Probably the best resolution possible of one of my favorite cliffhangers ever.
The odds are unthinkable, especially in the near perfect future of Star Trek, and the worst happens in this episode: the shocking graveyard of starships at Wolf 359, Starfleet's last stand to save the Earth. The Borg are simply too powerful. Borrowing a bit from one of my favorite movies, the Borg can't be bargained with, they can't be reasoned with, they don't feel pity, or remorse, or fear, and they absolutely will not stop until everyone is assimilated. (I just realized that I repeated what Mark Greig said about the Borg in his review of "Q Who," but that's okay. I was subconsciously stealing from the best.)
In part one, Riker had made it clear several times that he loved being the first officer of the Enterprise, that he had his own personal reasons for turning down command of his own starship. After his field promotion, Captain Riker walked into Picard's office, stood there and looked at Picard's chair, and said, "What would you do?" And then Guinan walked in, sat down in Picard's chair, and told Riker that he had to let Picard go. That if Picard wrote the book, it was time to throw the book away.
|One of Guinan's more impressive outfits|
Not because it was cool, even though it was. I loved it because of the way it showed how much our characters cared about each other. Dr. Crusher monitored Picard's life signs, Counselor Troi connected to Picard's consciousness and emotions, O'Brien watched Data's positronic whatevers. Even while they were facing oblivion as a species and Riker was actively preparing to sacrifice them all by ramming the Borg ship at warp speed, this scene showed that our characters cared deeply about each other. It showed why humans are superior to the Borg. At least, I always thought that's what they were going for.
Star Trek, even in its Next Gen days, tended to have a reset button. Not this time, even though Commander Shelby left, Riker returned to his role as first officer, and Picard was back in his office, sporting some interesting looking hard bandages. But it was clear from the haunted expression in Picard's eyes that this experience, having his body and soul taken away from him and used against the people and the ship that he loved, not even having the option of dying while his body was being changed (I'm assuming the Borg didn't bother with anesthetic) wasn't something he could just shake off. In that last moment, Picard went to the window and looked out at space, something I don't remember him ever doing before. I always thought that moment was to illustrate the fact that Picard would never see the universe the same way again.
Just one more thing. Shelby was a breakthrough female character for Next Gen, and I was disappointed that they didn't add her to the cast. I can remember at the time being thrilled about her, and it had nothing to do with liking her character. She was too brash, overly ambitious, a pain in the ass who was constantly pushing the envelope, but that was the point. Shelby could have been played by a male actor without changing a word she said. That didn't happen much in 1990.
I loved Shelby's face when Riker got the field promotion to captain and you could tell what she was thinking: wow, I really blew my chances when I tromped all over him these past few days. Fortunately, Riker wasn't that petty. He treated her exactly the way a good captain should -- he reined her in when she went too far, but got the best possible performance from her at a time when her advanced knowledge of the Borg was critical. He also chose to promote her to first officer, bypassing his more deserving colleagues, because learning a new job takes a lot of work. Keeping his team intact right where they were was a clever move on Riker's part.
It's also interesting that with so many ships in the fleet destroyed, even the Melbourne, Riker will no longer have promotions thrown at him. For now, anyway.
-- Stardate 44001.4. Deep space, Wolf 359, and Sector 001, a.k.a. our own solar system.
-- As Juliette pointed out in her excellent review of part one, I always thought the Borg ignoring people walking through their ship was chilling. Hey, man, you're completely unimportant to us. I also liked the modulating phasers that worked a couple of times and then didn't work at all. It added tension to every scene on board the Borg ship.
-- There were rumors during the summer while we were all waiting for the resolution of this cliffhanger that Patrick Stewart missed working on stage and might take this opportunity to leave the series. It certainly added a lot to my angst level at the time.
-- I also remember being upset at the end when there seemed to be a possibility that they might prevent the Borg from self-destructing. That felt like a terrible mistake to me, even considering what Starfleet could have learned. Fortunately, no.
-- The nanites were a great idea, even if it would have taken too long to implement. I honestly don't recall, but I bet there's a return to that idea at some future point.
-- Saucer separation. (Full beer in the Next Gen drinking game.) So smart, because Riker knew Picard would ignore the saucer section.
-- I loved Troi telling Riker that it wasn't appropriate for him to lead the away team. And that he listened to her and followed her suggestion without bristling. She was right.
-- I also loved how Patrick Stewart as Locutus called Riker "Number One." It gives me the shudders, every single time I hear it.
-- Okay, I love everything about this two-parter, beginning to end.
Riker: "We're no longer just fighting the Borg. We're fighting the life experience they've stolen from Captain Picard. Now how the hell do we defeat an enemy that knows us better than we know ourselves?"
Worf: "The Borg have neither honor nor courage. That is our greatest advantage."
Locutus: "Worf, Klingon species, a warrior race. You too will be assimilated."
Worf: "The Klingon Empire will never yield."
Locutus: "Why do you resist? We only wish to raise the quality of life for all species."
Worf: "I like my species the way it is."
Riker: "One of them jumps off a cliff, they all jump off?"
Troi: "How do you feel?"
Picard: "Almost human. With just a bit of a headache."
"The Best of Both Worlds" is undoubtedly the best two-parter Next Gen ever did. Five out of four beers,
Billie Doux loves good television, especially science fiction, and spends way too much time writing about it.