And welcome back. I’m still doing this thing. Sporadically. But I’m still doing it, which is what counts. Let’s get on with assigning arbitrary numerical values to episodes of a TV show from thirty years ago. That is definitely a worthwhile thing to be doing with my time.
In this episode, one of Picard’s old archaeology buddies has been violating the neutral zone AS YOU DO looking for ancient archeological secrets AS YOU DO. Their ship is falling apart for reasons that do not become apparent until after the Yamato (the Enterprise’s so very doomed sister ship) has already exploded, with the loss of all hands. Soz Yamato.
Anyway, the Enterprise soon also starts falling apart in a replicators-aren’t-replicating-properly, the transporters-are-transporting-backwards kind of way. Which Geordi eventually works out that the ship has the equivalent of a computer virus which it got from the Yamato and which the Yamato got from the ancient alien ruins.
What makes this funny is that the Enterprise picked up the virus specifically because Picard was looking through the captain of the Yamato’s personal logs. So basically it’s just like he’s clicked on an attachment on an email from one of his mate’s and the attachment was a picture of the guy holding a space dildo and 200MB of malware.
Also the guy holding a space dildo thing? Not a joke.
Anyway, Picard, Worf and Data beam down to an ancient lost planet to try to find the solution to the virus problem and completely fail. But it’s okay because it turns out that all they needed to do was switch everything off and back on again. It’s a very 1980s computer plot. I’m holding out for an episode next season where the big threat is that the enterprise’s computers can’t take the stardate clicking past 43999.9.
This episode is pretty much total bobbins, almost entirely because of the trivial solution to the life-threatening problem. Like, seriously, rolling back to the operating isn’t something you should take forty-seven minutes of TV to figure out.
I’m going with four bobbins because, frankly, the ceiling on how bobbins Star Trek can get is very very high.
This episode is a shining example of the strength/weakness of the bobbins system. Because I fricking love this episode but, spoiler, it’s definitely getting five bobbins.
In this episode, the Enterprise finds a bit of an old NASA space shuttle way out in the depths of the galaxy where it should not have been able to get at sub-light speeds. They track to the debris back to a completely desolate planet with a weird energy signature, beam down to investigate AS YOU DO, and discover that there’s a pastiche of a generically mid-20th century casino that they are then unable to leave.
It’s actually, and I hate to say this, quite an interesting science fiction premise. The idea is that a shuttle full of US space peoples (??) got accidentally picked up by aliens and zoomphed off halfway across the galaxy, killing all but one of them. And the aliens were like “sorry my bad, tell you what, I’ll recreate your natural environment for you”. But the only guide they had to what earth was like was one shit novel that one of the astronauts happened to have with them.
And, okay, I’ve said it was an interesting science fiction premise, but it makes no sense if you think about it for twenty seconds. Leaving aside the question of why these 21st century astronauts were carrying paper books into space, you do have to wonder how the aliens managed to read a novel and faithfully reconstruct its setting and a plot without bothering to ever talk to the actual guy they’ve rescued. Maybe they had some kind of prime directive? Oh, also, there’s a device they use several times over the next couple of episodes where the crew finds useful information written in a book and the book, despite being a full thick book, clearly only has writing on one page. And not in, like, a it’s a prop, so the other pages are blank way. Like, they acknowledge diegetically that his guy had a journal in which he wrote exactly one entry such as could be read out in forty-five seconds of screen time on a TV show.
In this case the guy’s journal is, “this is the back plot, I long for death.”
I think it probably says something about either me or about Star Trek that my favourite episodes of the show are the ones where they’re not actually doing Star Trek. This is mostly Data, Worf and Riker walking round a casino, interacting with whacky casino characters, and occasionally communicating by comm with Picard who is getting, like, way into it. I mean, it’s not a Dixon Hill episode, but it’s the next best thing.
I just think it’s fun. Really, really fun. Data wears a cowboy hat and cheats at craps.
This is a dead Picard episode. Picard dies a lot. Like, more than Buffy a lot.
I’ll be honest, I still don’t know what was going on with this episode. It was like one of the writers said, “wouldn’t it be cool if they found a shuttle and it was one of their shuttles and Picard was in it” but had no idea where to go from there.
