Plot Synopsis: While the Enterprise is reviewing a seemingly idyllic planet’s application for Federation membership, an escaped prisoner leads its crew to discover an ugly secret: the government’s shameful treatment of its war veterans.
Plot A and B Analysis: In the teaser Picard and Riker meet with the Prime Minster of Angosia III, a planet applying for membership in the Federation (and who wouldn’t, really?) when someone breaks out of a prison colony on their moon and steals a transport ship. The Enterprise under Data’s command tries to capture it, but the pilot gets sneaky and it disappears! Plot A is about the soldier in that ship, there is no plot B in this episode. After a pretty impressive set of maneuvers, the Enterprise finds and beams the guy aboard and he mows through ship’s security before Riker and Worf finally take him down. The dude’s got some attitude and after a while we discover why–he’s not a criminal, but a soldier who was incarcerated after their war was over because they didn’t want to allow him (and others like him) back into society. Once the crew is aware of this, the moral conundrum of this episode is set. There are a couple of smallish plot holes here but overall it’s enjoyable from beginning to end.
Favorite Scenes: The second conversation between Picard and the Prime Minister is pretty telling. The Prime Minster invokes the phrase “internal security” when he doesn’t want to answer any more questions, and a truer parallel to our own government’s phrase “national security” is hard to find. The extended sequence where Danar escapes and runs throughout the Enterprise is one of the highlights of the entire episode, even though I also have a nitpick about it. It’s the part of this episode I remember the most, and for some reason one particular sequence sticks out in my mind. Worf finally correctly anticipates Danar in the cargo bay and catches him:
Worf appears, holding a phaser: Danar! You are cunning. You must have Klingon blood! But the battle is over.
Danar: My battle is never over.
Worf: Worf to Bridge, I have Danar.
*an explosion occurs which knocks out the power, and the fight commences*
Use of Cast/Characters: Picard is pretty well-used in this episode, primarily in having sympathy for the cast-off soldiers of Angosian society, and for negotiating the Prime Directive to an outcome that the audience approves of. Riker contributes to helping catch Danar in the beginning and is an active part of this episode. In fact for those with good memories, the exact maneuver of hovering in a planet’s magnetic pole was one he himself did, as described back in Peak Performance. Data is even more involved, being able to anticipate Danar’s tactics and form a bond of sorts with him. Troi does something in this episode! She investigates Roga Danar and is his prime advocate, bringing the entire crew’s attention to the crux of what this episode is about. This is an exception for her until we get to season five. Worf is a double-edged sword here: he is the one that catches Danar, twice in the episode, but the second time he gets the smack laid down on him. Poor guy, this will be a continuing problem for him throughout most of the series. Geordi and Doctor Crusher have a few lines but don’t really do much, and Wes does even less. Jeff McCarthy as Roga Danar is good, but I wish he’d have played him with a bit more of an edge. Still, he does a good job. James Cromwell is ok, but he doesn’t do anything really interesting.
Blu Ray Version: Another gorgeous planet. I swear, that’s one of the best reasons for the Blu Ray versions alone. The detail here is good enough that you can pick out McCarthy’s stunt double if you’re paying attention.
Nitpicks: Worf’s “full security contingent” consists of about three guys. I understand that Danar had to get off the Enterprise in order to advance the plot, but it seems that things like this happen at Worf’s expense on a regular basis. My big nitpick is that this guy can effortlessly outmaneuver the entire crew of the ship, navigate through it like a fish in water and just plain beat everyone. Even though the sequence is cool, at the same time I’m just not sure that I buy it. Starfleet is supposed to have incredible tactical training, and even with this guy’s biological advantages he’s a little bit much.
Overall Impression: This is an episode with a definite message, and I love it. Even when I was 15 I could tell the parallels between the plot here and the duty we owe our veterans. The forgotten soldier is a theme that I like, and has certainly been a problem in too many countries. This episode isn’t up there with the best of Trek, but it highlights one of the reasons I like Star Trek better than most sci-fi: it has a good story, and it brings to our minds contemporary social issues as well. I rate this episode 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: The obvious allegory between the forgotten soldier here and those returning from Vietnam was pretty obvious at the time. Originally the ending was going to be more action-packed, with a bigger confrontation scene but due to time and budgetary constraints it couldn’t be done. This episode has the first ever mention of a Jeffries Tube. Get used to them, we’ll hear about them more and more. This is also the first time we see the redesigned brig of the Enterprise and it’s a big step up from the crappy one we saw in the first two seasons. James Cromwell will appear in several subsequent episodes: the Birthright two-parter, the DS9 episode Starship Down, and of course the film First Contact.
Missable/Unmissable? It is missable, but it’s also pretty good. The next one is roughly similar.