Written by Maurice Hurley and Melinda M. Snodgrass
Directed by Rob Bowman
One thing the writers of Star Trek: The Next Generation managed to do right from the beginning of the series was to create a rich, diverse cast of recurring characters. In this episode, we get to see the interaction of two of them: Guinan, the bartender of Ten Forward Lounge; and Q.
Q is hard to describe. Portrayed with an acerbic wit and incredible depth by John de Lancie, he comes off like an omnipotent spoiled child of the galaxy. I never saw him as a real villain, but rather as an annoyance, oftentimes sending the crew of the Enterprise off on wild goose chases and putting them into crazy scenarios. Here, however, after watching seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, I came to a different opinion. I think in this episode, Q actually wants to help humanity by letting them know what they’re in for.
Q appears on the bridge of the Enterprise wanting to be a member of Captain Picard’s (Patrick Stewart) crew. He then has a heated confrontation with Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) which is very interesting as Guinan reveals what she knows of Q and the Q Continuum, indicating that Q has probably fallen out of favor with them. When Picard refuses to let him join the crew, Q retaliates by sending the Enterprise across the galaxy to a part never explored.
The Enterprise immediately encounters a new alien ship, shaped like a cube. And such is our introduction to The Borg.
In direct contradiction to what we are shown a few years down the road in the movie Star Trek: Generations, Guinan talks about her species’ encounter with The Borg and how they destroyed her people and scattered them a century ago. In Star Trek: Generations we are talking about a period of around 70 years. So much for consistency throughout the series…
The Borg transport onto the ship and begin combing the data banks. The Klingon Worf (Michael Dorn) manages to slay one of them before they adapt to his phaser. They ascertain that the Enterprise‘s defenses are inferior to theirs and demand the surrender of the ship.
Picard refuses and it is then that we see one of the greatest effects in the history of the show as The Borg cut away a piece of the saucer section of the Enterprise. The effect is hard to describe; it is as if I took an apple corer and cut out the core of the apple, sliding it out but leaving the remainder of the apple intact. It is truly amazing to see crew quarters – and crew members – being sliced out of the Enterprise.
A short battle between the two forces takes place which results in damage to both ships. Picard takes this opportunity to send an Away Team (landing party) to the Borg vessel to learn what he can. Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Worf, and the android Data (Brent Spiner) transport over and we get out first look inside the Borg Collective, where they do not work as individual minds but are all wired together as one mind. The effects are phenomenal.
Me, personally, I would have taken that opportunity to get the hell out of there, so I guess I wouldn’t have made a good starship captain. Once Picard realizes that the Borg ship is repairing itself, he decided to finally do what I would have done a long time ago. The problem is, by this time the Borg ship has rejuvenated enough to pursue the Enterprise.
Picard is forced to beg for Q’s help, and Q returns the ship to where it started. However, he does not undo the damage done or the crew lost.
The argument has been made in Trek circles that it is Q’s fault that the Borg know the humans exist. However, two points make it fairly clear that the Borg were on their way anyhow. While looking at the damage that has been done in the unexplored area of the galaxy when the Enterprise first arrives there, it is remarked that the damage pattern is the same as it was with the Romulan and Federation starbases along the edge of The Neutral Zone (an area of space separating the Romulans and the Federation into which neither are supposed to venture) raised in the last episode of the first season titled The Neutral Zone this would seem to indicate that the Borg were already on their way to this area – possibly using advance scout ships to test out defenses.
The other indication would be to take a look at the series Star Trek: Voyager. The character Seven of Nine is a former human child, turned Borg, turned back to be human (sort of). Even if the argument is made that she only spent 15 years with The Borg, that would still put The Borg’s first encounter with humans before this episode.
That is why I believe Q is trying to help humanity in this episode. He is looking for an excuse to send the Enterprise to a place where they can learn about The Borg – the whole wanting to be a part of the crew is only a ruse.
The acting in this episode is superb. Almost all of the crew has a moment to shine, but of special note is Patrick Stewart’s. He portrays Picard when he knows he can’t do anything to protect his crew from the Borg as a man defeated and a man willing to put his own pride on hold to save his crew perfectly. We can see the angst in his face; the tension in his body and in his mannerisms as he’s trying to avoid asking for help.
There is not one poor performance in it, except for possibly the new ensign in Engineering, Sonya (portrayed by Lycia Naff). I was distracted, thinking she was introduced so she could die and we’d have someone to relate to. The only point she makes in the episode is the same one Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) made in Contagion about having to do your duty and deal with the emotion of losing people later on. I thought it was fairly redundant and her whole character could have been left out with nothing missing from the show.
Again, we have here a story that introduces a subject that will resonate throughout the seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation and into the movies. We have The Borg when they are perfection as a collective – before all of the other baggage was added to them. They are the uber-villain – as we will see more of later on.
It is a wonderful episode that will grab even the viewer who hasn’t seen any episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I’d advise anyone who likes science fiction in any way to watch it.
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