Jan 31 2012 1:15pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Sarek”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sarek”“Sarek”
Written by Marc Cushman & Jake Jacobs and Peter S. Beagle
Directed by Les Landau
Season 3, Episode 23
Production episode 40273-171
Original air date: May 14, 1990
Stardate: 43917.4

Captain’s Log: The Enterprise is given the singular honor of escorting Ambassador Sarek to a conference with the Legarans, a first contact that Sarek has worked on for 93 years. His staff — Ki Mendrossen, a human, and a Vulcan named Sakkath — beam aboard first, warning the captain that the ambassador will require rest and that Picard should forego the usual ceremonial stuff that ships do when ambassadors come on board. Picard is disappointed, but agrees.

Sarek materializes and insists upon seeing the conference room despite the attempts by his wife — a human woman named Perrin — and his staff to get him to rest. La Forge and Wes are getting the room ready for the Legarans, who have very specific requirements.

Picard expresses regret to Riker and Troi, as he was hoping to spend time with Sarek. They had even planned a concert in his honor, and Troi suggests that Picard invite his wife. She agrees to attend, and she winds up bringing Sarek along. However, during the concert — which starts with a performance of Mozart’s Quartet for Strings #19 in C, and then moves on to Brahms’s Sextet #1 in B-flat Major — Sarek is so moved by the music that he sheds a tear. Sakkath is telepathically working to hold Sarek’s emotional control together — something Troi senses — and Picard sees Perrin wipe Sarek’s tear away.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sarek”

Meanwhile, there are outbreaks of anger and violence all over the ship. Wes and La Forge go at it in the conference room — with some truly nasty things said — Crusher slaps Wes (for the first time ever), and Ten-Forward erupts in a good old-fashioned bar brawl.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sarek”

The incidents happened as soon as Sarek and his party beamed on board, and that, combined with what Troi sensed during the concert, leads Crusher to theorize that Sarek has a rare condition that occasionally afflicts Vulcans over the age of 200 called Bendii Syndrome. The problem is, the test for it will take several days to produce results, and the conference with the Legarans is in twelve hours. They cannot postpone — Mendrossen not-very-patiently explains that the schedule alone took three months to negotiate — and the Legarans will not accept any negotiator save for Sarek.

However, Sakkath admits to Data — when the android, urged by Picard, pushes the young Vulcan on the subject, especially since Sakkath queried Data regarding the diplomatic qualifications of both Picard and Troi — that the mission is in jeopardy.

Picard confronts Sarek, despite the best efforts of Perrin and Mendrossen to deflect him. Sakkath admits to Sarek that he has been using his “limited abilities” to keep Sarek’s emotions in check. Sarek angrily asks him to stop; Sakkath says that that would not be wise, and Sarek much more calmly admits that it is probably not wise, but it is necessary. Sakkath accedes and leaves.

Sarek wishes to speak to Picard alone, which he does over the objections of both Perrin and Mendrossen. Picard insists that Sarek is not able to complete his mission; Sarek’s emotional deterioration over the course of the scene proves him right.

It is Perrin who suggests a solution to Picard: a mind-meld. Sarek gains Picard’s emotional control, but Picard’s mind is flooded with Sarek’s very turbulent emotions unchecked. Crusher stays with the captain to help him through it, while Sarek is able to conclude the negotiations with the Legarans as scheduled.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sarek”

The mind-meld wears off and Sarek and Picard are themselves again, for better or worse. Quietly, Picard assures Perrin that Sarek loves her very much, which she already knew.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi senses both Sarek’s emotional turbulence and Sakkath’s attempts to control it during the concert. She also winds up with a pretty full plate of counseling sessions as people act uncharacteristically angry, and then immediately run to their shrink — when Crusher does so after slapping Wes, Troi says that the doctor is the tenth person to come to her with such a problem.

If I Only Had a Brain…: Data once again shows off his fiddlin’, having previously played it in “Elementary, Dear Data” and “The Ensigns of Command.” He gives Perrin and Sarek a choice of which performer he might emulate during the concert (he’s been programmed with 300 styles, though he only provides four options for them to choose from).

