Now *that's* more like it.
Okay, so it's not "The Inner Light"; no big surprise. What it *was*, however, was a nice, reasonably quiet, very entertaining show. And about time, too. More on that after a lengthy synopsis:
The Enterprise picks up a long-running distress call from the USS Jenolan, a ship that disappeared 75 years ago. They drop out of warp to help, and are immediately shaken by an enormous gravitational field. Although the source is not immediately visible, they trace the field to its center, and find a large metallic shell, 200 million kilometers in diameter, completely surrounding a star. In other words, they've discovered the first known Dyson sphere, used to harness the entire radiant energy output of a star for inhabitants of the sphere's huge inner surface. The Jenolan is located on the surface of the sphere a short distance away, and they head for it.
Once they arrive, they find the Jenolan crashed on the surface; miraculously, however, power and minimal life signs are still there. Riker, Geordi and Worf beam down to it and discover no signs of life. However, Geordi finds that something very strange has been done with the transporter: the rematerialization circuits have been disabled, the power is being drawn from the auxiliary pods, and the pattern buffer is locked into a diagnostic mode. What's more, there is *still* a pattern inside the buffer, with virtually no degradation. "Could someone survive inside a transporter for 75 years?" "I know a way to find out." Geordi re-engages the transporter, and the occupant re-forms: Captain Montgomery Scott.
Scotty immediately runs to the console and tries to save the *other* person in the buffer, one "Franklin". Unfortunately, the equipment cannot stand up to the renewed strain, and Franklin is lost. Riker introduces himself and Geordi, and Scotty reacts understandably to the name of their ship. "The Enterprise? I should've known! I bet you Jim Kirk himself brought the old gal out of mothballs..." Scotty's question about how long he's been missing is interrupted by Worf's appearance, which in itself tells him it's been longer than he thought. They return to the Enterprise.
Once there, Scotty and Geordi talk in the transporter room and en route to sickbay. Discussion of the changes in engineering technique over the last 75 years alternates with Scotty's tale of how the Jenolan ended up there. Apparently, it was en route to the Norpan colony when warp failed. They then stumbled on the Dyson sphere and began exploring it. Unfortunately, as they finished their first scan, their aft warp coil exploded and sent them hurtling into the sphere, killing all but Scotty and Franklin. When Geordi calls Scotty's decision to use the transporter to survive "brilliant", however, Scotty bristles: "I think it was only fifty percent brilliant. Franklin...deserves better."
Once they reach sickbay, Scotty's told that his wounds should heal in a few days, and he is then greeted by a newly arrived Picard. Scotty answers Picard's unspoken question by saying that actually, he never *was* a member of the Jenolan's crew; he was a passenger en route to retirement on Norpan Five. Picard tells Scotty that he'd love to hear about Scotty's insights into the time, then hastily puts Geordi to work on studying the sphere and leaves. Scotty tries to accompany Geordi to engineering, but is still too weak, and is instead taken to quarters. He marvels at the quarters' luxury compared to his era, and attempts to reminisce about the time to his escort. However, the ensign quickly demurs and returns to duty, leaving a somewhat pensive Scotty to settle in to this new time.
Some time later, Scotty arrives in engineering (over the protests of ensigns who insist it's a restricted area), only to be told that it's a bad time for a tour. "I'm not here for a _tour_, laddie -- I'm here to help!" Geordi initially is skeptical, but Scotty insists he's still useful and gets to work. As he settles in, Data tells Picard that the interior of the sphere shows a proper environment for humanoid lifeforms, but no sign of inhabitants as of yet. Picard orders that probes be sent.
Scotty quickly proves to be more of a nuisance than a help to Geordi, however; the last several decades of changes have made safe conditions Scotty considered threatening, and Scotty also distracts Geordi constantly with talk of his past achievements. Geordi begins to bristle, but holds his tongue initially. In the end, however, Scotty begins to give Geordi advice on how to handle Picard and to be seen as a "miracle worker," and Geordi explodes, saying that he has a lot of work to do, "...and quite frankly -- you're in the way!" Scotty leaves in a huff.
