Star Trek

Star Trek

Monday, March 19, 2018

ST:TNG Season Three, Episode Twenty-Six "The Best of Both Worlds, Part 1"

ST:TNG Season Three Episode Twenty-Six "The Best of Both Worlds, Part 1"
Production Order: 26
Air Order: 26
Stardate: 43989.1
Original Air Date: June 18, 1990

This episode takes place half-way through the last one. Get your shit together, Star Trek.

Also, if you've never watched Hannah Montana, you're lucky, and in your mind, that show has nothing to do with this episode. If you're unlucky like me, you'll never not hear that song when thinking of this episode, and I'm sorry.

Picard's Log 43989.1: "We got a distress signal from Jouret IV, which is in BFE, Space. We have a Federation colony there. Gonna check it out."

The E rolls up on this planet, and we see the away team forming in the transporter room: Data, Geordi, Worf, and Riker. Worf tells Riker that they haven't heard anything from the colony in 12 hours.
"No life signs, either."
Hmmm, sounds promising.
O'Brien's Nurse Chapel line: "The surface environment is safe for transport, Commander."
Just a guy doin' his job.
He beams our boys down, and Riker looks around in confusion. "Hey, are these the right coordinates?"
"Yeah, center of town."

The camera pans across to this great matte painting-set combo -
 - fuck.
Fuck, was the whole colony scooped off the surface of the planet?

Dramatic music because fuck! Opening credits! Fucking Borg!

Picard's Log 43992.6: "Backup has come in. Admiral Hanson and Lt-Cmdr Shelby are here. We're gonna figure out what happened to the 900 or people that lived on this colony."

They're Borg now, yo. The Borg do not take prisoners. They either kill them or convert them. Like some kind of hideous cult. "One of us, one of us, resistance is futile, one of us."

Hanson admits that Starfleet is not ready for a Borg invasion - they've know about the Borg for about a year or so, but they expected it to take longer for them to reach this sector. He's brought Shelby along because she took over the Borg tactical department six months earlier. She doesn't have any more information than the rest of them do, but she thinks smarter about it.
"I've been giving her carte blanche when it comes to Borg stuff, and you should as well," he advises Picard.
"Riker wrote the report on our experience before," Picard replies. "You should talk to him."
"Oh, I will," says Shelby. "I'm trying to develop a defense strategy, and we have some new weapons designed, but they're all still on the drawing board. Can I see the colony site?"
"Gonna be dark there really soon," says Riker. "We're gonna go back with an away team at dawn."
Picard suggests that Riker show Shelby to her quarters.
On his way out, Riker pauses and invites Hanson to their poker night tonight.
"Some other time," says Hanson. "But Shelby plays poker."
Dude, that's... that's... I don't know what to call that. Awkward? If someone invites you to a thing, and you don't want to go, you turn them down politely. Don't then invite someone else to go in your place. Because now Riker has to invite Shelby whether he wanted her there or not. He probably had some specific reason to invite Hanson, like he knows and likes the guy, or because he wanted to network, but it sounds like he doesn't know Shelby at all outside of this work-related conversation, and he probably wouldn't have invited her along. If Hanson really wanted to suggest Shelby, he should have turned Riker down just then, and later commed Riker to suggest he invite Shelby. Then the ball would have been in Riker's court on that. Instead, he has to extend the invitation to her by default.
(A weird aside: when someone comes aboard, are their comm badges manually linked to the ship so they can call others? Or is it more like when you go to a friend's house, and your phone already knows their wifi password, and links it automatically?)

Riker and Shelby leave.
Hanson tells Picard that Shelby is impressive, and to watch out for her, and Picard smiles and says that Hanson seems "taken with her." He probably means that Hanson seems impressed with her capabilities and her go-getter attitude, but instead Hanson replies with "Just an old man's fantasies."
That's so fucking nasty. I mean, I get that they're friends, as they call each other by first names, but does Starfleet really condone that? Are captains and admirals really allowed to discuss underlings in such a manner, even casually?
And even if Hanson does have a crush on Shelby, couldn't he have kept it professional by saying, "She reminds me of a younger version of myself" or "I think she'll make captain quickly"? Nope, he has to make it sexual.
That's strike two, Hanson.
He then switches back to business and says that everyone had theories when Shelby came to the Borg Tactical group, but she had fresh new ones, and cut through the crap. (Of course, they're all just guessing that Shelby's ideas are good ones. They're all untested as of now, though Hanson acts as if she's won several hand-to-hand combat matches with the Borg. Using her patented Borg Crane Kick. She's the best - AROOOOUND!)
"She would make you a good first officer," Hanson adds as Picard gives him Tea, Earl Grey.
Picard is confused.
Hanson realizes that Riker has not told anyone that he was offered another captaincy. He starts talking about how Riker has been offered three commissions now, and he hasn't given word on whether or not he'll accept this one, but Starfleet is only going to offer so many times before they start giving away chairs to others like Shelby.
"He's hurting his career by not moving."
Picard nods thoughtfully.

 Riker shows Shelby to her quarters. She's telling him that she found some weird trace elements from the section of the Enterprise's hull that the Borg took out.
"Like a Borg footprint?" he asks.
"Yeah. I wanna see if it matches what's left of the colony tomorrow. I went through your personnel files and picked Data and Mr La Forge to be on the away team."
Riker makes that faces that expresses polite confusion meant to mask amused anger. He was in charge of the away team, and now Shelby is acting as though she's leading it. "Data and Geordi were already assigned to the away team. As am I."
"Cool. I can totally use your help."
She is either not reading his cues well enough or is deliberately ignoring them. Instead, she asks if serving on the Enterprise is as awesome as she's already heard, because she intends to take his job.
He stares at her coolly.
"I'm sorry," she says. "I heard you were leaving."
"If I were, I'm sure you'd be the first to know."
Daggers. Daggers at her. Daggers, daggers, daggers.
He turns to leave, but then pauses to tell her where and what time for that poker game. Possibly because he was forced into inviting her, but also possibly because he now wants to see what she's made of.

We skip straight to the poker game. This week's game features no Worf, but Wes. Data lectures him immediately on the protocols of the game, as Wes trips up. He's got a decent hand, so he puts in a modest bet. Riker raises by a lot, and they all debate whether Riker has something or not. Wes folds. Data advises him that Riker might be bluffing, which he'd know about, as he always loses to that bluff. Shelby decides to call the bluff. Riker has squat, and Shelby wins.

Riker and Geordi show up in the transporter room, and Riker remarks that Data and Shelby are late.
"Naw, they beamed down an hour ago," says O'Brien.
Riker is pissed. "On whose authority?"
"Hers," says O'Brien simply.
They beam down.
Shelby greets them with that "early bird gets the worm" crap.
Riker takes her aside.
"I believe Commander Shelby erred," Data says to Geordi. "There is no evidence of avifaunal or crawling vermicular lifeforms on this planet."
"Not what she meant," says Geordi. "But yeah, she erred."
"WTF?" demands Riker, once he and Shelby are far enough away.
"I was up and saw that there was a storm front coming in. I thought it might eff up my soil samples. Data was available, so I grabbed him and we beamed down. It's no biggie."
"No, it's against fucking protocol," snaps Riker. "I'm in charge of this away team."
"Okay," she agrees. "Do you want to hear my report? I found the same traces. It's definitely the Borg."

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Picard's Log 43993.5: "Admiral Hanson went back to Starfleet Command to discuss strategy. Shelby is still onboard."