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sarek”

Later, Data gives Sakkath a tour of the ship, during which the latter queries him about Picard and Troi, something that raises suspicion — which Data himself later confirms in conversation with Sakkath. Data is also confused as to why Perrin, Sakkath, and Mendrossen are in such denial regarding Sarek’s condition.

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: As with “Hollow Pursuits,” it feels like a missed opportunity to not have Worf be one of the ones affected by Sarek’s emotional outbursts. One could argue that he was, and we just didn’t notice the difference, but Worf has as tight a rein on his emotions as any Vulcan (as seen in “Sins of the Father,” and to be spelled out in “Redemption Part 1” by Guinan and Worf himself in Deep Space Nine’s “Let He Who Is Without Sin…”).

On the other hand, Worf does have one of the episode’s funniest visuals, as he holds apart two of Ten-Forward’s bar-brawlers with his bare hands.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sarek”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sarek”

The Boy!?: Wes takes the cheapest of cheap shots at La Forge when they argue. Yes, La Forge says that Wes has no chance with someone like Ensign Suzanne DuMont, with whom he has a date, but Wes’s riposte is to throw holographic Leah Brahms in La Forge’s face.

Later on Crusher slaps him for being mean to La Forge. Well, okay, she actually slaps him for going on the date with DuMont instead of attending the concert....

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Quite a bit of romance in the air in this one, from the simple pleasantness of Wes having a date to Sarek and Perrin’s understated love for each other — which becomes somewhat less understated during the mind-meld, and Picard-as-Sarek laments that he could never tell Perrin or his first wife Amanda or his son Spock how much he loved them — to Crusher’s support of Picard during the meld, which is ostensibly as his doctor, but it quickly becomes apparent that she’s there as someone who cares deeply about Picard and wants to be there for him in his hour of need.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sarek”

I Believe I Said That: “I am so old. There is nothing left but dry bones and dead friends.”

Sarek’s emotions, but Picard’s words.

Welcome Aboard: Most of the guest stars in this episode are pretty nowhere. Joanna Miles is charmless as Perrin, William Denis is overly smarmy as Mendrossen (though I do love that his denial to Sarek’s face of Sakkath’s telepathic aid only confirms to Sarek that Sakkath did provide that aid), and Rocco Sisto is dreadful as Sakkath. Sisto makes the same mistake as far too many other guest Vulcans have made over the years, mistaking emotional control for emotionlessness.

Luckily, “most” is not all: the backbone of this episode is the late, great Mark Lenard, reprising his role as Ambassador Sarek, the father of Spock, which he debuted in “Journey to Babel” on the original series. Lenard’s portrayal of Sarek has been one of the most beloved recurring roles in the franchise’s history, and this episode is a beautiful illustration of why. (Lenard also played the unnamed Romulan commander in “Balance of Terror,” and the Klingon captain at the top of Star Trek: The Motion Picture; he was the first actor to play a Romulan, a Vulcan, and a Klingon.)

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sarek”

Trivial Matters: Besides “Journey to Babel,” Lenard previously appeared as Sarek in the animated episode “Yesteryear” and the movies Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. After this episode, Lenard will again appear as Sarek in “Unification Part 1,” as well as in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The character of Sarek has also been played by Jonathan Simpson (in flashback to Spock’s birth in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier) and Ben Cross (in the alternate timeline of the 2009 Star Trek).

When Sarek appears next in “Unification Part 1,” the Bendii Syndrome will have ravaged him pretty badly. The WildStorm comic book Enter the Wolves by A.C. Crispin, Howard Weinstein, and Carlos Mota is sort of the first part of a trilogy that this episode is the middle of, with “Unification” being the conclusion, involving Spock, Sarek, Perrin, and the Legarans.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sarek”

Picard mentions meeting Sarek briefly “at his son’s wedding.” While this was never explicitly stated as being Spock, authors Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz interpreted it as such when they chronicled Spock’s wedding to Saavik in the novel Vulcan’s Heart — and there’s a young Lieutenant Jean-Luc Picard present.

