TNG: S7E05: “Gambit: Part 2”

In which Data and Worf talk about their feelings, Picard trusts his gut, and Riker gets arrested.

So, as a reminder: Picard got picked up by some archaeological bandits and is playing Indiana Jones again. Riker managed to get himself captured and is playing Michael Westin. And the bandits are looking for some specific bit of ancient Romulan archaeotech.

Riker having successfully coded to Data that he’s trying to keep a cover and gotten the Enterprise to drop shields, Picard opens fire and hits a nacelle. What makes it good is that there’s a perfectly valid reason not to blow the ship up by targeting the warp core itself or the antimatter stores. Even if he wasn’t under cover, it might be like professional criminals in heist movies. You can do a lot of things, but if you kill a cop there’s no place that will ever be safe for you again. Also, hopefully, the Enterprise even without shields might have sufficient safeguards that a ship sized for six crew wouldn’t be able to punch through to do lethal damage.

"Commander! You MUST cease cock-blocking me!"

“Commander! You MUST cease cock-blocking me!”

Of course, Will and

Jean-Luc have also reduced firepower so that the Enterprise is barely scratched, and Data plays along. This has the advantage of keeping cover and letting the Enterprise get into a position of surprise. However, it has the disadvantage of not letting Worf get his murder on. For the guy who championed guile early on, Worf is being remarkably slow on the uptake.

Troi is trying to figure out what Riker is up to by examining his facial expressions and words. Geordi has been analyzing more engineering-y factors and found a hidden code Riker embedded.

♪One of these things is not like the others ♫One of these things just doesn't belong.

♪One of these things is not like the others
♫One of these things just doesn’t belong.

Baran has a… very unique management style. He’s strong on the recruit, but really serious about his deadlines. Picard gets to leave the bridge and go for some quiet time with the artifacts, only to be hounded by he Romulan, who can’t tell if he’s an idiot or a double agent. As always, a tense moment is interrupted by a crazy random happenstance – one of the objects matches the mysterious profile. Which means that they’re halfway to finding all of the pieces they need, which means Baran is halfway to killing ‘Galen’ and replacing him with a disgraced Starfleet commander. Worst. HR department. Ever.

Another datapoint for how the Federation economy works, incidentally. Riker, a fifteen-year veteran of Starfleet, has no trouble convincing Baran that a little money is viscerally exciting. It would be hard to make inferences from this fact alone; Riker has been trained for infiltration missions, after all, but the ease at which he lets those dollar signs (Federation Credits-signs just doesn’t roll off the tongue) light up behind his eyes does suggest that even if money isn’t an existentially-important driver for the 24th century Federation citizen, it helps.

Baran’s assignment for Riker, to earn his way into a share of the take, is to befriend Galen, ferret out his supporters, and ultimately kill him when the time is right.

Just when the Enterprise crew figure out where Baran’s ship is going, there’s a bit of friction, as Worf not-quite-mutters his displeasure with Data’s command up until now loud enough for pretty much everyone on the bridge to hear. Data suggests that there are nuances to the position of first officer as opposed to the duties of chief tactical officer that Worf is lacking, and offers to send him back to Tactical if he can’t change his mode of operation. It seems very brutal and blunt, especially given Picard and Rikers command styles. Then again, compare Data’s words with Worf here with Jellico’s command, in which he actively hid things from his crew and deliberately alienated them. Pretty much everything Jellico did aside from letting Troi wear a real uniform seemed actively counterproductive. Data here is merely… blunt. And it is bluntness, not malice. Worf, for his part, is able to see the problems with his approach and work to change them. For an ’emotionless’ android and a hyper-macho warrior-alien, it’s actually quite a touching moment, and appropriately ended with The Picard Maneuver.

No. Not that one.

Fun fact – the ‘Romulan’ artifact that Picard identified is, in fact, early Vulcan rather than Romulan. I particularly like that they slid ‘early’ in there at the first opportunity. At the risk of spoiling this for anyone out there who is somehow new to this, there is one important event in Vulcan history that we know about. Do you remember what it is?

Riker and Picard agree that with the deadline closing in, they have to start organizing a mutiny. Their first recruit indicates that Tallera, the Romulan woman, is the only feasible choice. Unfortunately, Tallera has fully formed her suspicions of Picard after locating the coded message Picard sent, and reveals that she is actually T’Paal and a member of the Vulcan Mossad. After getting Picard to reveal his own identiy, she reveals that there’s a Vulcan separatist, nationalist movement growing on Vulcan, and the ship is somehow involved in a threat that could make them that much more dangerous.

