Category Archives: The Next Generation

Also known as TNG


“Are you the one who changed Spot’s gender? Tell me!”

Part I: The Borg are back, but they exhibit individuality and emotions. Data, too, during an early encounter gets angry — and even feels pleasure when he kills a Borg. As the Federation prepares for a new Borg invasion, a captured Borg (Brian Cousins) convinces Data to steal a shuttle to meet “the one” who will give him more emotions. The Enterprise follows, and Picard sends pretty much everybody on the ship except for Spot and the fish in the ready room to look for Data on a remote planet, leaving Crusher (!) in command. After a brief search, Picard, Troi and La Forge are captured by the Borg, who are led by our favorite evil twin, Lore (see “Datalore”). Data then emerges, and tells Picard that he and Lore will together “destroy the Federation.”

Part II: Picard and Co. are prisoners, and it’s clear that Lore’s done something to Data to make him act all evil while feeding him emotions from the chip he stole from their creator, Dr. Noonien Soong (in “Brothers”). Lore has Data experiment on La Forge as part of a plan to make the Borg fully artificial. Crusher recovers most of the Enterprise crew from the surface, but Riker and Worf stay behind to try to find Picard’s team. They run into Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco) from “I, Borg”, who tells them his individuality caused chaos within the Borg, who were then manipulated by Lore. Crusher on the Enterprise defeats a Borg ship in battle, and Riker and Worf mount a rescue — in which Hugh and his buddies reluctantly help. Data, whose ethical subroutines have been reactivated, MacGyver-style, by Picard and Co., rejoins the good guys and deactivates (and later disassembles) Lore. La Forge, back on the Enterprise, is fine, and stops Data from destroying the recovered emotion chip.

“So, have you seen the Crystalline Entity? Dude owes me like $20.”

Why it’s important

You might think part one is one of Trek’s most consequential hours. It’s a good piece of TV and ties in a lot of threads from past storylines. But part two — in which we learn that only a subset of the Borg is part of Lore’s plan — kind of kills the consequences of part one. Other than those we see here, the Borg are largely unaffected by what happens in these episodes (and by Hugh, previously) and go about their merry way of trying to assimilate the galaxy. We see them back in their collective form in “Star Trek: First Contact” and starting in the third season of Voyager.

Really, the recovery of Data’s emotion chip is the bigger domino. In “Star Trek: Generations”, Data decides to use the chip — with disastrous (early) results. Cowered by fear, Data lets Dr. Tolian Soran escape. Later, Soran successfully draws the Nexus time event to him in the Veridian system by destroying that system’s sun. Picard, caught in the Nexus, goes back in time and stops Soran with the help of James T. Kirk, who had been caught in the Nexus for nearly 80 years. Picard and Kirk are successful, but Kirk is killed. And the Enterprise-D is destroyed.

Data, of course, has emotions for the remainder of the Trek movies, as he’s able to (mostly) master them. Sure makes you wonder why he and La Forge didn’t test the chip in a more controlled environment, as we’ll get to that when we review “Star Trek: Generations”. Get ready for an epic rant, people.

“Commander, how did you get so dumb in the last year or so?”

What doesn’t hold up

Part one deals a lot with Picard’s decision to send Hugh back to the Borg without the destructive program Data and La Forge designed. Admiral Nechayev (Natalija Nogulich) rakes him over the coals for the move.  My only real gripe there is that Picard didn’t have this kind of dressing down earlier, if he was going to have it at all. We’ve seen Nechayev before (in “Chain of Command”) so it’s odd that she hasn’t addressed her concerns previously — and only does so when it provides necessary exposition here.

Otherwise, Picard’s decision to send nearly the entire crew to look for Data was just ridiculous. It all works out in part two, but the Federation flagship was facing a Borg vessel with an untested ensign at tactical and the chief medical officer in command! The idea, I guess, was to line things up to give Crusher a shot in the big chair — and Gates McFadden was up to the challenge — but Picard’s logic was just awful here.

Part two, actually is even worse — both as far as logic and entertainment value. To start, Picard and Co., simply are able to do way too much with limited resources while in a Borg holding cell (with no apparent surveillance). That they could reactivate Data’s ethical subroutines with a piece of gum, some tin foil and a lot of luck was hilariously bad writing.

Then, there’s the clear retrench by the creators between the two episodes. In part one, the obvious implication is that the ENTIRE Borg collective had been affected by Hugh. There’s no discussion or pondering over whether the new individualized Borg are anomalies. But in part two, near the end, Hugh makes a comment that they “can’t go back to the collective.” Initially, I took this to mean that all Borg, now individuals, couldn’t recreate the collective. But, apparently, it meant that the collective still existed and the Hugh-affected Borg were separate of it. Why they can’t rejoin the collective isn’t explained.

Why only some Borg were affected by Hugh, of course, is never explained. The whole POINT of the Borg is that they’re interconnected. But by limiting Hugh’s effect to the Borg we see here, the Borg as we knew them are still around as a threat. My guess? The creators realized after part one that they wanted to keep the old Borg around and they undid some of the consequences from part one — even though they had to do it with what only could be called “weak sauce.” Yuck.

I suppose I could bitch about how Lore found the Hugh-affected Borg in the first place. The last time we saw Lore, he had a small ship and was leaving a planet in or near Federation space. So, either the Borg ship with Hugh on it was in or near Federation space — which comes back to the whole question of where the Borg are and why they don’t attack the Federation more often if they’re close by — or Lore was able to travel a VERY long way from Federation space and just happened to stumble onto the Borg and THEN take them to the Delta Quadrant, home to the planet we see in this episode. Either way, it’s a mighty small galaxy, after all.

Lastly, why does Riker tell the Enterprise crew still on the planet to take cover and not assist him and Worf? Granted, a larger group would have been easier to spot, but Riker could have called for the other officers before he mounted the attack on Lore’s compound and not had to go in with awful odds. Or, maybe more significant, having even four or five more officers would have helped Riker and Worf without compromising their position. My guess is the budget for extras was already overly taxed.

Oh, and one more thing. Does anyone else find it odd that Data — whose rights as a sentient being have been a major thread of TNG — is cool with essentially executing Lore? In second-generation Trek, there’s no indication that the Federation is down with the death penalty, but Data makes the conscious decision to disassemble Lore at the end of this episode. The creators made this harder on themselves than was really necessary, as Lore could have been damaged beyond repair when Data shot him near the end of the episode. I understand why imprisoning Lore would have been damn-near impossible. But by having Data disassemble Lore, he treats his brother like a piece of equipment — the very thing that was the whole point of “The Measure of a Man”.

Final thoughts

Season six of TNG was arguably its best, but season seven is arguably its worst. While “Descent I”(the final episode in season six) isn’t perfect, it’s a fun watch, but “Descent II” (the first episode of season seven is really bad. There are a lot of weak showings in season seven, with a few good ones thrown in. In retrospect, it seems pretty clear that the series was running out of gas, as season seven has a lot of off-the-wall outings (“Masks”, “Thine Own Self”, “Emergence”, the crap with Troi and Worf and the abysmal “Sub Rosa”).

Basically, season seven gets points over the first two seasons because the characters are less erratic and because the finale (“All Good Things …”) was so strong (so were “The Pegasus”, “Parallels” and “Preemptive Strike”). But I’d rather watch most first- or second-season episodes than about two-thirds of season seven.

Last point: This is another example of our heroes having some really bad stuff happen right at the end of a calendar year. With the decision to make a full season a full year (e.g., the sixth season is 2369 and the seventh season is 2370) the entire incident with the Lore-led Borg happened right around New Year’s Eve. This approach really began with “The Best of Both Worlds” two-parter — that set in motion season-ending cliffhangers. With some exceptions, this was the approach for most of TNG, all of DS9 and all of Voyager.

Coming next week …

So, THAT’s why the Federation doesn’t use cloaking devices.

“Rightful Heir”

“I am Kahless, and I have returned. But I’ve lost my voice-impersonation skills.”

Worf, struggling with a crisis of faith, visits a Klingon monastery. While there, Kahless (Kevin Conway), the Klingon messiah introduced (sort of) back in TOS’s “The Savage Curtain”, appears. It’s a time of much rejoicing, but Klingon Chancellor Gowron (Robert O’Reilly) is skeptical and asks that the Enterprise transport Kahless and determine whether he’s the real deal. Genetic scans show he is — but he’s a little off. He doesn’t know what warnog tastes like and Gowron beats him fairly easily in a sword fight. It’s then revealed that this Kahless is a clone, cooked up by clerics at the monastery concerned that the empire has lost its way. Worf, initially despondent, has a talk about faith with Data, and then convinces Gowron to make the clone emperor and disclose his origins. Worf hopes this will unify the empire, but admits that his own faith is not healed.

Will the real Klingon messiah please stand up, please stand up?

Why it’s important

This episode explains Klingon mythology more than just about any other franchise product. Kahless is a Christ-like figure who established the warrior culture that we’ve seen throughout Star Trek. There are issues with that, as we’ll discuss.

But it’s interesting that this episode has less-than-expected results on the future of the Klingons. We never see Kahless again, and he’s only mentioned in passing a couple times (both on DS9, after Worf arrives). The idea was to use Kahless as a symbol with Gowron retaining the real power — and that’s definitely what happens. But given all the Klingon stuff on DS9, Kahless’s absence is noticeable. More telling is that his symbolic presence apparently does nothing to improve the Klingon situation. In DS9’s “Blood Oath” and in “The Way of the Warrior” the same complaints about the empire “losing its way” persist.

Warnog? Really?

What doesn’t hold up

Well, Kahless here looks nothing like the evil dude/voice actor we saw in “The Savage Curtain”. The two characters don’t act like each other, either. I’ve heard the theory that Kahless in “The Savage Curtain” was some sort of version that those weird rock dudes created based on Kirk’s feelings toward Klingons (presumably, Kirk knew the name Kahless and extrapolated the rest — including the voice-mimicking skills). But that’s really expanded-universe nonsense. Basically, Klingons in TOS were bastards with beards who mostly looked human. Klingons in TNG (and beyond) could be treacherous, but were often honorable warriors with bumpy foreheads and long hair. The differences in the two Kahlesses can be chalked up to the differences in how the two series treated Klingons and made them look.

This episode sort of falls in line with the half-assed continuity seen with the Trill and Bajoran transitions from TNG to DS9. All three are well-intended attempts at callbacks that strain so far to fit new story constraints that one wonders if the strain was worth it. Was there really that much value in calling back aliens that appeared in one episode each — in this case, an episode nearly 25 years earlier — when doing so required that what we saw in the initial episode be tossed aside? If it didn’t matter that the aliens changed, why did it matter if they were brought back at all?

Keep in mind that in all three cases, other, similar aliens could have been created. Maybe the messiah in this episode could have been celebrated by another Klingon faith. Maybe the Bajorans could have been replaced by a different species subjugated by the Cardassians. Maybe the Trill would have been replaced by another, similar, joined species. None of that would have been too difficult, and none of it would have hurt the quality of the productions. Only the Bajorans, whose look mostly remained and who were represented after their initial introduction by Ensign Ro (Michelle Forbes) might have been significant enough to bring back even if it required rewriting a lot of backstory. But, then, why not just use the established backstory, or work harder to make all the pieces fit?

I guess my only other real gripe is that this episode — and the “Birthright” two-parter, in which Worf really opens up about Kahless for the first time — sort of retcon the idea of Klingon faith. Worf mentions Kahless to Alexander at one point (though he mispronounces the name) earlier in the series. But up until the sixth season of TNG, Worf isn’t shown to be a man of faith. Neither are any other Klingons.

Final thoughts

This is another episode — really, the last one in the series — that involves the Klingon mini-arc that began back in “Sins of the Father” or perhaps even “Heart of Glory”. Worf has a pretty big voice in Klingon politics and he essentially changes the course of an entire government and could have changed an entire culture, had Kahless’s presence affected more than it did. Of course, Worf’s role in Klingon culture comes back into play in DS9.

This episode suffers from being heavy-handed in spots, but I did like the scene with Data and Worf in the holodeck. It would have been very easy for Worf to get advice from Picard, Riker or even Troi. But picking Data was a nice touch that was handled with great precision. TNG had its flaws and lacked conflict among characters, but it probably knew its characters better than any other series (with DS9 a close second).

Coming later this week …

Data doesn’t get even. He gets mad.

“The Chase”

Early attempts at ‘Hands Across America’ didn’t go well.

Picard’s former archaeology professor and mentor, Galen (Norman Lloyd) asks Picard to join him on a super-secret mission. It would mean leaving the Enterprise, so Picard passes, and a disappointed Galen moves on. He is later killed when his shuttle is attacked, and Picard takes on the mysterious mission — which seems to be aimed at gathering DNA fragments from various worlds. Soon, the Klingons and Cardassians are involved (they apparently learned of Galen’s mission) and Picard gets the two rivals to work together. After some prerequisite deception — the Cardies try to sabotage the Enterprise and the Klingon captain (John Cothrantries to bribe Data — they all end up on a lifeless planet, where the last remaining DNA fragment is found. Then, the Romulans show up — they’d been shadowing the Enterprise — and a faceoff appears imminent. As the parties squabble with weapons drawn, Picard and Crusher extract the DNA and it activates an ancient hologram (Salome Jens) who tells the group that long ago her people spread their genetic material throughout space — possibly creating the bipeds we see all over Trek and hinting at the possibility that the races are somewhat related. The Klingons and Cardassians are unmoved, but the episode ends with the Romulan commander contacting Picard, saying perhaps they’re not that different after all.

“This artifact is priceless — but I’ll probably just leave it in the rubble after the ship crashes.”

Why it’s important

One of Star Trek’s biggest conceits has always been that most aliens look (basically) human. Aside from face makeup, Romulans, Klingons, Cardassians, etc., all have two arms and two legs. There are exceptions like the Tholians and the Sheliak. But by and large, Star Trek would be a lot harder to pull off if the aliens were more alien, so the concession is one we have to make, along the lines of the Universal Translator or Brent Spiner’s aging. This episode attempts to explain why a bunch of the aliens look the same. It’s not an ironclad explanation, as we’ll discuss. But this episode, quietly, tries to cover one piece of back story for the entire franchise.

Beyond that, this episode is quintessential Trek as told by TNG. It involves problem-solving, getting feuding aliens to work together, Picard’s ability to think big picture and the hope that the commonalities among the aliens we encounter are more important than their differences. The last shot, where Patrick Stewart plays Picard as both hopeful and amazed after his conversation with the Romulan commander, is just about perfect. In short, there might not be another TNG episode that is so TNG. This has long been one of my favorite episodes of the franchise, as it’s engaging and comes with a message without being preachy.

“Where’s Odo? I mean — we found none, like ourselves …”

What doesn’t hold up

While this episode has a lot of TNG’s strengths, it also has some of its weaknesses. This isn’t the worst example of Fun With DNA (“Unnatural Selection” or “Genesis” wins that award) but it’s in the top 10. It’s also a little too easy at the end that the last fragment would reprogram the tricorder to display the holographic image just as everyone’s got guns drawn. It works dramatically, but it’s more likely that the ancient message would have to be decoded somehow.

This episode also works for TNG, which largely takes place in the Alpha and Beta quadrants in (relatively) close proximity to Earth. But are we to believe that the ancient aliens planted DNA in the Gamma and Delta quadrants? We see bipeds from the Gamma Quadrant (on DS9) and from the Delta Quadrant (on Voyager) and we know from TNG that the Borg are essentially bipeds (a conglomeration of bipeds) from the Delta Quadrant. Maybe I could swallow that the ancient aliens had advanced propulsion, but did they have the time or interest to seed so much of the galaxy? The point is left vague as to whether all of the bipedal aliens descend from the ancient aliens, or if only some did.

Also, I’m not sure why Galen didn’t just ask Picard to help him and use the resources of the Enterprise. Galen was clearly concerned about the dangerous implications of his findings — and it’s unlikely that the Federation would have refused him (particularly if Picard vouched for him). It sets up for the drama of the first act and the mystery leading up to the conclusion, as Galen would have likely clued Picard in at some point if they were working together. It’s possible Galen didn’t want the Federation or any paramilitary organization to be part of his discovery, but he never says anything like that. And hell, the Enterprise does in a few days what Galen says would take several months!

Final thoughts

Complaints aside, I still really love this episode. It’s Picard at his best, and the guest actors are really pretty great. It’s interesting that Salome Jens shows up here as the female in the holographic projection, considering her next role is as DS9’s worst villain, the female Changeling. If this were further in Trek history — the Dominion doesn’t really pop up for another year or so — one might wonder if this were just an elaborate Dominion trick. 🙂

Coming next week …

The Klingon messiah returns. But is he still hanging with Genghis Khan?

“Chain of Command”

The galaxy’s weirdest barbershop quartet.

Part I: Picard, Crusher and Worf are assigned to a secret mission and Edward Jellico (Ronny Cox) is made captain of the Enterprise to deal with some new Cardassian tensions. Jellico’s a jerk and he ruffles everyone’s feathers, notably Riker’s. Meanwhile, Picard, Crusher and Worf leave to determine whether the Cardassians are building some super-bad weapons on a Cardassian planet. They get there and Picard is captured — and he learns there are no weapons and that the whole thing was a trap to get him.

Part II: Picard is drugged and tortured by the nasty Gul Madred (David Warner) who is intent on learning the Federation’s defense plans for a particular planet near the border, Minas Corva. The Cardies figured Picard would have known those plans as captain of the Enterprise, hence the trap. Meanwhile, Jellico and Riker clash, and Jellico relieves Riker of duty. As Picard is tortured again and again, the Enterprise learns that a fleet of Cardassian ships is in a Nebula near Minas Corva. Jellico swallows his pride and gets Riker to pilot a shuttle to lay mines on the Cardassian ships. Holding all the cards (hiyo!) Jellico forces the Cardassians to surrender. A visibly affected Picard later returns and takes back the Enterprise, but admits to Troi that he was about to cave to Madred’s torture.

“I said, ‘Get that fish out of the ready room.'”

Why it’s important

This is truly one of Trek’s darker — and best — two-parters. Stewart was never better as Picard, and the writing on the Cardassian planet (like when Picard tells Madred he pities him) was pitch perfect. Warner’s Madred was great, too. More on all of that momentarily …

Bigger picture, this really cements the Cardassians as power players on par with the Federation, Klingons and Romulans. Up until now, the Cardassians had appeared just twice and seemed more like peripheral bad guys (though well established peripheral bad guys). But this episode featured the look and feel of the Cardassians we see over the next seven years. It also likely was produced with DS9 in mind. The tensions Jellico is sent to address stem from the Cardassians redeploying forces that had withdrawn from the Bajoran sector. This two-parter aired in December 1992 and DS9’s pilot, “Emissary”, aired in early January 1993.

It is a shame we never saw Madred again, though.

“I’m taking the remote and changing the channel, human. You will now have to watch me in ‘Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.'”

What doesn’t hold up

The tension with Jellico was great — to a point. Unfortunately, the creators hammed it up too much. It’s unlikely Jellico would have been as hard-headed and that the crew (particularly Riker, Geordi and Crusher, in part two) would have been as obstinate. Even if you can shrug off Jellico’s issues, we know that the Enterprise crew is — or should be — more professional. More subtlety would have been appreciated, for almost everyone. The two exceptions are Troi (Marina Sirtis puts in a strong performance) and Data, who’s written and acted appropriately.

In fact, Jellico is actually in the right in the argument in which he relieves Riker. Picard took the assignment knowing that he’d likely be declared a renegade if he were captured. Riker accuses Jellico of trading Picard’s life to improve his bargaining position, but that’s actually what Jellico should do. We’re talking about the fate of two large space empires compared with the life of one man. It’s too bad Riker didn’t blow his top at another more reasonable time.

This episode is actually a good example of Riker-as-chowderhead that we see in TNG’s later seasons. The worst instances are in the “Times Arrow” two-parter — which we won’t review — in which Riker wants to put the lives of Data and Picard ahead of possibly thousands of people on Earth. There’s an awful line where Riker says, “What could be more important than Data?” despite the fact that the crew has learned a bunch of aliens are traveling back to the 19th century for unknown reasons. There and elsewhere in later TNG, Riker’s reactions and dialog are often used to afford other characters the opportunity to explain why tough decisions are being made. In this episode, it provides exposition as to why Picard’s life is mostly forfeit. Riker from earlier seasons would have been smarter.

It’s also a little hard to swallow that the Cardassians would go to such lengths to capture Picard, as the plan wouldn’t have had a high success rate. The idea that he’s one of very few Starfleet officers with experience in “theta band emissions” — which are part of the weapons the Cardassians were supposedly developing — is believable, I guess. But given the vastness of space, it would have been very likely that Picard wouldn’t have been around to fall for the trap. Hell, three weeks earlier (in “Rascals”) he was reduced in age to a teenager in a transporter accident! What would the Cardies have done if the effects couldn’t have been reversed — or if the Ferengi mercenaries had captured the Enterprise?

Also, I think that Riker, once again, doesn’t get the love he deserves from Starfleet. This is a guy who, you know, saved the Federation from the Borg. Even if Admiral Nechayev (Natalija Nogulich) decided on Jellico because of his experience with Cardassians, a line about how everyone appreciates what Riker had done for the Federation would have been appreciated. Hell, Jellico could have even said something about how he thinks Riker got credit that should have gone to the Enterprise crew.

One more Riker note: It’s odd that he’s considered the Enterprise’s best pilot, the “best there is”, as Geordi says. Is he really better than Data? I suppose Jellico wouldn’t have wanted to be without Data on the bridge, but still …

Final thoughts

Of course, this episode is really all about the torture scenes. Picard’s refusals to accede to Madred’s wishes — “THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS!” — are a highlight of the franchise. Stewart and Warner are just so good in this episode that the stretch that is the setup for getting Picard to the planet where he’s tortured is basically worth it.

We also get the backdrop about how Cardassians treat prisoners. Their torture skills are discussed a lot on DS9. Although we saw them twice before (in “The Wounded” and “Ensign Ro”) we really didn’t know much about them. We learn a lot here, even though some of the backstory about them doesn’t mesh with what we learn later.

Of course, it’s too bad that we didn’t see Ensign Ro (Michelle Forbes) in this episode, in which her comments about Picard’s capture would have been interesting. She appeared in “Rascals”, three episodes prior to part one. It seems like she transferred off the ship shortly thereafter, as she doesn’t appear again for more than a year, in the penultimate TNG episode “Preemptive Strike”.

Coming later this week …

We learn why nearly all Star Trek aliens are bipeds. For serious.

“I, Borg”

“When I return to the collective, I will rename Fourth of Five and Fifth of Five ‘Dew’ and ‘Lou’.”

The Enterprise finds a single Borg (Jonathan Del Arco) at a crash site, and Crusher insists on nursing it back to health. The crew is cautious, given their last encounters with the Borg, and comes up with a plan to use the injured Borg as a weapon to wipe out the entire collective. But the injured Borg, cut off from the hive mind, becomes an individual, and La Forge names him “Hugh”. After meeting Hugh, Picard eventually decides against using an individual as a weapon of mass destruction and decides against sending Hugh back with an invasive program. The crew sends Hugh back to the Borg — but with his new-found individuality.

“So, Mr. La Forge … the Borg can assimilate entire worlds, but they can be beaten by a weird shape? Maybe you need to call in Dr. Brahms on this one …”

Why it’s important

Hugh, upon returning to the Borg, destabilizes a subset of the collective with his individuality. The subset is later found by Lore — Data’s evil twin brother introduced in “Datalore” — who leads them on attacks against the Federation in the upcoming “Descent” two-parter, which begins in the sixth-season finale. That partly paves the way for Data to recover his emotion chip from Lore — which Lore stole from Data in “Brothers”. The emotion chip becomes a major focus point of “Star Trek: Generations” as we’ll discuss later.

But this episode might be more important for what it says about 24th-century humanity (at least, the TNG version of it).

In the first part of the episode, the only cast member speaking out against using Hugh as a weapon is Crusher. Even Troi and Data — characters who might object for various reasons — are pretty much behind the plan. But as the episode progresses, and as the characters get to know Hugh and see that he’s not a mindless killing machine, they realize that they can’t use him as such. It’s a core Trek message about morality, as it dismisses the caustic, security-first message we might have seen in later Trek (and in the beginning of this episode). It’s interesting to wonder what captains Kirk, Sisko, Janeway or Archer would have done in Picard’s situation. Given the actions by each of them — and given that Picard changes his mind despite the events of “The Best of Both Worlds” — I think Picard is the only captain (certainly, the only second-generation captain) who certainly would have not sent the invasive program along with Hugh. More on that in a moment.

I’m glad this captain doesn’t want to get ‘that fish out of the ready room’.

What doesn’t hold up

The invasive program — essentially, an unsolvable shape, or something — sure doesn’t seem like it should be a big threat to the Borg. I also find it odd that Data, the ship’s foremost expert on artificial intelligence who interfaced with the collective in “The Best of Both Worlds”, isn’t more involved with Hugh. I get that La Forge’s presence is needed for the emotional connection. But maybe Data could have subbed for Crusher and supplanted cold machine reasoning with Crusher’s humanism? Maybe not …

One real problem is the idea that the Borg couldn’t handle the infusion of individuality. The collective has assimilated billions, perhaps trillions of people. Didn’t they have individuality when they became drones? Or, is the idea that the Borg block the individuality of newly assimilated people but didn’t know to block Hugh’s?

Lastly, I still don’t understand exactly where the Borg are in relation to the Federation. In “Q Who?”, we’re told they’re thousands of light years away, but that they most likely destroyed several Federation and Romulan outposts in “The Neutral Zone”, about a year earlier. Here, Hugh’s ship and the one that comes to recover it are in an area of space the Federation is considering for colonization — which means it can’t be too far away from more settled areas. But we don’t see the Borg (in their collective state) again for like four years — when they have a battle in the Terran system in “Star Trek: First Contact”. That’s despite the fact that they’re a relative stone’s throw (especially with Borg technology we see in Voyager) from the Federation and that they’ve been around the Neutral Zone, which was established when the Federation was newer and presumably much smaller.

I suppose you could argue that the Borg are encountering other Federation ships and planets in events that didn’t involve the Enterprise (or, later, DS9). But that doesn’t seem to mesh with the foreboding surrounding the Borg return in “Descent” or in “Star Trek: First Contact”. Each time, the idea is that the Borg “HAVE RETURNED”. But what were they doing in the interim? Keep in mind that only a part of the collective is affected by Hugh after this episode.

The big thing, I guess, is that the series could have turned into All Borg, All the Time, and that the creators didn’t want that.

Final thoughts

As noted above, this episode is about as idealistic as they come in Trek. It matches some of the most Roddenberry moments from TOS (like “The Corbomite Maneuver”) in rendering aid to a fallen adversary, refusing to follow through with an approach that could only be rationalized by the ends justifying the means. Of course, in “The Corbomite Maneuver”, Kirk really holds all the cards and only risks his life and the lives of two others by helping his adversary. In this case, Picard must do what he thinks is right with a LOT more at stake. It’s also interesting that in “Descent”, Picard is excoriated by an admiral for not “ridding the Federation of a mortal foe.”

Sisko — who did some pretty dirty stuff in the latter years of DS9 and whose wife was killed by the Borg — would have likely sent Hugh back with the invasive program, with Bashir or possibly Dax questioning the decision. Janeway is tougher to pinpoint, as her character was more erratically written. But her near-obsession with getting her crew home would have likely prevailed — though it’s unlikely the Voyager creators would have forced her to make the hard choice, as that series was always about finding cheats for the hard questions. Same goes for Kirk really — though I think Kirk would have talked the talk more before finding a way to work around the problem.

Archer, of course, was the one captain who was partly written after the events of 9/11. Given his actions during the third season Xindi arc — torture, piracy, etc. — I think he would have ultimately gone with the ends over the means. But he likely would have been torn up about it.

Anyway, this is a great TNG episode because it’s one that only really would have worked on TNG. It was Trek’s most idealistic crew and series and was the best about “doing the right thing” — at least, until the movies (more on THAT later). The episode also is well served by Patrick Stewart, who displays Picard’s anguish perfectly. The whole episode is about his high-sounding ideals fighting the awfulness he went through and the fear that the Borg could do it somewhere else. As Picard and TNG are wont to do, they pick the moral option.

Coming next week …