Star Trek The Next Generation: The High Ground

"Captain's log, Stardate 43510.7. The Enterprise has put in at Rutia IV to deliver medical supplies following an outbreak of violent protests. Although non-aligned, the planet has enjoyed a long trading relationship with the Federation. Now, a generation of peace has ended with terrorist attacks by Ansata separatists who are demanding autonomy and self-determination for their homeland on the western continent. Recreational shore leave has been prohibited and all away teams have been instructed to beam down armed."

With this episode the writers of The Next Generation decide to tackle the thorny subject of terrorism and do so in the most sloppy and ham-fisted way possible.

The biggest of this episode's many problems is that it fails completely to explore the subject it proclaims to explore. It has nothing substantial to say about terrorism, other than that it is bad, m'kay. If you are going to tackle an issue like terrorism you need to be willing to ask some of the difficult questions like why do people become terrorists in the first place. But this episode fails to explore the ideologies motivating both factions. What were the political, social or economical motivations behind the Ansatan's fight for independence? Without knowing the answers to any of these questions, the situation on Rutian IV is just too simplistic to carry any weight.

'The High Ground' is one of the most controversial episodes of Star Trek ever produced. For a very long time it was banned from being broadcast in Britain and the Republic of Ireland. This was because of Data's line that terrorist actions would eventually lead to the successful reunification of Ireland by 2024. Unsurprisingly, neither British nor Irish broadcasters were keen to show something that promoted the idea that terrorism can, and will, work, especially at a time when things were so bad in Northern Ireland that a peaceful end to the conflict seemed like a pipe dream.

As well as provocative, that line also showed that the writers had no real understanding of the complexities of the situation in Northern Ireland at the time, which is not good when you're producing an episode that is meant to be paralleling the conflict. Although, it isn't really fair to blame the episode's writer, Melinda Snodgrass, for this. She originally planned for this episode to parallel the American Revolution, with Picard as Cornwallis and the Romulans as the French, before being told to change it to, and these are her words, "Breakfast in Belfast".


Notes and Quotes

--The episode first aired in the UK on satellite channel Sky One, but with Data's line cut out. It was first shown unedited in 2006 on Sky One and in 2007 on BBC Two, nine years after the Good Friday Agreement. To date it has never aired on RTÉ, the official national broadcaster of the Republic of Ireland.

--Hands up who groaned loudly when Finn compared himself to George Washington?

--Speaking of Finn, he was as bad a leader as he was a character. None of his plans made a lick of sense. Did he really think declaring war on one of the major military powers in the quadrant would help his cause?

--What was Beverly going to tell Picard before the lights went out? Truly, a frustration moment for Picard/Crusher shippers.

Picard: "Beverly, you are arguing for a man who may have just murdered your son!"

Picard: "Beverly, it is our obligation to think of escape."
Crusher: "He's prepared to kill you."
Picard: "An excellent reason to escape."

Two out of four controversial lines.
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Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.

1 comment:

Billie Doux said...

Definitely a flawed episode for all the reasons you noted, Mark. I sort of wanted the terrorist plot to go away. The interdimensional transporter thing was sort of interesting because I find the transporter creepy in the first place.

Jean-Luc, there are things I want to tell you if we don't get out of this. Lights go out. Billie laughs out loud. The off-center skunk stripes on the aliens were a hoot, too. Did you notice the men all had black hair with a white stripe, and the women light-colored hair with a black stripe? :)