Warp Speed to Nonsense

Warp Speed to Nonsense

Monday, July 10, 2017

ST:TNG Season Two, Episode Twenty-One "Peak Performance"

ST:TNG Season Two, Episode Twenty-One "Peak Performance"
Production Order: 47
Air Order: 47
Stardate: 42923.4
Original Air Date: July 10, 1989

Picard's Log 42923.4: "After some hemming and hawing, I gave in to Starfleet and agreed to do some war games. We're going out to some remote corner of space to do it. Starfleet sent this guy out to oversee the games. He's a Zakdorn named Sirna Kolrami."

Riker leads Kolrami onto the bridge. Kolrami walks at a manic pace, slightly hunched over, and motherfucker looks like a naked mole rat in clothing. Or a macro photo of a testicle with teeth. A few of the bridge crew glance in his direction as they cross the bridge, and just before he and Riker duck into the Obs Lounge, he pauses to shoot a look back that says for no reason, "Fuck everyone on the bridge!"
Riker introduces him to Picard, and then offers to show him his quarters, but Kolrami refuses, wanting to get down to brass tacks. Then he helps himself to a chair and glances around suspiciously.
Riker and Picard share a glance that asks, "Can you believe this guy?"

On the bridge, Worf and Data give some exposition as to why Kolrami has been sent by Starfleet.
"What makes that guy so great?" demands Worf. "Supposedly, these people are fierce. But that guy looks like a personification of an elephant's ass."
"The Zakdorn have been considered the greatest military strategists for like, 9000 years," says Data. "Basically, you want to think about the species as a whole, instead of one dude, in this case."
"Nobody's challenged their authority in that?" asks Worf.
"Not really," shrugs Data.
"Maybe they should," growls Worf.
Data's reply face says "yeah, maybe."

I really like that little scene. We kind of needed it to explain Kolrami's presence, but it also says a bit about who they selected to have that conversation - Data gives just the facts, but also a bit of understanding into how people think as a whole, which is something he likes to study. Worf suggests that maybe the Zakdorn need to be challenged for their title. He's a Klingon, and thinks along these lines all the time, but he's also thinking along the lines of not becoming complacent, which speaks to his overall personality.

Getting back to the Obs Lounge...
Kolrami gives a PowerPoint about the part of space where they're going to do their little war games. They've scrounged up an 80-year-old derelict ship called the Hathaway  for this exercise (a Constellation-class, like the Stargazer that Picard commanded). Then Kolrami leans forward to Picard and stage-whispers like some fucking Mean Girl, "You sure you still want him commanding the other ship?"
Picard gives him side-eye. "Yes, of course. We already discussed this. Commander Riker will run the Hathaway."
Kolrami then straightens up and says that they'll modify the ships so that none of their weapons will actually work, they'll just be simulated by laser beams, but if one ship's beams hit the other, it will trigger a shut-down in the area where the beam hit, for the amount of time it would take to repair that section.
So, hella fake but as close to realistic as they can get. That's actually kind of cool.
There are no questions from Riker or Picard, so Kolrami brings up the fact that Picard initially told Starfleet to go soak their heads when they suggested war games, and he wants to know why Picard has changed his mind.
"Starfleet isn't military, it's exploratory," Picard explains. "Having pissing contests out in space seems pointless. But we just got into it with the Borg (he's referring to "Q Who"), and I want to make sure our tactical is up to spec if it happens again."
"Yeah, I agree," says Riker. "We're explorers, not soldiers."
"You gonna back out, you little pussy?" demands Kolrami.
Riker smiles. "Go fuck yourself. I said do it, so I'm gonna do it."
He turns to Picard, joking. "You wanna surrender to me now?"

Music to set to Kolrami acting like a petulant child! Opening credits break!

When we return, they're all on the bridge, and Picard tells Riker that he can have his pick of anyone on the ship for his crew of 40, except for Data, who will serve as the E's first officer.
"I think you should pick the crew," oozes Kolrami.
"Oozes" is accurate. His voice is oily, and he looks like a melted peach-scented candle.
Picard turns and gives him a look.
"On my ship, the person who leads the away team is in full control. Riker picks his own crew."

"I already find you annoying. Shut your pie hole."

