ST:TNG Treadmill Review #31: Allegiance

Season 3 Episode 18
Original airdate: March 24, 1990

Netflix Synopsis

Capt. Picard is kidnapped and held with three different aliens, while an impostor takes his place aboard the Enterprise.

My Brief Review

At first I was inclined to skip this episode; for some reason the synopsis didn’t appeal to me. But I’m glad I didn’t, because this is another classic episode that I remember well from the original airing.

Picard and three other species are imprisoned in a strange room. They are four archetypes, and their differences create conflict as they try to find an escape. This part of the story has a very strong Twilight Zone vibe for me, specifically the legendary episode “Five Characters in Search of an Exit.” If this were the entire story it would be a great episode, but there’s another half…

The real Picard has been replaced with an exact replica. Well… almost an exact replica. He has Picard’s knowledge, but his behavior is… well, just a bit off. In ways that at first merely confuse but ultimately nearly kill the entire crew.

Will Riker orchestrate a mutiny to save the Enterprise? You’ll have to watch to find out. I’ll just say it was a weird feeling to watch this episode literally at the very hour that the House of Representatives is debating the second impeachment of Donald Trump.

Memorable Moment

There are plenty of memorable moments in this episode, but definitely the most lasting image for me is of Picard first discovering the “food” being offered in the prison… basically a red translucent hockey puck.

Crew Rando

I found myself strangely aware of all of the random people just roaming the halls on the Enterprise in this episode. In particular, I found it odd that so many people would just be passing by the quarters of whichever officer hosts the poker games. But guess what… “backflip master” Crewman Martinez once again makes an appearance, apparently… I still haven’t actually figured out who he is.

Distance Rating: 4K

IMDb score: a shockingly low 7.5/10

ST:TNG Treadmill Review #30: Sins of the Father

Sins of the Father
Season 3 Episode 17
Original airdate: March 17, 1990

Netflix Synopsis

A Klingon commander boards the Enterprise in an officer exchange program initiated by Starfleet, much to the chagrin of the crew.

My Brief Review

Uh… wow. Whoever wrote that synopsis (which is identical on IMDb) clearly only watched the first few minutes of this episode, as “the chagrin of the crew” is only relevant for the first couple of scenes.

This is a classic episode, and one of the first in which we really get a glimpse of the Klingon empire. That Klingon commander who comes aboard is really Worf’s brother Kurn, come to find Worf to go to the High Council and challenge the posthumous ruling that has labeled their father a traitor and brought dishonor to the family.

This all, of course, is a cover-up, and Worf along with his “cha’DIch” (Captain Picard) means to get to the bottom of it!

This is the beginning of a story that will come back in future episodes.

Memorable Moment

Picard, in his cha’DIch duties, seeks out the old woman Kahlest, who was Worf’s nurse and was believed to be dead, but has in fact been in hiding. After failing to convince her to testify on Worf’s behalf, Picard is jumped by three Klingons and holds his own… until he doesn’t. Kahlest stabs one of them to save Picard, and agrees to testify.

Crew Rando

“Transporter Technician” — who manages to get a credit, while the ever-present Crewmen Nelson and Martinez once again do not!

Distance Rating: 6K

IMDb score: 8.2/10

ST:TNG Treadmill Reviews #28 and #29: Yesterday’s Enterprise and The Offspring

I didn’t have time to write my review after finishing Yesterday’s Enterprise… uh… yesterday, so I’m combining both… uh… yesterday’s review and today’s into one here. If you’re looking closely, you may notice also that I’ve skipped S3E14, A Matter of Perspective. I haven’t been skipping many episodes in season 3, but this synopsis was just too much for me: “The widow of respected scientist Dr. Nel Apgar accuses Riker of seducing her and killing her husband.”


Yesterday’s Enterprise
Season 3 Episode 15
Original airdate: February 17, 1990

Netflix Synopsis

When the long-lost Enterprise C enters the Enterprise D’s time and space continuum, an alternate history places the crew at war with the Klingons.

My Brief Review

Oh yes! I love episodes involving time travel and alternate timelines. This one is most excellent, right from the disorienting beginning — even after having read this synopsis. Enterprise encounters a strange space anomaly, and when a Federation starship emerges from it, we see a very different looking bridge, with Picard and the rest of the crew in their usual spots… except Worf is gone and Tasha Yar is back at her comms post.

Curious. Immediately we assume the arriving ship is coming from an alternate timeline. But soon we realize that we haven’t cut to the other ship — that ship’s appearance through the anomaly has radically transformed “our” Enterprise.

That other ship is the Enterprise C, predecessor of Picard’s Enterprise, having traveled forward 22 years, which also changed history to the extent that the Federation and Klingons have been at war for over two decades, and things are not looking good.

