Star Trek: The Next Generation – Allegiance [3.18]

Picard is kidnapped by an unknown assailant and locked in a mysterious prison alongside of members of several other races.  Meanwhile, he is replaced by a duplicate whose strange behavior leads the crew to eventually mutiny.  Picard realizes that one of his fellow captives is actually their kidnapper, and is able to turn the tables on them.

Teleplay by Richard Manning and Hans Beimler. Directed by Winriche Kolbe.

Previous Episode: Sins of the FatherNext Episode: Captain’s Holiday

Comments:
There is really nothing special about Allegiance.  It starts off all right, with an intriguing mystery about Picard’s kidnapping and the mystery about what he and his fellow prisoners have in common.  The other inmates are a colorful lot with intriguing contrasts to one another, and it seems we’re in for an intense claustrophic story.  But that plotline runs out of steam eventually, and while the identity of the culprit does come as a surprise, it just isn’t that interesting.  Meanwhile, the episode spends about half of its time or more back on the Enterprise, where the fake Picard starts acting odder and odder, as far as we can tell,  just for the sake of it.  At this point, we come to realize that the whole episode is really just an excuse for Picard to get to play some things he does not normally get the opportunity to do – like romancing Dr. Crusher!

And Patrick Stewart is up to this, bringing out two very different performances as Picard and fake-Picard, but with both being intelligent and well-measured.  But even though some of this is fun to watch, it does not make a good story.  The conclusion brings the disappointing revelation that all that has happened is the result of some relatively benignly intentioned aliens performing some experiments.  These aliens are smart enough to read minds, duplicate personalities, and teleport massive distances, but not smart enough to know that kidnapping is bad or that maybe they could just understand authority by taking part in some sort of exchange program rather than setting up elaborate experiments.  In fact, it occurs to me that they’d have to know their subjects quite well to even select them for their experiment.  It’s hard to imagine what more they hope they are going to learn.

This climax to the story reminds me a bit of what we saw earlier this season in The Survivors, where apparently threatening circumstances turn out to not be such a big deal.  Dramatically, this is almost never a good idea – where the set up of a story raises the tension and the payoff just deflates it.  It makes the whole thing feel a bit flippant, like it didn’t really matter.  Having the kidnapping aliens be unable to avoid getting themselves captured themselves just adds to this sense.  It might have been okay if it’d been funny, but it’s not – it just feels like a bit of a waste of time.  Not terrible, but looking pretty pale compared to the recent run of strong stories.

On the positive note, the episode introduces three different alien species that all boast pretty good make up and quite distinct characterizations.  Patrick Stewart is, as I’ve said, quite good in the story, and Riker comes across quite strong as a leader even if his first threat to relieve Picard of command is a bit of a misfire.  The eventual mutiny scene is excellently directed by Winriche Kolbe.  And it’s nice to at least acknowledge in some way the former burgeoning Picard-Crusher relationship.

Shout Out to the Past:
Reference to the USS Hood, which was Commander Riker’s former ship, Romulans, and terraforming, which last came up in Home Soil.

Picard references something that happened while he was on the Stargazer.

Most specifically, there is reference to the primitive culture on Mintaka III – that’s the story of Who Watches the Watchers? being referred to, which seems a bit random a thing to bring up out of all the things that would have been possible.

There is also another brief reference to Crusher’s time away from the Enterprise in Season Two.

Guest Cast:
• Reiner Schöne plays Esoqq.  He was Dukhat, a Minbari leader, in Babylon 5, and also appeared in a couple of episodes of Sliders as Kolitar.

Observations:
• That’s an ominous opening with the strange obelisk appearing above Picard as he sleeps

• Another poker game!  I think this is the first one of the season?  Playing are Riker, Troi, Data, Geordi, and Worf.

• I thought this was the first appearance of the Bolians, but they actually turned up back in Season One’s Conspiracy.

• I can’t remember if we’ve seen Picard’s casual dress before.  Or at least if we’ve seen it being worn as dinner-wear.  It really looks like a bathrobe, which makes the whole dinner date with Dr. Crusher even stranger.

• Esoqq actually sounds a lot like Christian Bale in the modern day Batman movies

• Fake Picard diverts the threat of mutiny in the same way that fake Picard did back in Season 1’s Lonely Among Us – by claiming that his accuser was the one with the problem and by threatening to relieve him from duty.

• The aliens deride the humans for their primitive vocal communication.  But if they don’t talk, then why do they have mouths?  Maybe they’re just for eating.  Or whistling.

• Not for the first time, the word “human” is used to refer to the whole Federation.

• The aliens frantically trying to claw their way out of the force field looks particularly silly.

• “Imprisonment is an injury, regardless of how you justify it.”  Good little moral platitude from Picard.

• Picard’s discomfort at the end is sort of funny.

Dialogue High Point
The best lines are actually between two guest characters, never seen before or since:

Tholl: I’ll bet half the names in the Chalnoth language means “fighter”.
Esoqq:  Mizarians.  Your names all means “surrender”.

Previous Episode: Sins of the FatherNext Episode: Captain’s Holiday

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