The Next Generation (TNG) Season 6
Reviews in progress.
Time's Arrow II See TNG season 5
Realm of Fear 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. I especially like the idea to take care of the fear of being transported. Like Barclay, McCoy and Pulaski didn't like using the transporter, but in their cases it was more like a curious side note that they would prefer to take a shuttle. 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).
Continuity: 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.
Remarkable fact: 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.
Man of the People
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.
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".
Remarkable dialogues: "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)
Remarkable quotes: "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.
Other facts: 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.
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
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.
Continuity: 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".
Felis catus is your taxonomic nomenclature,
I find myself intrigued, by your subvocal
A tail is quite essential, for your acrobatic
Oh Spot, the complex levels of behavior you
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.
True Q 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".
Nitpicking: 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].
Remarkable dialogues: "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)
Remarkable scenes: 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.
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)
Remarkable quotes: "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?
Remarkable appearance: David Tristan Birkin, who plays the young Picard, previously appeared as Picard's nephew René in TNG: "Family".
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".
A Fistful of Datas 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.
The Quality of Life 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)
Chain of Command I/II 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
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.
Remarkable dialogues: "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)
Remarkable facts: Riker is of the class of 2357. -- Picard's serial number is SP-937-215.
Ship in a Bottle 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.
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
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?
Remarkable quotes: "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)
Remarkable scenes: 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.
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
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.
Face of the Enemy 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
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.
Tapestry 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".
Nitpicking: 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)
Remarkable quotes: "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..."
46578.4/46579.2: While the Enterprise is docked to Deep Space Nine for a Bajoran aid
mission, Worf learns that his father 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 Shrek 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, but the former Romulan guards and Klingon prisoners have
started an attempt to live in peace, unbeknownst to their respective
governments. Worf's doesn't find his father. He 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 is going 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 Soong as a
further stage of his development.
Starship Mine Stardate
46682.4: When the Enterprise is evacuated for a baryon sweep in the Remmler
Array, Picard discovers that terrorists are going to steal highly volatile
trilithium from the ship's warp core. The gangsters also capture the planet base
and kill its commanding officer, Huchinson, while they hold the Enterprise crew
hostages. On the largely 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 shuttle explodes because Picard has removed the stabilizer.
After the crew has turned tables among the terrorists, they can beam out Picard
in the last moment before the baryon beam reaches him.
46693.1: Picard falls in love with Neela Daren who is heading the stellar
cartography department of the ship. They find a common interest in music and use
the excellent acoustics of the Jefferies tubes for their private concerts with
one piano and one Ressikan flute. Their relationship is put to a test when Neela
is missing after a dangerous away mission to evacuate a Federation outpost on
Bersallis III which is threatened by firestorms. Even when she is eventually
saved, Picard realizes that he shouldn't be in love with someone who is his
subordinate, and Neela opts for a transfer to another ship.
The Chase 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 wounded after an Yridian attack.
Picard traces Galen's travel, 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 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.
Frame of Mind 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 the play
"Frame of Mind". Soon Riker finds himself in what looks like a real
mental hospital, and he is not sure if the asylum or the starship is the
reality. He finally submits to the idea that he is actually mentally ill. When
he is rescued from the hospital by Data and Worf, Riker still can't believe that
he is on the ship. Actually, he has been captured by the Tilonians who have
drugged him, and only after he drops both illusions he wakes up and manages to
arrange for an emergency beam-out.
46830.1: The Ferengi scientist Dr. Reyga has developed a metaphasic shield that
can protect a starship inside the corona of a star. Beverly has arranged a
meeting of Reyga with skeptical Vulcan and Klingon colleagues and a Takaran
scientist named Jo'Bril who demands to test the device which is installed in a
shuttle. Jo'Bril dies, and after some time Reyga is found dead after what
appears to be a suicide. Against Takaran customs, Beverly performs an autopsy,
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, and he
was 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
Rightful Heir Stardate
46852.2: Worf spends some time in a monastery on Boreth to await the return of
Kahless. He is disappointed that he doesn't have any visions like the other
Klingons, when suddenly Kahless actually appears. Worf is skeptical, but a 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's right to be
the Klingon leader, and 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. 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.