Kolrami rolls his fucking eyes. "Whatever." He gets in the lift.
Sassy Pulaski Moment: "What a charmer!"
He starts to chastise her, but she tells him firmly that Kolrami "needs an attitude adjustment."
The audience agrees. Technically, that's just me, but I agree too. He not only looks like an actual dick, he talks like one, too. Dick dick dick dick dick.
Like before, Data breaks in to say that the Zakdorns have a totally deserved confidence, and that Kolrami in particular is a third-level grand master at the game Strategema.
Picard points at her like "that's right!" but she isn't convinced.

Geordi is down in Engineering doing his thing when Riker approaches.
"Dude, you've got a rough road ahead of you, with those old Avidyne engines," says Geordi, who has clearly taken the time to study up on them.
"Can I get them working in 48 hours?" asks Riker.
Geordi picks up his case. "I'm on top of it," he smiles.

Worf is in his quarters, painstakingly putting together a model of a ship. The door chime goes off, and  startled, he snaps a little plastic piece. He stares at it, looking like he wants to break a glass-topped table, or have rough sex with someone in the holodeck, but he calls out to the person to come in.

Riker enters and asks if he is disturbing Worf.
Worf opens a drawer, and sweeps the broken ship into it.
Worf Sassy Moment: "Just finished."
"What do you think of the war games?" asks Riker.
Smart. He's walking around, asking the opinion of the people he wants on his crew, so they feel like he really respects what they think.
"I think it's dumb," admits Worf. "There's nothing to lose, so you don't actually gain anything."
"Eh, it's just a game," shrugs Riker, checking out a statue of Kah'less and his brother. "I mean, I'm commanding the other ship, and it's pretty hopeless. I'm outgunned and outmanned, so there's no way I'll win, anyway."
"That's a shitty attitude," says Worf. "There's always a way to win."
Last week, K'Ehleyr sarcastically asked "Whatever happened to that wonderful Klingon fatalism of yours?"
He replied, "Being on this ship has taught me that there are always other options."
This is what sets Worf apart from other Klingons: fatalism tempered with Starfleet optimism. (Or maybe not optimism per se, but the action of considering other options when none seem available to you.) Worf is smart, and despite being overly cautious at times, frequently comes up with alternate plans that work well.
Riker grins at Worf. "Join my crew."
"I'm honored," says Worf.

Also, who made that Kah'less statue? It's fucking rad.

Riker enters the bridge. "Got my crew," he tells Picard. "But I want to add Wes on, for educational purposes."
Nice. Dide is overseeing this kid's education, so yeah, he's gonna give him bonus opportunities to learn shit. If Wes does well in Starfleet it'll reflect well on Riker, too.
Wes looks stoked, and Picard approves the choice.
Riker approaches Kolrami. "Hey, we have some down time before the games start. Wanna play me in Strategema?"
Kolrami pretty much laughs in his face. "What are you, new here? I'm a third-level grand master."
"Sounds like fun," shrugs Riker.
"Suuuure," replies Kolrami. "Sometimes it's fun to beat the ass of random noobs. I'll play you."

This guy thinks an "insult sandwich" goes insult, backhanded compliment, insult.

Geordi and Riker walk to Ten Forward, on their way to the match.
Riker admits that he's got no chance playing against Kolrami, but that it's a privilege just to play someone of that level.
Sassy Geordi Moment: "So other than you being privileged, is there anything I get to look forward to at this match?"
"Not really," admits Riker.

We go immediately to the match. Troi puts Kolrami's finger-thingies on him while Worf puts on Riker's. Riker says he's put money down on Riker taking Kolrami "past the sixth plateau." Riker isn't feeling that's possible, so he asks what will happen if he doesn't.
Worf: "I will be... irritated."
Riker looks alarmed.
Off to the side, the others discuss with a baffled Data why humans like competition so much.
"It's a way of gauging your abilities without fooling yourself into believing they're better than they are," says Pulaski.
Funny how, when she mansplains things to Data, they come out the same way as before, but without the blatant robophobia backing it, she doesn't sound like a pompous asshole.
"Oh!" she says suddenly. "You should challenge Kolrami!"
"Because he's a dick with a huge ego," she explains, "and it would be so satisfying to see him get taken down by a computer."
Wait a minute, Kate. Using your friend's abilities to deflate someone else's ego is kind of a d-bag move. Challenge Kolrami yourself.
Unfortunately, the others agree with her.
The match starts. How should I describe Strategema? I have no idea how it's played. You wiggle your fingers while wearing these small grey finger condoms that are attached to wires. The board is vertical and virtual, and looks like 3-D Connect Four. It looks like each player's moves are counted separately. Pulaski tells Data that well-matched players can hit 1000 moves apiece. I have no idea what the points mean, what the sixth plateau is, or how you win.
What I do know is that Riker's game is short, and he loses quickly, 23-100.

