Category Archives: 2365

“Q Who?”

“We haven’t faced a ship like this since the Fuzzy Dice Dreadnaughts of Pimpulon 8!”

Q returns and asks to join the Enterprise crew. Turns out he’s been kicked out of the Q Continuum and figures his services can be of use to his Starfleet buds. When Picard refuses — citing his lack of trust in Q and confidence that humanity is ready for what’s ahead — Q sends the Enterprise to an uncharted area of space. Despite Guinan’s warnings — her people were from this region — Picard decides to do some exploring before heading back and finds planets attacked in the same manner as the outposts in “The Neutral Zone”. Then, a cube-shaped vessel appears and attacks the Enterprise. Guinan identifies them as the Borg, a race with a collective consciousness bent on assimilating useful technology. With the Borg about to overtake and/or destroy the Enterprise, Picard pleads with Q to send the Enterprise back to Federation space. Q, impressed with Picard’s ability to suppress his pride for the sake of his ship, acquiesces. But Picard and Guinan end the episode discussing the quiet realization that the Borg, now that they know of the Federation, will be coming.

The logical, and sinister, next step after Babybjörn

Why it’s important

The second classic episode of TNG is also the series’ most consequential. The Borg become the major nemesis for Picard and Co., showing up again in the series’ best episodes, “The Best of Both Worlds”, a few other times and, of course, in TNG’s best film, “Star Trek: First Contact”. The Borg also become the main bad guys starting in the middle seasons of Voyager, and the loss of Benjamin Sisko’s wife, Jennifer, in the Borg attack at Wolf 359 (the aftermath of which is seen in “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II”) becomes a major background element for DS9 .

Oh, Dr. Tolian Soran (an el-Aurian like Guinan and the main bad guy in “Star Trek: Generations”) is so motivated to return to his family (killed by the Borg) that he’s cool with killing the population of a pre-warp civilization as a way to bring the time-traveling Nexus to him. That, of course, is the major premise behind the film and it leads to the destruction of the Enterprise-D and the death of James T. Kirk.

I could keep going, of course. It’s actually hard to imagine Star Trek in the 1990s without the Borg. Hell, they even made an appearance in “Star Trek: Enterprise” in 2003.

I listen very well to others, including a few kung fu instructors along the way.
“I listen very well to others, including a few kung fu instructors along the way.”

What doesn’t hold up

There really isn’t much in this episode that doesn’t work. It’s a little strange that we don’t learn more about Guinan’s earlier encounter with Q and why he calls her “an imp” who isn’t what she appears to be. But whatever.

The biggest problem is that dialog in this episode seems to indicate that the Borg have already been in Federation space and, in fact, attacked Starfleet’s outposts last season along the Neutral Zone (in “The Neutral Zone”). If true, then Picard’s sense of urgency at the end of the episode should have been even greater. It’s not just that the Borg “are coming.” It’s that they’re already there — or, that they could get there by some method very quickly.

Final thoughts

TNG’s second season really wasn’t that great, but this episode, “The Measure of a Man” and “Peak Performance” and “Contagion” were outings that showed the series’ potential. Of course, the second season was affected by a writers’ strike and was just 22 episodes long (the shortest in TNG’s run).

Although this episode has a lot of great moments, the scene with Picard, Riker, Q and Guinan in Ten-Forward is my favorite. No other Star Trek captain, not even Kirk, would have considered letting Q join his or her crew. But Picard, ever the explorer, does kick around the idea — as he sees that learning more about Q would be “frankly provocative” and part of his mission. It’s a telling moment for Picard, as he’s most willing among the Star Trek captains to risk his ship in the pursuit of knowledge. There’s no way Sisko, Janeway or Archer would have even talked through the idea with Q. Kirk is arguably the only other commanding officer who would have thought through the proposal, but the fact that Q wasn’t an attractive female would have likely killed his chances.

Coming next week …

As our friend Worf would say (with trademark disdain): “Romulans”.

“The Measure of a Man”

“Can Pinocchio do this, bitch?”

