Friday, March 24, 2017

Star Trek The Next Generation - Episode 75 (Best of Both Worlds: Part 2)

Best of Both Worlds was The Next Generation’s first attempt at a season cliffhanger.   Episode 74 ended the third season with Captain Picard having been assimilated by The Borg, a ‘race’ of cyborgs.  They’re intent on assimilating The United Federation of Planets and, to do this, decide to use the captain of Starfleet’s flagship as a voice to get everyone to surrender.  No such luck.  A specialist is even brought on board.  Part I ends with Riker giving the order to destroy the ship that Picard is on rather than let it get to Earth.  They have one weapon that might work and they may not get another chance to use it.

Part II begins exactly where Part I ended; the weapon charges and fires, but nothing happens.  Picard was briefed on the weapon.  Since the Borg know what Picard knows, they know what the weapon does and how to stop it.  The Borg leave the Enterprise stranded.  While the Enterprise is being repaired, approximately 40 ships engage the Borg cube at Wolf 359 and are promptly destroyed.  Fortunately, Riker is able to get Picard back, albeit as a drone.  The crew is able to find a way to use this to stop the cube and cause it to destroy itself.

The big problem with episodic television is that you can’t usually have the main protagonist (or agency that the protagonists work for) fall that easily.  It’s the first episode of the fourth season.  You’re going to tell me that the rest of the season is going to be about the Federation being beaten?  Of course, the problem with answering no to that question is that the pendulum has to swing the other way.

The Borg are this awesome antagonist.   They’re so sure that their plan will work that they send one ship to take one swing at their enemy.  They come on to the Enterprise and assimilate one person.  If I were them, I would have taken as much of the crew as possible.  For that matter, why go for the heart of The Federation?  Why not start with the outer planets?  Why send one cube?  Why not send dozens and attack every planet at once?

Also, this is a cube that destroys 39 ships (including at least one that Riker was offered) and they manage to be outdone by one subroutine that no one thought to protect.  Yes, the crew uses a back door to make the ship destroy itself.  It’s never clearly stated why it works, but it does.  It turns out there may have been a reason for that.

This was one of those episodes where time changed my opinion of it.  On its face, the episode doesn’t stand up that well.  It’s kind of a letdown.  I recently found out that there were issues behind the scenes that affected how the episode was written.  Most notably, Patrick Stewart had yet to renew his contract when the first part was written.  Had he not come back, the Borg cube would have been destroyed and Riker would have become the new captain.

Speaking of which, Michael Pillar had written Part I expecting that he wouldn’t be returning, either.  He wrote this epic setup thinking that someone else would have to resolve it.  When he was asked back for the fourth season, he found himself having to sleep in the bed he made.

There had also been talk of making this a three-part episode.  Had that been done, we would have seen the battle at Wolf 359.  It would also explain why The Enterprise’s endgame worked.  There may have been more to it that was cut out for time’s sake.  It’s interesting to think of what else would have happened.  (Also, would the fourth season had 27 episodes or would another episode not have been produced?)

Even in retrospect, the episode seems a little weak to me.  The Borg were designed to be a replacement for the Ferengi.  We went from having an adversary that was too weak to having one that was too strong.  I’m not sure that I could have done better.  Still, it seems like were dealing with too extremes.  It’s too bad the Borg couldn’t have assimilated the Ferengi and found some middle ground.

IMDb page

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