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Sarek

Review

Series : The Next Generation Rating : 4
Disc No : 3.5 Episode : 70
First Aired : 14 May 1990 Stardate : 43917.4
Director : Les Landau Year : 2366
Writers : Jake Jacobs, Marc Cushman Season : 3
Guest Cast :
Colm Meaney as Miles Edward O'Brien
Guy Vardaman as Darien Wallace
Joanna Miles as Perrin
John H. Francis as Science crew member
Joyce Robinson as Ensign Gates
Mark Lenard as Sarek
Rocco Sisto as Sakkath
William Dennis as Ki Mendrossen
Moral :
Mortality : Nothing lasts forever
YATI : The music Data plays in his Mozart concert is actually a piece by Brahms.
Great Moment : Patrick Stewart does an incredible job of portraying Sarek's emotions in this episode.
Body Count : Zero.
Factoid : Although Spock is found to be very much alive in "Unification", Sarek refers to him throughout this episode in the past tense.

Ira Stephen Behr noted that there was great reluctance to mention any aspect of the original series during the Next Generation, lest it make it seem like the show couldn't stand on its own feet. He said that it took days of negotiation to even get the single passing mention of Spock into this episode.

Sarek introduces Perrin as "she who is my wife" in this episode. This is word for word identical to how he introduced Amanda in Journey to Babel.

In "Journey to Babel", the mission of the Enterprise is to transport delegates to the planet Babel where a conference will discuss the admission of Coridan to the Federation. Sarek notes that he favours admission. In this episode it is established that Sarek's view won the day, and Coridan was indeed admitted to the Federation.

Michael Piller has pointed out that this episode was made during a time when Gene Roddenberry himself was beginning to suffer from his advancing years, and was a "great man going into decline". As such, he felt that Sarek could be seen as a representation of Gene himself, stating "If you go back and look at 'Sarek' closely, what that character is, is Gene Roddenberry."

Wesley's yelling "Well at least I don't have to find my women on the holodeck!" at Geordi is a reference to "Booby Trap", in which Geordi fell for the holographic recreation of Leah Brahms.

Sarek's mind meld with Captain Picard is the first time a Vulcan mind meld was performed in The Next Generation.

Patrick Stewart's performance of Picard crumbling under the weight of Sarek's emotions was done in a single take.

Plotline

The Enterprise is hosting some important Federation negotiations - Ambassador Sarek has arrived on board with his wife Perrin and a pair of assistants to conduct the first meeting with the Legarans. He has worked for ninety three years in preparation for the event, hoping to establish an ongoing relationship which Picard believes will be of incalculable benefit to the Federation.

Sarek's aides arrive first, informing Picard that as the Ambassador is very elderly he will require a great deal of rest to be at his best for the meeting, and therefore any formal events on the Enterprise-D must be cancelled. On arrival Sarek visits the meeting room being prepared for the Legarans, which largely consists of a tank of frothy pink liquid. Picard and Riker muse afterwards that Sarek didn't seem at all frail, as his aides had suggested, and wonder if they might be a little overprotective. Picard visits Sarek's quarters and invites his wife to a concert, adding that Sarek is welcome as well, if he wishes. Later she talks to Sarek, noting that he has been unable to meditate for some time now.

In the meeting room, Geordi and Wesley get into a major argument with one another over a trivial subject, leaving Riker perplexed. Later, Picard comments to Riker that Lieutenant Worf has put Ensign D'Amato on report for insubordination, unusual since D'Amato is an exemplary officer. Riker agrees to look into it. Sarek and Perrin arrive for the concert. All seems to be going well, but Picard is shocked to notice that Sarek is moved to tears by the music - an almost unimaginable thing to happen to a Vulcan. Perrin wipes the tear away and the Ambassador and his party leave quietly.

In her office, Crusher berates Wesley for not being at the concert. The two get into a heated argument, culminating with Crusher slapping Wesley across the face in a moment of transcendent joy for most Star Trek fans. Later a horrified Beverly tells Troi she completely lost control, and has no idea why. Troi notes that she has heard similar stories from at least ten different people in the last two days.

The situation rapidly escalates; Worf and Riker arrive in Ten Forward to find an all-out bar brawl in progress. The crew are mystified as to what might be happening, but it is clear that there is some link to Sarek since the incidents began immediately after he arrived on the ship. Beverly comes up with a possible answer, a very rare condition known as Bendii Syndrome. Affecting Vulcans over 200, its early symptoms can include sudden bursts of emotion, mostly irrational anger. Eventually, all emotional control is lost. Troi suggests that Sarek may be broadcasting his unrestrained emotions all over the ship telepathically. The test for Bendii syndrome takes several days, but with the conference in twelve hours there is no way to confirm the diagnosis in time. Picard goes to one of Sarek's aides and discusses the matter, but he rejects any possibility of Sarek being ill out of hand.

