Warp Speed to Nonsense

Warp Speed to Nonsense

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

ST:TNG Season Five, Episode Nine "A Matter of Time"

ST: TNG Season Five, Episode Nine "A Matter of Time"
Production Order: 9
Air Order: 9
Stardate: 45349.1
Original Air Date: November 18, 1991

Picard's Log 45349.1: "We're going to Penthara IV, where this big-ass asteroid hit a continent. There was nobody near the crash site, but the dust and crap it kicked up into the atmosphere has created a nuclear winter that's really similar to the ones Earth had in the 21st century."

You motherfuckers, if you narrow that down to "the last few months of 2020," I'm gonna lose my shit. Keep your damn predictions to yourself, Star Trek.

Riker goes to Engineering, where La Forge and Data have been working on the problem.
"They're kind of fucked," La Forge tells him. "Hopefully, we can help them become less fucked."
Picard calls Riker back to the bridge: Worf says they passed a weird little time distortion, close enough that it's probably not a coincidence.
La Forge says he can spare the hour or so it will take the E to check out the distortion.

It's a shuttle-thing. When they try scanning for life-forms, it's found that their scans won't penetrate the hull.
Worf sends a hail, and then, in confusion, tells Picard that he needs to scooch over.
"Yeah, I'm not moving my ship," frowns Picard.
"Not the ship," corrects Worf. "You specifically."
"Huh?" asks Picard. 
He moves toward Worf instinctively, and a guy beams directly into the spot where he had been standing.
"Sorry!" says this new guy cheerfully. "You were standing where I needed to be!"

He introduces himself as Dr Berlinghoff Rasmussen, a time traveling historian from 26th century Earth.
"I've traveled back 300 years to find you!"

Dramatic music! Opening credits break!

When we return, Rasmussen and Picard are in the ready room, and Rasmussen is wandering around, looking at Picard's stuff with nosy interest.
"This is weird," says Picard. "Seriously, wtf are you?"
"I specialize in 22nd through 24th century, early interstellar travel," says Rasmussen. He points to the open book Picard has on display near the door and remarks that future historians assume that the book is open on his desk rather than the stand.
"Y'all are really interested in the crap I keep in my ready room?" asks Picard, who seems unimpressed.
Rasmussen tries to butter him up by remarking on Picard's modesty, but Picard isn't having it.
"Why are you here to see me, though? There are a lot of other cool people out there in the galaxy, both in Starfleet and out."
"I can't give you more details," says Rasmussen. "Could change the future."
But he hints that something awesome might be coming soon to the Enterprise, and he's here to see it happen. He can only get info from them, they can't ask him about the future. Then he measures out the size of the ready room by walking and tracking his paces.
"Ha! I was right! Seven meters!"
The ready room is bigger than the time-travel pod he came in, which Worf said was five?

Everyone meets up in the Obs Lounge.
"How come you picked today, this ship?" asks La Forge.
"You'll see." Rasmussen is practically dancing in his chair. He's giving off a distinct Willy Wonka vibe. "Worf, do you always sit on that side of the table?"
"I guess? Why?"
"Not important!" sings Rasmussen. Is he going to go home and build a diorama?
"When did historians start using time travel to study?" asks Riker.
"Can't tell you that!" Rasmussen grins. "We all know the dangers of time travel."
"Can... you tell me if they've figured out how to cure the Talurian plague by the 26th century?" asks Crusher. 
Picard makes a gesture at her, and she protests that it can't hurt to ask something like that, but he's adamant: butterflies and shit.
"Okay, homework!" says Rasmussen. "I'm gonna give you all surveys to fill out, and get them back to me ASAP. If there's a question of security breaches, check with the captain to see if it's okay to answer. Also, thank you for "curbing your curiosity"!"
Sassy La Forge Moment: "If I hand my assignment in on time, can I get a glimpse into next week's poker game?"
Rasmussen exits with Data, who has been assigned to show the professor to his quarters.
Riker wants to know why Rasmussen thinks he "picked the right day."
Picard shrugs. "You know as much as I do."
They all look at Troi.
"He isn't telling us everything."
"Of course not," says Crusher. "He can't."
Riker muses on the idea that Rasmussen might be an imposter - they've certainly seen enough of those.
All they have are facts that can't point in one direction or another. Rasmussen is human, there was a temporal distortion, and his ship is definitely beyond their technology.
Worf makes a subtle noise: he isn't quite comfortable.
"Yeah, I agree," says Picard. "We don't know this dude. Put his time pod thing in the shuttle bay with a guard. This is gonna be weird, but I've looked at his credentials, and everything checks out."
... how? You read his future CV, from the future, at a time when his credentials don't exist?
Picard seems cautious, but at the same time, excited. A little too willing to trust? I dunno. He tells them to do the questionnaires.

Meanwhile, Data is taking Rasmussen to his quarters, but the professor is creeping on him. So fucking rude. Don't care if he's different. Stop doing that shit. He fucking touches Data's ear while going on about how it's like encountering a Model T or a Gutenberg bible. Maybe Data isn't uncomfortable being casually examined, but I'm uncomfortable for him. Personal space, motherfucker.

The lift stops, and Data gets out a little ahead of Rasmussen. I know it's because he knows the way and Raz doesn't, but I'd run from this guy, so that's how I'm reading it.
While they walk down the corridor, Data points out that he is more akin to Ford's Model A automobile, as he is not the first Soong-model android. Then he lets Rasmussen into his quarters. 
Rasmussen does not seem impressed by the accommodations. He looks at things, checks stuff out, but without the same enthusiasm as before. And he starts treating Data like a personal servant.
"Problem?" asks Data.
"It's fine for now. I'll make up a list of things I need."
Raz wanders into the bathroom area, where he knows how to access the sink, and washes his hands.
"Hey..." says Data tentatively. "I'm guessing you know if I'm... still alive in the 26th century?"
Rasmussen says nothing. He turns and holds out his hands to Data, who then figures out that he is asking for a towel. He just... stares ahead while Data gets one from a drawer, and drops it over Raz's outstretched hands.
He walks away without answering Data's question. 
On his way out, Data pauses and says, "You seem to know a lot about the Enterprise, and Captain Picard, so I have to assume you know -"
"Don't you think you should stop assuming things, given the situation?" asks Rasmussen, drying his hands.
"Yes, sir. Sorry, sir," says Data quietly. He leaves.
Rasmussen looks around his quarters, and smiles to himself.
I could write an entire fucking book about that scene alone.

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Picard's Log 45350.3: "We made it to Penthara IV, and holy shit, are they ever screwed."

Picard and La Forge are downstairs in a Pentharan lab, talking to the their lead scientist, Hal Moseley. The plan is to drill into the earth, release gasses that will warm everything, and stop the nuclear winter.
Moseley is surprised, and notes that they previously were trying everything they could to avoid creating greenhouse gasses, and now here they are, creating them on purpose.
I know that feel. I typically believe in "touch everything, never use hand sanitizer" when building a good immune system.
La Forge confirms that if they heat the planet enough, it will give Penthara enough time to repair the damage itself.

Riker, Crusher, and Worf are having a drink at a table in Ten Forward when Rasmussen comes in. Riker calls their attention to his presence, and Worf replies "I hate questionnaires."
But Crusher, who seems just as excited about this historian as Picard, calls him over to join them. Riker and Worf exchange dark looks, and Worf glares at Rasmussen when he sits between him and Crusher. Raz hands out the questionnaire USB sticks.
"Complete these by tomorrow!" he says cheerfully.
"Tomorrow?" asks Worf. He looks like Raz has just announced a pop quiz on something that wasn't in the syllabus.
Riker seems just as pleased, but pastes a fake-ass smile on his face and replies, "yes, sir!"
Remember forever ago, when I suggested that Jonathan Frakes had customer service experience, because he hauls out those skills at the drop of a hat? I'm suggesting that again.
Rasmussen says that everyone seems so calm, and Riker point-blank asks him if something big is going to be happening soon.
"Oh, I can't tell you that," says Rasmussen. "Just that when history records things, it doesn't record what little things people were doing a week before an event, or a day, or even an hour."
That's... only partly true? People can tell you what they were doing when JFK was shot, when the Twin Towers fell, and what was for dinner the night before the Titanic sank. People have a morbid curiosity for that kind of thing.
"Just do your thing and pretend I'm not here," he says.
If only, asshole.

