21 May 2016

The Drumhead

Episode: s4, ep 21

What Happens
There was a Klingon on the Enterprise as a part of a science exchange programme, but after a small explosion damaged the engine and Federation info was leaked to the Romulans he's suspected to be a spy and saboteur. The Enterprise crew question him, but due to the severity of what happened Star Fleet sends retired Admiral Satie to work with Picard on the investigation. At first the partnership works well, everyone respects each other and the admiral's Betazoid investigator knows the Klingon scientist is lying. Worf discovers the scientist had adapted one of his medical syringes to convert information from Federation chips into proteins that could be carried as a message in a person's bloodstream. When questioned again and confronted with the evidence the scientist admits that he passed information, and that he hates the Klingon treaty with the Federation, seeing the Romulans as more worthy allies. He still insists he had nothing to do with the damage to the engine though, leading Picard, Admiral Satie and Worf to suspect that there might be someone else involved. The Admiral says that she's impressed with Worf and Picard even though she admits that she doesn't usually like working with others. It helps that Picard is familiar with the work of her father, a legendary judge whose shadow she has clearly been living in all her life.
Dr Crusher is questioned about the Klingon scientist, he came into sickbay to get the regular injections he needs, but she didn't do it herself. One of her medical staff Simon Tarses -who is mostly human but has pointy, Vulcan ears from a grandparent- is questioned, he did administer the scientist's injections but says he never spoke with him socially. He's clearly nervous and after he leaves the Betazoid investigator says he's hiding something big and declares that he must be the one they're looking for. Picard isn't convinced that they can tell anything from a feeling and refuses to let extra security measures to be imposed on Simon. The Admiral disagrees, but they're interrupted by Geordi who's finished checking the explosion site in the engine.
Data and Geordi show Picard and Admiral Satie the area where a hatch cover came loose. A thorough investigation has revealed nothing besides signs of wear, meaning that the hatch cover simply had a tiny flaw that couldn't be detected. It really does look like it was a coincidental accident, and Picard is fine with that but Admiral Satie isn't. She points out that a traitorous scientist shouldn't have been able to get on board the flagship at all and so probably had help. Picard grudgingly agrees that Simon can be questioned again, but only to prove his innocence. Picard is surprised to find that the next questioning session has an audience, and the Betazoid investigator lies to Simon about the cause of the engine damage, very clearly insinuating that Simon has the means to help the Klingon scientist and sabotage the ship. Simon is really nervous and then the investigator reveals that Simon lied on his Star Fleet application, his grandparent is Romulan not Vulcan. Simply being 1/4 Romulan seems to be enough for some, plus of course the lying is also bad.
Picard tells Admiral Satie not to continue, he tries to persuade her that what's happening is wrong. She points out that she doesn't have family or friends or a home, she just travels around doing her job and protecting their society. She starts to sound somewhat nationalistic and again cites her father. She wants to hold more inquests and will question whoever she has to. Worf is happily doing investigations into Simon's family and friends. Picard tries to convince him that this is wrong and Worf says people with nothing to hide shouldn't be afraid of the truth, which is pretty hypocritical when you consider Worf's situation.
The Admiral sends for a non-retired Admiral to make things more official, he mostly just sits there while Satie and her Betazoid staff member interrogate Picard, who is apparently not an equal partner in this anymore. Satie brings up the nine times Picard has breached the Prime Directive and also the events of Data's Day, when the Enterprise unknowingly transported a deep-cover Romulan spy to her people. Then Worf tries to defend Picard and the Betazoid turns on him and asks about his father being a Romulan collaborator. Picard recites a speech that Judge Satie once made, about people's freedom and Admiral Satie flips out and starts shouting because she's decided Picard is a traitor and believes he's tarnishing her father's name. The silent, visiting Admiral looks well dubious then walks out, at which point Satie realises that she might have appeared a bit unstable and the session is ended. Later Worf tells Picard it's all been called off and admits that he had believed in Satie and what she was doing. Picard warns about people like her.

Guest Star
Admiral Norah Satie is played by Jean Simmons, admittedly I did have to look this up because it turns out that although I know her name (not to be confused with Gene Simmons from Kiss) I didn't really know what she looked like as I've not seen her films. The main thing I know her from is the voice of Old Sophie in the English dub of Howl's Moving Castle.
Though I got distracted imagining Dame Judi Dench -who I guess might've been a bit young when this was filmed- in the role, because it did seem like a version of M from Bond mixed with Dolores Umbridge. OMG, they should totally cast Dame Judi with a cameo/one-episode role in the new Star Trek series!

Oh Captain, My Captain
Picard is happy to be working with Admiral Satie while investigation is still needed, and he's an admirer of her father's work. When action is being taken on the basis of a feeling Picard is cautious, though admittedly his own Betazoid is much vaguer than hers. As Picard gets increasingly angry about the way Simon is being targeted and public incriminated and he tries to convince Satie and Worf that what they're doing is wrong, but neither gets it. Satie initially makes a show of taking his point on board and being careful, but then just does as she pleases. You can tell she's not used to working collaboratively as she placates then ignores Picard and reports to Star Fleet, even summoning another Admiral without his knowledge.
Picard invites Simon for a private chat, probably not the way he'd have wanted to get the ear of the Captain. Picard asks about Simon's background and (as ever) it's all focused on Star Fleet and career aspirations and poor Simon's fear that it's all over for him. When Picard later says that he's determined Simon's innocence through talking to him the Admiral dismisses the idea. She's really not a people person, but doesn't seem to get that others can be.
Picard's hearing, which is before an Admiral and he gets no notice about, isn't really about the information breach or the accident, it's about Picard's record. He knows the rules, so he takes an opportunity to give a small speech, but neither Admiral seems to respond to his speeching powers. Now I'm not surprised to hear he's breached the Prime Directive nine times, but I get the impression that's not normal for a Captain. Picard doesn't deny it and says that he reported the circumstances each time that happened. Then the events of Data's Day are raised and Picard is obviously weary (such facepalm) but he isn't scared. Then he combines his speeching powers with quotation by reciting some words he learned at school, and instead of cursing (as many of us would) he quotes Judge Satie at Admiral Satie she flips out revealing that she's already made her decision. He saw just how much she admired her father and knew that would get through to her somehow, though I don;t know whether he was trying to freak her out or whether he hoped she would be convinced.