He arrives in Ten-Forward and orders a Scotch. Unfortunately, due to his unfamiliarity with synthehol, he even finds the "Scotch" unpleasant. Data steps in to help (prompting a remark from Scotty: "Synthetic Scotch...synthetic commanders..."), and eventually locates some of Guinan's *actual* alcohol in storage. He serves Scotty a drink of unknown origin ("it is...it is...it is *green*."), and Scotty takes much more kindly to it.
Some time later, a rather plastered Scotty sloshes his way to the holodeck, where he calls up the bridge of the Enterprise: the *original* Enterprise. ("No bloody A, B, C *or* D.") He enters and is caught up by the sight of it. He loses himself in the memory for a bit ("here's to ye, lads!"), then takes notice when Picard comes to talk. Both talk of their first "real" ships: Scotty's Enterprise and Picard's Stargazer. They toast them as "old girlfriends we'll never meet again." Scotty then gets a bit more morose, feeling that he's just in the way on this ship and in this era. He even dismisses Picard's suggestion that he study up current technical journals and start over, saying that he's too old for it. His place, he says, is on the ship whose bridge he currently sits in: "But it's not real. It's just a computer-generated fantasy. And I'm just an old man who's trying to hide in it. Computer -- shut this bloody thing off. It's time I acted my age."
The next day, Picard instructs Geordi to have Scotty work on recovering the Jenolan's logs, and _asks_ Geordi to go along personally with Scotty to help him feel useful, a requests Geordi quickly agrees to. As they leave and get started, Data detects an antenna array not far off, and they head for it. Upon arriving at the array (which surrounds a portal, possibly the "front door" into the sphere), they open a channel to it. As soon as they do, however, the portal opens, and a host of strong tractor beams pull the Enterprise in, crippling both main and auxiliary power in the process. This prevents them from actually stopping even once the beams let go; and what's worse, they're heading directly for the center of the clearly unstable G-star at the center of the sphere...
Scotty, meanwhile, rails at his lack of success in recovering the Jenolan's data, calling the ship "just a piece of junk" now. Geordi, realizing Scotty refers to more than simply the ship, points out that things haven't really changed all *that* much in the past 75 years, and that were it not for the structural damage, the Jenolan could be flying even today. Scotty is skeptical, saying that no one would *want* it today, but Geordi insists that some might: "Just because something's old doesn't mean you throw it away." Scotty grins at this and offers a new suggestion about the logs. Geordi agrees, but then finds he cannot communicate with the Enterprise.
With three minutes until the Enterprise enters the sun's photosphere, the crew uses the maneuvering thrusters to put them into orbit around the star (but only just; the distance is a scant 150,000 kilometers from the star). As repairs continue, Data then begins scanning the interior for life.
Geordi and Scotty, meanwhile, cannot locate the Enterprise at all, but due to the lack of radiation conclude that it hasn't crashed. Scotty suggests that it might have somehow gotten *inside* the sphere, and Geordi realizes the only way to track them is to somehow get the Jenolan's engines working. Scotty thinks he's nuts, saying that even figuring out where to start would take a week -- "but we don't have a week, so let's not stand around cryin' about it. Come on..."
As they begin work, Data finds that the sphere has been abandoned by its builders due to the star's instability, and that they were drawn in by an automatic piloting system. Solar flares then begin to increase, and it's theorized that the Enterprise's shields will no longer be effective in approximately three hours.
Geordi and Scotty continue their repairs, with Scotty pushing Geordi to take more risks than the engine specifications (which he *wrote*) will allow. For whatever reason, their jury-rigs work, and the Jenolan starts up, with Geordi at the bridge and Scotty controlling the engines. With the Enterprise in still more trouble (the flares are increasing, they can't shoot a hole in the sphere, and it would take too long to find an open portal), the Jenolan tracks the Enterprise to the other side of the portal. Geordi and Scotty quickly conclude that the Enterprise was pulled in, and Geordi realizes that it's likely the antenna array is not a communications grid, but an *access port* that is triggered by the same frequencies as Federation hails.
