A quick note: I was on jury duty last week, and was unable to do the Rewatch this past Thursday because I was doing my civic duty. But the trial’s over now, so we’re back in the saddle.
“The High Ground”
Written by Melinda M. Snodgrass
Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont
Season 3, Episode 12
Production episode 40273-160
Original air date: January 29, 1990
Captain’s Log: Rutia IV is a trading partner of the Federation that has been having some civil unrest — Ansata separatists have been agitating for autonomy for their people on the western continent. Terrorist activity by the Ansata has been on the rise.
The Enterprise arrives to deliver medical supplies, and as Data, Worf, and Crusher are about to go to a meeting, a bomb goes off, wounding several, whom Crusher insists on treating. As she works, Worf, an Ansata cop, and Data all go over to her to point out the dangers of sticking around a bomb site, to no avail, and Picard is also unable to convince her to get the hell out of there. Picard mulls over the possibility of beaming her out against her will, to which Riker sagely replies, “I don’t want to be in the transporter room to greet her.”
After Picard reluctantly tells the away team to hold their position until Rutian medics can arrive to take over from Crusher, an Ansata appears out of nowhere, shoots a Rutian cop, grabs Crusher, and disappears with her. The method used left no trace, and they can’t find her combadge.
Meanwhile, Crusher refuses to speak to her captor, a fairly charming man named Kyril Finn. She eventually, reluctantly, agrees to eat some food, and finally talks to Finn. He accuses the Federation of taking sides by giving the Rutians medical supplies. Crusher doesn’t understand, saying that people were hurt. Finn coldly says, “I know — I hurt them.” Finn then leads Crusher to a ward of very sick people and hands her Federation medical supplies stolen from the dispensary.
Picard and Riker meet with Alexana Devos, the director of Rutian security. They have no idea how the Ansata teleportation works, but they’ve taken devices off dead terrorists. Picard takes one back to the ship and gives it to Data, La Forge, and Wes to study. Riker stays with Devos, who has developed a tremendous animus toward the Ansata, thanks to everything she’s seen, not the least of which was a bomb that killed sixty schoolchildren.
Crusher’s patients are dying, and it’s due to the use of an inverter that allows them to travel via dimensional shift. Data, La Forge, and Wes are able to reverse engineer the device they brought back to figure out how the inverter works. Data points out that using this dimensional shift would be an irrational act; Picard reminds him that terrorists are often irrational. And using the inverter may explain why the Ansata need the services of a doctor…
Finn and Crusher get into a heated argument about the morality of what he’s doing — started, amusingly, by her noticing him sketching on a pad. Finn likens himself to George Washington, countering Crusher’s retort that he was a military general rather than a terrorist by saying that he’s only called that because he won.
Devos brings in pretty much anyone connected with the Ansata for questioning in an attempt to find Crusher. Riker gets fed up with the I-know-nothing treatment from everyone and finally tells one person — a waiter from the café where the bombing at the beginning of the episode happened, and who was looking very suspiciously at Crusher before she was taken — to take a message to the Ansata that the Federation is willing to negotiate.
The waiter goes back to the Ansata camp and tells Finn that the Federation is collaborating with the Rutians to engineer massive arrests, an understandable if completely wrong interpretation of Riker’s words. Finn’s response is to attack the ship. Several Ansata teleport onto the ship using the inverter, shooting one of La Forge’s engineers (and almost shooting three others including La Forge), and placing an explosive device on the engine core. La Forge is able to get rid of the explosive, but then two more Ansata — including Finn — show up on the bridge. Picard hauls off and belts Finn (which, I gotta say, is fun to watch) and Worf get shot while simultaneously shooting his attacker. The two Ansata teleport off, Finn with Picard, thus giving them another hostage.
Finn teleports to the bridge and gives Troi their demands: they want the Federation to embargo Rutia and serve as mediators for negotiations between the Rutians and the Ansata. But that last dimensional shift finally gives Wes and Data the ability to track them down, which thrills the heck out of Devos. Riker and Worf join Devos and a team of Ansata cops to the caverns. They take out the generator, plunging the caverns into darkness.
