda back but then agrees to let her decide on her own where she would like to stay. When Data discovers that her parents, members of the Continuum who posed as humans, were killed by a very localized tornado that should have been prevented by the weather control system, Q has to admit that they were actually executed for being renegades - which included begetting Amanda the natural human way. The girl is furious about this and is determined to refrain from using her powers to stay with the humans. That seems an easy task until Amanda can't help intervening in a planetary disaster on Tagra IV, and sadly realizes the best choice for all is for her to go live among her own kind.
I remember that when I first watched this episode more than 20 years ago, I liked it more than today. I enjoyed watching how cute Amanda (Olivia d'Abo) playfully explored the possibilities of being a Q. While I still think that Amanda is cute, I can't find so much special about the Q games any more. They are much like in the various previous and later Q-themed episodes. And speaking of previous Q stories, watching how Amanda discovers her powers and the problems that come with them is very reminiscent of Riker's very similar temptation in "Hide and Q". I think anyway that, rather than on Amanda's own experiences, the story focuses a bit too much on how other people, namely Q on one side and Crusher and Picard on the other side, are competing with each other, in helping Amanda discover what they think is the right way for her. While I like Picard's stance that Amanda should decide for herself and how he defends it against Q, he could be a bit less preachy in getting across his points. As Q expresses it felicitously, "Jean-Luc, sometimes I think the only reason I come here is to listen to these wonderful speeches of yours."
Despite the above (slight) reservations I still like the part about Amanda and about how everyone cares for her welfare (or pretends to do just that). While the episode is rather not a highlight in terms of acting, it is a good example of how the writers have learned to work with the established characters, including Q in this case, and how the actors fill out these roles. This shows especially in comparison with the aforementioned earlier Q episodes. I also like that after some time Dr. Crusher plays a significant role again. It is perhaps a bit too stereotypically that of a caring mother, but I think Gates McFadden's chemistry with Olivia d'Abo works very well.
What I don't like at all about "True Q" is the awfully boring disaster relief story. The Enterprise is on such missions every few weeks as it seems, but in this case it is particularly repetitive and accordingly uninspiring because it is much the same as in two previous Q episodes, namely "Déjà Q" and the already mentioned "Hide and Q".
- Okay, this time it is not an accident. But as already in "Ethics", still no one cares to secure cargo containers.
- Data was going to say something very wrong. But fortunately the impending warp core breach prevented him from finishing this sentence: "We are presently generating 12.75 billion gigawatts per..." [per hour, I presume].
- "But if she really is Q, she must understand what that means. Very well, I will introduce you. But we cannot argue like this in front of her. We must at least appear to be..." - "Pals?" [Q puts his arm around Picard's shoulder] - "Civil." - "I knew I could count on you, Jean-Luc." (Picard and Q)
- "She was being impetuous. She'll just have to start behaving like a Q." - "If I'm not mistaken, she just did." (Q and Picard)
- "I hope I can come back and see you." - "You're a Q. You can do anything you want." (Amanda and Beverly - I would have liked to se the follow-up)
- Remarkable quote: "How do you stand that hair all over his face?" (Q, to Amanda, about Riker)
- Q transforms the angry Beverly into a barking dog.
- Amanda finds Q, whose hiding place is outside the ship, standing on the engineering hull.
- Amanda takes Riker to a romantic pavilion, and makes him fall in love with her.
- Remarkable fact: On Earth, possible hazardous weather conditions such as tornadoes are usually dissipated by the weather modification net.
Stardate 46235.7: After they have been beamed off a shuttlecraft that was breaking up in an energy field, Captain Picard, Ro Laren, Keiko O'Brien, and Guinan are turned into the physical equivalents of twelve-year-old children. When Picard notices that the crew have a problem accepting his new appearance, he transfers command of the ship to Riker for the time being. The Enterprise, however, runs into a trap and is captured by renegade Ferengi. While most of the adults are beamed off the ship to work in a mine for the Ferengi, the four apparent children stay on aboard, together with the actual children. Picard poses as "Number One's" son and Riker gets him access to the children's computer in the school room while confusing his Ferengi guard with technobabble. The four "children", supported by Alexander, beam the Ferengi into confinement. O'Brien and Beverly finally find a method to reverse the rejuvenation, using the transporter.
It is a corny idea to start with to turn crew members of the ship into children. Well, it had been done before in TAS: "The Counter-Clock Incident", but trying the same in a live-action series clearly was a whole new ballgame. Despite the silliness that lies in the very premise, the first half of the episode, the story about Picard, Keiko O'Brien, Guinan and Ro Laren being reduced to children doesn't turn out bad at all. It has its funny moments, but it's not too much aimed at comedy. In fact, there is a profundity in how everyone of them has to cope with being a child again, of a kind we wouldn't expect from reading the synopsis.
In the beginning we may still wonder why the authors picked three regular guest characters (Keiko, Guinan and Ro) as Picard's fellow victims, instead of someone else of the principal cast. But the story gradually answers that question. Keiko is a great choice, because she was previously shown as a wife and mother, and it becomes obvious in a quite emotional way that her husband Miles and her daughter Molly have more than slight problems with her being a child. Well, that part of the story could have worked with Miles O'Brien being downsized just as well. Regarding Guinan, it was foreseeable that she would have the least problems to adapt to her new situation, not only because she survived the Borg and has a unique perception of time, but also because there has always been something easy and unconstrained about Guinan. I like child actress Isis J. Jones very much in the role of young Guinan. Not only does she look like her older counterpart, she is also very credible as an adult woman who has preserved for herself the soul of a child and enjoys to be just what she looks like as a child. Well, Ro's transformation from a disillusioned adult to a girl who relives her childhood isn't quite as credible. I like the scene when Ro joins Guinan who is jumping around on the bed. This is still in character, but Ro's desire to stay a kid and keep drawing with crayons in the end overstretches the idea in my view.
Half of the episode isn't bad at all. But the story goes downhill the very moment the two Birds-of-Prey decloak. On the bright side, this twist is totally unexpected (or would be, without seeing any trailers or reading spoilers). But everything about the Ferengi taking over the ship is utterly silly and incredible. We are supposed to believe that the flagship of the Federation, under full power, could be outgunned by two small outdated Klingon vessels. What happened to the shields that they go down after just two or three lucky shots? What happened to returning fire more than once? What happened to arming the crew? What happened to putting up a fight? A dozen stupid Ferengi beam over, and a crew of 1014 just stands by and watches how the enemy is taking over the ship? They allow themselves to be beamed off the ship like cattle? This is all so incredibly asinine, in the script as well as the directing. It is the single most stupid capture of a ship ever shown on Star Trek.
Some great moments of comedy almost reconcile me with the otherwise insufferable Ferengi story. The first one is when Picard attempts to access the computer in the schoolroom and the fish (a humuhumunukunukuapua'a) doesn't respond quite as Picard expected. The reaction of the child's computer not to perform the useful tasks that it's being told but to offer games and distraction instead seems very familiar to me. It reminds me of trying to work with the most recent Windows versions, not to mention online platforms such as Facebook. The second great comical scene is when Picard explains to the Ferengi why he just called Riker "Number One" instead of "Dad" ("He's my number one Dad."), and the two pose with the arguably biggest grin ever seen on Star Trek in Riker's face. The third one is when Riker confuses his Ferengi watchdog with quickly made up technobabble while unlocking the children's computer for Picard. Priceless! Finally, I like how the children eventually overpower the Ferengi the children's way (as Guinan suggested), by tagging them with communicators and beaming them into confinement.
The witty part of the children retaking the ship, however, is not a sufficient justification for letting everyone adult in the episode, Ferengi and Starfleet alike, look like complete idiots. I give the episode five points despite the huge annoyances because it is very entertaining, but it is watchable only if we forget how the situation came up in the first place.
- Continuity: In the fake future from "Future Imperfect" Riker had a son named Jean-Luc, just like he has a fake son of that name in "Rascals".
- Guinan mentions a Tarkassian razorbeast, as previously in "Imaginary Friend".
- Remarkable technobabble: "Okay, Morta. The Enterprise computer system is controlled by three primary main processing cores, cross-linked with a redundant melacortz ramistat. 14 kiloquad interface modules. The core element is based on an FTL nanoprocessor with 25 bilateral kelilactirals, with 20 of those being slaved into the primary heisenfram terminal. Now you do know what a bilateral kelilactiral is?" - "Well, of course I do, human. I am not stupid." - "No, of course not. This is the isopalavial interface which controls the main firomactal drive unit. Don't touch that. You'll blow up the entire firomactal drive." - "What? Wait. What is a firomactal drive? Just explain it to me." - "That is the firomactal drive unit. It controls the ramistat core and also keeps the ontarian manifold at forty thousand KRGs." (Riker and Morta)
- Remarkable dialogue: "You could return to the Academy. Take another degree. Brush up on your Latin." - "And be Wesley Crusher's roommate?" (Troi and Picard)
- "I need to see him now! Now! Now! Now! Now! Now! Now! Now!" (Picard, to a Ferengi guard)
- "I feel fine. Everything seems a little smaller." (Picard, having been restored to an adult man)
- Remarkable scene: After Picard's normal appearance has been restored, the first thing he does is touch his bald head. Which raises the question, could O'Brien and Beverly have programmed the transporter in way to retain his hair?
- Unremarkable ship: The two Birds-of-Prey in this episode are of the B'rel type, according to Worf. In official publications these ships are usually stated to be smaller than the K'Vort from "Yesterday's Enterprise", perhaps in an effort to make it more plausible that the Ferengi could obtain them in the first place. But the shots of the ships are predominantly stock footage from "Yesterday's Enterprise".
- Remarkable appearance: David Tristan Birkin, who plays the young Picard, previously appeared as Picard's nephew René in TNG: "Family".
Stardate 46271.5: While Geordi is testing whether Data can be used as a backup to the ship's computer, Alexander coaxes his father and Deanna into taking part in a holodeck Western program. Worf, playing the sheriff, apprehends the murderer Eli Hollander with the help of "Durango" Troi. Soon some glitches become obvious when Data's "Ode to Spot" shows up in one of Beverly's (usually far more serious) plays. Things become worse when the holodeck safety protocols go offline and the Hollander gang shows up, whose members look like Data and have Data's abilities. They kidnap Alexander to free Eli in exchange. Worf and Troi have to finish the program in order to save Alexander. The situation is finally resolved through a progressive memory purge that restores both Data's mind and the Enterprise computer.
I used to like "A Fistful of Datas" better, but now that I have seen it again after many years (and for the first time in the context of the series for about 20 years) I find almost nothing special about it. The principal problem of the story lies in its lack of originality. Whereas the holodeck was still an awe-inspiring new technology in "The Big Goodbye" or "11001001", by the sixth season it has become just one of several ways for the crew to find distraction. They use it in much the same fashion as we are watching TV or surfing the internet today. And since it would be boring to show the recreational activities of the crew in a perfectly functioning holodeck, something has to go awry. We have seen holodeck failures of exactly the same kind before, and it doesn't exonerate "A Fistful of Datas" that the worst failings are still to come (for instance, in VOY: "Spirit Folk").
Rather than on the utterly unoriginal malfunctions on the ship and on the holodeck, the episode draws on the great scenery of the Western town and on the idea that all holographic characters are gradually being replaced by Data. But even Worf's realization that the Hollander gang has inherited Data's capabilities doesn't play much of a role in the shoot-out. Actually, it seems that nothing that is made a big deal at first matters very much in the following. Even Worf's worries about Alexander appear much like a side note. Conversely, right in time for the confrontation with Data-Hollander, Worf suddenly has a forcefield gadget that was never mentioned or hinted at before. So it all boils down to "yet another holodeck malfunction, but this time in a Western town and with Data wearing a dress".
Unfortunately Patrick Stewart, who directed the episode, didn't manage to get more excitement out of the half-baked story either. On the contrary, his directing appears particularly unhurried, even cautious, and it just doesn't feel right in light of the dramatic events on the holodeck. It seems the story just doesn't want to be too dramatic, but it isn't very funny either. My impression is that after each joke and each build-up of tension there is a cut to a filler scene.
Regarding the actors, the most praise goes to Brent Spiner whose portrayal of the different characters of the Hollander gang is terrific. I only wish he would have been spared the travesty act in the end. It is arguably among the silliest moments of the whole series. It is cute to see Worf's awkward attempts to fit into his role as the sheriff - although he is totally in character as the indefatigable enforcer of the law. Deanna, on the other hand, plays a filthy guy in strong contrast to her real character. We can see how much fun Marina Sirtis has with that.
On a final positive note, it is nice how this episode creates strong intra-series continuity. It picks up Data's "Ode to Spot" from "Schisms", Crusher's theater group which will also appear in "Frame of Mind", Geordi's and Data's friendship and, finally, Worf's and Deanna's emerging relationship that was hinted at for the second time since "Ethics".
