Category Archives: 1991


A big moment. Too bad it likely inspired “Flashback” on Voyager.

Part I: Starfleet learns Spock is chillin’ on Romulus, and no one knows why. Hoping for some answers, Picard visits Spock’s dad, Sarek (Mark Lenard) who’s dying and whom Picard mind-melded with a year earlier to help Sarek fulfill his last mission as an ambassador (in “Sarek”). Sarek points Picard in the direction of Pardek (Malachi Throne) a Romulan senator Spock has known for years, and Picard and Data, masquerading as Romulans, head to Romulus on a cloaked Klingon ship. Meanwhile, Riker leads an investigation about some parts of a stolen Vulcan ship or something. Shortly after arriving on Romulus, Picard and Data meet Spock — and Trekkers’ pants everywhere got a little tighter.

Part II: Spock tells Picard he is on Romulus to try to reunify the Vulcan and Romulan peoples, as they share common ancestry (see “Balance of Terror”). Picard is skeptical, but Pardek is apparently making some inroads for Spock with Neral (Norman Large) the new Romulan procounsel. We then learn that Neral is working with Sela (Denise Crosby, reprising her role from “Redemption”) on some sort of nefarious plan (thunderclap). Their idea is to send an alleged peace delegation to Vulcan that really is an invasion force. Picard, Data and Spock foil the plan and a warbird destroys three stolen Vulcan ships — one of which was the one Riker was trying to find — carrying the invasion force in front of the Enterprise. Despite the setback, Spock stays on Romulus to continue the reunification efforts — but not before mind-melding with Picard to share Picard’s connection with Sarek.

“That’s right, Captain Picard. I’m in this episode, too. I’m not sure why — but I am.”

Why it’s important

Interestingly, the effects of this episode don’t really show up again aside from one other episode (“Face of the Enemy”) until the rebooted “Star Trek” in 2009. Spock’s actions to bring peace to Romulus led to the planet’s destruction, which causes renegade Romulan Nero to alter history in that film. But you could argue that Spock’s actions here pretty much negate everything we saw on TOS, the movies, TNG, DS9 and Voyager (and this site). Only Enterprise and the two JJ movies would not be erased.

This episode is important as it (sort of) explains the Vulcan/Romulan backstory. Some of it really doesn’t make sense, as we’ll discuss. But some of it does — and we at least understand more of the differences between the two races. We also see more of the Federation-Klingon-Romulan triangle here. Interestingly, Spock references his role in the peace treaty with the Klingons — something that Trek viewers didn’t know about yet. These two episodes premiered in early November 1991, while “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” — which details the peace process — premiered in early December of that year. That didn’t tip things about the Federation being at peace with the Klingons — we’d known that since at least season one of TNG — but it was a small reveal about what the final TOS movie would cover.

Probably most importantly, though, is the fact that this episode is really the first big-time crossover between different Trek franchises — and it spurred many, many others.

Between fall 1987 and fall 1991, the only real crossover between TOS and TNG was DeForest Kelley’s appearance in “Encounter at Farpoint”. No other episode, or “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier”, which came out in 1989, was a crossover — and only a few episodes featured any connections between the two series, other than the basic premise that underlies Star Trek. Maybe, after “The Naked Now” was such a dud, the creators were gunshy?

But that all changed after this episode (and, to a point, in “Sarek”). Michael Dorn shows up in “Star Trek VI”, playing his grandfather (and Kirk and McCoy’s lawyer during their trial). The first episode of DS9, which aired about 14 months after “Unification”, involves a handoff from TNG, and the first episode of Voyager in early 1995 involved a handoff from DS9. DS9 had episodes about the mirror universe, first seen in “Mirror, Mirror” and even visited the original Enterprise in “Trials and Tribble-ations”. Voyager featured a flashback episode to the events of “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” and on and on.

In other words, this episode was most important as a creative launching point than within the Star Trek universe — which is amazing considering what it actually covered in the Star Trek universe.

“I’m on an urgent mission from the Federation. Where can we find a Romulan female to lick the paint off Commander Data’s ears?”

