Hiya, folks. Incredible how well this season's turning out, isn't it? Well, this week's show was no exception. I loved it. Not quite perfect, but pretty damn near, despite being somewhat multi-plot. Time for a quick synopsis first, though.
Plot One: An away team consisting of Riker, Worf, and Geordi is down on the planet of Galorndon Core, investigating a distress signal. As it turns out, it was from a Romulan ship. What's it doing this side of the Neutral Zone? Geordi is lost in a pit just before beam-up, and owing to the wonderful electrical storms in the atmosphere, the Enterprise can neither detect him at all, nor even beam down another party until the window that just closed reopens. And, as if things weren't bad enough, Geordi finds that the one Romulan Worf and Riker found and beamed aboard the ship wasn't the only one there. There's a second one...with a somewhat nasty disposition. The two of them are eventually forced to work together to locate the beacon sent down, particularly after Centurion Bochra's legs go out from under him and Geordi's interface with the VISOR is lost. That's all for that one.
Plot Two: The Romulan brought on board is dying. He needs a transfusion of suitable ribosomes, after cell damage down on the planet. (Nice planet, this.) Unfortunately, neither human nor Vulcan ribosomes are suitable. The one crewman who would be a suitable donor...is Worf. Now, if you were Worf, would you help a member of the race that killed your parents? Neither would he. Both Dr. Crusher and Capt. Picard try to convince him to help without actually ordering him to do so, but to no avail.
Plot Three: Did I mention there's also a Romulan ship a couple of light-years away, coming on a "mission of mercy" to rescue their comrades? Did I mention that Picard tells Commander Tomolok again and again that his crossing over into Federation space would be a grave violation of treaty, and a break in the ceasefire? Did I mention that Tomolok comes over anyway, demanding his crewman be beamed over to him? I did now. :-) As it happens, no shots are fired...but only just.
Okay. I may have skimped a bit on the synop, but believe me, I can't adequately convey the tension that's present in most of the story. Time for some comments, I think.
First off, let's take care of one of my two very minor gripes. We never really found out why the Romulans were there on the planet in the first place. Riker mentions something about a possible base for future attack, but that's not really brought up again. Commander Tomolok claims it was a navigational error, to which Picard correctly replies, "A simple navigational error, Commander? HALF A LIGHT-YEAR on our side of the Zone?" I'd be inclined to doubt that explanation, too. We never really discover the true reason. Unlike, say, "Q-Who", where many of the mysteries were clearly setups for future stories, this simply struck me as a loose end.
I'll save the other gripe for later, since I have so many good things to say about the story. This and "The Emissary" strike me as the only two really good multi-plot stories TNG has had. In general, it's distracting. Here, it only heightened the tension. Possibly, that's because the plots were related (as opposed to, for example, "The Icarus Factor").
The Worf plot was exceptionally well handled, I thought. It not only made sense to me that he'd feel the way he did, it made sense that he'd stick to it through and through. As he said, "My Starfleet training tells me one thing...but everything I am tells me another!!" How very Klingon. It also seemed appropriate that if Picard had actually gone through and ordered him, he would have done it. He would probably have lost all respect for Picard and transferred off, but he would have done it. I thought for one fleeting moment that Picard might do so. He said, very sharply, "Mister Worf...". Worf straightened. "That will be all." Then I started breathing again. :-)
I always wondered what Geordi would be like as a prisoner...now I know. He's a smart-ass. One exchange early on goes like this:
"A Romulan ship will arrive shortly and you will be taken aboard as a prisoner of the Romulan Empire!"
"No, I don't think so. Y'see, we heard that distress signal too, Commodore [a sarcastic appellation, not a real rank -- TL], and, well, the fleet is in! The skies above us are just filled with Federation ships." "You're lying!" "I never lie with sand in my shoes."
Gotta love him.
He also can think fast on his feet in other ways. When trapped in the pit, he digs out some minerals he finds, puts them in a crevice, and phasers them on low, melting them into pitons. I knew that goddamn peg-board in PE way back when had to be good for something. :-)
Even Centurion Bochra was well characterized. As an example, when he finds out Geordi is blind, he asks, "How did this happen?" "I was born like this." Bochra replies, "And your parents let you live?" Heartless, yes; but very, very accurate. Well done.
I thought the gradual buildup of hostility between Picard and Commander Tomolok was reasonably well done, though not perfect. I especially liked two scenes. The first occurs when the Romulan ship crosses the Zone border into Federation space. We see a tight shot of Picard. "Mr. Worf..._Red Alert_." And yes, you could hear the words being underlined. Brr. The other scene is at the end, when the two ships are poised to blow each other up. The Enterprise detects Geordi at that point, and the window's only gonna be open for another 3 minutes or something. When Picard finds out that they're detecting TWO lifeforms, he quickly manages to propose a truce, in a very eloquent speech. I won't go into that very much, though. In addition, the relevance to 20th century situations was neither lost nor used as a bludgeon. We simply have one final exchange between Riker and Picard, with Picard saying quietly (and relievedly), "Brinksmanship...is a dangerous game." I've since come to call this story the Romulan Missile Crisis.
And, finally, my one other mini-gripe, although it's framed in a good point. When I heard Wesley mention using a neutrino pulse in the beacon, I yelled, "NOOOO! Not again, dammit!" However, it seemed to be used almost correctly here. The beacon itself was matter and could survive a storm. It sent out neutrino pulses in a specific pattern, which would be able to penetrate the storms. (True enough.) Then, all Geordi had to do was change that pattern, which isn't that tough. The ship would then know he'd found it and was at the beacon's landing point. Assuming they have a good method of detecting neuytrinos, which isn't stretching a point too far over four centuries, that would work. My one complaint: the beam was shown as unidirectional, which I didn't like. So I'm strange.
Oh, by the way, when I say 'shown' as unidirectional, I mean that that's how GEORDI sees it. We don't see anything. There are several shots throughout the story of what Geordi's seeing through the VISOR, which were wonderful. And there wasn't a big deal made out of it, like there was back in "Heart of Glory". Quite nice.
Well, this has gone on long enough. Time to wrap it up for this week.
Plot: 9.5 - Almost unoriginal, but the fusion of the plots helped a lot. Also a little off for the non-explanation of why they were there to begin with. Plot Handling: 10 - Could not have been better. Characterization: 10 - See Plot Handling. Technical: 9.7 - Some off for the unidirectional beam, but some of that back on for the shots through the VISOR.
TOTAL: 39.2/4---> 9.8. Phew. Keep these up.
Tim Lynch (Cornell's first Astronomy B.A.; one of many Caltech grad students) BITNET: tlynch@citjuliet INTERNET: email@example.com UUCP: ...!firstname.lastname@example.org "You are my prisoner!" "Great. What a strategic triumph for the Romulan Empire." --Bochra and Geordi -- Copyright 1989, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask... Copyright 1994, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask. This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the author*. Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.
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