"That's it?" demands Pulaski.
"Yep," says Riker.
He looks disappointed that he didn't get very far, but also that he knew he wasn't going to. He congratulates Kolrami, who just makes this waving gesture like "All bow to Queen Kolrami, who was obviously going to win."

Worried music! Commercial break!

The E approaches the Hathaway. Picard switches over to calling Riker "captain" and wishes him luck before they beam over.

The Hathaway is in iffy shape.
Remember the last time we saw war games played, and it was Kirk's Enterprise, run by a computer, versus actual, up-to-date ships? Like, this is the E, flying in peak condition, against an 80-year-old ship that they just of found somewhere and towed into place. How are the E's crew supposed to pretend that the Hathaway and it's skeleton crew of 40 are any kind of match? What will the E crew learn about coming up against someone they outgun? If Riker isn't as crafty a bastard as he needs to be here, then the Enterprise will win easily, and then what was the point?
Geordi gets the bridge's emergency lights up, and Worf remarks that this ship is kind of crappy.
"Nah, it's great!" says Riker enthusiastically.
He offers Worf the first officer's chair, but the Klingon balks.
"Geordi is a better officer."
"Nope, I talked to Geordi. He needs to be in Engineering. For tactical, you're my boy."
Worf quietly and graciously accepts this temporary promotion, and Riker calls the ship, telling his crew over the PA that they may lose a lot of sleep in the next 48, but he thinks they can do it.

Geordi and Wes go to Engineering with a few other Golds. One of the Golds looks vaguely like Sonia Gomez, but the show dropped Lycia Naff after her second episode, so we know it isn't her. Anyway, Geordi tinkers with some things, and gets the electrical up and running.
Then he and Wes look at the dilithium crystal chamber.
Riker calls. "Any chance of warp?"
"Noop," says Geordi. "All we have are bits of crystals, and no anti-matter. This ship is a nova - she no go."
"This shit's hopeless," mutters Wes.
But Geordi's comm is still open.
"You wanna transfer back to the E?" demands Riker.
"No, sir!"
"Our job is to improvise," Riker says, a little angry. "Do it."

The composition in this shot is yummy.

Picard does a video conference with Riker and Kolrami via the bridges.
They all agree they know the rules, and the tactical officer for the E confirms that the weapons systems have been adjusted.
"Man, this ship is stripped down," sighs Riker. "What's the Zakdornian word for mismatch?"
"Challenge!" snaps Kolrami. "One does not whine about the inequities of life."
What a bitch. Is he challenging Bem for most punchable guy in the universe?
"Anyway, Starfleet wants to know how you will do in a battle simulation where one ship is outgunned."
Okay, so that answers my question - but that means only the 40-some-odd people on the Hathaway will learn how to cope with that mismatch.
"One expects the superior ship to win," Kolrami adds snottily, giving a side-long glance to Picard.
Picard is fucking done. "Screen off," he says, stomping to the ready room. I kind of hope he's going in there to talk shit to Riker about Kolrami.
Kolrami approaches Data. "I'm kind of interested in your proposal to play me at Strategema."
"Um, I never asked to play you?" Data looks baffled.
Pulaski jumps out of her chair. "He means he would never ask directly. But he totally wants to play you."
"No, I -" Data begins.
But she turns to him and mouths the word "please," so he finishes with, "guess I really do want to play you."
"Cool, that could be a fun challenge, playing a computer," says Kolrami.

We go back to the Hathaway, where Riker and Worf are talking on the bridge while a self-satisfied Gold looks around the bridge in the background.
"Okay," says Worf. "I know about the E's systems. I can hack into the computer remotely and dick around so that we can distract them with fake attacks from an enemy ship. The sensors will read it as being there, the viewscreen will show it as being there, but it really won't be."
"They're going to fall for it!" says the extra Gold excitedly.

