In which we have a new captain, Things are Set In Motion, and Starfleet doesn’t have the skill at deception that the Great Bird of the Galaxy gave to a crippled gerbil.
The Enterprise has met up with the Cairo near the Cardassian border so that Picard can be relieved of duty. Whaaaaaaaaat? Also, we’re back to the old style intro. Double whaaaaaaaaat? When did that happen?
Cardassian forces have recently withdrawn from Bajoran space and redeployed along the Federation border. Given what we know about this conflict from Ro Larren, it seems like there would be ample opportunity to explore that further, but knowing how often technological developments fall by the wayside, we’ll probably never hear about this again. Right guys?
It is believed that the Cardassians are building up for an incursion into Federation space, hoping to blitzkrieg in, occupy a border system, and betting that the Federation would prefer not to go to war over it. Now, I am as much in favor of peace as the next guy, but putting down the idealism baton for a moment, we can see that this is what happens when you don’t lay the smack down on the Ferengi. The Ferengi have, on screen, been nothing but a nation of belligerent space pirates thus far. Perhaps there are cordial relationships with the Federation officially, but we’ve never seen such at hing. They attack Federation ships, poison diplomatic officials under the aegis of Federation protection, assault Federation away teams, and recently tried to claim the fully functional Enterprise as salvage under Ferengi law. Even if that’s not the Ferengi government (or what shreds of one exist), third parties must be looking at this behavior and seeing the Federation as more and more of a pushover. Clearly, this has led the Cardassians to believe that they can get in and put down ground forces and the Federation will just whine and wring their hands.
So the Federation is sending one ship – the Enterprise. Picard, Worf, and Cruser are off-ship on a different mission, and Captain Jellico is getting the Enterprise due to his history with Cardassian negotiations. Riker is a little hurt, but what do you expect if you keep turning down command offers.
Turns out Picard, Crusher, and Worf are training for a black ops mission. Because either they are all black-ops trained or Starfleet has no Black Ops forces. Also, they’re not being told the operational mission parameters – just that they’re going to be infiltrating a Cardassian cave system.
Jellico comes aboard the Enterprise and seems genial enough. Done his research, establishes a rapport with Riker, and then immediately switches up the Enterprise three-shift schedule into a four-watch rota – presumably shorter watches means that everyone is a little fresher when on-duty, but at the expense of days off. There’s a short ceremony where Jellico takes command, and Troi looks like it’s a funeral. It seems like it might be – apaprently even that ceremony is more than the usual if the assignment is temporary.
Jellico offers to launch a probe to fill out Picard’s operational information a little bit, and in arranging that it turns out Riker hasn’t made the shift switch yet, and now we see Jellico getting a little strict. Reconfiguring the entire bridge and crew structures, as well as getting rid of Picard’s fish. We’ve all worked for a Jellico.
In the ready room, just prior to Picard’s departure, Jellico indicates that Picard probably won’t be coming back from his mission and the Enterprise, and the Federation, have to prepare for war. Which really, truly begs the question of why they’re sending the captain of the Flagship of the fleet? Unless they just want to get rid of him, there has to be some team more suited.
The mission is apparently to shut down a Cardassian metagenic weapon. This classification is a virus that can infect and destroy anything with DNA. After which, the virus breaks down. Kills people, leaves buildings standing. Explains why Crusher is along, and it does a nifty job of escalating the Cardassian threat – Crusher notes that even the Romulans don’t skirt the ban. This three-person team of a tactical specialist, a mission specialist, and apparently Picard’s science background will be helpful. They set course for what seems to be more or less a smuggler’s haven. And of course, when you want to smuggle cargo illegally across national borders, you go to a Ferengi. And then you throw pretty women at them until they agree to do the thing. And maybe give him an ear-job in the middle of a crowded bar.
As the black-ops team infiltrates the facility, The Enterprise meets up with the Cardassian ship, and Jellico immediately puts their representative on hold in order to establish alpha status. In the caves, the team pulls out their climbing gear. They have a thing called a fusing piton, which vaporizes its own hole in the rock face, and then they get to rappel five hundred meters down.
Jellico strides into the meeting with Gul Damek, exchanged jousts, and storms out. All part of the plan. Jellico is projecting confidence well, but Troi always knows better.
Fun Fact: A phaser set at level 16 will vaporize volcanic rock and leave no residue such that the hole created can be immediately traversed without heat protection.
Back at the negotiating table, Jellico is a lot more cordial this time, at least until it comes time to sit down. Jellico, Riker, and Troi seem to ahve a very solid bad-cop, good-cop, Troi-cop thing going on. Then the Cardassian springs a trap of his own – he’s aware of Picard’s team and things are about to go incredibly sour. It’s almost like a high-profile captain of the highest-profile ship in the fleet not being in command of his own ship triggers red flags.
Man, but Starfleet Intelligence blows.
In the tunnels, Crusher gets buried by a freak rockslide just before they make it to their destination. Giving Starfleet credit where it’s due, the team is equipped with gadgets that allow them to seamlessly infiltrate without triggering alarms. What’s about all the credit we can give them, though – the room they gain entry to only has a small subspace generator – just barely sufficient to send out the signals they were tracking, at which time the ambush strikes. Worf is able to get Beverly out, but then gets shot, and Picard is left trapped and surrounded, and escorted into an interrogation chamber, while Jellico and the Admiral wring their hands, in a properly restrained fashion, over just how bad they are at guile.
Gul Madred has a lot of information on Picard, and clearly indicates the trap was specifically designed to bring Picard and trap him. To Be Continued, of course, but one has to wonder about the endgame. Are they just looking for information? They probably could have targeted a captain of a battlewagon who hadn’t already had to resist the unnatural mental influence of, say, the Borg.