"How come there are no other records of historians visiting other events?" demands Riker.
"We're super careful," says Rasmussen. He is very bouncy. "Another historian and I recently visited a 22nd century vessel."
So... you were careful then, but are throwing this shit out the window now?
Crusher is immediately pulled in. "Oh, they didn't have quarantine fields then! Did you see masks and gloves?"
Rasmussen then waxes rhapsodic about what kinds of things people want to know about the past, based on their own interests. Crusher asks about medical stuff. When Riker talks about important progress made by humans, he cites the warp engine, because he's an explorer. And clearly Worf, who is primitive af, has said "phasers."
Worf does not appreciate being analyzed this way. If that questionnaire is on a Scantron, he's drawing a dick.
But Rasmussen seems cagey, and checks some kind of ring watch, looking around the room.

We go down to Engineering, where La Forge is busy figuring out how many holes he'll have to punch in Penthara IV to get the results they need.
Jae sighting!

La Forge and Data talk briefly about possible earthquakes at the drill sites, but La Forge says that Moseley has reported no earthquakes in the last 100 years.
Wait... are they fracking? 
Rasmussen shows up to hand out assignments, telling La Forge and Data that their questionnaires shouldn't take more than a few hours. La Forge is kind of annoyed. He's trying to save a planet and millions of people, and this guy wants to know what he had for breakfast. He sets the USB aside and asks Data to go over some 23,000 computations to find any anomalies.
Rasmussen sits in a chair next to la Forge, and maybe it's the blocking, but he's sitting really close to La Forge. Too much energy, too little personal space.
"Is that as fast as he can go?" Raz asks La Forge, while watching Data blow through computations.
"Not fast enough?" grumbles La Forge. He does not have customer service skills.
"Not a lot known about Data's efficiency, or its part in this event," says Rasmussen.
Yes, he calls Data IT.
Data completes the computations, and tells La Forge that everything looks good: 209 anomalies, but within parameters.
"You're here to witness this mission," La Forge guesses.
"Oh, I can't say," Rasmussen insists again. He checks his ring watch. "You should just ignore me, get on with your mission."
Data tells Rasmussen he will fill out his questionnaire ASAP, and moves to the pool table.
"Data... at Penthara IV!" says Rasmussen, as though he's an announcer on a radio drama.
La Forge attempts to shake Rasmussen, but Raz is all up in his face, asking about his VISOR.
"How do you like it? I have a picture in my office of you wearing that VISOR."
"It helps me see, I like it fine," snaps La Forge.
Then Rasmussen starts naming off famous people who were also blind, and La Forge mutters about how Rasmussen told them to ignore him and go about their jobs.
La Forge then calls Picard to tell him that they have everything in place, and he's ready to go back down and get stuff ready with Moseley. He leaves, probably glad to get away from the time-traveling historian.
While Data is busy, Rasmussen slips a padd off the pool table and into his pocket. "Who says these events are less exciting when you know the outcome?"
Data looks up. "Nobody says that."

The next set of scenes is a mish-mash about the bridge, Data in Engineering, and La Forge and Moseley on the surface, all cooperating to drill the bore holes on the surface at the right place, and to the right depth. They drill the holes.
The lift at the back of the bridge opens, and here comes Interfering McGee. He cheerfully asks what he missed, and sits in Riker's chair.
Everyone is currently communicating about surface temperatures, and nothing is happening so far.
Slowly, the temperature-taking stations start seeing a rise in temp, and Moseley thanks everyone heartily for giving them time to fix the problem. Picard accepts his thanks, and tells Moseley that they'll stay in orbit for a while to make sure that things are progressing smoothly.
Rasmussen quotes back Moseley's last sentence about being given time. "We knew how you did it, but to see it in action was awesome."
Picard is no longer excited to have this guy on board.

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Troi is down in sick bay, talking to Crusher while the latter uses a tool to patch up a bleeding crewmember.
Troi tells Crusher that she can't put her finger on it, but she thinks Rasmussen is playing some kind of shell game with them: he wants more than to just witness history.
Annnd, speak of the devil.
Rasmussen comes in, loud and obnoxious. He wants to talk about the questionnaire Crusher turned in. Troi tries to excuse herself, but he insists on her staying.
"Can I see the neural stimulator you were talking about?" he asks Crusher.
She leaves to get it, and now Troi is stuck with Rasmussen. She starts to walk away, and he follows her around the sick bay, telling people on the biobeds that they're "a credit to the uniform," and that "you'll be telling your grandkids that you were at Penthara IV."
World's loudest fly on the wall.
"You don't trust me," he says to Troi. "They all said to me "Picard's empath won't trust you.""
Presumably, he's talking about his friends. Or maybe other people from the future that also hate him.
"Picard's empath?" she echoes. 
She doesn't get a name, even though everyone else does. She's just a tool. Like Data.
"You should trust me, though. We're very alike, in that we're not like the others. I have knowledge of the future, and that's like you knowing everyone's emotions." When this doesn't win her over, he tosses out, "Some of my best friends are empaths."
I roll my eyes hard. He has black friends.
He goes on about how they're colleagues, and they could learn from each other, blah blah blah, and she finally tells him that she doesn't trust him, end of story. Crusher comes back, and Troi takes off.

This is the smile you smile at someone who won't leave you 
the fuck alone. This smile doesn't reach the eyes.

Crusher gives him the neural stimulator, and asks if there's anything else he wants to see. He follows her down the hall to her office, and starts telling her that he finds her interesting, and he gets right up in her space, the way he did with Data. She shrinks two inches and leans away from him while keeping the convo light, but he's invading her space.

He blocks her from going into her office and tells her that no one else has ever given him thoughts of "not going home."
She does this thing that all women know how to do to get away from a creeper without inviting him to continue antagonizing her: she dips out of his space, does a smile-laugh, gives him a no that doesn't contain the word no.
This guy keeps swinging back and forth between "annoying" and "predator." Incel from the future.
She also reminds him that they have no idea if they're related, and she could be his great-great-great-great grandmother.

He takes the stimulator and they exchange another smile before he leaves.

Up on the bridge, Riker complains to Picard that Rasmussen's questionnaire only asked him about previous iterations of the Enterprise, and that he wanted to know if they "had a grasp of the fundamentals."
Data starts to talk about how his questionnaire focused on Dr Soong, but then an alarm goes off.
"Hella earthquakes downstairs," reports Worf.
Riker jumps up to check out Science. "Gnarly volcanoes going off, too!"
They're able to call La Forge, who says that he and Moseley are okay, but the earthquakes were really big, like 8.5 on the Richter scale.
More volcanoes. More earthquakes.
"The volcanic ash is a major problem," says La Forge. "It's making the first problem worse. The dust from the asteroid hitting knocked out 80% of the sunlight, causing that nuclear winter. The ash would take it down to zero. That'll happen in a few days."
"The Co2 we drilled for wouldn't help us at that point," says Moseley.
Riker calls Picard over to Science. He overlays two maps: one where they drilled, and the other is a map of the volcanic eruptions. It matches exactly.
"Fuck me, we've collapsed the mantle," says Picard.
"We have some ideas, but we have to work them out," La Forge tells Picard.

Rasmussen goes to Data's quarters, and instead of ringing the bell like any courteous person, he just fucking walks in.
P E R S O N A L  S P A C E
He gets blasted with four musical compositions in the face, and I'm not sad, because he deserves that shit.
Data is sitting at his work station, doing his bit for this mission, while listening to - and analyzing - the different compositions. Rasmussen asks him to "thin it out," so Data eliminates each one until there's only one left, then turns it way down.
"I can do like 150 at once," Data explains, "but when I'm analyzing them for aesthetics, I try to do ten or less."
Rasmussen gets on his case for only doing four, but Data explains that the work he's doing for La Forge right now is very important.
"So, hey," says Rasmussen, "not a lot of Soong's work made it to my century. Can I get some schematics?"
"When I'm done here."
"Cool. I leave at 9:00 tomorrow morning, so I'll need it before then."
La Forge calls Data's tiny laptop. "Did you run the numbers?"
"Yeah, no errors," says Data. "But the wiggle room is like, nothing."
Data tells La Forge that he will give the news to Picard.
In the meantime, Rasmussen has taken this time to pocket a tricorder while Data's attention was on La Forge and, you know, saving millions of lives.

Data goes to the ready room. "So here's the plan: we could use the phasers on the Enterprise to charge up the dust particles in the air - like lighting a spark in a gas-filled room. We could then position the ship to deflect that energy back into space, rendering it harmless, and clearing the atmosphere."
"Downside?" asks Picard.
"If we get the numbers wrong on the phasers by like, the tiniest amount, it will burn off the atmosphere of the planet."

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Picard's log, supplemental: "I told La Forge to talk to Dr Moseley about the plan, and Moseley is going to his own people, to see what they want to do. In the meantime, I'm struggling with ethics."