- Nitpicking: The frequent holodeck malfunctions in TNG and later in Voyager might still be plausible if not every time the safety protocols failed as well.
- Remarkable dialogue: Worf (looking up to the prostitute on balcony): "You wrote this holodeck program yourself?" - Alexander: "Well, Mister Barclay helped a little." - Worf: "I must have a little talk with Mister Barclay."
- Remarkable quote: "The replicators on decks four through nine are producing nothing but cat food." (Riker)
- Remarkable scene: Picard rehearses with his Ressikan flute (or tries to because he is frequently interrupted by the crew's requests).
- Remarkable location: The Western town is located in the Universal Studios backlot.
Stardate 46307.2: Dr. Farallon is testing a new orbital mining technology on the station Tyrus VII-A. The so-called particle fountain suffers from frequent malfunctions, however. Exocomps, smart robots with microreplicators that take over tasks in hazardous environments, are instrumental in the repairs on the station. When one of the exocomps refuses to carry out an order in a power conduit that is about to explode, Data examines the case. He supposes that there was no malfunction, but the robot acted to preserve itself. Data thinks exocomps are alive. An experiment with a simulated danger seems to fail when the exocomp continues with the work regardless - until Data discovers that it was aware that the danger was not real and was even going to turn off the false alert. When Picard and Geordi are trapped aboard the station whose internal containment has failed, only the exocomps can help. Dr. Farallon blocks their command pathways that would allow them to act on their own and programs them to detonate so the particle flow would be interrupted. But Data blocks the transporter. With time running out for Picard and Geordi, Riker suggests a compromise, to re-route the command pathways and let the exocomps decide what to do. The exocomps distort the frequency of the particle stream, thereby forming a transport window for the two officers. One exocomp has to stay behind, sacrificing itself for the other two. Dr. Farallon promises not to use the exocomps as simple tools in the future.
It is a recurring theme in TNG that new technologies wind up as failures, just as most recently the soliton wave in TNG: "New Ground". We are also familiar with the idea that something devised as a tool may develop a consciousness of its own and may have to be considered alive, such as a the nanites in TNG: "Evolution". There isn't much new about the plot of "The Quality of Life"; it just combines the two ideas in one episode. It is additionally disappointing that particularly the events of the latter episode are never referred to in "The Quality of Life". Data shouldn't be taken aback by the idea that the exocomps could be alive and no one should have a problem with it, considering that it all happened before, and although each of the nanites possessed only a tiny fraction of the circuitry and memory of an exocomp. While the story fails to mention the decisive precedent, at least if refers to Data's own struggle to be acknowledged as a lifeform in "The Measure of a Man".
Data's attempts to confirm his hypothesis that exocomps are sentient lifeforms is definitely the most important and the only exciting part of the episode. I don't care at all for the particle fountain, a prototype that suffers from no less than three catastrophic malfunctions in the course of the episode (a confinement loss in the power grid, a conduit explosion, an internal confinement failure). Each of them could easily have cost some or all lives of the crew, and the last malfunction actually kills someone. Had I been in Picard's place, I would have withdrawn my personnel from the station as soon as after the first failure. I don't think it's fitting that in the end Data encourages Dr. Farallon to carry on with her dangerous project. While he is very much concerned with her treating the exocomps as lifeforms and not as tools any more, he seems to have no problem with her continuing to put her people at risk.
I may sound unusually technophobic when I'm saying the particle fountain should be shut down for good. But the way new technologies are shown in this episode, it coaxes us to contest their benefits. I would go as far as nominating this as the most technobobic episode of Star Trek because it shows the two innovations (the particle fountain and the exocomps) as unpredictable and ultimately uncontrollable. Moreover, while the question does not play a big role in the episode itself, we have to ask ourselves whether we are allowed to play god and to create artificial lifeforms for slave labor. The question will be further explored, albeit in a somewhat more humorous context, in a few early Voyager episodes and ultimately in VOY: "Author, Author".
Aside from the underlying technophobia, I think that the emergency situation on the station where something blows up all the time just doesn't suit the more important plot thread about Data and the exocomps. "The Measure of a Man", where Data's sentience was acknowledged, managed to do without any unnecessary action. In the story of "The Quality of Life", only the fact that one exocomp has to sacrifice itself, in order to save the two others (and Picard and Geordi), does require such a situation. This outcome reconciles me with the action elements in the end.
Something I like too is how the ethical conflict is discussed in a civilized fashion, with pointed arguments on both sides. Considering the controversy between Data and Dr. Farallon, it may have been more interesting to involve Geordi in a personal conflict. After all, he is Data's friend but, as was briefly hinted at in a scene in Ten Forward, he also seems to be attracted to the woman who may have reminded him a lot of Leah Brahms. Considering how Data disobeys Riker's direct orders, I would only have expected consequences for him, even if Data's decisions turn out right in the end. Well, maybe it is the reason why Data is never promoted?
On a side note, it is interesting to notice how the episodes are linked to each other in this season. "The Quality of Life" continues with the weekly poker game. One week after Data's remark about it, Geordi's beard is again hinted at and has grown, and Beverly's complaint about the male habit to grow beards is the incentive for a bet: if Beverly wins, the men will shave their beards; if Beverly loses she will have to dye her hair. Unfortunately we never learn who loses. Beverly is also shown as she is hurt after what has obviously been a mok'bara fight with Worf.
- Nitpicking: When Riker notices that the particle fountain is out of control, he issues a red alert. But if I'm not mistaken, red alert includes raising the shields. This does not get along with Riker's very next order to beam the crew up to the ship.
- Remarkable quote: "I am curious as to what transpired between the moment when I was nothing more than an assemblage of parts in Doctor Soong's laboratory, and the next moment, when I became alive. What was it that endowed me with life?" (Data)
Stardate 46357.4/46360.8: Admiral Nechayev appears and assigns Edward Jellico as the new captain of the Enterprise. The crew don't get along with Jellico's strict regime and his apparently inappropriate behavior towards the Cardassians, which seems to lead directly to a war. Meanwhile, Picard, Crusher and Worf are on a classified mission to uncover the presumed production of Cardassian metagenic weapons on Celtris III. They are discovered and while Worf and Crusher can escape, Picard is taken prisoner by the Cardassians. Riker is upset when Jellico refuses any attempt to rescue Picard, whom the Cardassians regard as a terrorist, rather than a prisoner of war. Jellico relieves him of duty. Picard is tortured by Gul Madred, who was already awaiting him because the whole scenario of metagenic weapons was a trap, designed to let the Federation take the first step to a new conflict and to have Picard reveal the defenses of Minos Korva. Jellico's tactics eventually prove successful when he traps a Cardassian invasion fleet in a nebula near Minos Korva. Riker and Geordi take a specially equipped shuttle to lay mines around the ships, which puts Jellico into a position to demand their retreat and Picard's immediate release.
Whereas other Starfleet officers besides the Enterprise crew appeared in various previous TNG episodes, they rarely played a major role. When they did, they almost routinely turned out to be jerks (like Kosinski in "Where No One Has Gone Before"), unstable (like Norah Satie in "The Drumhead"), criminal (like Admiral Jameson in "Too Short a Season") or even fake officers (like MacDuff in "Conundrum"). Most notably, Captain Picard's cooperative and considerate command style remained unchallenged because whenever we could see different approaches they failed utterly.
Captain Jellico is a radical departure from the usual depiction of Starfleet officers, and hence of possible rivals from Picard's own ranks. As arrogant and insensitive he appears, Jellico's command style ("Get it done.") may be the appropriate one. And the pending war with the Cardassians may qualify as a situation in which there is no time for motivation but in which the crew has to be pushed to their limits.
When Jellico takes over command, he exposes the crew to changes that go far beyond the process of getting accustomed to someone new in the captain's chair. Jellico changes just everything that he is entitled to change. He orders the reluctant Riker to implement a four-shift rotation immediately. He assigns Geordi to re-route the ship's power grid, while part of Geordi's crew is assigned to security. Also, as symbols of his new style he wants the fish tank to be removed from the ready room and he tells Troi to wear a standard duty uniform, both of which has nothing to do with the ship's battle readiness but rather with showing off his authority. Jellico is uncompromising as a captain and unsympathetic as a character. And he is at odds with Riker since the very first moment he beams aboard. This is no surprise, knowing that Riker tends to be unconventional, and to be efficient he needs the leeway that Picard always granted him. Riker could possibly never get along with the authoritarian and inflexible Jellico, and it easy to predict already during the first part that Jellico would eventually relieve Riker of duty.
I wrote that Jellico's command style could be the appropriate one, and while I'm watching "Chain of Command" I am waiting for him to prove it right. However, I'm waiting in vain during the first part of the episode. Jellico doesn't bother to inform anyone of the crew, least of all his first officer, of his plans how to deal with the Cardassians. And so his crew is just as surprised as the Cardassian gul, who has to wait an hour, only for Jellico to bawl at him. We could rate this as a "bad cop/good cop" tactic, but this doesn't make sense if he doesn't let in "good cops" Riker and Troi on what he is going to do. And so the situation aboard the Enterprise is just as the Cardassians perceive it: a new captain with inept diplomatic skills whose crew doesn't trust him. This doesn't bode well at all for a confrontation. Jellico fails this test, which could have triggered a premature outbreak of hostilities. And Admiral Nechayev, Picard's and Jellico's superior officer, is to blame for this mess in the first place, because she put the diplomat on a paramilitary mission, only to replace him by a hardliner in diplomatic negotiations. Not to mention that it would raise the suspicion of the Cardassians that Captain Picard is gone, which is exactly what happens (notwithstanding the fact that they set up a trap for him anyway). Seriously, what was she thinking?
Overall, the way Jellico clashes with the Enterprise crew is still the best of the first part of the episode though. I don't care much for the mission of Picard, Beverly and Worf to find the metagenic weapon on Celtris III. The plot is too episodic, and it is full of clichés: the generic alien bar, the Ferengi whose ears Beverly has to stroke in order to get a transport (that no one really bothered to care for), the crew making their way through the caverns. It simply fails to captivate me. Moreover, the outrage about the metagenic weapons is so great that no one has any qualms about going on an illegal mission that could get innocent people killed and even cause a war. I would have expected more of an ethical debate.
The second part is clearly the better one, and it thrives especially on David Warner's and Patrick Stewart's brilliant interaction. The episode is famed for Picard's insistence that "There are four lights!", even or just because it is the same motif as in Orwell's 1984 (just replacing fingers with lights). I see it as a homage, rather than a rip-off.
I also like the diplomatic, legal and moral implications of Picard being treated as an unlawful combatant, rather than as a prisoner of war. The fact that Jellico abandons Picard naturally upsets Riker, upon which Riker questions Jellico's decision and the captain relieves him of duty. Ironically, in the very next scene we see how Jellico does care for Picard in some fashion, when he discusses the Cardassians' possible reasons to lure Picard into a trap with his new first officer, Data. It also appears that Jellico knows very little of Picard's mission. In other words, he was only following orders and he had no idea of a possible greater scheme. Actually, Troi felt that he was uncertain about his role as soon as during his first confrontation with the Cardassians in the first part. This completes Jellico's picture of a soldier who follows orders no matter how unpleasant they are, and who expects the same from everyone under his command. Jellico eventually opens himself to Geordi, seeking some moral support. This makes Jellico a bit more sympathetic again. Jellico becomes proactive and creative as late as in the direct military confrontation, and here he performs well at long last. But overall he is still a captain I would not like to serve under.
Gul Madred, in strong contrast to Jellico, is totally convinced of everything he is doing. Torturing Picard to extract information about the defenses on Minos Korva is much more to him than a task he is ordered to perform. To Madred, it is a service to his people, a way to reaffirm his superiority over the prisoner, a means of coming to terms with his past, an affair of the heart. He is being sadistic without being a sadist in a narrow sense. A very interesting character that I would have liked to see in a possible follow-up. Well, while Madred himself never showed up again, many of his traits and the idea of Cardassian justice and family sense were incorporated in many Cardassian episodes of DS9.
"Chain of Command" is remarkable because the outcome doesn't readily serve us a moral. It doesn't answer the question whether Picard's or Jellico's style is the better one (although I'm personally all for Picard). It doesn't comment on the gross mistakes that were made by Starfleet and particularly by Nechayev. In the end, the Federation only prevails in this conflict only with a great deal of luck, not because of its superior diplomatic skills and least of all because of its better moral values.
- Continuity: Beverly is outraged about the possible Cardassian metagenic weapon, saying that it could kill everything on a planet in a matter of days. In "The Chase" later in this season a Klingon Bird-of-Prey will destroy the complete biosphere of a planet in a matter of minutes, using a plasma weapon, which remains a side note in the episode and does not have any consequences for the Klingons.