Picard and Riker are in the ready room. Riker goes over all the prep work he has done, including assigning Geordi, Data and Wes to work with Shelby.
Picard asks Riker what he thinks of Shelby.
"She knows her stuff, but she needs supervision. She takes initiative too easily, takes a lot of risks."
"Yeah, like a young Lt-Cmdr I recruited as my Number One?" Picard sits in his chair. "Why are you still here?"
"You were offered another commission."
"Yeah, I'm not gonna do it. You need me here now."
"Starfleet needs good captains now. You need to reconsider."
"Are you asking me to leave?" asks Riker.
"You're ready to leave, you don't need a safety net anymore."

We go immediately to Ten Forward, where Riker and Troi are having a drink at a table.
"Why am I still here?" he asks her. "I worked real hard to get here, because my endgame was my own command. But now I'm hesitating. Why haven't I jumped on this?"
"What do you think?" she asks.
"Am I afraid of the Big Chair?"
"I don't think so," she smiles.
He talks about how Shelby is the way he used to be: taking risks, a bit impatient, full of drive and ambition. "Why am I not like that anymore? I liked those traits in myself."
"Eh, I think you're more mature and experienced now. I don't think you've lost anything. You've gained some good stuff. And you're more comfortable with yourself."
"Maybe that's my problem - I'm too comfortable here."
"You're happier now than I've ever seen you," she says. "But I guess it all comes down to one question: what do you want?"

Shelby's team is having a meeting down in Engineering with Riker and a handful of other Golds. They discuss how the current weaponry they have is going to get them nowhere, and how the new stuff being designed is still gonna take a another two years or so to finish. They also talk about the how the Borg ship operates, and Shelby says the facts lead to it being operational with 78% of the ship being damaged, because when one generator goes out, another kicks into gear. Geordi tries to come up with figures for how they could alter their own stuff now, but he admits that he's tired and nothing much is coming to mind.
"Yeah, everybody looks wrecked," agrees Riker. "Let's break off for sleep and stuff, and get back together at 0500."
Shelby still wants to keep plugging away. "Can't I just keep working with Data? He doesn't require rest."
"No, but you do. We can't fight the Borg and fatigue at the same time."
She tries to argue, but he barks it back as an order.

The senior offices and Shelby meet in the Obs Lounge later to get a Skype from Hanson. He tells them that a freighter went on a routine run, put out a distress signal that talks about a cube-shaped ship, and was never heard from again.
Data tells Picard that they're a little over an hour away from the freighter's last coordinates, if they go at warp nine.
"Make that shit so," he replies.
Hanson tells them that everyone else is six days away, but they'll hurry out to the battlefield.
Picard asks Geordi how their weapons and defense alterations are going.
"Okay, I guess? We're modulating the deflector dish, and changing the phasers to a different EM band, but that's kind of the best we can do for now. Shot in the dark. Might be able to hold them off."

Picard is pacing on the bridge when Worf announces that they've come up on a ship nearby. He hails them but gets radio silence.
"Move to intercept," Picard tells Wes.
"Yeah, they've seen us," says Worf. "Because they're also moving to intercept... us. At like, warp 9.3."
They put that shit onscreen, and you bet your ass it's a Cube.
"Call Admiral Hanson," says Picard.

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

"Sooo, they're hailing you specifically," Worf tells Picard.
"The hell?"
"Is this the same ship we faced before?" Riker asks Data.
"Can't tell." Data replies.
They open the channel, and the Borg address Picard: "Lower your shields and prepare yourself to be beamed aboard our ship immediately. Otherwise, we will destroy your ship."
Picard has Worf cut transmission.
"I thought they didn't want humans," protests Shelby. "They only wanted our tech."
When Picard turns the transmission back on, he tells the Borg that they have new weapons capabilities. No answer.
Geordi calls up to say that the shields are being probed, and he's switching it up. But the Borg have locked on with a tractor beam.
"The shield modulation has them confused," says Shelby, who seems pleased.
But Riker responds:

And oh, the look she throws him.
Right on cue, the Borg have broken through the shield modulations and locked on with a tractor beam. Now they're draining the shields.
They try the new phaser set-up, but it does nothing. They reverse engines. Nothing.
The Borg fire on the Engineering section and breach the outer hull.
"Fuckfuckfuck," yells Geordi, evacuating Engineering.
They try a photon torpedo spread to no avail.
Shelby hops up next to Data and tells him to keep firing the phasers, but to switch it up faster than the Borg can respond. It works, and they're able to do enough damage that the tractor beam breaks. Shelby smiles and sets her jaw in such a way that she probably feels like she saved the day herself, rather than it being a team effort.

They break away and fly the fuck out of there at warp 9. Geordi bursts in from the lift, announcing that the hull breach did not reach the warp core, and he can run things from the Engineering station on the bridge. Picard asks for a damage report, and Geordi slows in a hesitant way, as though the forward momentum was keeping him going, and a pause now is unwelcome.
"We lost a lot of good people," he answers.
The total: 11 dead, 8 unaccounted for. But probably dead.
"We're at the Paulson Nebula," Wes says.
"Go in slowly," says Picard. He guides Shelby away from the spot between Wes and Data, then stands there himself.
He intends to hide the E inside the mist-shrouded nebula. Data reads out the nebula's contents, and Picard confirms that that stuff should shield them from the Cube's scans.
"They're still scanning for us," says Worf. "But I don't think they see us."
"Good," replies Picard. "If they're looking for us, they aren't out hurting anyone else."
Ah, the old keep-Windows-tech-support-scammers-on-the-line plan. I approve.

Geordi, Riker, Shelby and Wes are in the Obs Lounge, looking at the footage from the fight just now and analyzing it.
At one point, Shelby is describing what's going on and says "take a closer look, Commander" for no fucking reason, before immediately moving forward in her description. What the hell is her deal? Anyway, they figure out that there's a weak spot in the Borg system, and that if they hit it with enough power, they can take the ship down.
"But it's way more than we can throw at them," says Geordi. "We need more power than anything our phasers and torpedoes can provide, combined."

"What then?" asks Riker.
"The deflector dish," sighs Wes. "That's the only thing on the ship that was made to handle that kind of power."
"The one hitch in that plan is that the E will blow up as well," says Shelby.
Clearly, not her favorite plan.
"Can we get further away?" asks Riker. "Get better range and move us out of the blast zone?"
"Maybe," they agree.
"I think the phasers should all be tuned to that same high frequency," says Shelby. "The hand ones, too."
"I agree," says Riker. "Do it, please."
"Okay, my other recommendation is to separate the ship," Shelby adds.
"Can't do it," says Riker. "We'll need the impulse engines from the saucer section's engines to help power everything."
"But it makes for two targets," she argues.
"I understand, but it's not a good idea right now."
Shelby selects this hill to die on. "I want the captain to decide."
"I'm bringing him every alternative," he tells her firmly.
She shoulders around him and leaves the Obs Lounge.
Geordi tells Riker that he needs a day or so to reconfigure the deflector dish, and they briefly discuss Shelby. They both agree that they think Shelby is/will be helpful in this situation, but they both seem to have unspoken reservations.

Riker goes to the ready room to tell Picard about their meeting, but guess who's already there? Fucking Shelby. She's got air about her of having tattled on Riker.
Picard tells Riker right off the bat that Shelby came in to discuss Riker's concern about her plans, and that he agrees with Riker about separation not being the right plan for now.
"I want to keep it in reserve for a fall-back plan," he adds. "Can you guys prepare for it, please?"
They both nod perfunctorily and leave.
There's an awkward moment where they exit the ready room and before they get in the lift.
Worf's face in the background pretty much says, "Awwwww, dayum! Shit going down!"

