In which It’s Full of Stars, fangs are wildly impractical, and Starfleet should hire me to do security consulting for the next ship class because I’d be a bajillion times better than the brain-damaged chinchilla they have doing the job currently.
Today I learned that British people don’t get Star Trek on Netflix. I mean, not today today. Several days ago when I wrote this. What I’m saying is, that was a weird sentence to type and we should all feel bad for British people.
The Enterprise has succeeded in eradicating some sort of terrible plague and is going to rendezvous with the Hood. Picard is relaxing in his quarters when, undetected by the ship’s sensors, a sky blue monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey scans him and disintigrates him. Data does notice an abnormal energy reading, and Worf immediately dispatches a security team, but by that point Picard is already waking up on a slab in a room with two other people and an empty slab. There’s a Starfleet goldshirt and some alien. But when the security team gets to Picard’s quarters, he’s there with a glass of wine and a book. I suspect shenanigans.
The other Starfleet member is Cadet Mitena Haro, a member of a blue species, and the remaining prisoner is Koval Thul. The captors, meanwhile, have never shown themselves, and feed their prisoners via soap cakes in a delivery system in the middle of the room. There’s a door, but the panel, we are told, delivers a painful energy beam if the correct code is not put in.
Meanwhile, Fake Picard asks about a nearby pulsar and diverts the ship there. At Warp 7 it’ll take just over half an hour to get there, but that still delays the rendezvous with the Hood for no readily apparent reason. Also, Fake Picard orders Warp 2, which will take 31 hours instead of 34 minutes at Warp 7. If I were good at math instead of just being good at using google to do unit conversions I would add another math block here. Fortunately for you guys, I am not and also drinking. Also, Picard orders radio silence, and intimates in private to Riker that there may be a secret mission in the works which he can’t explain, even to Riker. Riker accepts this.
Picard starts tapping out primes on the door panel in an effort to open negotiations. Which, okay, look. We’ve all seen and memorized this infographic, but you were abducted from a starship in deep extrasolar space that moves around by folding spacetime and selectively ignoring fundamental constants of the universe. I think they know you can count to thirteen.
What, why are you all looking at me like that? We’ve all memorized that infographic, right? It’s not just me, right?
The other alien comes from a species that has no enemies because they never resist their conquerors. The cadet, a Bolian, is not important enough to be specifically targeted by the enemies of the Bolains. Suddenly, a challenger appears. Picard uses ‘nonagression.’ It’s super effective! The newcomer is from Chalna, and apparently Picard visited there on the Stargazer, which is enough to get him to trust Picard.
Fake Picard wanders by the Senior Staff poker game and starts interfering with the game. He tells Geordi that he wants the engines to be running 2% better and asks Troi if the crew are getting antsy about their course change.
The new Chalnoth’s name is Esoqq. Their planet is an anarchic ‘paradise’ where the strong rule. Also, he has no surviving enemies. They sit around talking about who could be behind their imprisonment, and it turns out that Esoqq can’t eat the food cakes. His species can only go three days without food. Presumably, there’s water somewhere as well and also a toilet, but hey, maybe not.
Crusher’s medical tests can’t tell that Fake Picard is fake, because Monoliths are pretty cool. He continues his practice of being just slightly off by going in for his physical on time and asking Beverly in to dinner.
Thul advises just going with the flow and not rocking the boat, despite the fact that Esoqq will probably kill and eat him. After all, their captors haven’t actually hurt them yet. Cadet Haro exclaims that being kidnapped should totally count as being hurt. Esoqq decides that the easiest way to get into the panel is to shatter it, and the engineering cadet gets into it and shorts it out. The door opens an inch, closes again, and the three who participated in the escape attempt get green pain lasers shot at them.
Meanwhile, Picard hits on Beverly while wearing a plunging neckline. Just to be clear, Picard is the one wearing the plunging neckline, not Beverly. She soundly rejects his advances, saying she’s comfortable with their relationship (and still may not entirely be over Jack Crusher) until they slow dance moments later. They kiss, Picard kicks her out, and she is left confused and dare I say miffed.
In the prison, Esoqq accuses Thul of being a collaborator or even being the captor after all. They start throwing around accusations left and right, accusing everyone of being in on it. The cadet leaps to Picard’s defense, and he’s suspicious so he mentions the thing they just did and she knows about it. Now, it’s possible that they sent mission logs back to Starfleet, but even with future subspace RSS feeds, it seems unlikely that a first-year Engineering cadet would have access to them. Also, she claims to have gotten there two days ago, so before that mission was complete. So, note to you would-be kidnappers and/or experimentors – don’t screw up your timeline.
Fake Picard keeps giving weird orders, and even Riker and Troi are getting suspicious. This is before he wanders into Ten-Forward, starts ‘buying’ ale for everyone, and singing a drinking song. You can just sense Riker, Geordi, and Troi make the transition between embarrassment and extreme suspicion. Enough so that Riker calls a meeting to discuss the possibility of Picard being influenced, or possessed, or impersonated. Worf steadfastly refuses to mutiny with only what they have so far, but they seem to be agreed on keeping their eyes on him for further aberrations.
In the prison, Picard gives a Speech about trusting each other in the face of obvious suspicions. He has not yet outed the cadet. As Fake Picard gets even more ridiculous by taking the ship too close to a pulsar, Real Picard leads the next escape attempt. They open the prison door to reveal a blank featureless bulkhead.
Picard orders the Enterprise close enough to the pulsar that she would be destroyed, at which point Riker has to act, and at this point Worf is on board. Not just because Picard has ordered the destruction of the ship, but because he hasn’t even stopped to be soothing and Picard-like about the fears of the crew.
Real Picard finally explains the whole thing. It’s a behavioral lab on authority, and in fact the plague that the Enterprise just cured was classified as secret. Picard refuses to play, so the cadet splits into three weird knobbly dudes. Apparently, their transporter can not just reassemble people but copy them (albiet imperfectly, apparently). That’s actually the best part about this episode so far to me: the fact that Picard looks a bit surprised by that seems to indicate that Federation transporters can’t hold that information in memory long enough to copy it under normal circumstances. That, in turn, indicates that Federation transporters operate, for lack of a better metaphor, as a spent casting – the mold is destroyed in order to make the new work. You might think of it as a recording device that destroys the original tape. These knobbly dudes, by contrast, have mastered MP3s. Or Die Casting. Or whatever metaphor you want to use, you get the picture.
I’m hoping that explains why they all look the same, because the alternative is that I might be speciesist against knobbly dudes. Credit where it’s due, once the scientific rigor of their experiment is violated, they end it and return the subjects to their places of origin. I mean, no points for ethics, but points for rigor. Also, this species is telepathically linked, which begs the question of why they’re even capable of ‘primitive’ speech.
The species chose to study the concepts of leadership because, as a telepathically linked mesh network, they don’t have any. Picard gets them to monologue about this long enough to put up an anti-intruder force field, an action which takes, like, everyone on the bridge to set up. I feel like it should take exactly one person at most two button presses to do: one to switch their console to the security layout, seven milliseconds for the computer to recognize an authorized comm-badge in proximity to the console, and one button press to enclose a security field around anyone on the bridge not wearing an authorized commbadge. The Moral Lesson is delivered. Picard thinks it’s something about imprisonment and captivity, but of course in reality it’s that Starfleet is terrible at designing security procedures of any kind argh argh argh argh.