Sunday, August 30, 2009

Star Trek: The Next Generation--"Samaritan Snare"

You have to imagine the Borg would be a hard act to follow for a villain. Relentless cyborgs destroying entire civilizations without the slightest hint of emotion is the stuff of sweat drenched nightmares. So what does TNG give us as the follow up adversary? The Pakleds on The Intergalactic Short Bus. Brace yourself. It does not get much worse than this.

Thankfully, the Pakleds are not the only story here. They do not enter the picture until partway through the first act. What we get before their unfortunate debut is the revelation Picard has an artificial heart which needs to be replaced. Perhaps that explains why he is such a cold fish. Pulaski can perform the surgery, but Picard opts to travel to a starbase instead out of, near as I can tell, a sense of vanity. He does not want anyone serving under hi to see his innards. Wesley has to go to the starbase for more academic testing, so the two are stuck together on a shuttlecraft for twelve hours round trip.

Picard makes no secret he hates every minute by taking his frustration out on Wesley. His attitude brings back harsh memories of his first season demeanor when he hated everyone and everything, but especially kids. At one point when wesley tries to strike up a conversation, Picard slams his book shut and stomps to the back of the shuttle to get away from him.

I can understand Picard’s frustration with undergoing risky surgery, but in my young adult life, I have had a double hip replacement, half my colon removed to repair a rupture, and eye surgery that caused me to lose sight in one eye. Never did I act like such a jerk before going under the knife at any point. I would think a guy like Picard would be even more stoic considering his life experiences. Oddly enough, no.

He does eventually warm up and the two have a conversation over lunch. It is an understandably awkward talk. They have a strange relationship. Wesley looks to Picard as a father figure, but with the mixed emotion of him also being the man responsible for his real father’s death. Picard hates kids, yet feels some obligation to look after Wesley in the same manner military men will “adopt’ the family of a fallen comrade.

What is interesting is Picard humanizes himself by talking about his youthful follies and the bar fight that got him stabbed in the back. He notes that he lookeddown at the blade that went through his heart and laughed, but he does not know why. We will see why in a few seasons when “Tapestry” rolls around. The scenes would have been much better if Wesley were not such a goofy, arrogant teen about having his life under control.

I cannot talk more about the Picard story until I deal with the pakleds. Oh, mercy.

The Enterprise answers a distress call from a group of aliens called the Pakleds. Their ship is broken. It will not go so they can look for things that make them go. That is a more intelligent assessment of their situation than anything they say from here on out. LaForge offers to go overandfix their ships since he does not believe they can follow directions. For whatever reason, riker decides to let him go over alone. They subsequently kidnap LaForge, raising some advanced shields to prevent him from being beamed out.

The worst part about the situation is the Enterprise is completely stymied. I would not be so bothered by this if they had been outfoxed by a more primitive people. That might even make a good twist. But these Pakleds are idiots. It is impossible to believe they can operate their own ship. Indeed, the writers try to get around this by saying they have stolen everything they have gotten…from the Klingons and the Romulans. I cannot say that is a more plausible explanation.

Meanwhile, Picard is under the knife, surrounded by surgeons dressed in bright crimson outfits. Because nothing puts you at ease quite like being overseen by a satanic cult with scalpels. The surgery is not going well--presumably not because t is cursed by Satan, but you never know--and Pulaski is needed in order for Picard to survive.

So now we have ticking clock to save LaForge and Picard. Picard needs a heart, the Pakleds need a brain, and you just know there isa lion out there somewhere in want of courage.

Riker and Gomez (Remember her from last episode? She was the clumsy ditz who spilled cocoa on Picard, so naturally she was place in charge of raising the shields before the Borg could resume their attack…while the Enterprise just sat there.) come up with a plan to trick the Pakleds into thinking they are going to be destroyed by a secret weapon. Lafarge catches the drift, but the Pakleds do not. Big surprise. They surrender LaForge I will Beth could have just told them their shoes were untied, then dropped the shields to beam out before they realized they were all wearing boots.

Pulaski saves Picard. He gets a standing ovation when he arrives back on the bridge. The look of contempt he has for the warmth and caring everyone has for him is priceless. The new heart might as well be a lump of coal.

I liked the Picard half of the story. The semi-bonding between him and Wesley was enjoyable enough to keep the episode from getting stuck with one star. Frankly, if it was just the Pakleds, one star would be generous. Even VOY never featured villains this dumb.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

No comments:

Post a Comment