Klingon Warrior
When the scientist says his being discriminated against because he's Klingon Troi points to Worf as why that isn't the case (not always true, but probably correct here). The scientist taunts Worf about his dishonour and terrible status in Klingon society, then he tries to bribe Worf by suggesting he has powerful firneds who could help Worf regain his honour. Once they're out of the ccorridor Worf attacks him and refuses his bribe, though I suspect that's how Klingons refuse bribes. It does seem a bit dumb to taunt someone you were hoping would help you, plus the scientist seems to think that Worf could be pro-Romulan like him so why not approach like he might be on your side. The Betazoid investigator says that his father's reputation as a Romulan collaborator means Worf was considered a suspect, but his discovery of how the scientist got the secrets out and his work in the interrogation convinces Satie and her people that Worf will be very useful. I suppose that humans aren't intimidating to Klingons, whereas Worf could be.Worf really gets into the investigating and delegating stuff to his staff and he's finally allowed to be as suspicious as he usually wants to be. Picard tries to explain why this is wrong, but Worf believes Satie and says innocent people aren't afraid of the truth. This is a hypocritical stance considering how many family secrets he's got: Hey Worf, what's the deal with your father? Do you have any siblings? Any children? Hmmm?
 At the Captain's hearing Worf speaks up to defend Picard's actions regarding the Romulan spy from Data's Day, he points out that any aggressive action then could have endangered the whole ship. The the Betazoid, who previously praised him and disregarded his father's supposed collaboration throws it back into his face and says he's not worthy of his job. Worf approaches menacingly, but Picard -the only person there who knows truth about Worf's father- stops him from taking regretable action.

Random Crewmember: Crewman First Class Simon Tarses, medical technician
Poor Simon is nervy about questions because he hid his Romulan heritage in his application to Star Fleet, pretending his elf ears are due to Vulcan relatives. Though it's not really explored much the implication is that Romulan heritage can be a severe hinderance to Star Fleet entry, or at least that he expected to experience prejudice if the truth was known. He talks to Picard about his aspirations growing up, they bond a little over memories of a particular bench near the Academy and Simon mentions how eager he was to go to space, and so he didn't take the Officer route. Though I wonder if he didn't take that route because he feared his heritage would be more of a problem, though that doesn't explain why his parents wanted him to try. Now he's terrified that his career is over and though we know a lot more about Simon than any other Random Crewmember, we don't know how this all impacts on him afterwards.

Too Many Admirals
Admirals are rarely a good sign on this show. Satie clearly loved and admired her father greatly, though her upbringing sounds a little odd, with family meals being enforced a discussion exercises. Of course to her that's normal and to someone with respect for oratory like Picard it probably sounds pretty good. Picard mentions that Satie's investigation exposed an alien conspiracy 3 years earlier, I assume that's refering to the events of Conspiracy with the brainlice who mind controlled a load of Admirals. I don't remember seeing or hearing about her in that episode? Did she give the info to that other Admiral who rised his concerns with Picard, or did she clear up what happened after. I mean that entire thing seemed to disappear without a trace, which isn't surprising cos that's TNG, but equally is kinda ridiculous because it should have caused a real shake-up across the ranks. Early on Satie mentions how frightening a conspiracy on a star ship can be, I wonder if that's because she's done this sort of thing everywhere else she's been? It's not clear if this is how she's always operated, or whether she's gotten worse over time. I almost feel bad for her when she tells Picard she's spent the last four years without seeing family or having a home or friends, she's just travelled around fulfilling her purpose of keeping the Federation safe. It's odd because she's supposed to have been retired. Sounds like she's been investigating on her own and maybe someone should have made sure she was fully retired. She also mentions that people have doubted her before and they've regretted it, which suggests a reign of terror. Of course it sounds like she's got nothing else in her life, or she has built her life around this. It's clear she's a nationalistic, paranoid zealot who enjoys the power and righteousness of her investigations, what isn't clear is whether she's specifically xenophobic against Romulans or whether any perceived threat gets her going, I figure it's the latter. When she goes off the deep end at Picard it's satisfying from a story point of view, though part of me wonders if it's exacerbated by her being a woman, and an older woman at that.
 Silent Admiral is silent, watchful, unimpressed and then gone.

The End
Worf tells Picard that silent Admiral has stopped things and Satie has left. Picard muses on how the history of witch hunts is still with people. Worf says he believed her and didn't see what she was. Picard says that people like her hide themselves behind good deeds, fear and righteousness, flourishing in the right climate. Society has to be vigilant for such people, always.

It's such a relevant message for nowadays. Well as Picard says any days really. I was recently listening to a podcast about Titus Oates and his Popish Plot, yet another historical example of paranoia about a certain group being exploited to create panic and aggrandise the accuser.

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