This was a disappointing episode. The main story, with energy beings hijacking the ship, wasn’t too bad but I feel like it could have been done better. I’ve got complaints about the dialogue, direction, etc but that’s not really what I write these about so I’ll put those aside. The secondary story, with the Anticans and Selay, was very poorly handled in my opinion.
The Odd Couple
We have two alien races who hate each other, have always hated each other, and can barely stand to be in nearby rooms. The best way to get them to a peace conference is on the same starship, and the crew assign them to quarters literally next door to each other until they complain. We never meet the hospitality officer on the Enterprise, but given some of the deep research that Picard and Troi go into when meeting other races, you’d think someone would have paid a bit more attention to this.
What about the peace conference itself? We see the Antican delegates more than the Selay, but the impression we get is that they were sent along as a matter of form and they’re not really that bothered whether peace is achieved or not. I think that if everything had progressed smoothly and the delegates were delivered happily to the conference, the Anticans weren’t really committed and fairly unlikely to actually agree to any concessions (on their part, at least).
There was a drop-in reference to the big baddies for the series, the Ferengi. The implication was made that they had bribed the delegates to sabotage the ship. At some point, they stopped being the bogeymen of the galaxy but they’re still a big, dangerous threat to the Federation at this point.
Politics and Morals
I’d be interested to find out if Gene Roddenberry was a vegetarian. There is a discussion early on in the episode where it’s explained that humans only eat synthetic meat and don’t raise animals to be eaten. This raises a few questions – if meat is synthesised, why not vegetables? If humans go to another world, are they able to digest the foreign meat that’s come from a real animal? This is a consideration in general for food though, not just for vegetarianism. It seems that people have a fairly relaxed attitude to foodstuffs (and especially foreign processed foods) across the galaxy and will eat it without checking it for edibility or toxins.
In addition, when did vegetarianism become the standard? It can’t have been too long ago, as the Antican has seen humans ‘eating meat’ – synthetic meat fashioned to look like real meat by the replicators. On the other hand, it seems totally normal and expected to Tasha Yar who grew up homeless on a dangerous, backwater planet. Vegetarianism must have been fairly ingrained in human culture to be the norm even somewhere where the expectation is ‘kill or be killed’ and ‘fight to survive’.
There’s also a sly nod to the Cold War – “people even used to go to war about economic systems.” That makes it sound silly, and was probably written in to show how enlightened we are going to be to have eliminated war within our own species, but it’s actually an interesting point. Since previous episodes have pointed out that humans have abandoned money, aren’t the Federation following more Communist principles than Capitalist ones?
I liked Troi’s insight on things in this episode. I heard an engineer in her voice, explaining patiently that she can’t detect two consciousness's in the crew because of the inherent duality in everyone. There are many times that I’ve heard technical people explaining ‘no, that’s not the way that things work’ and this conversation brought back all of them.
The big difference to those conversations is that everyone listened and accepted the answer on the show!
Murder on the Enterprise
I was very confused by the almost negligent attitude to the peace delegates on the ship. They’re able to hide behind corners and ambush crew members, hide weapons in their quarters and on their person and even catch Riker (inadvertently) in a net. Now, there were bigger problems on the ship, but they could probably still have spared a couple more security personnel to guard all the visitors. To have Riker essentially assaulted and possibly hurt by a neutral/unfriendly alien visitor, but have no consequences is quite strange.
In addition, the murder revelation at the end seemed almost as if nobody cared about it – Picard takes the news as if ‘well, I’ll just palm off that responsibility on you then!’ and Riker and Tasha don’t appear to want to deal with it but not because they actually care about someone being killed and eaten (offending their vegetarian sensibilities even more, I imagine). The fact that it happens at the end of the episode means that there’s no way to find out what the Selay think about the murder – do they blame the Anticans or the Federation, or both? Will the peace conference fail now that a peace delegate has been murdered by his opposite number? Do either side, or both, blame the Enterprise delays for the peace talks stalling (as the murder of a peace delegate would no doubt cause them to fail anyway)?
Will the Federation implement a policy of having separate ships deliver peace delegates to their conferences in the future?
Data and the Energy Beings
Could Data host the energy beings? Would that have been an acceptable compromise? Does there even really need to be a compromise? Would it at least facilitate communication? Who knows.
New Life and New Civilisations… Sometimes
The energy beings that are trapped in the ship, communicate with the crew and have a society and a home that they want to get back to could be interesting to explore. But instead, not enough attention is paid to it and in the end it doesn’t really go anywhere. It would be nice to have some sort of follow-up where a science vessel approaches at a safe distance and attempts to make contact with them, and discover more about these energy beings. Is their whole race within the phenomenon the Enterprise encountered, or is it more like a starship carrying a small crew of explorers, like the Enterprise itself?
Picard is essentially abandoned and trapped on their ship, just as they were trapped on his. Do they try to help him? Can they try to help him? We don’t know.
Other Interesting Titbits
Also spotted in this episode – a medical visor used by Dr Crusher, that I don’t remember seeing anywhere else. I’ll try to keep an eye out for it in the future.
And again, there’s not much to say about it, but the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes. Data jumps into the act full throttle, but over the years as his humanity grows his eccentric behaviour fades. Although it doesn’t seem connected, the more his empathic skills increase, the less he is given to acting rash or illogically. No-one would question an android studying Sherlock Holmes’ methods, the odd thing is why he thought it appropriate to begin smoking a pipe.
What Would Other Captains Do?
As usual, there are two big things going on in this episode, the peace delegates and the ‘hijack’.
Sisko would almost certainly call the Anticans out on their behaviour. They aren’t even pretending to want peace. They’d end up locked in a cell on DS9 (although the actual escort would probably be on the Defiant) in fairly short order, and between Odo and the Bajoran authorities on one side, and the uncompromising standards of Sisko, I can’t see them getting out any time soon. To be honest, I would see Picard doing much the same thing if he hadn’t essentially washed his hands of anything to do with the delegates.
Sisko is harder to tell with the energy beings. He is an adventurer, an explorer, but unlike Picard he has a strong sense of commitment and family. He has his son, his father, his connections to Bajor (strengthening every year), and at times Kassidy Yates. Picard has a brother he was not as close to, and no real sense of family himself. Eventually, of course, Sisko does disappear with energy beings to explore strange new worlds but this was not entirely at his own volition. I do wonder how Odo would have fared hosting the energy beings, given his odd reaction to Curzon Dax’s personality?
Janeway’s behaviour with the delegates would probably be closer to Picard’s actual behaviour in the episode. Chakotay would probably be in charge of them, and he walks an odd line between following Starfleet protocol to provide an example and being flexible with the rules because of the pressures of life being isolated in the Delta quadrant. I think at the point of the murder he would be very, very keen to push them out of an airlock (or at least kick them off of the ship early). If they want to play hard, he can certainly play hard…
So-so. Too many things happened here that essentially felt like both the characters and the writers couldn’t give a monkeys. “Murder on my ship? Phoo, is that the time? I’d best get some sleep…”
- Ship captured: +1
- Crew possessions: +1
- Unknowable energy beings: +1