Written by David Kemper and Melinda M. Snodgrass
Directed by Robert Scheerer
There can be debate about whether or not the first encounter the Federation has with The Borg – an alien race of humanoid and mechanics melded together – was actually in the previous second season episode Q-Who or not. At the time of that episode – and this one – it appeared that this was so. However, the subsequent movie Star Trek: Generations and much of the series Star Trek: Voyager disputes this fact.
For how long should the Federation have been in the stages of preparing their ships and officers for an encounter with The Borg? Seventy years? Twenty years?
In Peak Performance, we get the first clue of how seriously the Federation takes The Borg threat. The Federation has ordered a test of the Enterprise and its Captain in a war games scenario. It’s something that goes against Captain Picard’s (Patrick Stewart) beliefs as he sees the Federation having an exploratory and scientific mission. He is resistant to the idea but follows his orders.
A new race is brought aboard – the Zakdorn. They are brilliant military strategists and Kolrami (portrayed by Roy Brocksmith) is no exception.
Here is where we see two storylines emerge. The first involves the mission at hand. Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) is assigned an ancient space vessel, the Hathaway, and allowed to take aboard a crew of forty. He has 48 hours to prepare it for battle with the Enterprise.
The other story involves Kolrami and his mastery of a strategic game known as Strategema. Kolrami easily defeats Riker when challenged to a match. Dr. Pulaski (Diana Muldaur) gets the idea to put Kolrami up against Data (Brent Spiner). When Data is defeated with hardly any more difficulty than Riker, he is thrown for a loop. He believes there must be some inherent defect in his programming that he could not defeat the Zakdorn or at least hold up better against him. Although he was supposed to serve as First Officer in place of Commander Riker, Data removes himself from bridge duty.
While the episode is good, there are a few problems. One is that unless you’ve seen the episode Q-Who there will be some loss of understanding with regards to The Borg. The Ferengis also make an appearance here and since there is no direct explanation made that they are motivated purely by profit, if you haven’t viewed previous Ferengi episodes, you won’t understand them either.
Another problem is Kolrami himself. In the beginning, his arrogance and capability as a strategist are believable. That all goes down the tubes when the Ferengi enter the picture and all he seems to know how to do is surrender. it almost seems as if the character had two different writers in the first half of the show versus the second half.
I actually liked Diana Muldaur’s performance as Dr. Pulaski here. It’s a shame that she finally seems to get a good handle on the character and there’s only one more episode left to the season. In the third season, Gates McFadden will return as Dr. Crusher. I do believe Dr. Crusher is better for the chemistry of the cast and the Enterprise, however, a year’s worth of character development that is finally seeming to pay off is for nothing.
The performance by Brent Spiner as Data was really good. It doesn’t seem like his ego has been bruised; rather it seems like he is reaching a logical conclusion based on the evidence presented. Patrick Stewart gives a fine performance as he usually does. Jonathan Frakes is terrific as Riker facing a whole host of problems as he attempts to give the Enterprise something of a challenge with a decidedly inferior ship.
It is interesting to see what Riker and his crew manage to do with the dilapidated ship in such a short time. The cunning, especially on the part of Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) is very good. Though it seems like Riker took all of the “good” crewmembers with him, that would only be fair with Picard having a ship in tip-top condition and Riker facing the challenge. Later on, however, this might be one of the reasons the Enterprise falters so easily against the Ferengis.
And that is another problem: it seems so easy for the Ferengis to disable the Enterprise and it shouldn’t be. The Federation is worried about a Borg threat and yet here it seems that the ship is terribly vulnerable to a race that should have inferior technology and that they have more experience with.
I did enjoy the episode and it’s worth a look if you’re a regular Star Trek: The Next Generation viewer. If you aren’t, chances are you will be lost.
Previous episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Emissary
Next episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Shades of Gray
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