Picard has Data talk to the other aid, a Vulcan man. He declines to confirm any problem exists, whilst also declining to state that one doesn't. But when Data presses him, he eventually admits that he has been using his own telepathic ability to support Sarek's mind from a distance. Now the condition is worsening, there is no more he can do. Picard visits Sarek and questions him directly. Sarek initially denies any problem, but as Picard becomes more strident in his questioning it rapidly becomes clear that Sarek does not have the emotional control he did - eventually he is reduced to screaming "It is illogical!" as he collapses to the floor.

Afterward, Perrin visits Picard and apologises for the deception, explaining that the condition had come upon Sarek so gradually that hey had all fooled themselves into thinking nothing serious was wrong. She begs Picard to allow Sarek to finish his career with dignity, suggesting a way to rescue the talks - if Picard will consent to a mind meld with Sarek, he could lend Sarek his own emotional control whilst bearing Sarek's massive emotional burden in return. Picard agrees, and the meld is conducted successfully.

Whilst Sarek conducts the meeting, Beverly sits with Picard in his quarters. The Captain is lost in emotional turmoil, bemoaning the weakness that age has brought upon him and most especially breaking down over how he was never able to show his original Human wife Amanda and his son Spock how much he loved them.

Sarek's mission succeeds, and Picard is relieved of his emotional burden. The Ambassador is able to retire gracefully with a crowning achievement for his career, and prepares to depart the ship. As they wait, Picard quietly tells Perrin that Sarek loves her very much, and she assures him that she already knew, and always has. Sarek's party departs, and the Enterprise-D continues on its way.

Analysis

Generally an excellent episode. It's fun to see Mark Lenard back as Sarek, and the nature of TNG being set nearly a century after TOS works extremely well, allowing Lenard to be older than he appeared in TOS whilst still letting Vulcans be a very long lived species.

It's interesting that he has a second wife here, who is also a Human woman. My impression is that the writers wanted to recreate the Sarek we saw in the original series, and since that Sarek had a Human wife, they assumed he would have a Human wife here too. Can't be the same woman of course, since this is a hundred years later, so they just made it a new Human woman. But in doing so, they tell us something about Sarek.

A Vulcan who chose to marry a human is a bit of an oddity - especially in a culture in which, to judge by Amok Time, marriages are arranged in childhood. Which makes you wonder if Sarek's parents arranged the marriage to Amanda, and if so, why?

But the fact that after Amanda died Sarek chose to marry again, and chose another Human woman, shows that his original marriage wasn't just an anomaly; for whatever reason, Sarek is a Humanophile. Maybe he has a bit of a thing for Human women? Or is it perhaps philosophical, a way for him to embrace the Vulcan philosophy of infinite diversity in infinite combinations?

I have to say, whilst I do like the use of Sarek to explore the ramifications of ageing, I think there are some minor flaws in the execution of the episode. For one, they say he has been setting up this meeting with the Legarans for almost a century. Seriously, it took a century just to arrange a meeting with these people? That's frankly just ridiculous. We're assured that the benefits of a relationship with them are "incalculable", but we're never given any hint of what those benefits are.

Perhaps it would have been more sensible to give us something a bit more realistic and concrete. Say for example, make the Legarans a new race that Sarek has been guiding along the path to membership of the Federation, over the last decade - kind of how Sisko was supposed to be helping to prepare Bajor for Federation membership during DS9. And instead of some random meeting, make this the ceremony to sign up for membership. If the Legaran planet was then in some strategic area, on the border of the Romulan Neutral Zone, say, we would have had a more realistic situation.

The idea of Sarek broadcasting his emotions around the ship via telepathy is also a little hard to believe. Vulcans are generally touch telepaths, they have to be in physical contact in order to use telepathy on you. True, on a couple of occasions Spock was able to affect another's mind without touching them - but each time the range was no more than ten or fifteen feet, he was trying to affect a single person, and it was always depicted as something that had a low probability of working.

We might suppose that as a full Vulcan Sarek's telepathic ability was much more powerful than the half-Human Spock, I guess, but it seems improbable that he could be so far beyond Spock that he's affecting the minds of dozens of people all over the ship without even meaning to. If his power is really this strong, why then are Vulcans ever referred to as touch-telepaths at all? This could have been explained away with a single line, stating that one of the side effects of Bendii syndrome was that telepathic ability is massively boosted. Analogous to how a lightbulb might burn extremely brightly and then burn out.

On the plus side, Mark Lenard turns in a great performance as Sarek. And this episode does allow Patrick Stewart to turn in another masterful performance as Picard. Two scenes stand out; the first, in which he finally confronts Sarek about the situation and breaks through his denial. Brilliant writing and acting here as Picard relentlessly forces Sarek into an emotional meltdown.

And of course, the climactic scene in which he has to depict Sarek's emotions himself. Superbly written, superbly acted - you couldn't ask for more. Wonderful stuff.

It's also nice that they didn't take the denial of his subordinates too far over the top. There's clearly something up with them from the beginning, but once confronted with the reality of the situation they drop their denial. Perrin's explanation that they were fooling themselves as much as anybody else works well here.

Special Edition

The remastered version has the usual improvements to the image quality.
Copyright Graham Kennedy Page views : 8,294 Last updated : 29 Aug 2016