Geordi and Wes are checking out the dilithium chamber, and talking about their low odds for success here. Suddenly, Wes says he needs to go back to the E, because he left some experiment running.
"The hell, Wes?" demands Geordi, as the kid runs out.
On the bridge, Worf is explaining to that Gold (Nagel) how he intends to operate his fake ship ruse.
"Okay, but... where will I get the opti-cable?" she asks.
Sassy Worf Moment as he basically punches a hole in the ceiling, rips out a clump of cables, and thrusts it at her. "Anywhere."
Wes runs up to the bridge, explains his situation to Riker, and Riker calls Picard.
"He can come back to take care of his thing, but he needs an escort, and shouldn't talk to anyone over here," says Kolrami curtly. As he walks away, he notes, "That was a stupid choice, anyway. He's just some dumb non-comm kid."
Picard turns to Burke, the ginger who is at Worf's place at tactical, and asks if he will escort Wes to get his experiment.
Burke agrees, but is not happy.
He takes Wes to Engineering, where Wes checks out his experiment, happily chatting about how it took six weeks to set up, and is very delicate, blah, blah blah.
"Oh, it's ruined," he laments. "I'll need to beam it out into space to dispose of it properly."
"Fine, whatever,"sighs Burke. "Hurry it up. Can you do it without me babysitting you?"
"No problem," says Wes cheerfully.
Burke is an asshole. He leaves.

We jump back over to the Hathaway's Engineering section, and Geordi turns around to see Wes' experiment materialize on a counter.

Light-hearted music that turns to maybe-worrisome? Commercial break!

Back to Ten Forward, where Data and Kolrami are getting ready for their match.
Pulaski whispers something in Data's ear.
"What does "bust him up" mean?" Data asks Troi.
"She means, take the shortest path to victory," Troi smiles.
I guess making it to 100 wins the game, because Data misses it by 19 points.
"How could you lose?" laments Pulaski.
Kolrami actually fucking hisses at her.
"I'm at your disposal for a rematch," says Kolrami haughtily, before leaving.
"You're supposed to be infallible!" says Pulaski.
"Guess I'm not," says Data quietly.

Later, he is missing on the bridge.
"He's removed himself from bridge duty temporarily," says Burke to Picard.
"Oh well, it's not like that's going to stop you," says Kolrami. "I honestly don't think Riker will be much of a challenge."
Now, I hate Burke, but I hate Kolrami more, and the side-eye that Burke gives him after he says this is awesome.

Kolrami gets called into the principal's office  ready room.
"WTF is your problem?" demands Picard once the door swishes closed. "Why do you keep talking shit about my first officer?"
"I looked at his service record before coming on board and I think he's... not good," says Kolrami. "Like, his work ethic seems to produce results, but he's too familiar, and not serious enough, with the crew. He's not captain material."
Picard snorts in derision. "Are you fucking kidding me? His style produces loyalty in the crew. They follow him to hell and back because of that familiarity. You think he's not a good officer? I'll bet on him over your stats any day."
I want Picard to add "Now get the hell out of my ready room!" but he doesn't.

Data is at the computer bank in his quarters when Troi rings the chimes and is beckoned in.
"Are you okay?" she asks.
He correctly interprets her intentions. "I expected to do better against a humanoid," he says simply.
"Yes, a loss can be hard," she says, "but you can either wallow in it, or learn from your mistakes."
"But I didn't make any mistakes," he points out. "I think something may be malfunctioning. I ran a self-diagnostic, and now I'm checking myself against the ship's computers."
"That feels like overkill," she suggests.
"I don't think so," Data answers. "If I give Captain Picard some bad advice based on malfunction systems in myself, it could be disastrous."
"That's why you took yourself off the roster," she guesses.
He confirms that it is, and he isn't willing to listen to her glass-half-full assurances that he's fine, so she leaves.

Riker enters the Hathaway's Engineering department to find Wes and Geordi installing the experiment in the drive section equipment.
"The fuck is that?" he demands.
"My experiment," says Wes. "It does some scientific nonsense that no viewer will understand, but which will possibly make the ship go."
"That's cheating," says Riker.
"Improvising," corrects Wes.
Riker is happy with them and okay with this plan once he realizes that he can probably get warp out of it.

