Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Gambit, Part II”

“Gambit, Part II”
Written by Naren Shankar and Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Alexander Singer
Season 7, Episode 5
Production episode 40276-257
Original air date: October 18, 1993
Stardate: 47160.1

Captain’s Log: We get the salient portions of Part 1, and then we discover that Picard put disruptors on minimal power. While both nacelles are struck, no damage is done. Assuming that Riker did something to the weapons (which is half right), Data plays along, setting the ship adrift, cutting power to six decks, and reducing phaser power to 25% before returning fire. The Enterprise still does damage, though (possibly helped along by Picard), and Tallera convinces Baran (using logic, interestingly enough) to withdraw while they still can.

Data lets the ship go, despite Worf’s concern that their sheath will keep the Enterprise from tracking them once they go to warp. Data has Troi and La Forge look for some kind of hint that Riker may have sent, either through body language or via the transmission he used to send his command codes. Troi has no luck, but La Forge finds a coded message. It indicates a flight plan to the Hyralan sector. Since the Enterprise is faster than the mercenary ship, they head there at warp nine.

After getting away, Narik has to take the warp engines offline to repair the battle damage. Baran thanks Riker for his help in saving their asses, and Picard takes the opportunity to poke him with a stick, saying he’s betrayed his comrades, and he’s gone from a second-rate officer to a traitor and a coward. “How does that feel?” “Galen” asks snidely, to which Riker replies by hauling off and belting him. “I don’t know, how did that feel?” Riker asks, no doubt enjoying the chance at revenge for being kicked in the ribs in Part 1.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Gambit, Part II

Picard goes off to appraise more artifacts. Once again, Tallera comes to see him, wondering why he stopped firing on the Enterprise when the shields went down and why he continues to alienate Baran. Their discussion is interrupted by one of the artifacts being a match for Baran’s needs. When Tallera reports that they’ve found what they’re looking for, Baran tells her to bring it to him immediately without letting anyone else touch it.

Baran is in his quarters sharing a drink with Riker talking about Riker’s future, since his Starfleet career seems to have a fork in it. Baran also tells Riker that Galen’s usefulness is almost over, since the mission is now half done. But he wants Riker to get close to Galen, pretend to be his friend, find out who else is disloyal among Baran’s crew. By doing so, Riker will give himself the chance to move from prisoner to member of the crew—replacing Galen once Riker kills him at Baran’s order.

Riker goes to see Picard, who is bemused by the web of intrigue being woven on the ship thanks to Baran wanting Riker to “pretend” to be his friend. Picard also reveals that the artifact from Calder II isn’t Romulan, it’s Vulcan. They’re headed to Hyralan to rendezvous with a Klingon who will hand over a second artifact.

Playing along with Baran, Picard starts feeling out the crew about a mutiny. Narik agrees with the sentiment, but not the person expressing it; the only one the rest of the crew would follow is Tallera. After Narik leaves, Tallera herself confronts Picard with a weapon, demanding to know who he really is, as she found the coded message Picard embedded in the carrier wave when Riker sent his command codes.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Gambit, Part II

Then she pulls another surprise by holstering her weapon and identifying herself as T’Paal, an agent of the V’Shar, the Vulcan intelligence organization. She’s a covert operative, investigating a group of isolationists on Vulcan who wish to eliminate all alien influences on the Vulcan people.

The isolationists have hired Baran to find the Stone of Gol, a mythical weapon that was used in the time before Surak to amplify natural Vulcan telepathy so that one could kill with a thought. The one remaining piece was stolen from a museum on Vulcan a year ago, and since then mercenaries have been combing Vulcan and Romulan ruins trying to find the other two pieces.

T’Paal also makes it clear that she will destroy the ship in order to keep the psionic resonator from being reassembled.

The Enterprise arrives at the Hyralan sector, finding a one-person Klingon shuttlecraft, occupied by a taciturn Klingon named Koral, who refuses to answer any questions. Troi indicates that he is apprehensive, despite his demeanor. Worf suggests bringing the shuttle on board under the guise of a health and safety inspection, which is allowable by the terms of the Khitomer Accords. Data believes that’s not really following the spirit of the treaty, but Koral can always file a complaint with the JAG office.

