Written by Morgan Gendel, Brannon Braga, and Rene Echevarria
Directed by Cliff Bole
Starship Mine is an episode which seems to incorporate the story from the first-season episode 110010001 with the action-hero-like qualities we see from Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard in the film Star Trek: First Contact.
The Enterprise is about to be subjected to a baryon sweep, meaning the entire crew and any organic matter must be removed from the ship or it will not survive. While returning to the ship for his saddle for a horseback ride, Captain Picard notices something amiss and is attacked by Tuvok.
Okay, he’s not really Tuvok here. The actor who will portray the character of the Vulcan, Tuvok, in Star Trek: Voyager, Tim Russ, makes an appearance at the beginning of this episode as one of the mysterious people on board the Enterprise ostensibly to perform the baryon sweep, but with ulterior motives.
Since Picard is dressed in civilian clothing, the crew on board the ship preparing for the sweep do not recognize him as the Captain. He spends the next half-hour trying to figure out what is going on, while his crew suffers through a boring reception.
It’s the Chief Engineer, Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton) with his VISOR who first figures out that something is amiss at the reception itself. The VISOR which allows him to see despite being born blind helps him to detect weaponry hidden in the furniture in the room where the reception is being held.
There are two huge plot-holes in this story. The first is the fact that these people manage to get access to the Federation’s flagship at all. Were is the security clearance? How do these people manage to get clearance to have access to the flagship of the Federation? How do they manage to infiltrate the staff at the reception? You’d think we’d have managed a decent background check system by the 24th century.
The other is the question of what purpose those who are at the reception have. With the baryon sweep going on, there’s no reason to expect anyone from the reception to return to the Enterprise. The fact that Picard does, and no one carrying out on the plot on the ship is notified as to his disappearance from the reception, speaks to the ineptness of their plan. How could they manage to get this far if they really were as bumbling as they come off?
They are after trilithium resin – a toxic and highly volatile waste product produced by the engines. Does this make sense? Isn’t trilithium also what David used in the Genesis experiment in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and what Soran is after to create his weapon to explode the sun and force the Nexus into his path in Star Trek: Generations?
Have I established that I think the writing is awful in this episode? With that in mind, I think Patrick Stewart does a terrific job and actually saves this from being one of the worst episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. He is convincing as he not only manages to outwit the terrorists who are attempting to secure materials to build a weapon from his ship, but he also holds his own physically as he climbs through the inner workings and crawl spaces (known as Jefferies Tubes). He is easily twice the age of those he is trying to outsmart and pulls it off convincingly.
The only other performance to note was Brent Spiner’s as the android Data, and that is for his humor as he attempts to master the art of “small talk”. It’s episodes like these that show why the films featuring the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation centered so much on these two characters. In this case, they essentially carry a poorly-written show and make it acceptable.
The rest of the cast supports them, and does fine but really doesn’t stand out in any way. Their job is to look pensive and they all do a good job as they try to figure out what is going on while Captain Picard handles everything on the ship, one step ahead of the baryon sweep which will obliterate him from existence.
I’d primarily recommend this episode as a refresher as to why the films leaned so heavily on the acting talents of Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner. It’s definitely not a stellar episode of the show, and fans could spend hours picking it apart with the plot-holes, but the superb acting makes it marginally viewable.