Picard is staring out the window in the ready room when Rasmussen comes in. Picard has asked him to come.
"You can probably guess why you're here," says Picard. "If I don't do anything, tens of thousands of people will die. If I do one thing, I could save everyone. But if the numbers aren't exact, I could kill every living thing on the surface of the planet."
"That's sure a pickle to be in." 
Rasmussen doesn't say everything in a cheerful tone, but it's always very light-hearted. As though he's an NPC in a role-playing game: nothing affects him. Everyone around him is treating this situation with the solemnity it deserves, and he's just watching a show. The thing is, I've seen both NPCs and viewers of shows be more invested in the outcome that this guy is.
"I could ask for your help," suggests Picard, and before Rasmussen has time to object, Picard breaks in and tells him that he isn't looking for the outcome, as he knows Rasmussen can't give it to him. "But I would be remiss if I didn't ask for the outcome."
"Yeah, well, not gonna tell you," says Rasmussen. "I'm okay knowing the outcome and not giving it to you."
"How can you be?" asks Picard. "How can you be okay knowing millions of people could die, and just watching it?" 
He doesn't have a dog in this fight, that's why. Everyone in this century lived and died before he was born. In his mind, they are already dead, and so is Picard and his crew. 
"Let's put it like this," says Rasmussen, "and say I tell you that no one died. You'd assume what you did was correct, and try it again. But what if I told you everyone died, and you went in a different direction. Then, what if one of those people grew up -"
Picard interrupts him, because he knows where this is going: it's that tired, old "what if you just saved Hitler?" philosophical question. "This is not a class in temporal logic!"

"If I give you info about this event, it could change my history, and that of the entire galaxy," says Rasmussen. He seems to relish the idea that he has information that others do not.
"I have two choices," Picard says. "And I either pick the choice that leads to your history, or I pick the other that changes the future. You know about the Prime Directive, which talks about interfering in the development of alien worlds -"
Rasmussen looks uncertain.
" - and I have sworn to uphold it. I've broken it, several times, in instances where I felt it was the correct course of action. It's possible that you follow a temporal version, and in that case, would there not be instances where you might do the same?"
They go back and forth, and the long and short of it is, Rasmussen isn't budging, and Picard finally gives up. 
Riker calls to say they're pretty much within the window they need if they're going to do the thing.

They go out onto the bridge.
"So you made a choice?" asks Rasmussen.
"No," said Picard. "I just realized that, without your input, I have the same choices as before. And I can play it safe, or I can take a risk. I'm a risk-taker. So we're gonna do the thing. Program the firing sequence."

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Picard's Log 45351.9: "Moseley talked to the colony's leaders, who gave us the go-ahead."

Everyone begins prepping, setting up phasers, and keying in calculations. Picard tells La Forge that it's time to come back upstairs, but La Forge tells Picard that he'd rather stay, that they'll need help on the surface to get everything tweaked, right up until the last second.
"They have computers that can do the thing," Data confirms, "but La Forge being there to do it himself would be more helpful."
Picard agrees.
"La Forge remained below," quotes Rasmussen.
Dude, STFU. No one asked for your running commentary. Sit down and watch, or leave the bridge.
They finish the last of the prep, then fire the phasers, and finally, the deflector dish.
The atmosphere erupts into fireballs.

After a moment, warp-coil-blue clouds cover the surface, and envelop the Enterprise. The crew rides it out, then turns the ship, and directs the cloud-vapor stuff off into space. The planet atmosphere clears. Rasmussen is on the edge of his seat as though, you know, he doesn't know how this is going to pan out.

Picard calls La Forge. He and Moseley confirm that everything looks good, and Moseley thanks Picard again.
"We're gonna hang out in orbit for a while to keep an eye on those volcanoes," says Picard, "but they'll probably cool down on their own."
As soon as the viewscreen is off, Rasmussen pops out of Troi's chair and announces that it's time for him to go. He talks too much, patronizingly points out that Picard did the thing without any help, and remarks that Riker is taller in person. Then he leaves the bridge, and Picard and Riker share a look before Picard turns to Worf.

Rasmussen enters the cargo bay a bit later with his bags packed, and finds the senior crew waiting for him.
"We need to look in your time machine," says a stony-faced Picard.
Rasmussen teases him about being curious, but when he realizes that Picard is not fucking around, he checks his ring watch again and says that Picard cannot be serious.
"Stuff is missing," Picard tells him. "It better not be on your ship."
Rasmussen steps forward to get on board, but Worf blocks him. "Let us in, or I'll blow it up."
And the would-be time traveler switches tactics: "My equipment is sensitive, so I'll only allow Data on board."
"Why Data?" asks Riker suspiciously.
"Because if I order Data not to say anything about what he sees in there, minus our things, he won't," says Picard.
Data agrees, and Rasmussen opens the door with his handprint. They go inside, the door closes behind them, and Data immediately recognizes a bunch of missing items.
Rasmussen pulls a phaser on Data and tells him that he did some research, and that he's got the phaser set for the highest stun setting, which is enough to immobilize Data.
But our android friend elects to ignore the threat. "Why do you have these items?"
And now, like any tropey villain, Rasmussen monologues: he's not from the 26th century, but the 22nd. He's an inventor, one that hasn't invented anything worth a damn, and he intends to go back and pop up every now and again, claiming that he invented each of these objects, thus setting himself up for life. And changing time.
"But this time pod is beyond the technology now," points out Data.
"Oh, this ship is legit," Rasmussen admits. "The time traveler I stole it from came back to my time, and told me that it was from the 26th century. These are his clothes, too."
So that story about himself and a time-traveling historian on a 22nd-century ship was probably real. It's just that the historian traveled there alone.
"Anyway, I was going to do the invention thing, but thanks to Picard insisting that you be the one to check out the time pod, I now get to go back to my time with you," says Rasmussen. He checks the ring watch. "The self-timer on the ship means that it will leave in about two minutes. You're gonna wake up in New Jersey."

He pulls the trigger, but the phaser just... clicks.
Sassy Data Moment: "I assume your handprint will open this door, whether you are conscious or not."
A moment later, the door opens, and Rasmussen and Data climb back out, Raz bitching about the broken phaser.
"You were right, he took our stuff," Data tells Picard. "And he's not from the future. He's from the past."
"All that shit about not altering your history, and here you are, altering mine," says a displeased Picard to Rasmussen.
"It was a misunderstanding." says Raz quickly, trying to move around Picard. "I need to get back on the ship."
Worf has stepped onboard and grabbed the items. Picard adds the stolen phaser to the pile. 
"That might have worked if you have taken fewer things," says Picard. "We got suspicious because of that. Our scanners can't penetrate the time pod, but we managed to set them to scan the inside and deactivate those items when the door opened. Worf, could your security people take him to the brig, and call the nearest starbase to say we will be dropping him off?"
Rasmussen tries to scramble around them again, but the door to the time pod closes, and the whole thing disappears.
Oops. Missed your train.

"Welcome to the 24th century, motherfucker," says Picard, as Worf hauls him away.
And the E leaves orbit of Penthara IV.

So, this episode.
I actually started writing this review weeks ago, but found that I was struggling to get through it. I just... didn't want to spend time with it.
The thing about going through each episode and film with a fine-toothed comb is that you pick up on subtleties that the writers and actors always wanted you to notice, but you didn't for whatever reason. You suddenly see tiny motions that the actors make, a word choice, a shifted tone, and Easter eggs sprinkled in the background. The content becomes more layered. And that's exactly what happened here.
This episode was meant to be a lighter note after the heavier palette of "Unification," and in truth, it is. It's a goofy one-off about a con man who convinces the E crew that he's a time-traveling historian, when in fact, he's a failed inventor from the past, here to swipe technology and then pass it off as his own, in his own time, to get rich. It doesn't really have any consequences attached to the outcome. The Federation isn't going to have to go to war with someone else in the quadrant because of his actions, and after he talks to the authorities in Starfleet, Rasmussen will probably be let go to figure out how to live his life in the wrong century.
But when I dumped the purse of this episode out on the table and picked through the contents, I saw something that I hadn't noticed previously: Rasmussen is a predator. He isn't presented as such; the writers clearly just made him a guy who was hiding his true intentions. But somewhere in there, he mixed in things that maybe had not been intended. He creeps on people who are not White Males In Charge. He starts by invading Data's space in the lift - he doesn't see Data as a threat, so it's okay to stand too close, to literally size him up, to touch his ear. I will never watch that scene and not think of some rude white rando just touching a Black person's hair without asking. Thinking he has the right to do so, because this person is not on the same level as he is. 
And Data, who has no emotions, and is still learning about humans, does not object. Rasmussen is just some weirdo. Sometimes humans are weirdos, and they act in anti-social ways. Data shrugs it off and continues the conversation as though this man did not violate his personal bubble. Maybe he's used to humans treating him like an object. Does that make it okay? Fuck no. Rasmussen is still wrong, regardless of how Data does or does not react. Later, he calls Data "it," and treats him like a servant, ignoring Data's earnest questions before deigning to speak to him, if only to lecture him about knowing too much about the future. And when he enters Data's quarters, he does not do him the courtesy of ringing the doorbell first. Everyone on this ship has the good sense and manners to ring the doorbell first, to offer the occupant the opportunity to refuse them entry if they so wish, but not this guy. Data's just a machine, so who cares?