Baran gets a message from Koral that he’s been detained by the Enterprise. Baran decides that he needs to board the Enterprise and take the other artifact, using his not-so-secret weapon of the ship’s former first officer. Riker agrees to help plan a raid on the ship.

Data and Troi bring Koral to the observation lounge, providing him with bloodwine—which he pointedly pours onto the carpet. Meanwhile, Crusher and Worf haven’t found anything, but before they can try to circumvent the treaty some other way, the raiding party beams on board. Picard remains in character as Galen, and doesn’t find the artifact on the shuttle. Riker realizes Koral must have it, and convinces Crusher to give up his location. After Riker stuns Worf and Crusher, they beam to the observation lounge. Picard takes the artifact from Koral’s pocket, and then Riker aims his weapon at him. Picard dodges and shoots back. Troi confirms that Riker’s dead, to which “Galen” says, “Good,” and he and the rest of the raiding party beam back.

After that, Troi tells Data that he’s only stunned, and Riker gets slowly up, admitting that he has some explaining to do.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Gambit, Part II

Upon beaming back, Picard gives Baran the artifact and then gives him a knuckle sandwich. When Narik reveals that Riker betrayed them on Baran’s order, they all stand against Baran. When Baran tries to reassert his authority by using the neural implant, he instead kills himself. Picard reveals that he switched the transponder codes. (And he didn’t do this sooner why?)

After destroying the control device for the neural implants, Picard takes command and learns that Baran was to deliver the artifacts to the T’Karath Sanctuary on Vulcan. T’Paal says she will go alone to the sanctuary, after placing the artifact in a secure location, and then take care of the isolationists. Picard thinks that’s risky, but T’Paal insists that this is a Vulcan matter.

Riker contacts Satok, the Vulcan Minister of Security, only to discover that the V’Shar has no operative aboard a mercenary ship. Which kinda messes things up a bit.

When they arrive at Vulcan, Picard tells T’Paal to bring only one artifact down, not both, to make sure they get paid. T’Paal’s response is to reveal that Picard’s a spy. Picard counters that T’Paal will just beam down and they’ll never hear from her again, and never get paid.

Vekor and Narik propose a compromise: they’ll beam down with “Tallera,” taking “Galen” as a hostage in case Starfleet interferes, and making sure that they get paid.

But when they beam down, T’Paal assembles the resonator, using the third piece that was stolen from the museum (by her, presumably) and kills Narik and Vekor with it. She then tries to goad Picard into picking up a weapon. However, Picard has read the glyphs on the stone, showing the symbol for peace between the symbols for war and death. Peaceful thoughts can stop the resonator from working, which is why it was dismantled after the time of the Awakening, when Vulcans embraced peace and logic. T’Paal tries to use it on Picard, and then on the away team that Riker leads to the surface when the Enterprise finds them, but at Picard’s urging, they all empty their minds of violent thoughts. (Somehow, this even works on Worf—then again, Worf is more emotionally controlled than most Klingons, so this kinda makes sense, though Picard does look more than a little worried when T’Paal turns the weapon on him.)

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Gambit, Part II

T’Paal and the remaining mercenaries are left to the tender mercies of the Vulcan authorities, while Picard—who’s technically dead—goes to take a nap, and Data escorts Riker—who’s technically a renegade—to the brig, to the latter’s considerable consternation.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi’s empathy proves useful, as her ability to read Riker and Picard allows her to play along when “Galen” shoots Riker, helping sell it to the mercenaries.

If I Only Had a Brain…: Data continues to do well in command, showing an observance of regulations, but also a willingness to bend the rules in order to get stuff done. And he gets to say “Make it so” and yank down his uniform jacket just like Picard. He also dresses down Worf quite skillfully….

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: …and Worf totally deserves it. The Klingon has a bit of trouble making the adjustment from security chief, where he’s expected to piss and moan, to first officer, where he’s supposed to carry out the captain’s orders, saving any disagreements he might have with his CO for when they speak in private, not in front of the crew (as Worf does on the bridge). But Worf gets the message, and they work quite well together after that. They also have a nice conversational coda reassuring each other that they’re still friends even though Data just (quite politely) ripped him a new one.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Gambit, Part II

I Believe I Said That: “Number One, will you set a course for Starbase 227? I’ll join you on the bridge shortly.”

