Star Trek The Next Generation: Descent, Part 1

While "Descent" is a perfectly serviceable cliffhanger season finale, it left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.

It all boils down to Data. His nature is kind, his conscience a perfect balance between right and wrong. He understands logic, but tries to apply the appropriate emulated emotions to everything he does because he aspires to humanity. To have that suddenly called into question creates an unsettling situation and as the first part of a two-parter, we aren’t given any definitive answers.

While it is very likely that Lore is manipulating Data in some way, the idea that Data can be manipulated to the point where he betrays his crew and the Federation, all for a taste of emotion, feels like a different kind of betrayal. The idea that Data can only have negative emotions like anger and hate when compassion is his defining human trait not only feels wrong but distinctly against type. Like a new junkie, Data’s actions defied his well-defined character, and felt like character assassination. Of course, that is the whole point. What could possibly drive Data to act in such a way?

Oh, and the Borg are back… sort of. In a very uninspiring way, Hugh returning to the Borg collective has robbed them of the collective and their general menace. We now have Borg acting like an overly accessorized normal adversary, like the Klingons or Romulans. They have names, and they get upset when their people die. In other words, with the zombie/insect hive mind aspect of the Borg stripped away, the primary reason they were so terrifying is gone.

While this builds on the plot thread created by "I Borg," it is mostly disappointing. Having a Borg prisoner play mind games with Data was just silly. The writers clearly wanted the scene to create tension; instead it just made me roll my eyes. In addition, they actively highlighted the Borg playing with a device on his arm, which seemed to spur Data’s emotional reaction. Another clue that these blatant character gymnastics are solely designed to fit a plot.

I did like some of the character moments, especially Troi and Geordi trying to come to terms with Data’s erratic behavior. It made the best of a bad situation, and while it was irritating to watch our beloved Data go through something so out of character, it was well acted. The whole chase sequence following the Borg through subspace distortions was also pretty well done, and gave the episode some much needed action.

Bits:

Stephen Hawking appeared as himself, and is the only person in Star Trek history to have done so.

According to Memory Alpha, this episode was called "Descent" not because of Data's fall from grace, but because they were going to feature the ship crashing – partially for script reasons, and partially because Marina Sirtis and Gates McFadden hadn't signed onto season seven and they wanted a convenient way to write them out if necessary.

This is only the third time that a woman has been in command of the Enterprise-D. Tasha and Troi have both been in command once previously.

The USS Gorkon was named for the Klingon Chancellor Gorkon from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

Lore's fortress is actually a famous building in Simi Valley, California called the Brandeis-Bardin Insitute. It is has been used in numerous movies in TV shows, notably it served as Camp Khitomer in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (twice in as many bits), Chuck, The Mentalist and my favorite as the Command Center in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

Quotes:

Einstein: "All the quantum fluctuations in the universe will not change the cards in your hand."
Hawking: "Wrong again, Albert."

Newton: "Do not patronize me, sir. I invented physics. The day that apple fell on my head was the most momentous day in the history of science."
Hawking: "Not the apple story again..."

Picard: "Transmit another copy of Starfleet's ship recognition protocols, and tell them to read it this time!"

Riker: "They were fast, aggressive, almost vicious. It was more like fighting Klingons than... Borg. (to Worf) No offense."
Worf: "None taken."

Data "The sons of Soong have joined together, and together we will destroy the Federation."

The main problem with this episode was that it was trying to be an ambitious season-ender akin to "The Best of Both Worlds;" instead, it is closer to "Time's Arrow" in both depth and plotting.

2 out of 4 Emphatic Borg.

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

1 comment:

Billie Doux said...

Totally agree, J.D. It might have been a bit more fun if the emotions forced on Data were something other than anger, like affection. But that wouldn't "go" with the Borg plot. And I sighed when Lore was revealed.