Also: is there different flooring under those front stations?
 I don't remember it being different.

Shelby tries to direct the lift to the battle bridge, but Riker halts it for a chat.
"I don't give a shit if you disagree with me, or if you need to go to the captain, but you go through me, or I'll snap you back so fast you'll wonder if you're a first-year cadet."
"You're in my way," she says, digging in her heels.
Sassy Riker Moment:

"You only know how to play it safe," she accuses. "Which is probably why you've sat for so long in the shadow of a great man. Proceed to deck 8!" she yells at the lift. It resumes. "If you can't hack it, you need to get out of the way for someone who can."
The lift stops, the doors open, she gets out.
I hope she has to eat crow soon, and I hope it's dry as fuck.

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Picard's Log 43996.2: "Still chilling in the nebula, still working on plans, and weapon and shield modifications. And they're still out there, looking for us. Don't know what they want with me. Having to face the idea that nothing we do or change could make the situation better."

Picard makes his way through Engineering, then into Ten Forward, which appears to be closed. He stands and stares out the windows.
Guinan, sitting out of his sight, asks if he has trouble sleeping, and he says he's just touring the ship, which is an old tradition before a battle. They discuss whether or not the battle must be considered hopeless to have that tradition kick in. They have a talk about whether or not this is the end, and how they're living history.
Guinan tells him that this is not the end, because when the Borg attacked her people, they were scattered across the universe. As long as there are still a handful of humans to keep the spirit alive, it is not the end.
The ship rocks from an explosion, and Worf calls Picard to the bridge.

Once Picard is on the bridge, Riker explains that it's some kind of electro-magnetic charge. One of the charges actually hits the ship and does some damage. Time to leave.
Geordi reports that they got the shields up to 48%.
"Good enough," says Picard.
Seriously? Less than half is good enough? Damn.
 Wes creeps out of the nebula at impulse, then once they're clear, he punches it up to warp 9, and they speed out past the Cube. Which of course follows them.
"Shields failing," Worf announces. "Tractor beam locking on."


Worf takes him down with a phaser shot. Another appears on the other side of the bridge, but when Worf fires at him, it just bounces off the Borg's personal shields.
"It already adapted!" Riker yells when Worf continues to fire.
He goes old-school and attempts to start a fist-fight. The Borg tosses him carelessly aside. It then tosses Worf aside as well.
Picard is paying attention to the fight and doesn't notice the third Borg that has beamed in right next to him. The Borg does some kind of Borg neck pinch, and they both beam away.

Riker and Worf struggle to get up, and realize that Picard is gone. Worf hustles back to his station.
"The Cube is leaving!"
"Stay on 'em," says Riker.
The E follows the Cube, but the E's top speed is pretty much warp 9, and the Cube can go much faster than that.
"I've got their trajectory," says Worf. "It's Sector 001."
"Shit," says Riker. "They're headed for Earth."

We scoot over to the Borg ship. Picard is lead by a pair of Borg to some area where he's staring down a whole bunch of Borg in their cells.
"What the hell is going on?" he demands.
"We want your tech. We've determined that the best way to get it is to speak with a human voice. You represent your people. You will speak for us."
"Fuck that shit."

Back on the E bridge, Riker is going over his options with Wes, Data and Geordi. Wes says they can  keep this speed up for less than three hours before they blow the engines. Geordi says he's going as fast as he can to get the deflector dish thing ready, but he's going to need some power from the engines to finish the job, and they're using all of that just to keep up with the Borg.
"We need to get the Cube to drop down to impulse," says Shelby.
"I'm gonna lead an away team over to the Borg ship to get the captain back," announces Riker. "Wes, work with Geordi. Data, Worf and Dr Crusher are with me. Shelby, you're in command of the ship, coordinate with Starfleet Command."
Dr Crusher? Where the hell did she come from? She just randomly appeared on the bridge, then Riker said her name.
Troi reluctantly heads Riker off at the pass. "Um, that's not correct protocol. You shouldn't be going on the away team. With Captain Picard gone, you're actually the captain."
He realizes that she's right, and turns to Shelby. "Fine. You lead the away team."
Shelby had better stop raising her chin defiantly and smiling that little smile if she doesn't want to find out just how glass her jaw really is.
Riker drops into the captain's chair.

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Riker's Log 43998.5: "Following the Borg into Sector 001."

Worf meets up with the away team in the transporter room and hands out phasers, explaining that they've all been re-tuned to the new higher EM bandwidth.
Crusher asks what she should expect, because remember, she wasn't there last time. The Borg showed up in the second season when Crusher was "at Starfleet Medical."
"They ignored us the last time we beamed aboard their ship," said Data. "They don't view us as a threat."
"They may change their minds when we start interfering with their plans," Shelby points out.
Riker calls Shelby to remind her not to take a bunch of unnecessary risks.
She agrees. They beam over.
They reappear a moment later on the Cube.
Worf takes a scan for human lifeforms, but it comes back inconclusive.
They start looking around.
"I have an idea," says Crusher. "What if we make like a mosquito? Sting in a tender enough part, and they might stop to scratch."

They scope something to blow up, and Worf says he's picked up Picard's comm badge.
Crusher tries calling it through her own badge, but gets no answer. (Borg ship wifi password: Re$1stanc3_I5_Fu+1le) Worf says he can track it, and they follow him.

Riker is in the ready room, calling Admiral Old Man's Fantasies. He recommends that Starfleet marshal all of their firepower in Sector 001. But Hanson says they're gonna set up shop at Wolf 359. (Remember this. This is important.) He asks about Picard, but Riker admits that he hasn't heard anything back yet.

Worf leads the team into another room and the tricorder seems to indicate that Picard is inside a wall? They all look at one another. Data steps forward and yanks. A part of the wall comes out, revealing that it's a drawer.

OMG, what a travesty.
The Borg cannot fold for shit. Don't they have any fucking housekeeping skills?
Shelby calls Riker to tell him that there is no Borg Martha Stewart.
He tells her to keep looking.
Geordi and Wes enter the bridge to say that the deflector dish is ready. It'll make a huge bang, and they'll have to evacuate a shit-ton of people out of certain parts of the ship because of radiation, but it should be awesome. Troi leaves to start the evacuation.
Riker calls Shelby to say they have about 17 minutes left of warp, and they'll need to figure out how to get the Borg to drop to impulse in that time.
Shelby and the others begin shooting down these pyramidal distribution nodes in order to create a sting that needs scratching. Borg start stepping from their alcoves to take care of the problem, and the Cube drops out of warp.

Riker has the E also drop to impulse, then shift all of that warp power to the dish. They prep to do their big bang. The away team suddenly finds themselves surrounded by Borg, which makes sense because they were standing in a circle shooting at the nodes around them. They painted themselves into a damn Borg corner. They start shooting and each take down a Borg or two before personal shields start popping up. Shelby calls O'Brien to make sure he has a lock on them. Suddenly, Crusher spots Picard in profile behind some oncoming Borg and yells his name.



Worf runs for Picard but is stopped by a forcefield.
"Fuck! O'Brien get us out of here!" yells Shelby.
They beam out.

