Overall Ep :
First Aired :
8 Jan 1990
Season Ep :
Are next generation phasers vastly less powerful than those of the original series? When Kirk had a phaser on overload in "The Conscience of the King" he said it would blow out an entire deck. Yet Danar overloads a phaser here and it produces an explosion about as big as a small firework. Maybe next generation phasers have some sort of safety feature that makes them harder to blow up or something?
Great Moment :
I like the way Picard just bows out at the end of this episode, leaving the locals to sort it all out for themselves.
Body Count :
No actual deaths are seen in this episode. Danar killed two guards off screen in his escape.
This is the first next generation episode to feature a Jeffries Tube, named for Matt Jeffries who created the original USS Enterprise.
The Enterprise-D is at Angosia III, a planet which is applying for Federation membership. Riker and Picard are meeting with Prime Minister Nayrok to discuss the application, congratulating him on their recovery after the recent Tarsian War. Picard thinks that the planet will make a find addition to the Federation, and though Riker doesn't disagree he does comment that he finds the place "stuffy"
During the meeting Nayrok receives an urgent message; a prisoner has escaped from the penal colony on Lunar V in a small transport vessel. His own security personnel are trying to capture the ship but he admits that they are not all that well trained or equipped for such things, and asks Picard for some assistance. Given their impending membership of the Federation Picard agrees.
Data locates the transport with ease, but it ducks behind an asteroid and moments later the engine section emerges alone, with no lifesigns on board. The Enterprise circles the asteroid and finds the main body crashed on it, also with no sign of life. Wesley reports that the drive section has vanished - apparently somebody was aboard and has managed to escape.
A shocked Picard and Riker beam back aboard to continue the search for the prisoner, who they are told is called Roga Danar, an extremely violent and dangerous man. Geordi states that without warp drive the ship cannot be far, despite not being visible on sensors, and Riker guesses that it is hovering over on of the planet's magnetic poles to escape detection. They locate the ship and lock a tractor beam on it, but the little vessel flies straight at them, causing the computer to raise the shields and shut off the tractor beam. At the last moment it swerves, bouncing off the shields and heading away. They prepare to pursue, but Data notes that a tiny escape pod has been ejected, unnoticed - yet another misdirection. There are still no lifesigns, but an exasperated Picard orders whatever is inside transported aboard.
In the transporter room O'Brien beams a man aboard, deactivating a weapon in the process. Danar appears and instantly attacks, overwhelming O'Brien and the security team despite taking repeated phaser stuns. Finally Riker and Worf are able to bring him down and he is taken to the brig.
Analysis shows that Danar has no lifesigns - even whilst he is sleeping in the brig the computer insists that it is empty. When Troi experiences disturbed thoughts from his dreams she goes in to talk to him; although he freely admits to being a violent and dangerous man, she also finds him intelligent, articulate and perceptive. She reports back to Picard that there is something very strange about Danar, but he sees no other course of action than to hand him over as promised as soon as the Angosians arrive.
Troi has Data check the Angosian records to find out what crime Danar was sentenced for, and is confused to find no trace of any criminal record. Lunar V is a military base, and Dana's record shows him as a decorated military officer. When confronted with this information Danar simply says that he did nothing that he wasn't asked to do by the Angosian government. Examination reveals that he has been both physically and psychologically modified, with enhanced strength, reflexes and intelligence and mental programming enabling him to kill easily and survive at any cost. The modifications also prevent him from showing up on scanners, which is what made him so difficult to find. The government modified large numbers of citizens to serve during the Tarsian war, but once the war was over they were locked up, permanently and without trial, as a threat to society.
Picard confronts Nayrok, who admits to the events but points out that the soldiers were not capable of functioning in civilian society any more. With their programming even minor arguments could flare up into violence, making them inherently unsafe to be around. He points out that conditions on Lunar V are quite comfortable, and in the end tells Picard it is an internal matter and none of his business.
Data visits Danar to talk, pointing out that both of them have been programmed. He points out that his own programming can be changed and wonders if Danar's cannot be similarly altered. Danar laughs bitterly and states that he wouldn't know, as nobody has ever bothered to try. He has a dual nature; he is still the man he was most of the time, but at the slightest provocation the programming takes over and he kills without hesitation or thought - so far, he notes, he has killed 84 people. Worse, his enhanced memory allows him to remember each of the deaths with perfect clarity.
Picard and Troi come to talk to Danar next, the Captain stating that although hy sympathizes he has no choice but to turn the man over to Angosian security. Danar thanks him for his honesty and replies with honesty of his own - he will do anything in his power to escape and would literally rather die than return to Lunar V. Worf arranges to transport Danar to the Angosian ship, arranging to drop the brig forcefield only a fraction of a second before engaging the transporter. However Danar literally forces his way out of the transporter beam, causing an energy explosion which allows him to escape with a phaser. He leads the crew on a chase through the ship, outwitting them at every turn and causing internal damage by overloading a phaser within a large Jefferies Tube. Worf finally corners him by seeing through one of his misdirections and the two fight before Danar knocks Worf unconscious. He pwoers a cargo transporter with a phaser and beams to the Angosian transport, taking it over and making his escape whilst the ship is still disabled.
By the time systems are restored Danar has used the captured ship to raid Lunar V and free all of the prisoners. Many have made their way to the capital city, and Prime Minister Nayrok is asking urgently for help. Picard, Worf, Troi and Data beam down to find the staff arming themselves, expecting an attack at any second; Nayrok is shocked that only the officers have beamed down as he was expecting a large security force, but Picard tells him that since this is indeed an internal matter he sees no reason to intervene. Nayrok hesitantly admits that the programming could be undone, but suggests that the government is keeping the prisoners on hand because they may be needed in some future conflict. At that moment Danar and his friends break in, weapons raised; Picard cautions everybody not to resist, since the prisoner's programming will not trip if they are not threatened. He tells Nayrok that he has a stark choice; either compromise with Danar and make a genuine attempt to cure them and reintegrate them into society, or be killed. With that the Enterprise personnel beam up and leave the Angosians to it. Picard notes that the Federation will be more than happy to help the Angosian government with their problem, presuming that it survives the next few hours. In response to Riker's questioning whether they will, Picard simply says that he thinks they will "choose to".
Obviously an allegory to the treatment of US soldiers after the Vietnam war, this episode works quite well on that level but also purely on its own merits. It's a good example of a story where the human idea drives the science fiction aspects, rather than vice versa. The writers come up with a lot of fairly believable little tricks and wrinkles for Danar to use in evading the Enterprise crew, but at the same time it doesn't have to resort to making Danar look good by making everybody else stupid; the crew react pretty much as you might expect them to, trying ideas that are pretty sensible... and let's not forget that they do actually outwit Danar both times
The resolution is also pretty nice; suggesting an answer without wrapping everything up in a nice neat bow. Overall, a pretty good episode.