Written by Burton Armus, Wanda M. Haight, Gregory Amos, Leonard Mlodinow, and Scott Rubenstein
Directed by Rob Bowman
The Enterprise journeys to Starbase 179 where it will receive a Benzite Officer as part of the Federation’s “Officer Exchange Program.” Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) cleverly manages to get Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) to volunteer to exchange into a Klingon vessel, the Pagh.
What makes this all so interesting is not just the fascinating look we get into the Klingon culture (and I love just about anything with the Klingons on Star Trek), but we also see how the command structure works differently on different ships.
The Benzite’s name is Mendon. His chain of command is much different than that of the Enterprise and the adjustment is hard on him. Instead of reporting directly to his superior, Worf (Michael Dorn), Mendon tries to pitch his efficiency ideas and suggestions directly to Captain Picard. It creates somewhat of a strain on the bridge, and I would have thought that the bridge officers would have known enough to be a bit more tolerant of the officers participating in the program.
Mendon detects a bit of alien bacteria on the Klingon vessels as they are transferring Riker over to serve. He does not alert anyone as on a Benzite vessel they do not present a problem to their Captain until it has been thoroughly researched and a solution found. This will come back to haunt them later on.
Riker began learning about the Klingons from Worf (who is a Klingon himself – the only one serving in Starfleet) before he left on this assignment. He also sampled various Klingon foods in a hilarious scene. Once aboard the Pagh, he must deal with the suspicion of his crewmates and Captain Kargan (portrayed by Christopher Collins) as well as the threat of assassination if his loyalty is questioned. This is part of the Klingon culture – they are expected to remove an incompetent officer in that manner.
Riker’s fish out of water story is works very well except for the part where he manages to overpower his fellow Klingon officer. Had he managed to be more clever than strong, the story would have been flawless. Everything we know – and will know – about Klingons is that they are much stronger than humans, so this part doesn’t seem realistic.
Riker’s integration into the Klingon crew is believable, as they want to satisfy their curiosity about humans but still maintain their suspicions about him. He fits in well because of the way he handles and carries himself. These scenes are wonderfully done and credit should be given to Frakes for a wonderful performance.
The Pagh soon finds the bacteria eating away at its hull and blames the Enterprise for putting it there. They sensed Mendon’s intensive scan of that area of the hull. The Pagh prepares to attack the Enterprise, believing the Federation is testing a new weapon this way. Though it would seem illogical for the much smaller Klingon ship to believe it can defeat the Enterprise, the Klingons feel that it’s noble to die in battle and don’t care.
The suspense builds nicely – not that I thought the Enterprise would be destroyed or Riker would die with the Klingons, but how would he get out of this? Riker’s solution is clever the way he should have been in the beginning. Rather than overpowering the Captain and crew, he alters the situation to fit his advantage.
All in all, this is a very well done episode. The two stories intertwine believably and show the differences well. The Klingon culture is explored more in depth here as we learn more about them. Riker’s scenes aboard the Pagh are a lot of fun as well as being tense.
I enjoyed the dialogue between Picard and Riker as Picard baits him into volunteering to serve on the Klingon vessel. The writing there is flawless – the conversation between the two men is one I could easily see happening and flows thanks to the terrific work of the two actors.
This is a wonderful episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation with only a few minor flaws. Some of my favorite episodes require a more in-depth knowledge of the Star Trek universe. However, if anyone wants to see why I am such a fan of Star Trek, I would point them to episodes like this.
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