The Enterprise arrives at a new starbase, near the Romulan border. While there, Commander Bruce Maddox (Brian Brophy) pops up with orders to take Data apart so Starfleet can build more androids. When Maddox’s plan seems like a stretch and even dangerous, Data resigns from Starfleet. Maddox goes to the new base’s JAG officer, Captain Phillipa Louvois (Amanda McBroom) and convinces her that Data is, in fact, Starfleet property — meaning he can’t resign. Picard challenges the ruling and demands a hearing. Louvois grants it, but her limited staff requires that Picard must represent Data while Riker must represent Maddox (or else Louvois will maintain her original ruling). Riker’s strong arguments almost convince Louvois, before Picard’s counter-arguments turn the tide. Louvois rules that Data is a machine, but not property. In true Data fashion, he tells Maddox to keep working — and that he’ll be willing to help once Maddox gets closer. The episode ends with Data thanking Riker for his willingness to do his duty and save him from Louvois’s original judgment.

“Come on, everybody! Give Commander Data a hand!”

Why it’s important

Simply put, this was TNG’s first classic episode. For that reason alone, it almost made the tapestry. But there are other reasons it got here, too.

Questions surrounding Data, his rights, his very existence, etc., were a major part of TNG. Exploring Data’s backstory began in the first season episode “Datalore”, but “The Measure of a Man” was the first episode to address it in a serious, thought-provoking way. The events here are referenced (sometimes quickly) throughout the next several years. Notably, they arise in “The Offspring,” when Data builds another android and “The Quality of Life,” in which Data assumes Picard’s role in protecting mechanical beings he believes are sentient lifeforms.

Less important, though still relevant, is furthering the idea that the Federation is expanding and is a multi-layered organization. Not all layers of it are apparently equal, as we’ll discuss. But it is interesting to see what Starfleet looks like outside of the Enterprise.

Picard in full bad-ass mode.

What doesn’t hold up

The big problem here — something we discussed in “Datalore” — is the idea that Data’s been in and around Starfleet for more than 20 years and only now are these questions being raised. Part of the Maddox backstory is that he opposed Data’s entry into Starfleet — which means that Maddox is older than he looks or was a boy genius. I wonder, again, why the creators decided to put the discovery of Data so far in the past. Even 10 years would have been easier to swallow.

The other issue is that the the admiral we meet at the beginning of the episode and Louvois (initially) are really pretty narrow-minded when it comes to Data. This further stacks the deck against Data to up the drama. But are we to believe that the only enlightened officers in Starfleet serve on the Enterprise? Throughout TNG, we learn that Data is well-known throughout the Federation — so it’s not as if Louvois and the admiral can be excused because they hadn’t put much thought into the matter. Maddox, obviously, holds beliefs about Data — but his reasoning (while awful) is at least believable and well thought out.

Lastly, I’ve always wondered why Maddox simply didn’t represent himself in the hearing. It provides some drama when Riker is forced to verbally spar with Picard (and Data), but you’d figure Maddox would be better prepared to make arguments, as studying Data and robotics is his life’s work. Early in the episode he convinces Louvois of his cause.

Final thoughts

Complaints aside, this is truly one of TNG’s finest hours. It’s thought provoking without being preachy and it includes some of the best acting in the series.

By this time in TNG, Patrick Stewart had really figured out Picard. The unnecessary officiousness of season one was gone, replaced by a passionate but measured commanding officer who would become, arguably, Trek’s best character. Brent Spiner, who also took some time in the first season to get comfortable in his role, really shines here, too. The scene with Maddox in Data’s quarters is strong. Spiner’s ability to play Data effectively making an argument without being impassioned was a key to TNG’s success.

But of special note is Jonathan Frakes, who turns in his best performance as Riker (even stronger than in “The Best of Both Worlds” and “Star Trek: First Contact”). Here, we see Riker as thoughtful, loyal and resourceful. Later in the series, Riker is often written as the chowder-head character whose obvious questions/objections allow other characters to provide exposition (for a great example, watch “Time’s Arrow, Part II”).  The reasoning behind forcing Riker to argue against Data’s rights here was sort of a stretch (as we noted above) but the payoff was worth it. The final scene in the observation lounge with Frakes and Spiner is pitch-perfect.

As TNG went on (and perhaps not coincidentally as Frakes became more involved in directing) Riker became more of a marginal character, perhaps matching only Crusher for lack of scenes and stories, especially in the sixth and seventh seasons. But the Picard-Riker-Data trifecta worked here as well as it did in any TNG outing.

Lastly, the somewhat questionable addition of Whoopi Goldberg to the cast in season two was justified by her performance in this episode. The idea that Guinan has Picard’s ear and can provide an outside perspective was extremely useful throughout the series. That relationship is really first established here in the wonderful scene in Ten-Forward before Picard’s closing argument.

Coming later this week …

One of Trek’s most consequential hours. And the bad guys sound Swedish …