Their exit from the lift onto the bridge is dejected.
"We were unable to retrieve the captain," says Data.
"Why the fuck not?" Riker demands.
"He has been altered by the Borg," Data explains.
"He is Borg," spits Worf. He seems... angry-disappointed, like a mom whose kid has broken his am doing something stupid.
"The Borg are getting ready to power up to warp again!" interjects Geordi.
"Crap, ready the dish," says Riker, trying to take it all in.
"I can go back and get him," says Shelby quickly.
"He's alive," argues Crusher. "We can get him back here and fix him."
"No, this is the only chance we have to stop them," says Riker. "If they go to warp again, we'll be left in the dust while they take over the Alpha Quadrant."
"We can sabotage them again," argues Shelby.
"We don't have the time or the power," he shakes his head.
"Consult Starfleet!" she says. "Call Hanson!"
"Was I not clear when I said no time?"

"Borg calling," announces Worf.
Yeah, that's not terrifying.

"I am Locutus of Borg," announces altered Picard. "Your life as it has been is over. From now on, you will service us."
Dude, gross.
Oh, wait. He means slavery.
Still fucked up.
"Resistance is futile."
Riker pauses.

Dramatic music!


This cliffhanger, you guys.
You guys, this cliffhanger.
There have been a number of episodes that have been intricately linked to their own backstories, and this is definitely one of those. First, those last few minutes: when Star Trek decided to do a cliffhanger for the end of season three, they simply wrote the first half. They had no idea how it would turn out when they filmed it, so the writers, actors and audience are all on the same page. No one knew how it would end. No hints were dropped that it might turn out alright, because the writers had no idea what to drop. "Lets make Picard a Borg, and have Riker decide to blow him up." The idea was to get people to tune in to season four and boy did it ever work. 
The second part of the backstory that's linked to this episode is that of Riker. When writing on this episode began, no one knew this would turn out to be a Riker story. They just knew how they wanted it to end. Once that idea was in place, another story was needed to fill most of the episode, and it was decided to address the issue of Riker not moving forward with his career. We've been with this character for three years now, and he's been offered commissions just as many times, and turned them all down. Obviously, the show is in no hurry to write off Riker, but it has become necessary to discuss why he's great at his job and more than qualified for a promotion, but has opted to stay put each time. Wes is having the same problem: he technically should have moved on by now, but has not because the show wants him to remain part of the crew. So a compromise was made, where Wes was given a field promotion. He will still have to apply for, get into, and complete the Academy, but at least it feels less like the show is stalling for time with Wes. Here, we need to deal with Riker. Why does he keep saying "thanks, but no thanks." When questioned by Picard, Riker points out that the ship he's being offered is a good one, but "it's no Enterprise." Is he hanging on because being on the E is exciting, and because he's part of the best ship in the fleet, whereas he'll be assigned to a less-exciting ship, and having to build his ship's reputation from scratch? We don't know. None of his thoughts are resolved by the end of this episode. Where this process works is in the writing. Michael Piller had only been given a one-year contract as writer for TNG and was considering whether or not to stay on past season three at the time, so Riker's indecision was his own. He had all of the same conversations and thoughts that Riker did, and it shows in Riker's interactions with both Troi and Picard. 

Michael Piller on the Borg set
For tension and drama, Shelby was dropped in. She forces Riker to take a look at his choices and ask himself not only how he's changed over the years, but if he's grown too comfortable in his position. Career commanders probably exist, people who work best as Number Ones rather than Captains, but Riker is reminded that he really wanted the Big Chair, and that he sacrificed a lot to get where he is now. (Riker actually gestures at Troi when he mentions sacrifices, referencing the fact that he and Troi are no longer involved because of his quick-moving career. More of that story is explored in season six's "Second Chances.") While I don't recall Riker ever being as brash as Shelby, when set against her, Riker definitely feels more mature and sure of himself ("seasoned," as Troi put it).
It might have been a coincidence that Riker's story and Piller's overlapped here, but it worked really well, and the old adage of "write what you know" is a good one. It made for a great episode.

I have two small criticisms of this episode, and they're minor. Both feel valid, but the second also feels slightly nitpicky. In the first, Beverly Crusher is dropped unceremoniously into the last part of the episode to go onto the Borg ship. I really wish they had included her earlier, so it wasn't such a surprise when she appeared near the end, playing such a large part in those Borg ship scenes. Just a small scene would have been okay, like her checking in with the bridge after the disaster in Engineering. If a character hasn't shown up for 80% of the episode, the audience supposes that they will not be featured at all. This is fine if their appearance will be used in some kind of plot twist, but she was not. She was not there, then appeared. Pretty much out of nowhere. Don't get me wrong - I'm glad she's not being used gratuitously like Bones was, and that she's really only being utilized when medical stuff is needed, but could she have not sat in on the poker game? Gotten a quick drink in Ten Forward when Riker and Troi were having their chat? As odd as it sounds, only including her in those last few scenes set off my artist senses. Something you're taught as an artist is to do things uniformly. Does this mean symmetrical? No. But if you include blue in one corner of your painting, you must also add a bit in other parts so that the blue appears to be intentional rather than haphazard. Otherwise, your audience is going to fixate on that blue and wonder why it is nowhere else in your painting. Crusher's odd appearance at the end of the episode without balance in earlier scenes feels last-minute and strange.

In my other criticism, I am left wondering why the Borg, who already have a set MO in place, have decided that humans must be dealt with differently. Seems like they'd just keep plugging away at any species that gave them too much trouble, or forced them to change tactic. And if all else failed, they'd just throw in the towel and walk away. But here, they decide to assimilate a human, something Shelby thought they weren't interested in. My question is: why? Why are humans so special that we require a spokesman? Why wouldn't they just walk in, take what they wanted, and leave? They have better weapons than we do, and their ships are more powerful and faster. Why not just squish us like errant ants? This has (presumably) always been their way, so why change it now? It will, possibly, be addressed in the second half, but... (*cringe, cringe, cringe*) this show is written by humans, about humans, and the concept of "humans are special, so our enemies need special ways of dealing with us" is just... so.... ugh. It's kind of Mary Sue, to be honest. Reminds me of that comic about YA novels.

I know it's nitpicky, and my complaint could conceivably destroy the plot (which is not my intention, because I actually like this plot), but why the hell are humans so special?

Fun Facts:

- In the computer game Star Trek Online, there is an Iconian gate near Jouret IV which was hidden in subspace, and it is hinted that this was why the Borg were interested in the colony to begin with.
- The writing staff had wanted to bring the Borg back earlier, but struggled with a villain who lacked character. They simply couldn't figure out how to do it. The idea was circulated that the Borg might have a kind of queen bee, but they could not figure out who it would be. When they knew they needed a cliffhanger and wanted to use the Borg, Michael Piller suggested that Picard should become assimilated and become the queen bee.
- Initially, Picard and Data were going to be combined to make the queen bee character.
- Once they had an idea for the first half of the cliffhanger, then they needed something to fill the rest of the episode, and came up with Riker's story.
-  The reason why Dr Crusher is included in the away team is because Gates McFadden told the writers that she would like to fire a phaser. Playing the doctor, there was not a lot of opportunity for her to do so, but Piller was happy to cater to her request. Though it does make sense for a doctor to be on that particular away team, in case Picard was found injured by the team, it wouldn't necessarily have to be the CMO.
- The Paulson Nebula is described as being full of rocks and clumpy material, but none of that was included in the final episode. The nebula created here is closer to the Mutara Nebula.
- A scene not filmed but in the final script was a continuation of the Ten Forward scene with Troi and Riker, where Riker sings a particular song, and a nearby Guinan hires him to sing in Ten Forward a few nights a week.
- The Jouret surface set was an actual soundstage, a matte painting of the mountains and sky, and another matte painting of the crater.

