Friday, March 07, 2008

Another apparently interpolated scene follows, of Beverly Crusher re-meeting Picard (it’s been established only that Picard brought her husband’s body home to her) and Wesley Crusher’s first visit to the Enterprise bridge. This scene still does work, however (even if the grownup Wil Wheaton doesn’t think so), for Wesley’s wide-eyed circuit and the camera taking his point of view. Wesley is meant to be partly our representative on the Enterprise (and GR’s projection of himself as a boy into the future he is creating, as well as the character that will grow with the series.)

Like every visitor aboard any starship on the Paramount lot, Wesley is invited to sit in the Captain’s chair. But the precocious Wesley catches an incoming perimeter alert, and the child-phobic Picard throws him and his mother off the bridge. But now there’s another mystery—a totally alien ship is approaching.

It is a huge, blank white saucer—measuring twelve times the volume of the Enteprise—and does not answer hails. After scanning the Enterprise, it begins firing on the surface, but the Enterprise notes that it is not hitting Farpoint Station itself, just the nearby Bandi city. This interests Picard, and he orders Riker to “kidnap” Zorn and bring him to the Enterprise. Picard believes he’s been hiding something, and though Zorn denied it, he must know who is attacking his city, and why.

But Picard wonders whether he should defend the city below. Troi tells him that the Prime Directive may not apply because they are in diplomatic negotiations with the inhabitants. Picard orders that phasers be locked on the ship, and then Q as the judge appears, dripping with righteous contempt. “Typical, so typical. Savage lifeforms don’t follow even their own rules.”

Back from commercial, Picard orders Q off the bridge. Q expresses interest in the phaser order, but Picard insists he wasn’t going to fire, that it was a “routine safety precaution.” Q eggs him on. He tells him that the meaning of the alien ships is as “plain as the nose on your ugly primate faces.” He suggests a truly civilized race would be seeing to the casualties on the surface, but Crusher’s medical teams are already preparing to beam down. Picard says Starfleet officers are trained to help, but that Q knew people were going to be killed on the planet, and did nothing to stop it. This paradox of godlike knowledge and power will recur in the series, as it did in the original series and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Then Picard tries to place the Enterprise between the alien vessel and the planet but suddenly the Enterprise is helpless to move. Riker finds Zorn cowering, but he disappears—apparently transported by and to the alien vessel. Q is still on the bridge when Riker returns, and it is Q who suggests an away team visit the alien vessel. Picard insists that Q not interfere, and he leaves. Riker asks Picard an interesting question—what will you do if Q condemns us, regardless of the evidence? I will do my duty, Picard answers. “To the bitter end?” Riker asks. “I find nothing bitter about that,” Picard replies. This is another early key to Picard’s character.

But then in the midst of this crisis he visits Dr. Crusher in sick bay (who had just said she was preparing teams to go to the surface) to apologize for his insensitivity. A decent character and foreshadowing moment, but badly placed in the story.

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