- "Well, I'll say this for him. He's sure of himself." - "No, he's not." (Riker and Troi, after Jellico's aggressive approaching of Gul Lemec)
- "Must be rewarding to you to repay others for all those years of misery." - "What do you mean?" - "Torture has never been a reliable means of extracting information. It is ultimately self-defeating as a means of control. One wonders that it's still practiced." - "I fail to see where this analysis is leading." - "Whenever I look at you now, I won't see a powerful Cardassian warrior. I will see a six year old boy who is powerless to protect himself." (Picard and Gul Madred)
- "Let's drop the ranks for a moment. I don't like you. I think you're insubordinate, arrogant, willful, and I don't think you're a particularly good first officer. But you are also the best pilot on the ship." - "Well, now that the ranks are dropped, Captain, I don't like you, either. You are arrogant and closed-minded. You need to control everything and everyone. You don't provide an atmosphere of trust, and you don't inspire these people to go out of their way for you. You've get everybody wound up so tight there's no joy in anything. I don't think you're a particularly good captain." (Jellico and Riker)
- Remarkable quote: "There are four lights!" (Picard), "I would have told him anything. Anything at all. But more than that, I believed that I could see five lights." (Picard)
- Riker is of the class of 2357.
- Picard's serial number is SP-937-215.
Stardate 46424.1: Investigating a glitch on the holodeck, Barclay accidentally reactivates Dr. Moriarty's routine in Data's Sherlock Holmes holoprogram. The holographic villain is angry that the crew have forgotten their promise to transfer him to the real world some day. However, he puzzles Picard, Data and Barclay when he walks outside the holodeck and stays in one piece. Moriarty asks Picard to help the Countess Bartholomew, the love of his life, to come alive as well. After a while Data discovers inconsistencies. He finds that everything is a ruse and that he, Picard and Barclay are still on the holodeck with Moriarty. The rest of the ship is not real, including all other crew members. Unfortunately Moriarty has now the access codes to the real ship, after Picard was forced to use them, which is especially dangerous since the Enterprise is very close to two colliding gas giants. The crew, however, outwit Moriarty using his own trick when they just transfer him and the Countess Bartholomew to the holodeck in the holodeck instead of beaming them out to the real world. Now stored in a small module, the two are provided with lots of adventures in what they think is the real world.
Data's Sherlock Holmes adventure in the second-season episode "Elementary, Dear Data" called for a sequel; the ending of the episode was even modified to that end, allowing Professor Moriarty to survive and leaving him with Picard's promise that the issue of giving real substance to holodeck characters would be worked on. Yet, it took almost four years for the sequel to come about, purportedly due to a legal dispute between Paramount and the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Literary Estate regarding the use of Sherlock Holmes characters. When Jeri Taylor finally re-investigated the possibility to continue the story, she found that the Estate was willing to license Sherlock Holmes for a "very reasonable license fee".
"Ship in a Bottle" has a very slow start. The teaser is over six minutes long, one of the longest in Star Trek's history. After Data's discovery that something is wrong with the holodeck (when the character catches the matchbox with the wrong hand), Barclay works on the holodeck controls and spends still a few more minutes talking to Moriarty until it is finally revealed to the viewer that Moriarty is able to rematerialize all by himself. Perhaps the teaser should have ended just after Moriarty has materialized for the first time.
Anyway, Moriarty demands to speak with the captain, and so Picard comes down to the holodeck, together with Data and Barclay. To their big surprise, Moriarty is able to walk through the door and to exist outside the holodeck. After that the pace of the story slows down again. Actually, it takes as long as 20 minutes until Data becomes aware of the fact that only he himself, Picard and Barclay are real, and that they are still on the holodeck.
Although it initially comes across as rather anticlimactic that Moriarty is playing nice and engages in friendly conversations with Picard, I like this part of the episode very much. It raises many philosophical and ethical questions that would have been non-issues, had Moriarty's ruse been discovered sooner. Moriarty is a real human being, or so it seems. He clearly has the same right to live his life as everyone who was born the natural way. Picard would be the last person to deny him his fundamental rights, irrespective of the fact that Moriarty was programmed as a villain. Moriarty demonstrates that he can overcome his programming. But Moriarty demands still more from the captain when he asks him to bring the Countess Bartholomew to life in the same fashion. Picard has a problem with creating new lifeforms, just as in "The Offspring" when Data decided to "procreate" without his permission. Picard remains diplomatic, just as in every case he is speaking to new lifeforms, saying "Now the moral and ethical implications of deliberately creating another one like you are overwhelming." Well, had he been less diplomatic, Picard could have cited one more important reason why the countess shouldn't be brought to life. Moriarty has left the holodeck and has made a conscious decision to be alive. He has left his old life for good. He says that he has overcome his criminal tendencies, which according to his own words were only "scribblings of an Englishman dead now for four centuries". There is no point for him to cling to the character which he was programmed to love, and demand that she or anything else from his fictitious program be transferred to the real world.
After the revelation that Moriarty actually tricked Picard, Data and Barclay, and that no one else the three have been talking to in the past 20 minutes was real, it is clear that the three would have to fight back in some fashion. I think it is a quite intelligent idea that they beat the villain at his own game, by using the holodeck in the holodeck (given that the real computer on the Enterprise can still handle the data volume!). It is even better that the plan is not revealed in any fashion, and that most viewers fall for the red herring (for the second time in the episode), believing that Moriarty and Bartholomew are actually leaving the ship. The ending of the episode is just marvelous, as Barclay takes care of the module in which Moriarty and Bartholomew continue their holographic lives and says "Computer, end program." - just to be sure.
Overall, this is one of the most cleverly written episodes of TNG, and a rather well directed one too.
- Nitpicking: Shouldn't the "protected memory" where Moriarty was stored be better protected, such as by a password?
- "Cogito ergo sum." (Professor Moriarty),
- "When I was seventeen I went on safari with my uncle. My mother took to her bed in terror I'd be bitten by a tsetse fly, but I had a marvellous time. I got to wear trousers the whole time. It was hard to go back to a corset, I can tell you." (Countess Bartholomew)
- Data throws a matchbox, which the character catches with his right hand. He says, "Your brother was right-handed! The alleged suicide note was written by a left-handed individual such as yourself!" Data does not notice his error until Geordi interrupts him.
- Later, after Data has discovered that the transporter logs are missing (because the holographic transporter doesn't work), he tests Geordi by throwing a device, which the right-handed Geordi catches with his left hand, thereby revealing that he his holographic.
Stardate 46461.3: The two crew members of a Federation relay station close to the Klingon border have mysteriously vanished. One of them is apparently dead as indicated by biomatter found on the deck plates. One of the crew members was the attractive Aquiel Uhnari to whom Geordi has developed some affection after viewing her log entries. She suddenly reappears on a Klingon ship and subsequently becomes the main suspect, for she didn't get along with her crewmate Keith Rocha and manipulated the station logs. Beverly, investigating DNA residues from the station, is shocked when a sample assumes the shape of her hand. Rocha was actually killed by a coalescent lifeform that assumed his shape and then killed Aquiel's dog, Maura. Geordi barely escapes the attack by the dog, which is actually the shape-shifting creature.
After "Man of the People" this is the second (and last) episode of the sixth season that falls back on old clichés instead of trying to explore new possibilities. The mystery factor doesn't work well here, and I would go as far as saying the story hardly builds an arc of suspense at all. It is a rather simple case of missing crew members for most of the time, for which a good explanation is possible at any point of the story. When Aquiel turns out to be the surviving crew member instead of Rocha, this doesn't change very much except giving rise to a personal involvement of Geordi La Forge, who predictably falls in love with her. The arguably biggest surprise and the only really good scene in the episode is when Dr. Crusher investigates the organic matter found on the station, it suddenly moves and touches her hand, only to create a perfect copy of her hand. Notwithstanding the crude CG effect, this is quite frightening. Nevertheless, while the idea that a coalescent organism that kills its victim and takes on its shape was not yet as exhausted at the time as it is today, it is essentially just one of the many shapeshifters that Starfleet crews encounter in all series and in all fictional eras.
Regarding the aforementioned "Man of the People", the two episodes have something in common, although their basic plots are very different. The Lumerians as well as the Haliians are partially telepathic. The canar, the crystal that Aquiel uses to link herself telepathically to Geordi, is very reminiscent of Alkar's meditation crystals that served to drain the life energy from Deanna. While the rituals may be similar by pure chance, my suspicion is that it is a more or less conscious red herring, to insinuate that Aquiel is up to something evil just like Alkar.
The perhaps biggest letdown is that after the prolonged introduction of Aquiel in the form of her log entries the chemistry between and Geordi and her doesn't work out. I don't find Aquiel's character very interesting anyway, except for her being an average officer, as opposed to the top-notch crew of the Enterprise. While this is hinted at a few times, most notably in her own words ("I'm not a model officer. I realize that."), it doesn't really play a role in the story. Aquiel appears as a somewhat defiant but most obviously confused woman, which is no surprise in hindsight, considering that she has no memory of the events on the station. It would have worked better, had she and her interaction with the overbearing Rocha been established sooner, preferably in the teaser. It would also have been more exciting to begin the episode with something different than with the Enterprise on yet another routine mission.
The Klingon involvement doesn't strike me as particularly interesting. Actually, the required second suspect could have been just as well any other alien, or perhaps another surviving crew member.
- Remarkable station: The relay station is a modified re-use of the cryo-satellite from "The Neutral Zone". It has the number 47, which is arguably the biggest "47" reference ever seen in the series.
Stardate 46519.1: Deanna wakes up and finds her face surgically altered to look like a Romulan. She was taken to the Warbird Khazara in the disguise of the Tal Shiar officer Major Rakal. Subcommander N'Vek explains that their goal is to smuggle out three high-level defectors to the Federation via a neutral Corvallen freighter. In her role as Major Rakal, Troi has a hard time dealing with Commander Toreth, whose father was secretly abducted by the Tal Shiar, and only Subcommander N'Vek is going to support her. When Troi/Rakal senses the Corvallens would betray them, N'Vek destroys the ship but doesn't really have an alternative plan. The cloaked warbird and the Enterprise are facing for a battle, and Troi manages to gain control of the Romulan ship and have the defectors beamed over to the Enterprise. When Toreth notices his betrayal, N'Vek is killed, while Deanna can be beamed out in time.
"Face of the Enemy" is the first episode of the absolutely remarkable second half of TNG's sixth season. Marked by unusual and exceptionally thrilling stories, and even without ongoing story arcs, this is the arguably best time of the whole series, and perhaps of all Star Trek.
The only comparable spy story so far on Star Trek was TOS: "The Enterprise Incident", which featured Kirk and Spock on a secret mission that they couldn't tell anyone about just like Deanna here. In the TOS episode it was worth risking the Enterprise to obtain a Romulan cloaking device, while this time it a a Romulan senator and his aides. But that's where the similarities end. It is undeniable that, rather than being inspired by the TOS episode, "Face of the Enemy" was written in the wake of the hugely successful movie "The Hunt for Red October". Writer Naren Shankar, who was still a freelancer when he started his work on the script, even intended the prize to be Romulan ship, rather than the defectors in stasis. And speaking on script changes, originally Beverly was supposed to be kidnapped instead of Deanna.
I am glad they went for Deanna because her character was underused and could need some more action and less gender clichés. Deanna's situation is precarious for various reasons. She has been surgically altered to look Romulan, and although accomplishing and undoing this may not be a big deal to 24th century medicine, it still is a case of bodily harm. Deanna seems to cope with that part of the mission almost too easily. But she has a still bigger problem on her hands, when she has to pose as a credible Romulan officer. And if this were not already hard enough, she is Major Rakal of the Tal'Shiar, the dreaded Romulan intelligence service. Commander Toreth is at odds with the Tal'Shiar, because they once abducted her father who would never return. Deanna would usually sympathize with Toreth in this matter, but she has to remain tough in order to keep up her disguise. And the toughest situations are still to come when her accomplice N'Vek destroys the Corvallen freighter, allegedly on her behalf, and when she takes command of the ship in a direct confrontation with the Enterprise. Deanna masters all the challenges, as abhorrent they may be, because it is for a greater goal and because she wants to survive. Kudos to Marina Sirtis who credibly portrays Deanna in a very unusual situation. I am only a bit disappointed that we never really see Deanna in a calm moment when she is alone and does not have to pretend anything.
It was also a good decision to have Deanna kidnapped by the Romulans, rather than Beverly, because it makes a bit more sense to have a telepath in that position, considering the extreme risks of enlisting a Starfleet officer who has not been prepared in any fashion, who might fail even very simple tests and who might refuse to cooperate. The script of the episode clearly has its weaknesses, just like about any spy story in and outside Star Trek that have to reduce a complex strategic and political situation to a chain of events that the characters experience on screen. But like with any spy story, from Ian Fleming to Tom Clancy, it is the arc of suspense and the character interaction that matters most, even if the circumstances are worked out in great detail.
