Written by Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga, and Rene Echevarria
Directed by Alexander Singer
In the beginning, Star Trek: The Next Generation seemed determined to put distance between itself and the original series. Well, at least the producers said that. I mean, the first episode had a guest appearance by DeForest Kelley as the aged Dr. McCoy, and the third episode in the first season, The Naked Now revisited an episode from the original series by the same name.
While still talking about how the series wanted to be kept distinctly separate from the old one (usually in response to questions from fans at conventions about when there would be an episode with someone from the original cast), plans were in the works for an episode around Sarek, Spock’s father. Finally, fans were given what they craves when a two-part episode revolved around Spock himself.
However, none of those episodes ever really felt like there was a good integration of the characters from the two different time periods (although Sarek was a terrific story). In my opinion, that didn’t happen until the episode Relics.
The Enterprise locates a Dyson Sphere in space. Imagine constructing a surface around the sun equal to the orbit of the Earth. This is a Dyson’s Sphere – a structure at which a star is at the center. This allows for almost unlimited energy on the interior surface of the sphere, making it quite hospitable for many, many life forms.
The crew locates a downed ship on the outside surface of the sphere. Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton) and Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) beam down and estimate that it has been here for 75 years. The transporter has been rigged in a very unusual way and contains an almost perfect pattern. When Geordi re-energizes the transporter, Captain Montgomery Scott (James Doohan) from the original Star Trek series appears on the pad.
Immediately he attempts to save another pattern locked in the transporter, but the pattern didn’t stay as intact. When he hears that Geordi and Riker are from the Enterprise, he immediately believes that Captain Kirk came for him.
When he readjusts to his time period and setting, Scotty is ready to plunge right in and help. At first, he is relegated to his guest quarter, but he soon wanders down to Engineering to find Geordi, who tries to accommodate him while they are surveying the sphere but ends up being quite curt with him.
Scotty wanders into 10-Forward where he is first exposed to synthetic scotch, then the android Data (Brent Spiner) brings out Guinan’s secret stash. Scotty wanders to the holo-deck which recreates the bridge of the Enterprise from the original series. Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) wanders in and shares a drink and some ramblings with the man.
The episode really is a tribute to the old series and brings a lot of the two universes together. Seeing Scotty on the holodeck recreation of the original bridge from the 1960’s series is heartwarming, and a great piece of engineering and effects for the crew of this new series. Every nuance is perfect, from the coloring to the lighting – even the sounds.
The atmosphere feels right too. Scotty seems to be the exact same person fans last saw at the end of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Jimmy Doohan is a terrific actor who manages to give Scotty the feel of a man who was reluctantly herded to retirement years before, then found out when his ship crashed that he could still be useful.
At the same time, he is the direct opposite of Geordi as the Chief Engineer. Scotty’s reputation as a “miracle worker” is exposed when he chews Geordi out for actually telling the Captain how long it will take to complete a task, rather than inflating the figure so he can appear larger than life. LeVar Burton and James Doohan play off of each other well. Geordi is the young engineer who knows everything and quickly dismisses the older man’s thoughts and ideas. Scotty is the man who wrote manuals around which many Engineering principles revolve, yet he is lost with many of the newer procedures.
Picard is the bridge between the two men. He knows that their mission is critical, yet he sees in Scotty himself in not that many more years. At his urging, Geordi beams down with Scotty to the downed ship on the surface of the sphere to try to extract the results of the survey that the crew was conducting before it crashed. While they are down there, the Enterprise locates and manages to trigger a portal to the interior of the sphere. It locks a tractor beam on the ship and draws it in. Geordi and Scotty are unaware of these events.
What follows then is the two Engineers working together. It’s a warm and fuzzy moment but doesn’t feel artificial. Scotty doesn’t magically snap out of it or know something he shouldn’t. Instead, he is back working in the element in which he is comfortable and can once again excel.
This is tied with Yesterday’s Enterprise for my favorite of this series. Despite one of the greatest flaws in the history of the series – Scotty thinking James Kirk dug the Enterprise out of mothballs to find him when he himself witnessed Kirk’s “death” a short time before he disappeared himself – it’s one that is very endearing to the fans. I found there to be a better connection between Scotty and the crew of the Enterprise-D than there had been with any other character from the original series. There were some poignant moments, some funny moments, and some dramatic moments as well as some terrific effects. The best part is it can be enjoyed without knowing any history at all of either series.
For more information on what a Dyson Sphere is: What Is a Dyson Sphere?
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Man of the People
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Schisms
Re the “plot hole” regarding “Relics” vs. “Star Trek: Generations”:
While it is true that in “Relics” the recently-reconstituted Scotty initially thinks that Kirk was still alive when Riker and LaForge tell him that they’re from the Enterprise, even though the prologue in “Star Trek: Generations” is set some 77 years before, the discrepancy was a deliberate choice made by the film’s co-writers, Ron D. Moore and Brannon Braga, who co-wrote “Relics.”
In one of the extra features on the DVD, one of the two writers (Moore, I think it was) addresses this directly by saying that they knew what Scotty had thought in “Relics,” and that by including Scotty in “Generations” (which was one of the plot decisions mandated by Paramount) they were creating a plot hole, but they just wanted to include Jimmy Doohan (who was beginning to show signs of Alzheimer’s even then) one last time.
In the novelization of “Relics,” the holodeck scene where Scotty revisits the original NCC-1701 Enterprise also includes a reunion, of sorts, with his shipmates,
Generations had many issues, not the least of which was introducing an unseen person named Antonia as the love of Kirk’s life. In the novelization (I don’t remember if I reviewed it or not), his ideal place is with Carol Marcus and his son, David. Of course, the actor who played David had died due to AIDS complications by then, making that scene impossible unless they recast it. That would have been a better reality for Kirk, though.
I haven’t watched “Generations” in a good while…it’s probably been almost a decade (!) since I watched the Blu-ray from the four-film set. However, I do remember that in the extra features, both Moore and Braga say that of the two features they co-wrote, “Star Trek: Generations” was the weakest because the studio had a checklist of story elements it wanted in the script, including the appearance of as many Original Series cast members as possible, the destruction of the Enterprise-D, and the passing of the torch between both generations.
For me, it’s the second-weakest of the four TNG-based films after Nemesis…and that film might have fared better had Stuart Baird not been chosen as its director. Baird is a great editor…and MAYBE if he had done his homework Nemesis might have been as good as “Star Trek: First Contact.” But…he didn’t…so…
Re “Antonia”: I don’t know why that character was even necessary. They could have just hired an extra who looked like Bibi Besch from a distance and said it was “Carol.” While I do understand that Braga and Moore wrote the script at an extremely busy time…TNG had not wrapped yet when they started writing the movie…that was an unnecessary mistake. Sloppy. Just sloppy.
Agree. It would have really worked well to bring in fans of the original series and the films with the original cast. Just sloppy writing. Also, I was watching an earlier TNG episode where Picard is on a horse and they made a big deal out of him being uncomfortable on a horse. I don’t expect perfection, but some consistency should be a goal.