What doesn’t hold up

Part I is mostly fine. It’s hard to believe that if it’s so easy to get into Romulan space, that the Klingons wouldn’t just send a cloaked armada in and start destroying everything. There are later mentions of how groups of cloaked ships can be somewhat detectable — and how there are listening posts that might detect cloaked vessels or something — but I think the whole thing is just sloppy writing. And I’ll avoid the whole Universal Translator discussion.

Part II is really the problem.

The subplot with the Enterprise was honestly pointless. The business with Riker and Worf at the bar and dealing with the Zakdorn bureaucrat, etc., was needless filler. The Enterprise’s awareness of the stolen Vulcan ship really didn’t advance the story. But whatever — maybe they needed padding because Nimoy didn’t have time to be in more scenes.

The stuff on Romulus while more significant, was pretty implausible. Here’s a quick list of the problems:

1) Why did Picard and Data remove their Romulan disguises when they knew they’d likely return to the surface? Still looking like Romulans could have really been helpful.

2) How did Spock, after his first meeting with Neral, just walk out of the procounsel’s office without an escort? It seems like he’s just planning to stroll through the government offices — despite the fact that he’s on enemy soil! Spock wouldn’t have had ill intentions, but some out-of-the-loop guards have thought he might.

3) Why did Sela (in typical, bad-villain style) explain the entire plot to Picard, Data and Spock — and why didn’t she kill them (or incapacitate them) when Spock refused to cooperate? Why did Sela even leave an accessible computer in the procounsel’s office?

4) Why did the Romulans send the stolen Vulcan ships through the Neutral Zone at Warp 1? They might have made it to Vulcan in about five years at that speed — unless the Neutral Zone is really, really small, which would seem to defeat its purpose.

5) Why did the Romulans think that a few thousand Romulan troops would have conquered a planet with (presumably) billions of inhabitants? Couldn’t a ship in orbit have keyed in on all Romulan life signs and beamed them into holding cells?

6) Why did the Romulans steal the Vulcan ships at all? It’s not as if doing so disguised the fact that the ships were coming from Romulus. As far as I can tell, the Vulcan ships are part of the story just to give the Enterprise something to do while Picard and Data go to Romulus.

7) For a society as paranoid as the Romulans, how did Picard and Data avoid being scanned and detected while on the planet? And how did Spock walk around for weeks (maybe longer) without the normal Romulan forehead ridges? How did the Klingon ship use its transporters while cloaked when the Defiant (later, on DS9) never could?

Probably my biggest gripe, though, is the idea that Spock would have enough interest in and knowledge about unifying the Vulcans and Romulans considering that the Federation isn’t supposed to know much at all about the Romulans. How would he have the basic understanding to determine whether reunification was possible — or even worthwhile? Even if you throw out “The Neutral Zone” and all its talk about the Romulans being absent for decades — which the creators basically threw out after that episode — the idea that Spock could have much of a relationship with the Romulans (through Pardek) is laughable. We’re talking about an empire blocked for more than two centuries from the Federation by a large area of neutral space. And by all indications, the Romulans left Vulcan hundreds of years earlier. So, it’s unlikely that Spock would have records of anything to form the basis of reunification or a desire to reunify. Did he just figure it was a good idea? Doesn’t seem very logical.

Final thoughts

If it sounds like I’m being harsh about a couple episodes that are sort of cornerstones of TNG and some of Trek’s most celebrated moments, it’s because I think they’re so deeply flawed (especially part II) and, most importantly, that they didn’t need to be. A few lines of dialog about Spock’s thinking (which could have easily taken the place of the filler with the Enterprise’s investigation) and better writing regarding the Romulans’ plan (maybe Sela wouldn’t have known about the Klingon ship, and Picard, Data and Spock could have beamed there and tapped into the recorded Spock message?) and this episode would have been great BEYOND the nice crossover moments.

As it is, this episode only really gets by on those moments.

Coming later this week …

Those Swedish guys return.

“Ensign Ro”

“My name is Guinan. I tend bar, I co-host ‘The View’ and I listen.”