I don't care much for Stefan DeSeve, whose role boils down to relaying the message from Ambassador Spock, bit by bit, and who otherwise doesn't contribute much. I would have dropped the character, and focused even more on Deanna. Perhaps, instead of using a messenger, Data could have picked up an encoded subspace message from Spock, that only Picard would have identified as authentic.
Regarding the defection of a Romulan senator, we need to wonder whether the Federation could keep it secret (like the submarine in "Red October") and could really profit from it, or whether it could rather damage their diplomatic efforts on long term. I also call the humanitarian aspect of the whole affair into question. Picard calls it a "rescue operation" in the end and insinuates that there will be more of them, but while the lives of the Romulan defectors have been saved, 19 people have died for their "rescue". Does the Federation really want blood on their hands, just to win a small victory over the Romulans? There is too much Cold War spirit in the episode in my view. With a bit more morality and more of the "normal" Deanna Troi the episode would rank still higher in my assessment.
- Remarkable quote: "The Romulans are very moral, Captain. They have an absolute certainty about what is right and what is wrong, who is a friend and who is an enemy, a strict moral compass which provides them with a clarity of purpose. At one time I found their sense of purpose, their passion and commitment, to be very compelling." (DeSeve)
Remarkable Troi quotes:
- "We're not playing it your way any more, N'Vek. I've been kidnapped, surgically altered, put in danger I've gone along with all your plans. Now you are going to listen to me. You find a way to let the Enterprise track us, or I will go to Toreth and tell her I've discovered you're a traitor. I'll order you ejected into space. Is that clear, Subcommander?"
- "If any one of you defies the Tal Shiar, you will not bear the punishment alone. Your families, all of them, will be there beside you. I am now commander of this ship. You will take orders from me and no one else. Remove Commander Toreth from her station. If she resists, shoot her."
- Remarkable scene: When Deanna, disguised as Major Rakal, sits down at a table with various Romulan dishes, Commander Toreth suggests that she try the viinerine - a possible test? Deanna just grabs something from a bowl - obviously not viinerine because Toreth says, "I realize that it's nothing compared to what you're accustomed to on Romulus, but you could at least try the viinerine." Deanna's quick-witted answer: "I've smelled better viinerine on prison ships."
- Remarkable ship: The Corvallen freighter is a re-use of the Straleb vessel from "The Outrageous Okona", using nothing but stock footage from that episode. It is verbally identified as the writers' favorite: "Antares class".
- Remarkable fact: The Tal'Shiar appears for the first time in Star Trek.
Stardate not given: Picard, seriously wounded by a tetryon beam discharge, finds himself in a bright empty environment and he is welcomed by Q who claims that Picard is dead and he, Q, is God. After Q tells him that with a natural heart he would have survived, Picard regrets the mistake he made in his young days when his heart had to be replaced after a fight with three tall Nausicaans. Instantly, Q whisks him back to the day before the accident happened. Picard wants to do everything right this time, and he even surrenders to the desire to be more than just a friend to his classmate Marta Batanides. Finally, he prevents his other friend Cortin Zweller from starting the fight with the Nausicaans. Back in his time, Picard has to bear the consequences: He has become a different person, one who was never willing to risk anything, and he is only a junior grade lieutenant on the Enterprise. Picard asks Q to take him back again. This time Picard allows the fight to take place, and history is reset. In the Enterprise sickbay Beverly manages to save Picard's life despite the bad damage to his artificial heart.
"Tapestry" is very entertaining from the first to the last minute and quite insightful too. It is an unusual time travel episode because not the existence of the Federation is at stake but only Picard's life. It is actually the first time travel story in Star Trek that is based on the personal history of a character, and it is astonishing in hindsight that the idea of going back in time to give someone a second chance was not used earlier in Star Trek.
The story is also remarkable because Q, who usually takes pleasure in bullying inferior lifeforms, seems to care for Picard's welfare. This time Q doesn't simply put down everything that Picard holds in high regard. He is fair enough to accept the captain's moral values, but he also holds up a mirror to Picard. As much as responsibility, prudence and decency determine his present life, Picard dissociates himself from the reckless person he once was. Q demonstrates to him that only through his past errors he could become the person that he is now.
Yet, I have a problem with the moral of the story. Picard avoids the fight with the Nausicaans and ends up as a lieutenant junior grade with a dull job, a person "bereft of passion and imagination". It is clear that this is the result of a development in which he never took chances that could have earned him recognition and promotions, as Picard learns from his superiors Riker and Troi in the alternate timeline. Still, it seems like the almost lethal injury in the useless fight with Nausicaans must have been a decisive event in his life, one that helped shape the current Picard. In even more drastic words, it sounds a bit like "You have to risk your life to accomplish something in your life". The impression that the story sanctions recklessness is intensified when Picard fights the Nausicaans again to set his personal record straight, and against his previous conviction that it was and still is wrong. I don't believe anyway that Picard would have developed to a dull person after avoiding the fight with the Nausicaans. It was Picard's intention to correct just the arguably biggest mistake in his life, but Q insinuates that, were it up to the present Picard to relive everything, he would never take a chance in his life again. Five and a half seasons of TNG prove Q wrong. While Q is kind enough to allow Picard to make his peace with his own past, his projection is very unrealistic and unfair.
- Continuity: The fact that Picard has an artificial heart since the fight with the Nausicaans was established in "Samaritan Snare".
- We can see an Antican and a Selay in the Bonestell Recreation Facility. They were shown to be mortal enemies in TNG: "Lonely Among Us", so it is odd that they would stand almost side by side here.
- It is doubtful that Picard, after 30 years in Starfleet, would still be a lieutenant junior grade, only because he has always been cautious.
- Remarkable dialogue: "He's going to lose. The Nausicaan is cheating." - "Really? I'm beginning to like these Nausicaans." (Picard and Q)
- "Welcome to the afterlife, Jean-Luc. You're dead." (Q)
- "No, I am not dead. Because I refuse to believe that the afterlife is run by you. The universe is not so badly designed." (Picard)
- "Well, let's see. You've managed to get slapped by one woman, a drink thrown in your face by another, and alienate your two best friends. Doing very well so far. The only thing left to avoid is getting stabbed through the heart." (Q)
- Remarkable scene: When Picard wakes up after his night with Marta Batanides, he turns round - and spots Q beside him.
- Remarkable facts: Picard tells Riker that he had run into Nausicaans before: "During my sophomore year, I was assigned to training on Morikin Seven. Well, there was a Nausicaan outpost on one of the outlying asteroids, and one day..."
Stardate 46578.4/46579.2: While the Enterprise is docked to Deep Space 9 for a relief mission on Bajor, Worf learns from the Yridian Shrek that his father Mogh may be still alive in a Romulan prisoner camp - which would be dishonorable since Klingons have to escape or to die when they are captured. He urges the Yridian to take him to the camp on Carraya IV. Upon his arrival Worf is captured himself, but soon notices that this is not really a prisoner camp. The former Romulan guards and Klingon prisoners have started an attempt to live together in peace, and are being ignored by their respective governments. Worf's doesn't find his father there because he really died on Khitomer. Worf is unhappy that the Klingons have abandoned their heritage as warriors, and he is disgusted by the fact that there are marriages between Klingons and Romulans, even more when he discovers the pointed ears of his love interest Ba'el. When Worf begins to "infect" the young people in the camp with his ideas, camp leader Torath decides to have him executed, but eventually many of the Klingons decide to stand with Worf. Worf takes some of the young people with him, who he claims are survivors of a ship crash. In the meantime, on the Enterprise, Data is experiencing dreams, which were implanted into him by his creator Noonien Soong as a further stage of his development.
It was firmly established in various previous TNG episodes how much the Romulans and the Klingons of the 24th century despise each other. And we know very well how particularly Worf, whose parents were killed in the Romulan sneak attack on Khitomer, feels about the archenemies of the Klingon Empire. In TNG: "The Enemy" he refused to save the severely injured Romulan, which he may have accomplished by just donating blood. His experience with the treacherous Duras family that had an alliance with the Romulans but put the blame for the attack on his father only corroborated his hatred. It is inconceivable that Worf would ever accept Romulans for what they are, unless he were ordered to do so. And so the ground was laid for an episode in which Worf would be confronted with the antithesis of his idea of relentless fighting the enemy.
In my view the first part of the double feature is let down by the plot thread about Data's dreams. It is of almost equal importance here, until it ends in a quite unspectacular way, with the almost casual conclusion that a program that Soong created for a further evolved Data was triggered prematurely. While I think the Data story would have made a decent episode of its own and may have deserved more screen time in order to be able to carry more weight, it is just too contrived how Data's troublesome experience of meeting Noonien Soong mirrors Worf's hope/fear that he might find his father Mogh alive. In the only brief conversation of Worf and Data in the whole double episode the Klingon encourages the android to find his father, and thereby apparently comes to the conclusion that he should do just the same. This was probably meant to be a key scene, but it strikes me as an awkward attempt to link together the two otherwise completely separate stories. Overall, the way a common theme is forged reminds me very much of "Family" and "Brothers" in season 4, the "Season of the Family", where the recipe didn't work very well either. Instead of "Birthright", I would have chosen the title "Fathers" for the first part.
Just like the Data story, I don't mind the crossover with DS9 very much. There should have been more about it than Picard and Crusher's visit to the Promenade and Bashir's experiment aboard the Enterprise (well, and a brief appearance of Morn).
The second part of "Birthright" is clearly the better one. For one thing, there are no distracting sub-plots. The whole episode focuses on Worf's mission on Carraya, with only a few brief cuts to the Enterprise.
While everything is a bit preachy, I like his debates especially with the older Klingons who have put up with their new way of life and with the young generation of Klingons who know nothing else. It becomes clear very soon that those who were captured alive have developed an almost schizophrenic view of their current situation, similar to Orwellian doublethink. This is evident especially as Worf is talking to L'Kor. Worf's stance has changed since the first part and he is disappointed not to find his father Mogh alive, upon which L'Kor tells his: "I can only hope that if my son came here, he would be Klingon enough to kill me." So it is a great shame for him to be still alive, and yet he readily puts up with his imprisonment by blanking out that there is a world outside Carraya. Can it be real peace for this generation, if they can only accomplish it with self-delusion?
Even worse, besides not teaching them some essential Klingon customs, apparently no one ever told the young generation the truth about what had happened on Khitomer. Toq as well as Ba'el are of the opinion that their parents, Klingons and Romulans alike, came to Carraya of their own free will, to escape the war, and not as prisoners and guards. After it has initially been just a personal matter of "escape or die trying" for him, Worf now has the moral justification to destroy the false paradise on Carraya, much in the same vein as Captain Kirk liberated the people of Vaal in TOS: "The Apple".
On second thought, however, everything that Worf keeps telling the young Klingons is about fighting, about hunting, and about physical and mental training to become better fighters and hunters. The picture Worf draws of what he sees as a true Klingon is ultimately just as one-dimensional as the idea of the forced peace with the Romulans on Carraya. Worf prevails in the end only as much as a few young people join him, but he and everyone else have to keep the existence of the settlement on Carraya secret. Just as his power struggle with the people on Carraya ends in a draw, the story remains undecided on the moral level, and I rather like that.
The only real disappointment is that Worf and Ba'el part off-screen, which strikes me as anticlimactic after the effort to build a romantic story.
On a side note, the episode also comments on a possible truth in myths and religious writings. Toq claims that Worf made up the tale of Kahless, who "looked into the sea and wept, for the sword is all he had left of his father. The ocean filled with his tears and flooded beyond the shore." Ba'el asks Worf whether the stories are true, upon which Worf gives here a remarkable answer: "I have studied them all of my life, and find new truths in them every time." In other words, while he may not believe everything, he can find a meaning in them, which is much like present-day religions look at their writings (even though some still claim they ought to be taken literally).
- [Geordi hates the replicated meal aboard the station] "I'll have to talk to Chief O'Brien about these replicators. Worf, I don't see how you can eat that stuff. It tastes like liquid polymer." - "Delicious." (Geordi and Worf)
- "I was surprised. I became angry. But I do not blame you. You cannot help being what you are." - "There's nothing wrong with what I am." - "What I mean is, it is not your fault." - "What, being born? I'm sorry if that offends you." - "No, I... It is hard to explain. Klingons and Romulans are blood enemies. Have been for centuries." - "Not here. Here, we live in peace." - "But I don't live here." (Worf and Ba'el)
- "If there is anything that I've learned from you, from your reaction to me, it's that I have no place out there. Other Klingons will not accept me for what I am." - "And if I stay here, these Klingons will not accept me for what I am." - "Why did you come here? We were so happy. We didn't know there was anything missing in our lives." (Worf and Ba'el)
- Remarkable scene: When Toq intones a Klingon hunting song that he obviously learned from Worf, the other Klingons join him, thereby alienating the Romulans.