Pulaski storms into Data's quarters.
"You can't sell me the same story you told Troi," she barks. "You're gonna be done with this. Quit feeling sorry for yourself."
"It's not possible for me to feel sorry for myself," he insists. "I am concerned that I will give unsound advice because I am damaged."
Ouch. Who among us has not felt depressed or anxious and used that same term - damaged - to describe themselves? It's a shitty feeling, and more and more it becomes obvious that Data is an Everyman.
"I wish I had never talked you into playing that game!"
Pulaski, not knowing what else to say, gives up in frustration and leaves.

Back in the Hathaway's Engineering, Riker has come to check on the warp drive and is given bad news.
"We're only gonna get, like two seconds of warp," says Geordi.
"Okay," says Riker, playing glass-half-full. "So we can't use it to get away, but can we use it for a surprise?"
"It's gonna stall," says Geordi.
"And then the E will beat the shit out of us," adds Wes.

Worried music! Commercial break!

Troi and Pulaski go to Picard.
He stares at them. "So Data lost his confidence?"
"We both tried to talk to him," says Pulaski. "But he's pretty insistent that he can't be on the bridge anymore, or at least until the problem is fixed. But there isn't any damage to his actual parts, so he won't be back on the bridge."
"You want me to fix it?" he demands. "We have war games in less than an hour, and I have to handhold an android."
Sassy Pulaski Moment: "The burdens of command."

Data is still in his quarters, running self-diagnostics.
Picard storms in like some kind of French hurricane. "Get your shiny metal ass to the bridge."
"But I might make a mistake," objects Data.
"So what?" demands Picard. "That doesn't change the fact that you have a duty to this ship. You know how to formulate a premise?"
"Then formulate this: how do I deal with Riker and the Hathaway? Get me an answer, then come to the bridge."
He turns to leave, then pauses in the doorway to give Data one of the hardest truths that has ever existed.
Picard: "And commander, it is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life."
"I understand," says Data quietly.

We cut to the Obs Lounge, where Data is thinking out loud to Troi. He recalls two stories about Riker In Charge from the past:
- In one during Academy days, Riker found a blind spot on a Tholian ship and hid his own ship in that spot until he could get away;
- In the second story from his Potemkin run, he parked the ship over a planet's magnetic pole and shut off the ship, confusing his opponent's sensors.
"So what does that mean?" asks Troi.
"Based on evidence, he only relies on traditional tactics 21% of the time," says Data. "He'll probably do something we won't expect. But he knows that we'll be analyzing his shit like this, so he might change it up. But he knows that we know -"
He starts to unravel in a "he knows that we know that he knows that they know" cycle, and she reins him in.
"You're over-analyzing. Human nature says that he'll probably be who he always is."

On the bridge, Picard calls Riker.
"Totes. And remember - Captain Riker has never lost."
They grin at one another. (Riker is referring to the only other time he was a captain, in "A Matter of Honor," when he briefly took over the IKS Pagh.)
Picard shuts off the screen and gives the helm a direction to go in. He's choosing the Kumeh formation.
"Bye-bye, Hathaway," murmurs Burke.
STFU, Burke.

"Why would they pick something as obvious as Kumeh?" asks Geordi on the Hathaway.
"He wants us to give up our tactics," smiles Riker. "Prepare the surprise, Worf."

On the E, Picard is giving directions for his next maneuver when Burke calls out about a Romulan warbird, firing on them.
"Fire back!" yells Picard.

Everybody panics, then -


And Kolrami cackles like a Zakdornian hag. "He's really good."
"Ohhh, looks who's on fucking Team Riker now!" says Picard.
He seems simultaneously amused and annoyed by Riker.
Burke has figured out that it's a ruse, and Picard guesses that Worf hacked the system. He instructs Data to change the code so that Worf can't slip in another fake-ass enemy ship like that. Burke reports that the damage the Hathaway just dealt them would cost them three and a half days to repair.
I'm really not sad that part of the plan to kick the E's ass will be accomplished because Burke had better things to do than supervise Wes in the plasma physics lab while he was getting his experiment. Kind of hope he gets a dressing-down for that later.