Next up is La Forge. Again, Rasmussen invades his personal space: he stands too close, follows at his heels. He doesn't touch La Forge, but he asks weird, invasive questions about La Forge's VISOR at a time when he is clearly too busy too talk. And let's be honest: La Forge is fully aware that he is disabled, and like other disabled people, he knows that will attract attention from people who are curious. If you approach La Forge when he's not busy and stressed, and ask politely about his VISOR, he may tell you about it. Or he may not. It isn't his job to educate others about how he sees or makes his way in the world. But Rasmussen respects none of that. "That's your VISOR, huh? How do you like it? I have a picture of you in my office wearing that." It's like he glued himself to La Forge's back, and won't shut the fuck up. And La Forge practically leaps at the chance to go back to the surface of Pentara to get the hell away from him.

The predatory behavior is most obvious with Dr Crusher. He traps her in the hallway, won't let her get to her destination. He hits on her, and she's forced to do what every woman on the planet (or off) has been forced to do: smile a smile that never leaves your lips, uncomfortably duck around the guy, give him a rejection that isn't a flat-out no, try to end on a cordial note, and hope the encounter is over. Because if you don't let him down easy, he could hurt you. Follow you home. Stalk you. Kill you. Watch the shadows, never walk alone after dark, keep your keys between your fingers. Never accept a drink from a stranger.
It's just as important who he doesn't creep on. Picard and Riker are white men with high-ranking jobs. He bullshits them, but he maintains a polite distance. Worf is a threat. And Troi, though he tries to sweet-talk her, is also a threat: she knows he's untrustworthy, so he attempts to talk her around to his side. But she isn't buying what he's selling, and that small weapon allows her to walk away, even as he's trying to get into her space to convince her.

So there are our three: a Black disabled man, a woman, and an Other, all of whom he treats as being beneath him. He's walking around the ship, wiping his White Male Privilege on every surface. Are people in the 22nd century still that shitty? Because that's either a learned behavior, or sociopathy. I'm willing to accept either in this case.
Surely, Matt Frewer was directed to get predatory with those characters, right? With the exception of Picard, he has very few encounters in the story with the No Creep Zone of Worf, Troi, and Riker. They specifically selected three characters who, in this 21st century, are exactly the kind of person who would get creeped on, and who might, out of a sense of self-preservation, not report said creeping. It seems too intentional. It must be mentioned in Memory Alpha, right? No. Not a single sentence. Was it a side-note? "Hey, Matt. Be real "pushy" with these characters"? Was it an acting choice on Frewer's part? 
I couldn't be the only one to notice these things, correct? Other people must have noticed, it's so blatant once you give it a good look. I Googled the episode to see if anyone had talked about it at all. Several Reddit forums came up, and surely, something must be there, because what else is Reddit for, than to dissect things into oblivion? Nope. Nothing. The handful of Reddit threads I found brought up other interesting topics having to do with this episode, but not one thing about Rasmussen being a predator. Are we, as a society, still so deliberately obtuse to this problem? It's frustrating to me that I spent so many weeks being thoroughly creeped out by this character that I struggled to write this review, and it isn't acknowledged anywhere. I feel sort of alone in pointing this out, as though someone will step forward and tell me that I'm reading into the situation, that something I saw with my own eyes doesn't actually exist. 
Same as it ever was.

I suppose I should talk about the rest of the episode.
Firstly: Matt Frewer. He was a great choice for this character. It was written specifically for Robin Williams, but when Williams ducked out, the part went to Frewer, a guy who you want to like, but... can't. He's just unsettling enough that, while his antics are funny, he's completely untrustworthy. He perfects street magic for the purpose of stealing your wallet. He's like Boris fucking Johnson, a guy who pretends to not know what he's doing, in order to cover up the fact that... he doesn't know what he's doing. But you don't notice because he's being funny and charming.
As a character, Rasmussen had a pretty good set-up: he found a time-traveling historian, and stole his clothes and time pod. Did he kill him? We have no idea. Certainly, he stranded the real historian in the 22nd century. Next, he most likely learned of the Enterprise-D and her crew from the time pod. Maybe, like the Delorian in Back to The Future, the pod's destination was pre-set, and the information pulled up already, so all Rasmussen had to do was read up on it. But when he arrived in the 26th century, all he had to do was proclaim himself to be from the future, then steadfastly refuse to give out info on that time, lest he mess up the future. It's kind of the perfect cover. Steal things, but feign interest in the event currently taking place. Oh, and give out questionnaires to glean more info.

It seems a bit strange at first that Picard would go along with this so willingly. Is it because his last brush with time travel (Sela) turned out to be true when he questioned it? He's usually such a skeptic, but he hopped right on board, and Crusher jumped onboard with him. Is it possibly because Rasmussen pretends to be an historian, something that Picard relates to? Either way, he was only fooled for so long before becoming suspicious himself. And he probably admitted, if only to himself, that he had hoped that the whole thing were real, because the idea of an historian who studies events via time-travel sounds awesome, and Jules Verne-esque. (It is though, Picard! So cool!)
The cracks in veneer were brought upon not only by the missing items, but Rasmussen's personality. The guy came off like a pushy superfan, and I would imagine that celebrities feel the way the crew of the Enterprise did when interacting with this guy who knew absolutely everything about them, when they knew nothing about him. "I have pictures of you!" "You're taller in person!" "I knew your ready room was seven meters wide!" The guy was superfuckingexcited to be there, and let everyone know it. Would an actual historian, trying to blend in, really fangirl over every little thing like that? Nope. He probably would have docked at a starbase, invented a reason to be onboard, and gotten to know the crew, thus protecting the timeline. Rasmussen was a bit too Saturday morning breakfast cereal to be real.
Despite Reddit not turning up anything on my predator observations, it did turn up some interesting talking points. Among my favorites:
- Was it morally okay for the E crew to strand Rasmussen in the 24th century? He might have had a family back in the 22nd century, and by keeping him in the 24th, where his family had been dead for quite some time, may have been cruel and unusual punishment.
- Did Rasmussen kill the historian? Reddit seems to think he did, though we can't say for sure. If he did, that's pretty shitty, and he definitely deserves to be brought up on charges for it. But he might have just knocked the guy unconscious and stole his clothes and ship, stranding him in the 22nd century. Because we don't know anything about the 26th century, we have no way of knowing if the historian's time-travel system left him a way to communicate through time that he was stuck. Maybe there was a way for him to get back, and maybe there wasn't. (If there wasn't he should have done the next best thing, and marry that cute guy from Hull.)
- Observing things changes the outcome. Hell yes, Science Side of... Reddit! That's a great point!
- Someone mentioned the "plot hole" in letting the time pod disappear with the 24th century tools on board, but I think they failed to see that Worf had grabbed the tray with the tools off the pod before it disappeared. But it does raise a good point: where did the time pod go? Back to 22nd century New Jersey? That seems pretty dicey, guaranteed to change the future at least a little, unless it showed up at the feet of the (non-dead) historian, who got in it and left immediately. Leaving a time pod laying around in New Jersey is not a good idea.
The low-down: others will see this as a fun, goofy one-off, but I can't unsee those predator moments. 

Fun Facts:

- Writer Rick Berman was interested in the idea of a time traveler who says he's from the future, but is actually from the past. He enjoyed writing the script for this episode.
- The character of Rasmussen was actually written for Robin Williams. Williams was a Trek fan, and wanted to do a stint on the show. But when he finished filming Hook, his wife was 8 1/2 months pregnant, and the timing was just too close on the heels of that film.
- Rick Berman and Michael Piller admitted that getting the tech parts of the B-plot were tricky, and that they spent a lot of time going over research with tech experts to get it right.
- The time pod ship is a redress of the Nenebec, the broken-down ship in season four's "Final Mission." The exterior of the time pod will be reused for a different ship later.

- This is the first of five appearances of conn officer Ensign Felton.

- Among the things that Rasmussen tries to steal: a VISOR, a padd, a tricorder, a phaser, isolinear chips, and a d'k tahg. What... wtf was he going to do with a Klingon weapon? Did he just think it was cool?
- This is the first mention of the Enterprise-B.
- Michael Piller thought this lighter-toned episode was a nice palette-cleanser after the heavier Spock arc.
- Though director Paul Lynch thought Matt Frewer was great in this episode, he nevertheless considered "A Matter of Time" to be his least favorite episode of the five he directed.
- This episode won an Emmy for Visual Effects.
- I looked up Jonathan Frakes' IMDB to see if they listed any non-acting jobs he had over the years, and the answer is yes: he was an usher at a live theater, a waiter, and a furniture mover, all of which require customer service skills.

