Friday, March 24, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 95 (The Drumhead)

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

Sometimes, an episode of a TV show airs long before it becomes relevant.  It may have dealt with a topic in a general sense, not realizing that a specific instance would capture national or even world attention.  I first saw The Drumhead when it first aired in April of 1991.  It was about a former Admiral that comes onboard the Enterprise, flagship of the United Federation of Planets, to investigate an explosion in engineering.  It’s discovered that a Klingon exchange officer had just stolen some specifications.

It just so happens that the part that exploded happened to be one of the designs that he managed to steal.  Of course, he denies everything, but the admiral in question, Nora Satie, and her staff catch him in the lie; she has an empathic betazoid male working with her.  He admits to stealing the blueprints, but denies anything to do with the explosion.

It turns out that the explosion was an accident.  During the ship’s last repair stop, they were given a defective part.  This doesn’t stop Satie from continuing with her investigation.  Why let something as simple as facts stop her?  There could still very well be a conspiracy, which is exactly what she finds.  There’s a medical staff member, Simon Tarses, that’s one-quarter Vulcan.  Except, he’s not.  His paternal grandfather is actually Romulan, making him one-quarter Mortal Enemy of the Federation.  Is it coincidence that the Klingon was working with the Romulans?  Probably, but Tarses’s career is ruined.  He lied on his application to Starfleet and that’s what matters.

When Captain Picard calls Satie on her witch hunt, she turns the spotlight on him, questioning him about being assimilated by the Borg.  He also helped a Romulan spy back into Romulan space.  It’s not exactly fair, as his time with the Borg was beyond his control.  Also, the Romulan spy was posing as a Vulcan ambassador.  Everyone was working in good faith, as apparently no one with Starfleet Command caught this little detail.  Eventually, the proceedings are called to an end when Satie is exposed for what she really is.

When the episode first aired, it was just another cautionary tale about not getting ahead of ourselves.  Just because you’re one-quarter Romulan doesn’t mean you’re guilty of anything.  It wasn’t until September 11, 2001 that the episode showed how right the series got it.  Suddenly, anyone that was Middle Eastern was one of ‘them’.  We’ve become so scared of the next attack that we still have to take our shoes off at the airport.  (Would someone please remind me why I have to take my laptop out of its case?)

I do remember thinking that the episode was interesting.  The message was just as clear then as it is now.  We can’t let something bad be used to take away the rights of those that weren’t involved in it.  Despite being part Romulan, Tarses didn’t do anything wrong other than lie.  (I’m not sure what the repercussions were, as the character wore the Starfleet uniform throughout the rest of the episode.)

If you’re thinking of using this episode as a teaching tool, there are some references to previous episodes, such as Worf being kicked out of the Klingon Empire.  It’s nothing that would keep someone from understanding the episode, but it’s something to consider if you’re thinking of watching the series.  There will be things that will make more sense if you view the episodes in order.

Overall, it’s an outstanding episode.  Being that VHS is all but a distant memory, I’d advise spending your money on the DVDs.  (Even back when they were first being sold, I didn’t consider the VHS tapes to be a good investment.  $14.99 times 178 episodes was a lot of money.) 

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