Some episodes in Season Two might showcase how far the characters have come. I'm not sure this episode can be included amongst them. There were one or two great moments pulled off by this screenplay, but it pushed the envelope at several others, and contained quite a bit of eye-rolling dialogue.
The main premise is pulled off fairly well. The Captain needs an important heart surgery and has been, in the tradition of Starfleet Captains, resistant to treatment. Pulaski commands him to go get the care he's desperately needed. I thought the interaction between the two here showed why Pulaski might have been a fantastic long-term addition to the crew. No other character except maybe Guinan has pulled off that ability to balk Picard. Maybe Riker in the later years.
Anyhow, having him travel to the Starbase for treatment with Wesley was also inspired. The two needed to learn about each other. Wesley needs to see the man in the hero if he ever wants to be heroic himself. Picard needs to get over his own weirdness around young people and learn to share what he's learned in life.
But on the ship, ridiculousness abounded. Riker leads the Enterprise crew to Epsilon Nine Sector. I was weirded out by the whole Pakled race. I couldn't decide what the writer was making fun of, but it felt like he was making fun of something. I thought at first their affect was an act; that it turned out to be real was only more baffling: only their intent was deceptive. An entire race of people lacking the ability for critical thinking, now spacefaring? I was also weirded out by the treatment of Troi throughout. While she has some strong moments - I think she almost justified the whole Ship's Counselor thing in this episode: the ability to see beyond difference and newness to the true intent of others is a priceless one and could save many lives. Even Data notices this, pointing out her Betazed abilities to Riker. But until the Pakleds revealed their true nature, her advice was sort of ignored. How she presents that advice isn't very counselorey, either. Troi stalks onto the deck, looks angrily at the screen showing video of Geordi helping the Pakleds, then looks at Riker accusingly and makes cutting remarks leading up to her revealing the Pakled duplicity. It was weird. Troi is a mixed bag in this episode.
Later, too, Troi was presented in a way that came off as barely off-the-Betazed-farm. I was particularly struck by this exchange:
Riker: Perhaps Geordi should give them something they want. Something important. Then we simply create the right moment for him to take it away, and get him the hell out of there.For Gender Studies Minor Moi, this rang weird alarm bells. Are there male empaths in the Federation and how do they get treated when they suspect duplicity? In the end, though, the crew comes together in a way that's admirable and shows their ability to communicate and have faith and trust in each other. Pulaski, a specialist, is needed at the Starbase to save Picard. But Riker just can't leave without Geordi (which again is weird. Geordi doesn't seem to be in immediate harm, despite a few phaserings. But I digress.) They work up the aforementioned ruse, get Geordi back, get to the Starbase, Pulaski saves Picard, and the Enterprise sails the galaxy again.
Troi: Would you be suggesting a ruse of some sort?
Riker: (staring at Troi and seeming to enunciate v-e-r-y clearly) I would.
Bits and Pieces
Picard on the runabout served himself from a carafe of coffee? The carafe struck me as a wrong-note: wouldn't he have replicated a single cup?
Dialogue of the Pakleds is completely out there. "We look for... things!" "Computer things!" Really?
OMG, the doctors at the Starbase. And what was that machine with the weird three laser heads? The whole episode suffered from an overdose of futuristic medical gobbledegook. I know, this was filmed a while ago, but they had heart medicine in the Eighties - didn't they?
Unresolved Storyline: what happened to the Pakleds? It was like they rescued Geordi and took off. These were apparently repeat criminals. But it looks like they went back to the Sector, so maybe Picard resolved the problem in a heart-ened way.
Picard: I was looking forward to seeing the Epsilon Pulsar Cluster for myself.
Pulaski: Then we'll perform the procedure right here.
Picard: Absolutely not.
Pulaski: My staff and I are fully capable of giving you the replacement.
Picard: That's not the point. It would be–It would be inappropriate for you to carry out the procedure.
Pulaski: Captain Picard, I had no idea. You do have an ego, don't you?
Reginod [onscreen]: You can make us strong!
LaForge [onscreen]: It's not something I really like to talk about.
Worf: Any classified weapons knowledge you share with your captors will be considered treason.
LaForge [confused]: But I may have no choice.
Worf: You will die without honour.
LaForge [disgruntled]: Thanks a lot, Worf.
Worf: You will never attain the twenty fourth level of awareness.
LaForge [interested]: Twenty-four? That's quite a challenge.
Worf: Indeed. Twenty four is the gateway to heroic salvation.
Some great moments can't save the episode from its own weirdness. One and a half out of four weird shooty lasery heart-medicine thingies.