Category Archives: 2366

“The Best of Both Worlds”

“I am, the cutest of Borg. Wait, that’s not right …”

Part I: The Enterprise discovers that the Borg (see “Q Who?”) have made it to Federation space. After a brief encounter with a cube in which the Borg say they want Picard, the Enterprise hides in a nebula while the crew begins to build a weapon that they believe will destroy the Borg ship (based on what they learned in the earlier encounter). The Borg force the Enterprise out of the nebula, kidnap Picard and set course for Earth. Riker sends an away team to the Borg ship, which finds Picard, assimilated — in one of the franchise’s signature moments. The away team manages to get the Borg ship out of warp — and Riker, facing an assimilated Picard, now Borg spokesman Locutus, on the view screen — tells Worf to fire the new weapon. Then, a million nerds threw their remotes at the TV and wondered how they’d get through the summer.

Part II: The Borg, armed with Picard’s knowledge, are unaffected by the attack. The failed attempt has left the Enterprise damaged and the Borg head on their merry way to Earth. Riker, promoted to captain via subspace, seems lost at first without Picard. But encountering 39 Starfleet vessels destroyed at Wolf 359 provides him with resolve. He kidnaps Picard and uses Data to tap into the information about the Borg within him. With the Borg vessel orbiting Earth, Picard manages to reach out to Data and suggests putting the Borg to sleep — which causes a malfunction that destroys the ship. Picard is saved, but clearly messed up, as the episode ends.

“This is for telling me I need to read more history.”

Why it’s important

Simply put, this is TNG’s most consequential showing — and it should have really been more consequential than it was. But, first the good.

It’s not overkill to say that the events here (and, really, the actions by Riker) saved the known galaxy. At one point Troi says that in a few weeks “nanites might be all that’s left of the Federation.” The stakes here are as high as they get in TNG and are actually higher than in two of the TNG movies. If the Enterprise hadn’t been successful, Star Trek pretty much ends. For more, check out the alternate-reality episode “Parallels” in TNG’s seventh season, when we get a glimpse at the Enterprise (“one of the last ships left!”) three years after the Borg have (presumably) assimilated Earth.

Picard’s assimilation is a major bit of back story for the character and the franchise. We see fallout in TNG’s next episode (“Family”), in other shows through the years (“The Drumhead”, “I, Borg”, the “Descent” two-parter and the previously mentioned “Parallels”).  Of course, you could argue that Picard’s knowledge of the Borg (post-assimilation) helped him lead the final attack in “Star Trek: First Contact” that ultimately destroyed another Borg cube threatening Earth.

The battle at Wolf 359 is also a major bit of back story for Benjamin Sisko. The death of his wife at that battle (on board the Saratoga) essentially puts him on a trajectory to be the commander of DS9 two-plus years later as a damaged man unable to get over the past.

Spiner and Stewart bond over how much time they had to spend with the makeup people.

What doesn’t hold up

If you can get past the Borg wanting Picard as their spokesman — with the thinking being that archaic cultures are “authority driven” — the first part of this episode is just about perfect. It’s kind of annoying that Starfleet’s Borg expert, Lt. Commander Shelby (Elizabeth Dennehy) is worried about her career (that Riker is blocking it) as a major invasion looms, but I can get past that. Part II is more problematic …

The episode’s big conceit is that the Borg ship doesn’t simply destroy or assimilate the Enterprise after the deflector beam thing fails. I’m sure it could be argued that the Borg no longer saw the Enterprise as a threat, but that’s a stretch. Clearly, it would have been easy and smart to simply destroy the most powerful ship in the Federation fleet.

