Monday, October 30, 2017

Star Trek The: Next Generation - Episode 153 (Descent: Part II)

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

Before you get started with this episode, you should realize that while it is the first episode of the final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, it’s the second part of a two-part series. It begins right where the season six finale left off. Please read my review of part one before you read this review. To recap:

Rogue Borg attacked a Starfleet installation to get the Enterprise’s attention. The drones showed signs of individuality and were also interested in Data. Data killed one out of anger and actually enjoyed it. Later, a drone is captured and convinces Data to go to the rogue Borg’s colony. The Enterprise follows them and a search party finds Data, Lore and several dozen drones in a building.

Part II picks up with Lore and Data looking down on the search party; several dozen drones are surrounding the search party and there’s a dampening field. Basically, all possible exits are blocked. Lore has been using the drones to manipulate Data into coming. Data seems to have totally bought into Lore’s philosophy, telling Picard that he’s no longer the Federation’s puppet. (Or words to that effect.) Lore has been leading the rogue Borg who were so influenced by Hugh’s individuality that they were unable to pilot their own ship. (Hugh is the name given to the drone that the Enterprise released back into the Borg collective, hoping that his individuality would have an effect.) Lore has become a cult leader of sorts, promising the drones the perfection of a totally artificial body.

Lore has been doing experiments on drones, but none of the drones have made it through intact. (Some have died and some have survived in a debilitated state.) Now, he has three humans to experiment. Lore takes Chief Engineer La Forge’s VISOR under the pretense of wanting to do experiments, but La Forge points out that he can see the carrier wave that Lore is using to manipulate Data. (The VISOR is a device that allows La Forge to see. Without the VISOR, La Forge is totally blind. If I recall, VISOR is an acronym, hence the caps.)

Lore orders Data to do experiments on La Forge. The plan is to use La Forge to see if an artificial neural network can be established, thus eliminating the need for an organic brain. There’s a 40% chance of success, but with three humans, odds are that at least one will survive. It’s up to Picard, Troi and La Forge to find a way to get Data to come around to his senses.

Dr. Crusher is in charge of the Enterprise. Despite being given orders to return to Federation space, she stays near the planet and sends a probe containing the ship’s logs through the transwarp conduit. She’s determined to get as many of the search teams as she can off the planet. She manages to get almost all of the teams off, essentially leaving Picard’s team and a few other people. She’s actually able to destroy the Borg ship, thus giving her plenty of time to help those on the planet. She knows where Picard, Troi and La Forge are, but is unable to beam them out because of the dampening field.

Commander Riker leads another search party, which is captured by several of the renegade drones. Fortunately, this is not the same group that’s led by Lore. Instead, Riker and his search party are taken to Hugh, the Borg drone that I had mentioned earlier. He explains to Riker what’s been going on. He isn’t happy to see Starfleet officers, since it was Starfleet officers that caused so many drones to become individuals. He shows Riker some drones that survived Lore’s experiments, but were left severely impaired by them. Hugh shows Riker the way to the compound that Lore is in, but refuses to go with them. In the end, it all works out. Data’s conscience starts to reemerge, Riker leads a successful raid with a little help from Hugh and Dr. Crusher is there waiting in orbit with the Enterprise.

I was able to see both episodes together on Spike TV. (It’s a cable station. They’ve acquired the rights to show Next Generation and Deep Space Nine episodes.) I’ve noticed that there’s a bit of bait and switch here. The first part focuses on Data and how the ‘negative’ emotions are affecting him. In this part, it’s more about Lore and his diabolical plans. When I first saw the episode, it wasn’t as noticeable since I had to wait three months after Part I aired to see Part II.

Apparently, the individuality affected just Hugh’s ship. Hugh talks of not being able to go back to the collective. At first, I assumed that this meant that they couldn’t return to a collective state, but the Borg did make several appearances in Star Trek: Voyager, and it was the collective version. (The Borg would also play a central role in the movie, First Contact.) There’s no appearance of Hugh or the renegade drones after this episode. I had hoped to find out what happened to them. (It might have been interesting to have a few of them stop by Deep Space Nine or something.)

One point that all of the nitpickers seem to point out is that in Part I, Troi tells Data that there are no positive or negative emotions. (It’s the resulting actions that are positive or negative.) Early in the episode, La Forge says something to Data about his negative emotions; Data responds by quoting Troi. Later in the episode, though, Troi makes a comment about Data’s negative emotions. What gives?

Despite the dissimilarity to the first part, it’s still a good episode. Once again, Brent Spiner gets to shine in two roles. Before, the two roles were polar opposites. You have the emotionless Data and the self-interested Lore. Here, Data switches to the Dark Side, even if it is just for the one episode. The shame of it is that both episodes aren’t available together. You either have to buy two separate tapes or buy them as part of two separate boxed sets since the series is sold on DVD by season.

If you’re going to buy the episode, I’d recommend that you do so as part of the seventh season. There were so many other great episodes in that season.

IMDb page

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