Star Trek The Next Generation: The Pegasus

"You were the captain, I was the ensign. I was just following orders."

A good episode. But I really wish we hadn't been able to guess exactly how it would end.

Admiral Erik Pressman's mission was to find the wreckage of the Pegasus, a starship that was thought to be completely destroyed, in order to conceal a critical secret aboard her from those pesky sniffing-around Romulans. Twelve years ago, Admiral Pressman was the Pegasus' captain when his crew mutinied. Riker, a young babyfaced ensign at the time, was a member of that crew and chose to back his captain.

Early on, Picard told Admiral Pressman why he chose Riker as his second when Next Generation began – Picard wanted someone who wouldn't be a yes man, who would always give him his honest opinion even if they disagreed. Pressman was the opposite: he wanted blind, unwavering loyalty. It's not surprising that Riker, a young ensign right out of the Academy, would give him that back then, but Riker has matured. When Riker wouldn't tell Picard what was going on with Pressman's mission, Picard said he would trust Riker to do the right thing. And of course, Riker did. I found it somewhat annoying that Riker kept his mouth shut as long as he did, but if he hadn't, there would have been no drama.

Starfleet admirals all seem to go bad eventually, don't they? Admiral Pressman's true personality was revealed when he simply ignored the bodies of his former crew frozen in time in the wreckage of the Pegasus. He treated them like furniture. And he broke the terms of a Federation treaty to do something he thought would give Starfleet an edge, and I would get that, except that it was still treason.

And OMG, Admiral Pressman was played by a baby Terry O'Quinn with fake gray hair, clearly trying to look 60 when he was only 42. Yes, I get why they did that. Terry O'Quinn and Jonathan Frakes were the same age, and not ageing Pressman would have felt wrong. But it kept jumping out at me while I was doing this review because I spent six years writing about Terry O'Quinn on Lost when he was actually the age he was trying to fake in this episode. Not that Terry O'Quinn wasn't awesome as Pressman, because he was. He's a terrific actor now, and he was a terrific actor back in the nineties, too.

What I liked most about this episode was the final reveal of Admiral Pressman's "secret." Throughout the episode we're going, what could the experiment possibly be, and how could it be so important? I was sure it would turn out to be a let-down – but it wasn't. For years, fans of the original series wondered what happened to the Romulan cloaking device that Kirk and Spock went undercover to steal in "The Enterprise Incident" and why the Federation never developed one of their own. And voila, a rational explanation: they did it secretly in violation of the Treaty of Algeron that kept the peace for sixty years.

The reason Ronald D. Moore decided to make the cloaking device the Macguffin was because, and this is hilarious, he was tired of getting that question from fans at conventions. It was also the last season of Next Gen, and they were winding things up and tying them with a bow. I have to say that incorporating phasing in the cloaking device added a creepiness to the denouement, with finding that the Pegasus solidified inside solid rock. It also imparted some significant tension to the scene where the Enterprise was phasing through the asteroid itself.



I also have to give points for the adorable opener that featured an uncomfortable Picard judging the winners of "Captain Picard Day." The best part was Jonathan Frakes doing a spot-on Patrick Stewart impression. And I just realized that it essentially foreshadowed the plot of the episode, because Riker did end up picking the winner. It really was "Captain Picard Day."

Bits:

— Stardate 47457.1, the Devolin system.

— Admiral Blackwell called to tell Picard to pick up Pressman from the USS Crazy Horse. A great historical name and so much cooler than the more boring starship names like Intrepid or Valiant.

— Deanna Troi was only in the opening "Captain Picard Day" scene, and Admiral Pressman kept sitting in Troi's seat on the Bridge. Was that because Troi might have told Picard that Pressman was deceiving him?

— Riker said he'd only had his beard for four years. I think it was longer than that.

— In line with the recent episode "Force of Nature," Picard was told he could break the warp speed limit this time. I know they're just being consistent, but it's a little bit silly. What would happen? Would a patrol starship pull the Enterprise over and give Picard a ticket?

— This episode is heavily featured in the series finale of Star Trek: Enterprise, "These Are the Voyages..." I had forgotten, but Memory Alpha reminded me.

— The Romulan warbird Terix was captained by Sirol (Michael Mack), who was appropriately devious and slimy with his plans to take the Enterprise crew back to be imprisoned on Romulus, and blowing up the entrance to the asteroid stranding the Enterprise within. Memory Alpha also tells me that this was the first time an African American played a Romulan.

— Riker will face disciplinary action for concealing Pressman's actions. If this had happened earlier in the series, it might have been a good explanation for why Riker didn't get a ship of his own.

— This episode was directed by LeVar Barton.

Quotes:

Picard: "You'll be interested to know that I've arranged for a Commander Riker day next month. I'm even considering making an entry myself."
Riker: "Great."

Riker: "I wasn't a hero, and neither were you. What you did was wrong, and I was wrong to support you, but I was too young and too stupid to realize it. You were the captain, I was the ensign. I was just following orders."

While this episode would have been more powerful if the outcome hadn't been predictable, it was still pretty good. Three out of four phasing cloaking devices,

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

No comments: