Written by Michael Piller, Joe Menosky, and Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Cliff Bole
At the conclusion of the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, we found Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) assimilated by the Borg; an alien race which is a hybrid of living beings and mechanical components and computerized interfaces. He had become “Locutus of Borg”. Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes), now in command of the Enterprise orders a weapon that had been in development for two years to be fired upon the Borg vessel…
And it has no effect.
It’s a tremendously logical scenario. Upon assimilating Picard, the Borg gain access to all the knowledge he has on Starfleet and the Federation; all the strategies taught, all the weaponry currently in use and being developed. Therefore, they are prepared for the Enterprise‘s attack.
Admiral Hanson (George Murdock) gives Riker a field promotion to Captain. He regards Picard as a “casualty of war” and states that “a great man has been lost.” All this is happening as the fleet is massing at Wolf 359 to prevent the Borg from reaching their apparent destination – Earth.
However, on the Borg vessel, we see that Picard is not truly lost. As the Borg are installing more implants on his body, we see a tear shed – and somehow we just know that underneath all of that Picard’s humanity and soul are still present.
This episode was written by Michael Piller, who also wrote the first part. However, as the story goes, he wrote the first part believing it would be someone else’s problem to get the characters out of the situation he had boxed them into. It is a seemingly impossible situation: dealing with an unstoppable race and somehow saving a beloved Captain who has been turned into an automaton to be used as a mouthpiece for this race.
Piller does a great job bringing the story together from various angles. He demonstrated Riker’s inability to let go of the Captain and uses Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) in a terrific way to jar Riker out of the funk he is in.
Jonathan Frakes does a tremendous job as Riker here; I think it’s his finest performance in the series. He conveys Riker’s angst at seeing his mentor used as a mere tool for this alien race, as well as his despair at bing unable to do anything about it. More is loaded on him when the Enterprise arrives at Wolf 359 and finds the fleet completely destroyed.
(A side note here: Riker had been offered his own command three times and turned it down all three times to continue serving as the First Officer of the Enterprise. The three ships he was supposed to take command of are all among those destroyed at Wolf 359. Give an A+ to Piller here for consistency and a bit of irony.)
Likewise, Elizabeth Dennehy (daughter of actor Brian Dennehy) is awesome as his appointed First Officer, Lt. Commander Shelby. Her character was developed very well as a strong female who would serve very well alongside Riker. If there’s one major regret I have for the series it is that they did not use her as a recurring character a la Lt. Barclay or Guinan.
Patrick Stewart does an amazing job as Picard as well. Stoic and unemotional under the Borg influence, he shows signs of what will be seen in more detail during the episode Family during the last few moments of this episode.
These three together are really what make the episode work. The rest of the cast has plenty to do, however, as the android Data (Brent Spiner), ship’s Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), and Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) all struggle to retrieve Picard from the Borg influence.
The solution to the problem is believable; it’s akin to the solution being right before you while you look for a deeper solution. Something so simple could solve the problem, at least temporarily…
All in all, I highly recommend viewing Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Best of Both Worlds Part I followed by this episode. It’s a must-view for fans of the series, and a great way to entice people to start watching as well!