After an attack on a Federation colony, the Enterprise is asked to track down the alleged perpetrators, Bajoran terrorists. The Bajorans are (ahem) a race of refugees, forced from their homeworld (ahem) decades earlier by the Cardassians (whom we met in “The Wounded”). Admiral Kennelly (Cliff Potts) comes on board and tells Picard he must take on a Bajoran officer, the disgraced Ensign Ro Laren (Michelle Forbes). Ro has spent some time in prison after her actions resulted in the death of some officers, and her assimilation into the crew is difficult as several crew members (Riker and Geordi, notably) make it clear they object to her very presence. She helps Picard find the terrorist cell but then works separately, with direction from the admiral, to undermine the mission. Guinan befriends Ro and gets her to come clean to Picard. With Ro’s help, he uncovers a plot between the admiral and the Cardassians to flush out the Bajorans and end the terrorist threat. Picard then tells the admiral that the Cardassians used him — that the Bajorans couldn’t have attacked the Federation colony, as they don’t have the ability to travel far or fast enough to have carried it out. Picard then welcomes Ro to the crew.

Ro, Picard and Data in in a world of blankets.

Why it’s important

Ro becomes a quasi-regular over the next season-plus and shows up again in the seventh season (eight episodes in all). She was a nice addition to the cast that, too often, had no conflict and could be kinda dull. But, really, the setup here between the Cardassians and the Bajorans is key — despite the rough edges we’ve come to expect with the TNG/DS9 handoffs.

The Cardassian look is still off here — we see the weird uniforms from “The Wounded” again — but this episode kept the Cardassians from being one-off baddies that we never see again. So, good on that.

Lastly, this is one of the clearest examples — though not really the first — of the Federation bending overly backwards to make a connection with a former foe (or, to generally avoid conflict). We saw a bit of this in “The Wounded”, when Picard is told to avoid a war at all cost because Starfleet isn’t in the position to deal with the conflict, a possible allusion to the aftermath of losing 40 ships to the Borg.

But, going forward, the Federation really does some odd things to appease the Cardassians. In finalizing the treaty, they agree to put a bunch of Federation colonies in Cardassian space and a bunch of Cardassian colonies in Federation space, which was a pretty clear tactical fail. And it spurred the terrorist Maquis into action.

I’m glad that it’s always made clear that the Federation doesn’t attack first, as it really does fit with Roddenberry’s vision in the best possible way. But does the Federation have to be so appeasing that it does dumb things — like conspiring with Cardassians in this episode to kill some fairly harmless Bajorans?

Mr. Mott, the best barber in Starfleet, makes one of his few on-screen appearances.

What doesn’t hold up

Well, put simply, the Bajoran back story is pretty much completely redone for DS9, much like our buddies, the Trill. The look of the Bajorans stays and the Cardassian occupation is still a key point. But the result of the occupation totally changes.

In “Ensign Ro”, Bajorans — or “the Bajora” as they’re called here — are essentially gypsies. They’ve been forced to relocate to worlds all over the quadrant because the Cardassians annexed their homeworld. That, of course, makes this episode possible, because the Bajoran refugees aren’t  in Cardassian space, where Picard and Co. couldn’t reach them. The Bajorans here are apparently just around Cardassian territory — and their proximity (presumably) allows them to carry out terrorist actions.

But in DS9, the back story is VERY different. We don’t really hear about Bajoran refugees. It’s possible they existed, but given the Bajoran-heavy storylines in early DS9, there’s no indication that Bajorans returned to Bajor en masse — as they don’t appear to have really left at all. Instead, we hear about Bajorans who were essentially slaves to the Cardassians in the Bajoran system. The resistance fighters were terrorists (like those we see here), but they weren’t operating on far-flung moons in other systems. They were (as far as we ever see) restricted to Bajor and its moons.

Couldn’t the terrorists have gone back and forth between Bajor and other systems? Well, the information that proved the Bajora’s innocence here (that they couldn’t travel at warp speed to get to the colony that was destroyed) and information to that effect in DS9 (Bajoran ships that we see are all impulse-powered, though they know about warp drive) would indicate that the Bajoran terrorists would have been restricted to one system, be it Bajor or elsewhere.

Now, an obvious question remains: If the Bajorans that we see in this episode aren’t capable of traveling at warp, why would the Cardassians see them as a threat? At least on DS9, you could see how the Bajorans could travel the system and actually cause problems for a nearby occupying force. But if the Bajorans are spread out among several systems and are limited to impulse speeds, the Cardassians shouldn’t be at all bothered by them. It would take YEARS for a Bajoran terrorist ship to get close to Cardassian targets (presuming that Bajorans aren’t gypsies on Cardassian planets). And if other Bajoran terrorist than the ones we see in this episode could travel at warp, why are the Cardassians busy going after the cell we see in this episode? Wouldn’t they have other hasperat to fry?

Final thoughts

It’s not a huge thing, but apparently Worf and Ro attended Starfleet Academy at the same time, with Worf graduating in 2361 and Ro graduating in 2362. Given both their personalities, it’s not hard to imagine that they weren’t social types who wouldn’t have associated with other students, let alone each other — and we have no real idea how many students attend the academy at the same time. However, it would have been interesting had the connection been made in the episode, with a line of dialog from either character. FWIW, Riker and Geordi both graduated in 2357 (making Riker’s officiousness to Geordi in “Encounter at Farpoint” strange in retrospect) a year before Worf and Ro started at the Academy.

Coming next week …

Riker intimidates a Ferengi, Troi flirts with a Zakdorn and Worf sings Klingon opera in a bar. Oh, and Picard meets Spock or something.


“Before I restore your family honor, you must tell me why Klingon blood is no longer pink. And don’t tell me, ‘It is a long story.'”

Part I: The Enterprise heads to the Klingon homeworld so Picard can finish his duties as arbiter of succession (see “Reunion”). New Klingon leader Gowron (Robert O’Reilly) pops up and tells Picard he needs help to avert a civil war (actually a “KLINGON CIVIL WAR”, as Gowron says, somewhat annoyingly). Turns out the family of Duras — who had been in the running for the top spot before Worf killed him and went medieval on his ass — is staging some sort of a power play. Later, at Gowron’s induction, Duras’s sisters, Lursa (Barbara March) and B’Etor (Gwynyth Walsh) show up and bring with them Duras’s illegitimate son, Toral (JD Cullum), whom they say should rule the empire (females can’t serve on the council, apparently). Meanwhile, Worf convinces his brother Kurn (Tony Todd) to support Gowron in hopes that doing so will force Gowron to return their family honor (see “Sins of the Father”). Picard rules against the Duras claim and civil war erupts. The Federation can’t intervene in an internal matter, so Worf resigns from Starfleet to fight for Gowron — who overturns the decision that made Worf a pariah now that Kurn and his allies have joined his cause. Meanwhile, we learn that the Romulans — including a blond commander who looks a lot like the mom from “Pet Semetary”  — are helping the Duras.

Part II: With the war raging and Gowron losing, Picard gets Starfleet to approve his plan to determine whether the Romulans are helping the Duras family. He takes a small fleet to the Romulan border equipped with Geordi’s newest innovation that will determine if cloaked ships are in the area. That prompts Romulan Commander Sela (Denise Crosby) to appear. She demands Picard remove the blockade and tells him that she is Tasha Yar’s half-Romulan daughter, and that Tasha was on the Enterprise-C when it was captured 23 years earlier. Guinan (who has an inkling of what happened in “Yesterday’s Enterprise” because of her Guinan-ness) confirms the claim. Sela’s people find a way to disrupt Picard’s sensor net, but Data saves the day by finding another way to detect the Romulans, who turn back once they’re discovered. Without Romulan assistance, the Duras forces fall to Gowron, and Kurn rescues Worf (who had been captured). Lursa and B’Etor escape, but Gowron gives Worf the chance to kill Toral. He declines, and with the war over, resumes duty on the Enterprise.

“I am secretly looking forward to becoming a Bajoran security officer.”