I won’t spoil any more details, since I think this one is worth seeing. (Don’t let my distance rating fool you… I just wasn’t up for much of a run yesterday. This is a great episode.)

Memorable Moment

Say no more, but it’s when Guinan first sees Tasha Yar.

Crew Rando

There are plenty of randos in this one, but I need to focus on Lt. Richard Castillo, a bridge officer from the Enterprise C, played by none other than Christopher “I eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast” McDonald. (I’m sure he’s known for many things but, for better or worse, I’ll always remember him as the rival in Happy Gilmore.)

Distance Rating: 4K

IMDb score: 9.2/10


The Offspring
Season 3 Episode 16
Original airdate: March 10, 1990

Netflix Synopsis

Hoping to further his creator’s work and perpetuate his species, Data creates an android named Lal.

My Brief Review

This is one of the most memorable episodes, for me, from 30 years ago. Not necessarily because it’s one of the best episodes, although it’s good, but mostly because it’s just… well, memorable.

Data creates an android daughter named Lal. She learns quickly, and soon begins to use contractions — something Data, incomprehensibly, is incapable of — and eventually, when threatened with separation from Data by a villainous admiral who wants to take her away to develop in a controlled environment, she learns to feel emotion. Unfortunately, that emotion is fear, and it short-circuits her positronic brain, killing her. Not without the villainous admiral trying to help Data save her first, and not without a goodbye moment with Data that is sure to trigger an emotional response in all but the most hardened androids and villainous admirals watching.

Two big problems with this episode: First, it’s a bit hard to take seriously in 2021, given that our century’s development in artificial intelligence have already made Lal — and Data — seem ludicrously simplistic in some ways, while in others they are still highly improbable. (Much like the replicator and transporter technologies the show relies on so much.) And second, while the story of Lal developing emotion and it destroying her is engaging and tragic, it’s also hard to overlook the fact that the only reason she had that extreme response was because the admiral was trying to take her away. So it’s hard to be too convinced by his emotional recounting of the situation to Troi and Riker. He never acknowledges that, despite is efforts to save Lal, it’s still his fault she died.

One more thing. A moment early on, that feels… well, just awkward I guess, watching in 2021, is the scene before Lal has chosen her gender and species. Her conversation with Data and Troi is simultaneously rather progressive in that they discuss how Lal gets to choose a gender identity, and dated in its complete lack of awareness of non-binary and gender nonconforming identities. This is always a problem with Star Trek… it’s set hundreds of years in the future, but many things about it become dated within a few decades.

Memorable Moment

Lal, working in Ten-Forward with Guinan so she has an opportunity to observe human behavior, sees a couple flirting in the corner, and when they kiss, yells out, “HE’S BITING THAT FEMALE!”

Crew Rando

Whoever was sitting at Data’s station before he came to the bridge right at the end. shrug

Distance Rating: 3K

IMDb score: 8.5/10

ST:TNG Treadmill Review #27: Deja Q

Deja Q
Season 3 Episode 13
Original airdate: February 3, 1990

Netflix Synopsis

Much to Capt. Picard’s displeasure, Q reappears on the Enterprise claiming to have been ejected from the Q Continuum and stripped of his powers.

My Brief Review

Ah, a bit of Q-based comic relief after some heavy episodes. Once again I’m forced to think of current events, as “Q” is presently more strongly associated with a ludicrous online conspiracy theory (one that was involved in nearly taking down the federal government this week) than with John de Lancie’s love-to-hate-him omniscient immortal.

I have mixed feelings about Q. The worst Q episodes make me pine for the Ferengi, but this is a pretty good one. Q actually has been stripped of his powers and turned into a mortal being — a human, per his request. And as he discovers the trials of mortality — fatigue, hunger, Guinan stabbing his hand with a fork — he begins to question why he chose to be human. The real reason, of course, was that he knew Picard was one of the few entities he’d encountered in the universe who might actually come to his aid when vengeful species hunted him down to retaliate for his transgressions. But ultimately Q realizes he’s a failure as a human, and in one final act, with a whiff of self-sacrifice, the Continuum welcomes him back, and he uses his restored powers to… uh… bring a mariachi band onto the Enterprise bridge, save a planet from destruction and… oh yeah…

Memorable Moment

Q gives Data the gift of laughter. It’s in moments of emotive expression that I really feel Brent Spiner is best suited for the role of an unfeeling android.

Crew Rando

Ensign Bennett! For the first time in a while, we have an uncredited crew rando who actually has a name! I’m not sure if he’s the curiously old character at the helm in the final scene, or one of the other passing randos earlier. There’s also a crewman guarding the brig who, curiously, just nods faintly in the captain’s direction as Picard enters the room, without even standing up. Shouldn’t a crewman stand at attention in the captain’s presence??