Riker has Geordi prepare their warp-speed jump-and-stall.
"I don't know if it's going to work," warns Geordi.
"No one ever knows if anything is going to work," replies Riker. "You try anyway."

"Ferengi ship approaching!" yells Burke.
Picard double-checks that Data changed the code, then laughingly says that he didn't give Worf enough credit.
"It's another fake ship."
Instead of little pew pew pew sounds, the ship is rocked with fire from the Ferengi.

The crew of the Hathaway is watching the Ferengi ship firing on the E.
"That's not mine!" says Worf. "That's a real fucking ship!"

"Oh shit!" yells Burke. "It's a real fucking ship!"
"Fire back!" yells Picard.
"No weapons!" responds Burke. "We just have frickin' laser beams - no sharks even!"
"Fuck, fuck, fuck!" says Picard.
"Run away!" Kolrami tells him.
"Hell no," says Picard. "We have 40 crew members on the Hathaway!"
"That's an acceptable loss!" says Kolrami. "As the Starfleet rep, I order you to turn tail!"
"STFU, and sit the fuck down," Picard barks at him. "I'm the captain, I give the orders."
Kolrami huffs, all insulted and crap.

"Transporters?" Picard asks Burke.
"Down," Burke responds.
Picard has the conn move the E between the Ferengi and the Hathaway.
Hailing frequencies are opened.
It's Armin Shimmerman again, probably because his face fits those ears.
"I'm Bractor," he says. "You saw us coming and did nothing - why? Also, you were fighting with another Federation ship that's an old POS, and now you act protective of it - why?"
"Is it valuable?" demands the other Ferengi. "If so, give it to us, and we'll let you go. We see you have no weapons, and we can blow you up."
Picard looks at Data.
"Shields are down," says Data. "We can't take another hit."
"You have ten Earth minutes to give us an answer," says Bractor.

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Picard's Log, supplemental: "Fucking war games. Fucking Ferengi."

"I have photon torpedo capability back," says Burke. "But like, four."
"Give them the Hathaway," insists Kolrami again.
"You could do that," says Riker on viewscreen. "We could get away via warp drive."
"Say fucking what?" demands Picard.
"We have two seconds of warp... maybe," admits Riker.
"That ship was rendered warp-inactive!" splutters Kolrami.
"Maybe you should stop underestimating Riker," suggests Picard.
They gather in the Obs Lounge to talk amongst themselves, with the Hathaway's bridge crew on comm.
"Here's the deal," Data sums up. "The Ferengi think the Hathaway is valuable, and they know we have no weapons. The Hathaway doesn't either. But we do have four torpedoes, and you have two-second warp. So we're going to fire the torpedoes at the Hathaway, and one millisecond afterward, you're going to engage your warp to make it look like you blew up."

"That plan is shit," says Geordi. "We don't even know if the warp works."
Poor Geordi. He has a thing that maybe works - maybe - but now everyone is banking on it performing flawlessly.
"So if we don't do it, the Ferengi will take the Hathaway, and probably kill us when they find out we have nothing. We're dead," reasons Riker. "If we do the torpedo plan and the warp fails, we're dead. If we do the torpedo plan and the warp engages engages, then we're sitting at maybe dead. I say, let's go with "maybe dead." This plan isn't fabulous, but there's a chance we're still alive at the end."
Riker turns to Worf. "Make us another surprise?"

Their ten minutes up, Picard opens hailing frequencies.
"Hey, Bractor? Suck my comm badge."
And Picard has Burke fire the torpedoes.
BAM. No more Hathaway.

"That ship wasn't yours to take, so we blew it up."
Bractor eyes Picard. "You have more balls than I thought."
Suddenly, Bractor's first officer starts yelling about another Federation ship, coming this way.
"Retreat!" yells Bractor.
They turn tail.

"Ummmm... there's no other ship?" asks Burke.
Riker pops up on the viewscreen. "There isn't on your sensors, no."
"Lol, how was the ride?" Picard laughs.
"Kinda crappy. I wouldn't sell tickets." Riker grins.
"Cool. We'll pick you up."
The viewscreen shuts off, and Picard turns to Kolrami, who blunders his way through a not-apology about Riker and his initial snap-judgment.
"My report to Starfleet will be good, as far as both of you go." Kolrami fidgets, tries to figure out what to do with his hands, then ends up patting Burke on the back. Burke gives him a look of pure death.
"Thank you very much," says Picard sarcastically.