Why it’s important

This two-parter, perhaps more than any other episode, cements the power triangle among the three Alpha Quadrant heavyweights. The Romulans want to undermine the Federation/Klingon alliance at nearly any cost. The introduction of Lursa and B’Etor is important, as well, as they show up in DS9 (“Past Prologue”) in TNG’s seventh season (“Bloodlines”) and, most importantly, in “Star Trek: Generations”. Toral shows up again, too, in DS9’s “The Sword of Kahless”.

Of course, the events here kept the Federation/Klingon alliance from crumbling, as the empire led by the Duras family likely would have allied itself differently. Gowron’s installation and victory is key, too — as is the establishment his strong relationship with Worf . This shows up again in later TNG with “Rightful Heir” and when Worf joins DS9 in “The Way of the Warrior” and Gowron asks for his assistance in the invasion of Cardassia. Not believing Gowron’s rationale — that the Cardassian government had been taken over by Changeling infiltrators — Worf refuses and again becomes a pariah.

And, the introduction of Sela brings back the events from “Yesterday’s Enterprise” but also sets up Sela’s involvement in the Romulan plot to invade Vulcan in the “Unification” two-parter.

Lastly, Picard’s efforts to assemble his small fleet sure seems to indicate, once again, that Starfleet has a relatively small number of vessels and that the Borg attack in “The Best of Both Worlds” really weakened the Federation’s defenses. Dialog with Picard, Riker, La Forge and Data seems to indicate that many ships didn’t have full crews and were still under construction. Keep in mind that these ships had to be relatively close to the Klingon Empire — and that the ships destroyed at Wolf 359 were pretty far away.

And, again, all that’s in keeping with what we see of Starfleet in TNG. But DS9’s later seasons would seem to indicate that 40 starships is a very, very small percentage of the Federation’s forces.

“Now that that K’Ehleyr hussy is out of the way …”

What doesn’t hold up

Part I mostly works, though it’s weird that Worf wears his Starfleet uniform while on leave and doing back-alley stuff with Kurn and Gowron. Isn’t that sort of representing the Federation in internal Klingon affairs? Oh, and since when can women not serve on the High Council? Gowron offered K’Ehleyr a spot there in “Reunion” and Azetbur serves as head of the council in “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country”. Now, the second instance was produced AFTER this episode premiered, but still. Are we to believe that Klingons became less progressive after “Reunion”? Maybe it’s because all their blood turned red?

Part II is far more problematic. Picard’s blockade doesn’t make a ton of sense — as we’re talking about, you know, three-dimensional space. Couldn’t the cloaked Romulan ships just fly around the Starfleet vessels? I guess that doing so would have slowed them down …

Also, what’s the deal with Worf when he sees Sela on the viewscreen after he’s captured by Lursa and B’Etor? He hardly reacts — when his reaction should be like Picard’s from earlier in the episode (my guess is a scene where he learned of Sela was cut for time). Speaking of weird reactions, the whole business on the Sutherland — the ship Data commands in the blockade — was poorly done. Hobson (Timothy Carhart), Data’s first officer, is WAY too pig-headed in his distrust of Data. And the drama at the end where Data defies orders to test his theory — when he could have messaged Picard to stand by while he tested another approach — was dumb.

There’s also the matter of Romulan supplies being key to the Duras’s war efforts. What kind of supplies are we talking about? Weapons? Food? Dilithium? Pink blood? If Picard’s big idea is to use the blockade to demonstrate Romulan involvement, why didn’t he try to determine whether any recovered supplies could be traced to the Romulans? Surely, some ship wreckage could have been obtained or Data and Geordi could have done some technical magic to determine whether anything was of a Romulan origin (as they did with a detonator in “Reunion” and with phasers in “The Mind’s Eye”).

Honestly, the blockade/supply business is something that might make sense in a story about a 20th-century naval battle. But it’s almost preposterous in a universe where ships can travel in three dimensions and replicators and other technology are available. Unless the Romulans were providing fully functional ships or troops — which would have obviously been traced back to them — what supplies could they have provided that weren’t easily attainable?

