In which I guessed right, Geordi tastes the Chair, and Riker gives the Speech.
I’m pretty sure I’ve asked you this before, but do you ever have the feeling you’re about to watch a truly terrible episode even though you don’t remember anything about it? Don’t worry about me, though. I have my good friend J.K. Scrumpy and his friend from Saskatoon to comfort me.
Apparently, a federation freighter Odin has been missing for seven years, and when found it had no life signs. The fact that Picard says ‘as feared’ rather than ‘well we knew that for certain’ indicates the reliability of Federation tech. Taken as a given that it didn’t pull into any Federation docks for repairs and refuels and so far the civilian space backbone seems pretty slim (the Bandi didn’t just try to set up as a non-aligned spaceport, for instance) this implies at least passing consideration given to the possibility that the Odin has been in operation for seven years without regular maintenance. Remind me about this when we start Voyager.
Anyway, three escape pods are missing and tracked to Angel One, an M-class planet broadly similar to twen-cen Earth. It’s run by a constitutional matriarchal Oligarchy, so Picard lets Deanna Troi make initial contact. It’s also vitally important that the Federation maintain peaceful contact with Angel One. This is fairly interesting. If it’s development is roughly equivalent to twentieth-century earth (read, 1900-1999, an extremely broad spectrum of technological development) then they probably don’t have Warp drive yet. So why, given the Prime Directive (which hasn’t been spelled out yet) is the Federation in contact with them at all? Legacy, perhaps? A left-over contact from before the rules were set up? That may not work for timeline reasons. But it’s notable that Picard operates under these constraints pretty regularly so far where Kirk only did once or twice a season, and only when there was a civilian observer standing on the ship. It cements this franchise as being a product of a more diplomatic, citizen-of-the-world time period when the United States was barely at war with anyone.
Aww. I made myself sad.
On Angel One, the females have all the traits that human biology associates with excessive testosterone – physical size, aggression, et cetera, so it looks like this episode is going to be about sexism is bad! Then again, I’ve been surprised before. Anyone want to take me up on a bet?
Riker comes very close to ballsing up the initial negotiations, and then does something that’s very, very bad. When Data asks how they should prepare if the locals make things difficult, Riker refuses to think about the question because it is difficult. Because we all know how refusing to prepare for a question always makes it easier to answer when the question suddenly becomes relevant. And you were doing so well, Riker. So much better than you were supposed to be pre-beard.
There is a slight mention of a time crisis where the Enterprise is also supposed to go check out scary Romulan activity, and after getting hit by a snowball out of the holodeck, gets a vague scent of something that Klingons find stimulating. Naturally, it smells terrible.
On Angel One, the leaders are finally willing to admit that the survivors are on the planet, all male, and in hiding from the local authority. Seems that they ‘went against the natural order’ of things. I’m guessing by demanding equal rights under Angel law and stirring up sufferagist movements. It’s starting to look like I’m going to win our bet. What are you going to get me? They give Data access to the library, since they need to figure out something that’s not naturally occurring on Angel One that the survivors of the Odin will have with them so they can use the scanners, and Data, though built to look male, is really a robot and therefore not stupid like all males are and good for only decoration. Hnnnng. Apparently, they settle on platinum, though anyone who’s ever seen a heist show involving forged wine knows that radioactive elements are way easier to detect.
Riker, in order to keep up with the local traditions, puts on an extremely low-cut shirt to meet with their Elected One, the local equivalent of a President or Prime Minister. Also, Picard has the sniffles and hands off command to Geordi, giving him what looks like his first taste of the Big Chair. It keeps taking me by surprise that at this point during the series he’s a command-track bridge officer and only Lieutenant J.G., rather than his rightful place as chief engineer.
In council chambers, it looks like Elected One Biata is going to tear her off a slice and get Frakey while Data, Troi, and Yar go check out the survivors who, despite being states as dangerous, welcome them with the offer of a beer. Meanwhile, everyone on the Enterprise is getting sick, and the survivors don’t want to be rescued. They’ve set up a new home and are branded as anarchists by the ruling class. Biata claims, of course, that men are fortunate by getting to lounge around while the women have to do all the work. Reminds me of an old Angel One joke. For every dollar a woman makes, a man makes 71 cents. This is unfair, because it only leaves the woman with 29 cents. Nyuk. Nyuk.
Incidentally, Riker gives a gift to Biata – a crystal that glows with internal light. One hopes that she only considers it impressive for its aesthetics and not because reverse-engineering it is going to give this planet a power source their society isn’t remotely ready to handle. You know, just saying. And then she gives him the gift of being able to brag about boinking a planetary leader.
The survivors leader, Ramsay, talks about how men get no vote or respect, and since they’re not actually members of Starfleet and therefore not bound by the prime directive, and the crew can’t actually compell them to leave. Also, it looks like one of the oligarchs is boinking Ramsay. This honks off Biata when the away team wanders into her quarters, clearly smell the… erm… activities that have just concluded, and in her rapidly dissolving post-coital bliss sentences the survivors of the Odin to death. To add to the apnic, Crusher is currently the highest-ranking person not sick and Data has to leave to go take the Enterprise to show the colors near the Neutral Zone. Data rules lawyers and figures out that they have 47 minutes before it is ‘too late’ to get to the NZ.
Riker gets a chance to speak and do the Trek Speech prior to the execution, and makes a pretty good speech about how the dissent was already there, and they might have been able to stop a revolutionary by killing him, but not a martyr. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be sufficient… until the very last moment.
Other things of note while we await the inevitable everyone-goes-home happy moment. It looks like the entire ship can be run, at least in maintenance mode, by one person. At least, if that person is Data. There’s probably a limit to the combat-readiness of the ship, but it seems like there may be enough automation for it to actually run. Unlike the old Constitutions which appear to require stations to actually be manned. Or womanned.