Plot Synopsis: The Enterprise tries to negotiate an end to raids launched by a group called the “Gatherers,” but a murder threatens to prevent peace.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser isn’t that great, all we get is an away team beaming down to some kind of unnamed Federation science outpost where they find some of their equipment stolen. Plot A revolves around putting an end to the Gatherer raids on Federation trade routes and facilities, there is no plot B. Turns out the outpost was raided by space pirates, outcasts of the Acamarians. The sovereign of that world comes on board after agreeing to try to negotiate their return to society. They find a small clan of Gatherers and their leader takes the Enterprise to the head honcho and most of the plot takes place on the way there. Yuta, one of the sovereign’s servants kills a guy unbeknownst to anyone, and there is a modestly interesting attempt to unravel this mystery before she kills again. Otherwise there isn’t a lot recommend this episode, though the climax is at least fairly well done.
Favorite Scenes: The last scene with Yuta is the best, I’d say. Riker does a hard thing, and it plays out pretty well.
Use of Cast/Characters: Picard’s skill as a diplomat is on display as he is able to somehow convince the Acamarian leader to agree to take the Gatherers back, then gets the two factions to sit down together to negotiate. He does a fine job there, and his sensitivity to the effects of Riker’s actions is a nice touch in the last scene of the episode. This is one of the episodes that makes fans say Picard was reluctant to fire though, they get hit multiple times before he finally returns fire. Riker himself has more to do than probably any other cast member, though this isn’t really a “Riker episode.” He puts the mack on Yuta briefly, works to solve the mystery and saves someone’s life, but at a cost. Data helps solve Yuta’s mystery also, and in fact probably does more than anyone else at sleuthing, but really it’s not much. Worf has a couple of good lines in this episode which is nice, my favorite being “your ambushes might be more successful if you bathed more often!” Troi is in this episode but you’d never know it, she has about three lines. Wes has two brief exchanges with Brull, the local Gatherer leader which is alright, but he doesn’t really do anything. Doctor Crusher actually serves a purpose here, discovering a Gatherer was murdered and then helping to unravel the Yuta mystery. Having said that, she’s still not acting like Beverly Crusher, she’s written as being interchangeable with Pulaski at this point. Geordi has one scene in which he actually appears and you’d never remember it if you weren’t specifically looking for him, he does nothing. The guest stars all do good jobs here: Lisa Wilcox as Yuta isn’t going to win an Emmy but she does a decent job as a conflicted villain, Joey Aresco and Stephen Lee are fun to watch as Gatherer leaders, and Nancy Parsons does a good job as the tough and capable sovereign of Acamar.
Blu Ray Version: This might be the first episode where being HD works against the show. The very first shot is so clear that you can see it’s obviously a painting posing as background. The planet here is a definite improvement from last episode though, it’s beautiful. However there’s a flaw. Watch carefully after the 4:30 mark into the episode. You’ll see the Enterprise orbiting Acamar III, and after a few seconds the planet just stops rotating. It’s easier to pick up if you can fast forward at about 1.5-2x speed. Supposedly this is fixed in the Netflix version. The Federation and Rigellian phaser blasts look gorgeous though. At 39:55, if you pause it right when Riker phasers a Gatherer you can see that he falls so violently his wig comes off.
Nitpicks: I like how all Riker has to say is “scan left and magnify” and the computer knows what exactly that means, how far to go left, and what to magnify. Cute. The Riker/Yuta romance doesn’t really have enough legs for us to be convinced Riker would be torn up by what he has to do, I’d have preferred a bit more time or a bit more development of her character to feel that resonate. On the other hand he just killed someone, doing that would mess anyone up. Other than that not a ton of nitpicks, even season three’s less-than-stellar episodes make some logical sense.
Overall Impression: This episode isn’t much better than the last one, but at least it has more action. It’s paced pretty well but it doesn’t end up being a powerful episode–it’s still forgettable. I’m not sure why exactly, but I’ll take a shot: the sets aren’t that impressive, hardly any of the cast is used other than Patrick and Jonathan, the Riker/Yuta romance isn’t developed enough and we don’t get enough meat here to really emotionally invest in the plight of the Gatherers or the sovereign. It’s as if the writer and director couldn’t decide if they wanted a character-centered or plot-centered episode so we don’t get enough of either. I rate this episode 2 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: This is only the second time we get to watch what it looks like to see the Enterprise actually enter warp. This has the distinction of being the last Star Trek episode ever to air in the 80’s; it’s also the last episode that uses the original six-foot model of the Enterprise we’ve seen thus far in the series. Okay that’s not exactly true but there’s only one other episode that uses this model, the new model that was being built makes its debut next episode. You might recognize Lisa Wilcox if you’re Nightmare on Elm Street fans, she was on 4 and 5. If you’ve ever seen Porky’s then you definitely know Nancy Parsons, she played coach Beulah Balbricker! As for Stephen Lee, you’ll see him again in the episode Gambit, Part I. That painting I alluded to earlier, that stands out? Turns out it’s originally from the sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet, a film from 1956 that every sci-fi fan should see. One more way TNG is a part of history.
Missable/Unmissable? Eh, missable. Two missables in a row, but the next one definitely is not!