Red deaths: 0
To date: 1
Gold deaths: 0
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Unnamed color crew deaths: 0
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Sassy La Forge moments: 3
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Sassy Ro Moments: 0
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Sassy Worf Moment: 0
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Sassy Riker Moments: 0
To date: 7
Sassy Picard Moments: 0
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Sassy NPC Moments: 0
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Sassy Data Moments: 1
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Sassy O'Brien Moments: 0
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Sassy Keiko Moments: 0
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Sassy Crusher Moments: 0
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Sassy Troi Moments: 0
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Sassy Guinan Moments:
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Sassy Guest Star Moments: 0
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Number of times that it is mentioned that Data is an android: 4
To date: 24
Number of times that Troi reacts to someone else's feelings: 0
To date: 8
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: 1
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Tea, Earl Grey:
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Mentions of the number 47: 0
To date: 1

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

ST:TNG Season Five, Episode Eight "Unification II"

ST: TNG Season Five, Episode Eight "Unification, Part II"
Production Order: 8
Air Order: 8
Stardate: 45245.8
Original Air Date: November 11, 1991

Just in case you forgot that Gene Roddenberry had died, this second part opens with an "in memorium" card like the first part.

Then there's a recap, and if you want a refresher, here's the review from the first part.

Let's jump right into it: Spock, at the entrance to the cave, asks Picard why he has come to Romulus, which is a good question. Recall that Spock packed a bag and just kind of fucking left, not expecting his employer to send someone after him.
You work for the government, Spock. You're allowed a certain amount of freedom, but hightailing it into enemy territory is not going to go unnoticed.
Which Picard then spells out for him.
"It's none of Starfleet's beeswax what I'm doing here. I'm doing a personal peace mission, and I'll tell Starfleet about it when I'm good and ready."
Again, no.

And then Picard says the line that fully sums up the difference between TOS and TNG: "Ambassador, with great respect for all that you've achieved on behalf of the Federation, this sort of cowboy diplomacy will not be easily tolerated anymore."
He's right. When you're the first to do something, you can write your own rulebook. But when it's 100 years later, it's no longer a question of "wagon train to the stars." You're now in "settlement of the stars," and there are rules to follow. Dumb, dumb, dumb red tape.
And Picard, ever the diplomat, chooses his words with care. He gets it. He understands that Spock wants to do this secret peace mission without orders signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public inquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters.
Spock repeats the phrase "cowboy diplomacy" as though it leaves a bad taste in his mouth.
"Look," says Picard, "you can't just fuck around with stuff that could have big-time implications for the Federation. You gotta talk to them. Or at least me. I was sent by them to find out what you're doing."
"Ugh," replies Spock.
"Okay, allllso? I gotta tell you something bad."
Spock kind of reads his face. "Sarek is dead?" He digests the information, then asks Picard to take a walk with him.

They go into another part of the cave, and Spock says that he is aware that Picard mind-melded with Sarek. They talk briefly about how Sarek was a great ambassador and voice of the Vulcan people, and Picard tells Spock that Sarek was very proud of him, and loved him.
Spock brushes it off. "That's Bendii Syndrome, messes with your emotions."
"No, it's true," insists Picard.
"I'm gonna level with you," says Spock. "I'm here because there's a growing movement toward reunification, and my friend Pardek thinks there might actually be a possibility of it taking hold."
Picard is surprised - the Vulcans and Romulans went their separate ways a long time ago. There are a lot of really big differences in those peoples now.
"Yeah, it does seem unlikely," Spock admits. "But what if I don't jump on this chance, and it goes away?"
Picard asks how Pardek fits in, and Spock tells him that there's some new young proconsul in the Senate who might be open to hearing about reunification. Pardek thinks the proconsul could be persuaded by him.
"Okay, legit," Picard agrees. "But why not talk to the Federation first?"
"You remember my part that I played in gaining peace with the Klingons?"
"Of course," says Picard. "That shit went down in history."
It did?
"Naw, history left shit out."
You mean, like it always does?
"I got Kirk and his crew snagged into that mess, and I was responsible for how it played out," Spock finishes. "I didn't want more of that to go down with the Romulans in the same way."

At this point, the audience may be very confused. This two-parter, as discussed, was made to go along with the sixth movie. It was a cross-promotion. At this point, the movie was finished but had not been released. But they added in this allusion to the film as a teaser. The film takes place 85 years before this episode, so Picard knows what Spock is talking about. Fans of both TNG and TOS who have seen trailers for the film may know roughly what he's talking about.
(Here's a trailer so you can see how much they might have seen.)
For what it's worth, I barely remember this film because each time I sit down to watch it, I fall asleep and wake up to Kirk fighting himself. Though now that I've watched the trailer, I do vaguely recall the Klingon with the eyepatch, and Kim Cattrall's entirely unfortunate haircut.

So anyway, Spock doesn't feel great about that thing with the Klingons from when he was younger, and he wants Picard to go away so he can work his magic in peace.
"That's not logical," says Picard. "I think you're letting emotion cloud your judgement."
OKAY: can we stop using that whole logic/emotion thing as a weapon against Vulcans? It's OLD, and frankly, it's not clever. It also shows a lack of understanding (possibly intentional) against an entire race of people. Honestly, I'm disappointed in Picard for pulling that shit.
In return, Spock cocks an eyebrow, which is actually all the more that that comment deserves. "You sound like my father."

"No, I sound like a Starfleet officer, and I can't just walk away from this. You're putting yourself at risk."
Spock counters with "I was involved in cowboy diplomacy long before you were born."
I hate this whole conversation. Older doesn't automatically make you wiser, Spock. I know a lot of elderly dumbfucks, and quite a few younger people who have their shit together. It also doesn't make your plan better that you've been doing this longer than Picard has been alive. Old, bad plans are still bad.
"Still hanging out here until you're done with this self-imposed mission," Picard replies stubbornly.
Spock: "In your own way, you are as stubborn as another captain of the Enterprise I once knew."
No. Nope. No. Do not compare Kirk and Picard. They're not even a little bit the same.

Anyway, that was just the cold open. Dramatic music and opening credits and stuff.

Data and K'Vada enter the bridge of ... K'Vada's ship (name your ships, writers!), arguing: Data says that Picard needs to hang out on Romulus a while longer, and K'Vada is annoyed.
"I also need to use your computers."
"Not gonna happen," snorts K'Vada. "You can't have our access codes."
"You can change them when we leave Romulus," Data replies sensibly. "I want to try to break into the Romulan computer system."
"Also not happening. We've been trying to break into those for-fucking-ever."
"Are you guys androids? No? Plus, Picard says we can share any info I get with you guys."
Dangling the idea of secret Romulan information in front of K'Vada proves to be the correct bait, and he gives Data permission to do the thing.
"Cool," says Data. "And while we're chatting, we need to be able to contact the Enterprise from here."
"Are you high?" asks K'Vada. "They'll spot us in a second."
"Nah, we can piggyback our signal on a Romulan one, and it'll just look like background interference."
K'Vada is confused, and Data realizes that he has inadvertently used a human colloquialism. (Good for you Data, picking up bad habits from humans.) He gives a brief explanation, then tells K'Vada that he's been going over the specs for both Romulan and Klingon communication arrays, and says they're compatible.
K'Vada gives his blessing, and Data thanks him.
Overall, K'Vada seems like a fairly reasonable guy. Data just had to give him full explanations for things before he agreed.

Down on the surface, we follow one Romulan, who gives some orchids to another, who carries them back into that same restaurant that Data and Picard visited earlier. Picard and Spock are at a table, and the guy with the orchids puts them in some water and sets them on the table.
It's code.
"The senate let out," Spock tells Picard.
"Is this really a thing?" Picard asks. "Like, you know people who are into this movement?"
"Yeah, I've spoken to people in four provinces. They're underground, but all over. It's kind of a problem for the senate, truthfully."
They stop talking, because a woman (not the Soup Nazi from before) has shown up with their bowls. When she leaves, Picard says he isn't sure this is going to work. Spock says he thinks Picard is close-minded.
I have to object here. Being close-minded and being realistic are two totally different things. Picard will negotiate with anyone.
I'm finding myself annoyed with this Spock, which is weird, because I'm normally heavily pro-Spock. I think maybe I don't like the pairing of Spock and Picard? The things they are saying to one another both make some sense, but this Spock seems... combative? I guess maybe he's just miffed that he got caught. Or he's troubled by the death of Sarek. Both?
I do like the next exchange, though:
"We've been taught to mistrust the Romulans our whole lives," says Spock. "We need to set that aside, and see if there's a way that we can get together."
Picard nods. "I'll be the first to offer kudos if we can get rid of the Neutral Zone, but I don't think the movement is big enough right now to change the landscape of Romulan politics."
They're interrupted by a Romulan teenager, who Spock introduces as his friend, D'Tan. D'Tan has a little book with him that he's eager to share with Spock: a book about Vulcan culture that adults have been reading to him since he was a kid. Spock is surprised and pleased to see the book, but Pardek shows up and chides D'Tan for bringing the book out into public.
They decide that being in this public space isn't doing them any favors, so Picard and Spock walk away from untouched bowls of soup... again. Surely someone has noticed Picard continuously ordering food that he doesn't eat before leaving.

