Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Best of Both Worlds, part 2 [4.1]

Because of the knowledge they’ve gained from the assimilated Picard, the Borg are able to render Riker’s attack useless.  This forces Riker to develop brand new strategies which allow him to eventually recover Picard, although he remains a Borg.  The Borg engage the Federation fleet and destroy it, heading toward earth.  Data is able to gain access to the collective by linking physically to Picard, and is able to render them helpless and destroy them.  Picard is set free from Borg control.

Written by Michael Piller. Directed by Cliff Bole.

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Comments:
The Best of Both Worlds, part 2 is generally automatically grouped with part 1 and considered all part of the same story, but in a way it can be viewed as a separate episode as it was written independently, even though by the same person.  Michael Piller apparently wrote Part 1 not knowing that he’d eventually be given the task of resolving the cliff hanger.  The end result is an installment of the series that generally gets “classic” status even though it overall isn’t as strong as its predecessor.  Even though the stakes are high, with both Picard’s life and the fate of earth hanging in the balance, and the idea of Riker having to really step out of Picard’s shadow and establish himself as a captain is a good one, the way it all plays out is a little bit too convenient.

This starts with the relative ease with which Picard is rescued.  After Starfleet Command decides that rescue of Picard is a hopeless, Riker is able to pull it off basically by having two ships attack to the Borg cube and create a diversion, while a shuttle craft crew sneak in, shoot about half a dozen drones, grab Picard, and leave.  It’s all just a bit too simple.  Riker is later commended for his unorthodox strategy, but really there is nothing too out of the box there.

The final defeat of the Borg, where they handily malfunction and self destruct as a result of Data’s hacking of their sleep command, also comes a bit out of nowhere.  This is particularly frustrating as it was really unnecessary.  It would have been just as easy for the Away Team to see that the Borg were beginning to wake up, and for Riker to have to order the Enterprise to fire on the temporarily helpless cube before it did so, even if it meant a risk to Picard.  That would have kept Riker, the supposed central character of the drama, in a much more active role up to the end of the story.

The other disappointment of the episode is the way that the character story between Riker and Shelby isn’t really developed further.  One of the strongest features of Part 1 is how strongly tied the grand action and drama is to these two officers, but the conclusion isn’t as well integrated.  We do have the drama of who will be Riker’s first officer, where the selection of Shelby is a bit predictable while still being satisfying.  But then nothing really comes of that, and the relationship isn’t really taken any further.

Now I know I sound quite negative, and that’s perhaps a bit unfair.  The episode is not bad by any means.  It’s still better than the entire first season, the vast majority of the second season, and much of the third season.    The episode holds a generally high quality all the way through, and there are plenty of decent moments.  Especially memorable is the site of the destroyed fleet at Wolf 359, as well as Locutus’ general creepiness.  But when considered against the almost incalculable strength of its first half, it’s definitely a bit of a let down.  It rides the momentum created by the first part, but never fully finds its own feet.  When you consider that Part 1 was a nearly flawless blend of character, drama and action, perhaps this is a bit inevitable.

Shout Out to the Past:
There is a reference to the Enterprise’s recent experience with Nanites, as seen in the Season 3 opener Evolution.

Setting up the Future:
Of course the Borg will continue to appear, both on Next Generation and more prominently, on Star Trek Voyager.

The battle of Wolf 359, which was left off-screen in this installment, will be seen in flashbacks in the opener of Star Trek Deep Space NineEmmisary.

Guest Cast:
Todd Merrill, who appears as Gleason, will reappear as the same character in Future Imperfect.

Observations:
• Even though I understand why they chose to do the recap in the way they did (a traditional “Last time on Star Trek: The Next Generation” comment followed by a montage of Part 1), I was always disappointed that they didn’t go with an old-style Doctor Who approach of just replaying the last scene and letting that flow into the new story.  Or even ending the montage that way.  Maybe just because that last scene was so awesome.  Maybe because having Majel Barrett’s voice pipe up with “And now, the conclusion,” actually sort of jars you out of it, and decreases the tension.

• The scene where Riker explains why he hasn’t chosen either Worf or Data for first officer is nice.

• Riker says that he’s sure Picard would have something meaningful and inspirational to say.  But actually, that’s not really Picard’s style.

• Nice shot with Riker and the ready room chair.  “What would you do?”  It’s both funny and meaningful when Guinan casually sits in that chair a moment later.

•  Guinan says of Picard that their relationship is “beyond friendship, beyond family.”  We sort of see some of this, from Guinan’s point of view, anyway, in Time’s Arrow in a few years.  But overall, we never really get a good understanding of the history of their relationship.

• Locutus refers to the Borg as “they,” which seems a bit odd.

• It’s a bit unbelievable that Locutus is not restrained on board the Enterprise, and even allowed to wander around the room and look at the computer screens, etc.

• Locutus says that Data will be obsolete in the new order.  The Borg later change their mind about this, as seen in First Contact.

• The last moment is a little confusing.  I guess it’s supposed to just be that Picard is still suffering from his ordeal but it looks a little like he’s under control or something.

Dialogue High Point
My favorite line is Guinan’s to Riker, about his unwillingness to “let go” of Picard:

If the Borg know everything he knows, it’s time to throw that book away.  You must let him go, Riker.  It’s the only way to beat him.  The only way to save him.  That is now your chair, Captain.

Previous Episode: The Best of Both WorldsNext Episode: Family

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2 thoughts on “Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Best of Both Worlds, part 2 [4.1]

  1. It maybe has some problems. But it’s still a great episode, with some great dramatic moments. Perhaps the biggest disappointment, though, is the opening scene with the Enterprise firing on the Cube, and doing nothing. It ends up looking really lame.

  2. I’d say good and solid rather than great. But I’d agree with your comment about the opening. The attack perhaps needed to be ineffective for story purposes, but surely there was some way of actually doing the scene that allowed for more tension and excitement. And less lameness.

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