- The Borg costumes in this episode were based off of the ones from the previous episode, but had the benefit of having the kinks worked out from "Q Who." Namely, how to attach the tubes and other components to human beings.
- Michael Westmore and his son (also Michael) worked on the special effects for the Borg suits. Michael the younger attached a little inch-long red laser that he found to the Locutus helmet, just for shits and giggles, and when Patrick Stewart turned and looked into the camera as Locutus, that cheap little laser bathed the camera in red light. Rick Berman was ecstatic, and Westmore recalled how nice it was that his son had found this cheap laser to stick on there. Had someone come to them with the idea of what they wanted, they might have spent quite a bit of money trying to figure out how to do it.
- The Borg ship set was build slightly higher than the floor of the soundstage so that lights could shine up under the floor grating. The ceiling featured little round lights that are traditionally used in swimming pool filters.
- Actor Elizabeth Dennehy struggled with her dialogue in this episode. She was largely unfamiliar with the show and needed to look like she not only knew Starfleet, but knew enough to have some authority. She also had difficulty with the techno-babble that Shelby often uses when talking about the Borg, as lines that she might normally say were easier to memorize because they made sense to her. Actor Kaley Cuoco admitted the same problem when filming a scene for The Big Bang Theory, where her character must spout some scientific techno-babble which made no sense to her.

- Being that Encounter at Farpoint was filmed as one episode and later divided into two parts, this was the first time the series had done a cliffhanger. As such, the studio was a little freer with the budget. Which was fortunate because Borg stuff ain't cheap.
- Director Cliff Boyle named these episodes (parts I and II) as his favorite project.
- Assistant Director Chip Chalmers recalls that when Locutus first came onto the set, everyone was impressed with his costume. He stepped up on cue in his super-creepy costume and said into the camera, "I am Locutus of Borg. Have you considered buying a Pontiac?" The entire set lost it.

- On Elizabeth Dennehy's first day of filming, she had the hardest time with the technobabble, especially the lines "separate the saucer section, assign a skeleton crew." She asked Michael Piller to "lay off the alliteration."
- Associate Producer Peter Lauritson estimated that this episode had around 80 special effects alone.
- The Paulson Nebula used shots of the Mutara Nebula from "Wrath of Khan," with added smoke and effects.
- This episode was one of the few that required new shots of the exterior of the Enterprise, rather than reusing shots from Encounter at Farpoint.
-This episode and the second half comprise the first two-parter Star Trek episodes since TOS' "The Menagerie."
- This is the first cliffhanger in Star Trek.
- This episode marks the first time that the Borg say their catchphrase "Resistance is futile."
- The Borg would be used three more times in end-of-season cliffhangers: once more in TNG, and twice in Voyager.
- The Borg will later develop naming conventions ("Seven of Nine") but in this episode, they designate Picard individually as Locutus. This works because locutus is Latin for "he who has spoken."
- This is the only season finale that Wil Wheaton filmed scenes for. "The Neutral Zone" did not feature Wes, and "Shades of Grey" was a recycled piece of shit.
- The weapons that Shelby mentioned as being two years away from completion most likely ended up being included on the USS Defiant from DS9.

Pew pew pew

- Despite his confusion with the phrase "early bird gets the worm," Data has heard it before: the Minosian peddler used it in "Arsenal of Freedom."
- This is the first time that the area of space that Earth is in is referred to as Sector 001. Sector 001 contains the Terran and Vulcan systems.
- Ronald D Moore states that he felt the "newness" and comparisons to TOS went away after this episode.
- After this episode aired, a fan rumor circulated that Patrick Stewart's contract talks with Paramount had stalled, and that Picard would be killed off, and Riker would become captain, with Shelby as First Officer. It bolstered ratings for the second half.
- This episode was nominated for an Emmy for Special Visual Effects.
- Longest Fun Facts section EVAR.

Red deaths: 0
To date: 1
Gold deaths: 19
To date: 20
Blue deaths: 0
To date: 1
Unnamed color crew deaths: 0
To date: 127
Obnoxious Wes moments: 0
To date: 1
Legitimate Wes moments when he should have told someone to go fuck themselves: 0
To date: 0
Sassy Geordi moments: 0
To date: 12
Sassy Wes Moments: 0
To date: 0
Sassy Worf Moment: 0
To date: 8
Sassy Riker Moments: 1
To date: 15
Sassy Picard Moments: 0
To date: 12
Sassy NPC Moments: 0
To date: 0
Sassy Data Moments: 0
To date: 6
Sassy O'Brien Moments: 0
To date: 0
Sassy Crusher Moments: 0
To date: 2
Sassy Troi Moments: 0
To date: 7
Sassy Guest Star Moments: 0
To date: 6
Number of times that it is mentioned that Data is an android: 0
To date: 28
Number of times that Troi reacts to someone else's feelings: 0
To date: 28
Number of times that Geordi "looks at something" with his VISOR: 0
To date: 5
Number of times when Data gives too much info and has to be told to shut up: 0
To date: 3
Picard Maneuvers: 1
To date: 38
Tea, Earl Grey: 1
To date: 6

Socksey and Lucy like to play "I'm Not Looking At You, So You Don't Exist."

Monday, March 12, 2018

ST:TNG Season Three, Episode Twenty-Five "Transfigurations"

ST:TNG Season Three, Episode Twenty-Five "Transfigurations"
Production Order: 25
Air Order: 25
Stardate: 43957.2
Original Air Date: June 4, 1990

Picard's Log 43957.2: "Gonna map an uncharted star system. Should be awesome, mostly because the actual mapping is boring, and we can all sit in our quarters and catch up on our shows."

Worf and Geordi are sitting at the bar in Ten Forward. Geordi's crushing on some girl at a table behind them. He tells Worf which one, and Worf turns to check her out. Good to know that in the 24th century they still have "don't look, don't look, don't look!"
It leads to a good comical set-up:
Geordi: "Don't stare!"
Worf: "Why not?"
Geordi: "Because she'll see."
Worf: "Good."

And the blind man turns and looks at his friend through the VISOR that covers his aforementioned eyes. He lets it go. They're in Ten Forward because of the ol' Geordi-is-awkward-with-girls trope. He's decided to start being coached by a dude who lacks subtlety. Geordi asks Worf what he should say.
"Forget words. Scent is more important."
Sassy Geordi Moment: "...thanks, Worf. That helps a lot."
The girl in question comes to the bar to drop off her empty glass and greets Geordi.
He awkwardly stammers through some small talk.
Worf, in the background, looks like he's going to phaser himself so he doesn't have to witness Geordi's slow murder by conversation.
"Okay, see you around." She turns to go back to her table, touching him on the arm briefly as she passes.
She touched your arm, Geordi.
She touched your arm, Geordi.
Shit, I'm aro-ace, and even I know that means she likes you.
Worf drowns his sorrows by downing his drink in one fell swoop.
Geordi gets pages to the transporter room.

Geordi runs into Riker, Dr Crusher and Data in the corridor. Apparently, they're all on an away team, which is beaming down to the surface of some planet. They've found a little one-person spaceship crash-landed there, and the humanoid survivor is quickly becoming a humanoid casualty.
They hit surface-side and find the guy, and holy shit, is he a wreck.

Not only is he missing the lower half of his left arm, but also the left half of his face. He looks like Mazikeen from The Sandman, without her mask.
Crusher does her scans and announces that this guy is ready to kick the bucket any moment now, but she thinks she might be able to help him, if she can get him to sick bay. But she can't just transport him, because he's too delicate right now.
"Okay, who volunteers as tribute?"
Geordi jumps in before she even says what she wants from him.
She sticks a do-hickey to this guy's brain (no, really: right to it. Is that okay? Seems like it wouldn't be). Then she slaps one on Geordi's forehead.
"I'm gonna splice your nervous systems together."
Okay, maybe lead with that next time. Like, before you stick that thing on your volunteer's head.
"I can unhook you if something goes sideways," she assures him.
He agrees, though he looks wary.
She switches it on, and there's an energy surge, and a little ball of light jumps from the wounded guy into Geordi's forehead device.
He gasps, but says he's okay.
She has them beamed to sick bay.

