The Enterprise is forced to ally with former wartime enemies, the Cardassians, to stop a rogue Federation captain from attacking Cardassians ships and stations. The Captain, Benjamin Maxwell, is a former commanding officer of Chief O’Brien, who must deal with his prejudices against the Cardassians. Picard catches up with Maxwell, but Maxwell insists that the supposed transport ships he is attacking are actually military vessels operating in violation of a recent treaty. O’Brien is able to talk his former commander into surrendering, and peace is preserved. However, Picard recognizes that Maxwell was right about the Cardassian military operations, and delivers a stern warning to the Cardassian commander.
Teleplay by Jeri Taylor. Story by Stuart Charno & Sara B. Cooper and Cy Chermak. Directed by Chip Chalmers.
The Wounded is a solid and dramatic, though sort of unspectacular episode, which is notable for a couple of major things. First, it is the first Star Trek-anything episode to really focus on Chief O’Brien. O’Brien is given as in-depth treatment as any of the regulars have ever received, with him being flung into major emotional drama, having his backstory developed, and becoming instrumental to the climax. It is a bit much that O’Brien is such a genius at the transporters that he knows how to beam through a Federation starship’s shields without sweating, but nonetheless it’s great to see the character developed so strongly.
The other significant element of the story is the introduction of the Cardassians, probably the most significant alien race to debut in Next Generation aside from the Borg. The Cardassians make a strong first impression, instantly coming across as more well-rounded and compelling than the Romulans ever did (at least since Balance of Terror back in the 1960’s). Right from the get-go, they are given both sympathetic and menacing characteristics – making them really characters, and not just villains.
The production team was obviously looking at them for the long term as well, working very hard to insert them into the Star Trek mythos. Thus we have a prolonged conflict that we’ve never heard about before, insertion into both Picard’s and O’Brien’s backstories, and a general sense of threat that seems that the entire Federation is a bit traumatized about. The fact that they are new to the audience means that we are genuinely in suspense about their disposition at the end of the story, so the conclusion is a bit of a surprise. It makes for good drama, though perhaps every once in a while it would be nice to give the Federation some allies as interesting as their enemies (I guess that’s the role the Klingons fulfill).
The plot itself is fairly well executed. The pursuit of the Phoenix is cold and procedural, with Maxwell’s attacks being kept off camera. Thanks to solid performances from the likes of Patrick Stewart and Marc Alaimo, those scenes still remain taut and compelling. When Maxwell himself comes on the scene, there is some genuine emotional drama although very few surprises – we know straight away exactly how everything is going to play out (except for the last moment between Picard and Gul Macet.) So that’s disappointing, but only a little. The appeal of a larger role for Colm Meaney and the strength of the Cardassians as a new alien menace keep the episode fun and worthwhile.
Shout Out to the Past:
• Keiko is back, in her second appearance.
• So is Admiral Haden, who had previously appeared in The Defector.
• There is a quick reference to Riker’s work against the Borg.
Setting Up the Future:
• As has been stated, this is the first reference and appearance of the Cardassians. They will continue to be major figures in Star Trek, especially in Deep Space Nine (where a new war between the Federation and the Cardassians will be chronicled).
• Bob Gunton, who plays Captain Benjamin Maxwell, had a role as Warden Norton in The Shawshank Redemption and as Cyrus Vance in Argo.
• Marc Alaimo appears as Gul Macet. He has appeared on Next Generation before, but here he plays for the first time a Cardassian, the alien species he will be best known for, over his years on Deep Space Nine.
• Time Winters plays Glin Daro. He also appeared in a couple episodes of Babylon 5 as Rathenn, a Minbari.
• O’Brien appears to be eating dinner with a plastic picnic fork.
• It’s nice to see the domestic scene between Miles and Keiko, but it’s a bit surprising that they have never talked about their respective cuisines? How long did they know each other before they got married?
• Keiko’s response about cutting and touching real meat is funny
• The treaty with the Cardassians was signed only a year ago. Was it only then that the war actually ended? Potentially, the actual hostilities ended earlier than that, but it seems likely that the Federation was actually at war in those earlier seasons of the show.
• Cool line from Picard: “The alternative is for us to continue firing at one other, and in such a contest, you would be at a disadvantage.”
• O’Brien is stunningly unaware of himself and his feelings toward the Cardassians, especially considering that he was just displaying them in the turbo lift.
• Gates McFadden does not appear in this episode
• Great that Picard increases to Warp 9 to pursue Maxwell, but why hadn’t he done so earlier?
• Good assessment from Picard: “I think when one has been angry for a very long time, one gets used to it. And it becomes comfortable, like old leather. And, finally, it becomes so familiar that one can’t ever remember feeling any other way.”
• Nice moment with the Cardassian Daro when he says it’s been hard for all of them, and he’ll be happy to be back on his own ship
• O’Brien has a contender for the episode’s most memorable dialog, but I’m not completely satisfied with the delivery: “It’s not you I hate, Cardassian. I hate what I became because of you.”
• The episode prudently skips over actually showing the first communication with Captain Maxwell
• The big meeting scene between Picard and Maxwell is gripping, but there is never any doubt that Picard has the upper hand.
• Picard gets another tell-him-where-it’s-at moment: “I will permit you the dignity of retaining your command during the voyage. The only alternative is to put you in the brig and to tow your ship back to starbase in disgrace.”
• Aaaand we don’t need three guesses to figure out if Maxwell will easily follow along the orders he’s given.
• When the Phoenix is pursuing another potential victim, why doesn’t anyone contact the Cardassian ship and tell them to run away?
• Maxwell’s defining line: “What the hell has happened to this war?”
Crazy Talk: Captain Riker (Huh?)
This story could be done without Picard without really changing the plot at all, but it certainly would not have been as good. Maybe the opening could have been rewritten to get Picard out there to help figure out what’s going on with the Cardassians.
Dialogue High Point
Patrick Stewart gets a fair amount of lines to say, so typically there are a lot that sound good. Probably the most memorable is his final bit:
Take this message to your leaders, Gul Macet. We’ll be watching.