Stardate 46682.4: The Enterprise is evacuated for a baryon sweep in the Remmler Array in orbit of Arkaria. Picard is unwilling to attend a reception, in which he would meet Commander Hutchinson, who is notorious for his tiresome small talk. When he learns that he could go on a riding tour, Picard returns to the ship to get his saddle. There he discovers that the maintenance crew are actually terrorists. They are going to steal highly volatile trilithium from the ship's warp core. The gangsters also capture the planet base and kill Huchinson, while they hold the Enterprise senior crew hostages. On the disabled ship, which is being swept by a deadly beam from the stern to the bow, Picard begins a cat-and-mouse game to prevent the terrorists from completing their plan. He manages to kill or disable all of them, until he and gang leader Kelsey meet in Ten Forward, the last location on the ship which is not yet affected by the beam. Kelsey escapes with the trilithium, but her ship explodes because Picard has removed the stabilizer. After the crew has turned tables among the terrorists by modifying Geordi's VISOR to emit a hypersonic pulse, they can stop the beam in the last moment before it reaches Picard.
This episode is clearly inspired by the blockbuster movie "Die Hard", although writer Morgan Gendel denies this connection. I think "Die Hard" was the prototype for so many films and TV episodes that it is more convenient for him in retrospect to say he was simply following a trend. Anyway, it was a good idea to bring this kind of action story to the Star Trek Universe. I'm quite content with how the episode turned out. I only have a few issues with Picard's behavior, which strikes me as too Willis-like.
Picard is the only line of defense on his ship, which is going to be taken over by terrorists. At first, he has no idea what those people actually want and how far they would go. He applies only mild violence against Devor (Tim Russ). Instead of killing him with the laser welder (the phaser wouldn't work because of the high-frequency field of the cleaning beam), he chooses to stun him with a hypospray. But Picard becomes more and more ruthless. Well, his original plan is to beam off the ship, stop the sweep and enlist help. But this fails when main power goes down, disabling the transporter, and he is captured by the terrorists. After destroying their shield generator (that would have protected them from the baryon sweep), Picard does not even try to spare the lives of the terrorists. He lures his pursuer Satler into a deadly trap, leaving his jacket in front of a hatch behind which the baryon sweep has arrived. He also doesn't mind dragging along Pomet, the guy he shot with Worf's crossbow, so the terrorist gets killed by the beam as well. And he also kills Kelsey and the crew of the small ship by removing the stabilizer from the trilithium container. The goal and the circumstances exonerate Picard, but overall this isn't the captain I used to know. Picard first thought that the terrorists were going to steal the ship, but for some reason it seems to infuriate him even more that they steal just the trilithium. At least that is how it comes across, and it doesn't make much sense to me.
The terrorists, on the other hand, spare Picard's life as many as three times in the episode, although they definitely don't need hostages and Picard is an unnecessary burden and risk for them.
Despite these problems I like this episode very much, which is made to be just thrilling, without unnecessary banter and finger-wagging. Speaking of banter, it is only sad that the death of Commander Hutchinson is not even mentioned in a side note but only insinuated.
- Beverly creates a hypersonic pulse to disable the terrorists on the planet. In TOS: "The Way to Eden" Dr. Sevrin used an ultrasonic wave to knock out the Enterprise crew, which was probably meant to be the same.
- Trilithium is a well-known by-product of the Enterprise's warp drive in "Starship Mine". However, in "Star Trek: Generations" it will mutate to an "experimental Romulan compound" that Riker has never heard of.
- Data claims that "T[a,e,y]rellia is one of seven known [inhabited] planets with no atmosphere whatsoever". How is that possible, considering that the various T[a,e,y]rellians we know appear to be humanoid?
- Where was the rest of crew during the baryon sweep? I assume the ordinary crew members don't have the privilege of being invited to the reception (and meeting Commander Hutchinson). But were they taken prisoners as well?
- While "Hutch" Hutchinson is talking his colleagues' ears off, Data can be seen in the background, imitating him.
- After Kelsey, the terrorists leader, has beamed away and the baryon sweep is already traversing Ten Forward, he climbs up the window assembly and screams into his communicator "Deactivate the baryon sweep immediately!" This is reminiscent of the garbage compactor scene in "Star Wars: A New Hope".
- Remarkable in-joke: When the terrorists have captured him, Picard (who is in civilian clothes) claims that he is Mr. Mot, the ship's (equally bald but actually Bolian) barber.
- Remarkable running gag: "Captain, you keep a saddle on board?" - "Most serious riders do have their own saddles." In reality, however, saddles are made to fit the horse's back and not the rider's butt. Well, perhaps this changes until the 24th century.
- Remarkable appearance: Tim Russ, who had auditioned for the role of Geordi La Forge in 1987 but was deemed too young, appears for the first time in Star Trek. He would become famous in his role as Tuvok on Star Trek Voyager.
Stardate 46693.1: Captain Picard falls in love with Nella Daren, the new head of the stellar cartography department of the ship. They find a common interest in music and use the excellent acoustics of the Jefferies tubes for a private concert with one piano and one Ressikan flute. Their relationship is put to a test when Nella is missing after a dangerous away mission to evacuate a Federation outpost on Bersallis III, which is threatened by firestorms. Even after she has eventually been rescued, Picard realizes that he shouldn't be in love with someone who is his subordinate, and Nella opts for a transfer to another ship.
Captain Picard's private life was shown in many previous episodes. We know a lot about his hobbies and passions. We could see how much he enjoyed his "Indiana Jones" adventure on Risa and being with Vash in TNG: "Captain's Holiday". He hasn't been in a real relationship for five years (at least none that we know of), but the same is true for most of his senior staff. Unfortunately the story of "Lessons" is based on the wrong supposition that Picard is still the person he appeared to be in the first season, a restrained man who leaves all the fun to others and who is afraid of being too close to his subordinates. At least that is how Nella Daren perceives him. She tells Beverly Crusher that Picard seems isolated to her. Crusher says she doesn't share this impression, but somehow Daren will be proven right in the end.
The premise that everyone else but the captain may be in a relationship with a fellow crew member doesn't sit well with me. And while it is clear that Nella Daren wouldn't become a permanent character at Picard's side, it is still a disappointment that they part with the feeling that it doesn't work out and that it may have been a mistake in the first place to break the unwritten rule. Still, I like how the "forbidden relationship" comes about, and how the script skillfully involves the music as Picard and Daren's common interest, as well as the people around them, namely Riker, Crusher and Troi. The script makes the best of the extremely thin premise of Picard falling in love.
I especially like how Picard is initially hesitant to tell Nella the whole truth about the Ressikan flute. He evades her question two times, saying that it is just an old instrument of mysterious origin. He eventually reveals to her the whole story about his long stay on the planet Kataan in TNG: "The Inner Light", "because I want you to understand what my music means to me. And what it means for me to be able to share it with someone."
Nella Daren was probably supposed to be an unconventional character ("Expect the unexpected."), also to make her appear attractive to Picard as well as to the viewers. But with her ambition and openness, her dedication to both her job and her pastime, and the continuing effort to combine duty and pleasure she is just like everyone else among Starfleet's and the Enterprise's top-notch officers. While Picard may have just been seeking a woman who knows what she wants and who says what she wants, as a TV character Nella Daren clearly loses to the capricious and mysterious Vash. Overall, Picard and Daren are too alike, and that is why their relationship comes across as pleasant but never really interesting.
So the first two thirds of the episode are pleasant to watch, yet rather trivial. The final third of the episode is a total disappointment. It is utterly contrived that just as Picard and Daren have found a way to keep up their relationship with the blessing of their crew, the Enterprise is sent on a rescue mission in which no one else but Nella Daren becomes the key figure and has to be sent to the front line. Also, I just don't think that after receiving word that Daren's team couldn't be beamed out in time Picard would just go to his quarters. He would certainly be on the bridge or at the transporter console and coordinate the rescue efforts. He would enlist Geordi's and Data's help to find a way to beam out the remaining crew members. He would be there for anyone of his crew in trouble, not just for Nella Daren. And just as I don't like how Picard deals with Nella being in danger, I don't think he should generalize the exceptional situation. Nella is working in stellar cartography. She normally doesn't go on dangerous away missions. In fact, I don't think she is usually in any way more endangered than the crew's families, on a ship that is caught in a conflict or in a space anomaly every few weeks as it seems. As already mentioned, I see no reason why the captain is in such an exceptional position that only he couldn't afford to have his beloved on board.
- Why would the Federation build a colony on such a hostile planet, whose firestorms no one can survive? Perhaps the firestorms used to be better predictable, and perhaps Bersallis III is important because of rare deposits. But even then it would have been advised to give the colony a few shuttles, so they could accomplish the evacuation themselves.
- Nella Daren heads the department of stellar cartography, but most of her research seems to be concerned with astrophysics or geophysics, including her previous mission to the plasma geysers on Melnos IV, where she first tried out the shield technology.
- Remarkable music: We can hear classical music from Bach, Beethoven and Chopin in this episode.
- Crew death: science officer Richardson
Stardate 46731.5: Picard turns down the tempting offer of his old archeology professor, Richard Galen, to accompany him on a quest that could have an impact on the whole galaxy. Galen leaves, only to be deadly injured after an Yridian attack. Picard traces Galen's journey, and he finds a puzzle composed of DNA fragments Galen has been collecting from various planets in the galaxy. There is something like a coded message in these fragments. Not only the Enterprise, but also Cardassians, Klingons and eventually Romulans are seeking for the missing fragments to decode the message, which could be the plan for a weapon or something equally powerful or valuable. When finally the different parties meet on a desert planet and struggle for the possession of the code, Picard and Crusher feed a tricorder with the last fragment, which they find in the ground of this long-dead planet, and a message is replayed. A humanoid appears and declares that their race was the first to emerge in the galaxy. They found themselves alone, but they preserved their legacy by spreading DNA fragments on many planets, to trigger a development that would finally lead to the formation of humanoids just like them. In a way, Klingons, Cardassians, Romulans and humans are all related to each other. The message of peace, however, isn't received very well by the various species. Only the remark by the Romulan commander who was obviously impressed and is looking forward to future common missions is a sign of hope.
As soon as in his first draft for Star Trek from 1964, Gene Roddenberry suggested that the inhabitants of alien planets should look human, for the sake of "a practical budget figure". And so most of the various humanoids of TOS were indistinguishable from humans. The movies and TNG generally followed suit, although some make-up varieties were introduced, most notably the Klingon forehead ridges. While no one complained about TOS aliens not looking alien enough, TNG and the later series have repeatedly been ridiculed for their fondness of latex chin, nose or forehead pieces. I wholeheartedly reject such criticism because besides budget issues and continuity there is another important reason why aliens in Star Trek have only slight make-up. It would not be possible for the actors to convey emotions if their faces were covered with heavy masks (or if there weren't anything even recognizable as a face). As much as this lowers the level of "realism" that some critics seem to expect from a science fiction series, it is still a TV drama about the adventures of human(oid) characters played by (often very accomplished) actors. I am glad that Star Trek remained true to its roots while Michael Westmore was in charge of the make-up and still now that inserting CG characters everywhere would be no problem.
Defying the critics of Star Trek's alien make-ups may not have been the main purpose of this episode, but it performs very well in this regard. I think it is one of the best, if not the very best, story idea of modern Star Trek. While it is not unheard of that civilizations from different planets share a common origin (such as the Vulcans and Romulans, or the civilizations transplanted by the Preservers), the concept that all humanoid species may have been designed to evolve just like that is absolutely fascinating and has far-reaching consequences. There is probably no other Star Trek episode with so much food for thought. TNG: "The Chase" may have been intended to continue the tradition of Roddenberry's anti-religious attitude, as it rebuts the idea of a religious genesis in which a higher being created all life. Yet, it occurred to me that the episode readily presents evidence of intelligent design in the Star Trek Universe. A vastly advanced species laid the foundation for all humanoid life in the Milky Way Galaxy four billion years ago. If we acknowledge the idea that these aliens could artificially alter the course of genetics without any geneticist noticing, it is hard to justify that a god or "nature" has not done or is not still doing the same in the evolution of humans or other lifeforms. So inadvertently Star Trek promoted the idea of "intelligent design", whatever we may think of this theory.
Notwithstanding the splendid story idea, the script and the directing is rather bumpy. While I understand the desire to bring as many different species as possible together to listen to the speech of the protohumanoid, the motivations of the Klingons, Cardassians and Romulans never become clear. A message from a time four billion years ago is dangerous knowledge by its very definition, but only in so far as it could question religious beliefs and political doctrines. Why in the world do the aliens, quite unlike the clearly more enlightened and accordingly smug Starfleet crew, think that the ancient message contains the plans of a weapon or a power source? Just because a shady Yridian information dealer told them so? The whole treasure hunt is farcical. I read at MA that the early drafts were shelved for being too reminiscent of "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World", but I can still see much of the silly film in the finished episode. Many of the statements and actions in the episode are over the top, such as notably the destruction of a planet's complete ecosphere at the hand of the Klingons, but no one still cares about it in the following. We have to keep in mind that in TNG: "Chain of Command", everyone was outraged about the possible Cardassian metagenic weapon, saying that it could kill everything on a planet in a matter of days. In "The Chase" Nu'Daq actually uses such a weapon, but it remains only a side note and does not entail any consequences for the Klingons.