So. Yes. The Enterprise finds shuttle, and its one of their shuttles, and Picard is in the shuttle. And he’s all confused and shit. And it turns out he’s FROM THE FUTURE. And the shuttle’s log shows the Enterprise exploding in six hours. And everyone’s all “wah wah predestination” and Picard’s all “I’m all grim and determined and will make a different choice from the choice I made last time” and everyone is all “BUT HOW CAN YOU KNOW”. And Picard tries to add tension to this even though the answer is obviously “well, I know this Picard got in a shuttle and left, so I’ll just not do that.”
Also, he like literally shoots himself? For, as far as I can tell, no reason. Because he could have stunned himself. Or, for that matter, let himself leave. He has no reason to believe that letting the other Picard leave is what the caused the problem. And, in fact, it definitely didn’t. The problem was caused by Picard leaving instead of taking the other course of action that they take after Future!Picard gets shot. But they could do both, because they’ve got two Picards now.
And there’s this slightly odd time loop thing where the only decide to do the thing that doesn’t destroy the Enterprise because Future!Picard mentions that he considered it in his timeline even though Present!Picard isn’t considering it in this timeline which … I suppose makes sense because the timelines have changed? But if the timelines have changed, it doesn’t matter if they let Picard go or not because clearly the timeline has changed already so it’s not like letting his leave dooms them to explode again.
It’s like Picard just really enjoys killing himself. Like, seriously, he does it loads. I think he was just really hurt by that episode where he tried to join a weird space cloud and couldn’t.
Five bobbins. This makes no sense and isn’t even set in a casino.
The Icarus Factor
This episode probably has plot, but frankly I can remember one thing about it and that is that it contains a scene in which Riker works through his daddy issues by challenging his father to anbo-jitsu, the “ultimate evolution of the martial arts.”
Which looks like, um. This?
There’s a subplot in which Worf is sad because he’s supposed to be doing a Klingon coming-of-age ritual but can’t because there’s no Klingons so the Enterprise crew make holographic Klingons for him. But I do not care.
Because this is also the episode where Riker gets dressed up like this:
And beats his own father with a giant Q-tip.
So in this episode Data develops a very sweet, very supportive relationship with an alien child that, in retrospect, looks ever so slightly … um … sexual-groomingy? Like, we start off and we see him hearing a message from the planet they’re orbiting saying “Is there anybody out there” and then it’s eight weeks later and he’s explaining to Picard that he hasn’t really told her that he’s an adult robot from space but she’s shared a bunch of details about who her family are and where she lives.
Um. Red flags, dudes. Red flags.
Interestingly, this is also the episode from which the song from which I got the title of this series seems to have got its title. There’s very specifically a bit where, having been given his first command over a bunch of geologists who are older and more experienced than he is, Wesley sits down with Riker to ask him for advice and Riker’s response, well, the entire first version of What Would Captain Picard Do.
And, to be fair, it’s a good maxim to live your life by, even though about two times out of ten the answer is “surrender” or “shoot yourself.” And the other eight times it’s “have a long conversation, flirt with a younger woman or drink tea.”
Speaking of long conversations, there’s a really good bit in the middle of this episode where the senior crew of the Enterprise have, well, a long conversation about whether it’s acceptable to intervene to stop Data’s, um, um, inappropriate child friend from being blown up on an exploding planet. And Picard makes a really compelling case for just letting everyone die which is kind of cool? I mean, obviously they don’t because Data turns on the comm and they hear the cute child voice being all “Data, where are you, I’m scared” and the entire senior crew is like “fuck the prime directive, we’d have to be total shits to just stand here while a small child explodes.”
Anyway, thanks to Wesley’s sterling leadership of the geological survey team, the Enterprise crew discover they can indeed stop the planet (and therefore the child) exploding by the simple expedient of something something resonance something something dilithium crystals. And then Data teleports down to tell his friend to get to safety but she’s now stuck in an exploding house so they have to teleport her up to the ship and then erase her memory. Apparently, they just have a memory erasing machine kicking around? Noted Robot Racist Dr Pulaski makes out that it’s hard to use, but it clearly isn’t.
So from a certain point of view this is the episode where Data grooms a child, abducts her, and then erases her memory so he won’t get in trouble with the authorities. Ah, the 80s. It was a more innocent time.
Also, and perhaps more importantly, Picard rides a horse. And in perhaps the Picardiest moment of the series so far utters the line “there is a loneliness in that whisper in the dark” pretty much unprompted.