Sunday, August 13, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 152 (Descent: Part 1)

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

Distress calls tend not to be good. When the Enterprise responds to one on Oniaka III, a landing party finds everyone dead. There’s also a mysterious ship in orbit. After a little bit of investigation, Data finds something surprising: a Borg drone. However, these are no normal Borg drones. The Borg are part man, part machine. Normally, drones are part of the Borg collective, directed by the hive mind. They are intent on assimilating individuals and, eventually, entire races. The drones that the landing party encounters on Oniaka III are intent on destroying individuals and actually refer to themselves as ‘I’ and to each other by name. (Drones usually have numerical designations and refer to themselves in the plural.) What’s really bothersome is that Data has an emotional reaction. On Oniaka III, he kills a drone in anger. This is his first reaction of his android life. (If my memory and math are good, Data should be in his early thirties.)

The Enterprise is able to follow the ship through a transwarp conduit. (With a transwarp conduit, they’re able to travel many times the speed that they would be able to normally accomplish with normal warp drive.) When they arrive on the other side, the Borg ship beams two drones over, which allows the Borg ship to escape. One is killed, but the other survives.

Data has himself relieved of duty until he can figure out what caused the emotional reaction. When Data sees Counselor Troi about killing the drone, he asks her if having a negative emotion makes him a bad person. She insists that there is no negative or positive when it comes to emotions. It’s how we react to an emotion that determines our worth. Data also reveals to her that he actually felt pleasure in killing the drone, which worries both of them.

After returning to duty, the first thing Data is assigned to do is to study the surviving drone, who goes by the name of Crosis. Crosis seems to have a power over data. Using some sort of transmitting device, Crosis allows Data to feel emotion. In his moment of weakness, Data helps Crosis to escape. The Enterprise follows them to an uninhabited planet, where almost the entire crew of the Enterprise is beamed down to look for Data, leaving Dr. Crusher in charge of a skeleton crew.

Troi, Captain Picard, Chief Engineer La Forge, and an unnamed officer make up a team that eventually finds a building. Upon entering it, it appears uninhabited, but the lights are on. La Forge can’t find any power sources, despite the lighting, which indicates a dampening field. Before they can discuss it, several dozen Borg drones rush in, surrounding the search party. (And eventually killing the unnamed officer.) An android walks out and Picard thinks it’s Data, but it’s not. It’s actually Data’s brother, Lore. Data walks out a few moments later, telling the search team that he’s joined his brother in leading the renegade Borg. Here ends part one of “Descent”.

Several prior episodes are necessary for full understanding of the episode. The renegade drones are the result of actions taken in the episode, “I, Borg” where the Enterprise found a crashed Borg scout ship with one survivor. Instead of using the survivor as a weapon, they allowed the drone to develop a personality. Picard figured that this would be a better weapon against the collective than any program or virus could be. In this episode, we see the results of that action, although the extent isn’t revealed until the second part. “I, Borg” is referenced a few times, although you probably won’t be able to understand a lot unless you’ve seen it.

Those that view this episode also will need to know who Lore is. Both Data and Lore are androids created by Dr. Noonian Soong. (All three characters are played by Brent Spiner, hence the confusion when Lore walked out.) Lore was given human-like behavior, but wasn’t popular among those that he lived with. He was deactivated and replaced with Data, who was found by Starfleet officers approximately 30 years ago. (He being found by Starfleet officers was what led him to join.) Lore was eventually found by the Enterprise in the first season and reactivated. Lore later stole an emotion chip designed for Data, which is what allowed Crosis to manipulate Data. I think that’s all of the history you’ll need to understand the episode. (I could be wrong, though.)

This was the cliffhanger episode for the sixth season. (Part two is the beginning of the seventh and final season.) We get to see a great performance by Brent Spiner, who has to deal with Data’s emotions for the first time. Data questions his emotions and their role in his personality. What if anger is the only emotion that he’s capable of? If it’s not, what does it mean that anger is the first thing he experiences?

We also get to see Dr. Crusher in command of the Enterprise. Normally, the captain of a starship doesn’t go into dangerous situations. (At least, not in The Next Generation.) However, Picard does beam down to look for Data and is put in harm’s way. From what I’ve read, this was to see how audiences would react to a woman in command of a starship. (I’d like to reference TV Tome for that. You can find a link to it on my profile page.)

Even though I like continuity, it does have its problems. You have to know quite a bit to understand episodes in the later seasons. I wouldn’t recommend making this the first episode of the series that you see. As I said, there’s too much background information. This episode comes at the end of the sixth season. Even knowing what I’ve told you, you may not fully understand the episode.

I did like the episode. This episode, along with part two, ties up a few loose ends. I give it four stars. 

No comments :