Scotty suggests that they hang back enough to stop the tractor beams from locking on to them, then speed in as the door closes and use the Jenolan's shields as a "foot in the door", holding the portal open long enough for the Enterprise to escape. Geordi is convinced it's crazy, but agrees. The shields hold, but only just -- and Geordi quickly tells Picard of the situation.
As the Enterprise heads for the portal, however, the Jenolan's engines fail to the point that Geordi and Scotty can't move the ship. Picard, understanding this, beams them off the ship just as they're within transporter range, then fires on the Jenolan, destroying it. The Enterprise banks, and exits through the portal just as it closes.
Some time later, the Enterprise is en route to starbase. Geordi and Scotty trade stories, and Scotty tells Geordi to enjoy the days of being chief engineer of a starship, since they won't return again. "Now, lad, I thought you were gonna buy me a drink in Ten-Forward." "Actually, I had a better idea."
Scotty comes to a shuttle bay, and finds the bridge crew waiting with the shuttle Goddard, to be his on "extended loan". It's slow, but it'll get him where he's going. When asked if he's going to the Norpan colony, he observes that it's a place where men go to retire. "Maybe someday I'll end up there...but not yet."
As the bridge crew bids him farewell, Scotty reassures Geordi that the Enterprise is a fine ship, "and from what I can see, the Enterprise is in good hands."
"You take care of yourself out there." "Aye..."
Wheeeew. Well, it's been a few months since one of my full-length synops; I suppose it was time. Now, let's see what commentary I can come up to complement it. :-)
As you might be able to tell, I enjoyed this a lot. What you might *not* be able to tell is that I didn't initially expect to. The early rumours and reports I'd heard about it (that a transporter accident marooned Scotty in this time) sounded exceedingly implausible, and it seemed a cheap ploy to me.
Amazingly, they answered those objections -- and in the first five minutes. As soon as evidence came up that the transporter had been deliberately rigged for something, I changed my mind. An accident *randomly* keeping someone in perfect stasis for 75 years is one thing, but a deliberate, desperate attempt that (clearly) no one could have heard of is quite another; and for me, it worked quite well. (Those very into Trek technology may differ; I've no idea, and quite honestly couldn't care less.)
That was one of the two things in the teaser I liked. The other was the very fact of using a Dyson sphere, and using one *correctly*. Considering all the times that real astronomical ideas have been (let's be blunt) butchered on TNG, it was pleasant to see a valid but still speculative concept take center stage, and to be handled properly. (Even the numbers checked out right, I think; certainly the distance did.) Besides, I've always liked Freeman Dyson's more speculative ideas, and it's nice to see them get a little public press.
On to the main question of the show: how'd they handle Scotty's existence in the 24th century? Quite honestly, I'd have to say very well. Yes, there was certainly a decent amount of homage paid to the original series here, both humorous and not; and that's fine. Much of the show, however, was putting Scotty in the mold of almost *anyone* taken out of his era and put in TNG's; to wit, the feelings of isolation and uselessness that anyone would feel that out of his or her element.
Without having seen any reactions from other people on this show, I'd have to guess that this tack was a double-edged sword. Those devoted above all else to one series or the other probably didn't care for the fence-straddling we had here; they might believe that either Scotty should have been running the show from the start, or that it's unrealistic to have him be comfortable *at all* in this time, even at the end. I disagree with both extremes.
In fact, I think this show, both in content and attitude, is in many ways a testament to the strength of *both* series. TNG has now become its own show with its own following to the point where it doesn't worry about being overshadowed by TOS stars ["Unification" began to make that point, I suppose, but it was also treated as a landmark, universe-shaking Event [TM]. "Relics" was very low-key], and in fact subtly suggested that maybe TOS's characters *weren't* all gods, based on the apparent lack of recognition paid to Scotty's past achievements. On the other hand, it's also proof of TOS's strengths that despite my opinions on the relative merit of the two series, I did find that Scotty made a lot of the TNG crew look rather remote by comparison. [Of course, part of that was the point here, but I think it went further than intended.] At any rate, I think it worked.
This also, as a side-effect, had to be one of the best episodes to find quotable sound-bites in a *long* time. The highlight among highlights had to be Data's use of a classic Scotty line ["it is *green*"], but many exchanges had images or quotes that are likely to stick with you for a while. (I personally enjoyed Picard's identification of the mysterious green liquid as Aldebaran whiskey: "Who do you think gave it to Guinan?")
