You can tell it's a 2-parter, there's a lot going on and the A and B plots don't dovetail.
Picard has a confidential meeting with an Admiral because Ambassador Spock disappeared and was spotted on Romulus. Picard must follow Spock and find out if he has defected. Picard has feelings about this because he mind-melded with Spock's father, Sarek, and knows about their difficult relationship. Sarek's wife meets with Picard; she doesn't get on with her stepson because he publicly disagreed with his father. She's certain Spock wasn't captured because he wrapped up his affairs, but she's angry he didn't say goodbye to his father. She allows Picard to see Sarek because of their bond. Sarek is ill and pained, but lucid enough to recall that Spock had a Romulan contact called Pardek. Sarek refuses to believe Spock is a traitor, but he disapproves of his son's actions. He asks Picard to tell Spock that he loves him. It's a super sad scene.
Info on Pardek shows he's a Senator who advocates for peace. He's with Spock in the intelligence picture. To follow Spock Picard needs a cloaked ship, so he goes to Klingon leader Gowron who owes Picard for helping him get his position. Gowron ignores Picard's call and Worf says Gowron has been claiming he won the recent civil war by all himself. A junior Klingon official tries to laugh off Picard's request for a cloaked ship, but Picard uses diplomacy to send a message to Gowron and a cloaked ship arrives. Picard and Data are made to share quarters on the Klingon ship. While they're travelling through Romulan space a message reports that Sarek has died. Data is a difficult roommate.
Meanwhile, pieces from a Vulcan ship were found in a crashed Ferengi ship, the Enterprise is asked to investigate. The original ship is identified and, after Picard and Data leave, Riker takes the Enterprise to a Federation scrapyard run by an officious Quartermaster. They discover that the decommissioned ship is missing and that the storage ship which held the recovered parts is also gone. The Quartermaster is shocked as they beam stuff to the storage ship daily. The Enterprise powers down and hides among the hulks until the next scheduled shipment. An unidentified ship arrives where the storage ship should be, it looks to be full of weapons, and receives the beamed supplies. Riker hails the strange ship; there's no response and the other ship fires on them. Riker has Worf fire back and they damage it then it explodes.
On Romulus Pardek is told by security forces that Picard is expected to arrive. Picard and Data, disguised as Romulans, find the place where the picture of Spock and Pardek was taken, it's near an office belonging to Pardek's relative. They try to ask about the office at a local eatery, but the staff are very suspicious and paranoid (apparently Romulans are like this even at home). They see Pardek and try to follow him, but two soldiers apprehend them. Picard and Data are taken to a cave where Pardek says he had to get them off the streets and assures them they're among friends.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Picard's relationship with Sarek is unusual, Picard saw into the old Vulcan's mind and felt his strongest emotions when his control was weakened by disease. Though Picard has only met Spock once he knows about him from history and has seen him through his father's eyes, it creates an odd picture of a person. Sarek's wife Perrin is full of tension as she discusses her husband and stepson, she's angry with Spock on his father's behalf and protective of Sarek. Now she's suffering as she watches her husband dying and wanting to reconcile with his son. The scene with Sarek is heartbreaking, Perrin has to be firm to bring him round then he just dismisses her. Picard talks to Sarek about Spock and his Romulan contact, and Sarek gets confused. He's pained by his relationship with his son and tries to be strong in the face of his turmoil, but cannot hold himself together for long. It's a very emotional scene.
Picard expects Gowron to help him, as the Captain was Arbiter of his Succession (he has a lot of important friends) and helped in the recent civil conflict, but the Klingon leader keeps distant as the debt he owes to a human doesn't fit with his propaganda. Picard tells the functionary that if Gowron won't help him he could always ask someone else in the Empire. I assume that Gowron's much-contested rule is still weak and he doesn't want his former ally approaching other factions.
The Klingon captain tries to make Picard and Data uncomfortable, which seems to be common when Federation people travel on Klingon ships (they are awful hosts). Picard brazens it out as this is the best way of dealing with them. Picard tries to sleep, but with Data sharing his quarters and looming over him it's difficult. After news of Sarek's death Picard feels the mission has changed as he still has Sarek's memories and must not only send Sarek's message of paternal love to Spock, but also tell him his father has died. Picard doesn't say it, but in a way he's the last vestige of Sarek. Data asks why Spock wouldn't be logical about his father's death, and Picard points out that it's not that simple to remove emotional barriers especially when you're too late to change things. I wonder how much Picard is thinking of his own relationship with his deceased father? This is a situation where Picard feels the emotions on both sides and it's all sadness.
Riker: adventurer, lover, middle-management
When Picard first tells Riker about Spock and Sarek's difficult relationship they both pause, presumably contemplating their own father issues. After all Picard's deceased father seemed to be a Luddite vineyard owner and Riker's dad is a jerk. Riker doesn't try to protect Picard from this super dangerous mission, but then the orders came from an Admiral.
