This story actually turns out to be far more interesting and enjoyable than
one could guess from watching the cookie-cutter formula advertising spots
that were churned out for it.
It's pretty much the "B" and "C" stories on the Enterprise involving the
rest of the crew that steal the show, with Worf's story kicking off
right from the beginning, mirroring some archetypal human frustrations,
and providing an unending series of fun character moments. It's amazing
how much excellent material we have here, and how inexpensive to shoot,
simply because the characters are so well defined and the writers use
a bit of imagination. Great stuff.
Counsellor Troi also gets an interesting subplot of her own, which
both complements and counterpoints Worf's. Riker is used well in this
episode as he supports both of his shipmates with their assignments
and emphasizes the team effort.
But it's Picard who has the main "A" plot today, chiefly in a location
far removed from the rest of the show. There's quite a bit of rather bland
set-up to get through before this plot reveals its uniqueness, yet it does
eventually move through a large number of interesting twists and turns in
a satisfyingly organic fashion. I think perhaps the original advertising
spoiled the episode in giving away one of the later turns, which kind of
puts the audience in a waiting pattern until it shows up. Perhaps the
episode works better when one has either no idea of where it might go,
or an understanding of the complete arc of ideas that it will tackle
in good time (as in a second viewing, or a tenth viewing).
On the negative side, which the ads make you anticipate, is the idea
that we're gonna watch one crewmember trapped off ship for an entire episode.
True, this is one of the lower budget shows of the season... at least it
looks that way in giving us a very 1960's style set for the planet's surface.
And true, we've seen Picard suffer these inconsequential one-offs in previous
post-season-cliffhanger-resolution first episodes, with "Darmok" easily coming
to mind for comparison.
I think the characters are scripted and acted out with a fair grounding.
Picard is consistent with his past self in resisting Anna as firmly as he does.
This is not a man who moves into this kind of idea quickly. Anna's actions
constitute bizarre behaviour, while actress Barbara Williams puts just the
right tone on those behaviours to make you believe that she's a case of
best intentions gone slightly whacko, inspiring both the empathy and the distrust
that Picard displays.
Ultimately, the episode feels like it was two separate ideas from separate writing teams
that worked and worked until they found a way to sit together and complement each other.
The final truth of it all which they managed to come up with
fits together logically and makes sense, but in the process
I think it sabotages a bit of the archetypal power of the planet-side drama. Ambassador Voval
turns out to be one weird and slightly gross dude. How differently might this episode fair
if that character had been female? Judging from the information Troi learns from her guest,
perhaps we do need to ask if this species even has males and females.
Not a bad episode in the end, but certainly not one that improved upon the drawing power
that "Descent" had, or one that leaves you with a great warm and fuzzy feeling towards
season seven's prospects. Well, just wait for it. Season Seven's good episodes are coming