Plot Synopsis: Captain Picard and three others are abducted and imprisoned by an unknown force and replaced by duplicates.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser is barely over two minutes but does exactly what teasers should, get us ready for what we can expect from an episode. Picard has just fallen asleep in his quarters, when an unknown monolith straight out of 2001: A Space Odyssey appears and scans him then transports him to an unknown room, and an imposter is placed on the Enterprise. Plot A is about Picard’s imprisonment, and B is how the Enterprise crew deals with the doppelganger. Alternatively, one could view these as components of the same plot. Picard has to deal with three other prisoners, seemingly with nothing in common, as they try to escape or at least make contact with their captors. The prison scenes are nice, and I like them, but for the experienced viewer they follow a rather predictable pattern of attempting to escape and then turning on each other. Plot B is a bit unorthodox but a bit more fun, with Picard acting increasingly odd and his crew being progressively weirded out by it. The plots resolve themselves with us learning what is going on and why Picard was kidnapped, in a rather competent fashion.
Favorite Scenes: A scene that makes the list for strangeness is Picard’s wooing, kissing and then dismissing of Beverly Crusher. It’s something to see. My other favorite scene here is “Picard” leading the crew in a drinking song. There is some satisfaction in the final scene, of the Enterprise crew capturing two of the same beings who first captured Picard. There are also some lines that are worth a chuckle. Early on, after Esoqq (who’s obviously a warrior) appears and calms down they make introductions:
Esoqq: My given name is Esoqq. It means fighter!
Kova Tholl: I’ll bet half the names in the Chalnoth language mean fighter.
Esoqq: Mizarians. Your names all mean surrender!
Use of Cast/Characters: This is a Picard episode, no question. He’s thrown into a tense situation with three others, all of varied backgrounds, and has to deal with all of them as well as try to escape. He solves the mystery himself and is the one responsible for getting everyone out of their ‘cell.’ Riker has to make a tough decision here, and we learn that he can stand up to Picard when he needs to, even taking command when it’s clear the safety of the ship is at risk. Doctor Crusher has a nice scene, and with this episode it’s clear that Crusher is back! She’s not just acting as she was written in the first half of the season–which is like Pulaski–but personal touches are finally clearly present again in the writing. Troi, Data, Worf, Wes, they all really have nothing to do in this episode. Stephen Markle as Kova Tholl is wonderful–he’s very good at portraying one of those guys people don’t really like to be around, because he’s a bit too in love with himself and doesn’t mind letting other people know what he thinks of them. I wish the actor had been in other episodes. Reiner Schone as Esoqq is convincing, but he didn’t have a lot of range to work with. Joycelyn O’Brien as Cadet Haro is also convincing and does a good job.
Blu Ray Version: Another great transfer, but nothing special otherwise.
Nitpicks: I’m not usually too picky about the score of an episode but the music here is pretty dated, particularly in the first half. Not a nitpick perhaps, but a careful viewing at 11:10 in the episode reveals a significant look by a character that gives a hint something is amiss with her, which becomes more pronounced at around 27:20. This is the second episode in a row where Troi is in the episode but nowhere to be seen on the bridge in her chair. Why?
Overall Impression: This episode and the next were written in a clear effort to give Picard more characterization, according to Michael Piller. Both episodes work for that purpose: here we see him out of the captain’s chair and having to rely on himself, and also acting increasingly out of character on the Enterprise. Both are pretty enjoyable to watch, and I’m never one to complain about more screen time for Patrick Stewart. Still, by season 3 standards this isn’t better than an average episode in my book. I enjoy watching it, there aren’t any major flaws in it–and sure I wondered who would win in a fight between Esoqq and your average Klingon–but it’s not a particularly memorable episode. I rate this episode 3 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: This is another episode in season 3 where someone gets kidnapped. A bit of my own opinion here, this episode contains maybe the only poker game scene that isn’t that memorable or good. This episode was nominated for an Emmy for Makeup for a Series. The Mintaka III reference Picard makes is an allusion to Who Watches the Watchers? from this season. The Offspring and this episode were deliberately done with relatively low budgets to balance out how much Yesterday’s Enterprise had cost. Winrich Kolbe, who directed dozens of different Star Trek episodes over the years reportedly named this episode as the favorite one he directed. It’s unexpected given that he also directed Darmok and All Good Things…, as well as some stellar episodes from DS9 and Voyager. Here’s what he says:
“I like “Allegiance” because I liked working with Patrick Stewart. He’s a very subtle actor. I remember talking to Patrick the first time he started playing the clone. I said, ‘I think I need more from you.’ He thought about it and then gave me more. As we rehearsed the scene, we looked at each other and knew he was giving me too much. So, we just pulled it back. Patrick is like Itzhak Perlman with a Stradivarius. You have to compare the Stradivarius to the Joe Schmuck violin. To the untrained eye, they’re no different. But they are different, very different. Patrick played the good guy and the bad guy so close at times, but it was different and it was right.“
Missable/Unmissable? It’s missable, but a pretty good watch. The next one is a bit of a step down.