Star Trek: Voyager – Season 6, Episode 16 – “Collective” – Finding Connection Beyond the Borg

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   “Collective” is a solidly good episode. The tension is real, we get some wonderful character development of the Voyager crew and the Borg we meet. Before I get into story details, if you are a fan of “Voyager” you should check this episode out. It brought back memories for me watching it as it was in Middle School I’d catch episodes on UPN when I got home from school. This is later in the show and is a great example of how “Voyager” could still put out quality episodes, even as they were winding down.

The episode was directed by Allison Liddi with teleplay by Michael Taylor and story by Andrew Shepard Price and Mark Gaberman.

The story follows Voyager as they seek to rescue Harry, Chakotay, Tom and Neelix when a Borg Cube run by assimilated children captures them.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Captain Janeway – This is a good Captain Janeway episode. In this we see that she cares about the Borg children but also is doing all she can to save her captured crewmembers. She’s stern and powerful and works masterfully when she confronts the First, the leader of the Borg children. Her point freaks him out so much that he refuses to speak to her again. This episode shows why she was Captain of Voyager.

Harry Kim – Harry Kim is the only member of the crew who the Borg children haven’t captured initially. Thanks to Janeway he puts a plan in motion to shut down the Cube so that his crewmembers can be rescued. Sadly he is captured and experimented on by the Borg. I enjoyed seeing him take charge though and wish he’d gotten a win. Harry usually always has bad stuff happen to him, which is a shame as there is so much potential in the character.

The Drones – The Drones are fascinating as what drives them is the desire to be back with the Collective. It is only Seven showing them there is another away and Second (Icheb) taking charge that shows them that they can have another life free, on Voyager. The one thing I’ll say against them is I wish First had been explored more. He’s threatened by anyone who questions him but we don’t know his backstory, just that he wants to rejoin the Collective more than anything. The drama between him, Voyager and the other drones is compelling though.

Icheb and Seven – The strongest part of this story is the relationship between Icheb and Seven. Seven repairs him, as the First says he is not fit to lead because of how his tech. is acting up. This leads to trust between them and we see him come to realize his individuality and potential future in what Seven shares. She is his mentor and friend in the episode and I like that we’d see more of this relationship in future episodes. She was the first to show him a life outside of the Collective.

Connection Beyond the Borg – The main fear of the drones is that they will be alone if they do not rejoin the Collective. It is that leads to the botched assimilations they were trying on captured aliens and why they tried to bargain with the hostages for Voyager technology to fix the Cube. Seven is the one who shows them that there are other ways to make connections and that they shouldn’t care about the Collective as it abandoned them. Over time this reality seeks in and the surviving Borg children join the Voyager crew after First fails in keeping control.

The Cons:

Neelix – Neelix was on the Delta Flyer and I don’t see any reason why he should have been. He’s the cook and they are far beyond his area of space so him even selling himself as a diplomat feel cheap. He’s not as annoying as he can often be in this episode but he is still a con.

I really liked this episode. We get to learn more about the Borg, Seven has some great character development, we are introduced to Icheb and Janeway is a great captain in this episode. This episode sets up major stories in the last of the season as Icheb will play a bigger role and we will learn more about how he got assimilated in the first place. Icheb and Seven is one of the more intriguing relationships on “Voyager” as they are both former drones and Seven comes to be an awesome adoptive mother as she embraces the best aspects of the Borg and humanity.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 5 – “Stardust City Rag” – Where is Hope?

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   This is an episode that has me completely conflicted, and my end score reflects as much. I appreciate that Seven is back, besides the Doctor she is the best part of “Star Trek: Voyager” but there is so much whiplash. This episode gives you emotional moments with so much ham that as much as the episode is still enjoyable, I would not call it good. There is a fine line between ham and drama and finding that balance can create great. Hell, I love so many comics and films based off comics that found that line. This film, doesn’t and it is the performances that elevate it to something worth watching.

“Stardust City Rag” was directed by Jonathan Franks and written by Kristen Breyer.

