Overall Ep :
First Aired :
26 Mar 1990
Season Ep :
When Picard orders "Ales for everyone!", everyone responds with a cheer. Why is this? After all, it's not like anybody ever actually pays for anything in ten forward! Are just sucking up to the boss?
One of the indicators that Picard is acting unusually comes when he asks Beverly if she would like to dance, and she responds "I thought you didn't dance?" But in the movie "Insurrection", when Picard is expected to dance at a formal dinner Beverly states that "The Captain used to cut quite a rug!" So which is it?
So here's a question... what language is Esoqq speaking? I mean, I assume he is not speaking English. I assume he is speaking Chalnoth, or whatever the Chalnoth call their language, and that Picard understands him because of the universal translator built into his combadge... right? I ask because when he introduces himself he says "My given name is Esoqq. It means fighter." But if the translator is translating what he says, then why doesn't it translate his name? Why don't we hear "My given name is Fighter. It means fighter." For that matter, lots of human names have meanings. Why doesn't the UT translate ALL of them?
Great Moment :
I love Picard's wooing and dumping of Beverly. The look on her face when he throws her out is hilarious!
Body Count :
Picard's drinking song is "Heart of Oak", written by David Garrick and Dr. William Boyce and first performed in 1770.
This was Winrich Kolbe's favorite episode out of all the ones he directed.
The Enterprise has just completed a mission to eradicate the Phyrox plague on Cor Caroli V, and is ready to head to a rendezvous with the USS Hood to assist their terraforming efforts on Browder IV. Captain Picard is napping in his quarters when a mysterious alien device appears above him, transporting him out of his quarters and into a large sealed room. Present in the room are Haro, a Bolian Starfleet Cadet, and Kova Tholl, a philosopher from Mizar II. The room is apparently a cell, complete with a machine to dispense food bricks and a locked door.
Back on the Enterprise, meanwhile, a duplicate Picard has replaced the Captain. He delays the rendezvous with the Hood, instead ordering the ship to head for a pulsar in the nearby Lonka cluster. This Picard seems somehow off to the crew; his manner of speaking changes subtly, as does his behaviour. As the episode continues the fake Picard's actions gradually become more and more erratic, prompting increased suspicion.
Back in the cell another captive appears, a Chalnoth named Esoqq. An anarchistic species with a propensity for violence, the Chalnoth are dangerous and unpredictable. Esoqq cannot eat the food bricks, which are poisonous to him. He comments that he cannot go more than a few days without food, apparently sizing up Tholl as his next meal.
Picard, Haro and Esoqq attempt to break the lock on the cell door to the cell, but are hit by a painful stun beam. They persist, without the help of Tholl - as a pacifist he prefers to simply wait until their captors reveal their intentions, much to Esoqq's disdain. The group manage to work out how to defeat the stun beam and open the door, but to their disgust there is only a blank wall behind it.
As the Enterprise arrives at the pulsar, Picard orders the ship in closer and closer, threatening to destroy it. Riker, knowing that something must be terribly wrong, relieves Picard of command and orders the ship clear of danger.
Back in the cell Picard reveals that he has deduced the purpose of the situation - all of the captives have something in common, a unique attitude to authority. As a Starfleet Captain, he is trained in command whilst Cadet Haro is trained to obey. Esoqq rejects authority of any kind, whilst Tholl is submissive to all forms of authority. Clearly they are being experimented on, and Picard has had enough of it.
He reveals that a casual mention of the Phyrox plague was meant as a trap for Haro; as a cadet she would have known nothing of the plague since Starfleet had classified the information, yet she acted as if she knew. Picard deduces that she is a part of the experiment. At this revelation Haro transforms into a pair of alien beings, admitting that Picard is right and that with this knowledge contaminating the results, the experiment must now be ended. The captives are returned to their places of origin.
There the aliens reveal that they have no concepts of authority in their civilisation, and were interested in experimenting on others to research the ramifications of the concept. Picard objects to the morality of their actions, only for the aliens to comment that morality is also a curious concept worthy of investigation. Picard manages to capture the aliens in a containment forcefield, much to their distress. He eventually releases them with a warning that they should stay out of the Federation's way, given their apparent vulnerability to its technology.
Not a bad episode all in all, but the premise always struck me as being a bit silly. The idea of the crew being trapped and experimented on by an alien like rats in a maze isn't a new one in Trek, and frankly it's been done better in, for instance, Where Silence Has Lease. Though certainly this episode is far better than The Savage Curtain, which also explores the same idea.
That said, there is some fun to be had here. The mystery of the cell's occupants is a reasonable one, with their various attitudes to authority being a fun reveal. Esoqq makes a nice addition to the mix, being dangerous enough to be threatening (silly teeth aside) and yet not so dangerous that he won't pitch in and help if it's in his interest to do so. More fun is fake Picard's actions on the Enterprise. You can see the purpose behind what he's doing - he couches orders as mild suggestions, often accompanied by a disclaimer that he won't mind if his officers don't bother to obey. Clearly, then, he's seeing just how little authority he has to exercise in order to be obeyed.
And in turning up to the poker game and singing in Ten Forward he's deliberately trying to make the crew think something is wrong, sowing a little distrust to see if they will still obey. Ultimately he tries to test the limits of authority, ordering the ship to its own destruction to see if the crew are willing to die just because he tells them to. It's weird as it unfolds, but there is an underlying logic to it that you understand once the reveal is made.
Probably one of the biggest weaknesses is in the ending. The aliens look amazing, one of the more memorable designs in TNG, but their manner and explanations are a little silly. Their way of talking comes across a bit like the Ferengi of The Last Outpost, comical and absurd when sinister and threatening would have been far more effective. And throwing in a line about "primitive verbal communication" just so Picard could make a little 'gotcha' point about how Humans can communicate non-verbally was a bit pointless, too. It comes out of nowhere and really contributes nothing to the episode.
Why not have Riker imprison the aliens on his own, so Picard can make another point about authority - that Starfleet officers can sometimes act on their own initiative for the greater good, without needing authority to be explicitly invoked? Then it would at least tie into the theme of the episode.
And dammit, why don't the aliens tell us who they are! I hate when we get a species in Trek and then never get a name for them. So annoying!
The remastered version as the usual upgraded image quality throughout.