The Enterprise encounters an enormous structure in space known as a Dyson Sphere, upon which they find a crashed Federation ship from 75 years prior. On board, they find one survivor who has kept himself alive via a jury-rigged transporter: Montgomery Scott – “Scotty” from the Federation’s first USS Enterprise. Scotty finds adjusting to life in the 24th Century difficult, but is able to help Geordi save the Enterprise when the it is accidentally pulled inside of the Dyson Sphere.
Written by Ronald D. Moore. Directed by Alexander Singer.
Relics is certainly a fan-pleasing success of an episode. It often comes near the top of polls and surveys amongst fans for their favorite episodes of Next Generation. So that’s all very good if you happen to be a fan of Star Trek, especially the original series. If you aren’t, you may not find much to strongly recommend Relics, since it relies almost exclusively on the novelty of returning Scotty to the franchise for its strengths. I mean, it’d be possible for a story of a time-lost officer from a previous generation struggling to find his place in the 24th century to be a good one, but let’s face it – fans like Relics because Scotty is in it, and he used well to draw out both humor and nostalgia. But since I am a fan of Star Trek, including the original series, that’s good enough for me.
In fact, when I compare Relics to Unification II (the last time that a regular character from the original series turned up on Next Generation), I have to say that maybe the production team had it right when they decided to build Relics largely around Scotty’s personality. Unification really tried to tell a story that was “significant” and “important”, and was only partially successful, at best. Relics on the other hand sheds all that pretention, and just focuses on giving Scotty a bunch of good moments that make us happy to watch, and for the most part, it succeeds.
James Doohan is great to see again, playing Scotty for the penultimate time in canon Star Trek. In fact, he makes us hungry for further appearances – I count it as a bit of a shame that his role here didn’t lead to other stories. But I guess you can only take the “pandering to fans” thing so far before it gets old.
Other than Picard and Geordi, the regular cast is relegated to the background here. Patrick Stewart is fine as Picard but doesn’t really have any material that allows him to stand out (as he did, say, in another Original Series tie-in, Sarek). LeVar Burton is solid as usual as Geordi, though we’re glad that the little sub-plot about him getting annoyed at Scotty for his continual interference doesn’t go on for too long.
So the final verdict is that Relics is a success, though neither the deepest nor most meaningful episode.
Lanei Chapman plays Ensign Sariel Rager for the third of four times. She was one of the co-stars of Rat Race (where she played Whoopi Goldberg’s daughter) and was a regular on Space: Above and Beyond. She also appeared as a housekeeper in two of the earliest episodes of Seinfeld.
And of course, James Doohan plays Scotty! He played the role in over 60 episodes of the original series, in the first seven Star Trek movies, in a bunch of episodes of the animated series, and in a bunch of video games. He’s also appeared on Jason of Star Command.
Shout Out to the Past:
• Of course, this episode features Scotty – one of the major characters from the Original Series. In the course of talking, Scotty refers to incidents that were seen in the original series episodes The Naked Time, Wolf in the Fold, and Elaan of Troyius. Scotty also mentions Jim Kirk, although it doesn’t make much sense according to what later continuity establishes. And on the holodeck, Scotty recreates the bridge of the original Enterprise, complete with original ambient sound effects.
• The scene with Data and the alcohol, with the “It’s green,” comment, hearkens back to the original episode By Any Other Name.
• The transporter sound effect on the Jenolan is from the original series as well.
• At the end of the story, Geordi is sharing about the events of Galaxy’s Child to Scotty.
Setting Up the Future:
• Sadly, even though it seems an obvious set up, Scotty never appears in the franchise again (chronologically, that is), except for extended and re-purposed flashbacks in Trial and Tribble-ations.
• Scotty’s surprise at seeing a Klingon in Starfleet is a nice touch. His reaction to Dr. Crusher and his quarters are also nice touches.
• You can understand Geordi’s reluctance with Scotty working with them
• That dilithium chamber closes a little awkwardly
• Scotty has a number of fun although not brilliant bits of dialog: “And you can’t change the laws of physics,” “Starfleet captains are like children. They want everything right now and they want it their way, but the secret is to give them only what they need, not what they want,” “Laddie, I was drinking Scotch a hundred years before you were born and I can tell you that whatever this is, it is definitely not Scotch,” “Synthetic Scotch, synthetic commanders,” “Never get drunk unless you’re willing to pay for it the next day,” (identifying the original Enterprise) “NCC One Seven Oh One. No bloody A, B, C, or D,” ” A good engineer is always a wee bit conservative, at least on paper,” and “I have spent my whole life trying to figure out crazy ways of doing things. I’m telling you, as one engineer to another, I can do this.”
• But maybe the best is this exchange with Geordi:
LAFORGE: Yeah, well I told the Captain I’d have this analysis done in an hour.
SCOTT: How long will it really take?
LAFORGE: An hour.
SCOTT: You didn’t tell him how long it would really take, did you?
LAFORGE: Of course I did.
SCOTT: Oh, laddie, you’ve got a lot to learn if you want people to think of you as a miracle worker.
• That is quite the moment when Scotty walks onto the Bridge of the NCC-1701. It’s also nice how Scotty toasts Chekov and Sulu and everyone else, and sits at the Bridge engineering station.
• Nice scene between Scotty and Picard on the holodeck. I like Picard’s reminisce about the Stargazer – “The first ship I ever served aboard as Captain was called the Stargazer. It was an overworked, underpowered vessel, always on the verge of flying apart at the seams. In every measurable sense, my Enterprise is far superior. But there are times when I would give almost anything to command the Stargazer again.” That reflects how a lot of us felt about the Original Star Trek series during the days of Next Generation.
• The compositing when Scott tells the holodeck to turn off is noticeable – not quite as seamless as you’d like
• Getting pulled inside the Dyson Sphere is cool and dramatic, but somewhat predictable
• I like Scotty’s smile at Geordi’s efforts to cheer him up, though Geordi’s efforts are a bit obvious.
• This moment when Geordi suggests getting the Jenolen flying again is a bit awkward, but well meant. Scott cries out, “Are ye daft? The main drive assembly’s shot, the inducers are melted, and the power couplings are wrecked. We’d need a week just to get started. But we don’t have a week, so there’s no sense in crying about it. Come on, we’ll see what we can do with your power converter.”`
• When Scotty defers command, that’s the moment where the bond between he and Geordi is complete.
• Data pulls off an amusing moment thanks to some good timing: “The interior surface area is over ten to the sixteenth square kilometres. It will take seven hours to completely scan the surface.” Then the ship shakes, reminding everyone of the danger they’re in. “I will endeavour to speed up the process, sir.”
• I’d have liked some confirmation from the transporter that the energizing had taken place before blowing up that ship, if it’d been possible? Was there any reason they had to do that while they were so far away still?
Dialogue High Point
I think I like a small one that comes early in the show, when Geordi tells Scotty that his jury-rigging the transporter as a life-boat was brilliant. Scotty replies
I think it was only fifty percent brilliant. Franklin deserved better.