"Don't fucking touch me, you walking dick-sack."

Riker and Pulaski make their way to Ten Forward, where Data's rematch with Kolrami is taking place. Pulaski's earlier assertion that good players can go to 1000 or more has been blown out of the water, as both players have amassed amounts of 32,000 plus. Data is cool and collected as he flies through the game, while Kolrami is becoming more and more agitated. The Zakdornian suddenly rips the finger condoms off.
"Why did you stop?" asks Data.
"This is not a real rematch!" Kolrami yells, and he stalks from the room.
"You beat him!" shouts Pulaski.
"Not really," says Data, taking off the finger condoms. "I changed the premise."
"Explain," says Riker.
"I didn't beat him before, when we were both playing to win," says Data. "So this time, instead of playing to win, I played to stalemate. I passed up places where I could get ahead, all so we could stay level. As long as he was playing to win, and I was playing to stay at an impasse, the game could have lasted forever."
"So you beat him," suggests Pulaski.
"Naw," says Data. "I busted him up."
Everybody laughs.
The end.

Not too shabby on this episode. The premise is simple enough - war games with a surprise twist - and it's different enough from the last war games episode of Star Trek ("The Ultimate Computer") that I can't say that we had another instance of TNG redoing TOS. This one was far more light-hearted than the first, though I appreciate both for their individual characteristics. We did have one TOS trope with this episode, but it was one I didn't mind too much - that of the overbearing Starfleet official who questions everything the captain does, tries to interfere with ship's business, and then eats crow at the end of the episode.  That's not terrible, as long as it isn't done too badly or too often. I liked the fun little unusual tactics the crew of the Hathaway used to get around the fact that they were completely at a loss, and I liked the backstories of Riker, which make his character a little richer. "He has a history of doing things unconventionally - here are some examples."
Also excellent: Data's struggle. I'm not gonna call it a B-plot, because it didn't come in until later in the episode, and was resolved quickly. But it's not unimportant by any means. Many people have had this problem and face it in everyday life, this loss of confidence. And, many of us have felt the sting of making no mistakes and still losing. It is not as likely to happen with an android, so when it comes along, he is naturally confused. The thing is, no matter how much we try to say that things are different for Data because he is a machine, he had the same kinds of reactions, and used similar language ("I am damaged"). This is one of life's toughest lessons to learn, and it doesn't seem to hurt less with repeat instances. No matter how you slice it, doing everything right and still failing sucks. A lot.
Something that did not impress me: Pulaski and the Strategema thing. Now, Pulaski has been growing on me. I don't necessarily like her as much as some of the other characters, but I don't hate her as much as I used to, and it was entirely because some smart writer decided that they should drop the robophobia. Suddenly, she seemed sassy instead of contrarian and prejudiced. But she backslid here in a serious way, and the funny thing is, I never noticed it before I started writing this blog post.
There's nothing wrong with encouraging a friend to take part in an activity. "Hey, I think you'll like this activity" is fine. Even asking someone to do an activity with you is okay, so long as you don't move from the realm of "talked me into this, but it's okay" to "quit hassling me, you fucking psycho!" What Pulaski did here was sign up her friend for the activity without his consent or knowledge, after he said he wasn't interested. Then, when he was all, "I didn't sign up for that," he ended up agreeing to do it anyway, all because she had begged him. And why did she beg him? Not so they could enjoy the activity together, but because she felt like him besting some asshole would be satisfying. That's pretty fucking selfish. She used the talents of her friend and colleague to try to show someone up. Then, not only did it not work, but she gave said friend a complex. Yes, he learned something important, but the whole thing started because she met someone distasteful and thought he should get some comeuppance. Not a great addition to her character, honestly. And maybe I'm making too big a deal out of a little thing (she never seems to be chastised for what she did), but having been in Data's uncomfortable situation of being signed up for something I didn't want to do, all I can say is that it sucks, and makes you question the friendship. I feel like that needed to be addressed and wasn't. It was swept under the rug in an "all's well that ends well," because Data did the rematch, and finished the game on his own terms. I mean, bully for him, and it worked out because he not only needed to learn that lesson, but because it needed to happen that way for the story, but its a ding against her character, one that was already tarnished.

