Monday, March 13, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 58 (The Defector)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

WARNING:  I’m going to give away major details about the episode, including the ending.  If you’re not into that, stop reading here.

In the original Star Trek, there were two neutral zones.  Each provided a buffer between the United Federation of Planets and an adversary.  One was for the Romulan Star Empire and the other was for the Klingon Empire.  By the time The Next Generation rolled around, we had made peace with the Klingons, but the Romulan Neutral Zone was still in place.  Crossing the Neutral Zone is considered an act of aggression.

A Romulan scout ship doesn’t pose much of a threat, but the Enterprise sends out a message to desist.  The scout ship is asking for help, as it’s soon revealed that it’s being chased by a warbird.  The Enterprise protects the scout ship; the warship doesn’t put up much of a fight, which is odd.  No one really complains, though.  The Romulan on the scout ship is beamed over to the Enterprise and questioned.  He has important information for the captain:  The Romulans are planning an attack.  They’re actually building a base on Nelvana III, inside the Neutral Zone.  A big no-no.  Oh, and sorry for not mentioning that he was going to blow up his ship.  He’s here to give information on a potential war.  Not give out technological secrets.

So, the Enterprise gets as close to Nelvana III as they can without entering the Neutral Zone, but they can’t see anything from that far out.  They send a probe and do get some odd readings, but still noting worth going in for.  The Romulan officer keeps claiming that he’s lowly logistics clerk Sublieutenant Setol.  Except he’s not.  He reveals that he’s Admiral Alidar Jarok.  When Picard passes this up the chain of command, he gets a response not to trust this guy.  He was responsible for a massacre and is likely deceiving us.

This is pretty much a given.  He’s already lied about his name and claims that he doesn’t want to give out more than he has to.  (“Damn it, Jim.  I’m a defector.  Not a traitor.”)  Eventually, Captain Picard decides to take the Enterprise into the Neutral Zone only to find that there really is nothing.  It’s not that Admiral Jarok was lying.  Actually, it was that he was lied to.  He was fed all sorts of misinformation as a means of testing his loyalty.  He really doesn’t want a war.  Oh, and the Romulans now have an excuse to make the first move in the war that Jarok was trying to avoid.

For the most part, I liked this episode.  The only thing I didn’t understand was the Shakespeare reference at the beginning of the episode.  Honestly, though, this has more to do with not having read Henry V.  I’m sure that there is some connection that I’d get if I had ever seen it performed.  Or, maybe not.  I don’t know.

James Sloyan played Admiral Jarok.  I’ve liked him in his various Star Trek Roles.  (He’s also been in Deep Space Nine and Voyager.)  He always has an understated method to the roles.  All Admiral Jarok wants is to prevent a war.  He doest come at the crew with much anger and when he does, it’s not with a booming voice and flailing arms.  You get his point, even if you doubt it.  This is probably the most memorable Romulan outside of Tomalak.

I also find it odd that Data, the emotionless android, probably showed him the most compassion by bringing him to the holodeck so that he might see Romulus one more time.  Alas, Jarok has already made his decision.  He has to accept the fate that he’s chosen for himself.

Even though I liked it, I’m not sure I could recommend it to the casual viewer.  Most people coming into Star Trek probably wouldn’t understand this episode if it was the first they‘d ever seen.  (I’m also reviewing the VHS edition, so it’s hard to recommend buying it to begin with.)  Fortunately, we now have DVD sets, which makes the per-episode cost much lower.  We also have streaming through Netflix.  For a monthly fee, you could conceivably watch Star Trek: The Next Generation from the beginning.  (Since Netflix rotates their stock, I can’t promise continued availability.)  If you do have Netflix and decide to watch The Next Generation, this is definitely one of the episodes to look forward to. 

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