18 May 2014

The Defector

Episode: s3, ep 10

This episode was good and surprised me and the ending was appropriate to the tone. Things are looking up.

What Happens
Data performs lines from Henry V (or so the internet tells me) in full costume, in the holodeck, while watched by Picard. It's part of his becoming-human project. Riker calls them to the Bridge. A Romulan scout ship is racing through the Neutral Zone, chased by a Romulan warbird. The Scout sends a distress message and the Enterprise moves to intercept it at the border. When challenged about entering Federation space the warbird turns and leaves without response. The injured Romulan from the scout ship is beamed aboard and says he has vital info. He's a low-level logistics officer defecting to the Federation with news of a secret Romulan invasion force massing in the Neutral Zone. The senior staff are suspicious of the whole thing, especially after his ship explodes, which he claims is standard procedure. He wants them to stop the invasion, but he won't sell his people out. When he's alone he pulls an orange disc from his boot, the music suggests it's suspicious.
Star Fleet tell Picard the Romulans are angry and they've convened an Emergency Council, but it'll be Picard's decision about whether to take action. He could be preventing or starting a war. Troi and Riker interrogate the defector, who is frustrated by the lack of action and won't give them extra info. Geordi tries to detect if there's any sign of a secret fleet, its not clear. He explains gut feelings to Data. Data talks to the Romulan, who wistfully describes home and all he's sacrificed. Data shows him a holodeck recreation of Romulus, which prompts the defector to reveal that he's actually an Admiral. He demands to see Picard.
Star Fleet confirms the Admiral's identity, they don't trust him either. Picard questions him and demands evidence. The Admiral had a daughter recently, made him rethink war and the future of the Romulan Empire. He became unpopular by trying to push for less aggression and was posted to a distant command. When he saw information about the secret fleet he knew he could only prevent war by warning the Federation. He doesn't want to be a traitor, he just wants peace. Picard pushes him until he agrees to give them whatever they want.
Picard orders the Enterprise into the Neutral Zone, breaching the treaty. (They've breached it before, but this has greater weight.) At the planet there's no sign of any fleet and the Admiral is brought to explain. He can't believe it, he saw the paperwork. Picard suggsets he was fed bad intelligence. Just as they're about to leave two warbirds de-cloak and they are hailed by Tomalak, the Romulan Captain from The Enemy. He is smugger than ever, it was all a trap. News that his sacrifice was in vain breaks the Admiral. Tomalak demands they surrender as POWs. Picard refuses and 2 Klingon birds of prey de-cloak, with weapons pointing at the Romulans. Tomalak is bitterly forced to let them go.

Guest Star
Andreas Katsulas, G'Kar from Babylon 5, returns as the Romulan Captain, Tomalak. Last seen two episodes ago in The Enemy.

One of the two holo-Shakespearean guys, who perform with Data in the first scene, is played by Patrick Stewart. He's using his Yorkshire accent and wearing a wig, beard, make up and costume. If you're going to have lines from Shakespeare in the episode you might as well use your Shakespearean actor.

Oh Captain My Captain
Picard believes Shakespeare will help Data learn about humanity. Data does well but Picard lightly rebukes him for wanting to imitate well known performers, the point is that he should make it his own. Picard is happy with his progress, but not ready for him to perform in front of the crew yet.
Picard's communications with Star Fleet are pre-recorded messages with a 2 hour time-delay, even though in other episodes there are live conversations. Is that a sign of how far they are from Star Fleet? Picard is told that the decision to act against the Romulans will ultimately fall to him. Picard asks Data about the disposition of the crew and points out that unlike King Henry he cannot easily walk unknown amongst them. He quotes a line from Henry V about the King's responsibility if his men die in a bad cause.
After the Admiral has admitted his true identity Picard and Star Fleet are still not convinced of his honesty. Picard grills the Admiral forcefully, making him explain his situation and his motive. The Admiral suggests that Picard has sacrificed family for his career, and he couldn't possibly understand because he's not a parent. (He doesn't say it like that, but it's kinda what he means.) Picard refuses to act unless the Admiral fully sells out his people, it clearly breaks him a bit. It seems pretty harsh, but Picard has little reason to trust him and much reason to be wary.

Does Not Compute
It seems Data needs little prompting to get into costume. It's pretty funny to see him take the wig off as he and Picard go through the corridors. Data asks why the King would disguise himself and talk to commoners when he should be leading. Picard says that Shakespeare is telling the audience that the king has feeling for his men and he wants to share their fears, but cannot do so publicly. Picard later asks Data to keep a record of all that happens, because he isn't human and therefore can be objective about events. There's a sense of him wanting a record for history.
Geordi discusses gut feelings with Data, who doesn't understand how humans can feel their way to making decisions. Geordi has some difficulty explaining the concept, but Data seems to grasp that the unknown is filled in by the individual's personality and instinct. It is interesting that Geordi's gut feeling -that the Romulans are up to something- proves wrong. Of course this may be him picking up that the Admiral truly believed what he was saying, and/or based on his opinion of Romulans.
Data stares at the Romulan as he sits in 10 Forward, in an attempt to develop a gut feeling. The Romulan knows Data is an android - people always seem to know, even though androids are supposedly super rare, even people who don't understand androids. They state in conversation that each side doesn't know much about the other, couldn't Data just be a really pale human? I suspect the issue is that Brent Spiner just looks too human. The Romulan wistfully tells Data about home, he knows how much his actions have cost him. Data takes him to the holodeck and accurately recreates Romulus, a planet Data previously stated their Computer had very little information on. (There's no way our replicators could figure out how to create that drink you like, but hey, here's an entire valley.) This blast of home-that-isn't-home prompts the defector to reveal his true identity.

Klingon Warrior
It seems the events of The Enemy are common knowledge among Romulans (although as this guy was an Admiral I don't know how 'common' the knowledge is). I can't imagine that any Romulans could know about Worf's refusal to be a donor. The only Romulan who knew died, and its not information that was discussed by anyone other than Picard, Riker and Crusher, though it's likely some of Crusher's staff knew. This means that the looks the defector throws at Worf are just racism. He insults Worf in Klingon, apparently to bait him. Worf is restrained in the face of this and it's Riker who also uses Klingon to tell their unexpected guest that his behaviour is out of order. After Worf has gone the defector says he understands him, he has regards for warriors, but knows the danger of those who will leap into a fight.
Picard calls Worf to his ready room after hearing from Star Fleet, but we don't see the meeting. Later Worf is sent off the Bridge to take a message for Picard from the security chief of a Klingon vessel. Despite these clues I didn't see the Klingon aid coming. I guess I'm not used to Star Trek being this subtle, or maybe I was just being slow. I'm sure my husband would've got it, he's very good at that sort of thing.

It's A Trap!
Yeah, that. At first they think the defector is a Romulan trap. Then it turns out he came with good intentions but is being trapped alongside the Enterprise. Then Picard reveals the secret Klingon support, not quite trapping the Romulans, but tricking them.

Future is Better
The replicators use Celsius metric system, Romulans don't (no reason they should). This means that in the future I will understand the temperatures. Or at least I understand temperatures on Star Trek, as opposed to other US TV.

Security Breach
The Romulan defector is followed around by a security officer at all times, even when he's with a member of the senior staff. This is what sensible security procedure looks like, glad they're aware of it. Maybe they should take that approach a little more often.

Staff Meetings: 4
1. The defector tells the senior staff about the Romulan legion that's been built up at a secret Romulan base in the Neutral Zone, which will attack Federation sites in 48 hours. He urges then to destroy the base first, remove the threat and prevent war. After Worf takes him to sickbay Picard, Riker, Data and Geordi discuss his story, it could easily be a ploy, they need more info. Riker and Troi are to interrogate him, Geordi to check out his scout ship. Data asks to watch the interrogation, but Picard needs him on the Bridge. The scout ship explodes.
2. Geordi shows Picard, Crusher and Data that the warbird slowed with the scout ship, chasing it when it could have caught up. It suggests a Romulan plan, chasing a spy in. Crusher isn't sure as the defector was badly burned and she doubts his wounds were self-inflicted.
3.Geordi and Data report the results of a probe to Picard. There are odd signals coming from the planet. They don't seem to be a mass of cloaked Romulan ships and a base, but its hard to be certain.
4. After the Admiral has told him everything Picard tells Riker, Data, Crusher, Geordi, Worf and Troi that he has full information on Romulan tech and fleet positions. This resolves Picard to go in, though he's aware it could still be a trick.

This episode directly follows on from the events in The Enemy. This is a good thing as previous encounters that seemed like they should have repercussions often didn't (or haven't so far). Presumably this is a loosening of the format that required everything to be wrapped up neatly in a single episode.

Won't Somebody Think of the Children?
Picard could be leading the Enterprise to war for all he knows. Shouldn't he maybe send the kids and non-combatants off the ship as a precaution? That he doesn't suggests he has lots of faith in their Klingon escort.
The Admiral does think of the children, or rather his new baby daughter. From being a military man he sees that warmongering should be resisted at all costs for the benefit of future generations.

The End
Admiral quietly killed himself, turns out that orange disc was a suicide pill. He left a letter for his wife and daughter. There's no way that it can be delivered by the Federation. Picard says that it can't be delivered yet, but if there are others with the Admiral's courage there might one day be peace and the letter can be sent home.I hope that that's what the Admiral was thinking, it's a small ray of hope in a bleak ending.

This is the 2nd episode in a row with an appropriately downbeat ending. Also there hasn't been a jokey ending since the first episode of this series and the last corny joke was the final episode of series 2. I'm counting this as a positive, the forced jollity of previous series didn't always fit.


  1. "The Romulan knows Data is an android - people always seem to know, even though androids are supposedly super rare, even people who don't understand androids. They state in conversation that each side doesn't know much about the other, couldn't Data just be a really pale human? I suspect the issue is that Brent Spiner just looks too human."

    The reason is because Data is the ONLY one, and he is of profound interest to every cyberneticist in the Galaxy—including the Romulans, as Jarok mentioned. Every Romulan of high rank is likely aware of his existence—and he's likely one of the most valuable prisoners the Romulans could ever take.

    That he serves on the Enterprise is probably common knowledge—he has been with Starfleet for a long time, and has been decorated often. It's reasonable to assume that Starfleet personnel records are not nearly as closely guarded as are Romulans'. After all, they're not technically a military.

    It's the same reason everyone knows who Picard is. Word gets around, and Romulans have ears and eyes everywhere.

    1. This is a good point, hadn't thought of it that way, but you're right Romulans are very big on spying. Plus I can totally see Star Fleet not having great data security when it comes to personnel records (among other things). Also thinking about the plot of Nemesis it's clear the Romulans have some kind of unhealthy fixation on Picard.