Most of the show’s final 15 minutes are somewhat questionable. For one thing — as we noted previously — why wasn’t someone from Earth, Starfleet or the Federation generally in contact with the Enterprise after the ship goes through the Wolf 359 wreckage? A lot of Starfleet was wiped out, but much of it remained (based on what we see later). If nothing else, shouldn’t the Federation president have been trying to get Riker on the horn? There’s no indication the Borg were blocking transmissions (which would have been an easy line of dialog to throw in, BTW). Beyond that, wouldn’t Starfleet have left a couple ships to defend Earth — beyond the rather paltry Mars defense perimeter vessels? Or, maybe, some ships that weren’t able to reach Wolf 359 would have been en route to Earth, possibly attempting to contact the Enterprise? I know that might have cluttered things up, but still …

Then, there’s the idea that planting a bad command within the Borg ship would cause it to self-destruct. The execution is good, but I’ve never bought the premise. Wouldn’t it have made much more sense for the command to be entered, for the Borg to lower their defenses and for the Enterprise to have just blown it to hell after that? I know that’s not exactly in keeping with Roddenberry’s usual vision, but it seems like an exception could be made when the fate of Earth and the Federation is at stake!

Also, it’s pretty clear that, at the time this episode was released, the loss of 39 starships was seen as a big hit to Starfleet. Shelby, at the end of the episode, actually says that a task force will have the fleet up and running within a year. This is somewhat buoyed by Picard’s struggles to get a fleet together a year later in the “Redemption” two-parter and other dialog in the fourth season alluding to Starfleet being sort of strapped. Essentially, in TNG and even early DS9, Starfleet is big — but not enormous.

But, in mid- to late-DS9, Starfleet is shown to have hundreds, maybe thousands of vessels. There never was talk of a build-up of ships — though one certainly would have been possible with all the threats facing the Federation in the late 2360s and early 2370s. Maybe, with a conflict with the Dominion looming and the threat of more Borg attacks, Starfleet called in its vessels that had been in deep space, exploring? Again, it’s possible, but never stated.

Lastly, it’s odd the level to which things return to normal after this episode. Other than one attaboy for Riker (in “The Wounded”) and the ship issues in“Redemption”, TNG doesn’t feel like the Federation was almost wiped out. This is something DS9 and Enterprise did much better (though Voyager did much, much worse). I’ll give the creators props for “Family” — the following episode, in which Picard struggles with the emotional toil of what’s happened. It’s also smart that several weeks (maybe even a couple months) pass between the end of Part II and the regular episode after “Family”. But, in that episode (“Suddenly Human”) things are really back to status quo. Shame.

Final thoughts

Complaints aside, this was TNG’s peak. Aside from a few classic episodes in the following years, notably “The Inner Light”, never again did TNG work as well — though it was still very good and didn’t fall far until some truly awful episodes in season 7.

Oh, this marks the first time where the creators’ decision to have second-generation Trek seasons coincide with calendar years (unlike TOS) produce unintended comedy. With the cliffhanger here — and the many that followed at the end of seasons on TNG, DS9 and Voyager — calendar years often ended with really bad things happening to our heroes! From a practical perspective, the success of “The Best of Both Worlds” likely inspired other cliffhangers. But it sure must have wrecked a lot of New Year’s Eve plans on the Enterprise, DS9 and Voyager. 🙂

Coming next week …

Worf’s a daddy! No, really.

“Sins of the Father”

“Are you the ‘Traitors of Kling’?”

Klingon Commander Kurn (Tony Todd) comes on board as first officer as part of an exchange program. Kurn bullies everyone but Worf — an affront to our favorite Klingon — and eventually reveals that he was testing his long-lost older brother. Turns out Kurn was on the Klingon homeworld when Worf was orphaned at the Khitomer outpost, but Kurn’s real identity is not publicly known. He tells Worf that the Klingon High Council is planning to blame their father, Mogh (who died at Khitomer) for conspiring with Romulans in the attack. Picard takes the Enterprise to the homeworld to let Worf challenge the ruling. Turns out Duras (Patrick Massett) the son of Worf’s father’s greatest enemy is leading the charge, the result of some new-found intelligence. The Enterprise investigates and determines that Duras’s father was actually to blame — and Mogh was blamed publicly to preserve the empire (Duras has a powerful family). When pressed with the evidence by Picard and Worf, Klingon leader K’mpec (Charles Cooper) won’t let the truth come out, for fear that it would cause civil war. Worf, in a selfless move, accepts discommendation, which makes it look like he accepts his father’s guilt. He’s allowed to live, but only as an outcast among his people.

