Written by Joe Menosky and Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Robert Scheerer
While attempting to rescue the crew of a downed a Federation freighter, the crew of the Enterprise ends up at Turkana IV, the planet where Tasha Yar grew up. For those that don’t know, Tasha Yar was a regular crewmember (and castmember) killed off in the first-season episode Skin of Evil. While onboard the Enterprise, she told terrible stories of her life on this planet which included rape-gangs and the like.
When Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) takes an away team down to the surface, he discovers not the chaos Tasha left behind, but a world divided into two distinct factions. These factions battle each other on a regular basis, staging small-time raids on each other’s territory, inhibited only by the fact that each member of the two opposing coalitions is implanted with a detection device. This device causes an alarm to sound any time a member of the opposing coalition crosses into their territory.
Whew! Got that?
When the android Data (Brent Spiner) casually mentions that one of their former crewmates was born on Turkana IV, the leader of that coalition, Hayne (portrayed by Don Mirault), taps Tasha’s sister Ishara (portrayed by Beth Toussaint) to help them rescue the Federation officers.
Now, just about anyone could figure out that they will have an angle. They are not going to help the Enterprise out of the goodness of their hearts, especially when there was so much resistance to aiding the rescue of the crew members in the beginning. Hayne’s argument that they are afraid the Enterprise will give in to the ransom demands and hand over weaponry to the opposing coalition doesn’t seem believable.
If someone born in the 20th century can figure that out, shouldn’t someone from this advanced civilization of the 24th century be able to as well?
The story becomes uneven at this point as Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Riker both say they don’t trust either Ishara or Hayne, yet they allow themselves to be led around and fall right in line with their plans. This happens a few times during this series, most notably in the fifth-season episode The Game.
However, this story is about more than just rescuing injured Federation citizens. It is another growth point for Data as he learns about trust and how people can get you to trust them and then betray you.
That I can recommend the episode is based mainly on the terrific acting jobs. Toussaint as Ishara is wonderful and made me think of Linda Hamilton in the Terminator movies. She gives Ishara a hard edge but shows just enough softness at times to make me wonder what is really going on in her head. Her body language and the way she carries herself are reminiscent of Tasha in the early episodes of the series, and this makes her very believable as her sister.
Spiner is wonderful in a part that could be difficult. As an android, Data should have no emotions, yet he has to convey a sense of closeness with the deceased Tasha as well as a yearning to develop a similar attachment to Ishara. Spiner does this without betraying his character’s origins.
Stewart and Riker also give good performances, conveying that they want to have faith in Ishara because of who her sister was. However, would someone in a command situation really let a sense of melancholy overrun all they’ve been trained for? I have my doubts, and this is where the episode suffers.
By far, this is not a bad episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It’s good thanks to the actors believing in their roles. For non-fans of the series, they should have an easy time understanding what is going on without the complete history and just the knowledge that Ishara is the sister of a deceased crewmate.
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