Plot Synopsis: Doctor Crusher is captured by terrorists who want to involve the Federation in their struggle for freedom.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser here does its job just fine. The Enterprise arrives at a non-Federation planet to deliver medical supplies because of some violent separatists. In less than 60 seconds a nice dinner is broken up by an explosion. Crusher runs over to help, and end up being kidnapped by one of the separatists. Plot A is about the separatists and their agenda, there is no plot B. This episode shifts back and forth between Crusher and Finn, the separatist leader, and the Enterprise’s search to get Crusher back. It’s an uneven episode that attempts to discuss terrorism but is certainly imperfect–much like its subject matter.
Favorite Scenes: Maybe the most interesting discussion takes place about halfway through the episode, in a conversation between Crusher and Finn. She is treating the dying and discussing his methods, and he calls her a naive idealist. She responds saying she’s from an ideal culture where there’s no need for “your kind of violence.” Finn then shoots back he knows some Earth history and compares himself to George Washington in their own version of a Revolutionary War:
Crusher: Washington was a military general, not a terrorist.
Finn: The difference between generals and terrorists, doctor, is only the difference between winners and losers. You win, you’re called a general. You lose–
Crusher: You are killing innocent people! Can’t you see the immorality of what you’re doing? Or have you killed so much you’ve become blind to it?
Finn: How much innocent blood has been spilled for the cause of freedom in the history of your Federation, doctor? How many good and noble societies have bombed civilians in war? Have wiped out whole cities? And now that you enjoy the comfort that has come from their battles, their killing, you frown on my immorality?! I’m willing to die for my freedom, doctor. And in the finest tradition of your own great civilization, I’m willing to kill for it too.
Use of Cast/Characters: Picard isn’t the focus of this episode, and his primary job seems to do “captain” things. He isn’t particularly interesting until the end, when he punches the crap out of Finn, and once captured tries to wake Beverly (and maybe the audience) up to the toll that Finn’s actions have taken. Riker helps out the security forces look for Beverly, and then take part in the strike force so at least he’s involved. Data, as is becoming the norm, is asking about the moral implications of things. Geordi ends up saving the Enterprise which is cool. This episode has a lot of Dr. Crusher in it, which we haven’t seen a lot of. Gates said it took a while before she felt the show was back on track with her character, and this episode is proof that they are getting a bit closer. She acts like more than a generic doctor here, which is nice. Wesley actually does something here, figuring out the dimensional shift and locating the terrorists. Even Worf is active, fighting off the separatists and participating in the strike force to take Bev and Picard back. Deanna has the least to do, but she has a few lines herself. One good thing I’ll say about this episode is that overall the entire cast does get used. The guest stars, Kerrie Keane and Richard Cox as Devos and Finn are serviceable but don’t stand out. Devos is written as a hard-edged character but the actress isn’t that convincing IMO, and the same goes for Finn.
Blu Ray Version: The added detail here allowed me to see something I’d previously missed. While these aliens look exactly like us, all the males have a white stripe running through their hair. But if you look at the womens’ hair, particularly Devos’, you’ll see they have a dark stripe in their hair.
Nitpicks: The hair stripe is a nitpick. It’s probably one of those things that looked better on the page than on the screen. Thank goodness the strip isn’t down the middle or they would have looked like a bunch of skunks, and the women’s aren’t that noticeable.
Overall Impression: One thing I will give this episode credit for is carefully walking a line between the horrors that these terrorists inflict, and the desperation of a people who want to be free. This is another example of an episode that can provoke social policy debate, and where else on TV have you seen a show that can regularly do that? One of the wonders of TNG. There is some prescience at work here too–this episode came out in January of 1990, eleven years before 9/11, before terrorism has taken the global stage that is has. Having said that, I’ve never considered this an actual ‘good’ episode; it’s kind of stuck between being an American Revolution type episode where we root for what the separatists are fighting for and a stock ‘terrorism is bad’ episode. While I can’t say it’s actually enjoyable to watch, there’s more here in terms of social commentary than the person who is casually recalling this episode might suppose. I rate the episode 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: Let the kidnappings begin! We’re off to a roaring start with two in one episode. This was an episode that got taken away from the writer, Melinda Snodgrass. She wanted it to have parallels to the American Revolution but instead the producers made it more about Northern Ireland:
I wanted it with Picard as Cornwallis and the Romulans would have been the French, who were in our revolution, trying to break this planet away. Suddenly Picard realized he’s one of the oppressors. Instead, we do ‘Breakfast in Belfast,’ where our people decide they’re going to go off to Northern Ireland.
For those interested, this episode marks the first of the slightly darker blue carpeting on the main bridge that is used for the rest of the show. Believe it or not, as a result the Irish subtext here this episode was shown during the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival in Belfast! Ron Moore, Brannon Braga and Michael Piller expressed unhappiness with this episode, and we can only guess as to how good it could have been had Melinda gotten to air the version of the episode she actually wrote.
Missable/Unmissable? Definitely missable, but not terrible. The next episode, however, is absolutely unmissable.