When Riker makes reference to Sarek’s triumphs, two of them are Coridan’s admission to the Federation (thus revealing for the first time what the decision was after the events of “Journey to Babel”) and the Klingon alliance (later chronicled, with Sarek present, in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country).

During the mind-meld, Picard channels Sarek making references to Spock and Amanda, the latter being his second wife, also a human, and Spock’s mother. Like Sarek, she first appeared in “Journey to Babel.”

Sarek’s outpouring of emotion through Picard is reminiscent of Spock’s similar outburst in “The Naked Time” on the original series; both scenes were done in a single take. Sarek’s regretful words that he never told Amanda how much he loved her were echoed in the alternate timeline of the 2009 Star Trek by Sarek after Amanda is killed.

Picard’s mind-meld with Sarek will prove useful (in a way) when combating the chova in your humble rewatcher’s comic book Perchance to Dream (reprinted in the trade paperback Enemy Unseen). His Bendii Syndrome is revealed to be the result of poisoning by extremists in the novel Avenger by William Shatner and Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sarek”

Sarek has appeared in more tie-in fiction than it is possible to list here, but mention simply must be made of A.C. Crispin’s landmark novel Sarek, which chronicles the ambassador’s life and times, and Diane Duane’s Spock’s World, which tells the history of Vulcan.

The DS9 episode “Favor the Bold” will establish a U.S.S. Sarek as a Starfleet ship.

Michael Piller stated in an interview that this episode had extra resonance for the staff because Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was also in ill health and deteriorating, and no longer capable of running the day-to-day of TNG.

This episode was written by Peter S. Beagle, best known as the author of The Last Unicorn. Beagle and Conlan Press have been promising a making-of type book about this episode called Writing Sarek, originally planned for October 2005, and which is still forthcoming, according to the publisher’s web site (last updated in August 2011).

Make it So: “It would be illogical! Illogical! Illogical!” Okay, I need to get the negative stuff out of the way first, and it will take a bit. This episode is, in many ways, a callback to “Journey to Babel,” Sarek’s first appearance, which the vast majority of Star Trek fans would consider a loving tribute.

Except for one problem: “Journey to Babel” is a simply awful episode.

Bear with me for this digression — I’ll try to be brief. Yes, “Journey to Babel” is an important episode because it gave us Spock’s parents, as well as Andorians and Tellarites, not to mention McCoy getting the last word. But it’s also dumb from the ground up and dumb from the roof on down the other side. We’ll leave aside that the matriarchal society we saw in “Amok Time” has apparently been abandoned for a female-subservient marriage that looks like something out of 1950s middle America. Instead, let’s focus on Spock’s refusal to give up command in order to help transfuse his father, which Amanda says is because of his Vulcan insistence on doing his duty to the exclusion of all else, never mind the fact that it has nothing to do with his being Vulcan, and everything to do with him being a commander in Starfleet. To make matters worse, being in charge is so important that Spock can afford to waste tons of time arguing with his mother in his quarters about the fact that he can’t spare the time for the transfusion (yet he can spare time to argue with his mother, y’know, a lot).

Amanda is, as portrayed in “Journey to Babel,” an awful character, a tiresomely submissive housewife with no identity beyond that of her husband. (Later fanfic and tie-in fiction would create a wonderfully complex backstory for her and make her into a formidable presence, but the actual character portrayed by Jane Wyatt in “Journey to Babel,” “Yesteryear,” and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is a cipher.)

So yeah — calling back to “Journey to Babel” is not really a good thing. We jump right in with Sarek’s new wife, Perrin — Amanda pretty much has to be dead by now, since she was middle-aged on the original series that took place a century earlier — who is referred to as “she who is my wife” by Sarek and “Mrs. Sarek” by the captain, thus making my teeth hurt all over again. Perrin also has no identity beyond being Sarek’s wife, and this time she states it explicitly to Picard. Mark Lenard beautifully and subtly plays Sarek’s obvious love for Perrin, but Joanna Miles does nothing to make you understand why he does. She’s an even worse cipher than Jane Wyatt was.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sarek”

The plot is also dopey sci-fi stuff with Sarek’s telepathy bleeding out into the rest of the crew, a well Trek will dip into again, and it’s mostly a chance for the regulars to yell for a scene or two, and to finally, after two years, have a bar fight in Ten-Forward. (And I’m sure lots of folks cheered when Wes got himself slapped.)

