In which a grand tradition is upheld, the miniskirts are explained, and a mystery reveals itself.
The Khitomer Conspiracy was exposed in 2293, just at the end of the 23rd century. The year is now 2364. I hope to spend a lot of time enumerating the ways the Federation has changed in the intervening 71 years rather than talking about crewmembers who are bad at their jobs, but there is, after all, only one way to find out.
I’d like to start, if I may, with the Enterprise itself. This ship, a Galaxy class, is huge compared to the old Constitutions. Judging by the windows, it’s maybe twice as tall, and the saucer section looks to be about three times as long as the Constitution. We also note a lot more windows around the main engine compartment, which tells us a couple of things: the engines are deemed safer and people can spend large amounts of time near them without radiation suits, and the shields are better, so you don’t need to keep people away from a primary target in battle conditions. Either that, or battle conditions don’t really happen that often in the normal course of things.
Picard opens us by taking us on a tour of his ship, talking about how he’s unused to its size and complexity, which tells us that the Galaxy-class may be relatively new design, and apparently Starfleet is still in the habit of sending ships out underprepared – Picard is missing several key crewman including a first officer. He is also getting to know his crew. So far, the most interesting is Data, who is programmed with a massive lexicon with several key deficiencies. Data has never had urbandictionary uploaded to him, apparently. There is, in fact, precedent for this. Data offers us hope, however. One of the major themes in TOS was the distrust of machinery. Think of how often Kirk had to save the day from a computer or robot. I think I had a counter for that. However, apparently in the last 71 years, humanity has gotten over the teething troubles associated with AI, at least in this one instance. More on this the first time we get to interact meaningfully with the ship’s computer.
Picard’s other bridge officer, Troi, perks up because she senses ‘a powerful mind’ immediately before the Enterprise encounters a spaceborne chain-link fence. We also have the tactical officers, including a Klingon, working dutifully. So it would seem that the Khitomer talks in The Undiscovered Country went over fairly well (worth noting that this episode aired in 87, between Star Trek IV and V, so we didn’t really know how the whole thing between the Federation and the Sovi- I mean the Klingons, was going to turn out). The Enterprise grinds to a halt and a flash of light deposits a conquistador on the bridge.
It speaks in archaic verbiage and calls itself and its kind the Q, and says that humanity has ventured too far into the galaxy and is forbidden from traveling any farther. Q calls humanity a dangerous, savage, child race, and switches through various military costumes, including one that looks like a dog trainer’s outfit. There’s an interesting line here – controlling the military with drugs. Q promises preparations will be made and leaves in another burst of light.
Picard starts barking orders, trying to outmaneuver a thing that created a forcefield in mid-space. They fly away and it condenses into a ball and follows them, gaining despite the Enterprise traveling past their maximum safe speed. There’s only one thing to do – Picard orders saucer section separation while at maximum warp, and gives command of the saucer section to the Klingon Worf.
Now, if you’re following along, you may have noticed by this time that it seems like a lot of the female officers are wearing go-go boots and miniskirts, and you may have wondered why I haven’t called that out yet. The answer is this guy:
Who is this guy? Why is he wearing a skirt uniform? Is he wearing underpants? Who are you to ask why this guy is wearing a skirt, anyway, the fashion police? I submit to you that Starfleet officers can wear whatever uniform style and variant they want, because by 2364 – possibly even in Kirk’s era, Starfleet doesn’t care what you wear or how you identify so long as you do your job well. So maybe when you ask yourself why Troi wears nothing but bunny skirts for seasons on end, maybe ask yourself why you think that makes her look unprofessional. Maybe it’s on you, buddy. Maybe it’s on you.
Anyway, back to the saucer separation process. The ship was designed so that it can abandon the civilian population of the ship, which is sizable, while the portion containing the warp engines and a lot of the weapons can go into battle. Cool. We can presume, then, that the ship will do this literally every time they’re about to go into a potentially life-threatening situation? Leave the civilians on the edge of whatever solar system they’re exploring and just have the people who actually signed up for Starfleet and all the risks associated with it face the danger?
