Written by Ronald D. Moore, Rene Echevarria, and Naren Shankar
Directed by LeVar Burton
I groaned when I saw the opening sequence. The Pegasus starts out like it’s going to be another one of those Captain Picard (portrayed by Patrick Stewart) is uncomfortable with children stories. However, the episode takes an entirely different direction and is actually very good in the end.
It’s “Captain Picard Day” on the Enterprise for the children living there with their parents. Captain Picard receives a priority transmission asking them to suspend their current mission and rendezvous with another starship. Commander Riker’s first Commanding Officer (portrayed by Terry O’Quinn from Lost – he has hair here), now an Admiral, beams aboard with news that debris from their first ship, the Pegasus, has been found by the Romulans in the Devolin system.
Admiral Pressman takes command and tells Captain Picard that they must retrieve sensitive technologies on board that ship before the Romulans have a chance to get their hands on it. However, there is more going on here than meets the eye. As conversations between Riker and his former Commanding Officer become increasingly heated, it’s apparent that Pressman has much to be worried about, as does the crew of the Enterprise.
The Pegasus works on many levels, and it also fails on many as well. Written by Ronald D. Moore, it’s an attempt to give the audience a satisfying explanation as to why Starfleet and the Federation don’t have cloaking technology while all their major rivals seem to have it. The problem is that the explanation is quite lame. I can’t see giving away that sort of capability – and tactical advantage – in a treaty and hoping that your neighbors never choose to be aggressive and use that capability against you. Both the Klingons and the Romulans have never been shy about cloaking their vessels, but viewers are expected to believe that Starfleet vessels don’t use it due to a treaty? It’s just not believable.
There are also some problems with the story here and how it conflicts with Riker’s backstory so far. The torrid romance he and Deanna Troi once shared ended when he left her, choosing an assignment for Starfleet on the Potemkin. So where does his assignment on the Pegasus fit in? According to the Star Trek website, this happened before his assignment on Deanna’s home planet of Betazed, but it reeks of revisionist history.
However the mystery is good and the pace of the episode is magnificent. LeVar Burton directed and he did what he had to do with the material. I have no problems with the pace of the episode or the performances. The effects are terrific too, especially of the Pegasus lodged partially encased in the rock of an asteroid.
Terry O’Quinn is terrific as Pressman. Watching him now after seeing him on Lost for a few years, I can see hints of the character of Locke. He shows the same blind self-confidence about what’s best for Starfleet and the Federation that he has shown on that show. It’s a bit different than what we’ve seen before coming out of Starfleet and it begs the question of how this incident managed to be swept under the rug and kept a secret all these years. Didn’t Pressman’s own superiors know what he had on board?
Jonathan Frakes is good as a much matured Riker confronting what is essentially a huge mistake in his past. He’s uneasy when Pressman comes aboard and not thrilled to see him. It’s not exactly that Riker doesn’t like Pressman, he’s just wary of him. The whole history begs the question of why Riker hasn’t come forward before now.
Patrick Stewart gives up way too easily here, letting Pressman take over his ship without having all the answers and also basically saying the treaty is more important than a tactical advantage over the Romulans. This is one of those “what would Kirk have done” moments and he would have found a way to keep the technology and get away from the situation. In my opinion, that would have been more believable as distasteful as that might sound to those who believe in the serene utopian vision Star Trek: The Next Generation seems to present.
In the end, The Pegasus is an illustration of why I ended up liking Star Trek: Deep Space Nine more. Captain Sisko may not have done everything by the book all the time, but I found myself liking him more because of the hard choices he made which often left him in a moral quandary but was for the greater good. Picard comes off too by the book here and while The Pegasus is a good episode, it’s not great. The strengths are what is done with the material, rather than the material itself.