Written by Sam Rolfe and Richard Danus
Directed by Timothy Bond
In what is another case of an alien race we have never seen before – and will probably never see again – the writers of Star Trek: The Next Generation still manage to involve the regular cast enough to create a fairly decent story.
An Away Team from the Enterprise beams over to a Federation outpost that has been looted and essentially destroyed. While there, they find traces of Accmarian blood which leads them to blame The Gatherers for the destruction.
Soon we learn that the planet Acamar III is one that for many years was plagued by clan warfare. About one hundred years before, the planet split into two factions; the ruling class and the group known as The Gatherers who are little more than 24th century pirates. The Acamarians have had many problems with the Gatherers over the years and last tried to settle with them eighteen years ago. With the prodding of Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) Marouk, the sovereign of the Acamarians (portrayed by Nancy Parsons) decides ti is time to try once again.
Instead of a story about peace negotiations, however, we are launched into a story that is part murder-mystery and part morality play. The audience is given the answer to the mystery, but we are kept hanging on if the Enterprise crew will put the pieces together in time to save the negotiations. Since the next intended target of the murderer is one of the negotiators, it is plausible that the person will be killed off. This leads to a nice air of suspense that isn’t usually present when we have a regular cast member as the potential target for a killer.
What’s nice here is that both sides of this disagreement are clearly defined and have their reasons for feeling the way they do. The episode doesn’t spend too much time on the negotiations, but rather more on the Enterprise crew as they try to figure out exactly what is going on. In this respect, the acting of Gates McFadden as Dr. Crusher, Brent Spiner as Data, and especially Jonathan Frakes as Commander Riker really carry the episode through what could be a very uninteresting bit of deduction. Their roles seem to resemble the characters in CSI a great deal, giving the feeling that the show was a great deal ahead of its time.
Credit should also be given to Lisa Wilcox as the murderess Uta. Through her we learn a great deal about the Acamarian culture and history, without being hit over the head with it. She holds the position of chef and food-taster to the sovereign. At times she is greatly conflicted with what her destiny tells her she must do. The one weak part of the script is the confusion she seems to feel at encountering a non-sovereign culture. Having traveled with the sovereign for so long, you would think she would have been more well-traveled.
There is also a stereotypical bit of costuming going on. While the sovereign is portrayed in a regal, conservative (and maybe a bit stuffy) way, The Gatherers seem to be straight out of a motorcycle gang; big and all in black leather looking like they just left a Judas Priest concert. Think “Hells Angels in space…”
This is a nice bit of story-telling and very well-acted. Though not one of the episodes people think of when they talk about their favorite The Next Generation shows, it is a good one. It is also a story that stands on it’s own very well and can be watched with little or no previous knowledge of the Star Trek universe.
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