Star Trek The Next Generation: Starship Mine

"It has been quite a day, has it not?"

I loved everything about this episode except the title.
"Starship Mine" makes it sound like Picard is having a love affair with the Enterprise. Although one could argue that he actually is. The opening scenes with all of the frantic preparation for the evacuation ended with Picard alone, looking about the bridge fondly and even caressing a chair here and a railing there.

Morgan Gendel, the writer of this episode, has insisted that he wasn't going for Die Hard, but come on. Picard was about to take a much needed break. When he realized that terrorists were taking over the ship, he hid, and then took them down one by one. When they caught him, he pretended to be someone less threatening so that they would underestimate him. Later, he talked with the terrorists using their own communication device, and outwitted them twice by sabotaging their plans (cutting the rungs in the crawl space he knew they would have to use, and setting up the explosion in Ten Forward). Not to mention the power outages and squeezing through tight spaces. If that isn't Die Hard, my name isn't Doux. (Well, actually it's not, but you know what I mean.)

Some critics out there complained that the repeated saddle joke was too much. Personally, I thought it was a fun way of showing how comfortable the bridge crew was with their bad-ass captain. Not to mention that it worked as set-up because it was what made Picard go back to the ship alone and change clothes, which later allowed him to masquerade as Mot the barber when he got caught. (I really liked that bit because it was just what Picard would do.) Picard didn't hesitate to kill the terrorists when he had to, but the microexpressions on his face signaled clearly how he felt about it. And I liked how sensible it was to arm himself with a laser welder and then hit up Worf's quarters for a crossbow.

Just like Die Hard, the bad guys appeared to be terrorists but were in fact just thieves pulling a complicated heist. Points for casting a woman as their ruthless leader, Kelsey (Marie Marshall, who kept reminding me of Nana Visitor) and Patricia Tallman from Babylon 5 as her equally ruthless henchwoman. And Picard's initial confrontation was with Tim Russ, who would soon be spending a lot of time on a starship himself. How droll that Picard took him down with a Vulcan nerve pinch, which I assume Picard learned how to do because of his mind meld with Sarek.


I also have to give them points for situating that final scene in Ten Forward, which was logically the last place that the baryon sweep would go. We don't see Picard pulling out the little containment device for the trilithium resin, but it was like an exclamation point at the end of the sentence. Boom.

The B plot comic relief, with the senior staff forced to attend a reception on Arkaria, was also terrific – at least at the beginning. Brent Spiner is arguably the second best actor in the series but his performance is usually pretty subtle. I could not stop laughing as Data was practicing his new "small talk" subroutine by mimicking Commander "Hutch" Hutchinson's every word and gesture, and it actually got funnier as Riker finally introduced Hutch to Data, pitting the two of them against each other in a small talk Thunderdome. The way the rest of the senior staff reacted to Data and Hutch was genuinely funny as well.


Unfortunately, the poorly attended reception turned deadly as Kelsey's accomplices were forced to take the bridge crew hostage. (I bet Worf was sorry he missed it.) Although they were far from helpless as they rigged Geordi's visor to cause unconsciousness so that Data could disarm the bad guys.

Sadly, Hutch, the master of small talk, apparently didn't survive being shot. What happened to him? It was like he vanished for the second half of the episode without so much as a mention, or even a glimpse of his body on the floor.

Bits:

— Stardate 46682.4. Arkaria Base, where the Enterprise had to undergo a "baryon sweep" because of whats-its that were accumulated from too much warp travel.

— David Spielberg did a lovely job as Hutch. And I hadn't even noticed until I checked the cast list, but Glenn Morshower, who seems to be in everything, was under a lot of make-up playing Orton.

— Kelsey had Janeway hair, even though there is no Janeway yet.

— There was real Earth-type fruit at the reception. I kept thinking about the original series episode "Journey to Babel" where the food at the reception was mostly marshmallows painted in primary colors.

— Picard's riding outfit didn't fit terribly well. During the action sequences, Stewart's midriff kept appearing.

— Deanna was back in her purple catsuit for the reception. I didn't miss it. I did like the way she leaned on Riker's shoulder, almost as if it was unintentional. That probably happened because Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis were deliberately trying to keep their characters' former romantic relationship alive during the series.

— Would "Starship Mine" fit into the standard definition of a bottle show?

Quotes:

Picard: "Are you all right?"
Data: "Yes, sir. I am attempting to fill a silent moment with non-relevant conversation."
Picard: "Ah. Small talk."
Data: "Yes, sir. I have found that humans often use 'small talk' during awkward moments. Therefore, I have written a new subroutine for that purpose. How did I do?"
Picard: "Perhaps it was a little too non-relevant."

Picard: "Mister La Forge, I cannot excuse my entire senior staff. Mister Worf beat you to it."
It was Worf's little smile that made this one funny.

Riker: "I have to admit it has a strange sort of fascination. How long can two people talk about nothing?"



Picard: "Actually, it came in handy. I only wish I'd had the opportunity to use it on a horse."
Worf: "Of course."

I'll readily admit that it's not one of the greats, but "Starship Mine" is fast-paced, different and a lot of fun. Three and a half out of four saddles,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

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