Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Relics”

“Relics”
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Alexander Singer
Season 6, Episode 4
Production episode 40276-230
Original air date: October 12, 1992
Stardate: 46125.3

Captain’s Log: The Enterprise is responding to a distress signal from the U.S.S. Jenolen, a transport ship that was reported missing in this sector 75 years earlier. Turns out the ship has crashed on a Dyson Sphere—a hollow sphere built around a sun, with a diameter of 200 million miles—that the Enterprise didn’t detect until it got close because of its massive gravitational field interfering with sensors.

Worf finds the Jenolen’s signal on the sphere, Ensign Rager moves into position, and Data finds the ship impacted on the surface. No life signs, but there’s power and life support is working, so Riker leads an away team that includes Worf and La Forge.

La Forge is surprised to find the transporter is still online, and it’s been jury-rigged to keep a pattern in the matter stream in a cycle that has kept the pattern from degrading and power flowing to it indefinitely. La Forge and Riker are impressed by the engineering work, and they realize that someone might be alive in the buffer. La Forge rematerializes the pattern—which reveals itself to be Captain Montgomery Scott.

Scotty was on his way to retirement on the Jenolen when they found the Dyson Sphere. The ship crashed, and only Scotty and Ensign Matt Franklin survived. To Scotty’s dismay, Franklin’s pattern degraded 53%, so he didn’t survive his transporter trick.

There’s a bit of culture shock, as Scotty realizes he’s been gone for 75 years. (The sight of Worf in a Starfleet uniform is particularly jarring.) When they beam back, Scotty immediately notices that the resonance pattern has changed, and Riker asks La Forge to serve as Scotty’s guide to the 24th century.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Relics

La Forge takes him to sickbay, where Crusher heals his wounds, then orders him to get some rest. Scotty would rather follow La Forge to engineering, but he obeys doctor’s orders, and is escorted to quarters by Ensign Kane, where he’s stunned by the size of the cabin. He starts waxing rhapsodic to Kane about the old days—making reference to the events of both “Elaan of Troyius” and “Wolf in the Fold”—but the ensign excuses himself before he can seriously start in on the storytelling.

Scotty eventually tires of sitting in his quarters, and goes to engineering. La Forge says he doesn’t have time for a tour—but Scotty doesn’t want a tour, he wants to work. Unfortunately, Scotty’s 75-year gap in engineering is a problem, and once again Scotty starts reminiscing, this time about the events of “The Naked Time,” and also starts poking around the dilithium chamber and giving La Forge unwanted advice about padding your repair estimates (Scotty’s trade secret, revealed back in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock). He pretty much gets on La Forge’s last nerve, and Scotty finally leaves in a huff after the obligatory I-was-crawling-around-engine-cores-when-your-grandfather-was-in-diapers line.

Naturally, Scotty’s next stop is the bar: he goes into Ten-Forward, and orders a Scotch. However, it’s a syntheholic Scotch, and it tastes wretched to Scotty. Data comes to his rescue, and finds a bottle of actual alcohol, which he pours for the aged engineer. He also tells Scotty about the holodeck, and that’s Scotty’s next stop—clutching the bottle of booze—where he asks for a re-creation of the original Enterprise bridge.

Scotty is overcome, and walks over to his old engineering station, raising a toast to his former crewmates.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Relics

Picard then enters the holodeck, and Scotty asks to share a drink with him. The two reminisce, Scotty about the Enterprise , Picard about his first command, the Stargazer. The weight of the decades seems to be crashing down on Scotty, as he’s 75 years out of date, and isn’t a raw cadet who can learn how to be an engineer all over again. He bitterly shuts the holodeck off, saying it’s time he acted his age.

Later, Picard summons La Forge to his ready room, asking if they’ve had any success accessing the Jenolen’s logs. They haven’t, and Picard suggests having Scotty try to access them, since he’s more familiar with the systems. Initially La Forge fobs off the duty of beaming down with him on one of his engineers, but Picard asks La Forge as a favor to do it himself—he wants Scotty to feel useful again. La Forge understands, and agrees.

After the pair of them beam down, the Enterprise moves toward what appears to be a communications device—it’s an antenna giving off subspace signals. They get there, and they find a portal that Riker figures is the front door to the interior of the Dyson Sphere. “Should we ring the bell?”

The moment Worf opens a channel to the antenna, the Enterprise is hit with a tractor beam. The portal opens, and the ship is pulled into the sphere. Unfortunately, the tractor beam’s resonance frequency is incompatible with the ship’s power systems—even after the beam’s turned off (which happens once they’re inside), the momentum is carrying them forward, and Rager can’t reverse course, as impulse engines are down. They’re heading straight for the sun that the sphere surrounds. They manage to use maneuvering thrusters to turn the ship so that they orbit the sun rather than dive-bomb it.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Relics

On the Jenolen, Scotty and La Forge are working to get at the sensor logs, with little luck. Scotty bitches about how old and useless the ship is (referring mostly to himself), and La Forge points out about all the good things about the old ship and how it’d still be in service today if it hadn’t crashed, and how just because something’s old, doesn’t mean you throw it away (referring mostly to Scotty).

