Written by Melinda M. Snodgrass and Richard Danus
Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont
Every once in a while it happens – I come across an episode that I had forgotten about and one that raises tons of moral questions.
The High Ground was first aired in January of 1990. As with the previous episode, The Hunted, this is significant as it occurred before the Gulf War; before either of the attacks on the World Trade Center; before Oklahoma City.
Captain Picard: History has shown us that strength may be useless when faced with terrorism…
The main topic of The High Ground is terrorism. The Enterprise is delivering medical relief to the planet Rutia, which has been involved in a long, drawn-out, bloody civil war. Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) is captured by the separatists to find out why they are all becoming so ill.
No, it’s not another genetically engineered or super-virus. The separatists developed a device that allows them to instantly transport in and out of any location. Unfortunately, this device is also what is slowly and painfully killing them.
Richard Cox portrayed Finn, the leader of the separatists. Too bad he is not a very convincing actor in the role. For that reason, I believe the episode falls short in the moral questions it tries to raise. He appeals to Dr. Crusher’s compassionate side and gets her to work with him for the people. However, the character seems to be written as a man who has the ability to charm those around him and make them feel at ease. Cox does not get these characteristics across and I can’t see why Dr. Crusher would eventually feel sympathetic towards him.
A positive performance is that of Jonathan Frakes as Commander Riker. He teams up with Alexana (portrayed by Kerrie Keane), the leader of the Rutian police force to locate and rescue Dr. Crusher. He adequately demonstrates his discomfort at her tactics as well as the strength to overrule her when necessary.
Back on the Enterprise, the android Data and Geordi LaForge (Brent Spiner and LeVar Burton) are working with Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) to try and solve the puzzle of just how the separatists are able to achieve the instantaneous transport. Wesley’s character has become more tolerable since he stopped solving every single problem on the Enterprise. Here, this is partly a diversionary tactic to stop him from worrying about his mother’s capture. It also has the effect of allowing him to “do something” that might help rescue her – something you often here people say when they are waiting for word on a loved one.
Whether or not the separatists have a valid point is muted by their actions in the long run. The ending leaves no easy answers and doesn’t say who’s definitively right or wrong ideologically. That is part of what’s good here – the ambiguity.
Unfortunately, however, the episode doesn’t seem to jell together; the cast doesn’t seem to really believe some of their actions, especially when interacting with Finn. Even Patrick Stewart’s Picard seems a bit lackluster.
Anyone who sees the terrorism issue as black and white won’t “get” this episode at all. Star Trek fans might enjoy the regular cast in it, but it just seems that the lack of chemistry between them and the guest cast pulls this episode down too much. Though I recommend it, it’s a borderline recommendation.
Previous episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Hunted
Next episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Deja Q