In which Worf meets some countrymen, makes bad decisions, and gets a job offer.
There is a report in from Starfleet of battle in the Neutral Zone, but no further information about the combattants. And holy moley, Riker suggests separating the saucer section because they’re about to take civilians into known danger. Picard decides ‘nah, hell with it.’ Some of the debris they detect appears to be Romulan in nature, which is “a name we haven’t heard in a while.” Not since “Lonely Among Us,” in fact. The Enterprise detects a freighter with failing life support and crosses the Neutral Zone in order to rescue it. Again, without detaching the saucer section prior to crossing the NZ. I suppose if you start a war, you want to have the civilians be bolted to the star drive rather than floating hostages. Still, this calls into question the utility of the Saucer Detatch, if you’re not going to use it until you know you’re already in trouble and then you’re not going to take the time to use it.
Everyone acknowledges that it’s a trap, perhaps remembering that this is very similar to the setup of the Kobyashi Maru test, but they go in anyway. Backup isn’t an option, since they were dispatched by Starfleet in the first place.
In one of those things that I wouldn’t have thought about had I not needed a screenshot to spruce up this block of text, let’s take a look at the Enterprise next to the Talarian frieghter. The Enterprise is, to human sensibilities, a beautiful machine. It has clean, sweeping lines, a bright finish, and good proportions. Makes sense, since it was designed by humans, for humans to live on and be proud of. (I am speaking in-universe, here. Obviously, the models were all built by humans. I’m obsessed, not insane.) The freighter is blocky, covered with protrusions we can presume to be equipment, likely in order to maximize internal space for cargo hauling. It bristles with sensor pods as well. Is it beautiful to its designers, or as utilitarian and Brutalist as it seems? Certainly the Romulan ships are designed with a certain elegance in mind – in the TOS era they had the raptor paint and in TNG we have the intersecting ovals with the huge beak. The Ferengi cruiser had sweeping curves as well. Are we looking at a subspace dynamics issue, where a ship that goes fast enough has to present a sweeping profile to some medium? Or is it all purely aesthetics? The world may never know.
Geordi is wearing a device which allows him to transmit the ouput from his VISOR to the Enterprise. The signal is only stable over a few kilometers, due to the complexity of it, but if they boosted it with, say, a belt-mounted power pack and transmitter the size of a tricorder, with the energy densities the Federation appears to be capable of, I would imagine they could overcome this problem. Also, it seems like an incredibly useful thing to have everyone wear – a webcam. There are books that could be written about how bad Starfleet is at human-scale firefights, but a tactical team equipped with the 24th century iteration of a Land Warrior system would be terrifying to face in battle.
Also, the transmitter can punch through ship’s hull material, so clearly it’s not exactly weak. And this is what it shows:
Picard takes a few moments to be baffled and awed by Geordi’s ability to interpret that mess as a coherent picture before Riker does some throat-clearing and gets them on with business. The drives are leaking, but apparently deuterium gas is not toxic, at least for short-term exposure. Wikipedia confirms that adult humans have nothing to fear from the amount of deuterium you could reasonably expect to encounter. Geordi’s VISOR also picks up metal fatigue on the hull. Again, I am stunned that they don’t have pressure suits or at least full-face helmets to prevent all manner of decompression nastiness. Data finds the survivors behind a hammed door and forces it open, and it turns out to be Klingons.
The transporters seem to have problems doing their thing too near the engines, but as soon as the engines explode the transporter appears to be able to get a lock. This is a very limited window, but the transporter also seems to incorporate some sort of stasis effect that keeps the passengers safe as the ship explodes around them. The Klingons tell a cunning tale of how they were given command of the frieghter, lured a first-strike Ferengi assault into getting ready to board, and then blew it to smithereens with some obsolete rockets. Energy weapons are apparently less efficient than mass-based delivery systems on a ship that isn’t powered by antimatter. The story seem suspicious, but apparently the communication with Starfleet from here has a 48-hour turnaround time. Given what we figured out about the speed of subspace communication (51,000 and change times faster than the speed of light) that puts the Enterprise, and this section of the Neutral Zone… 142 light-years from Starfleet Command. The travel time at Maximum Warp (9000c) would be 5.7 days. It is five days from (presumably) Earth to a border the Federation shares with an unfriendly alien power at maximum warp. It’s a good thing communication is still faster than travel, or that would be a really worrying state of affairs.