Ultimately, though — despite the amount of time I’ve spent on it — the bad stuff doesn’t matter, because the good does actually outweigh it by a considerable margin.

First off, this episode would get an above-average rating from me for the concert scene alone, which is an absolute tour de force by director Les Landau, who more than made up for his weird-ass lighting and camera angles in “Sins of the Father” with this episode. With the lovely Brahms music as the scene’s base, we see Sarek being emotionally affected, Sakkath leaning forward, Troi reacting to Sakkath (obviously sensing something more going on), Sarek shedding a tear, Picard’s shock as Perrin wipes it away, and then the entire party leaving. I’m not doing the scene justice here, but luckily YouTube is our friend.

And finally, what makes this episode rise far above its tired plot, its callbacks to an overrated episode, and its mediocre guest stars are two great actors at the absolute top of their game.

Lenard is, of course, brilliant: gentle, subtle, emotional, pained, dignified, struggling, frustrated, angry, sad. As an added bonus, after the mind-meld, he does a frighteningly good combination of Sarek and Picard, with nuances of both characters showing through. (When he calls out “Number One” upon arriving on the bridge, it’s a scary-good impersonation of Sir Patrick Stewart.) He does a stellar job, one of the best in the history of Star Trek.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sarek”

And it’s only the second-best performance in the episode. Stewart simply owns the mind-meld, a turbulent, raw scene that leaves the character of Sarek completely exposed, and Stewart sells it amazingly. At that point, the plot contrivances are forgotten, as you realize that the whole episode was worth it to watch this amazing scene (which was done in a single take).


Warp factor rating: 7

Keith R.A. DeCandido really enjoyed writing Sarek in his novel The Art of the Impossible, and especially loved making use of Picard’s mind-meld in the comic book Perchance to Dream. You can preorder the reissue of the trade paperback that includes the latter from IDW, which will be out in March. Go to his web site to order his newest works of fiction, and also be linked to his blog, his Facebook page, his Twitter feed, his many podcasts, and much much more.

1. Rootboy
Mark Lenard's best appearance in any Star Trek. His and Stewart's scene in Unification is the best part of that as well.
2. scott23
Love this episode, for all the reason cited by our humble rewatcher.

The last time I watched it I couldn't help but notice the huge amount of exposition Picard and Riker have in their corridor conversation. Thank you, Captain Infodump!
Scot Taylor
3. flapdragon
I don't give a flip about problems with the backstory; the fact is that this and "The Inner Light" are the very soul of Star Trek. If the episode had simply shown Mr. Lenard and Sir Patrick having a discussion of history over a game of tri-D chess, it would still be on the top 10 list of all the series' episodes.
Alice Arneson
4. Wetlandernw
To be charitable, one could assume that the characters of Amanda and Perrin simply make the same mistake of which you accuse the actors who play Vulcans: they mistake emotional control for emotionlessness. Not that I've done (or will do) an in-depth analysis of this, but I seem to recall both of them doing the "I'm trying to be emotionless" thing, at which they are (of course) completely unsuccessful anyway, and then they lose it completely and act like any normal human who has been trying so hard to supress all her emotions. It's a thought, anyway.
5. Mike S.
Well, I liked this too (even more so then our reviewer), but I think that I must comment on one of your critisisms "Journey to Babel."

First off, though it's not one of my TOS favorites, I did enjoy "Journey to Babel." Although you would never get Spock to admit it, I do believe that part of the reason for his not giving Sarek the transfusion is animosity, after his father basically disowned him for entering Starfleet, rather then Vulcan Academy of Sciences. I believe Spock also did it for the reasons you say (which doesn't work, I admit), but remember that Spock is half-human, so it's not as easy for him to hide his anger at his father.

