Written by Herbert Wright, Larry Forrester, and Tracy Torme
Directed by Rob Bowman
Here is an episode that I find supports a familiar axiom many Trekkers have: a bad Star Trek episode is still better than almost anything else.
There were so many conflicts in the storyline of this episode, and yet the episode works tremendously well – especially for the first season. Has this episode been filmed a year or two later, I think it would’ve been one of the great The Next Generation episodes.
The Enterprise arranges to meet with a Ferengi vessel for unknown reasons. Since we were told back in Episode #7 The Last Outpost that the Ferengi are an unfamiliar race to the Federation, it was refreshing to see them actually written that way during The Battle. Too often Trek writers change history to suit themselves, but the unfamiliarity between the two races comes across very good here.
The Ferengi “captain”, DaiMon Bok (portrayed by Frank Corsentino), delivers a derelict Starfleet vessel to the Enterprise. This turns out to be a vessel in which Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) gained great notoriety for saving his crew with what becomes known as “the Picard maneuver”. Picard begins to experience headaches and flashbacks to the battle. His own previous accounts of the battle are now in conflict with the logs of the Stargazer.
DaiMon Bok is the one forcing Picard to live the battle of nine years ago over and over, for it was his son commanding the ship which attacked the Stargazer and was destroyed by Picard.
The storyline seemed to be changed during the filming. In the beginning, when DaiMon Bok is acknowledging him as the Hero of Maxi, Picard seems to almost not know what he is talking about. It is as if he doesn’t recall what he is talking about at all. It is brushed off a bit by him saying, “I never heard it referred to that before.” The battle most definitely did take place in the Maxi star system, so at the very least – since this battle is taught in Starfleet Academy – the mention of Maxi should’ve registered more with Picard when first mentioned.
When Picard is describing the battle to his crew, several times he tries to downplay his role as a hero by saying he did “what any good helmsman would do.” Later on when we see him reliving the battle, Picard seems to be the Captain of the vessel.
However, the story is good, despite the rather blatant flaws. Patrick Stewart’s portrayal of Picard here lays the groundwork for the Picard we will see later on in the series assimilated by The Borg. In fact, this whole episode seems to be a precursor to what will happen later on. We see the way the crew reacts here and it will be very similar in the future.
Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) handles the First Officer taking over command very well and doesn’t seem weak or helpless. The android Data (Brent Spiner) has a few funny straight-man lines, but for the most part, does not come off as comic relief. Instead, he seems to function as a true crew member. Ship’s Counselor Deanna Troi’s (Marina Sirtis) lines were more than “I feel pain.” The only other complaint I have is that Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) – the teenager – is once again saving the day by figuring out where the signal which is manipulating Picard’s mind is coming from.
Another thing I found distracting was the soundtrack to this particular episode. It stuck out to me as sounding like it came from one of those 70’s police shows like Starsky & Hutch or S.W.A.T. This is particularly unusual because I have always found that the soundtracks to any Star Trek shows are superb.
While there is most definitely room for improvement, this is one of the better first-season episodes.