Dramatic music! Opening credits!

When we come back, we're in some kind of sick bay mega-lab.
Crusher and some Blue shirts are working diligently to get this dude up and running again. They talk a lot of 24th-century medical science, like introducing a man-made helpful virus to get some shit done on the inside, and prepping him for surgery. Crusher tells a lesser Blue to give Geordi a full bio-scan to make sure he's okay after that energy surge.

On the bridge, Riker and Data tell Picard about the ship, which seemed to be an escape pod. Worf's scans back this up by saying he found bits and pieces of metals and stuff in orbit, as well as evidence of weapons fire. So, a fight, an escape pod, and a crash.
Picard is holding what appears to be a glass Nalgene water bottle, and they all say that it's the last part of the escape pod's computer system. He gives it to Data to hook up to the E's computers so they can grab some info on their guy down in sick bay.

Back down in sick bay, a lesser Blue is handing Crusher a glass of water, and I guess we're meant to take that as Crusher working around the clock and ignoring her own self-care. Another Blue tells Crusher that they've successfully reattached his arm.
Geordi comes in, and she tells him that he's free to go, because his bio-scan came up clean. He replies that he feels great, and leaves.
Picard enters to ask about the mysterious injured guy.
"He's awesome," says Crusher. "I thought he was gonna die for sure, but he's bounced back like a champ. Things is, it's not entirely me. His body has crazy self-healing powers." She leads him over to a screen and pulls up some video (maybe a live-feed?) that shows cells regenerating. "It's not cells repairing his injuries. These are his regular cells, mutating."
"Possibly it's part of his natural healing process."
Not cancer?
"I can't stop it, anyway. Hopefully it's okay."

Geordi, Data and Worf are sitting in Ten Forward talking shop around that Nalgene-bottle-that-is-actually-an-alien-computer. Or rather, Geordi and Data are talking shop. Worf looks bored. He is the wrong kind of Gold for this convo.
He finally gets annoyed and says that they did not come here to work. They came here to relax.
"I'm relaxed," protests Geordi. "Actually, I feel awesome. Actually actually...."
He spies Christy at the bar and intercepts her before she can leave.
"I'm going to arboretum," she smiles.
When he asks if she'd like some company, she says she would, but didn't think he would be into it.
He hands her some smooth-ass line about how there are a lot of things about him that would surprise her. They leave Ten Forward together.
"I have been tutoring Geordi," Worf tells Data, taking all the credit.

Crusher's Log 43958.8: "I took that dude off life-support because frankly, in the day and a half that we've had him, most of his organs have pretty much repaired themselves to the point where they can function without our help. I'm calling him John Doe because I have no idea what his actual name is."

Crusher is standing next to the bed with John Doe on it, talking to some other Blue shirt, when he wakes up and grabs her hand. She jumps a mile.
"I am alive," he says, amazed. He thanks her. "Who am I?"
Nope, not "where am I?" John Doe doesn't know his own name, either.

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

I think his bed is made of that foam that people pack stuff with. It actually
looks pretty comfy.

Picard's Log 43960.6: "Still doing the map thing. That guy John Doe is healing hella fast."

Crusher gives John some kind of medical treatment involving lasers, then asks how he's doing.
"Pretty awesome, actually."
"You're about six weeks ahead of my planned rehabilitation schedule. I'm gonna put these bands on your arms and legs to stimulate the electrical impulses to help you move them. But remember: you've been off your feet for almost a month," she smiles.
"I feel strong enough to fly," he declares. He stands well enough on his own, but starts to pitch over almost immediately. "Okay, how about I walk first?"
He takes it slower, and walks a very slow circle around the treatment chair. He starts to keel over again, but is caught by Picard, who has just come in.
"You're doing really well!" says Picard.
"I have a fabulous doctor," says John. There's an extended flirt-smile thing between he and Crusher.
"Have you remembered anything about who you are?" asks Picard.
John sits back down in the treatment chair. "Nope. My memories start when I woke up in sick bay. Dr Crusher says you think I was in a battle of some kind?"
"You were in an escape pod, and we thought we might have seen some debris that indicated a battle."
"It's weird not knowing who I am or where I'm from," admits John.
"Have you tried using our equipment to fire up his memories again?" Picard asks Crusher.
"Yeah, his brain patterns are too different for our stuff," she admits. "Does nothing. We're hoping his brain will just start giving up the ghost on its own."
John Doe makes a face and writhes a little bit in the chair, and Picard worries that he is relapsing. But John and Crusher says that it's a pain associated with his cell mutation, which has nothing to do with his crash injuries. And neither of them know what this cell mutation thing is about, either.

Riker is waiting for the turbolift. When the doors open, Geordi and Christy are inside, making out. She smiles at Riker as she exits, and Riker gets in the turbolift in her place.
"You've been seeing a lot of her this month," Riker remarks.
"Yeah, I feel awesome. Don't know why. Just more confident."

O'Brien stumbles into sick bay holding his arm.
"Kayaking on the holodeck again," he tells Crusher.
She scans him and says his shoulder is dislocated, and that she'll set up some kind of medical thing to help fix it.
Wes comes in to confirm dinner with his mother. He talks to O'Brien about his shoulder and "kayaking again," then asks John how he's doing.
John takes a smooth walk around the room as evidence that he's doing well, then says that Crusher has promised to take him on a tour of the ship the next day.
Sassy Moment: "You might not believe this, but sick bay is boring."
Wes grins. He was probably raised a bit in sick bays and labs, and that shit is not fun for a kid. I totally get this. My parents ran an insurance agency.
"Dying over here!" O'Brien yells to Crusher in the next room.
Dude, be more dramatic. You're gonna live.
John walks to O'Brien. "Don't worry, you'll be okay."
He touches O'Brien on the shoulder in a reassuring way, but there's weird yellow glow, and O'Brien reports that the pain is gone.
Crusher comes running in and takes a scan. "It's totally healed. What did you do?" she asks John.
"I just touches him," shrugs John, mystified.
She scans his hand, and they all look nonplussed.

Later, the Crushers are having dinner in Beverly's quarters.
"Nobody can figure out what the deal is," she tells Wes.
"I like that guy," he replies.
"Everybody does. Everybody's talking about how much they like him. He's charming."
"What about you? Do you like him?"
"Are you asking if I'm romantically involved with him?" she asks.
"You said it, I didn't," he laughs.
"Hmmm, not really interested in romance with him per se, but it's different. More like a spiritual connection."

Geordi enters the bridge and goes to Data at Science.
"Hey, I think we've been thinking about this all wrong."
He puts the Nalgene bottle down on the console.
What follows is several minutes of scientific jargon and gobbledegook, where they figure out how to make the thing give up the info they want. They get some navigational maps from it, but Majel doesn't know how to read them, because they aren't finished mapping this system.
After some more retooling and guesses and adding in the stuff they have already mapped, they get a better guess at the trajectory of where John Doe's ship might have come from.
They let Picard know.