It also somewhat makes sense to me, that Amanda and Perrin are not great women. Since Vulcans are so advanced from Humans, with regards to technology, they must find it logical that any Vulcan woman can do the job better then any human, so to say (hence, strong Vulcan woman like T'Pau and T'Lar). I assume it's the same thing WRT human males on Vulcan if they married one of those woman, but we never see any of those.

Worf is affected by Sarek's telepathy. That's why he put the "model officer" ensign (I can't remember his name) on report. I agree though, it would have been nice to see him just totally lash out at someone, rather then have it be done off-camera.

As an aside, does anyone else besides me think that someday, Mendrossen will be transported to the 29th centuary, where he will eventually become the second Captain Braxton? I swear, I thought it was Bruce McGil the first time I saw him in this episode, and was a little dissapointed to discover that it wasen't him.

I enjoyed this episode very much. Season 3 has two great episodes ("Yesterday's Enterprise" and the finale), and many others that are just one notch below that. I throw this one in the lot with "The Defector", "The Enemy", "The Offspring", et al.
Marcus W
6. toryx
I generally like the episode for the reasons you gave, Keith, but one of the things that I hate about it is that it's yet another episode built around stripping a Vulcan of his emotional control. They did it to Spock way too often, and then when they finally get a chance to have Sarek appear on TNG, they had to go and do it to him.

Sure, Stewart's masterful scene could not have happened without this particular plot device, and Mark Lenard could not have shone in quite the same way but I hate that they had to break the emotional control thing again. It sometimes seems as though the only idea a writer ever has when he or she is presented with representing the heart of a Vulcan is to strip away what makes a Vulcan in the first place.

So frustrating.
7. Christopher L. Bennett
Keith wrote: "Rocco Sisto is dreadful as Sakkath. Sisto makes the same mistake as far too many other guest Vulcans have made over the years, mistaking emotional control for emotionlessness."

TNG had pretty bad luck casting guest Vulcans. I remember the Vulcan Academy instructor in "The First Duty" being particularly awful. To be fair, playing Vulcan is a difficult balance for an actor and it can take a while to figure it out, more time than a day player would have. Even Leonard Nimoy needed much of the first season to get a handle on how to play Spock. Tim Russ got it pretty much right from the start, but that was because Tuvok was basically Tim Russ doing a Spock impression (which isn't a criticism, because it's the only good Spock impression I ever saw prior to Zachary Quinto's). I guess it's a testament to Mark Lenard that he was able to pull it off so superbly in just a few guest spots.

"We’ll leave aside that the matriarchal society we saw in “Amok Time” has apparently been abandoned for a female-subservient marriage that looks like something out of 1950s middle America."

Err, aren't you forgetting the part in "Amok Time" where T'Pau said that T'Pring would "become de property of de wictor" of the kal-if-fee? Hardly sounds matriarchal to me.

Anyway, I agree about the direction and performances here. Patrick Stewart did an absolutely amazing job in the mind-meld scene, even making his voice sound like Mark Lenard's. It's one of the greatest pieces of acting I've ever seen in my life, and it was a major influence for me when I wrote a scene of Picard having a major emotional breakdown/breakthrough in my TNG novel Greater Than the Sum.
8. Scavenger
@Mike S:
It also somewhat makes sense to me, that Amanda and Perrin are not great women
To borrow a phrase, that's illogical. There should be something exceptional about them, for super vulcan Sarek to fall in love with them. Exceptional brains, exceptional personality, exceptional beauty..something (and I'd assume "beauty" wouldn't necessisarily be the trait that he looks for..though he is a politician...)

Once you go human, you'll always be zoomin?
9. Tehanu
You might have mentioned Barbara Hambly's book Ishmael, which combines TOS with the TV show Here Come the Brides -- in which Mark Lenard played the sawmill owner who housed the "brides" before they were married. In the book, his character more or less adopts an amnesiac Spock who as the victim of a Klingon attack time-travels to the Seattle of the 1870s... it sounds silly, but it works beautifully. I re-read it whenever I need a Mark Lenard fix.
10. StrongDreams
I wonder if anyone has done a good treatment of the dynamics of why a human and a vulcan would ever fall in love in the first place.