Regarding the guest characters, while I don't care for the various aliens, Professor Galen's appearance has a lasting impact. He may seem like a foolish and unfair old man, who comes to Picard after as many as three decades and expects him to quit his job. But I think there is more about him. Picard is very passionate about many things, and one lifetime, even in the 24th century, may be too short to accomplish everything to his satisfaction. Galen embodies not just some former life but everything that Picard would love to do or may have been missing in his life. And he is still so inspiring that Picard probably gives the idea to join him some serious thought.
Overall, I would give the episode premise 10++ points, but the way to the marvelous finale is a bit disappointing. I think nine points are fair.
- Continuity: In TNG: "Gambit", Picard will pose as an archeologist named "Galen".
- Professor Galen gives Picard an immensely valuable complete Kurlan naiskos. Wouldn't this artifact rather belong in a museum? This is not really inconsistent but it's quite unprofessional.
- There is no explanation in the final version of the episode why the Yridian ship explodes at the first phaser hit.
- The science in this episode is rather dubious. If all humanoids were that closely related that they could interbreed with or without the help of medical technology, why wasn't the necessary genetic similarity recognized much sooner, considering that the humanoid genomes will have been largely decoded until then and that comparative genetic analysis is very easy with the technology of the 24th century? Beverly Crusher is surprised that the genomes from the various planets (many of which are not even taken from humanoids) have compatible base pairs allowing to assemble the DNA strands to the ancient program. This indicates that the humanoid genomes of different origin are commonly believed to be entirely dissimilar and that the kinship or even compatibility was previously unknown. And, as Geordi notes, that the this can't be a random compatibility.
- Picard says there is "only one planet in the Kurlan system capable of supporting life - Loren III." This is odd because why would anyone name the system "Kurl" or "Kurlan", and the individual planet "Loren III"? If anything, the system may be named "Loren", and one planet "Kurl" (mentioned at the beginning of the episode), because of its importance as the home of the Kurlan civilization. Furthermore, wouldn't Kurl itself be the perfect candidate to look for traces of DNA, even though there may be no life any longer, considering that the Kurlans were obviously humanoid? Well, perhaps Loren III *is* Kurl. But the confusion continues as Data announces some time later that the ship is approaching the Loren system! Well, everything makes sense again if we imagine that Picard said that Loren III was *near*, rather than *in* the Kurlan system.
- Remarkable dialogue: "Professor, I'm afraid I won't be going. The Enterprise isn't something that I can leave and then come back to. If I go, I go for good. It's not something I'm not prepared to do." - "This is not some undergraduate study project that you're turning down. This is the chance of a lifetime. Don't make the same mistake twice." - "You don't believe that my career in Starfleet has been a mistake." - "What are you doing at this very moment? A study mission. You're like some Roman centurion out patrolling the provinces, maintenancing a dull and bloated Empire." (Picard and Galen)
- Remarkable quote: "Dream not of today." (This is the night blessing of the Yash-El. Picard missed this question in his final exam but looked it up.)
- Remarkable message: "You're wondering who we are, why we have done this, how it has come that I stand before you, the image of a being from so long ago. Life evolved on my planet before all others in this part of the galaxy. We left our world, explored the stars, and found none like ourselves. Our civilization thrived for ages, but what is the life of one race, compared to the vast stretches of cosmic time? We knew that one day we would be gone, that nothing of us would survive. So, we left you. Our scientists seeded the primordial oceans of many worlds, where life was in its infancy. The seed codes directed your evolution toward a physical form resembling ours. This body you see before you, which is, of course, shaped as yours is shaped, for you are the end result. The seed codes also contained this message, which we scattered in fragments on many different worlds. It was our hope that you would have to come together in fellowship and companionship to hear this message. And if you can see and hear me, our hope has been fulfilled. You are a monument, not to our greatness, but to our existence. That was our wish, that you too would know life, and would keep alive our memory. There is something of us in each of you, and so, something of you in each other. Remember us."
- Remarkable scene: Picard complains to Beverly that the ancient message has fallen on deaf ears. But then the Romulan commander calls him, saying "It would seem that we are not completely dissimilar after all, in our hopes, or in our fears."
- Remarkable prop: Picard will keep the Kurlan naiskos on the ship as it seems. However, in "Star Trek: Generations", after the crash of the ship, Picard only salvages his family's photo album and simply discards the naiskos. This can only mean that he has replaced the naiskos with a replica in the meantime.
- Remarkable symbolism: Professor Galen gave Picard the naiskos with the small figurines as a symbol for the many voices inside every individual, one of which may tell Picard to join Galen on his quest.
- Remarkable ship: The Yridian destroyer, unlike other alien ships-of-the-week, was never re-used for another civilization. The miniature is a mystery, as no photos of it are available.
- Remarkable appearance: Salome Jens plays the protohumanoid. She must have made quite an impression with the producers, because she will reappear as the Female Changeling in a couple of DS9 episodes, with a similarly featureless make-up.
- Remarkable fact: 17 people aboard the Enterprise are from non-Federation planets.
Stardate 46778.1: With a few days rest before leading an undercover mission on Tilonus IV, Riker takes on the demanding role of a patient in a mental hospital in Beverly's stage play "Frame of Mind", together with Data as his therapist. While he is rehearsing for the play, Riker is under psychic strain, he thinks that he is making up things but carries on. However, just after the play is over and everyone applauds, Riker finds himself in what looks like a real mental hospital on the planet Tilonus, talking to Dr. Syrus instead of Data. Riker begins to switch between the Enterprise and the mental institution, and he has no idea which of the two is real. He finally submits to the idea that he is actually mentally ill and agrees to a treatment by Dr. Syrus. When he is rescued from the hospital by Data and Worf, Riker still can't believe that he is on the ship now. He takes a phaser and destroys this illusion. Actually, he has been captured by the Tilonians who have drugged him to extract strategic information from his brain, and only after he drops both illusions he wakes up and manages to arrange for an emergency beam-out.
Characters of the various Star Trek series repeatedly find themselves in situations in which they can't distinguish what is real and what is an illusion or a hallucination, beginning with "The Cage". They usually fight their way out, by means of cunning, technology or sometimes mere brute force. They usually don't know who is messing with their perception, but at least the characters can be sure that there is someone else who they can fight in some fashion. While Riker is under alien influence just as well, he ultimately has to struggle with his own mind, and this is one thing that sets "Frame of Mind" apart from episodes with a superficially similar theme like "Starfleet officer put in an alien prison and/or under mind control under false allegations". While Riker already was in a remotely similar situation in TNG: "Future Imperfect", so far only TNG: "The Mind's Eye" dealt with a crew member (Geordi) who had to struggle against his own memories, to sort out what really happened and what he was made to believe. "Frame of Mind" is clearly more impressive, which is also due to the fact that we see everything through Riker's eyes.
While it is clear that the person who increasingly believes that he is insane really is Will Riker, first officer of the Enterprise, and not a maniacal murderer, the viewer is caught in his distorted world just like Riker himself. We only see the true Enterprise members as late as at the very end of the episode. Everything else is not real, not the intermediate rescue attempt and definitely not the projections that Syrus creates during Riker's therapy. I like how the images of Troi, Picard and Worf are being used here, although it is a recurring theme in Star Trek that visual representations of crewmates stand in for particular aspects of a character's psyche, which will eventually be done almost ad nauseam in DS9.
The story also draws on the fact that Riker was rehearsing for the role of the inmate of a mental hospital in a stage play. This seems to be a manufactured coincidence at first (Riker is on the stage, and then finds himself in a real mental institution whose cell door happens to look just like on the stage). But it turns out to be a key element of the plot in which Riker transposes his (straining) experiences of the stage play, "projecting elements from your delusions onto events that really happened", as a false Dr. Syrus correctly explains in a false context. Actually, Riker's feeling about playing someone mentally ill, plus the possible trivia about mental institutions from the stage play in his mind, may have brought up the disturbing and frighteningly realistic delusions in the first place. Had Riker gone to Tilonus, let's say just after a vacation on Risa, it may have been much more pleasant for him. Still, it may not have saved him from his mind being tampered with by the Tilonians.
It is an important aspect of the story that Riker gradually puts up with his situation of being in a mental institution, to find peace, and because this possible reality makes more sense to him than his being on or his memories of the Enterprise, which are frequently interrupted by inconsistencies such as the appearance of the Tilonian lieutenant named Suna. And after all, it makes perfect sense for him that his mind blocks out the memory of him having committed a crime. Moreover, Syrus offers him two options, while frequently switching from the ship to the cell definitely isn't one for Riker. And so Riker is eventually ready to believe Syrus.
But a part of Riker's mind is not yet ready to accept the defeat. And so he hallucinates that other inmates of the mental institution pretend to be Starfleet officers, and he clutches at the straw, although the story can't possibly be true (especially since they are all Tilonians and hence part of the "stronger" reality). But only when the woman who poses as a Starfleet commander talks into her improvised communicator, actually a spoon (and hence a great parody of the resourcefulness of Starfleet officers), it becomes clear to him that he has arrived at yet another dead end. And even as the treatment has already taken effect as it seems, he still imagines that Worf and Data are going to rescue him, because that is just what they were going to do, were Riker a real Starfleet officer.
And so Riker finds himself on the Enterprise again, where he just can't believe that Beverly can't heal his small wound. Riker blasts away the false reality with a phaser. This reminds me a lot of the famous scene in "Total Recall" when Schwarzenegger's character notices that there is something wrong in his allegedly induced dream, only that he does the exact contrary and deliberately shoots the real person, rather than the illusion. Anyway, Riker works his way through the various layers of reality in his mind, until he arrives at the real place where he is being held, strapped to a table (a bit reminiscent of "Schisms"). I don't mind that the resolution is rather simple, because if there is any Star Trek episode in which the journey is the reward, it is "Frame of Mind" (and is the exact contrary to last week's "The Chase" in this regard).
I think Jonathan Frakes' performance in this episode is simply outstanding, and I admit I may have underestimated his acting up to this point, probably also because with a few exceptions Commander Riker was not the one who had to cope with big emotions, much less one who would likely question his own existence.
There are certainly some open questions. While there is almost definitely no Tilonian crew member on the Enterprise, I wonder whether Worf really hurt Riker with that knife, preparing for the mission, and whether there was really a crew member with burns in sickbay who may or may not have given Riker a reproachful look.
Overall there is no question that "Frame of Mind" is among the very best Star Trek episodes, both in terms of the story and the execution.
- "Your character feels at odds with everyone, as if the world's against him." - "Like my first year at the Academy." - "Yes, that's what your character is going through. But I want you, Will Riker, to relax." (Crusher and Riker after the rehearsal, foreshadowing that the character would take over Riker)
- "You tried to escape. You struggled with one of the attendants and hit your head on a door. Do you remember that?" - "Yes. I remember that now. But I thought it was a Klingon who had cut me with a knife." - "That's called transposition. You're projecting elements from your delusions onto events that really happened. But that's good. There was a time when you couldn't break away from your starship fantasy at all." (Syrus and Riker)
- "I feel like an actor.", "Well, you're certainly beginning to look the part." (Riker and Data, alluding to Riker's deranged look)
- Remarkable monologue: "You bet I'm agitated! I may be surrounded by insanity, but I am not insane. And nothing you or anyone else can say will change that. And I won't let you or anyone else tell me that I am. You may be able to destroy my mind, but you can't change the fact that I'm innocent. I didn't kill that man! And that's what's driving you crazy." (Riker's monologue in the stage play)
- Remarkable 47: Riker is held in Ward 47 of the Tilonus Institute for Mental Disorders in his delusion.
Stardate 46830.1: The Ferengi scientist Dr. Reyga has developed a metaphasic shield that can protect a starship inside the corona of a star. Beverly arranges a meeting of Reyga with skeptical Vulcan and Klingon colleagues and a Takaran scientist named Jo'Bril, who volunteers to test the device which is installed in a shuttle. Jo'Bril does not survive his stay in the corona, and after some time Reyga is found dead after what appears to be a suicide. Against Ferengi customs, Beverly performs an autopsy on Reyga, upon which she is relieved of duty. In an effort to solve the case, Beverly takes the shuttle herself to test the shield, but Jo'Bril is already waiting for her. He is not dead because his race is capable of a death-like stasis. While his original goal was to discredit Reyga's work to carry on with it himself, he is now going to steal the prototype. Beverly gets the upper hand in the following fight, and Jo'Bril is killed, while Reyga's and Beverly's reputations are restored.
"Suspicions" is an unusual and perhaps an unusually bold episode in two regards. It shows Beverly Crusher in an unfamiliar role and it tells much of the story in the form of flashbacks.