When La Forge tries to contact the Enterprise to get a widget they can try to use to access the logs, there’s no answer (as the ship’s now in the sphere). La Forge suggests trying to get the Jenolen up and running, which Scotty dismisses as daft for about ten reasons, all of which he lists, and then proceeds to go and get started on it, to La Forge’s amusement.

Data scans the interior of the sphere, to discover that it’s been abandoned. The star is unstable, kicking up solar flares. The Enterprise triggered an automated pilot aid that brought people in and out of the sphere, and now they’re stuck with an underpowered ship that is barely holding shields against the unstable sun’s spitting.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Relics

Scotty and La Forge get the Jenolen active. Scotty asks La Forge to take command, even though he’s the senior officer, as Scotty, despite his rank, never wanted to be anything other than an engineer. They follow the Enterprise ion trail to the portal. They trigger the tractor beams—but from a safe distance so the beams won’t snag them. The doors open, and then the beams go off, and the Jenolen flies into the doorway, jamming it open with shields.

The Enterprise flies toward the jammed-open hatch. The Jenolen’s helm control’s shot, so they have to beam La Forge and Scotty off and then destroy the Jenolen in order to get through. They do that (inexplicably beaming the pair out through the shields, which should be impossible), just making it through the hatch, with the two engineers safely back on board.

Later, La Forge is escorting Scotty to the shuttle bay, telling him the story of the events of “Galaxy’s Child” (presumably just the parts about the alien child, leaving out the parts about how incredibly creepy he was). Picard gives Scotty one of the Enterprise shuttles for his own use. He says his goodbyes to the crew, and sets off for whatever new adventures may come his way.

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: Scotty is taken aback by a number of changes, from the resonance frequency in the transporter to the ability to recrystalize dilithium to the change from duotronics to isolinear chips. At one point, La Forge resists a procedure because it goes against the specs—except it turns out that Scotty wrote those specs.

Syntheholics Anonymous: Guinan has a small supply of real booze in Ten-Forward. (I’m betting some of it is Klingon stuff for Worf.) One such is a bottle of Aldebaran Whiskey, which Picard gave her.

If I Only Had a Brain…: Data serves as Scotty’s bartender, providing him with an actual alcoholic beverage as opposed to the standard-issue synthehol, to wit, the Aldebaran Whiskey, which he doesn’t recognize, and so must simply say to Scotty that “it is green.” (This is a callback to one of Scotty’s lines when he gets the Kelvan Tomar drunk in “By Any Other Name.”)

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Relics

What Happens on the Holodeck Stays on the Holodeck: Scotty uses the holodeck to re-create the bridge from the original series, and it’s a total fangasm. (The command chair and navigation console were rented from Steve Horch, who had built them for use at conventions. The background consoles were mostly bluescreened from the empty bridge shots in the episodes “This Side of Paradise” and “The Mark of Gideon.” The only one they had to build was the engineering console that Scotty sat at.)

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Relics

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Scotty is taken aback, to say the least, by a Klingon in a Starfleet uniform. (This is the same man who referred to “those Klingon devils” in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, after all.) In the end, when everyone’s saying goodbye to Scotty, he and Worf just kind of look at each other awkwardly and walk away.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Relics

In the Driver’s Seat: Ensign Rager returns, and she performs an incredibly nifty, and totally unappreciated, bit of piloting, as she flies the big, glunky Enterprise through a rapidly closing hatch at top speed. Seriously, that’s some amazing threading of a needle, and you kinda wish somebody had congratulated the poor woman on basically saving everyone’s ass.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Relics

I Believe I Said That: “I told the captain I would have this diagnostic done in an hour.”

“And how long will it really take you?”

“An hour.”

“Oh, you didn’t tell him how long it would really take, did you?”

Scotty giving La Forge a lesson in being a miracle worker.

Welcome Aboard: Lanei Chapman returns as Ensign Rager, and, of course, the late James Doohan returned to the role he was best known for, making him the fourth original series star to appear on one of the spinoffs (following DeForest Kelley in “Encounter at Farpoint,” Mark Lenard in “Sarek” and “Unification,” and Leonard Nimoy in “Unification” and “Unification II”).