Second Chances Stardate
46915.2: Riker is surprised to find a second version of himself on the planet
Nervala IV. He visited this planet years ago, while still a lieutenant on the
Potemkin. When his beam-up through the unstable atmosphere was about to fail, a
second beam was locked onto him. When Riker materialized on the Potemkin, no one
was aware that one of the beam had been reflected, creating a second Riker on
the planet. This Lt. Riker spent many 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 when the last data from the outpost has to be
retrieved just as the transport window is about to close for a long time. Lt.
Riker decides to leave for the USS Gandhi, and he is going to use his second
This episode is interesting in two aspects. First of all, it sheds a new light on Riker's character. Commander Riker always appeared as one of the most curious and open-minded crew members, as opposed to Worf or Picard, for instance, who were often very reserved. Now that Riker meets his other self, he couldn't be more defiant and negative about him. He first avoids any contact with Lieutenant Riker, even avoids to talk about him to others. When they have to work together, he lets him 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 which he sees as errors. Maybe it is also a bit of hurt vanity because he is not unique any longer, but Commander Riker definitely thinks he has to prove that he is the better Riker, which makes him consistently unlikable here.
Regarding Lt. Riker, he is embracing the world and expecting the world to embrace him after eight years of loneliness. But he definitely has the worse perspective for the future, as Cmdr. 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 he could have or could do on his own, and the stubbornness of his other self to accept him makes it even harder. On the other hand, Lt. Riker should realize that he, being the same person, would have done exactly the same if he had been given the chance. With a certain complex of inferiority (quite like Cmdr. Riker too), he thinks he must question everything that has happened in the past eight years and that he was not able to participate in. The key scene is the poker game in which both Rikers make aggressive bets and think they can mutually guess their thoughts. Finally Lt. Riker loses. Annoyed about it, as if the poker game would mean anything for his life, he leaves the room with the remark that Cmdr. Riker always had the better luck.
The second interesting aspect is how two complete human beings may materialize from only one pattern. 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. 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, the episode focused too much on trivialities right after the astounding teaser when the second Riker was discovered. The climax when Commander Riker saved Lieutenant Riker's life was too contrived, and the ending when the latter leaves the ship to seek fortune on his own was quite predictable.
Remarkable fact: Lt. Riker will call himself Thomas Riker. He will return in DS9: "Defiant" where he operates for the Maquis.
46944.2: Returning by runabout from a conference, Troi, Picard, Data and La
Forge are puzzled by areas in which time is elapsing 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 they beam over to the
Enterprise while remaining in their own frame of time. They discover that the
ship is apparently boarded by Romulans 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 other officers discover strange lifeforms in
the ship's quantum singularity which they are using as a nest. The presence of
the lifeforms interferes with a power transfer from the Enterprise which
endangers both ships. Geordi is hurt and Deanna saves him by removing his
armband so that there will be enough time to treat him. Data manages to turn
back the time so as to prevent the warp core breach, but not far enough. To stop
the power transfer, Picard steers the runabout between the two ships where it
disrupts the beam and explodes.
Descent I/II Stardate
46982.1/47025.2: The Borg have attacked a Federation outpost, but these Borg are
different in that they have a strategy, they seek vengeance and they have
individual names. Data is obviously different too when he kills a Borg in rage.
When Data is abducted by a 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 and 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, but despite Lore's mind control
Data's conscience kicks in. In the meantime the Enterprise is attacked by a Borg
ship, but Beverly manages to lure the Borg into the sun's corona where they
destroy it while the Enterprise is protected by the metaphasic shield. Hugh
helps the crew to defeat Lore who is finally deactivated, while Data takes his