The last time Beverly was in the focus was in "The Host", but the story detracted from the self-confident person that Beverly is supposed to be. Rather than that, "Suspicions" continues in the vein of "Remember Me", also thematically, because both episodes deal with subspace technology. In both episodes Beverly finds her way out of a dilemma on her own, with reason but ultimately with a bold decision.
Overall, Beverly receives little to no help from her superiors and from equally ranking officers in "Suspicions". Considering that interstellar relations may outweigh the investigation of a case that looks more like a suicide than like a murder, Picard forbids the autopsy on Reyga. He is accordingly disappointed when she disobeys his order, saying that he can't do much to protect her. Riker only reiterates the warning not to do any investigation even after Beverly is already off duty. While it is only realistic that Picard and Riker, as superior officers, would react like that, I think their interaction with Beverly is lacking the usual familiarity that is present in other episodes of the sixth season.
The only support Beverly receives is from people who are not normally involved in the decision process on the ship. It is Guinan who tells Beverly that it couldn't possibly get worse for Beverly and that she should carry on with her investigation, and Alyssa Ogawa who helps Beverly in the second autopsy (although this may have disciplinary consequences for her). While this is still a nice touch, I don't like Beverly's following reckless maneuver to prove her weak hypothesis that the shuttle was sabotaged.
I like the character of Dr. Reyga. Reyga is all Ferengi in his posture and facial expressions. Yet, unlike almost all Ferengi that came before him, he doesn't appear as a caricature, and so he rectifies the picture of his people. Regarding the other alien scientists, I think they are caught too much in their stereotypical roles to make a real impact. Although it comes as a surprise that he is alive, this also applies to the mysterious Jo'Bril.
- Why would Beverly care for subspace technology in the first place? Does she have the necessary knowledge to judge Dr. Reygar's work? Would the scientists care to accept an invitation from a physician? Well, perhaps Beverly did learn a bit on it after her experience in "Remember Me" but it is not really plausible that she could arrange the meeting of scientists single-handedly.
- The sensors pick up an "increased level of baryon particles in the cabin" of the shuttle after it has entered the corona, which is rated as potentially dangerous. Like already in "Starship Mine", this is a misconception of baryons. Actually, baryon is just a collective term for any particles made up of three quarks, with the most notable baryons being protons and neutrons, of which there can't be anything like an "increased level".
- How could Jo'Bril escape from the morgue and hide in the shuttle without being noticed?
- Continuity: Beverly will successfully use the metaphasic shield to protect the Enterprise in "Descent, Part II".
- Remarkable dialogue: "Computer, access autopsy files. [turning to Beverly] I assume you'll need the files on Doctor Reyga and Jo'Bril?" - "Alyssa." - "I can see how important this is to you." - "I don't want you to get involved in this." - "Is that an order, Doctor?" - "Yes." - "Too bad you're not my boss any more." (Alyssa Ogawa and Beverly Crusher)
- Beverly shoots at Jo'Bril, trying to disable him. The phaser beam leaves a hole to peek through in his body but this doesn't stop him, upon which Beverly increases the setting and vaporizes Jo'Bril.
- Beverly does some research on tennis rackets and finds the perfect one for Guinan. When she comes to Guinan in Ten Forward and presents the racket, Guinan tells her that she never played tennis. Her tennis elbow was just a false pretense to talk to Beverly.
- Remarkable appearance: This is the final appearance of Guinan in the regular series. She will be back for "Star Trek: Generations".
- Remarkable shuttle: The Type-6 shuttle with the metaphasic shield modification is named Justman, in honor of Robert Justman, producer of The Original Series and supervising producer of TNG.
- Remarkable fact: Dr. Selar is still on the ship. We don't see her but she replaces Beverly after she has been relieved of duty.
Stardate 46852.2: Worf strives to see the ancient Klingon leader Kahless in a vision and neglects his duties. Picard grants him a shore leave in a monastery on Boreth, where the Klingons await the return of Kahless. Worf is disappointed that he doesn't have any visions like the other Klingons, when suddenly Kahless actually appears. Worf is skeptical, but Dr. Crusher's DNA comparison with blood on the Knife of Kirom reveals that this is indeed Kahless. Chancellor Gowron is not lucky at all, and he questions Kahless' right to take his place as the Klingon leader. His suspicion proves right when Kahless exhibits only very faint memories of his former life. The cleric Koroth finally has to admit that they cloned Kahless and gave him the memories that he should possess according to the ancient myths. Nonetheless, knowing that a renewal of Klingon society is due, a solution is found to make Kahless the Klingon Emperor, while Gowron remains the head of the government.
The story of "Rightful Heir" is typical of a more favorable depiction of religion and religious spirituality in Star Trek after Gene Roddenberry's death. Unlike it was still the case in episodes such as "Justice" or "Who Watches the Watchers", Picard readily accepts that his chief of security believes in something supernatural and doesn't get preachy about how he should rather cling to science. And while no one of the senior officers is with Worf when he suggests that the man he encountered in the monastery may actually be the legendary Kahless, who died some 1500 years ago, it is not a big deal for them to disagree. Star Trek really lightens up in this regard, and I like the new direction. Well, we may say that this case is a rather easy one, especially compared to "Who Watches the Watchers" where Starfleet was responsible and evoked the existence of a god on Mintaka. On the other hand, it should matter to Starfleet who rules the Klingon Empire, and yet Picard and the rest of the crew except for Worf remain totally impartial. Well, the Prime Directive forbids any kind of interference in internal Klingon affairs anyway, but the directive isn't even cited in the episode as far as I remember. Overall, all characters deal with matters of faith with great respect.
Yet, science ultimately prevails over faith even in this story. Kahless is a clone, an ingenious piece of technology in a manner of speaking. There is nothing divine in this Kahless 2.0, considering that Koroth could have cloned hundreds of his kind. So while the story leaves a loophole for religion in a way that there may be still some truth in the ancient myths after all, it eventually restores the traditional position of science above religion in Star Trek.
Chancellor Gowron is a skeptic from the outset. His opposition to Kahless is quite obvious, as the ancient leader challenges his position as the leader of the Klingon Empire. Ironically, although he was right about everything, he suffers some kind of defeat in the end, because he has to concede that his people may prefer to cling to the vision of Kahless, even with the knowledge that he is only a copy of their legendary hero.
The depiction of Worf in this story, on the other hand, may not seem quite consistent, as he switches between being a skeptic and a believer too often and for marginal reasons. On the other hand, this is only understandable for someone who is seeking his path and who is uncertain in the presence of conflicting opinions and evidence. Worf himself says, "I want to believe." Nothing could possibly describe his situation better. He is seeking for a new truth, and perhaps a simple truth, such as one which is written in ancient texts and which is now embodied by the resurrected Kahless. But there are always new doubts about the whole story. Although Worf ultimately learns that Kahless is phony, I think he finds comfort in the doubtless fact that Kahless is a clone, something that is easy to explain and easy to understand (at least for a person from the 24th century). And while the ancient texts may still hold some truths for him, the scientific explanation has replaced Worf's idea of a resurrected Kahless to his satisfaction.
Overall, I like the very idea of the episode, but it never gets really exciting. And while I think it is good that the Starfleet crew (except Worf) take a back seat, there should have been more or a conflict among the Klingons about what to do with their savior. In retrospect it is the biggest disappointment that Kahless is made a big deal here but was referred to only in a throwaway line after this episode.
- Worf refers to his time in the prisoner camp on Carraya ("Birthright").
- Dr. Crusher mentions a coalescent being as one possibility who or what Kahless could be ("Aquiel").
- The Kahless in this episode looks nothing like the one in TOS: "The Savage Curtain", and is a much more honorable person anyway.
- "When Kahless had united our people and gave them the laws of honor, he saw that his work was done. So one night he gathered his belongings and departed for the edge of the city to say goodbye. The people wept. They did not want him to go. Then Kahless said, 'You are Klingons. You need no one but yourselves. I will go now to Sto-Vo-Kor. But I promise one day I will return.' Then Kahless pointed to a star in the sky and said, 'Look for me there, on that point of light.'" (Story of the Promise)
- "I went into the mountains, all the way to the volcano at Kri'stak. There I cut off a lock of my hair and thrust it into the river of molten rock that poured from the summit. The hair began to burn. Then I plunged it into the lake of Lusor and twisted it into this sword. And after I used it to kill Molor I gave it a name. Bat'leth. The sword of honor." (the so far secret story of the bat'leth, as told by Kahless)
- "Long ago, a storm was heading toward the city of Quin'lat. The people sought protection within the walls. All except one man who remained outside. I went to him and asked what he was doing. 'I am not afraid,' he said. 'I will not hide my face behind stone and mortar. I will stand before the wind and make it respect me.' I honored his choice and went inside. The next day, the storm came and the man was killed. The wind does not respect a fool. Do not stand before the wind, Gowron." (Kahless)
- Remarkable absences: Deanna and Geordi do not appear in this episode.
- Remarkable fact: We see Data on the night shift on the bridge once again.
Stardate 46915.2: Commander Riker is surprised to find a second version of himself on the planet Nervala IV. He visited this planet eight years ago, while still a lieutenant on the Potemkin. When his beam-up through the distortion field that surrounds the planet was about to fail, the transporter chief locked a second beam onto him. When Riker materialized on the Potemkin, no one was aware that the other beam had been reflected by the field, materializing a second Riker on the planet. This Lt. Riker spent eight years on the lonely outpost and has taken a completely different development than Cmdr. Riker - including that Lt. Riker's love to Deanna is still alive. The two can't get along with each other, but they finally work well together to retrieve the last data from the outpost, before the transport window closes for another eight years. Lt. Riker eventually decides to leave for the USS Gandhi and to go by his second name, Thomas.
This episode is interesting in three regards. Firstly, it sheds new light on Riker's character. So far Commander Riker always appeared as one of the most curious and open-minded crew members, as opposed most notably to Worf, who can be very reserved, even restrained. Now that Riker meets his other self, he couldn't be more negative about him. After the initial shock "our" Riker quickly tends to his mission on the planet again and leaves the other Riker (and the mystery about him) to Worf and Beverly. He avoids any contact with Lieutenant Riker, even avoids talking about him to others. Commander Riker feels like pulling rank when the two have to work together on Captain Picard's behalf. It has a symbolic meaning that in one scene Commander Riker is sitting on a chair, and Lieutenant Riker is working on something under the desk. But also in their spare time and in their love triangle with Deanna, Commander Riker lets his apparent rival feel his disapproval about each and everything. Since he sees in Lieutenant Riker the person he once was, it is like Commander Riker is accusing himself of his errors of the past, or of what he sees as errors in retrospect. Maybe it is also a bit of hurt vanity because he is not unique any longer. Yet, Commander Riker definitely thinks he has to prove that he is the better Riker, which makes him consistently unlikable here. Neither any of the two Rikers nor Deanna openly discuss these issues at any time in the episode. It is Data and Worf who hit the mark with their assessment of the situation. Worf: "But Commander Riker and Lieutenant Riker are [easy to get along with]. Yet they seem to have trouble getting along with each another. I have found that humans value their uniqueness, that sense that they are different from every one else. The existence of a double would preclude that feeling. Could that be the source of the friction?" Data: "Or perhaps it is more a matter of seeing something in your double. Something you do not like in yourself." When the two Rikers part ways, they have come to terms somehow, but apparently still without speaking out on their differences.
Secondly, the story is a "what if" scenario of a kind we haven't seen before on the series because we are presented both versions of how Riker's life could have unfolded, in a sort of competition. A competition that Lieutenant Riker wins in terms of his emotional involvement. He embraces the world and expects the world (and especially Deanna) to embrace him after eight years of loneliness. He thinks he has to push it, as in his view there is a lot to catch up with. But he definitely has the worse perspective for the future, since Commander Riker has been promoted in his place, has given up Deanna in his place, has come to terms with their father in his place. There is hardly anything left that Lieutenant Riker could do on his own or could do ahead of his twin, and the stubbornness of his other self to accept him makes it even harder. On the other hand, Lieutenant Riker should realize that he, being the same person, would have done exactly the same if he had been given the chance, if he had materialized on the ship and not on the planet. With a certain complex of inferiority (and quite like Commander Riker), he thinks he must question everything that has happened in the past eight years and that he was not able to participate in. One key scene is the poker game, in which both Rikers make aggressive bets and think they can mutually guess their thoughts. Lieutenant Riker loses. Annoyed about it, and as if the card game would mean anything for his life or would reflect it, he leaves the room with the remark that Commander Riker always has "the better hand".
There is also an interesting scientific aspect about the story. Can two complete human beings may materialize from only one pattern? If this is so, can human beings be duplicated so easily? Does the transporter handle just energy after all, as opposed to matter? Like already in TOS: "The Enemy Within" and later in DS9: "Our Man Bashir", it seems as if not always the very matter of a person or object were transferred, but only in an ideal case, as long as nothing goes wrong with the pattern. This may also raise questions about the ethics of the transporter, concerning of individual rights that may be harmed if someone is "split" or missing matter complemented.
