Plot Synopsis: LaForge and a Romulan are trapped on a planet ravaged by electromagnetic storms; Worf turns out to be the only viable donor to save the life of an injured Romulan aboard the Enterprise.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser here is the best of the season so far. Riker, Worf and Geordi beam down to a storm-ridden planet, Galorndon Core. They find wreckage of a downed Romulan craft and separate to look for survivors. Worf finds a wounded Romulan, but Geordi falls down into a crevice on the planet’s surface and is trapped, and due to planetary conditions Riker and Worf have no choice but to beam out with the Romulan. Plot A has to do with Geordi’s survival on the planet’s surface, while plot B involves Worf and a difficult choice he has to make. Geordi uses his ingenuity to get out of the pit he fell into, and he only wanders around a short time before he finds another Romulan survivor, Bochra, who of course hates his guts. Plot A is about them having to rely on each other for survival until they’re rescued. Plot B gets started right away, as the Romulan on the ship (Patahk) is in bad shape and getting worse. Worf is the only one whose blood can provide him with a transfusion, but of course he pretty much wants to kill all the Romulans himself so that probably ain’t happenin’! Meanwhile a Warbird picked up the distress signal from the planet and is entering Federation space, making a confrontation inevitable. Both plots are very good, and it makes watching this entire episode a pleasure: plot A is consistently interesting and plot B has its own tension, and they intertwine very well all the way up to the end.
Favorite Scenes: The first scene I really like it between Worf and Dr. Crusher, when she tells him he’s a match for the transfusion to save Patahk’s life.
Crusher: You did understand that was the purpose for all the testing.
Worf just looks at her: I have no objection to tests.
Crusher *leans back, as what he says dawns on her*: You have an objection to being a donor.
Crusher: Lieutenant, I understand your feelings about the Romulans. But this is not the time or the place.
Worf: If you had seen them kill your parents, you would understand, doctor. It is always the time and place for those feelings.
Crusher: This Romulan didn’t murder your parents. And you are the only one who can save his life!
Worf *stands to leave*: Then he will die.
Every scene with Geordi and Bochra is great, they have excellent chemistry and a lot of nice exchanges. My favorite is when they are still unsure of each other, and Geordi has just explained what his visor is for and that without he is blind:
Bochra: How did this happen?
Geordi sighs: I was born that way.
Bochra, in disbelief: And your parents let you live?
Geordi, irritated: What kind of question is that? Of course they let me live!
Bochra: No wonder your race is weak. You waste time and resources on defective children.
The defining moment in Worf’s decision is an up-close-and-personal encounter with the wounded Patahk in the sick bay:
Patahk: Come close to me, Klingon. Let me die with my hands at your throat.
Worf: There is a substance within my cells which you need to survive.
Patahk eyes him: Then you’ve come to hear me beg for my life?
Patahk *grabs Worf’s baldric and pulls him closer*: I would rather die than pollute my body with Klingon filth!
Yeah, that’ll do it. Worf doesn’t intervene and the Romulan dies a little later on, which is a pretty ballsy move for the writers back then. This episode has lots of good scenes and several really good lines as well.
Use of Cast/Characters: Picard’s job is mostly to stand up to the Romulan Warbird commander, Tomalak, which he does very well; he’s firm and clear, but he keeps a cool head and is trying to find a way to avoid outright war. There’s also a good scene where Picard tries to talk Worf into volunteering for the transfusion, then he actually begs him, it’s fairly powerful. Riker comes across as a bit reactionary and hot-tempered in this episode, and Picard has to calm him down more than once. Other than that he doesn’t do much. Data and Troi do almost nothing in this one, and Dr. Crusher’s only contribution is a short convo with Worf, and then to watch the Romulan die. Having seen this episode and the last one I don’t see how anyone could not like Geordi LaForge. This episode is mostly about him and he comes across as ingenious, likable, smart, and keeping himself cool under very trying circumstances. We also get to see his soft underbelly, as he gets touchy whenever he is confronted with the limitations of his blindness. The friendship he forges with Bochra is actually touching, I like it. Two Geordi episodes in a row, I don’t think it ever happens again. Worf shares a significant portion of the spotlight, and his uncompromising attitude is perfect and works to great effect. You may not agree with Worf’s decision but you can understand why he makes it. This episode also features Wes actually having an idea that saves someone, which is the first time something like that has happened since season one! They’re slowly reasserting his intelligence back into the show. John Snyder plays Bochra and does a very good job, in fact I wish we would have seen him again in a later episode. Andreas Katsulas plays Tomalak the Romulan Commander well enough that he appears three more times in TNG.
Blu Ray Version: The speakers here get a nice work-out with the thunder on the planet, it’s great! This episode has a lot of dark scenes, and with the terrible weather it was hard to make out a lot of details during the original broadcast, but here everything is crystal clear. Take a look at Beverly’s hair this episode, notice that it’s quite a bit longer than the episode before and after it; they had her wear a different wig I guess.
Nitpicks: The one thing I would nitpick is that if I were Picard, I would have ordered Worf to do the transfusion. When you weigh Worf’s hatred against a Federation/Romulan war…yeah, he’s getting in there and doing it. Of course if he had the episode would not have been as good, so there you go. Okay I guess there’s two things: what kind of a name for a planet is Galorndon Core?
Overall Impression: There is very little fat in this episode, every single scene is advancing the plot. This is just the latest in a string of good episodes, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I love that this episode explores Geordi a bit more, and something TNG rarely did was do two character-centric episodes of the same character. You’d think the audience might not like it but I loved it, in fact I didn’t even notice it until now, 20-some years later. I love that Geordi is in a survival situation and has to depend on his ‘enemy’ and vice versa. I absolutely love that Worf let the Romulan die, that was frankly ground-breaking for the time. I don’t know any show that was doing stuff like TNG was, and it will only continue as we progress through this season and the series. I rate this episode 4 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: Lots of stuff here. For those who watch classic movies the plot here is directly lifted from The Defiant Ones, which is just an outstanding film starring Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis. I recommend it to everyone. Originally Troi was supposed to be stranded on the planet with Geordi in an early draft, actually doing stuff, but later on they cut her almost completely out of the episode. This would be the case for her until well into season five, unfortunately. You can thank Michael Piller for the decision to have Worf let Patakh die, a lot of the writing staff and Michael Dorn resisted it, calling Piller early one morning afraid they were destroying his character but it was the right decision. Rick Berman supported and in retrospect Dorn changed his mind too. After about six episodes with short hair, Dr. Crusher’s locks have finally grown out to the length they will be for the rest of the series. Strangely, her hair is short again in the next episode, so they must have given her a different wig. The cast members with red uniforms get the new and permanent uniforms that Patrick Stewart was wearing in the previous episode, but the gold uniforms are unchanged. Maybe they’re phasing them in, I dunno. This is one of only about three episodes where we get to see through Geordi’s visor. The other two are Heart of Glory and The Mind’s Eye. John Snyder, who plays Bochra, will be seen again in the episode The Masterpiece Society. Andreas Katsulas is a pretty well-known actor: he played the one-armed arm in Harrison Ford’s The Fugitive, and he played G’Kar pretty frickin’ awesomely in Babylon 5. Finally, Brannon Braga, an excellent writer who would join the show next year got hooked on TNG (and Star Trek in general) because of this episode, which is cool.
Missable/Unmissable? Highly recommended, a very good episode. The next one isn’t. At all.