Friday, September 11, 2009

Star Trek: The Next Generation--"The Enemy"

It is an unintended stroke of good fortune “The Enemy” happened to come up on the eighth anniversary of 9/11. It inherent theme is highly relevant to remembrances of the day. The episode is all about how you perceive your enemy on the large and small scale.

The Enterprise receives a distress call from a ship in the Neutral Zone. Picard decides to set aside diplomatic policy for humanitarian reasons and rescue the ship. Before he can, the ship crashes on a planet ravaged by electromagnetic storms. He sends down an away team to search for survivors. The team discovers the ship was piloted by Romulons.

There is a small confrontation, but the only Romulon in good enough shape to offer any resistance can only muster an ineffective attack. Riker, leading the away team, decides to beam the wounded Romulon back with them. Due to the electromagnetic interference, La Forge gets left behind. In accordance with his customary bad luck, he is injured in a fall and damages his VISOR only to find himself face to face with another stranded Romulon.

On board the Enterprise, the other Romulon is dying. He requires a blood transfusion which Worf could give, but he refuses because Klingons and Romulons are mortal enemies. If the roles were reversed, the Romulon would surely let Worf die. Worf refuses even after Picard explains the difficulties it would cause for a Romulon to die on a Federation ship.

Thus sets up the conflict on the small and large scale. La Forge and the Romulon Boscha have to cooperate with one another in order to survive until the electromagnetic storm blows over. They both have misconceptions about one another because of propaganda, but also true cultural differences. Boscha canot comprehend why la forge’s parents allowed him to live knowing he was blind. Yet Boscha overcomes his prejudice in order to be la Forge’s eyes when they need to configure a signaling device.

On the other hand, you have the big picture. Worf cannot overcome his natural animosity for Romulons in general even to avert a major incident which might even lead to war. It is understandable when you realize his parents were killed by Romulons, but you still have to pause at the inherent hatred behind his motivation. Yes, Romulons killed his parents, but this Romulon had nothing to do with it. A plot convenience lets Worf off the hook--the Romulon dies before ay transfusion can occur anyway--but his lack of individual compassion is notable, particularly in contrast to La forge and Boscha working together at the same time elsewhere.

Chalk that up to the Trek constant that humans are always superior in their morality. Boschia sees (no pun intended) no reason the blind La Forge should ever have been allowed to live, yet he cooperates with him in order to stay alive. At no point does he ever come to appreciate La Forge’s inherent vale, however. Even in the end, he only notes he was never harmed by anyone from Starfleet. But Worf, a good guy, but still an alien, cannot overcome his hatred in order to help a Romulon he is more or less trapped with, although not as literally as La Forge. Worf still has some major schooling in humanity left to do.

The assertion that humans are always superior to aliens in all things moral is the only shortcoming of “The Enemy.” it is the first episode in which we get to see how Tng would shine under Michael Piller as opposed to just limping along under Maurice Hurlery. The episode also introduces Tomalok, the Romulon commander. He is played by the late, great Andreas Katsulas, who I appreciate moreas G’Kar from Babylon 5, but nevertheless Tomalok is a great character.

What I really liked about “The Enemy” is how it dealt with what it means to be enemies, both philosophically and militarily, when the time comes you need each other. In spite of the La forge/Worf contrast, there was not much of the usual Trek preaching on the issue. Every side provoked the other in some manner by everything from invading each other’s space to refusing aid and threatening to attack just by virtue of it being an us v. them scenario in with no other motivations. It shows what a mire a conflict between people can be when there is no objective other than the annihilation of each other.

That theme will be brought up again a couple episodes hence, so it is best to wait until then. But this was a fine start on the theme.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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