“For a Klingon, you look a lot like old Jake Sisko …”

Why it’s important

Although “A Matter of Honor”, “Heart of Glory” and “The Emissary” showed us a lot of TNG-era Klingons, “Sins of the Father” is the first time we see the Klingon homeworld and how the empire is governed. It’s important from an atmospheric standpoint and a cultural one. The Klingons are ruled by a bunch of high-ranking warriors, who have no real problem doing dishonorable things, despite the pretense of honor. That’s something that comes back into play a lot over the next decade of Trek.

The attitude of some Klingons toward their Federation allies shows up here, too. Duras notes that the Starfleet officers wear a “child’s uniform” a description other Klingons make over the years. And, of course, the events revolving around Worf’s family continue to have ramifications throughout TNG and into DS9. It’s too long a list to get into here, but we’ll discuss in later reviews.

K’mpec and Duras — two guys who could really use a box of Tribbles.

What doesn’t hold up

Kurn’s pig-headedness with the Enterprise crew is a bit much. It’s used to advance the story, but it’s hard to figure why he acted that way — other than to fill the show’s first 10 minutes. By the third season of TNG, we already knew Klingons were different. That said, I did love the dinner scene and Kurn’s reaction to human food.

There’s also the issue of just how connected Worf is with the empire. At this point in TNG, he seems like an outsider, though one who knows a lot about Klingon culture and whose standing isn’t problematic. He doesn’t know, for instance, that his father is being accused of crimes that would dishonor his family until Kurn tells him. In fact, that’s one of the reasons the High Council chose to blame Mogh — because it wouldn’t really affect Worf.

But in later episodes, Worf is much more involved with his house, which apparently is one with great standing (and has noble bloodlines). We’ll discuss this further, as well — though the schism is most noticeable when Worf becomes a regular on DS9.

Lastly, the creators clearly hadn’t figured out what to call the Klingon homeworld. Picard actually tells Wesley to “set course for the first city of the Klingon Imperial Empire.” That might be the clunkiest line of dialog in all of TNG. I guess we should be glad they didn’t call the planet “Kling” (see “Heart of Glory”).

Final thoughts

This is a strong episode that really sets a lot in motion for the next 10 years. But there’s too much Klingon bellowing, especially in the show’s middle acts. Tony Todd is actually great as Kurn, though he’s better in later episodes. The first scene in the council chambers (listen to Michael Dorn say “faaaaaaatherrrr”) is a bit much.

Of course, this episode sets the course for Picard’s involvement in Klingon affairs, as we’ll discuss in later reviews.

Coming later this week …

Riker finally becomes a captain! It’s cause for celebra — oh, wait. Scratch that …

“Yesterday’s Enterprise”

War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothin’.

A ship emerges from a spacial rift, and everything changes. The Federation is at war with the Klingons, Tasha Yar is alive and back at tactical and Worf is the ship’s counselor (well, except not that last one). Turns out the ship that emerged is the Enterprise-C, the predecessor to Picard’s vessel, and its trip forward in time from the middle of a battle with the Romulans (in response to a distress call at a Klingon outpost more than 20 years earlier) changed history. Only Guinan, because of her Guinan-ness, knows something is up, so she tells Picard the Enterprise-C must return through the rift and face certain destruction to restore history and avert the war. The Federation is about to lose anyway (sad trombone), so Picard goes against the advice of his senior staff and convinces the Enterprise-C’s Captain Rachel Garrett (Tricia O’Neal) of Guinan’s thinking. After Garrett is killed in a minor skirmish with the Klingons, Yar (told by Guinan that she died a senseless death in the “right” history) transfers to the Enterprise-C. Then, Picard’s ship must cover the Enterprise-C from three Klingon vessels as it tries to go back through the rift. Just as the Enterprise-D appears to be lost, the Enterprise-C gets through and history is restored. Only Guinan has any knowledge of what’s happened, and Picard and Co., go back to business.

The Romulans apparently didn’t target the Enterprise-C’s engines …

Why it’s important

From the standpoint of what we do on this site, this episode, on its own, wouldn’t have made the tapestry. That’s not to say it’s not one of TNG’s best. But, like “The City on the Edge of Forever” from TOS or DS9’s “The Visitor”, the events here didn’t really happen. The time reset undid what we saw during the episode.

