Relics (original airdate: October 12th, 1992)
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Alexander Singer
Every once in a while, TNG would remind us of its roots in the original series. In the pilot episode, Dr. McCoy made a brief appearance. Later, Spock would play a pivotal in an arc that involved the Romulans. Those guest spots were fun but didn’t tug at our heartstrings, definitely not in the way this return would. The Enterprise comes across a Dyson sphere thanks to a distress call from the lost USS Jenolan. Trapped onboard in a rigged transporter stasis is Montgomery Scott, the engineer on the old Enterprise. He’s been kept the same age he was at the time of the accident due to his quick thinking with the transporter.
Once on the Enterprise-D, Scotty is overwhelmed with the changes in technology. I was reminded of his scene in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, where he struggled to work a 1980s PC, believing you spoke into the mouse. Anytime Scotty leaves his particular era, he is a fish out of water, befuddled by the way another time’s technology works. Geordi tries to ease Scotty into life in the 24th century, but the old man gets in the way and is ultimately ordered to leave Engineering. Eventually, Scotty shows his older knowledge and creative thinking is useful when he saves the entire Enterprise crew.
This is an episode my wife admitted made her tear up, and she has not ever been a Trekkie or really consumed a lot of Star Trek media. I think that speaks to the quality of Ronald Moore’s writing that he can evoke those feelings in people with only a passing knowledge of Scotty. When it comes to guest spots by original cast members, this is hands down the best one. The technical aspects of the plot entirely justify Scotty’s appearance without feeling heavily contrived. James Doohan is brilliant at bringing his character back to life and imbuing him with depth and pathos. You genuinely feel the grief of being the last one standing, all your friends are gone, and the world just doesn’t feel the same anymore.
Chain of Command Parts 1 & 2 (original airdates: December 14th & December 21st, 1992)
Written by Frank Abatemarco and Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Robert Scheerer and Les Landau
This is a case of Part 2 being vastly superior to the first installment. The first episode is essential to understand the second, though. It sets up a scenario where Picard, Crusher, and Worf are pulled off of regular duty on the Enterprise to engage in a top-secret mission for Starfleet. Captain Edward Jellico is put in command of the Enterprise, and the first part deals heavily with Riker’s bristling over Jellico’s regimented and harsh style of leadership. It’s okay but not nearly as good as what waits in the second part.
We eventually learn that the mission involves going into Cardassian territory to gather intelligence on a pending attack. That goes south, and Picard ends up captured by Gul Madred (David Warner), a Cardassian who specializes in interrogations. In a similar fashion to the Room 101 sequence in Orwell’s 1984, Picard is systematically broken down. Madred uses the lights in his office as the focus of this torture, forcing Picard to acknowledge over and over that there are five lights when, in reality, only four exist.
David Warner does a fantastic job as Madred; his career had led him to specialize in playing these insidious villain types. The moments between him and Picard are the best of this whole two-parter, full of genuine tension and peril. It’s one of the few times we see someone really get the best of Picard, and you wouldn’t be faulted for worrying if this will totally shatter the captain. My one complaint is that this arc should have more ripples in episodes that follow, the same way the Locutus arc haunted Picard into the feature films. Deep Space Nine became the show that developed the Cardassian conflict more, so maybe because of that, we don’t get much follow up.