Picard must accompany Wesley to a Starbase in a shuttle in order to have his artificial heart replaced, while Wesley participates in Starfleet Academy-related exams. Meanwhile, Geordi is kidnapped by a series of technologically inept aliens who want him to make weapons for them. Riker and the crew are able to rescue Geordi in time to get Dr. Pulaski to the Starbase, as she is needed to save Picard’s life when the operation goes wrong. Oh, and Wesley gets to keep studying on board the Enterprise.
Written by Robert L. McCullough. Directed by Les Landau
Ugh, what a strange episode. There are two major plots, neither of which was very good. The Pakleds of the main plot are interesting enough in their own way, a little reminiscent as those guys from Symbiosis in that they are in over their heads with their technology, but far more memorable. However, the utter stupidity on display by Riker, in particular, is so overwhelming that it completely mars any enjoyment of the story of Geordi’s kidnapping. It mainly comes down to the way he basically laughs off Troi’s warnings about the Pakleds intentions. Troi’s input is spot on and much needed, and you’d think that Riker of all people would listen to her. It’s not that we can’t understand Riker’s over-confidence, but still – just because these guys don’t know how to fix a ship, that doesn’t mean they might not smack Geordi over the head with a two by four. It just seems absurd that Riker would allow him to travel over alone. And it seems even more absurd that he wouldn’t summon him back the instant Troi basically told him the Pakleds were lying.
Overall, it makes Riker seems like a ninny, and makes us all think it’s a good thing he hasn’t accepted his own command. It also makes the plot a bit obvious – the warnings, the vague double-entendre’s from the Pakleds, and indeed the title itself cause us all to wait in anticipation to when the Pakleds are going to turn dirty.
The resolution of that plot all seems a bit silly as well. The “ruse”, such a it is, comes down to giving the Pakleds genuinely dangerous weapons, provoking the Pakleds into confrontation, and then breaking the weapons again. The scene where the crew all give Geordi their “coded” messages just reads silly, especially Worf’s mumbo jumbo about “Level 24,” which doesn’t really amount to anything in the actual rescue. Really, there was a much more interesting action plot buried in here somewhere, with Worf and Data beaming over in spacesuits alongside the Pakled ship and cutting through it with a phaser or something, but alas it was not to be.
The second plot is to do with Picard’s heart needing replacing. This is actually extremely interesting, providing a new insight into the character – but the resolution of it where Dr. Pulaski is the only person anywhere who can save his life is a bit contrived and obvious. Someone has written that it would have been better if it’d turned out to be a second season cameo from Dr. Crusher. Indeed, that would have been awesome.
What saves the episode from being a complete waste of time is the extended scenes of Picard in the shuttle craft with Wesley, of all people. Wesley asks the Captain some provoking questions that really nobody else in the crew would dare asked him – it’s actually a very effective use of his character. And watching Wesley get a bit over his hero worship of Picard is new for him too (even if he gets it back by the end). But what makes the scene great is Patrick Stewart as Picard retelling the story of his wild youth. The viewer feels as transfixed as Wesley does, listening to quite a brilliantly done monologue. It’s a shame the rest of the story does not live up to it.
Shout-Outs to the Past
Picard’s dislike of children is referenced again, and perhaps “put to bed” a bit?
There are references references to Romulans and Klingons and Jarada (the unseen race from The Big Goodbye).
Setting up the Future
Picard’s story of his fight with the three Nausicans forms the backdrop for the episode Tapestry Season Six.
Picard’s artificial heart will be referenced again as well, I’m sure, but I cannot remember when. I know he and Wesley wind up in a shuttle again in Wesley’s last episode as a regular – I’m not sure if any specific reference is made to this one at that time.
• Christopher Collins, who showed up earlier this season as Captain Kargan in A Matter of Honor, plays Captain Grebnedlog
• And of course, Lycia Naff shows up for the second and last time as Ensign Sonya Gomez
• Wesley is off to do more Academy testing. This was last referenced in Coming of Age. From what they are saying in this story, apparently those tests (or others, done subsequently) are what allow Wesley to basically be a study Academy-type classes as an Enterprise officer.
• “Yes sir, but not as perspicuously,” says Data. What does “perspicuously” mean? After looking it up, it apparently means “clearly presented” or “easy to understand” – it makes the scene pretty funny.
• Picard is really angry at Pulaski in that early scene, and even later on. Maybe after this he starts actively working to get her transferred, and that’s why she leaves so abruptly.
• It’s strange – I don’t remember the Picard / Wesley scenes at all, but the Geordi / Pakled stuff is vaguely familiar.
• A funny line from Geordi: “Let me guess, their rubber band broke, right?”
• Worf brings up a good point – do they truly need to send their chief engineer?
• Geordi apparently beams over to the Pakleds without telling anyone that he is coming. These guys are overconfident, aren’t they, and a bit patronizing.
• “That’s too bad. You would have made a good father.” A poignant line from Wesley.
• The Starfleet doctor suits look, frankly, silly.
• “We want to be nothing but not persistent.” A contender for the best dialog from the story, not for Picard’s story.
Dialogue High Point
Picard’s whole story to Wesley is fantastic. Amongst the high points is
I stood toe to toe with the worst of the three and I told him what I thought of him, his pals, his planet, and I possibly made some passing reference to his questionable parentage…
I had this one Nausicaan down in this, uh… somewhat devious joint lock, when, uh, unbeknownst to me, one of his chums drew his weapon and…impaled me through the back. Curious sensation, actually…not much pain. Shock, certainly, at the sight of a serrated metal sticking through my chest. A certain giddy warmth. In fact I do actually remember that I laughed out loud.
The delivery of this speech, combined with the mundane quality of Picard eating a sandwich, makes it a great moment.