Written by Richard Manning & Hans Beimler
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Season 3, Episode 18
Production episode 40273-166
Original air date: March 26, 1990
Captain’s Log: Picard is relaxing in his quarters following the Enterprise curing a Phyrox plague on Cor Caroli V when he is transported away, placed in an enclosed space with two other people: a Bolian Starfleet cadet and a Mizarian. Cadet Haro has been there three days, Tholl, the Mizarian, for twelve. There are four beds, so another may arrive soon.
They have not seen their captors, and been fed barely edible food. Picard attempts to communicate with their abductors to no avail, nor can he figure out why the three of them in particular were taken. The Mizarians have been conquered six times in the past three centuries, but Tholl is a simple public servant with no enemies, and Haro is a cadet.
Back on the Enterprise, Picard has been replaced with a duplicate. He orders the Enterprise to investigate a pulsar, ignoring their rendezvous with the Hood and refusing to allow anyone to communicate off-ship. Fake Picard tells Riker privately that he will need to keep things from Riker for a bit.
Fake Picard later interrupts the poker game, guilting La Forge into leaving to improve engine efficiency, and asking Troi how far the crew’s trust goes. He goes for a physical earlier than scheduled, which surprises and confuses Crusher — though not nearly as surprising as Fake Picard’s asking her to dinner in his quarters.
At the prison, the fourth abductee arrives: a Chalnoth named Esoqq, an anarchist warrior whom Picard barely manages to talk down. He can’t eat the food, which gives them a ticking clock to get out. Unfortunately, their attempt to gimmick the door — against Tholl’s advice, as he says he tried it before and got hurt by an energy beam — results in a nasty energy beam that hurts them badly.
On the Enterprise, Fake Picard and Crusher have a very frank conversation over dinner about their relationship, and even dance before Fake Picard abruptly ends the evening. The next day, he goes to Ten-Forward, “buys” ales for the entire crew and leads them in song, singing “Heart of Oak.” This prompts the senior staff to meet, worried about how Picard is acting.
In the prison, Tholl comes under suspicion by Esoqq, since they only have his word that he tried the door. Maybe they’re being spied upon from within. They all accuse each other — the Mizarians always collaborate with potential enemies, Picard is barking orders and going on fool’s errands, Esoqq is the only one who is armed, and so on — but Picard convinces them that they have to work together or they’ll never get out. Haro pleads Picard’s case by mentioning how he helped the primitive people on Mintaka III; Picard prompts her by also mentioning Cor Caroli V, and she finishes the thought by describing the Phyrox plague.
Their second attempt to open the door succeeds, but only to a point: there’s a solid wall behind the door, putting them back to square one. Picard at that point says he’s tired of playing. It isn’t a prison, he opines, it’s a lab experiment. They’re given problems to solve, reversals, quarrels. And each of them responds differently to authority: Picard, trained to command; Esoqq, the anarchist; Tholl, the collaborator; and Haro, the cadet, deferring to authority.
But Haro, Picard says, is their captor. A first-year cadet was unlikely to know about Mintaka, and since the Phyrox plague was classified, there’s no way she could possibly know about that. “Haro” admits that Picard is right, and she transforms into three identical aliens, who explain that they have no concept of authority, which is why they’re studying it. Now that the prisoners are aware of the experiment, the results will be tainted, so they are all returned to their homes.
Fake Picard moves the Enterprise dangerously close to the pulsar — so much so that Riker must disobey him and commit mutiny or risk endangering the crew. But then the alien brings Picard back. As the aliens explain themselves, Picard gives Riker a look; he silently signals Data and Worf to set up a containment force field that traps the aliens.
The aliens completely wig out when confined. Picard eventually frees them, pointing out that they know about them now, and how to imprison them. They bugger off, and Riker takes great pleasure in informing Picard that his doppelgänger sang....
Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Apparently, the alien fake versions of people are so convincing that Troi can’t sense any difference. Whether or not it’s an accomplishment by the aliens or a defiency on Troi’s part is left as an exercise for the viewer.
The Boy!?: When Riker mutinies against Fake Picard, everyone goes along with it without hesitation — except Wes, who looks nauseated.
No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Fake Picard completely hits all over Crusher — sadly for her, she isn’t on the bridge when the deception is revealed, so when she sees Picard, she thinks he’s still the one who wants to dance with her....
I Believe I Said That: “My given name is Esoqq. It means ’fighter’.”
“I’ll bet that half the names in the Chalnoth language mean ’fighter’.”
“Mizarians. Your names all mean ’surrender’.”
Esoqq and Tholl making fun of each other.
Welcome Aboard: Joycelyn O’Brien, Stephen Markle, and Reiner Schöne play off each other and Sir Patrick Stewart quite well as, respectively, Haro, Tholl, and Esoqq. Markle and Schöne are particularly effective as the testy coward and the bombastic anarchist. Jerry and Jeff Rector are deliberately bland as the alien observers.
Trivial Matters: Picard and Haro make reference to the events of “Who Watches the Watchers?” a previous Manning/Beimler script.
“Heart of Oak” is an 18th-century sea shanty that apparently remained popular into the 24th century, since not only did Picard sing it, but it looked like La Forge and, amusingly, Worf both knew the words, as did the rest of Ten-Forward.
Make it So: “I find it hard to believe you’re that good a singer.” This is half an excellent episode, and it’s the half that takes place in a locked room. The experiment that Picard, Esoqq, and Tholl are trapped in by the aliens posing as Haro is a fascinating construct, in a nicely designed set (points to production designer Richard James for the set and ever-excellent director Winrich Kolbe for shooting in it so well), and the whole thing plays out very nicely. The actors in particular sell it spectacularly.
Sadly, the same can’t be said for the flat, lifeless sequences on the Enterprise. It’s cute to have Picard act out of character, and it’s certainly more fun than it was in, say, “The Naked Now,” but it’s still tiresome and stupid and doesn’t really go anywhere unexpected. You know what every step is going to be, from the trust to the confusion to the concern to the mutiny, all at exactly the stage you expect. Blah.
Warp factor rating: 5