Monday, March 13, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 71 (Sarek)

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

There was a duality about Star Trek:  The Next Generation.  On the one hand, Gene Roddenberry didn’t want to use any of the alien races from the original series, hoping not to rely on the original series too much.  Yes, we had Leonard McCoy as a passenger on the first episode and the second episode was essentially a recycled episode from the original series, but I think the hope was to have a show that looked new.  We had all new characters and a new ship going out to see new worlds and meet new civilizations.

Then again, you had this entire universe to draw upon.  The show was set 70 years after the original series, but it wasn’t unusual for a human to live to be 100 there were some long-lived species.  In “Sarek“, Mark Lenard reprises his role as Spock’s father, Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan.  He has one last mission as ambassador before retiring.  He’s to negotiate with Legarans.  The Legarans are sticklers for details.  It took three months just to set a schedule for this conference.  They insist that it’s Sarek conducting the negotiations or no one.  You’d hope that nothing would go wrong.

Sarek is 202 years old.  Vulcans do have emotions, but are normally in very tight control of them.  This is why it’s unusual to see Sarek cry at a concert.  Add to this the random fights breaking out around the ship.  At first, it’s just two people having an argument.  It quickly escalates to a bar fight in Ten Forward.  This all started roughly the time that Sarek came on board.  It’s possible that he has Bendii syndrome.  At first, his aides, Mendrossen and Sakkath, deny that anything is wrong.  The reason that he doesn’t come out of his quarters much is that he’s an old man that needs his rest for one last, great diplomatic mission.

Sakkath eventually admits that he’s bolstering Sarek’s mental state telepathically.  The conference is causing Sarek so much stress that Sakkath can’t handle it all; the overflow is causing the fights.  What saves the day is Sarek performing a mind meld with Captain Picard.  This gets Sarek through the meeting and everything goes back to normal.

When I first saw the episode, I was a little confused.  I actually still have a few questions.  The most obvious is why the anger.  Everyone’s fighting.  It’s said that Vulcans have the same emotions that other species do.  Why don’t you see someone laugh uncontrollably?  There might be some random officer sobbing about something trivial.   Maybe two people would be overcome with lust and be caught making out behind some barrels or something.  (Okay…Maybe that last one wouldn’t make it past the censors.)

I also wonder why Picard was used for the mind meld.  It’s something that’s very intimate and maybe even too powerful for a human to withstand.  I could see Sarek not wanting to risk his wife’s life and he may not want to be that intimate with one of his two aides.  I’d think that there would be at least one Vulcan on the ship that could fill in.

Don’t get me wrong.  Patrick Stewart does a great job conveying the range of emotions that Sarek feels for those around him and past events.  I’m just wondering why a Vulcan wasn’t used.  On that note, Mark Lenard does a great job showing a Vulcan robbed of the one thing he values most:  emotional control.  This would be difficult enough for a human.  It was a little scary the first time watching Picard serve as an anchor for Sarek.  (When the episode first aired, I was a little confused as to exactly what was going on.)

This is an excellent episode.  I’m not sure it will have the same emotional impact for those that haven’t seen the original series.  This was one of the better Next Generation episodes.


Corylea said...

Why mostly anger? Dr. Crusher says explicitly when describing Bendii Syndrome, "Its early symptoms include sudden bursts of emotion, mostly irrational anger." So the disease either causes anger, or anger is the only emotion that slips the controls in the beginning.

Brian Kuhl said...

If it's the second one, it's possible that anger is the strongest of emotions, or at least the most visible.