Sunday, September 6, 2009

Star Trek: The Next Generation--"The Ensigns of Command"

I am more often than not a fan of data-centric episodes. This one is no different. It was written by Melinda Snodgrass, who is back to true form now that Maurice Hurley is not there to inject drunken Irish clones into the mix. There is no cheerleading oratorio rights, either. But there is more exploration of the status of data’s soul. Here Data learns to be more creative, both subtly in his violin playing, and on a broader scale by going against protocol in order to save the lives of doomed colonists.

Before getting into the story, this is the first episode in which we learn Data plays the violin. He does so perfectly, of course, but has no sense of style or emotion to go along with it. Picard remarks to him after listening to at the conclusion that his combination of two styles of playing is a new innovation. He does have it within him to be creative. Data agrees, considering the changes he had to make in his approach to his mission.

The Enterprise is contacted by a territorial race of aliens known as the Sheliak. They claim to have discovered a Federation colony on one of their planets and demand it be removed within four days. The planet is surrounded by lethal radiation no human could have survived, but the ship goes searching anyway. The radiation prevents the transporter from working, so they send Data down in a shuttlecraft since the radiation will not affect him.

He find over 15,000 colonists who are the descendants of a ship‘s crew that crashed 92 years ago. Somehow, their great-grandparents built up an immunity to the radiation. Worse yet, they have a nice little set up here and do not want to leave. They have a stubborn leader named Gosh even (Yes, I know.) who convinces them they have put too much blood, sweat, and tears into building their lives here to give it up. Data is stymied because he really does not know how to deal with people motivated by high emotion.

He meets up with a girl named Ardrian. She offers to help, mostly because she has developed a quick crush on him. Ardrian plants one on him because she believes he needs the emotional support. That is a television thing, of course. Pretty girls do not randomly smooch crestfallen guys, but it is amusing to note data is just as baffled by it as he is the colonists apparent willingness to fight a hopeless battle for the sake of material possessions. It changes the perspective. Whereas Data looked somewhat lost while dealing with the colonists, now we see it is innocence that is his problem.

He fixes that by demonstrating the power of his phaser in destroying the town aqueduct. Certainly a shocking move, but it works. The colonists may like their home, but like like there rear ends even more. They opt to leave.

Ah, here is the trouble. It will take at least three weeks to remove all the colonists by shuttle. The Sheliak have only given them four days. They consider humans a lower life form, so they quite rudely refuse to negotiate. Kind of like Democrats. Picard and company pour over a 1,400 page treaty in order to find a loophole. A 1,4000 page treaty? It is even worse than I thought. They are Clinton Democrats.

Just by chance, Picard discovers a provision for third party arbitration in disputes between the Federation and the Sheliak. Picard chooses the Grizzelas, who will be in their hibernation period for another six months. (Grizzelas? Grizzlies? Hibernating? Get it? I think some of these names were created by someone not smarter than the average bear.) the Sheliak fumble around as Picard puts the shoe on the other foot by rudely making them wait. In the end, they agree to the three week extension in order to avoid the six month wait.

Data plants one on Ardrain before he leaves because he can tell she is not happy he has no romantic feelings towards her. If only she had gotten him drunk. It worked for Tasha Yar. Data’s intuition about how to deal with people is going, but he can still bean awfully cold fish.

You have to ignore a few logical problems, such as the radiation being irrelevant even thought it is supposedly deadly and the Sheliak missing the fact a colony has been sitting on one of their planets for nearly a century, but “The Ensigns of Command” is a good episode if you do not dwell on those points. Data takes some steps forward towards becoming a richer character, but it some ways, I think he regresses some from “Pen Pals.” He dies not get as attached to his new friend hereas he did there. Odd, considering Snodgrass wrote both episode.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

No comments:

Post a Comment