Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Battle”

“The Battle”
Written by Larry Forrester and Herbert J. Wright
Directed by Rob Bowman
Season 1, Episode 8
Production episode 40271-110
Original air date: November 16, 1987
Stardate: 41723.9

Captain’s Log: The Enterprise rendezvous with a Ferengi vessel, which keeps them waiting for several days, telling them to “stand by.” Picard, meanwhile, has been suffering headaches, and Crusher can’t find a cause, though she does give him a painkiller.

DaiMon Bok, the commander of the Ferengi vessel, finally breaks the silence to say that he has a mutual problem to discuss in person and agrees to beam aboard in an hour. A Constellation-class starship comes into the system—Bok explains that it’s under his control. It’s a gift for Picard, whom Bok describes as “the hero of the Battle of Maxia.” That’s the hifalutin’ name the Ferengi give to an encounter Picard had under his previous command, the U.S.S. Stargazer, nine years previous, during which he fought an unidentified vessel and destroyed it. He had to abandon ship.

Bok explains that the “unidentified” ship was Ferengi, and the approaching ship is, in fact, the Stargazer, which Bok has salvaged—and gives it to Picard as a gift (to the chagrin of his first and second officers, who were expecting profit).

Picard tells the others what happened nine years ago: a vessel attacked the Stargazer for no reason. Out of desperation, Picard ordered the ship into maximum warp for half a second, stopping right at the enemy vessel—which thought the Stargazer was in two places at once for a moment—and enabling the Stargazer to destroy it while they fired at the false image. That tactic is now known as “the Picard Maneuver.”

An away team beams over. Picard is overcome with memories—and then, when he goes to his old quarters, is overcome with pain. A device in his footlocker glows—and a matching device on the Ferengi vessel is operated by Bok, who wants revenge on the “hero of Maxia.”

Data informs Riker that Picard’s personal log downloaded from the derelict tells a different story from the historical record. Picard ordered an unprovoked attack on the Ferengi ship, which was under a flag of truce. Riker must report this to Starfleet Command, even as Data tries to determine whether or not it’s a fake.

Picard & Crusher

Not tonight, Doctor, I have a headache….

Picard’s headaches grow worse. He’s been remembering the Stargazer‘s last voyage in his dreams, and he’s no longer sure if the logs were faked, if perhaps he did destroy the Ferengi ship for no reason. Crusher cannot determine the cause, but she does provide a sympathetic ear and a sedative so he can sleep.

But the sedative is no match for funky alien mind-control tech. (And honestly, when is it ever?) Bok turns the device up to 11, and Picard wakes up and hallucinates the Battle of Maxia.

The next morning, Picard seems well rested, and orders Riker to release the tractor beam on the Stargazer, allegedly to preserve power. Then Crusher, Troi, and Wes realize that some low-intensity transmissions from the Ferengi ship match anomalies in Picard’s brain scan—just in time for Picard to beam over to the no-longer-tethered Stargazer.

Bok is also on board the Stargazer, now holding the alien device. He orders shields raised, and explains to Picard that the DaiMon of the ship Picard destroyed nine years earlier was his son, and this whole thing is his revenge on his son’s murderer.

After Bok beams out, Picard starts reliving the battle, with the computer—set by Bok—responding to his verbal commands. The Enterprise manages to get the Stargazer back in a tractor beam, and—with help from a frantic Riker—Picard has the wherewithal to destroy the sphere.

Bok’s first officer relieves him of command for engaging in an unprofitable venture, Picard beams back on board, and the Enterprise tows the Stargazer home.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi senses something odd with Picard, and again something odd later on, but none of it is particularly useful, and it’s the Crusher family that does the work in figuring out what’s wrong. Nothing she senses is in any way useful.

Can’t We Just Reverse The Polarity?: “By comparing the Stargazer‘s main computer log to Captain Picard’s personal log, I found checksum discrepancies, sir.”

“What does that mean?”

“All information is time-coded by entry, and the bits, when totaled, produce an aggregate amount, which—”

“I don’t want a computer science lesson, Data!”

