Sunday, July 23, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 130 (Relics)

There was a roughly 8-year gap between the original Star Trek and the spin-off series.  This made it difficult for any sort of real crossover, as most of the original bridge crew was human.  There was an appearance in The Next Generation’s pilot episode,  Encounter at Farpoint, by DeForest Kelley as a very old Dr. McCoy, but it was for one scene.  During the fifth season, two characters from the original series appeared, but they were both Vulcan:  Sarek and Spock.  Early in the sixth season, we had Relics, which featured an appearance by James Doohan reprising is role as Scotty.

The Enterprise, NCC-1701-D, responds to a distress call from a large spherical object that can only be a Dyson sphere.  On the surface of the sphere is a ship, the USS Jenolan.  Sensors show no life signs and minimal life support.  When an away team beams over, they find the transporter is active and there’s a pattern in there.  When normal function is restored, out comes Captain Montgomery Scott.

The rest of the episode is basically a backdrop for Scotty to interact with the rest of the crew, primarily his counterpart, Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge.   Being 75 years out of date means that he mostly gets in the way and feels sad about missing his friends.  The Enterprise gets trapped inside the Dyson sphere and it’s up to La Forge and Scotty to save the day, proving that Scotty can still be useful.

The biggest issue for the episode is one of continuity.  Scotty is happy at the thought of Kirk leading the rescue.  The episode was written and produced a few years before Star Trek: Generations, in which Scotty witnessed the ostensible death of Captain Kirk.  It’s interesting to note that Scotty pays a visit to Ten-Forward, which is run by Guinan.  Kirk was lost rescuing a group of  El-Aurian refugees, among them Guinan.  This would have been the second time in the Star Trek chronology that Guinan and Scotty almost crossed paths.

For those wondering, Freeman Dyson is a real person.  He did propose that an advanced civilization might construct something similar to what we see in the episode, although I doubt it would look exactly like this.  My understanding is that a planet-bound species would probably want to include their planet within the sphere rather than having it wind up outside, so the size would be rather large.  I was wondering why the Enterprise hasn’t come across more of these, but there are several practical challenges, such as resources.  Something like what is shown in this episode wouldn’t be easy to build and maintain.

If you’re not a regular viewer of Star Trek or Star Trek: The Next Generation,  I wouldn’t go out of your way to find the episode.  The plot is a little weak.  As I said, it serves only to have Scotty show up without actually being 140 years old.  The Enterprise doesn’t even get to see much of the Dyson sphere.  (It is mentioned that other ships will be sent to study the structure.)

For those that are regular viewers, it’s a fun episode.  I remember seeing James Doohan at a convention in Miami.  Someone asked if he’d appear on Deep Space Nine, as that might be a possibility.  I don’t remember him being opposed to the idea, but this was probably intended to be a one-off encounter.  It was probably better to leave it at that.

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