The story follows Seven’s joining of Picard and the quest for Maddox on Freecloud.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Freecloud – Freecloud is the first rouge planet that we have been a part of on Trek in a while. I like how it fully takes advantage of tech. to read the interests of the crew and that it isn’t safe in any way. This helps raise the stakes as Seven is used as bait against the crime lord of the planet to trade for Maddox.

Bjayzl – The villain of Freecloud is Byjazl. She disects Ex-Borg for their parts and sells those on the black market. She is the very much Marina Sirtis in looks from early “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” For all intents and purposes she is a a corrupt human who outsmarted Seven of Nine. This was brilliant and as a one of villain I greatly enjoyed the tension she added to this episode. If “Star Trek: Picard” is developed further, and we have more Seven cameos than her intro. in this episode could mean more.

Seven of Nine – Seven was often times the rogue batting against Captain Janeway in “Star Trek: Voyager.” Whether it was the Omega Particle or other issues she took a personal investment in, Seven was not starfleet. From this, her becoming a Frenris Ranger made sense to me. It has also been years since Voyager  returned home. Just as Picard has changed since “All Good Things” I could see it Seven too. They grew from the world they were given. In this her motivation for revenge against Bjayzl make sense as it was Bjayzl infiltrating the Rangers where she learned about Icheb and in turn created a trap for him, leading to his death. The rage Seven feels makes sense and fits given how much she cared for Icheb.

Picard – The greatest moment from Picard is his talk with Seven before she leaves at the end of the episode. They are both PTSD victims of the Borg and them both admitting the ongoing journey of finding their humanity is powerful. Patrick Stewart once again doing a fantastic job in the role.

Okay:

Raffi and Rios – Both of them are explored more. We see Raffi and her failed relationship with her son from her conspiracies and drugs and we also get Raffi as the one to pull everyone in. He’s grown on me the most for all the main crew. His scenes develop him and for a mercenary he’s very respectful.

Cons:

Tonal Whiplash – Icheb looses his eye before his adopted mother kills him and after we get fun playful infiltration of Freecloud Banter…How does that make any sense? Also after we get wondefrul ham from Patrick Stewart Maddox joins Icheb in the deadpool, so we get less people to root for.

Maddox’s End – Maddox being killed by his lover was sadly predictable. Her joining Picard opened too many questions (the gun she had, etc.) and she shared a lot with Picard when they first talked. I’m rooting for her getting a rewarding end, but her killing Maddox out of fear of Soji and the synths didn’t do it for me.

I think this episode could have been a great spy thriller and in turn matched up with Seven’s revenge or been a very good joke Freecloud episode where we see how well the cast can play off one another in an alien environment. They wanted both so the tonal whiplash hurt this episode a lot. Icheb’s death did not to be so graphic and I wanted more time to develop character. Frakes did a good job presenting it all, but this needed a better script. Enjoyed the outing but it was hardly good or great. The theme of the episode is the death of hope as Picard seems to be the only person we’ve met so far, still holding onto it.

Final Score: 7 / 10

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 5, Episodes 7 and 8 – “Unification Part 1 and 2” – A Question of the Past and Peace

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    “Unification Part 1 and 2” are both good “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episodes. They aren’t the best and I feel that some of the story points aren’t completely thought through, but this is an episode that gives us some good exploration of the Romulans. Also it is great seeing more classic characters from “Star Trek: The Original Series” and seeing where their stories end up. If you are a Romulan fan like me, outside of spoilers, I do recommend checking this two-parter out. For this I’ll be going over the complete story with things I like but scoring each part individually before giving it my final score.

“Unification Part 1” was directed by Les Landau with Teleplay by Jeri Taylor and story by Rick Berman and Michael Piller (for both parts) with “Unification Part 2” being directed by Cliff Bole and teleplay by Michael Piller.

The story follows the crew of the Enterprise-D investigating the possible defection of Ambassador Spock to Romulus.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Klingon Politics – One of the first things that our crew needs is a ship with a cloak, so Picard takes them to Qo’noS and the Klingon Empire. We quickly learn that Gowron has been re-writing history to make himself responsible for all the good that had happened and doesn’t even talk to Picard. Picard gets around this by suggesting that they can find help from someone else in the Empire and in turn they will now have the Federation’s gratitude. Gowron’s secretary gets it and they get a ship with a Klingon who will take them (Data and Picard) to Romulus. It is awesome as after Data and Picard leave the Klingon Captain still does everything he can to make their experience uncomfortable, showing Gowron was still being petty again Picard for the threat.