Pardek walks them through the streets (backstreets, though, no other people present), and he asks Picard what he thinks of the Federation's enemies.
"These people aren't anyone's enemies," says Picard fairly.
Pardek talks about how the Senate is kind of afraid of the reunification people, but how young people like D'Tan will eventually take over, and they won't allow the prejudices of older people like himself to continue being the status quo.
*cough cough* Greta Thunberg cough cough*
He also says that meeting Spock has only encouraged them more.
Spock says he was surprised to get such an enthusiastic greeting from reuni people.
"We're passionate," says Pardek. "I think the Vulcans will come to appreciate that in us. Anyway Spock, the proconsul wants to meet with you."
Eyebrow raise.

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Riker's Log, 45245.8: "So we're still near the junkyard investigating the whole Vulcan-ship-parts-on-a-Ferengi-freighter thing, and our trial has lead us to this bar, and the ex-wife of a dead smuggler."
This space bar, y'all. It has hardcore Mos Eisley cantina vibes.

The ex-wife Amarie is a four-armed musician playing an organ-like instrument in the corner. Riker walks up and asks if she knows any blues songs. She plays a little Andorian blues and asks who he's looking for.
"You. I need to ask about your husband."
She's friendly and willing to talk. "Which husband?"
"The dead one. He was into some bad business and took the evidence when he went."
She sizes up his uniform and guesses that he's from the Enterprise.
"Do you know his partners?"
"Why should I help you?"
"Honestly? No idea."
She considers him. "Well, I mean you did kill my ex, which is a good start. Put some money in my tip jar, and that might jog my memory."
This is a problem. The Federation, and Starfleet by extension, doesn't believe in money. He proposes a trade: he'll teach her some Earth blues in exchange for info.
She picks it up quickly, and tells him to hang out for a few days. "Sooner or later, this arms dealer will show up, a fat Ferengi named Omag. He always stops here to get food and asks me to play Melor Famagal."

Pardek takes Spock to the proconsul's office, and Neral starts out being all charming, asking Spock to call him Neral, because he doesn't care for titles, then he throws out a ta'al, which Spock returns. Pardek takes his leave, but not before Neral asks if he will see Pardek and his wife at the state dinner the following evening.
"Looking forward to it," he says, walking out the door.
Neral remarks to Spock that Pardek is a bit too "man of the people," and is rarely invited to official functions.
They get down to brass tacks: Neral supports reunification, thinks it will come eventually, and that the old Senate leaders have lost the respect of the people. Spock is surprised to hear a proconsul speaking like a member of the underground.

"I'm prepared to publicly endorse reunification. Do you think the Vulcans will agree?" Neral asks.
"I think they'll be cautious," Spock replies. "There's been a lot of distrust over the centuries."
"You could lead the way," Neral suggests.
A secretary or someone pages Neral : the Senate is meeting again.
He asks to see Spock tomorrow, and when the ambassador agrees, sends him off with a Jolan Tru. Then he remembers who he is talking to, and gives him a "live long and prosper" instead.
Spock nods and leaves. After a moment, another door off to the side opens.
Oh, fuck me.

Back in the cave, Spock tells Picard, Pardek, and the others what he and Neral discussed. The underground are hopeful, but Picard is skeptical: Neral couldn't have become proconsul without the support of Romulan traditionalists. The others try to argue, but Spock agrees with Picard.
"It's not logical to think that he would support reunification now."
"He's probably looking to expose members of the underground by saying he agrees with you," Picard suggests.
Yeah, not what they want to hear.
"I bet the Federation has a problem with the Romulans and Vulcans forming an alliance!" yells one.
"Untrue!" Picard yells back.
Spock heads off the argument. "I came here to see if I could get the ball rolling on reunification, and I intend to keep going in that direction. I'm still going to meet the proconsul tomorrow."
He and Picard leave the cave.

Once out of earshot, Picard accuses Spock of allowing the emotions of the underground to sway his emotions. He thinks is not being logical in trusting Neral.
"You sound like my father," Spock says again.
"Look, that's the second time you've said that, said that his words are coming out of my mouth, but this is my own opinion," Picard argues.
"I hear him more clearly now that he is dead," Spock muses. "I may have brought my arguments with him to you. It's not intentional."
"Is it really that important for you to get the last word?"
"No, but I will miss the arguments," admits Spock. "That's all we had in the end. I looked beyond pure logic. He thought that was weak. He would have seen this mission of reunification as being worthless, but I don't think it is. Logically, I don't have a reason for why I think this is important. I just do."
"But what if it's a Romulan trap?"
"It could be. But either way, we have to find out what the trap is, if it is. So I'll go along with it."
This is something that Picard understands.

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Upstairs, Data is working on the encryption key to get into the Romulan computer systems. Picard and Spock come in, and he tells them that he has not quite cracked the code. Spock offers to help him, as he has experience with this kind of thing. Data agrees, and Picard ducks out to take off his make-up.
"There's a 43-part cipher key in the Romulan code," says Spock.
"Yeah, I've got all but the 29th," Data replies.
Spock gives him the tiniest look like "STFU, you got 42 ciphers cracked?"
"It's weird," says Spock, "Picard is very Vulcan-like. I see why my father agreed to mind-meld with him."
"Huh." Data pauses. "I had actually considered the captain to be one of my role models in my quest to be more human."
They both think on this.
"You have great analytical skills, better than average physical skills, and no emotion," says Spock. "There are some Vulcans that aspire all their lives to be the way you were designed."
Another pause.
"You're half-human," says Data.
"But you've chosen to go with the Vulcan way of life. You've actually ditched what I've sought my whole life."
Spock glances at him, then says he has cracked the 29th cipher, and attempts to break into the proconsul's files.
Data asks politely if he can ask a personal question, and when he replies that he may, he asks if Spock has missed his humanity.
"I have no regrets," Spock replies.
Data nods in agreement, then points out that this is a human expression.
Spock thinks about this, then says quietly, "Yes. Fascinating."

Worf is hanging out in the Star Wars bar with Amarie (it's clearly his shift), and asks if she knows Klingon opera.
She replies that she doesn't get a lot of requests and may be rusty, but yeah, she can give him some Aktuh and Maylota. Worf sings along. Loudly.

"God, WTF is that shit?" yells a patron walking in. "You know what I want to hear!"
"Yeah, yeah." Amarie starts playing "Melor Famagal."
Worf looks around and spots Omag coming in, with a girlie on each arm. The Klingon hits his comm badge. "Hey, Commander. A fat Ferengi just arrived."
"That Malor Famagal in the background?"
"OMW," Riker replies.

A few minutes later, Omag has a plate of food in front of him, and is displaying the worst table manners in the galaxy, banging on the table and yelling for a waiter.
"There a problem?" asks Riker, approaching the table.
"Yeah, I need more napkins!"
Sassy Riker Moment: "Use your sleeve."
Omag: "What?!"
Sassy Riker again: "Use one of their sleeves. I don't care."
Omag demands to know who he is, and Riker gives his name, rank, and ship.
"Am I supposed to salute?" demands Omag. He laughs at his own joke. The girlies fake-laugh at it.
Whatever. No Sassy Points for you. The joke has to actually be funny.
"We're investigating a Vulcan ship," says Riker.
"I don't deal in those. Vulcans are pacifists. I only deal in warships."
"We know you're tied to it," Riker replies. "Who would be in the market for a Vulcan ship?"
Omag makes another joke that the girlies fake-laugh at, and Riker is out of fucks. He dumps the food in Omag's lap, then strides around the table and yanks him out of his chair by his collar.
"You're gonna tell me what I want to know, or I'm gonna get your right of passage through this sector revoked."
It seems Omag is a coward. He tells Riker that he traded it to a Barolian freighter, and Riker has to shake him down for the location.
"Galorndon Core!" yelps Omag before Riker drops him in his chair.
Sassy Riker then grabs a napkin from nearby, wipes Omag's mouth, then tucks the napkin into his shirt. "Enjoy your dinner."