But … we learn later that sending Yar back with the Enterprise-C had huge effects in the Star Trek universe. Yar, captured by the Romulans with other Enterprise-C survivors, became the consort of a Romulan officer. That produced the child Sela (also played by Denise Crosby) who appears in the fourth and fifth seasons as a major Romulan player. She was part of the plot to brainwash Geordi and make him an unknowing assassin of a high-ranking Klingon (in “The Mind’s Eye”), she was instrumental in supporting one side in the upcoming Klingon civil war (in the “Redemption” two-parter) and she was part of the attempted Romulan conquest of Vulcan (in the “Unification” two-parter). In short, Sela kept herself busy.

This episode probably has some time paradoxes we could explore. But big picture, we try not to get too deep into the logic of time travel on this site. Trek’s remarkably inconsistent with cause-and-effect stuff and pretty much says (in DS9 and Voyager) that there is no logic to time travel. In other words, after years of dealing with time-travel writing constraints, the creators pretty much threw up their hands.

I eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast.

What doesn’t hold up

This episode, of course, hinges on Guinan’s ability to have a perception beyond linear time. This shows up in later episodes, but it’s a shame that Guinan’s back story was really never fleshed out. How do her people have this ability, or is she the only one who does? How is she so familiar with Q? Are her people more advanced than humans?

But, really, that’s a small gripe. Keeping Guinan mysterious wasn’t the worst choice the creators could have made.

There’s also the line from the Enterprise-C tactical officer Shooter McGavin — I mean, Richard Castillo (Christopher McDonald) that the Klingons and Federation were working on a peace treaty shortly before he left with the Enterprise-C. That’s part of the inconsistent storytelling regarding exactly when the two powers 1) stopped fighting and 2) became allies that we discussed in our review of “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country”. In this episode and in much of TNG, it seems that the alliance is only about 20 years old — and “Star Trek VI” leaves the point unclear. But in DS9 and Voyager, the alliance is said to be about 80 years old, and that it was established immediately after “Star Trek VI”. That, of course, doesn’t jibe with Castillo’s comments — unless the two sides stopped being allies and became them again, or something.

This episode is another instance where it’s clear the Romulans’ decades-long absence as discussed in “The Neutral Zone” was just bunk. Granted, in the alternate timeline, Picard and Co., don’t know what happened to the Enterprise-C. But it’s made clear later — and by implication here — that the “correct” history knows the Romulans attacked and destroyed the Enterprise-C about 20 years before the Romulans showed up in the first season of TNG, which was purportedly several decades since last they were seen. In fact, it’s implied that the loss of the Enterprise-C in the battle with the Romulans was of major historical import, as the gesture resonated with the Klingons and the two parties became allies.

Most of the other complaints surround how the Enterprise-D still looks and feels relatively familiar, despite the fact that the Federation has been at war for 20 years. Much of the redress of the ship and the uniforms look great. But the large windows in the front of the ship (in Ten-Forward) and the fact that all the senior officers (sans Worf and Troi) are on the Enterprise-D is hard to swallow. But that’s just minor nitpicking. This episode is another example of third season TNG really hitting its stride.

Final thoughts

Some would say this is TNG’s finest showing. Personally, I prefer “The Best of Both Worlds” because of the dramatic payoff of seeing Picard assimilated by the Borg and Riker giving the “Mr. Worf … fire!” command. But “Yesterday’s Enterprise” is either second or third on my list of the best of TNG, right next to “The Inner Light”.

It’s a small thing, too, but the introduction of the Ambassador-class starship (of which, the Enterprise-C is one) was kinda cool. Up until this point, TNG had mostly reused ships from the Trek movies (with the exception of Constellation-class vessels in “The Battle” and “Peak Performance”) and those ships all had a boxier feel than the Galaxy-class Enterprise-D.

Coming next week …

Worf’s father conspired with the Romulans? Jigga-what?

“The Enemy”

“So, you haven’t watched ‘Roots’. How about ‘Reading Rainbow’?”