Fun Facts:

- The dilithium crystal pieces in the Hathaway's engines were actually pieces of blue wax from a candle.
- The footage at the end off this episode of the Enterprise towing the Hathaway are recycled from "The Battle," when the E tows the Stargazer.
-  The Hathaway bridge is a redress of the battle bridge, which was a redress of the Enterprise bridge from the first three TOS films, and which was also a redress of the Stargazer bridge.
- Roy Brocksmith, who plays talking testicle Kolrami, will show up again in DS9.
- The material used in Kolrami's clothing adornment is used as a background material for the insignia on Worf's sash, and was used heavily in the Klingon clothing worn last week in Worf and K'Ehleyr. It pops up in different places on different costumes.

- This is the series' only look at the inside of a Constellation-class starship's engineering section.
- The Ferengi use the term "lightspeed drive" to talk about the Hathaway's engines, but no one ever refers to it like that again.
- This is the first appearance of the Zakdorn species.
- The chair in Worf's quarters was the commander's chair from the Tarellian ship in the first-season episode "Haven." We'll see it again... quite a bit.

Red deaths: 0
To date: 2
Gold deaths: 0
Blue deaths: 0
Unknown color crew member deaths: 18
Obnoxious Wes moments: 0
Legitimate Wes moments when he should have told someone to go fuck themselves: 0
To date: 1
Sassy Geordi moments: 1
To date: 7
Sassy Wes Moments: 0
To date: 1
Sassy Worf Moment: 2
To date: 7
Sassy Riker Moments: 0
To date: 7
Sassy Picard Moments: 0
To date: 14
Sassy NPC Moments: 0
To date: 13
Sassy Data Moments: 0
To date: 7
Sassy O'Brien Moments: 0
To date: 3
Sassy Pulaski Moments: 2
To date: 5
Sassy Troi Moments: 0
To date: 1
Sassy Guest Star Moments: 0
To date: 5
Number of times that it is mentioned that Data is an android: 3
To date: 24
Number of times that Troi reacts to someone else's feelings: 0
To date: 25
Number of times that Geordi "looks at something" with his VISOR: 0
To date: 2
Number of times when Data gives too much info and has to be told to shut up: 1
To date: 14

Episodes Left Until We Get Rid of Pulaski:

Boris seeks his own Natasha, da.


  1. I'm not a huge nitpicker, but it's hard for me to get past the bit where Worf projects false sensor images into the Ferengi ship. He could do that to the Enterprise because he knows the access codes.

    Speaking of "The Ultimate Computer", the events of that episode do explain why Starfleet has a policy of hard-disabling the weapons on the ships involved in the war games. What it doesn't explain is why they don't have an armed escort in the area, which is apparently in the middle of nowhere. (Just how many near-operational derelicts does Starfleet have floating around, anyway?)

  2. That's a good point about the Ferengi ship! I totally wasn't thinking about that. My sticking point was that Riker and the Hathaway were somehow able to listen in when the E was talking to the Ferengi - "monitoring communications." Like, how is that possible? And there were times when the E and the Hathaway were talking about their secret plans when the Ferengi were nearby, so why couldn't Bractor have been monitoring as well? Did they take the precaution of scrambling their communication? Is it that Federation ships can monitor the communications of other Federation ships, but not non-Fed ships? If there were two Ferengi ships and one Federation, could the Ferengi communicate ship-to-ship in such a way that the Federation ship could not eavesdrop?
    Also, your point about having an armed escort is a good one. I imagine that post-"Hathaway Incident," that became the new policy. (Truth be told, though, I do like the stories where they eff up in some way for the story, and when a similar situation comes up later, they have rectified it, citing that first instance for the change. The story for the second is then forced in a different direction, but it makes for good continuity.

    1. I assume communications between the Starfleet ships were encrypted, while the communication between the Enterprise and the Ferengi ship were not because they have no agreed-upon protocol for it. The cool thing about encryption is that, even if the bad guy can pick up the signals you're broadcasting, he won't be able to make any sense of them.

  3. When Kolrami huffs after Picard shuts him down, I half-expected him to blurt "This is most unorthodox!"

    Is Boris giving some side-eye in that photo?