I just noticed that there are two spots at the tops of Omag's lobes that are worn down to holes, and... is that an oo-mox thing? Did... did he rub there so much, that there's no longer flesh there? Is there a Ferengi version of "you'll go blind" that warns of rubbing the flesh away?
Why did I notice that? Why?

Time for a Skype!
Picard and Data are piggybacking the Romulan carrier waves to talk to Riker and the others.
"The Barolian freighter at Galorndon Core makes me think of Romulans," says Riker. "It's right on the Neutral Zone border."
"Vulcan ships and Romulans," muses Picard. "The Romulans are talking to Ambassador Spock about reunification."
"That's a big deal."
"Yeah. Reunification is something that the ambassador wants to champion, even if there's a chance it will fail."
"How do these things fit together?" Troi asks.
"Dunno," says Picard. "But I think you should check out Galorndon Core."
They start to lose the carrier wave, so they say their goodbyes, and the E heads for Galorndon Core.

Back on Unnamed Cruiser, Data tells Picard that he's found something in Romulan subspace logs about Galordan Core and Barolian ships.
K'Vada, who would never drop some eaves, tells Data that the Barolians have a trade route near there, and that they trade with the Romulans, and it's probably routine.
"I don't think so," says Data. "There are Romulan intelligence codes mixed into the messages."
K'Vada is figuring out that if he keeps his mouth shut and his ears open, and just agree to whatever Data asks for, he may gain something.
"Can you figure out what the Intelligence code says?" Picard asks Data.
"Yeah, it's one-four-zero-zero."

Spock is walking through the street when he's approached by D'Tan, who puts some small, pyramidal dice in his hand. Spock is surprised. He tells D'Tan that the markings on the dice are the basis for the Vulcan language.
"Those were my toys," D'Tan tells him. "They've been passed down through the generations, teaching kids how to speak Vulcan for the time when we would be reunified."
Another member of the underground approaches, and tells them that Spock's Federation friends want to meet with him again, that he's alerted Pardek, and they'll all meet up in the caves.

Okay, I gotta pause here: Vulcans do not have the same forehead ridges that Romulans have, yet Spock is able to wander around Romulus as though he does. Nobody bothers this member of the dreaded Federation as he walks through the streets, talking to Senate members, ordering food and then eating nothing in cafes, and openly talking about reunification. He took D'Tan over near a building to look at his dice, but he just told the kid that the proconsul "spoke of nothing other than reunification" at their second meeting. The Romulans are set up as a people who will spy on your grandma for changing her pie crust recipe, yet they're letting Spock just hang out? Is this also something that Spock has accounted for, and will only be so secretive as to "play the part"?


Picard and Data meet up with Spock and Pardek, though interestingly, Picard and Data are wearing their Starfleet uniforms. I'm baffled as to why they would make this choice: not only do they not look like Romulans currently, they are openly wearing the bright-ass colors of the enemy. On a planet where muted earth tones are the norm. They couldn't have acquired or changed into other Romulan clothes? Or just worn the Romulan clothes they already have, but with the hoods up?
Anyway, our bright-ass Starfleet officers tell Spock and Pardek about the 1-4-0-0 code, and Spock says that that pretty much confirms that Neral is fucking him over.
The others are surprised.
"1-4-0-0 is 1400, the time when Neral is scheduled to make the reunification announcement tomorrow. It's tied somehow to the stolen Vulcan ship."
"How?" asks Pardek.
"You're about to find out," says Sela, stepping into the cave.
Romulan guards run forward and snatch phasers from the holsters of Picard and Data.

She welcomes Picard to Romulus and makes note of "that android I've come to respect in battle."
What's that now? Got your ass handed to you by a Machine Man? Yeah, you better recognize.
Pardek panics. "Someone betrayed our location!"
"Yeah," says Spock in resignation. "It was you."
The old Romulan flounders. "But we've been friends for 80 years!"
"Yeah, but you invited me here, and arranged for me to talk to Neral, and you knew that Picard and Data had come back to the surface with info. It's only logical that it was you."
"Your service to your people is appreciated," Sela tells Pardek.
Pardek looks very pleased with himself, and exits, saying "Jolan tru, Spock."
Yeah, namaste, you traitorous motherfucker.
Probably why he was suddenly being invited to state dinners again.

Sela then announces to the group that reunification will take a different form going forward: Romulus will be taking over Vulcan. And she has her soldiers lead the Federation members from the cave at disruptor-point.

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

The E has arrived at Galorndon Core. Remember this place? La Forge and a Rom officer got trapped on the surface in an earlier episode.
Scans are not bringing up life signs on the surface, but they discuss the possibilities of cloaked bases here or nearby.
Worf gets another piggybacked Romulan message: "Stay at Galorndon Core, diplomatic mission going great, will advise."
"It had the right hidden codes," Worf adds.
Riker looks suspicious anyway.

Picard, Data, and Spock are all lead into Sela's office, where she is texting on some kind of small Romulan padd.
"Sorry," she says. "I'm writing a speech for you, Mr Spock. I do enjoy writing, but I don't get to do it very often in this job."
Data trying to be helpful: "Perhaps you would be happier in another job."

Is this her office, or Neral's? It's the same fucking office

Lieutenant Commander Data: Life Coach.
Sela hands the padd to Spock. "So you're going to give this speech alongside the proconsul, announcing the peace initiatives. It'll be broadcast on Federation frequencies as well, saying that a peace envoy is heading for Vulcan. We got three Vulcan ships to do it." She looks at Picard. "We've been following the Enterprise's investigation into the theft of the T'Pau, but what they don't know is that we have two more. Also, I sent them a message from you, saying they need to stay at Galorndon Core."
"Whatever," says Picard. "The E will overtake those ships the minute they hit the Neutral Zone."
"Yeah, they'll be busy with something else when that happens," Sela replies.
"The Federation will come to the aid of the Vulcans," says Picard.
"Yeah, but by the time that happens, we'll have taken over."
Spock has skimmed the speech by now. "Yeah, I'm not reading this."
"Then I'll kill you all," she states flatly.
"Psssht," replies Spock. "You were gonna do that anyway. So I'm not cooperating. The end."

"I fucking hate Vulcans." Sela rips the padd from Spock's hand. "Whatever. We have a holographic Spock who will deliver the speech. We really wanted an interactive, live Spock that could answer questions, but you make do with what you have."
She turns on the holo-Spock, who gives the first part of the speech about three Vulcan ships (the Nina, the Pinta, and the T'Pau) in the Neutral Zone, who are carrying the future of Romulus and Vulcan.
"Are you shitting me?" asks Picard. "That's not gonna fool anyone."
"I don't need it to," Sela insists. "I just need it to confuse people long enough for the ships to reach Vulcan."

Then she and the guards just... leave. Are they standing guard outside? We have no idea. But Picard, Spock, and Data are left alone.  I mean, even if you think your captives are particularly stupid, you don't leave them alone. And here we have a Vulcan ambassador, the captain of the Starfleet flagship, and a fucking ANDROID. Not even Pakleds would assume they're just going to hang out.
Immediately, Spock asks Data if the Romulans know that he has access to their systems. Data is pretty sure they don't.
"Cool," says Spock. "Let's make a diversion."

The E is sitting at Galorndon Core when the "peace envoy" rolls up from the Neutral Zone.
"They're Vulcan?" says Worf.
They all kind of look at one another in confusion, and Riker says to hail them. Worf reads off the message they get back: they're a peace envoy headed for Vulcan, and the E should listen to the subspace channels, because there will be a speech forthcoming! Hooray!
Riker narrows his eyes, and asks La Forge if any of those ships matches the T'Pau.
La Forge does a quick check. "No, but one of those might have had just enough changed on it that we couldn't tell if it was or not."
"We're gonna follow them," says Riker.
"The captain said -" Worf begins, but Riker cuts him off and says to follow anyway.

Sela and her guards return to her office to find it empty, and somehow, she's shocked. Is she really so narcissistic that she believes no one is as clever as she is?
And then -

Sela and her guards shoot at them while Riker repeats "drop your weapons, drop your weapons." The disruptor beams go right through Riker and those two Security Golds.
"Holograms," she huffs.
Then Picard and Spock literally materialize out of the walls and take down the guards before Sela notices. She turns to find a disruptor in her face.
Sassy Spock Moment: "I'm afraid I don't know much about disruptor settings."
She drops her own weapon, and it's revealed that several walls of the office were also holograms, when one disappears and Data is shown behind it. He switches off the Riker and Gold holograms.
"You're too late, anyway," snarls Sela. "The ships are on their way to Vulcan, and the speech will be broadcast any minute now."