The plot was occasionally getting mired in technobabble, but unlike "Realm of Fear", here most of it seemed to be for a purpose. Besides, when the focal point of the show is a pair of chief engineers, you almost expect a lot of engineering jargon. (My own thoughts about it reminded me of Riker's reaction to Barclay in "The Nth Degree": "Mm-hmm, yeah, I can see that," with absolutely *no bloody idea* of what they were talking about. ;-) ) Beyond that, most of it held together, which is really all I felt was necessary for a character-driven episode such as this one.
There is one exception to that, however, and one I'm willing to bet was an editing error. At one particular point, the Enterprise is stuck inside the sphere with no propulsion except the thrusters. Then, once they're heading out, they suddenly have 60% impulse power available. While I find it perfectly understandable that repairs would have proceeded apace and that they might be up to that level by the show's end, to not even mention that repairs are *happening* is sloppy. As I said, though, I'm willing to bet that at least one reference to it ended up on the cutting room floor.
(Actually, there's one other mistake which might be similar. As they're hurtling toward the star, Picard orders the thrusters used. Great, but what he does is simply rotate the Enterprise in its place without affecting the way it's moving. I *assume* thrusters were then used to change the path to something resembling a very eccentric orbit, but it would be nice if we'd been told that.)
The show, much more so than "Unification", pointed out to me just how contrasting the styles of the two series are, and did so without being disparaging towards either. (I suspect "Relics" did a better job at this because it actually had Scotty *on board* the Enterprise rather than interacting elsewhere, and because he was literally dealt with as a fish out of water.) I'm impressed, quite honestly; I don't think that's easy to do at all.
A word or two on the set for the TOS bridge: again, I'm impressed. While I'm certain a couple of shots here were stock TOS footage (and I think I could identify which ones), clearly not all of them were, and there was an impressive amount of detail. It almost makes me wonder if this show were originally suggested by a set designer who'd always wanted to rebuild that bridge. ;-)
Finally, this is the first time since "The Inner Light" that the *music* has actually gotten my attention. Jay Chattaway did a great job using the older themes in new ways; while the Alexander Courage theme is generally used as some sort of triumph, here it was more often used as a wistful, fond memory. Nice job.
I think that's most of what I've got to say. A few short takes:
--I'm starting to wonder if we'll *ever* find out the fate of the TOS crewmembers that don't show up here. If they'd wanted a good way to tell their fates, this would have been it. "So, what happened to all my crewmates?" "Well, see, McCoy's an Admiral and surgeon general of Starfleet, Spock's on Romulus [don't ask], and Kirk is..."
--Hands up, anyone who *didn't* think of a certain scene in "The Empire Strikes Back" as the Enterprise escaped from the Dyson sphere. "This is no cave"...;-)
--I hope we eventually get to meet the *builders* of this sphere. It's quite clearly pointed out that they appeared to *leave* this, not die off in it--and I want to see them. (It's easy enough to justify why we might not, though; if they headed to another star and gave it the same treatment, no one would ever know unless they headed through it on impulse power.) One wonders if it was even a race we've seen before.
--It's also almost a pity that Scotty didn't show any reaction to the computer voice; "Nurse Chapel? Lass, how'd ye get in there?" :-)
That's it; I'm definitely starting to ramble. This is the first show of the season that really fills me with confidence; I hope it lasts. So, the numbers:
Plot: 9. A couple of small, easily patched holes, but basically sound. Plot Handling: 10. Minimalist, really, with just enough detail to get Scotty into the situations he required. Characterization: 10. Nice.
TOTAL: 10, rounding up for music. And about time, too.
A horror story gone amok, as crewmembers vanish from the ship, perhaps to be experimented on...
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.) BITNET: tlynch@citjulie INTERNET: firstname.lastname@example.org UUCP: ...!email@example.com "I told the captain I'd have this analysis done in an hour." "How long would it *really* take?" "An hour!" "Och, you didn't tell him how long it would *really* take, did you?" -- Copyright 1992, 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. 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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