Notwithstanding the above revelations of personal and scientific nature, I think the story focuses too much on trivialities right after the astounding teaser when the second Riker is discovered. Actually, most of the episode consists of Lieutenant Riker trying to catch up with Deanna and with the amenities of the Enterprise (Ten Forward, mok'bara, poker), which is a bit too episodic and too formulaic. It is kind of a surprise though that Lieutenant Riker survives the episode, because in a conventional course of the story he would die a tragic death, saving the other Riker (or vice versa?). Still, the climax when Commander Riker saves Lieutenant Riker's life is a bit contrived.
- Continuity: Lt. Riker decides to call himself Thomas Riker. He will return in DS9: "Defiant", now operating for the Maquis.
- Remarkable appearance: Mae Jemison, a real NASA astronaut, can be seen at the transporter console.
Stardate 46944.2: Returning by runabout from a conference, Troi, Picard, Data and La Forge are puzzled by areas in which time elapses with different speeds. They find the frozen scene of a Romulan warbird firing a disruptor beam at the Enterprise. With the help of modified transporter armbands, Troi, Picard and Data beam over to the Enterprise while remaining in their own frame of time. They discover that the ship is apparently being boarded by Romulans, that Beverly is being hit by a disruptor beam and, even worse, a warp core breach is in progress. Picard, suffering from side effects of the time shift, has to return to the runabout. On the warbird the three other officers discover strange lifeforms in the quantum singularity, the ship's power source. The presence of the lifeforms interferes with a power transfer from the Enterprise, creating the temporal fragments. Geordi is attacked by an alien disguised as a Romulan, and Deanna saves him by removing his armband so that there will be enough time to treat him. The alien says that they use a gravity well as a nest for their young, and that they were under the impression that the artificial quantum singularity could serve the same purpose. Data manages to turn back the time so as to prevent the warp core breach, but he is attacked by another alien whose intention was the same, to stop the power transfer. With the power transfer in progress yet again, Picard steers the runabout between the two ships where it disrupts the beam and explodes. The crew of the warbird is beamed off the ship before it vanishes.
Some of the best TNG episodes are concerned with temporal phenomena, and here is another one that made my top ten list. The premise of "Timescape" is similar as in TOS: "Wink of an Eye": Almost everyone is frozen in time, and some crew members, who have the advantage of being fast enough, have all the time in the world to get at the bottom of the problem and to fix it. But unlike in the TOS episode and unlike in previous encounters with the Romulans in TNG, the story of "Timescape" takes an unusual direction. Actually, it plays with our expectations when a Romulan ship sends a distress call (with Worf mentioning that it could be a trap) and requires an energy transfer. These are obvious parallels to TNG: "The Next Phase", and there are more to come. In both episodes there is a spatial phenomenon for which the Romulan technology is at least partially responsible and which prevents some characters (now Picard, Deanna, Geordi and Data, then Geordi and Laren) from getting in touch with the rest of the crew. In the later course of "Timescape" we even see a Romulan, who can attack the crew because he is on the same time level, which is almost exactly the same as in TNG: "The Next Phase". But I don't think it's a lame idea, because the Romulan turns out to be an unknown alien, and because everything turns out to be different that it initially seems.
My only two problems are with the science of the episode. The first is that realistically it wouldn't be possible to see or to operate anything on the frozen Enterprise (or only breathe the slow and cold air). My second beef is with the idea that organic beings could survive in the Romulan engine core. While the first is required to tell the story, I would have wished for a more plausible explanation of what caused the temporal fragmentation than "alien babies in a black hole".
Other than that, I have only praise for the thrilling story, for the scary atmosphere that is created through the visual effects and the score, as well as for the directing with its nearly perfect timing (pun alert) and the performances. I would like to commend Marina Sirtis, who is quite credible in her unusually active role. Deanna provides more than just occasional cues, she even takes the lead in some critical situations (for instance, when she saves Geordi after he has been attacked by removing his armband, thereby buying him more time).
The effect of frozen crew members is accomplished most of the time by actors and extras standing still in live action shots, in order to save costs and because the compositing didn't allow to let people walk around a still image without visible artifacts. But there are several instance of shaking bodies that are rather distracting. One notable exception is the Romulan who fires at Beverly, which was inserted as a still image into the live scene and is accordingly blurred.
- Deanna uses plexing, which she recommended to Lt. Barclay in TNG: "Realm of Fear", to cope with the experience of being frozen.
- We can see the transporter armbands from TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds II" again.
- Geordi and Data build a phase discriminator, with an explicit reference to the similar device they used on Devidia II in TNG: "Time's Arrow".
- Deanna's time ("several days") on the Romulan ship in TNG: "Face of the Enemy" is referred to.
- Romulan warbirds are powered by an artificial quantum singularity, essentially a black hole, which will play a major role in DS9: "Visionary".
- This is the only time on TNG we can see a runabout, which are commonplace on DS9.
- Realistically, the crew could neither see anything nor interact with anything on the slow time level.
- Shouldn't Beverly recognize that the scratches on Riker's face stem from an encounter with a cat?
- I don't understand why the warbird vanishes in the end. Yet, it seems to be the expected outcome for the crew members, who prepare to evacuate the Romulan crew in time.
- Remarkable dialogue: Deanna: "I was just leaving the reception when this Ktarian walks up to me and says, 'Hello, Diane. I understand you're an empath. I'm a very sensitive man myself. I'm doing a thesis on interspecies mating rituals. Would you care to join me in some empirical research?'" - Geordi: "That's a very good impression of Doctor Mizan." - Deanna: "How did you know?" - La Forge: "He's notorious, but he really is an expert on interspecies mating practices." - Data: "Did you help him with his research, Counselor?" - Deanna: "Absolutely not." - Data: "I thought it was a topic you were interested in."
- Picard tells of a seemingly endless boring presentation on the conference, after which the first incident of frozen time occurs.
- Picard, under the psychic strain of the other time level, draws a smiley into the cloud of the warp core breach, then breaks down.
- On the Enterprise, when time is running backward, Data has some trouble making way for crew members who suddenly begin to move.
- Remarkable 47: On the accelerated time level, the starboard nacelle has been in operation for 47 days until it fails.
Stardate 46982.1/47025.2: The Borg have attacked a Federation outpost, but these Borg are different: They are violent, they seek vengeance and they have individual names. Data is obviously different too when he kills a Borg in rage. Admiral Nechayev blames Picard for the new threat because he released the Borg named Hugh. She orders him to take any chance to destroy the Borg next time. When Data leaves the ship together with a captured Borg some time later, their trace leads to a planet whose shielding doesn't allow to scan for lifeforms. While most of the crew take part in a large-scale ground search, Beverly remains in command of the ship. Picard's team is captured by the Borg, and he is shocked to see Data side by side with his evil twin Lore as the new leaders of the Borg. The new individuality brought to the Collective by Hugh has left a vacuum Lore was able and willing to fill. Lore takes Geordi to perform experiments on him. In the meantime the Enterprise is attacked by a Borg ship in orbit. After beaming back most of the crew Beverly manages to lure the Borg into the sun's corona where they destroy it while the Enterprise is protected by the metaphasic shield. On the planet, Lore orders Data to kill Picard, but Picard has managed to reboot Data's ethical subroutines, so Data is now able to defy his being emotionally controlled by Lore. Hugh helps Riker and Worf to overwhelm the Borg that are loyal to Lore. Data deactivates Lore and removes his brother's emotion chip but decides to give it to Geordi, rather than use it.
Data's first two encounters with his evil brother Lore, "Datalore" and "Brothers", were less exciting than they could have been. Especially in the latter episode their family reunion with Noonien Soong turned out rather disappointing, and anticlimactic after the great opening in which Data took control of the Enterprise. The two-parter "Descent" doesn't repeat this mistake. It is a quite good but not perfect episode that concludes the awesome second half of the sixth season. While the story is just as much about the Borg and what they are doing with their newfound individuality, it doesn't neglect the plot thread about Data and Lore, and this time without the overused "mistaken identity" theme. Well, at the beginning it seems like the sudden emergence of a feeling in Data is a B-plot just like his dreams in "Birthright", subordinated to the crew's fight against the Borg. I like that Data remains in the focus against my expectations, although it is contrived that Lore runs into the Borg, rises to their leader and attaches importance to Data joining him.
The fact that Lore becomes the leader of the Borg is a barely concealed reference to Hitler's rise to power in Germany. Hugh sums it up perfectly: "That's what we wanted. Someone to show us the way out of confusion. Lore promised clarity and purpose. In the beginning, he seemed like a savior. The promise of becoming a superior race, of becoming fully artificial was compelling. We gladly did everything he asked of us. But after a while, it became clear that Lore had no idea how to keep his promise. That's when he began talking about the need for us to make sacrifices. Before we realized it, this was the result [the victims of Lore's experiments come into sight]." We just need to replace "Lore" with "Hitler" in his statement and remove the part with "fully artificial", and the story will be just as true! And as if this were not obvious enough, Lore's building is decorated with flags, showing the "Borg claw" in the black-white-red colors of the Nazi flag. (Well, those colors were taken from the pre-WWI German Empire flag, by which Hitler appealed to people's nostalgia. Nowadays those flag colors are scorned in Germany and only those who don't mind being labeled as Nazis use them, although only the swastika is illegal. So it just cries "Nazi", especially when you're German.)
In a way, Picard destroyed the "communist" Collective in "I, Borg" (albeit just a small part thereof, as we learn in "First Contact" and on Voyager), and now Lore has taken the opportunity to pose as the "Führer" of the disoriented Borg. Although the individual reactions of the Borg on the changes of leadership are much more extreme, the Collective, where everyone is equal and always works for the community instead for himself, and Lore's fascist idea of a better race that conquers the galaxy essentially stand for the two big ideologies that were imposed on the human race in the 20th century. And we also learn that the two are not as dissimilar as it seems, seeing that Lore links the Borg together (through Crosis) just like the Collective. And although the violence of Lore's Borg is labeled as particularly dangerous in the episode, the Borg who assimilate their victims are arguably just as terrifying a threat. Ultimately we will learn in "First Contact" that even the Collective isn't based on equality but has a leader in the form of the Borg Queen.
Lore is not only reminiscent of Hitler, but also of the typical James Bond villain, possibly also to lighten up the atmosphere a bit there is more humorous potential in the latter than in the former. He has mindless minions, a futuristic headquarters of evil, an agenda that he loves to explain to everyone, a habit to appeal to his listeners' emotions when it comes to his alleged "sacrifices", a plan to escape while everyone else is killed or captured. Well, Lore has much of the above in common with Hitler as well, because many Bond villains are based on the Nazi leader.
I have praise for Brent Spiner's performance in this episode. He manages to tone down Lore in way that he doesn't appear too much like a stereotypical movie villain or even movie Nazi, which would have been just too obtrusive. I also like how he plays Data's change of mind after talking to Crosis, when he suddenly says, in all honesty, that he would kill his friend Geordi to experience emotions again. This could have turned out very silly and it reads silly in the transcript without seeing and hearing Spiner.
- Picard leaves the ship to an inexperienced skeleton crew while the Borg ship could appear any time, only to search for one person, and also against his orders to protect Federation outposts.
- The previously untested (except on a tiny shuttle) metaphasic shield can be created on the Enterprise in minutes, by taking the specifications and changing just a few settings. At times we need to wonder what engineers are still needed for in the Star Trek Universe, if anyone can modify any existing device to any new one any time it is needed.
- Remarkable dialogues: While the focus is naturally on Data and, to lesser extent on the main cast, two supporting characters have great lines. Taitt (the young women in science department uniform) is concerned that the calculations of Barnaby (the man in yellow who relieves her on the tactical console) may be off, and the ship could hit the atmosphere, trying to drop out of warp in the last possible moment. Barnaby says, "I'll have to be sure my calculations are accurate, Ensign." Some time later Taitt herself suggests a dangerous maneuver to destroy the Borg vessel, triggering a plasma eruption from the sun. Barnaby is worried, and Taitt counters with the same words. This reminds me of McCoy and Spock's best days.
- Remarkable quote: "Could you describe 'angry' without referring to other feelings?" (Deanna, to Data)
- Remarkable scene: Lore poses with Geordi's VISOR, which he means as a joke. But Data, albeit under mind control (or emotional control) still doesn't get the humor. Well, maybe because the joke is lame.
- Remarkable 47s: I guess no other episode is so full of 47s, I gave up counting them after a while.
- Remarkable appearance: Stephen Hawking has the honor of being the only person who ever appeared as himself in a Star Trek episode (together with actors playing Newton and Einstein, who were not available in person for the shooting). His comment on the warp core during a tour of the Enterprise-D sets is legendary: "I'm working on that."
- Crew deaths: 3 security officers