Written by Richard Manning, Hans Beimler, and Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
I suppose it was bound to happen – after a string of really great episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, sooner or later a dud would get thrown in there.
This is the dud.
While in between missions, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) is relaxing in his quarters when an unknown probe enters the quarters, abducts the Captain, and replaces him with an exact replica.
So much for security on the Enterprise.
Picard is being imprisoned in a room with two other beings: Tholl who is a peace-loving Mizarian; and Haro who is an Algolian and a Starfleet Academy cadet. They are soon joined by Esoqq who is a beast-like member of the Chalnoth race. His presence sets forth a very different dynamic as he can only survive a very short time without food and will begin chowing down on Tholl if need be.
Meanwhile, back on the Enterprise, Picard’s doppleganger is faring a bit better. His behavior is a bit odd; singing drinking songs in 10-Forward with the crew; making romantic overtures to Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden). He’s making some odd command decisions as well, but because of the faith that the crew has in him, they do not question him. A quote from Bruce Springsteen comes to mind, “Blind faith in your leaders – or in anyone – will get you killed…” This becomes apparent as the Picard look-alike becomes intent on steering the Enterprise right into a pulsar.
While this episode could have some decent character development, nothing is ever done about it and overall it just does not make sense. Watching Picard woo Dr. Crusher might have worked, had anything ever been said about it again. Was the replica just bringing out Picard’s true feelings? Probably, but we never get to see him confronted with it or have to deal with the questions surrounding it. All we get are a few silly grins from Dr. Crusher at the end. The behavior also takes her character down a notch as I’d not expect Dr. Crusher to arrive on the bridge and give silly sidelong glances to the Captain like some lovesick schoolgirl. It’s just not professional, and it’s not in her character.
Likewise, the whole story does not make sense from a technological standpoint as well. This alien race has abducted three people for some sort of cultural experiment (one of the people in the room is actually an observer and facilitator). They have the technology to do this and to abduct these people without anyone else realizing it or being able to locate them, yet at the end they are imprisoned so easily that it seems pathetic. Then Picard lets them go. You mean just by showing them they can be captured they will now behave? It just does not make sense at all.
I give Stewart credit for putting in a believable effort as both the captured Captain Picard and the pseudo-Picard. That this episode has any shred of believability is a credit to him and his acting ability. I’m surprised that Hans Beimler, who is a well-known writer of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes would even attach his name to something this bad.
I’d not say this is the worst episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Royale holds that honor. But this is easily in the bottom ten percent. It’s just not worth spending the time to watch.