Trivial Matters: Scotty’s line about Jim Kirk himself rescuing him is at odds with the Star Trek Generations prelude, when Scotty was present when Kirk was presumed killed on the Enterprise-B (which was written and produced two years after this episode, but which takes place before it). Ronald D. Moore, who wrote both, has said in interviews that they could hardly not have Scotty in Generations and that they could live with the inconsistency to have a beloved character in that film. And he’s right.

This episode was novelized by Michael Jan Friedman, the third TNG episode to get that treatment, after “Encounter at Farpoint” and “Unification.” In the novel, Friedman expands the role of Ensign Kane, includes the characters of O’Brien and Guinan, has Scotty interacting with holographic versions of the original series cast on the re-creation of the bridge (this was part of the original script, involving bluescreening old footage into the episode, but it had to be cut for budgetary reasons; similar technology would later be used in the Deep Space Nine episode “Trials and Tribble-ations”), and shows the Enterprise crew exploring the interior of the Dyson Sphere.

Further exploration of the Dyson Sphere occurred in the aptly titled TNG novel Dyson Sphere by George Zebrowski & Charles Pellegrino.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Relics

The Dyson Sphere is a real theory, postulated by physicist Freeman Dyson, inspired by Olaf Stapledon’s novel Star Maker, and seen in a number of novels, most popularly Larry Niven’s “Ringworld” series (not to mention the Star Trek novel The Starless World by Gordon Eklund).

While this is Scotty’s only appearance in the 24th century on screen, he’s appeared all over the tie-in fiction. Most notably, he was a regular in the Starfleet Corps of Engineers series of eBooks that were published between 2000 and 2007 (most of which have been reprinted in trade paperbacks), and he was the focus of one of the eBooks, The Future Begins by Steve Mollmann & Michael Schuster. Two novels had him as a primary character, Gene DeWeese’s Engines of Destiny and David A. McIntee’s Indistinguishable from Magic. Among his many other appearances are the novels New Frontier: Renaissance by Peter David, Crossover by Michael Jan Friedman, Ship of the Line by Diane Carey, the Vulcan’s Soul trilogy by Josepha Sherman & Susan Shwartz, the various and sundry Kirk-focused books by William Shatner and Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens, and your humble rewatcher’s A Time for War, a Time for Peace; the comic book stories “Out of Time” by Michael Jan Friedman, Steve Erwin, & Charles Barnett III in Star Trek: The Next Generation Special#2 and “Old Debts” by Kevin Ryan, Ken Save, & Shephard Hendrix in ST:TNG Special#3; the short stories “Ancient History” by Robert J. Mendenhall in Strange New Worlds VI and “Safe Harbors” by Howard Weinstein in Tales of the Dominion War; and many more too numerous to list here.

Make it So: “It is green.” On its own, this comes across as a missed opportunity of a plot, as a Dyson Sphere is very much what Star Trek is all about, and relegating it to a background element seems wasteful of such a wonderful concept.

But who cares? Scotty’s back! And this story services the return of a TOS character far better than “Unification” and “Unification II,” which fell totally apart in the end.

I remember when the episode first aired, two friends of mine—both of whom are professional writers, and both of whom have written Trek fiction—declared the episode a failure specifically because the crew of the Enterprise should’ve been treated Scotty with more reverence. It was a classic case of confusing how a fan would react versus how a character in the setting would react. La Forge’s annoyance with Scotty makes perfect sense. Hell, it’s exactly the way Scotty would have reacted—remember his response in “The Ultimate Computer” to the intrusion of the M-5 into his engine room?

Besides, stories work better when they have somewhere to go. “Relics” isn’t just about Scotty adjusting to the 24th century, it’s also about La Forge adjusting to Scotty. Both engineers have to cross a gulf in this episode, and in the end they work well together. LeVar Burton gets a ton of credit here, as he’s forced to be Doohan’s straight man for most of the episode, but in the end he becomes almost an equal, certainly a colleague, and surely a friend. (That friendship continued to be explored in the tie-in fiction; see above.)

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Relics

The meat of the episode is the holodeck scene, not just for the loving re-creation of a classic set that we all know and love, but for Scotty’s own self-realizations and for the way Picard draws him out with his own nostalgia for the Stargazer. It’s a beautiful scene, subtly and expertly played by James Doohan and especially Sir Patrick Stewart.

Doohan’s performance here is especially entertaining, because the character of Scotty has always been bombastic and bordering on caricature (often crossing that border), but he makes it work here, as the bombast helps sell the character’s displacement.

This episode is nostalgia done right, a story about letting go of the past, about trying to change with the times, and about adjusting to the new while not forgetting what’s good about the old.

 

Warp factor rating: 8


Keith R.A. DeCandido had a great time writing Scotty in various Starfleet Corps of Engineers stories and especially in A Time for War, a Time for Peace.

71 Comments

Subscribe to this thread