Dr Crusher bursts onto the bridge and tells Riker that she just got a distress signal from Dilisian IV, that they're having a problem with the environment, and need emergency evacuation.
This is pretty fucking convenient.
"Are there other ships in that area?" he asks her.
"An archaeological ship," she says. "Not big enough for a really big evac."
Really, REALLY convenient.
Riker looks at La Forge.
"If one of those ships is the T'Pau, they hella wiped the fingerprints clean," says La Forge.
"Ships in the Neutral Zone," calls Worf.
Riker is about to order a course set for Dilisian IV, but Worf tells him that there's a subspace message coming through on all channels, so they toss it up on the viewscreen.

It's Spock.
Holo-Spock? Let's find out.
"By now, Federation sensors have seen that there are three Vulcan ships heading for Vulcan from the Neutral Zone. They carry Romulan invasion forces, and need to be stopped."
Real Spock starts to repeat the warning, but the message cuts out. Oops, Roms figured out they weren't broadcasting their Trojan Horse bullshit.
"Kayso, call Dilisian IV, and see if there's actually an emergency," Riker tells Crusher. Let's go after those Vulcan ships."

Back in Sela's office, Data reports that at least part of the message went out before being shut down, but he's pretty sure the gist was clear: take out those fucking ships.
Sela's all, "You'll never get out of this building," like she's a freaking Bond villain or something.
What, you got ill-tempered sea bass down the hall?
"While I was hacking your systems, I took a look at the schematics for this building, and we should be able to exit easily through the underground tunnel that's east of where we are now," Data tells her. "And I shut off a bunch of security shit while I was at it." He starts to walk away, then thinks better of it. "We can't let you warn the guards," he tells Sela. Then he drops her with a damn Vulcan neck pinch.

The E shows up to fly alongside the Vulcan ships, which have changed tack and are now high-tailing back to the Neutral Zone.
"Fuck THAT noise," says Riker.
A Romulan warbird decloaks next to the Vulcan ships.
"Hail those assholes," Riker tells Worf. "Tell them to get the hell out of Federation space, and leave the Vulcan ships."
Both the warbird and the E power up weapons, but then the warbird very quickly destroys the smaller ships and re-cloaks.
"Fuck," says La Forge quietly. "That was like 2000 Romulans they just killed."
They're all kind of startled.
"Um, Worf contact the Unnamed Klingon Cruiser, and tell them we want to know when the captain and Data are back on board safely."

Picard, Spock, and Data are lead into a new cave, which they are assured was never visited by Pardek.
Picard asks what the underground will do now.
"Continue to teach others," they tell him. "To prepare for the day when we can be reunified."
"The Federation looks forward to that day," Picard smiles.
Data tells Picard that they need to go to reach their beam-up site, and all three walk into an outer cave.
"Sooo, I'm not going with you," Spock tells the others. "This is still something I need to work on, and it's obvious now that it won't happen via politics and diplomacy. We'll get there, though. These people need a new philosophy, and it may take a long time, but I need to help them."
Picard smiles. "I don't think I can argue with you once you've made up your mind."
"I've actually found the arguments to be pretty useful," Spock admits.
"Sarek found your arguments equally valuable."
"You may know him better than I did," says Spock. "We never mind-melded with one another."
And as a parting gift, Picard offers Spock the opportunity to mind-meld and learn more about Sarek.


I... want to like this episode more.
I actually liked the B-plot better than the A-plot, which is kind of weird. The funny thing is, both the A- and B-plots in the first episode were stronger than in this one. And I'm not alone in that opinion - the writers and show runners thought that the second part of this two-parter was the weaker episode. Interestingly, the things I did and didn't like about this episode were mirrored by what the various writers and actors had to say:
- Michael Piller thought it was talky and too political after that two-parter on the Klingon Empire (Redemption I and II). He also wanted to provide more chemistry between Picard and Spock. While I don't dislike the talkier episodes per se, this one didn't feature much in terms of things that were going on. It did get a little flat, honestly. And I didn't care for the chemistry between Picard and Spock at all. I'm not certain why. Is it because they're very similar in nature? Is it because I like them mainly for their interpersonal relationships within their own shows, but do not like the cross-over? Once they had reached an agreement of "this is on shaky ground but worth pursuing," I liked the pairing better. Then, the outright bickering was less annoying and had more meaning.

- Cliff Bole thought Piller was being too hard on himself, but did say that he agreed with the "talky" thing, and wished they had had more action with the characters on Romulus. "We shouldn't have been in the cave so long." Yeah, I was excited at the prospect of seeing the forbidden Romulus, but then we spent most of the time in those caves, or in politicians' offices. I probably can't have it both ways here, because I did complain about Spock walking around in broad daylight but it would have been cool if they went to an underground meeting in someone's house?

- Brannon Braga liked the scene between Data and Spock. Same! Each show has had what's referred to as a "mirror to humanity character," someone who is part-human, or looks human, and has to find their humanity. Spock and Data were the mirror character for their respective shows, and the fact that one has pushed his humanity aside while the other seeks it out made for a great comparison. Each walks away with the other's viewpoint on his mind, and possibly alters his own perception a little.

- Leonard Nimoy thought that there should have been more to the story, and anticipated them calling him again to pick up the thread, but they never did. SAME SAME SAME SAME SAME. This is probably what disappointed me most: the idea of a species splitting off and becoming two people who war with each other, but later coming together (maybe not to be one again, but at least to be allies) is not only a big idea, but an interesting one that's worth exploring. So many facets. You could easily do a spin-off show based on reunification. And they just... left it. So frustrating. At least do an arc that's longer than 2 episodes?

Things I liked:
- Romulans. Actual Romulans that were not politicians, and not part of the military. We got to see some Roms that weren't assholes that were part of a giant evil conspiracy. I want to hug D'Tal, and his sweet optimism, and his excitement in showing Spock his toys. We saw a tiny bit of that with Jarok in "The Defector," but got to see more of it here.
- The idea of reunification. And Spock being excited about the prospect.
- Amarie. She was a fun character, but we probably won't see her again, because why would we spend more time in a space bar that isn't Ten Forward?
- The B-plot. It was a fun space mystery.
- K'Vada developing a respect for Data, and maybe deciding that helping Starfleet officers wasn't such a waste of his time.

Fun Facts:

- These episodes are only one of two pairs that same the same naming convention: Unification I and II, rather than "Parts I and II." The other pair is Redemption I and II.
- Leonard Nimoy wanted his son Adam to direct this episode, but the timing didn't work out, so Cliff Bole was tapped to direct instead, even though it wasn't his turn. (TNG directors worked on a rotation.) Adam Nimoy would later direct two other episodes of TNG.
- Because of scheduling, this episode had to be filmed before Unification I, though certain scenes from that episode were filmed during filming for this episode.
- Boom operator Bill Gocke briefly appears in the reflection of a glass pyramid on Neral's desk. However, when the episodes were remastered for Blu-ray release, Gocke was digitally removed.

- The blues that Riker teaches Amarie is "Freddie Freeloader" by Miles Davis.
- Leonard Nimoy said that filming these episode was "hectic but enjoyable" and reminded him of filming TOS, as compared to doing films, which had a slower pace.

- This was Nimoy's final appearance for nearly 20 years. He would next appear in the reboot film Star Trek in 2009.
- This is the third of five Star Trek appearances that Nimoy made without William Shatner: the unaired pilot "The Cage;" TAS' "The Slaver Weapon;" this episode; and the first two reboot films.
- Final appearance of Sela. I don't love Sela, but I do like Denise Crosby, so that's a bit sad.
- In the pilot episode of TNG, Data escorts a very old Leonard McCoy around the Enterprise, and tells Data that he reminds him of a Vulcan he once knew. Data finally gets to meet said Vulcan in this episode.
- First mention of Klingon opera.
- Data uses two contractions here when speaking to Sela.
- Data is only one of a handful of non-Vulcans to use the Vulcan neck pinch.
- "Unification I and II" were the highest-rated episodes since "Encounter at Farpoint."
- Some people felt that sela's plan to invade Vulcan with three ships was insufficient, but Michael Piller felt the only way to do it successfully would be via Trojan Horse.
- Amarie was played by four people: Harriet Leider was the actor in the make-up; Cindy White was her photo double and close-up on one pair of hands; Jerry Zimmer was the pianist and played the second set of hands; and when all the filming was done, it was decided that Leider's voice didn't work for the character, so Judy M Durand recorded her lines in post-production. We'll hear Judy's voice again, as she does the voice work for Cardassian ships and outposts, including DS9.
- This episode was nominated for an Emmy for Art Direction.

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