Riker – The B Plot follows Riker uncovering why a decommissioned Vulcan ship was found on a destroyed Ferengi cargo ship that crashed in an asteroid belt. This leads to Riker dealing with the leader of a scrapyard and convincing him to work with them and after combat with a heavily armed ship befriending a musician at a club to find out the dealings of a Ferengi businessman. It is very well done and we get to see why Riker is the First Officer. I really liked seeing Riker in command in these two episodes.

Sarek – “Unification Part 1” involves Sarek’s last days as Picard goes to him to see why Spock might have left to Romulus. It is sad seeing how much his mind has detiorrated and you can see why his new wife resents Spock for leaving and is protective of him. His scenes here are small but it was great to see Mark Lenard one last time. His Sarek brought so much to “Star Trek” and I wish we’d had more time with him in the episode.

Spock – Spock is the one who drives this story as it is his working with a Romulan Senator that he is spreading Vulcan philsophy and promoting the eventual peaceful unification of Vulcans and Romulans. He didn’t tell anyone he was doing this, which felt out of character, and he is pretty stubborn through the episode believing he will be successful. The Romulan senator betrays him but he decides to stay to continue fighting for his goals, but before Picard leaves Picard offers a mind meld so that Spock can see what his father thought of him. This scene is well done, even if Spock’s motives aren’t entirely fleshed out well. It is always great seeing Leonard Nimoy though, and his conversation about humanity with Data and his clashing with Picard were some of the stronger elements of the episode.

Data – Data goes undercover on Romulus with Picard for this two-parter and from this gives us some great moments. Data’s genius is what saves them from the Romulan Betrayal and Sela and it is his connecting with Spock that helps bridge the divide between Picard and Spock. Spock and Data discuss what each of them seeks, that Data is what Spock strives to be (good, emotionless and logical) and Spock has what Data always wanted (emotions, etc.) It is really well done. The second part of Data saving the day comes about from how stupid the Romulans are leaving them in a room with no one to guard them and an open computer. It is so dumb but Data using that access to free them makes sense.

Picard – Picard is the bridge between Sarek and Spock in more ways than one this episode. He’s the diplomat and we see that in how he strongarms the Klingons to help them through diplomacy and in his distrust of the entire situation with Romulus. In the end the Romulan plot is revealed but Picard is shown that there is still a chance for peace in the long term and offers Sarek’s memories to Spock in a mind meld as his parting gift.

The Unification Movement – The Unification Movement is really cool as Romulan Society is a totalitarian run. The Tal Shiar have everyone afraid and Romulan superiority is preached above all else. Vulcan philosophy is the counter to that and through ambassador Spock we see the younger generation of Romulans taking to his ideas, showing that maybe someday there can be peace once again between Romulans and Vulcans.

Romulan Betrayal – The Senator supporting the Unification Movement was using it as a front to gain power and prestige within the government and gives them all up. This betrayal was clever and well done and made sense. For him it was as much a matter of survival for him and the people he represented, knowing that the members of the Unification Movement were enemies of the State. I wish he’d shown up more after the betrayal as the Senator, Pardek was around for the Khitomer Accords. I wanted to see more of what drove his philosophy.

Okay:

Sela -I like that Sela is back, Denise Crosby is fantastic in the role and like Spock she is also part human but embraces the alien side of herself. This was something that could have been explored given that Data gets this treatment with Spock. Her plan is to occupy Vulcan and from there get the Romulans a foothold in Federation space. Given that the Federation was still largely peaceful during this time, it probably would have worked. The problem is how she is written, after Spock refuses to give her speech to the Vulcans and Federation and she has to use a hologram she leaves the room with her guards. Our heroes ambush her after that as there is no one in the room and they can hack the threat, ending the threat.

