Written by Rene Echevarria and Naren Shankar
Directed by Alexander Singer
As the seventh season of Star Trek: The Next Generation began, fans already knew going in it was to be the final one for this series in the Star Trek franchise. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was going strong, and there was the promise of more series to come, as well as a movie to follow the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. However, this didn’t mean that the writers of the series wouldn’t take already-established characters in a very different direction.
At the end of the sixth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the android Data (Brent Spiner) had fallen in with a bad crowd which included his android “brother”, Lore (also portrayed by Brent Spiner) as well as some renegade Borg, half-android, half-humanoid beings. The Borg were generally part of a collective mind, but these Borg were shown in Descent Part I to be more individualized.
After being captured by the renegade Borg under Lore’s influence, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart), Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton), and Ship’s Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) try to confront Data and Lore. Lore seems to be running interception and not letting Data talk to his crewmates. However, once Data does talk to them, he is seething with anger and seemingly completely different from the Data they knew on the Enterprise.
The Klingon, Worf (Michael Dorn), and Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) are on the surface of the planet these Borg currently claim as their own and are unable to make contact with the Captain either.
Meanwhile, left as acting Captain of the Enterprise, Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) is trying to aid in the search for Data but they seem to be blocked by the planetary energy field. The Captain left behind an order to abandon them if the need arose. When the ship which attacked the Enterprise in Descent Part I comes on the scene, she is forced to leave behind forty-seven members of the crew on the planet.
It soon becomes apparent that Lore is “experimenting” on the Borg under the guise of “perfecting” them. Somehow he is also using a carrier wave to control Data, something Geordi sees with his VISOR (Geordi is blind and uses this piece of equipment to “see“ with). Data takes the VISOR from Geordi, who realizes Lore is onto his ability to see this.
Riker and Worf soon stumble on what seems to be the Borg facility and are captured. They are brought inside where they are confronted by Hugh (portrayed by Jonathan del Arco), who blames them for what has happened to the Borg. They are a faction of Borg separate from the group that Lore leads, although they were once a part of them. Lore fell into place as their leader once he returned to the Borg and they began to act more individual.
This is typical of the two-part season-ending cliff-hangers in Star Trek: The Next Generation where the first part was written and the resolution written later on. Usually this resulted in a very promising first part and a let-down as the next season began. I’m sorry to say that although Descent Part II isn’t horrible, it’s not great either.
Think of Lore as a cult leader and the crew of the Enterprise as those who must destroy what he has built and you’ve essentially got the entire plot. The writers backed away from taking Data in a different direction and allowing him to have emotions (something they saved for movies, unfortunately).
There were entirely too many things going on at one time to be wrapped up in this second part. It would have been nice for there to be more follow-through or a more continuous ongoing story-arc. As it is, much of the story has a feeling of being forced or rushed.
Although Brent Spiner does a terrific acting job, Data has become the Microsoft of Starfleet. I can’t understand after all of the problems why he hasn’t been decommissioned and given desk-duty somewhere. Time and time again he seems to malfunction or otherwise be corrupted and yet at the end all is forgiven and he’s returned to duty as if nothing happened. Spiner is good as Data under Lore’s control. It gives him a real chance to reach with the character as well as explore the dark side of his brother’s character as well.
Stewart, Sirtis, and Burton are all reacting to things Data or Lore are doing. Their reactions are fine, but there’s nothing new here or reaching. Burton has a chance to explore his own character’s feelings after being tortured at the hand of his best friend, and yet it’s glossed over by writer Rene Echevarria. This has always been a problem inherent to episodic television which was somewhat remedied with the serial-like quality of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
If there’s one performance that stands out besides Spiner, it’s McFadden. She’s given command of the Enterprise under an inexperienced crew and rises to the challenge in the role. There’s a nice bit of continuity where Dr. Crusher asks her helm officer to bring online a metaphasic shield program to allow them to enter the corona of the sun in this particular star system. This is a good tie-in to the episode Suspicions where Dr. Crusher was instrumental in bringing this technology, discovered at the hands of a Ferengi scientist, to light.
I think more long-lasting fallout from the episode would have given it a much better impact and made Descent Part II better in the long run. As it is, it’s a disappointing resolution to the first part, and a lackluster way to start the final season of the series.