Star Trek The Next Generation
Troi, Worf, Riker and Data are interrupted from their poker game when Picard announces that they’ve received a distress call. Rushing to the scene, they arrive just in time to watch it explode. Uh-oh! If only they’d stayed at Warp 9.3 instead of going to Warp 9.6 they could’ve avoided some paperwork. Data tracks an escape pod trail to the surface, however. Oh, and that’s the surface of Turkana IV – birthplace of Tasha Yar.
Although the Federation has been warned to stay away from the failed settlement, Picard sends an away team to rescue the missing people. When they get to the surface, Riker and the gang find the escapees have been abducted by one of the gang factions – the Alliance – and meets their opposition – the Coalition – who are stealthily thieving from their rivals despite a glowing proximity detector in all of their chests, which is the convenient curse of all gang members.
Back on the ship, Picard is reluctant to trade weapons but plans to work with the Coalition in the absence of any better ideas, when he receives a Skype from the surface. It’s the leader of the Coalition (or was it the Alliance?) and he’s got Ishara Yar. Tasha’s previously unmentioned sister. And he’s willing to let her help them in exchange for no weapons, just their hideously misplaced trust.
Although they think/know the pair are lying to them, Ishara is welcomed aboard and, after a series of genetic tests, the crew accepts her claim to be Yar’s sister. She cuddles up to Data in an entirely creepy way (the Yar women have a thing for robots? Or is it the other way around?) and eventually accompanies the standard away team on a standard away mission, which involves a massive firefight and apparent self-sacrifice as Ishara draws the enemy fire. Riker bravely rescues her Maximum-Stunned body and, on the Enterprise, everyone decides she’s probably alright after all.
After La Forge locates the hostages, Ishara designs another away mission which she could only do if she got rid of this pesky proximity detector in her chest. The Enterprise crew decides to help her. Even Troi is completely fooled. She presumably senses no deception, because she’s normally the first to point out when anyone is even remotely lying. Ishara even tells Data that she might join Starfleet, because apparently anyone can apply and those tests they kept making Wesley do despite his obvious genius and competence were all just a giant practical joke.
When they beam into the Alliance’s Colony, the crew (with Ishara’s help) rescue the hostages, but before they can get back to the ship Ishara disappears. O’Brien is unable to beam her up back because of reasons, so Data runs off only to discover Ishara has betrayed them: she’s not going to join Starfleet. Instead she’s planning to blow up the Alliance’s defense shield, rendering their enemy’s proximity sensors harmless and letting the Coalition in. She begs for him to leave, but he refuses, then Riker turns up and Maximum Stuns her into a wall. He notes to Data that her phaser was set to kill.
Back on the ship, Picard argues with the Coalition leader who points out that he has no jurisdiction on this grim, lawless world. Picard gives him the old juris-my-diction and decides to leave them to their tiny, insignificant mass murder, beaming Ishara Yar back to the surface as punishment. She tells Data their conversations were the closest thing she ever felt to friendship, but he is unmoved. Because he is a robot. Such is the tragedy – and the triumph – of being Data. Then he goes and asks Riker if he could possibly explain the tiny humanoid concepts of trust and friendship to him one more time. Riker sighs and wonders why Worf never has to deal with these questions. The end.
TNG WTF: I get that gang members need a way to be inducted for life, but is a GLOWING BOMB IN YOUR CHEST really the way to do that!? What’s wrong with cutting off part of a finger like any normal sane person? I’m not even sure why you’d put a magnetic proximity sensor in yourself when it ultimately benefits your opponents, because if this episode demonstrates anything it’s that not having a proximity sensor in your chest is a considerable advantage. I suppose it stops people switching sides, but is that really such a big problem?
TNG LOL: A few HOURS to run a DNA comparison? Probably seemed like an impossibly ambitious target in the 80s. I gather we’re already at that point.
One of the problems with this episode is that the fashion really detracts from the seriousness. All the Alliance/Coalition members look like they’re from a Bon Jovi music video, and their glowing implants make it look like they’re playing of Laser Tag.
Also, laughs aplenty when Chief O’Brien is ordered to beam people off a shuttle just before it explodes. “There’s nothing to lock onto,” he says. “We know, it just blew up.” Say Picard. “Oh. I don’t have a window down here so I didn’t realise” says O’Brief. I’m pretty sure this topic was covered in Chief O’Brien At Work, but it’s always funny to see it happening on screen.
To Boldly Go: The Enterprise bypasses its scheduled archaeological survey of Camus II when they pick up a Federation distress signal. What a shame that Camus II may never be archeologically surveyed.
Mistakes and Minutiae: Does Maximum Stun count as a new phaser setting? It’s been a while since we had one. I sort of imagine “Maximum Stun” as being like having a bowling ball chucked at you, as opposed to regular stun with is about equivalent to a paintball. The full list is now Stun, Maximum Stun, Kill, Overkill, Cut Through Door, Heat Up Rocks, Smelt Ore, Head Explodey and Aqueduct Demolition.
Time Until Meeting: 15:40. Ishara enters the meeting room to find everyone staring at her. Probably guilty about finishing off the complementary muffins before she arrived.
Captain’s Log: Well, it was certainly a shooty episode. Personally I prefer my Star Trek to be a bit more pensive, but I can’t deny that the action was pretty fun, and introducing Ishara was a good way to expand the lore of Tasha Yar without resorting to another time thingy. Unfortunately, I felt like the plot didn’t really carry the core ideas at work here. The episode is centred on an attempt to save two Federation crew members that we barely see or hear from, and Ishara herself is so obviously manipulating them all that there’s very little surprise to be had from her admission.
The meatiest subplot was a character piece for Data, but even that felt simplistic. It’s not the first time he’s been betrayed by a probably friend, and in this occasion they had to set his naïve innocence levels to 11 to make it work. As a result, it didn’t feel like his responses were real and I felt about as sorry for Data in this episode as I would for a ZX Spectrum if someone punched it in the face.
Again, it wasn’t a terrible episode, and it certainly had its good points – fantastic set design, some good fight choreography, and haircuts that would make New Wave jealous. But mostly, it seems like the core ethical dilemma of the episode – should the Enterprise leave these guys locked in perpetual gang warfare of their own preference – gets an ending that’s a little too bleak. Picard’s answer is basically “they screwed with us, so let’s leave them to it.”