In which we get some nice complexity, Picard punches a dude, and space stations make for better television.
The Enterprise is delivering medical supplies to Rutia IV after a violent outbreak by separatist terrorists, and therefore shore leave has been cancelled. I’m not kidding, that last is in the opening announcements. Crusher is having breakfast when a bomb goes off. She rushes to help, ordering Worf to divery from his task of monitoring security to go find bandages. Ignoring Data who suggests they go back to the ship, because as a physician it is her moral obligation to help. Beverly is principled and refuses to leave, so Picard leaves the three of them down there. For a moment I was expecting him to beam Worf and Data out. Suddenly, a terrorist appears in a flash of light, grabs Crusher, and vanishes, thus beginning the episode.
Apparently, this flash is nothing like known variants of Transporter technology and they can’t track her by communicator because wherever she is, there’s shielding. Meanwhile, in a dingy cave, Crusher is giving her abductor the silent treatment. Kirol Finn seems like one of those genteel abductors – Picard suspects they’re going to use her as a hostage, but this has more of a ‘we need a doctor because we’re the oppressed’ vibe to me. Especially when Security Chief Shoulderpads Jones emphatically states that the Ansata Terrorists aren’t people, but savage animals. Also, they know very little about the transit flash, but at least she’s being cooperative and only asking (not insisting) on getting their hands on Federation technology.
To the Ansata, it appears that the Federation has allied itself with the primary Ruitan government – after all, they’re delivering humanitarian aid to the government, not the resistance ah excuse me, the terrorists. This is going to be one of those episodes, I can pretty much guarantee it. Regardless of ideology, as soon as Crusher sees the wounded she’s at least willing to petition Picard for humanitarian aid. She seems to believe that since the Federation is not on anyone’s side they’ll be willing to aid the rebels.
In headquarters, Corporal Shoulderpads gives Riker a list of 5000 names of ‘suspicious citizens’ that she wants watched, even though they only expect about 200 people to be actual members. Hooray police states! That said, the terrorists seem to be blowing up busses full of schoolchildren accidentally instead of busses full of police officers.
So, it turns out the flash of light machine called the Inverter transports through a different set of dimensions (think Nightcrawler) which is tearing their cells apart. Gee it’s hard to be sympathetic with these guys, denied independence or not. They’re not dying of malnutrition or pollution from being forced to live in marginal areas of society, they’re just having children blow stuff up and dying from their own tech. Since they’ve got their hands on the tech, it doesn’t take the Enterprise engeineering teeam (and Wes!) long to figure out what it does, what it would do to a humanoid body, and why, therefore, they need a doctor.
So, Bev tries to be high-and-mighty about how much better Federation culture is, and gets into a debate with the lead terrorist about all of the death it took to get to the Federation’s Euro-American-centric ideals of Freedom and Individual Rights. And she loses quite badly.
Meanwhile Commendant Shoulderpands is getting more and more sympathetic despite being in charge of a police state. Since nobody seems at all happy with the current state of affairs, perhaps it would make more sense for everyone to reexamine the issue of Ansata Independence? It’s a bad idea to negotiate with terrorists because it sets a bad precedent, but there has to be a point where you stop throwing good political captial after bad and admit you have a losing strategy. To my mind, the arrival of the Enterprise makes the perfect opportunity – if an outside force comes in and is seen to mediate peace and then leave, the conditions for being percieved as capitulating not being ones likely to show up any time soon.
Oh, also: the lead terrorist says he managed to get a hold of some history books about the American Revolution, and this planet contacted the Federation for aid somehow. Seems like another ‘in talks about joining’ kind of situation. Also, there’s a moment where Data tries to figure out the rules of when it’s appropriate to resort to terrorism and we get one of those moments that show why he’s an amazingly useful character, literarily speaking, to have around. It would be difficult for Picard to otherwise get to condemn terrorism and admit to not having a better solution without him.
Lead Terrorist has decided to blow up the Enterprise. It will send a powerful message, if he can manage it. They Dimensional Shift aboard, shoot a bunch of people in the chest (but nobody we care about) and start planting devices in Engineering. I like that they thought of just beaming the dudes out, but the Technological MacGuffins make their signals and forcefields useless both for catching the terrorists and for beaming out their bomb on the warp core. It’s getting so bad that Picard is even ordering saucer separation. Fortunately for the effects department, Geordi is able to laser it off the warp core, smack his commbadge on it, and get it beamed off that way.
I can’t give you a screenshot because of aliasing, but Picard punches a dude in the face and tackles him when he Dimension Shifts onto the Bridge. Let this scene serve as a reminder that Picard can mix it up when he needs to. Of course, while he’s pinning the guy down, he’s able to access his shifter and they both disappear. That’s not good news.
The good news is that all of that sampling inside the Enterprise means they have sufficient data to pin down the power source the next time the shift is used. Bev and Jean-Luc get another scene to further their Will-they-or-won’t-they subplot in captivity, but Jean EvilJean continues to show his acumen as a political player – making sure that the Federation doesn’t actually just run away, but instead having to deal with the conflict until they bet bored and force a real negotiation. It’s not a bad plan, and the fact that he’s moving away from violence (if still using force) as soon as possible brings back a measure of sympathy, but at the same time this is what the Enterprise needed to find their base.
Once again the away team beams in without weapons in hand. I get that Starfleet security procedures – nay, the very concept of being armed is somewhat antithetical to the Federation mindset, but what’s up with Commendant Shoulderpads? I cannot believe she’d go in unarmed if there wasn’t some kind of technical requirement that she do, and I’m damned if I can figure out what it could possibly be. However, they are lucky and nobody ambushes their beam-in site, so they’re able to deploy handheld silent taser-like devices to complete the stealth mission, at least until they make it to the main area. A scuffle ensues, Head Terrorist gets shot by Shoulderpads because as a martyr he’s less of a focus for immediate violence than as a prisoner, but nobody’s happy. I mean, nobody should be happy about this. Lucky for the Enterprise, the planet isn’t a Federation member and they can just fly away. Have I mentioned how much I’m looking forward to Deep Space 9, where they can’t just run away from problems? Because I really am.