Cons:

The Romulan Plan and Threat – Occupying Vulcan, might have worked. For how long I’m unsure about but if getting a foothold in Federation Space is what the Romulans want than they should keep their hostages watched. Sela and her guards leaving her office unguarded was one of the dumbest things in any episode. It also seems to be a pattern where Romulans leaving is why they get defeated. This completely ruins the threat established and hurt the overall quality of the episode.

My scores will be below this summary but here are my thoughts on the story overall. This was a solid two-parter that had a lot of good ideas that were not fully explored. What the Romulans wanted with Vulcan felt haphazard and not well thought out, Spock not telling the Federation struck me extremely stupid and put more people at risk besides those in the Unification Movement and leaving unguarded prisoners is a far too common easy out in “Trek” writing. I love the Romulans and this was a good exploration of some of the people within their society, I just wish we’d gotten more details beyond everyone being tied to the Government or part of the Unification movement. Nuance and greater depth would have made this story amazing, rather than simply enjoyable and good.

“Unification Part 1” score: 8 / 10 Solid mystery plot and reveal.

“Unification Part 2” score: 7.4 / 10 Good character moments but brought down by the stupidity of the Romulan enemy actions.

Final Score: 7.7 / 10 Enjoyable and had good guest appearances but needed a stronger plot, especially in regards to the Romulan plans and endgame.

Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 4 – “Absolute Candor” – Of Truth, Honor and Promises

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     “Absolute Candor” is my favorite episode of “Star Trek: Picard” so far. There is a complete story, a great exploration of Romulan lore and it focuses in on the core relationships that make up the plot. Outside of the pilot episode of the series this is the most focused story so far. I’m glad that even though this is a long form story that within that there can still be solid individual character stories to strengthen it overall.

The episode was directed by Jonathan Frakes and written by Michael Chabon.

Picard takes the ship to Vashti, a planet of Romulan Refugees seeking help in his quest against the Tal Shiar.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Cost of the Supernova – Vashti is a planet of Romulan Refugees that has quite a few different groups of Romulans we meet. We meet xenophobic ones who hate outsiders because of how they were left behind and also the religious side of the Romulans in the Qowat Milat, a religious order of warrior nuns. This exploration of people and culture is one of the things I love most about “Star Trek” and this episode is a shining example of doing it well.

The Qowat Milat – Picard is friends with the Qowat Milat leaders on Vashti as he was working with them to resettle the refugees before his resignation. They are really cool and I liked their leader Zani. The belief of the order is to speak truthfully and clearly in all emotions and thoughts. They are enemies of the Tal Shiar and part of their beliefs involve taking up a cause they believe to be a lost cause. Elnor, a boy so he cannot be one of them carries their philosophy and it is his story that drives this story besides Picard.

Elnor – Elnor is an orphan raised by the Qowat Milat. He had curiosity about the outside world but anger at Picard for leaving them. What leads to him changing his mind is seeing Picard in danger and realizing Picard does need him. He ends up killing a Romulan Senator who was dueling Picard after he the senator ignores his warning. I’m curious to see how he’s developed further as he seems to have forgiven Picard and since he was a kid he wanted to see what was beyond Vashti. The vibe I get from is Odo or Data as he gives us the outsider perspective on a crew full of humans.

Picard – Picard comes to Vashti as he is driven by his guilt and he does need help from the Qowat Milat in his quest against the Tal Shiar. The episode is him atoning to Qowat Milat, Elnor and the people of the planet for Starfleet leaving them behind. It is powerfully done and it is hear we see the humanitarian Picard is as he berates Elnor for killing the senator, as he believed it did not have to happen. I loved seeing this Picard again as so often in the films he was first to violence, not alternatives.

Okay:

The Mystery of Soji – Soji’s story is still the weakest part of the narrative as it is still one giant mystery. In this episode we learn about Romulan myths about a Destroyer and one of the former Romulan drones believes Soji is that Destroyer from Romulan mythology. Her reaction causes the other former Romulan drones to react the same way. This could go many ways and is still incomplete, which is why I have as okay. It could be a pro or con depending on how it plays out in the end.