Geordi is left behind (but not Kirk Cameron-style) on a particularly nasty planet near the Neutral Zone after the Enterprise responds to a distress signal. Riker and Worf take a survivor from a crashed Romulan shuttle back to the ship while Geordi must try to find a way to escape and survive. He encounters another Romulan survivor (John Snyder) and must convince him to help in the escape attempt despite two centuries of hostilities and prejudices. Meanwhile, Crusher is unable to save the Romulan on the ship after Worf refuses a transfusion that might have saved him. Picard must then deal with a tense standoff with a Romulan warbird and its leader, Commander Tomalak (Andreas Katsulas) who crosses the Neutral Zone. At the last minute — and with the prospect of war hanging in the balance — Geordi is able to signal the Enterprise by modifying a probe sent to the planet by Wesley. With Geordi and the second Romulan saved, the standoff ends, with the warbird returning to its own territory.

“Klingon … can you take this candy wrapper off my face, please?”

Why it’s important

This is the first in a handful of episodes over the next few seasons in which the Romulans become recurring villains. In the second season, only “Contagion” features actual Romulans — after they returned with much sound and fury in “The Neutral Zone” —  and doesn’t set things in motion like this episode does. The idea that a standoff could be another Pearl Harbor — a comment Picard makes — is a major point surrounding the Federation/Romulan dealings over the next few seasons.

This episode is the first in TNG where that idea really hits home, which is why it made the tapestry. But “The Enemy” isn’t as good as other upcoming episodes featuring the same topic, notably, “The Defector”, an excellent episode later this season. Tomalak shows up again there and a couple other times, including TNG’s finale “All Good Things … “. Galorndon Core, the planet in this episode, is referenced a handful of times as well.

More of Worf’s back story and its effects show up here, too. We saw a glimpse of this in “Heart of Glory” and “The Neutral Zone”, but his refusal to give a transfusion to save the Romulan on the ship, the Romulan’s unwillingness to take the transfusion (he says he doesn’t want to pollute his body with “Klingon filth”) and efforts to convince Worf from Crusher, Riker and Picard provide a microcosm for the relationship between the three powers. In fact, the Romulan hatred of Klingons (as opposed to simple disdain) really shows up here for the first time.

Insert Harry Mudd joke here.

What doesn’t hold up

There are some logical issues. The big point of conflict is that the Enterprise can’t leave the planet to return the first Romulan survivor to the warbird without recovering Geordi. Why didn’t the Enterprise simply leave a (well-armed) shuttle in orbit to try to recover Geordi — or perhaps leave the saucer section? The Enterprise could have taken the survivor into the Neutral Zone and avoided the entire standoff.

Sure, there are some reasons why that could be problematic. Maybe leaving a shuttle or the saucer section undefended at the planet (where a cloaked ship might appear and open fire) wouldn’t be ideal. But the idea isn’t even suggested. And keep in mind that the Enterprise (until the end of the episode) doesn’t know there’s another Romulan survivor.

It’s also somewhat odd that the storms on the planet affect some electrical systems, but not others. Geordi’s VISOR, his tricorder, his phaser and the Romulan’s disruptor all seem to work OK. But early dialog indicates that the storms should cause more problems. Riker says Data would be seriously messed up by the storms.

Final thoughts

Something happens in this episode that really should have happened throughout the first two seasons. Wesley comes up with a good idea that ultimately saves the day — and it’s not annoying to watch! It’s further evidence that TNG really got its sea legs in the third season and that the biggest problem with Wesley early on was the execution. Having a boy-wonder type wasn’t inherently flawed.

This episode also allows LeVar Burton to shine away from his usual glut of technobabble. Geordi’s an interesting character in that he’s much more down-to-Earth (down-to-galaxy?) than the other characters on the show, with the possible exception of Crusher. That’s not to say this episode wouldn’t have worked with Picard or Riker stuck on the planet. But putting Geordi in the role was a good choice. His discussions with the Romulan on the planet work quite well.

Coming later this week …

TNG’s first what-if scenario and a true classic. Pass the TKLs …