Riker takes command when Picard leaves and has his own investigation into The Mystery of the Twisted Metal Fragments. Riker gets very irritated with the fussy Quartermaster of the scrapyard. I don't really understand the ranks but I'd guess the Quartermaster and Riker are at a similar level? I know the Quartermaster is a jerk, but it isn't as though Riker never became a stickler for protocol when he decided he didn't like someone. Riker decides Troi can deal with the Quartermaster after she suggests a more submissive approach, he's gleeful at palming this off onto her. That is being a bad ex, Riker, you suck at this! I imagine Troi was the social secretary in their relationship. Riker acts decisively regarding the missing ships where the Quartermaster is just shocked. I guess that makes Riker victorious in this pissing contest.
Does Not Compute
It turns out Data's ears aren't detachable and Dr Crusher considers how her team will change his pigmentation to appear Romulan. When Data created a child she chose which species to look like, so surely Data has something that can accomplish this? Of course he's unlikely to have a Romulan setting.
|This feels familiar|
Future Is Better
I think this is the first time we see the process behind inter-species disguise/transformation. Dr Crusher considers the challenge that Data poses and measures Picard very exactly for facial prosthetics. She also mentions that Picard and Data will have to go see the ship's barber to get their hairpieces designed. I wonder if this is a way of acknowledging the work of the real hair and makeup artists who are obviously an important part of the show? If so, that's really nice. Having said that prosthetics and hairpieces don't sound very techy. I know that such transformations are used later in TNG and DS9, but they always seemed more surgical to me. Plus prosthetics don't explain when characters (Quark and Dukat for example) have their physical features reduced in size.
Perrin comments that it's been a long time since she's tasted real mint tea as the Vulcan version of mint isn't recognisable. Don't they have replicators on Vulcan? I mean Picard hasn't made that tea out of real mint that's grown somewhere on the ship, he's just got it from the replicator. I could see Vulcans deciding that flavours are illogical though, so maybe their replicators aren't good at making things taste like real food? One look at Perrin's outfit shows Vulcan fashion is still super illogical.
I'm glad that Perrin appears again, and we get a brief follow up on her situation. We see how caring for her dying husband has hurt her, although he's pretty dismissive of her. She doesn't ever complain or seek support on her own behalf and her anger towards Spock is rooted in protectiveness of Sarek. She almost seems to feel things on Sarek's behalf. I wonder if this is a comment on the emotional labour often performed by wives in traditional marriages? We know very little of Perrin outside her wife role, except that she likes and misses mint tea.
Riker gets Troi to deal with the Quartermaster after she suggests being more placatory; this whole thing feels not great, even if it is meant to be funny. Partly because it seems like a more feminine approach and Riker just dumps the task on Troi without even considering her advice. Partly it's that he's just too gleefully smug about doing it. There's also the fact that Troi is fairly explicitly being used as eye candy (which admittedly makes subtext into super blunt text). The Quartermaster is condescending as he identifies Troi as a "handsome woman" after sizing her up and it's tacky that he basically calls her a distracting tactic right to her face. What I don't understand is why there wouldn't be any attractive ladies in that area? What does the location have to do with the gender or appearance of people there? Also why would the non-human Quartermaster have the same standards of beauty? Troi is left to listen to the Quartermaster and act fascinated; emotional labour as women's work again.
The visiting Admiral is a woman; she is decisive and does nothing awful. That's pretty good for an Admiral. I don't know much about her but she seems pretty cool. I think she's my favourite Admiral so far.
Picard is relying on Gowron's gratitude for a) being his arbiter of succession and b) exposing the secret alliance between his rivals and the Romulans, thus ensuring he won the recent civil war. Worf says that Gowron has rewritten Klingon history to emphasise his own actions and ignore the contributions of Picard, the Enterprise and the Federation. While this might not be very fair it is a shrewd political move as Klingon ideas of honour and worthiness are based on perceived strength and bluster (hmm, I wonder what that is like -_-). Gowron is downplaying the help he got and distancing himself from his former allies. The only thing that's weird about this is that Worf refers to it as history, when it happened at most a few months ago. Although initially inconvenient as Picard can't just ask Gowron for a ship, it turns out he can influence Gowron by suggesting he'll contact one of Gowron's rivals (non-interference is only a problem when the Captain thinks it should be). True Klingon history (or y'know recent events) shows that whoever Picard supports is victorious.
When Is This?
So this is series 5 episode 7 and Picard says it's been about a year since he mind-melded with Sarek in series 3 episode 23, meaning all of series 4 is less than a year long. The O'Briens got married in Data's Day (s4, ep11) and their child (Molly remains unnamed) is born a month early in Disaster (s5, ep 5). Now it could be that Keiko was pregnant when she got married (might explain her fluctuating moods), but it still feels like time has gone a bit odd. Especially when you consider that Worf refers to Gowron rewriting Klingon "history" by erasing Picard's part in the events of Redemption (Parts 1 and 2), which were only 7 episodes ago. Let's not even get into how old Worf's son is (not relevant here, but another source of temporal confusion). Of course they are travelling interstellar distances faster than light speed, so time onboard is probably pretty screwy compared to anyone in a fixed position. Plus a year doesn't have to be 365.25 Earth days, they're in space! There's probably a standard year-unit based on somewhere/something else entirely.
Look it's Spock! He was in this shadowy cave the whole time, just waiting for a suitably dramatic moment to step forward.
Judging by the initial screen this is the first episode after Gene Roddenberry died.