Friday, March 07, 2008

That ends the first hour. The second hour begins by introducing four new characters—Commander Riker, Doctor Beverly Crusher and her son, Wesley, and Lt. Commander Geordi LaForge—as well as Groppler Zorn of the Farpoint Station planet, and a hint at its mystery and Zorn’s deception.

On the planet Deneb IV, Riker asks Groppler Zorn of the Bandi people how its Farpoint Station could be constructed to meet Starfleet needs so perfectly. Zorn is vague, and offers Riker an “earth delicacy”: a bowl of fruit. Riker wants an apple but doesn’t see one, but as soon as he says so, a bowl of apples appears. Zorn tries to pretend it was there but Riker hadn’t noticed it. After Riker leaves, Zorn threatens some unseen being for producing the apples and risking suspicion. The planet is petitioning for an alliance with the Federation.

Eventually Riker boards the Enterprise, and watches excerpts of the first hour as a way to bring him and TV viewers up to speed. Riker and Picard meet, Picard assigns Riker the task of manually completing the reattachment of the saucer section, they talk again, the famous and still moving scene with DeForrest Kelly. A little later we see the holodeck for the first time. Some moments prefigure and foreshadow events in later episodes, and one moment (Riker coming upon Data trying to whistle) will be recalled in this crew’s final feature film a decade later.

But Q reappears to remind Picard (and us) of the trial. Riker wants to know what they’re going to do, if Q is watching their every move. Picard says we’ll do what we would normally do. “If we’re going to be damned,” Picard says, “then let’s be damned for what we really are.”

(This followed Picard sending a message in French to another vessel—seeing this again now, I can detect Patrick Stewart injecting a little Frenchness into the character: a particular French kind of arrogance, supercilious intellectualism but also rationalism, and a certain compactness and rigidity of movement that looks a bit French as well, if one can judge by Truffaut movies.)

Now Counsellor Troi enters the story more forcefully. (Having seen Marina Sirtis looking spectacular playing her over the years, it’s hard to believe how unattractive she looks in this episode. Her hair is unflattering, her uniform not much better, and she’s generally whiny. Denise Crosby on the other hand looks terrific.)

After Troi and Riker meet—and we learn in a cringe-worthy moment of their past affection---they go with Picard to the surface, where Troi explains she is half-Betazoid (and so not completely telepathic), and can sense only strong feelings in others. Then she promptly senses some—a big wave of pain and loneliness, which causes Groppler Zorn (who has twice insisted “we ourselves have nothing to hide, of course”) to lose his temper. He threatens an alliance with the Ferengi, new and as yet unseen Star Trek aliens.

The mystery is focused when Riker, Data, Georgi, Troi and Tasha are in tunnels below the Farpoint Station. Georgdi can’t identify the materials the tunnel is made of, and Troi gets another wave of pain and despair, but can’t identify its origin, except that it comes from “ no life form anything like ours.”

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