It is great seeing Jonathan Frakes in the director’s chair again. He’s directed countless “Star Trek” episodes from many series and in this he took the time for us to get to know Elnor and the Romulans on Vashti. I look forward to seeing him appear as Riker as he is an awesome person and actor and the fact that he’s directing means he must have seen this project as worth taking on. I hope we get more episodes like this as it is in getting to know characters and the world where “Trek” really soars.

Final Score: 8.7 / 10 The Soji story is the weakest part and what keeps it from being rated higher.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 5, Episode 23 – “I, Borg” – Discovering Individuality and Value

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     “I, Borg” is such an amazing episode. We see a return of the Borg with Hugh and an exploration of the consequences of the Borg on members of the crew. This is also an episode that provides a moral conundrum too. What should be the ethics of war? This and the theme of PTSD are explored in the episode beautifully. This is easily one of my favorite episodes of “Star Trek” and I’m glad Hugh will be back in “Picard.” Suffice to say, I highly recommend this episode.

“I, Borg” was written by René Echevarria and directed by Robert Lederman.

When a Borg Drone is rescued, Picard must wrestle with what will become of it as he and other members of the crew face what the Borg Collective has done to them.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Dr. Crusher – This is a surprisingly good Beverly Crusher episode. She is the first to advocate for saving the Borg drone. She demonstrates her oath of the sacredness of all life beautifully and her empathy is what made La Forge and Hugh’s friendship possible and Guinan and Picard’s eventually coming around to seeing Hugh’s humanity. I wish she got more episodes like this. She is the moral center of the episode and the episode is stronger for it.

Geordi La Forge – As Geordi is the one studying Hugh in order to weaponize him against the Borg he becomes friends with him. It is Geordi who gives Hugh his name and teaches him about consent and individuality. This friendship goes so far that Geordi advocates directly to Guinan and Picard that he thinks the plan is a mistake. In the end his advocacy for Hugh’s humanity wins out and Geordi is the one who says good-bye to his friend before the Borg take him back.

Guinan – Guinan’s people were destroyed by the Borg and she confronts Hugh about this. She is the one who is at first against Picard’s growing empathy, given the destruction of her people…but Geordi changes her mind. After talking to Hugh and hearing him speak of his loneliness and empathy for her she realizes Hugh is not her enemy. Hugh is just a scared lonely kid. After this she advocates for Picard to not use Hugh as biological weapon against the Borg.

Hugh – Hugh is the I in “I, Borg” as this episode is about him developing a sense of self. As far as we know he has always been a drone within the Collective and because of this never had the chance to learn empathy or self and this episode is where he learns all of this. In the end he sacrafices himself so the Borg won’t target the Enterprise and to protect his friend Geordi. Jonathan Del Arco does such an amazing job in this role. He is the drone becoming an individual and it is his performance and relationships Hugh builds in the episode that make it so great.

Captain Picard’s PTSD – Picard’s PTSD is a major theme of the episode. The Borg mutilated his body and mind and because of this he understandably does not see any humanity within them. We see how deep this is as he pretends to be Locutus to test Hugh and it is in this test when Hugh denies to assimilate the crew and the Geordi is his friend that he sees the plan to weaponize Hugh is immoral and wrong.

An Exploration of War and Morality – The main moral issue being wrestled with in the episode is whether to use Hugh as a biological weapon against the Borg. He would be used a virus to shut them down. When the show starts out Dr. Crusher is the only one against this but slowly as Geordi becomes friends with Hugh and Picard talks to Hugh they see the humanity of the drones and that in committing genocide they would be acting like the Borg. It is handled really well and they take time to explore this over the course of the entire episode.

The Cons:

Borg Indifference – Geordi is able to go down to the planet where Hugh was found to say good-bye to him as the Borg pick him up. The thing that bothered me with this is the Borg not recognizing his role in their destruction prior. The Borg are a threat to the episode but they have no tactical sensibilities it felt like. The reason that is given is that they don’t notice individuals (as seen by them being able to free Picard in “Best of Both Worlds”) but shouldn’t they have adapted to that by now? It was one of the reasons for their defeat.