At this point, both halves of the ship should still be in the warp bubble generated by the Warp engines, before the secondary hull goes screaming off back to engage the energy ball and the saucer section is, presumably torn into tiny pieces by the forces at the interface between FTL and normal space. Meanwhile, the security chief Tasha Yar continues her pattern of being belligerent and reckless. I’m sure that will serve her well in her career under this very calm and composed captain.
The energy sphere captures the ship and transports the crew to a court which Picard calls the mid-21st century post-atomic horror. It appears to be some sort of courtroom, and Troi mentions that this is not an illusion, either optical or mental, but a real thing that’s happening. That’s actually fairly useful advice. Imagine how short ‘Spectre of the Gun’ would have been if they’d had Troi along. Or “The Cage,” for that matter.
There’s some courtroom drama during which Tasha Yar is somehow not punished for kicking a bailiff in the chest. They are here, so it would seem, to answer for charges mage against the whole species. Never mind that one and a half of those present aren’t even human. We do get a bit of backstory on Tasha, who apparently grew up in something of a lawless barbaric world before joining Starfleet saved herfrom whatever. She is a True Believer in the Federation, and if she’s a bit zealous in her defense of it… well, as long as she follows the wisdom of cooler heads, she’ll make a fine officer. I wouldn’t let her command a Starship, though.
This trial contains a lot of color about some of the darker periods leading up to the formation of the Federation – a lot of this feels like it fits in and around the Eugenics Wars and World War III. Looking a little deeper (and with the benefit of foreknowledge – this is a franchise I am familiar with) it occurs that Q might be adopting this role precisely because it allows him the unfairness inherent in the role of judge, jury, and prosecution. He maneuvers Picard into a desperate situation, holding his crew hostage to get a guilty plea and getting Picard to offer to be tested on behalf of the species.
I will say that again, because it bears repeating. Q holds guns to the heads of Data and Troi orders his guards to shoot if Picard pleads anything other than ‘guilty.’ He does this to give Picard the choice of holding to his pride and getting his crew killed, turning tail and accepting the judgement of Q, or demonstrating ingenuity and intelligence in dire straits. Q agrees to judge humanity’s fitness to be among the stars by Picard’s performance at Farpoint Station, and withdraws with a gleeful little taunt.
Meanwhile, Riker (I hardly know ‘er) was dropped off by the Hood at Farpoint and is killing time waiting for the Enterprise by talking to the station administrator. He expresses great wonderment at the materials used to make the station and cites an energy surplus. He also asks for an apple, which wasn’t in the fruit bown provided. Until he asks for it, that is. He’s suspicious, but walks out in good cheer to go hit on Doctor Crusher, who’s trying desperately to brush him off but to no avail. They’re saved from extreme awkwardness when another instance of ‘asking for something and it just magically appears’ crops up. Crusher buys the whole thing.
So money is still a Thing in the Federation, at least when dealing with societies external to it. We’ve heard Kirk say, in Star Trek IV, to Doctor Gillian Taylor that they didn’t have money in the 23rd century, but it certainly appears the concept is still around. And about now, the Enterprise engine section arrives around Farpoint. Evidently, they didn’t take the time to meet up with the saucer on the way. Looks like it wasn’t too far away, though. Somehow it’s only about an hour away. They show Riker some of the bridge reports on Q. Apparently, nobody studies the records and exploits of James T. Kirk, because if they had they would’ve been familair with Apollo, Trelaine, Charlie X, the Organians, the Excalbians, Gorgan, and God, any of whom could have put together something on the order of that little display. The fact that Picard understates it as a ‘little adventure’ shows that he’s the only one who reads history, apparently.
Tests must be on Picard’s mind, because he orders Riker to do the docking procedure manually. That is to say, he’s going to maneuver, without the aid of a computer, two chunks of metal measuring 4.5 million metric tons, by eye. There are worse times to test that, I suppose. Better to ding it up now than in an actual emergency scenario. Picard brings Riker in for the rest of his interview – they cap off a somewhat adversarial first meeting where Riker gives it to Picard straight – he doesn’t believe in letting the captain risk his life in damnfool away-mission coyboying. And also, he asks Riker to run interference on children, because Picard hates children. With that said, they appear to warm up to each other.
To be continued…