Distance Rating: 4K

IMDb score: 8.6/10

ST:TNG Treadmill Review #26: The High Ground

The High Ground
Season 3 Episode 12
Original airdate: January 27, 1990

Netflix Synopsis

While visiting a planet under civil war, Dr. Crusher is taken hostage by an opposing faction of the planet’s ruling government.

My Brief Review

First, my copy editor instincts are kicking in and I desperately want to rewrite this poorly structured synopsis (which is word-for-word identical to what’s on IMDb). It should read “While visiting a planet under civil war, Dr. Crusher is taken hostage by a faction opposing the planet’s ruling government.”

Second, I’ll just mention that I watched this last night but didn’t have time to write the review until this morning.

OK, with that cleared up… whew. Part of why I’m immersing myself in ST:TNG this winter and writing these blog posts is to distract myself from reality. But strangely it always seems that an episode focused on a virus seems to appear whenever the COVID situation flares up, and now this episode, which I watched just one day after a mob of delusional right-wing revolutionary cosplayers tried to overthrow the US Congress.

So just bear in mind that I’m seeing the episode through this lens.

After the faction takes Picard as well, he perceives Dr. Crusher’s sympathy towards her captors as a case of Stockholm Syndrome, whereas the situation is actually more complex. But the important thing to remember is that the situation in this episode has no analog to what’s happening right now in the U.S. because the insurrectionists here are not being repressed by their government. They’ve been lied to and brainwashed and lured into a fantasy world of ludicrous conspiracy theories in social media echo chambers. They are not in a righteous fight for justice. They’re, at best, pawns of a shrinking minority political party using them to desperately cling to unearned power.

Anyway, where were we? Ah yes…

Maybe this episode is relevant to our times, after all. At the very least, it made it much easier for me to see the appropriateness of calling the Capitol mob “terrorists.”

Speaking of which…

Any time I see something in Star Trek that refers to events in the first half of the 21st century, I wonder, did they really think we wouldn’t still be watching the show when that time came? Or did they hope we would be watching and would have a reaction to moments like this?

The strange thing is, after the peace in Northern Ireland (just a few years after this episode originally aired), and the growth of the E.U. through most of the past couple of decades, I would have looked at this and scoffed. But right now? Well… with Brexit a reality, and the giant unresolved question of the Irish border, it’s not outside of the realm of possibility that events could unfold over this decade that would cause Northern Ireland to split from the U.K. and join the Republic of Ireland. (I’m no expert on the finer details of this immensely complicated situation… just acknowledging the fact that the “Irish Unification of 2024” doesn’t sound as nonsensical right now as it would have at any other time in the past quarter century.)

Now where were we? Ah yes, a Star Trek episode. I thought this episode was reasonably good. Kyril Finn, the leader of the faction (played by Richard Cox), with his flowing dark mane and piercing gaze, looked to me like a combination of Adam Driver and Roland Orzabal from Tears for Fears, with just a hint of both Jerry Seinfeld and Welcome Back, Kotter-era John Travolta. His scenes with Dr. Crusher were probably the best parts of the episode, where once again we’re confronted with the moral ambiguities inherent in all social conflicts — a running theme of this season.

There were some interesting technology and science concepts in the episode, centering around a special dimension-shifting device the faction used to travel undetected from place to place. How, exactly, it different from the transporter was not entirely clear. But if I understood it correctly, it actually seemed a lot more plausible than the transporter. Unfortunately it caused severe damage to people’s DNA each time it was used. Wesley Crusher used his big brain to figure out how to detect a signature left behind by the device, allowing the Enterprise crew to track down the power source and rescue Crusher and Picard. And once again, as in the immediately preceding episode, Enterprise leaves the leadership of an unaffiliated planet in a tough spot where they must learn to resolve their internal conflicts before gaining acceptance by the “ideal society” (Dr. Crusher’s words, not mine) of the Federation.

As a final note, I’ll mention that, once again, I am inclined to see parallels between an episode and today’s current events, but clearly in the context of its time this was more of a direct commentary on the Troubles in Northern Ireland, or the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

Memorable Moment

Probably Data’s multiple conversations with Picard, which basically served as narrative exposition of the moral dilemmas presented in the episode, in case their significance wasn’t obvious.

Crew Rando

OK, so, she’s so anonymous that she’s not even listed in the uncredited cast list on IMDb, but there’s an ensign sitting at Data’s station on the bridge when he returns to the bridge. She’s staring straight ahead, stone-faced, and then silently gets up and leaves (as she’s supposed to) the minute he shows up. She looks to me a bit like Ensign Gomez, but I would think she’d have been identified. So, who knows… that’s why she’s a rando!

Distance Rating: 5K

IMDb score: 6.8/10