Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 3, Episode 12 – “The High Ground” – An Exploration of the Means of Fighting and Sovereignty

Dr. Crusher deserved more episodes that didn’t involve her being a love interest. Thankfully the high ground does not do this but explores who she is as a person and doctor. This is exactly the kind of episodes I was looking for, for each of the doctors in my exploration of doctors of “Legacy Trek” (TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY and ENT). This an episode that tackles revolution, terrorism and the responsibilities of outside powers in conflict. Suffice to say this is the kind of episode of “Star Trek” that I love. Give me philosophy, politics and a good character story and a I am here for it. This one does hold up though it could have been better. Before I get into spoilers, I do recommend it.

The episode was directed by Melinda M. Snodgrass and written by Gabrielle Beaumont.

The story follows Dr. Crusher when she is kidnapped by Ansata Rebels who want to force the Federation’s hand in their planets conflict.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The idea of a faction forcing the Federation to get involved (given how powerful the Federation is) is really awesome. This is strengthened given this is an Independence movement and we see the people living under a fascist state. By all counts this should be easy for the Federation to make a stand but nuance is added to the characters and conflict which creates some good story drama.

The Ansata – The Ansata are the independence movement on Rutia IV being led by Kyril Finn. We get to meet the members of the populace who are a part of the movement too as well as some of the reasons why. The one thing that isn’t explored is that we don’t get the details of history. They exist as a powerful idea but we don’t get the details of the past that inspires the conflict, which hurts the episode.

Riker and Alexana Devos – Riker is the one who is pushing for resolution and freedom for the populace, though is way of doing so is very hands off. He’s helping Alexana who is a fascinating character who has been fighting for so long it is all she knows. She is a soldier who has lost people and it inspires the conflict and war. It is only Riker’s suggestion of another way that we see a possibility of her maybe taking another path.

Dr. Crusher and Kyril Finn – Dr. Crusher is helping the Ansata who use a transporter who infects them when used. She like Riker is pushing Finn to find another way and that never stops. Eventually Captain Picard is captured but she never stops rooting for the possibility of peace even as she protects Picard. This episode demonstrates how driven she is to help others as she is helping civilians after an attack by the Ansata which leads to her capture in first place. Gates McFadden does a wonderful job and I’m glad they didn’t give her a love interest in this episode.

The Cons:

The Details of The Lives of the People – The biggest thing against this episode is we don’t get many details of the lives of the people. Devos and Finn both give us vague allusions to things that have happened but nothing beyond that. This is a planet that has implied history but gives us no details of history. The characters have names, which is better than some episodes of “Star Trek” but it was so near great. It just needed to finish up those details.

The Federation’s Non-Involvement not Fully Tackled – Like the details of the conflict the details of the Federation’s non-involvement is not fully explored. It is discussed but we never get a real debate or in depth discussion of it. This is one of the core themes of the story and the story doesn’t go deeper.

This is a really good episode that I’d highly recommend. You get to see Dr. Crusher and what motivates her. There is a conflict that helps illustrate the Federation’s role in conflicts as well as the cycle of violence within conflicts and we are given nuanced characters who get to play off the crew. This episode could have been great and a favorite if it had just taken that extra step and filled into the details within the premise.

Final Score: 8.7 / 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