Picard is full of bad decisions today, like not assigning a security detail to the Klingons. They taunt Worf for hanging out with Humans, but it looks like mostly gentle ribbing, in order to see if Worf still has the heart of a warrior. As the third of the Klingons dies in sickbay, they hold his eyes open and scream a death-rite into the ceiling. This episode seems intent on reminding us that Worf has a whole other culture he’s a part of, and beginning to explore his conflicted sense of self-identity. It seems likely that at some point he will come up against a conflict between embracing his Klingon heritage with these guys or upholding his oaths and duty to Starfleet. Guess which one he’ll take. What will be more interesting is if anyone will doubt what decision he’s going to make. Again, probably not, because that would be unworthy of post-speciesist humanity.
One of the Klingons surreptitiously takes the spike off of the dead Klingon’s boot. The Klingon equivalent of dog tags? There’s a conversation about how Worf wound up on the Enterprise. Romulans attacked Khitomer (recall from Star Trek VI that this is where the Federation signed a treaty with the Klingons) and baby Worf was found by a starfleet officer among the wreckage and raised. Were relations not warm enough for the relief workers to contact Quo’nos and say “hey, we found this baby, should we return it to its extended family?” Maybe he wasn’t a baby, but he was younger than ‘the Age of Inclusion,’ which is pretty young. They try to recruit Worf over to their side, telling him that the treaty with the Federation is a living death to true warriors, and they destroyed a Klingon cruiser that was trying to take them back. And then Worf agrees to take them on a tour of the ship after they admit to lying to Picard. Great idea – take admitted treaty-hating militants on a tour of all the critical ships systems.
Good news – a Klingon D-7 is on the way, and the Klingon captain of the cruiser fills Picard in. Worf is apparently taking them around to the Battle Bridge, so Picard sends Yar to accost them, with the understanding that Yar might have to fight through Worf. Worf hesitates for an entire commercial break. This should not actually be a difficult decision. It’s not as if the legitimate Klingon government is being unreasonable here. These guys stole a frieghter, killed everyone aboard a cruiser, and have no legitimate claim. Worf tries to plead with the Klingon captain to at least let them be exiled to a hostile planet where they can get killed by maundering creatures rather than firing squad or whatever the Klingons execute with. Meanwhile, the two criminals build a holdout pistol out of their belt buckles and escape.
One thing I note is that the Klingon captain has the Klingon and insignias behind him. I suspect that this is because his ship is there to track down criminals who threaten the peace between the Empire and the Federation. The Enterprise doesn’t really have any tapestry mounts (and isn’t that a crying shame, that would look baller) but Picard isn’t really making any concessions, symbolic or otherwise, for having waltzed into the Neutral Zone. Well, I guess he is going to be handing over the criminals to justice, so that may be enough.
Given the spiel Worf gave about how Klingons don’t take children as hostages, it seems odd that the renegade is currently pointing a disruptor at the warp core and thereby holding every child aboard the ship hostage at once. Potential ways out of this situation – put up a shield around the warp core (because you totally have shield emitters around the matter-antimatter reactor core, right? To prevent anyone from accessing it in exactly this fashion, right?) or transport him back into the brig. Or, you could have Worf get close enough to him to shoot him. I guess. That works too. Worf gives the renegate basically the same pep talk he gave Wes in “Coming of Age.” Overcome the weaknesses within. Honor and Duty and all good things like that, and then shoots him through the deck. Death rites and all.
The Klingon commander offers Worf a job, incidentally. That’s four members of the ship that have prospects off the show now. Worf as an officer in the Klingon Defense Force, Picard as Academy Commendant, Wesley as Academy student, and Riker as one of the Q. It’s almost like the writers were trying to pepper in ways for major characters to become minor recurring roles or leave the show without dying. You’re probably tired of hearing this, but I really need to watch Babylon 5 again.