Season One - TNG

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Conspiracy

Written by Tracy Torme, Robert Sabaroff, Hans Beimler, Richard Manning, and Hannah Louise Shearer
Directed by Cliff Bole

If you go back to my review of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Coming of Age, you’ll notice I mention that the story there about Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Admiral Quinn (Ward Costello) is actually the first part of a two-parter. Conspiracy is the conclusion of that two-parter.

What is also notable about Conspiracy is that there is a scene near the end which has been deleted from all of the broadcasts other than the first viewing. This is because at the time it was deemed too violent and too graphic. Looking at it now from a different perspective, I can understand to a certain point. But seeing what has graced our television sets over the past few years, I am also of the opinion that this particular scene should be added back in.

The Enterprise is en route to the planet Pacifica when a transmission for the Captain’s eyes only is received. Picard is asked to meet with Captain Walker Keel (Jonathan Farwell), an old friend, on the planet Dytalix B. Captain Keel informs Picard that while the Enterprise has been virtually out-of-contact while patrolling the Outer Rim, some strange things have been happening at Starfleet.

At first Picard is skeptical, although he has the warnings from Admiral Quinn he heard during Coming of Age in the back of his mind. That skepticism soon fades when shortly after their meeting, the Enterprise locates debris from Keel’s ship, the Horatio. It was completely destroyed and all but pulverized into small, virtually unrecognizable pieces.

Faced with a situation he can no longer ignore, Picard brings the Enterprise back to Earth. While making the journey, he instructs the android Data to look through recent Starfleet orders to see if there is a pattern of irregularity. Since Data can process the information at a much higher rate than humans, he can notice the pattern much faster.

And a pattern does emerge of a reshuffling of command of starbases and planets along a certain trajectory from Earth. After a short conversation with Quinn who attempts to reassure Picard that he was only misunderstood on his earlier warning, the episode moves into a fantastic climax which results in the graphic scene.

There is good acting all around in this episode. Patrick Stewart gets the brunt of it, but Jonathan Frakes does excellently as Riker in a scene near the end that kept me guessing the first time I saw it. We also see some character development on the relationship between Picard and Dr. Crusher (Gate McFadden) as it is noted that Captain Keel was part of the trio of friends which included Picard and her late husband.

What this episode has that has been missing from the first season is some great action, mostly in the second half. We see the aged Admiral beat the ever-living you-know-what out of the Enterprise crew, including the super-strong Klingon, Worf (Michael Dorn).

There is great writing, a compelling story, and great action. You would think this episode is perfect, wouldn’t you?

I have some quibbles with the ending in general. To begin with, I felt it wound up too fast and to conveniently. The story would have felt more true to form if there had been some deeper ramifications among the Starfleet and Federation leaders from this Conspiracy, but everything winds up almost with a “they lived happily ever after” tone.

Notice I said “almost”. The real problem with Conspiracy comes when you look at it from the perspective of seven complete seasons and three movies and realize they left it open to follow up on this story in the future and never did. It is a shame that after devoting two episodes to building up this story and writing an ending that screamed for this subject to be revisited in the future, and then drop it.

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2 replies »

  1. Spot on.

    About that ending: I, too, watched each of the six seasons that followed Season One of TNG for a follow-up, and didn’t find one. It’s as though Rick Berman (the only big showrunner that stayed on throughout the seven-year run) hit his head on a desktop while taking a power nap and developed “Conspiracy Amnesia.”

    One could try to use mental calisthenics and posit that the invaders were allies of the Borg, but those cyborgs don’t make allies, they assimilate species. (There was one species that they couldn’t subjugate, but those creatures were seen only on Star Trek: Voyager.)

    Chalk this faux pas to the turmoil behind-the-scenes caused by the tug-of-war between the writer’s room and Gene Roddenberry (and his lawyer, Leonard Murray Maizlish). Heavy personnel turnover, backstage drama, and Roddenberry’s dislike of overt continuity do not make fertile ground for catching details such as this.

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  2. Picard is actually kinda sorta picking up on this, albeit a little differently. That’s a shame in a way. I don’t want to give anything away – I don’t think you’ve seen it if I’m correct. They could have built on this or tied it in.

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