Finally, it’s hard to believe that Worf could just resume duty with no questions asked. Picard likely could have stalled on filing the resignation paperwork. But what if the war had gone on longer than what seems like a few weeks? Given the dialog at the end of part one — in which Worf talks about how he has spent most of his life around humans — it would have been much more believable for Worf to stay with his people, especially given the high standing his family has in the years to come. He, Gowron and Kurn could have pretty much ruled the empire — but Worf goes back to being a lieutenant in Starfleet? Hmmm …

“Let’s negotiate, Picard. I like to ‘Seal-a deal.’ Get it?”

Final thoughts

Part II reminds me of the TV show “LOST” or the worst of the rebooted “Battlestar Galactica”. Glaring logical problems are necessary to prop up (somewhat) compelling drama and action. It’s a shame, because the Klingon intrigue was a major undercurrent of second-generation Trek, and a lot of it works, especially the back stories and the general look and feel.

That said, even part II has some cool moments, like the scene on Kurn’s ship to start the episode. The Klingon stuff in TNG is really the closest thing the series had to a mini arc (other than the Borg stuff and the regular Q episodes). TNG, of course, aired in an era when serialized dramas were much less common than they are today — or even when the other three second-generation series were being broadcast.

Coming later this week …

Here come the Bajora. I mean, the Bajorans …

“The Host”

“Odan! Is that a slug in your pocket or …”

Crusher’s all that and a bag of chips about Trill Ambassador Odan (Franc Luz). They can’t keep their hands off each other as the Enterprise transports Odan to negotiate a treaty between two intractable sets of aliens (TOS was always delivering medicines, TNG is always mediating disputes). After being injured in a shuttle, Odan reveals that his body is just a host and Odan is really some sluggish thing inside. All Trills are like this, it seems, but the slug (the symbiont) now needs a new body — and the nearest one is 40 hours away. Riker volunteers to host Odan to save the symbiont and the negotiations. This, of course, throws Crusher for a loop, but she accepts Riker/Odan (allowing Jonathan Frakes and Gates McFadden some kissy time) and the ambassador completes the negotiations. Afterward, a new host arrives just in time but (sad trombone) she’s a she. Riker is saved, but the episode ends with Crusher saying she “can’t keep up” with all the changes. Odan (in the new female body) leaves amicably.

Good thing Riker put on some pounds as the series went on.

Why it’s important

As far as making the tapestry, this episode was a very close call. Typically, the introduction of a major race in Star Trek warrants our attention, but Trills just aren’t huge players going forward — and what’s shown of them here is almost entirely at odds with what we see of Trills on DS9 (where Jadzia and later Ezri Dax are main characters).

But with the Trill stuff AND Trek’s first go at addressing same-sex relationships, we decided to review it. Interestingly, Crusher doesn’t go for Odan in a female body … but she admits that her inability to do so is a failing, mostly stemming from her difficulty in adjusting. Considering that this episode aired in 1991 and it was the first of many Trek episodes that broached this topic (with typical sci-fi couching) over the next few years AND it introduced us to a fairly major Trek race, we decided to give it a review.

What Trills look like after this episode. Yes, it’s an improvement.

What doesn’t hold up

The problem with this episode isn’t the message. You could argue that Crusher is somewhat old-school in her views … but I’d fall back on the infinite diversity in infinite combinations that our buddy Spock threw at us back in the day. Crusher’s inability to be with Odan in a female body isn’t because she’s morally opposed to the idea. She’s just not down for it personally.

The problems with this episode have very little to do with the episode itself. They have to do with what was established here about Trills compared with what we learn later. A quick list:

1) Trills here have bumpy foreheads, kind of looking like Romulans without the ears. Trills in DS9 appear basically human with spots running down their bodies. This is a problem if we stick with the Trek method of making all members of an alien race look pretty much the same — and all Trills going forward have spots.

2) Trills apparently can’t use transporters. But we see Jadzia Dax and other Trills do it often on DS9 — though we didn’t see that happen until at least a season of DS9 aired.