Data starts to explain the faked log, with Riker cutting off the babbling, which is quite likely the only time the word “checksum” has been used in dialogue in the history of Star Trek.

The boy!?: Wes comes all the way to the bridge from engineering to report something on long-range sensors, with Picard upbraiding him for not using ship’s communications, thus wasting valuable time. Later on, he notices that the transmissions from the Ferengi ship match Picard’s brain scan, and is rather irritatingly smug about it. Not that one can blame him, since none of the other fully trained Starfleet personnel figured it out. (Wil Wheaton himself pointed to this episode as cementing many fans’ hatred of the Wes character.)

If I Only Had a Brain…: Data devises a defense for the Picard Maneuver, and even confidently proclaims that there’s no question that he’s right. Of course, he’s proven correct just a few seconds later….

There Is No Honor In Being Pummeled: Worf has the incredibly exciting task of carrying Picard’s luggage from the Stargazer to the Enterprise.

DaiMon Bok and his officers

Beware Ferengi bearing gifts….

Welcome Aboard: The Ferengi are much less comical here than they were in “The Last Outpost,” and while it’s partly due to the toning down of their goofy mannerisms, credit must go to guest stars Frank Corsentino and Doug Warhit as, respectively, Bok and his first officer Kazago. Corsentino’s Bok is convincingly slimy, and Warhit shows impressive depths, particularly in his conversations with Riker.

I Believe I Said That: “Why do doctors always say the obvious as though it’s a revelation?”

“Why do captains always act like they’re immortal?”

Picard and Crusher, comparing the stereotypes of their jobs.

Trivial Matters: While Picard having a previous command was established in the TNG bible—and was used in David Gerrold’s novelization of “Encounter at Farpoint”—this was the first time it was mentioned on air. Michael Jan Friedman would write a series of novels focused on the Stargazer, starting with Reunion—a reuniting of the Stargazer crew on the Enterprise, based on what was learned in this epsiode—followed by The Valiant and the six Stargazer novels, which chronicled Picard’s first year in command of the ship. Several other novels and stories, by Friedman and others, would make use of the Stargazer as well. The Battle of Maxia was novelized by Christopher L. Bennett in The Buried Age, a Picard-focused novel that bridged the nine-year gap between the battle and “Encounter at Farpoint.”

Make It So: A solid episode that has an interesting look into Picard’s past. Sir Patrick Stewart does a stellar job, modulating from pained to confused to nostalgic to frustrated to crazy, all quite convincingly. It’s fun seeing the Stargazer, which is a redress of the Enterprise bridge from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The crew’s enjoyment of seeing the old tech is palpable, but the near-reverence Picard has is a joy to see, even though it has the bitter tinge of Bok’s mind control. In particular, this episode nicely establishes that Picard had a life, a career, prior to the Enterprise, and that his experience as a commander long predates the start of the show. It gives the character greater depth.

Although many viewed it as too little too late, the Ferengi are at least a bit redeemed after their unfortunate first appearance in “The Last Outpost.” Bok’s revenge for his son is a good motive, if clichéd, and Kazago’s reasons for relieving him—the lack of profit—is a nice twist.

The episode is not without its flaws. The use of Troi and Wes is not the best, and letting the audience know about the mind-control device half-an-hour before the rest of the crew does soften the suspense. And then there’s Crusher’s clumsy exposition regarding medical advances, talking about how cool it is in the 24th century where they don’t have headaches or common colds. Gates McFadden manages not to slip into smug self-righteousness, but it’s a close call.

Ultimately, the episode works due to its focus on Picard, who is rapidly growing into a fascinating and complex character. (It’s also far from the last time he’ll have his mind messed with by external forces…)

Warp factor rating: 6.

Keith R.A. DeCandido has written bunches of Star Trek fiction, including several pieces that focused on Jean-Luc Picard, among them the comic book Perchance to Dream, the short story “Four Lights” in The Sky’s the Limit, the eBook Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment, the novel Q&A, and much more. Follow him online at his blog or on Facebook or Twitter under the username KRADeC.


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