This is one of my favorite episodes in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and shows just how strong the show could be when it focused on character and themes. This isn’t the last time we see Hugh and what is done in this episode has consequences for the Borg we see later. This episode is a great a example of structure working really well too. Dr. Crusher’s empathy leads to Geordi and Hugh becoming friends, which leads to Guinan getting to know Hugh and finally Picard giving Hugh a chance after Guinan admits her hate and rage against Hugh was wrong. This is powerfully done and creates an unforgettable story.

Final Score:

9.8 / 10 The strengths of this episode outweigh the flaws.

Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 3 – “The End is the Beginning” – Damage and Stories

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    “The End is the Beginning” is a good episode that give us more development of the Romulans and more information about the Borg Cube “Artifact.” This is the first episode where I really liked Soji as a character and liked how we also got to know of the support characters, as well as the return of a character from old! This story covers a lot and I’d say succeeds in it. The two plots (Soji’s and Picard’s) are very well balanced and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

The episode was written by Michael Chabon and James Duff and directed by Hanelle Culpepper.

The story begins with the Executive Director of the “Artifact” taking an interest in Soji’s work as Picard continues his recruitment of his new crew.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Romulan Former Drones – An aspect of the episode I really liked is our time with the former drones. In this case we see how the former Romulan drones are barely being held together. It takes Soji delving deep to get an anthropologist to talk and that in turn leads to all the former Romulan drones panicking and calling her “The Destroyer.” The fact that this “Artifact” is to help former drones heal is compelling and I loved that we got to see and talk to at least one of them.

Laris and Zhaban – Laris and Zhaban show their Tal Shiar training when Zhat Vash agents attack their home. One of the attackers survives and we learn that we are fighting the Zhat Vash before the attacker kills himself. In this we see that Laris and Zhaban do everything to not kill and I loved that. They have left the Tal Shiar life behind and you can see they’d love to just spend the rest of their life here with Picard. With Picard leaving though, they accept it and support him on his adventure while they watch over the Chateau.

Raffi and Captain Rios – Raffi’s relationship to Picard is explored in this episode and we get introduced to Rios. In both we see how Starfleet has burned them. Raffi wanted to find anyway to help the Romulan Refugees while Picard thought his resignation would be enough and is resigned to present. She lost everything after that and is escaping into drugs on an isolated area on Earth. She does connect Picard with Rios though and in him we see a man whose entire record in Starfleet has been erased due to the mission but still keeps up the habits he learned from the organization. Picard, Rios and Raffi have all been hurt by Starfleet actions so seeing them in this “Firefly” like crew is an interesting dynamic to explore. There is much history still to explore.

Hugh – Hugh is the man in charge of the artifact. He is Soji’s mentor and notices when she speaks to a drone in a dead language. After this he takes her to the Romulan drones who have all gone mad and witnesses as they call her “The Destroyer.” He never stops defending the former drones or Soji and the emphatic man we met back in “I, Borg” is clearly still present. He is Soji’s mentor and it awesome to see how much he’s grown since “The Next Generation.” He’s firm but empathetic and you can see why he is the Executive Director of “The Artifact.” Jonathan Del Arco is wonderful in his return to his role.

Damage and Stories – The main theme of this episode is one of damage and the stories we tell to deal with that damage. We see this in the broken former drones and in Captain Rios and Raffi as well as Picard himself. All of these characters are broken and their stories are the one thing that motivates them and keeps them going. It was staying focused on this theme that really elevated the episode for me.

Okay:

“Rizzo” and Narek – These are the two Zhat Vash spies and their relationship is weird at this point. They refer to each other as siblings but there is a weird sexual undertone to their interactions. It is strange and their relationship really needs more development. I didn’t put it as a negative because they are both good actors, but it isn’t a plus either. Right now it is simply a strange element of the show.

The Cons:

The Soji Questions – The questions of how much Soji knows about who she is and her role in all of this is the biggest question and right now feels like a bit of a con. When I heard her called “The Destroyer” my first fear is that they’ll make her part Borg Queen. That strikes me as a trash idea in more ways than one given the Borg Queen ruined the threat of the Borg for me. A single ego is not as threatening as a collective mind that can adapt. This con might turn into a pro if the questions are handled well, but right now it is one of the biggest things that could hurt the series.

“The End is the Beginning” is another enjoyable outing in “Picard,” and gives us some amazing character development. I loved how Hugh has grown and more Laris and Zhaban made the episode for me. The other new characters have potential so it is hard to say if I like or dislike them yet. I’m hoping that their arcs are handled well and that the big ideas explored in “Star Trek” of old make more of an appearance as they did in the first episode.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

 

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 6, Episode 14 – “Face of the Enemy” – Romulan Politics and Troi’s Potential

Face of the Enemy

       Counselor Troi was really shafted throughout the entire run of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” When she was wrote it was largely romance plots or her stating the obvious on the bridge. She has extra-sensory empathy, but that is never really used in any interesting ways most of the time. This episode is an exception in regards to that. It is a good episode and a great Troi episode as we see her under pressure from being undercover and also how committed she is to her role as a Starfleet officer. This is an episode that gives us great exploration of the tension between the Tal Shiar and military and is well worth checking out for any fan of the Romulans on “Star Trek.”

The episode’s story was by René Echevarria with teleplay by Naren Shankar and directed by Gabrielle Beaumont.

The story follows Counselor Troi who has been surgically altered into Tal Shiar Agent Major Rakal. She must figure out the reasons why while facing a crew that distrusts her very presence on the ship.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Mystery and Trust – The main mystery of why Troi was turned into a Romulan by Commander N’Vek and The Enterprise-D as they work with a former Federation Ensign DeSeve who defected to the Romulan Star Empire, returning to help them find a ship going at the fastest speed. Both Picard and the crew don’t know whether they can trust the defector and Troi is in the same situation, even as she sees that the cargo they are transporting are government officials trying to get safely over to the Federation. It is powerfully done as both N’Vek and Ensign DeSeve slowly reveal more of the truth and have to give more and go against the distrusting nature instilled in them by the Empire. It is powerfully done and through it you get to see Troi come into her element as a leader.

Relationship Between Tal Shiar and Romulan Military – In this episode we get the military perspective (and from it the view of the Romulan populace) of the Tal Shiar. Everyone fears them. Commander Toreth mentions how every person on her crew has lost someone to the Tal Shiar, but in the end they still follow orders. The fear is so great that the most that can be done is verbal protest.

Commander Toreth – Commander Toreth’s father was a man who spoke up for freedom for Romulans and was killed by the Tal Shiar for it. This in many ways makes her sympathetic to N’Vek’s plot but her duty overrides all else and because of how Troi is being used, Troi can’t sympathize or help. She was a moral commander and anytime N’Vek or Troi did something she disagreed with, she’d document it and she was not afraid to confront the Tal Shiar with her disagreement over their actions, even as she continued serving the Empire. Carolyn Seymour was amazing in the role.

Counselor Troi – This is an episode where Troi gets to shine. She has to play the role of the enemy to both the Romulans on the ship and later towards her own crew in order to save innocents. The entire episode is a tightrope walk for her and Marina Sirtis does a fantastic job acting that walk. Troi’s arc in the episode involves her speaking up for herself and taking charge. First against Commander Toreth and later against N’Vek when his plans fail.

The Cons:

The Ending Actions of the Romulans – Commander Toreth’s original plan was to destroy The Enterprise-D after they learn how to track their cloak, but after getting command back from Troi she completly forgets her original aim and instead thinks that she’ll just bring Troi in for questioning. It isn’t handled well and feels rushed and sudden. The Romulans just leave and the Federation gets the escapees and no knows another way to track cloaks. Given how effective we see Commander Toreth is, this made no sense and felt like they just wanted to end the episode.

This is a good episode and one I’d recommend to any Romulan fan. You get to see how complicated relationships are between the Tal Shiar and military, Toreth is a wonderfully compelling character and the mystery plot is strong enough to keep one engaged. Marina Sirtis has to carry this episode and she succeeds in doing so. Her Troi is vulnerable but firm and adapts to the predicament she is in. I wish she had gotten more episodes like this.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10