Monday, March 13, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 60 (The High Ground)

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

One thing that science fiction is good at doing is making a point.  Very often, the point can be made without calling it what it really is.  You can criticize a war by having it take place on a distant planet.  You can comment on racism by having an alien race be the recipient of someone‘s prejudice.  You may not even realize that the author is trying to make a point until you’re done with the book.  Other times, they beat you over the head with it.

Episode 60 of The Next Generation was about terrorism.  When “The High Ground” first aired, times were a little different.  Most notably, The Twin Towers were still standing.  We didn’t have the TSA sticking their latex gloves everywhere.  Our concept of terrorism was not what it is today.  This is probably why I have only a vague memory of the episode.

The Enterprise is delivering medical aid to the planet Rutia IV.  Shore leave is suspended as Rutia IV has a group of separatists called the Ansata.  There is an away team on the planet when a bomb goes off, injuring people.  Captain Picard wants the team to come back up, but Dr. Crusher wants to stay on the surface.  She is a doctor and she can at least help until the Rutian doctors show up.  The problem is that a rebel shows up and kidnaps her, taking her to a series of caves.

The Ansata are led my a guy named Finn.  It’s kind of odd that they’d want a Starfleet doctor until it’s revealed that their special method of transport slowly warps their DNA.  They need a doctor to reverse the condition.  (The easy answer is to not use the technology, but these are rebels.  They need every advantage they can get and this gives them a big advantage.)  Dr. Crusher is resistant.  She doesn’t talk at first, but can’t resist helping people in need.

On the surface, we see kids being arrested.  Apparently, the Ansata recruit young.  Anyone could be one of them.  The crew of the Enterprise eventually figures out where Dr. Crusher is being held.  This leads to a battle where many Ansata are detained and/or injured.  Since Dr. Crusher goes on to be in several more seasons of the show, I think you can guess that she gets back to the ship.

Upon watching it recently, my biggest objection to the episode is that it seems a bit too obvious.  We’re shown a planet where a group has resorted to terrorism to get what they want, which is independence.  Much of the episode is overacted, with Dr. Crusher or Finn giving some eloquent speech about why their position is correct.  The only decent scene in all of it is Data, the emotionless android, asking Captain Picard why terrorism seems to be so effective.  Data lists several instances where groups have actually gotten what they wanted.  The answer is that it’s only human to wonder these things.

The message ends up being that terrorism is bad, but it works.  Finn points out that it’s a matter of perspective.  He just happens to know a few North American historical figures that are heroes where others might consider them thugs.  It all comes down to who wins and gets to write history.  The episode doesn’t really paint a sympathetic view of Finn’s group.  We don’t get to see any of the Ansata distraught over killing anyone.  Everyone is ready to pick up a gun and use it.  The episode would have worked better if we had a more sympathetic bad guy.

If you’re just getting in to Star Trek: The Next Generation, I doubt this episode will sell you on the series.  I’d say that it’s safe to skip altogether.  If you’re really set on watching it, watch a few other episodes first.  Part of the problem with watching them in order is that Episode 59, The Hunted, was also about war.  It seems odd to me that they’d produce two fighting-related episodes back to back.  I have to wonder if they were short an episode for the third season.  I could see someone pulling this script off the shelf and saying, “Oh, why not?”  If this is the case, I can only hope I’ve answered your question. 

No comments :