Picard goes to sick bay with the news that they figured out where John Doe's home planet is.
"We can take you back."
John Doe is alarmed. "NO, that's a bad idea! Cannot go back!"
"Why not?" Picard and Crusher ask. "Are you remembering stuff?"
"Not really," he admits. "I mean... I know that I can't go back there just yet. I think there were others with me, and we were escaping something. But I still can't figure out who I am, who they were, or why we were escaping. Sorry, I didn't mean to shout."
"It's cool," says Picard. "We won't be in that system for another three weeks, so we'll have time to figure some stuff out first."
Crusher sees Picard out, and while they're gone, John arches his back. That weird yellow glow appears in his chest, then subsides.

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Crusher and John are in Ten Forward, having a drink. Crusher is taking him on that tour she promised, but because it's his first time outside of sick bay, she wants to limit the trip so as not to overexert him. He's pretty dazzled by the ship and by the people in it.
"It's so cool that there are so many different kinds of people, but they all work together."
"Is that weird?" she asks.
"I dunno. Feels unusual. Like, I don't remember my people completely but I do feel like this would not be the way that things were done by them. I got this weird sense of clarity yesterday."
"With the energy pulse?" she asks. He nods. "Maybe that and the pain are linked to the cell mutation. I wish I could help you more."
"No, you've helped me a lot. I wish I could repay you."
"Our friendship is repayment enough," she smiles.
"I'm also enjoying our friendship," he says acrefully, "but I'm on some kind of journey, and I have to complete it before I stop to consider other things."
She doesn't look happy, but nods. He has to do the thing before he can put their relationship first.

Back on the bridge, Worf reports a ship on an intercept course. Its about 11 hours away, and hauling ass to where the E is. Picard asks Worf to hail the unknown ship, but he gets no response.
"Hail them every 30 minutes or so," says Picard. "Kinda want to know who's in such a hurry to get here."
Maybe it's the welcoming committee, Picard. You did just stroll in and start mapping the place instead of checking to see if someone lived here.

John is in sick bay, sitting at one of the consoles, when the glowing energy pulse appears in his chest again. He falls out of the chair and alarms go off. A Blue shirt rushes in and calls for Crusher. He tells her that the pain is getting worse. The Blue shirt asks if Crusher wants to give John a painkiller, but Crusher says his system is so different that it wouldn't make a difference.
"I need to get off the ship!" says John suddenly.
He bolts out of sick bay, with Crusher rushing after him.
She's forced to stop in the corridor and call security.
John ends up in one of the shuttle bays, where Geordi and some Gold shirts are doing maintenance on one of the shuttles. But he's up in the control booth thing above them, and nobody notices him. He pushes buttons. The energy surge moves through him again.

Crusher and some security Golds arrive in the shuttle bay, but they are downstairs on the floor. She looks up and sees him in the booth.
Worf yells at John to get down, but John ignores him.
The set-up for the shuttle bay is weird. In order to access the booth, Worf has to exit the shuttle bay, go to the turbolift next door, and take it up to the next level.
I never noticed that there aren't any stairs on this ship. That's awesome for ADA standards, but less awesome in an emergency. Worf has to stand in the corridor and wait for the lift to come back down, then get in and wait for it to take him up to the control booth. Is there not an emergency ladder, like in a Jeffries tube?
Anyway, he gets up there and tells John to step away from the controls, that he needs to go back to sick bay. John opens the shuttle bay doors, but not the forcefield that holds the air in.
 A concerned John tells Worf to stay back, that he can't control what's happening to him. There's another energy surge, but this time, it does not stay contained to John's body. It radiates outward, and pushes Worf over the railing and down onto the shuttle bay floor.
Crusher and Geordi rush forward, and Crusher takes a scan.
"His neck is broken. No life signs." She calls for a resuscitation unit.
John appears next to them. (I didn't see him jump, so I guess he took the turbolift?) One of the Golds tries to hold him at phaser-point, but Crusher stops him. John puts his hands on Worf's neck, and the glow appears.
Worf sits up like nothing happened.

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

John is hauled into the ready room to face Picard's wrath. Picard is pissed that John tried to steal a shuttle craft, and nearly killed a member of his crew.
"He also saved Worf!" interjects Crusher.
"Uh-huh," replies Picard. "That's why he's here, and not in the brig!"
John admits that he doesn't know why he tried to steal the shuttle, just that he's afraid for the crew. He thinks he might be dangerous, and attempted escape.
Crusher scans him and says that the cell mutation has increased by a lot.
Data calls to say that the alien ship is within weapons range, and Picard excuses himself, telling Crusher to keep an eye on John.
They exit the ready room.
While waiting for the lift, Geordi approaches and thanks John.
"When we were connected on the planet, you gave me something, like more confidence."
John smiles. "I don't think I did. Maybe it just unlocked something you already had."

The ship comes onscreen, and Worf says the aliens are scanning them, and finally answering their hails. Then the screen shows the inside of the alien ship, and a dude is sitting front and center.
"Oh shit, it's Sunad," murmurs John.
Picard signals to Worf to mute the link, then asks John if he knows that dude.
"Yes and no?" John replies. "Like I remember that his name is Sunad and that he's dangerous, but nothing else."
When Worf unmutes the screen, the guy says that he's Commander Sunad of Zalkon, and that Picard is trespassing in their space.
Seriously, who the hell's job was it to ring the doorbell and see if anyone was home before flying in and starting a huge mapping project?
Picard starts to apologize, but Sunad cuts him off to demand return of John, "a Zalkonian citizen."
"He's a guest on our ship," Picard explains. "We found him dying in a shipwreck and nursed him back to health."
"Oh." Sunad smiles in a creepy way. "You aided and abetted a criminal. He escaped from us with three others. The others are dead, and we figured he was as well. Give him back to us so we can finish our job."
Kill him. They're gonna kill him.
"Sorry, what was his crime?" asks Picard, suspicious.
Sunad: "He is a disruptive influence. He spreads lies. He encourages dissent. He disturbs the natural order of our society."
Okay, kiddies: if someone tells you that a person is a criminal, and then lists stuff like this when questioned about their crimes, you can tell several things about the situation: A) those charges are bullshit; B) the government is most likely corrupt as fuck; and C) the person making the request to get the "criminal" back is most likely a sadistic asshole who will take delight in torturing and/or killing the person who is accused of committing these bullshit "crimes."

Sunad gives them two hours to hand over John, then cuts off the viewscreen. Picard turns and asks for info. Worf and Geordi tell him that the other ship has weapons, speed and maneuverability to match the E.
"Sunad hates John," Troi provides. "But here's the other thing: Zalkonians are afraid of John. Couldn't tell you why, though."
Picard leaves Data in charge of the bridge and pulls John and some others into the Obs Lounge for a meeting. There, John admits that he doesn't feel like a criminal, but he has no idea if what Sunad told them was true.
"I feel like I'm a danger to your crew, but that this is bigger than just me," he adds. "I'll surrender to them if I have to."
Picard says he wants to think about the situation for a while, and John exits.
Then the others discuss the ramifications of the situation. Crusher thinks the charges are crap (they are) and that Sunad will kill John if they hand him over (they will). Picard argues that the E isn't here to personally judge the Zalkonian culture (that's true), but that he also feels that John's life means more than just that of a criminal. Troi agrees. She says that Sunad feels personally threatened by John.
"I know how I would feel if the situation were reversed, and some aliens were holding a Federation citizen hostage," puts in Riker.
Troi points out that Zalkonians feel like the E shouldn't be involved at all, and they can't understand why the E's crew wouldn't immediately turn John over.
"But we are involved," says Crusher. "I saved his life so what - they could hunt him down and take it away again?"