“Wait a minute—you’ve been declared dead. You can’t give orders around here.”

“If we adhere to the exact letter of Starfleet regulations, then technically, sir, you have been declared a renegade. In fact, I believe you are facing twelve counts of court-martial offenses. You cannot give orders either, sir.”

“That’s quite right. And as I am supposed to be dead, I’ll go and get some sleep, and Mr. Data, I suggest that you escort Commander Riker to the brig.”

“Aye, sir. This way, sir.”

“Data, he was joking. You know that, right? Data?”

Picard, Riker, and Data at the end of the episode.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Gambit, Part II

Welcome Aboard: Richard Lynch as Baran, Robin Curtis as Tallera/T’Paal, Caitlin Brown as Vekor, Cameron Thor as Narik, and Sabrina LeBoeuf as Ensign Giusta all return from Part 1. In addition, basketball star James Worthy—apparently a huge Star Trek fan who got on the show after talking with Robert “Gowron” O’Reilly on a plane flight they shared—has an amusing guest turn as Koral. Koral’s unwillingness to talk has the double benefit of adding to the humor and not stretching Worthy too terribly much.

Trivial Matters: Scripter Ronald D. Moore named the Stone of Gol after the plateau where Spock was trying to undergo Kolinahr in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Plotter Naren Shankar joked that it could colloquially be called the Gol Stone….

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Gambit, Part II

This episode formally established what was generally believed in fan circles, and assumed in lots of tie-in fiction: that Vulcan was one of the founding worlds of the Federation. (The Enterprise episode “Zero Hour” will later confirm the other three founding worlds to be Earth, Andor, and Tellar.)

Vulcan’s history of savagery was established on the original series, first mentioned in “Balance of Terror,” and dramatized in “All Our Yesterdays”; “The Savage Curtain” established Surak as the one who led the way to the Awakening that T’Paal refers to in this episode. Visions of Surak and the Time of Awakening will be experienced by Captain Jonathan Archer in the Enterprise episodes “The Forge,” “Awakening,” and “Kir’Shara.”

This is not the first Star Trek story to deal with the notion of a subset of Vulcans wishing to purge illogical aliens from their lives—it was also the subject of the frontstory of the Diane Duane novel Spock’s World.

It’s likely that the Vulcan Security Directorate seen throughout Enterprise is an early version of the V’Shar. The V’Shar is not referenced again onscreen by name, but it’s used in several of Last Unicorn’s role-playing game modules, and appears in the novels Unspoken Truth by Margaret Wander Bonanno and Well of Souls by Ilsa J. Bick.

Koral dumps his drink in much the same pointed manner that Worf did when Q provided him with a drink in “Hide and Q.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Gambit, Part II

Make it So: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave.” Carries on nicely from Part 1, and I honestly don’t have much to add to what I said there—

—except for the Worf and Data bits. I’ve said in the past that some of TNG’s finest moments involve these two (their rescue of Picard in “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II,” their conversations in “Data’s Day,” “Birthright, Part I,” “Rightful Heir,” and “Second Chances,” just to give some examples). It’s so much fun watching these two, who are aggressively formal and polite in all their dealings—Data by programming, Worf by having spent a lifetime forcing himself to keep his warrior instincts in check among fragile humans—have a conversation on the subject of appropriate behavior for a first officer and expressing concern about destroyed friendships.

I also love the way scripter Ron Moore uses, not just what’s been established on screen about Vulcan history, but also some of the fan stuff about Surak that has popped up over the decades. And in the end, the weapon is defeated by peace—kinda sappy, yeah, but also totally Star Trek. And bits don’t make sense (how the heck did Picard just reprogram Baran’s controller?), but they’re relatively minor.

The episode is a delight, from Picard and Riker’s banter, both in character and as themselves, the look of confused shock on the faces of the Enterprise crew when Picard turns up alive as part of the raiding party, the expression on Troi’s face when Data and Worf come up with their rationalization for taking Koral’s shuttle on board, and the magnificent ending. And, of course, the classic shot of Worf looking (way way) up at Koral when they’re standing next to each other….

 

Warp factor rating: 6


Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at Arisia 2013 this weekend in Boston. Check out his schedule here.

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