I was not surprised to find out that Ronald D. Moore wrote this episode, finally finding his feet. The episode opens with Data acting in Henry V while Picard watches, mouthing the lines. Not only was this fun but it also set one of the themes of the episode - what it means to be a leader when you are taking your soldiers into a battle that might mean the death of them.
The Romulan general who defects gives us the chance to explore many things. What is the price of war versus the price of peace? Setal is willing to give up everything to ensure that his daughter will grow up rather than face the ravages of war and her possible death. When one of your top generals is starting to talk peace then perhaps it is time to listen. Setal decided to defect because he has ascertained that war would mean the end of the Romulan empire. His version of peace was more about preservation than any feel good idea of loving everyone. We often equate those who fight for peace with 'hippies' who have little sense of the brutal reality of the world. Instead, this episode argued that peace was actually rational and essential to survival.
Of course this whole idea was embedded in a situation of a hierarchical, military chain of command. Does Picard really equate to the 'king' in Henry V? This has always bothered me about STTNG. Apparently we are all much happier, peaceful human beings in the future but we still run our starships in today’s military terms. I think it shows a lack of imagination. And as clever as the plot was, I really enjoyed the twists and turns, it still came down to who has the bigger stick or to be more accurate, “we both have big sticks, shall we pummel each other or call it a draw?”
The exploration of Romulan culture and Romulus as a world was also fun and one of my favourite things about STTNG. We get to imagine totally different ways of being while staying connected to the character through common experiences, such as loving your children. This is the second episode in a row where the food stations have been used to show differences in culture and reactions to the synthesizing of food. How might we feel about our food being produced out of thin air and on another note, when did metric win the measurement war?
Another theme was the connections/contradictions between rational thought and intuition. I thought Geordi’s explanation was spot on and recent research has shown that we actually do use our ‘gut’ in decision-making. Picard uses his intuition and because of that he often has an ace (or several Klingon warships) up his sleeve.
Bits and Pieces
Stardate 43462.5 - 43465.2 In Federation space just outside the neutral zone.
Another bit of culture were the Klingon and Romulan curses. Interesting fact - Klingon does not come up as a misspelling in spell check!
I always enjoy Picard drinking Earl Grey tea. It does provide a counterpoint to the macho military theme. He should be drinking whiskey.
This episode made me want to see the firefalls of Gal Gath’thong.
Loved the coordinated walk of Picard and Riker to the consoles. I wonder how many takes that took?
Setal says he did it for nothing but he did prevent a war at that time and in testing the mettle of the Federation the Romulans found that the Federation is a more formidable enemy than they might have thought.
Setal: “Lieutenant Worf, I like him - to be more accurate I understand him. A warrior, proud, fearless, living only for combat. Exactly the type that will get us all killed if we’re not careful.”
Picard quoting Shakespeare: “Now if these men do not die well it will be a black matter for the king who led them to it.”
Setal: “Oh what a fool I’ve been to come looking for courage in a lair of cowards.”
Setal: “What you call 'massacres' were called the 'Norkan campaigns' on my world, Captain. One world’s butcher is another world’s hero.”
Picard: “You’re a traitor. Now if the bitter taste of that is unpalatable to you I am truly sorry but I will not risk my crew because you think you can dance on the edge of the Neutral Zone.”
Picard: “If the cause is just and honourable they are prepared to give their lives. Are you prepared to die today, Tomalak?”
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