Finn goes to shoot Picard, but before he can pull the trigger, Devos shoots him in the back. Another Ansata — a young boy — holds a gun on Riker and Devos. Crusher convinces him to put the gun down, and then he’s taken away. Devos sees the boy as Finn’s replacement, but Riker expresses hope that one boy putting his gun down might be the right beginning for peace.
Back on the ship the Crusher family is reunited and the Enterprise runs away very fast from Rutia.
Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: The inverter the Ansata uses warps their DNA, causing their cellular structure to break down. But standard sensors can’t pick up the shift or the people’s movements with it, so it’s an effective use of covert transport once you get the whole past it’ll-kill-you thing….
Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi tells Picard that Wes needs his strength — and then Picard and Wes have basically no scenes together — and then is the only person on the ship who doesn’t understand why La Forge told the transporter room to lock onto his own signal to beam the explosive off (he put his combadge on the explosive so the transporter could get a signal).
There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf opines from that Crusher wasn’t a random target. Riker asks why when the Federation isn’t involved, and Worf points out that they are involved now. He later gets shot in failing to protect Picard, and feels remorse, and so goes down on the away team and helps stop the terrorists.
The Boy!?: Wes requests to go down with Picard and Riker to meet with Devos, but Picard instead assigns him to track the dimensional shifts. He’s the one who figures out how to track the terrorists’ movements, though Wes himself says he was just part of the team (which included La Forge and Data, who did a lot of the work, too).
No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Picard and Crusher fall into their usual banter when Picard is captured. And Crusher starts to tell Picard something very important, but then is interrupted. This will happen again in “Remember Me,” and quickly become a running joke among Star Trek fans.
Finn also flirts with Crusher while scaring the piss out of her, which is just creepy.
Oh, and Riker is put together with a pretty woman and totally doesn’t flirt with her. Which would’ve been even creepier, given the circumstances, so that’s a good thing, but it’s worth mentioning for its oddness.
I believe I said that. “Captain, there’s a lot to admire about the Federation, but there’s a hint of moral cowardice in your dealings with nonaligned planets. You do business with a government that’s crushing us, and then you say you aren’t involved? You’re very much involved, you just don’t want to get dirty.”
Finn, pointing out his issues with the Prime Directive.
Welcome Aboard: Richard Cox does a decent job as Finn — he’s kinda slimy, but the part calls for that. In fact, he’s the same kind of slimy as Devinoni Ral, but here it actually works.
But the standout here is Canadian actor Kerrie Keane, who is superb as Devos. She blew me away in the role, creating a three-dimensional character from what could’ve been a fairly cliché role.
Trivial Matters: At one point, Data makes a reference to the Irish Reunification of 2024, and because of that, the BBC refused to air the episode. It didn’t air on the U.K. government’s station until 2007, though it did air on satellite and cable (sometimes with that reference cut), and was released unedited on DVD in the U.K.
Make it So: “This is no way to live.” It’s interesting — this is the first of several times that the 24th-century spinoffs of Star Trek would deal with terrorism, to the point where main characters in both Deep Space Nine and Voyager (Kira, Chakotay, Torres) have histories as terrorists.
This particular episode is a little weird to watch after living through September 11th, Guantanamo Bay, the “war on terror,” the TSA and its intrusive policies, and the PATRIOT Act. The way the Rutians live reminded me a bit of what it was like living in New York in 2002.
The writing staff is less than happy with the episode, which stunned me when I read that, because I actually thought the episode was an effective colloquy on terrorism and what it does to people. Devos is probably the best example — someone who’s stuck in the middle of it and has come to hate the terrorists not because of her views, but because of what she’s seen.
And yet Finn does have a point, at least occasionally — he’s fighting for freedom, which really is what the colonists were fighting for in the late 18th century, even though the episode is a far stronger analogue for the Troubles in Ireland.
But it works for me. It’s the first episode of Trek that was both written and directed by women, and both Crusher and Devos in particular shine. It’s one of Crusher’s best episodes, and Devos is a great guest character.
Warp factor rating: 7
Keith R.A. DeCandido lives in New York and was there on September 11th. It kinda sucked. His thoughts on the subject are archived at his web site, which also has links to buy his incredibly brilliant books, not to mention his Facebook page, his Twitter feed, and his blog. Check it out.