3) Hosts and symbionts have more of a mutual relationship in DS9. Here, the host body is really just a set of arms and legs. This, of course, is important if you consider that we learn on DS9 that most humanoid Trills DON’T have a symbiont. Oh, and the symbiont here looks a lot different than the Dax symbiont (though, there could be different kinds of symbionts, I guess).

The fact that most humanoid Trills aren’t joined flies in the face of Odan’s justification for NOT telling Crusher about his true nature. Odan (in Riker’s body) tells her that he never thought to mention it, asking her why she didn’t think to tell him that she wasn’t a joined species. This sort of works if ALL Trills are joined. It’s less believable if only a select number are (as DS9 tells us). Odan should be very aware of what he is because many of his fellow Trills are different.

4) The biggest problem, though, is that this episode makes it seem like the Federation knows next to nothing about Trills — as no one on the Enterprise had any idea that Trills were a joined species. But, on DS9, we know that Trills were on Earth more than 100 years earlier, sometime in the mid 23rd century (one of Dax’s earlier hosts knew Leonard McCoy and his “hands of a surgeon”) and Curzon Dax helped negotiate the Klingon-Federation peace treaty.

Now, maybe you could argue that the Trills were active in Federation/Starfleet affairs but generally kept their true nature secret. That MIGHT work, except that Benjamin Sisko and Curzon Dax had a relationship going back at least a decade prior to the events of “The Host”. Either Curzon sprung it on Benjamin after the incident with Odan — “Hey, Ben. There’s something I gotta tell you … ” — or the creators  just screwed the pooch on this one.

Really, they just should have made Dax a different kind of joined species, one the Federation knew about. It’s another instance of Trek amping up the mystery of something — like the Romulans in “The Neutral Zone” — only to crap all over continuity later by clearly establishing there wasn’t any mystery at all (or, that there shouldn’t have been). As for the details changing, DS9 had a similar problem with its interpretation of the Bajorans, whom we’ll meet for the first time a bit later in TNG and, of course, become key players in DS9.

Many of the Trill inconsistencies are addressed on Memory Alpha. As for the change in appearance, Paramount apparently didn’t want Terry Farrell (who played Jadzia Dax on DS9) to be hidden behind the makeup we see in the episode.

Final thoughts

While I like the message of this episode, it’s a little disappointing that one of the few Crusher-centric shows is a love story. She’s probably the least utilized character in the ensemble, and three of her big moments (this episode, “Attached” and arguably the series’ worst offering “Sub Rosa”) all have her going gaga for some dude. TNG became more Picard/Data focused as the years went by, but Crusher probably fared worse as far as the stories about her than any other character.

I did like the scene with Crusher and Troi in Ten-Forward, though. It’s always good when Troi is doing more than reading the emotions of bad guys on the bridge (ugh) or being kind of creepy when asking about the crew’s feelings and experiences (yuck). Here, McFadden and Marina Sirtis do a nice job of conveying the emotion of the situation without going overboard.

Final thoughts

Klingon society once again displays its honor and stability … NOT.

“First Contact”

Do you know Dr. Frasier Crane — I mean, Captain Morgan Batesman?

Riker, on an undercover mission to a planet about to make its first warp flight, is hospitalized — and his hidden human features freak out his doctors. Meanwhile, Picard and Troi introduce themselves to Mirasta Yale (Carolyn Seymour) the scientist leading the warp program and then, the planet’s Chancellor Avel Durken (George Coe). They explain how the Federation makes first contact, often after covertly studying worlds about to travel faster than light for years. Traditionalists on the planet, including defense minister Krola (Michael Ensign) were already concerned and almost paranoid about what lies ahead — even before they knew of the Federation and aliens who had been posing as the planets’ inhabitants for years. When Riker’s presence becomes known — the Enterprise hasn’t been able to find him — Krola visits him in the hospital and uses his phaser to make it look as if Riker shot him. Detecting the phaser fire, Crusher and Worf beam down and rescue Riker (who was about to go to the old poker table in the sky) and Krola (who was only stunned). When Durken discovers what Krola tried to do, he decides to hold off on the warp flight to let his people catch up with technology. Yale, unwilling to take a step back, decides to stay with the Enterprise.

People of Malcor II, we’re proud to present … humanity! Oh, and a Beta-something.

Why it’s important

It’s unlikely that “First Contact” is among anyone’s most or least favorite episodes of TNG. While it has some interesting ideas, it’s talky, involves a lot of guest characters and a race — the Malcorians — who are never seen or heard of again (partly because of the episode’s resolution). In fact, if you might be surprised to find “First Contact” among the episodes we’ve chosen to review, if you remember it at all. It’s not bad, but it’s sort of a fair-to-middlin’ hour, in many ways.

But, this is an episode that really explains a large part of what the Federation does and how it deals with less-advanced species. Picard’s demeanor (and Patrick Stewart’s delivery) really conveys just how delicate first-contact missions can be. Picard explains the work the Federation puts into first contact by mentioning how badly first contact went with the Klingons (which doesn’t exactly jibe with what we see on “Enterprise” but never mind). If you want an episode that focuses on the high-sounding ideals of the Federation, this one definitely works.

It’s also an allegory that could have been right at home in TOS, as the Malcorians are clearly made to be very human-like. Not surprisingly, there are some logical problems and heavy-handed moments …

Here’s hoping your species can drink alcohol, and that you don’t have substance-abuse problems.

What doesn’t hold up

Krola is just FAR too one-dimensional and poorly written. It’s unlikely that anyone so in favor of traditional values would actually use the kind of language he uses. His character speaks as if he was written by someone who thought a traditionalist stance was stupid. Part of the issue is that the arguments of someone actually in Krola’s position would take much longer to explain, as they’d be less direct (and probably less overtly at odds with the chancellor who likely appointed him). Krola’s necessary for the story, but I’ve got to wonder if he could have been more nuanced. Maybe there just wasn’t time?

There’s also the question of the observers who were already on the planet (whom Riker was presumably meeting). Did they go underground after Riker was taken the hospital? Were they trying to get him out? Were they communicating with the Enterprise? If they knew the planet — and they’d been there for years — and the area where Riker was injured, couldn’t they have helped the Enterprise find him?

Speaking of the hospital, I find it hard to believe that the administrator would wait as long as he did before reporting Riker’s presence. The rationale sort of boils down to the administrator not wanting the hospital to become a circus (and to provide Riker with proper care) but by waiting, that’s sort of what happens. The reason for the delay wasn’t all that necessary for the story, either, as Krola’s martyring act could have been delayed by impediments from the chancellor or something else.

Lastly, what the hell happened to Yale after this episode? Picard gets her quarters on board the ship and then, we never hear from her again. I guess she went the way of that weird alien in “Future Imperfect” and the warp speed limits from “Force of Nature”.

Final thoughts

We typically stay way from Universal Translator issues on this site. Complaining about them usually is like shooting fish in a barrel or like getting mad about the weather. The UT is a necessary conceit to make Star Trek possible — but every so often, an episode comes around where the goofiness of the UT’s near-magic powers stands out as a laughable.

In other episodes, we learn that the UT is housed in Starfleet communicator badges — and we know that Riker had his badge when he arrived on the planet but doesn’t have it in the hospital (he asks for it when he wakes up). Maybe Riker had another UT on him, but we never see the device other than comm badges in any episode or movie that takes place in the 24th century. Now, we see Quark, Rom and Nog with UTs in their lobes during “Little Green Men”, but I doubt Riker has something similar in his ear. Otherwise, the Malcorian doctors would have probably found it.

Of course, Riker’s pretense of having deformities (his hands and feet are different than Malcorians’) wouldn’t have stood up for a moment if he hadn’t been able to speak the normal language. And, in this episode, the apparent lack of a UT really stands out.

Lastly, the appearance by Bebe Neuwirth (Lilith from “Cheers”) as the freaky Malcorian who wants to have sex with Riker in the hospital was weird, but mostly welcome. The way the scene was shot makes you wonder just how far Riker went. My guess is, not very far, but you never know. This is Will Riker we’re talking about.

Coming later this week ..

Memo to Dr. Crusher: That Trill ambassador has a slug in his belly, and he’s not just happy to see you.