That thing is the Stone of Gol, a psionic resonator which ancient Vulcans used to focus their telepathic abilities into a weapon. Only one piece was known, and it was in a museum under heavy guard until it was stolen. T’Paal is on the ship to stop Baran from delivering the weapon to the separatists. Something about all this is off, but then again Vulcans must recognize the logic of maintaining a clandestine security service.

"Oh wow, is this what exploiting a loophole feels like? I may need to change my jumpsuit."

“Oh wow, is this what exploiting a loophole feels like? I may need to change my jumpsuit.”

The Enterprise has located a Klingon shuttle, the very one which Baran wanted to rendezvous with. According to the terms of the Federation-Klingon treaty, Koral, the pilot, is entitled to be there. Worf suggests that the treaty allows the Enterprise to conduct a Health & Safety inspection, however, and Data agrees. See, they managed to work out their differences by mutual respect and active listening! Do not fail to notice Troi’s sarcastic little smile. It’s glorious.

Also, do not fail to notice the height difference between Worf (Michael Dorn is not a small man) and Koral, and the look Worf has about that. The background acting in this episode is great.

Koral warned Baran that he’s been detained by the Enterprise, so Baran has Riker plan a raid to get the artifact piece, and assigns Picard to watch him and keep him in line. After all, Riker knows the Enterprise security procedures, and Galen hates him and would jump at an excuse to kill Baran’s new favorite, right? Sadly, they won’t be going alone, but fortunately, Baran has ordered Riker to kill Picard, which means that as soon as they have an opportunity Picard can stay on board the Enterprise if he should so desire.

"Sorry darlin', but you just ain't the chesty redhead I wanted to hear calling me 'captain' right now."

“Sorry darlin’, but you just ain’t the chesty redhead I wanted to hear calling me ‘captain’ right now.”

Crusher and Worf are debating more invasive methods of searching the shuttle when the raiding party beams aboard and Riker takes the opportunity to kill a crewman who he never liked much (“It was part of my cover, I swear!”). Riker and Picard also manage to pass information to Worf, Crusher, Data, and Troi by simply being indelicate with their pronouncements about their goals. And Picard also manages to reverse the scenario and leave Will on the Enterprise instead of staying himself. Picard tries to lead the mutiny, and for his part, Baran doesn’t immediately jump on the Agonizer. It doesn’t take too long, though, but by that time someone has already reversed the codes, and Baran just winds up killing himself. Picard vaporizes the transponder and immediately steps into the command role, because that’s what he does.

With Riker back in a command chair, he warns the Vulcan command that their operative is on the way in the mercenary ship, but as it turns out, Vulcan security has no such operative. The worry you should be feeling is directly proportional to how many covert operations of Vulcan security you think that one specific guy would a) be authorized to know about and b) share with Riker. However, even that revelation is hidden from Picard as he asks T’Paal, if that is even her real name or just something that caught her eye from the history books (callforward joke!) for help translating the glyphs on the device. He just natters away and geeks out, but he seems to have picked up on some tell and is pulling at the thread.

Picard tries to enforce some safeguards on his suspicions, and T’Paal outs him as Starfleet, so Picard outs her as ready to double-cross everyone. Sadly, he’s forgotten that all the bandits really want is to get paid, and she, two of the crew, and Picard beam down. She has, of course, failed to pay up sufficiently, but by the time the mercs realize that she’s already got the weapon assembled, and everyone is too stunned to just raise a pistol and shoot her in the face. Seriously, the weapon takes a good five seconds to ‘charge up’ or whatever you want to call that effect. Maybe it also includes some sort of paralytic effect, it doesn’t really work as a quick-draw.

This is what a tangible telepathic field apparently looks like.

This is what a tangible telepathic field apparently looks like.

Riker and company beam down to the rescue, but Picard explains the function of the resonator – it amplifies violent thoughts in the target, not just the user. If I may be so bold as to employ an over-simplistic metaphor, it sets up a lasing chamber between wielder and target, so that the ‘harmful emotions’ bounce back and forth at the speed of thought until they become so powerful they kill the target. If there’s no violent thoughts on the other end, though, it just whiffs. So, Worf’s probably dead. Except oh no wait, he learned Active Listening earlier.

The resonator was dismantled after Vulcans started suppressing their violent emotions and urges, because it could no longer work on its target. That said, T’Paal ought to remember that Vulcans are something like ten times as strong as humans and she could probably punch Picard in the face, break his nose, then kill the away team as they tried to leap to his rescue. Rules 23, 27, 72, and 156, because it’s an important rule, damn it.

Sadly, all this shows that the artifact is too dangerous not to destroy, even though having information on how a pre-Rennaissance telepathic resonator worked would be really nifty information.

Did we miss something awesome?