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Picard's two hours are up, and there's Sunad, demanding that the E turn over John again.
"Give us our prisoner, then GTFO," he tells Picard.
"Tell me more about his crimes," Picard presses. I get the feeling that he's stalling for time.
"None of your beeswax," spits Sunad.
"You should know something," says Picard. "While he was here, the Zalkonian developed powers. Powers to heal himself and others, and even bring back the dead."
"Lies! He has gotten to you, too!"
When Picard won't give up the goods quickly enough, Sunad nods to some guy behind him, who fiddles with some buttons on their ship, and Picard stops abruptly, and clutches at his throat. Everyone on the bridge follows suit. Then everyone on the ship.

In sick bay, Crusher is on the floor holding her throat.
"Can't breathe," she croaks at John.
He puts his hand on her chest, and the glow occurs, and she breathes deeply.
"I remember who and what I am," he tells her.
They move into a corridor and find someone choking on the floor. Not knowing what's going on, she pulls out her tricorder, but he stops her and places a hand on the crew member's chest. That person breathes easily. Recognizing that he won't be able to help everyone in this way, John touches the nearest panel, and the energy surge ripples through the ship.

They reach the bridge just as the surge does. People start getting up off the ground.
On the screen, Sunad tells his guys to start firing weapons at the Enterprise. John steps forward and tells him that he won't be harming anyone on the E anymore. He holds out his hand, and there's a light flash, and Sunad is standing on the bridge of the E.

And then we get a nice juxtaposition here:
John: "Don't be afraid. I won't harm you."
Sunad: "Kill him, Captain! He's dangerous!"
"Yeeeaaahhh," says John. "You and the government have been telling our people that for generations, but none of it is true." John looks at Picard. "Our species is on the verge of moving toward becoming beings of energy. Every time someone started to exhibit these changes, they were killed. The society is afraid of these changes, but shouldn't be. They were afraid that these changes would undermine their authority. So four of us left Zalkon, to see what would happen if we let the changes come to fruition. But they hunted us down and killed the other three. I'm about to become the first of my kind to change over."

There's one final surge, and John becomes a figure of glowing yellow-orange.

"Don't be afraid," John says to Sunad again.
But Sunad backs away from John's hand ("hand") and yells "Don't touch me!"
"Okay," says John. "But I'm going back to Zalkonia, and I'm going to tell the others that they can join me. And some of them will."
He lifts his hand again and Sunad is returned to his ship.
On the viewscreen, the ship turns and flies away.

The Zalkonian ship looks like a vibrator

John turns to Picard and Riker.
"I'm going to go back to my people now."
"It's out job to seek out life forms. We feel privileged to have been at the emergence of a new species," replies Picard.
John touches Crusher's cheek. "You restored my life and gave me so much more. I am grateful."
He becomes a ball of moving energy, then flies out through the skylight while the others watch, before flying off into space.


Initial response to this episode: I still wish that it had been swapped in the line-up with "Menage a Troi." While this episode also had some light-hearted goofy scenes (Worf coaching Geordi on dating), it had more brevity than "Menage a Troi" and would have been an easier palette-cleanser than that episode.
What's good about this episode:
It was written by Rene Eschevarria, who wrote "The Offspring" and he was not yet part of the regular writing staff. Michael Piller called him in New York and asked if he could help with a story they started about the E crew finding someone who was mostly dead, then basically rebuilding this person from scratch with 24th-century medical technology, no one knowing who he was. Eschevarria ended up putting the spin on it that we had seen stories between humanoids, and stories between humanoids and beings of pure energy, but never the in-between process. He found the idea intriguing, and the writing staff liked it, so that's how they took the story.
This episode has some good sci-fi elements. We get up-close with the 24th-century medical tech, and see Crusher fighting like hell over weeks to get this guy up and running again. It's a little glimpse into that world outside of the usual few seconds we typically get. Then we get a dose of humanoid-becoming-energy-being, and that's pretty good sci-fi, too. This might make a good novel. (Surprisingly, no one took up the mantle of novelizing this episode.) 
What's less fabulous:
Crusher's relationship with John was a little fuzzy. While that's more realistic and closer to real life, that kind of relationship plays out better over a longer period of time in a television show, like her relationship with Picard. For an hour-long show, you should either get into it or not. There isn't time to pussy-foot around - your audience will get frustrated. The fact that she feels a spiritual connection to him more than a romantic one didn't play out very well. It's a rather nuanced concept, and again, might have played out nicely if they intended to keep him on as a regular over several episodes or seasons, but the fact that they had to add it in to John's amnesia, mysterious cell mutation, and everything else surrounding having this arcane guy onboard, it got lost in the shuffle. However, I do applaud them showing a widow/single mother with a romantic life, and also them showing the conversation with her kid about the subject. I feel like it's only recently that they've started showing people in her position as having romantic aspirations. I mean, it exists, people get remarried all the time, and they deal with it, but it seems like even in the early 90's (when this was filmed) that they were still tiptoe-ing around the subject matter.
The down-low:
As much decent stuff that this episode has, it doesn't really stand-out. I cringe calling an okay episode "forgettable," but there isn't really anything that makes a person say, "Oh, I loved that episode!" What's more, it's joined at the end of season three (a solid season) by the episode where Sarek loses his mind, by a Betazoid sex romp (more infamous than famous), and by "Best of Both Worlds," which is a rollercoaster. And I know they can't all be super-mega-ultra-fantastic, and that for some "good enough" is good enough, but sadly, "Transfigurations" just gets lost in the mix.

Fun Facts:

- John Doe is never given a name onscreen, but in a first draft of the script, his Zalkonian name is G'il Inar.
- The transformation of John Doe is mostly done on-camera with very little after-production effects added. Actor Mark LaMura was wearing an all-over orange bodysuit that glowed when they filmed with a special film.
- This is the first time we see the large lab set (the med lab). It will later be used as the stellar cartography set, as well as others.
- This is the first episode where we hear of O'Brien's love of kayaking on the holodeck. This activity and the dislocated shoulder will come up again on DS9.
- John Doe's left arm is lost in the crash. While it appears to have been replaced with an artificial one, spoken dialogue suggests that the lower half of the arm was found in the wreckage and reattached.
- Sunad is an inversion of TNG writer Richard Danus. Danus worked on "Deja Q" and "Booby Trap," as well as two episodes of DS9.
- Actor Charles Dennis (Sunad) will appear in an episode of Enterprise.
- This is the second time we've seen Christy Henshaw. She also had that disastrous date with Geordi on the holodeck beach in "Booby Trap."

Director Tom Benko with Julie Warner and LeVar Burton

Red deaths: 0
To date 1
Gold deaths: 0
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Blue deaths: 0
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Unnamed color crew deaths: 0
To date: 127
Obnoxious Wes moments: 0
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Legitimate Wes moments when he should have told someone to go fuck themselves: 0
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Sassy Geordi moments: 1
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Sassy Wes Moments: 0
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Sassy Worf Moment: 0
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Sassy Riker Moments: 0
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Sassy Picard Moments: 0
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Sassy NPC Moments: 0
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Sassy Data Moments: 0
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Sassy O'Brien Moments: 0
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Sassy Crusher Moments: 0
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Sassy Troi Moments: 0
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Sassy Guest Star Moments: 1
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Number of times that it is mentioned that Data is an android: 0
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Number of times that Troi reacts to someone else's feelings: 2
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Number of times that Geordi "looks at something" with his VISOR: 0
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Number of times when Data gives too much info and has to be told to shut up: 0
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Picard Maneuvers: 2
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Tea, Earl Grey: 1
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Handsome Boris