Frequently, when humans who are very different from each other fall in love and marry, there are deeper emotional issues. Young girls marrying older men are seen to have "daddy issues." Sometimes people marry their opposites -- a spendthrift marrying a tightwad, or a free spirit marrying someone with control problems.

So what's with human/vulcan pairings? Whether Sarek/Amanda/Trip, or T'Pol/Trip, what's with a volcan who needs to be with a human who is, by their standards, pathologically emotional. And what's with a human who wants to be with a vulcan, the ultimate emotionally unavailable mate? There's got to be some serious mental pathology here (or there would be, if this was not Space Opera).
11. don3comp
Interesting that you bring up the issue of human women and the Vulcan they love. Cleveland Amory was an author about whom there was much to admire (especially his animal activism), but in his 1960s TV Guide review of the original series, he remarked (about Sarek and Amanda), "we've warned you men before about marrying below you." As TV Guide noted in a 1995 Trek tribute issue, Amory's review "makes you realize how ahead of its time 'Trek' really was."

That aside, I can take or leave "Journey," but I remember enjoying "Sarek" for precisely the scenes you mention (with Leonard and Stewart). I would note that this episode continued the eventual penetration of Picard's steely nature (as seen in "Encounter at Farpoint") that came to a head in "The Best of Both Worlds" and "Family," that lead to his becoming more emotionally open and closer to his crew in "All Good Things..."
12. John R. Ellis
I'm not someone who would call A.C. Crispin's novel a "landmark". In most of her Star Trek stuff, I find her to be far too much in love with the characters to say anything interesting about them other than she really, really, really likes them.
Justin Devlin
13. EnsignJayburd
@krad, It's true that in Amok Time T'Pau is introduced as a matriarchal figure and that she's probably the most important member of Spock's extended family. It's also true that T'Pring chose the Kalifee, but it was also completely unexpected. Everything having to do with Spock's wedding was ritualistic, based on old traditions, and admittedly less-than-logical. Therefore I don't think you can infer from those events that Vulcan is a matriarchal society. It may have been back during their emotional/illogical origins, but it isn't any longer. Besides, as earthmen we are all pretty much used to the fact that the woman gets the last word when it comes to wedding plans. ;)
Further, Surak is known as the "father" of the modern Vulcan civilization and T'Plana-Hath is noted as the "matron" of Vulcan philosophy. Seems like sexual equality to me...

I also think you overstate Amanda's subservience to Sarek in Journey To Babel and a bit harshly criticize her and Perrin as "ciphers." I would hypothesize that their seeming subservience has more to do with their being human than being female. It's also not a stretch to conclude that in the 23rd & 24th centuries, some women are simply content to be wives rather than careerists (See Janice Mannheim of We'll Always Have Paris). Oh and IMO, Jane Wyatt and Joanna Miles' acting performances are just fine as Amanda and Perrin, respectively. Although, both would turn in better performances in ST:IV (Wyatt) and Unification (Miles).

I agree that the concert scene is fantastically done. There is virtually no dialogue, but based on the expressions on the characters faces we know exactly what they are thinking/feeling. Wonderful, wonderful stuff. Ditto on Patrick Stewart's emotional turmoil scene. A monologue I pretty much have memorized based on how many times I've watched it.

This was the first TNG episode to truly bridge the gap between TOS and TNG. I remember how excited I was seeing the previews of this episode right before it originally aired. My expectations were understandably high and it completely lived up to them. Were the rating up to me I'd give this one a 9. Hell, it gets a 7 based solely on the virtue of the fact that it has Mark Lenard as Sarek. Sarek is far and away my favorite non-regular Star Trek character. He owns every scene he's in from his scenes in Journey To Babel, to his uncharacteristically emotional confrontation with Kirk in ST:III, to his logical showdown with the Klingon ambassador in ST:IV, to his (far too few) scenes in TNG. I wish there had been more of Sarek, but what we do have is precious.
Keith DeCandido
14. krad
Tehanu: Yeah, I remembered Ishmael this morning, long after I'd submitted the blog to Tor.com. Sarek's presence in the tie-in fiction is voluminous to say the least, and I knew I was going to leave stuff out.....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Keith DeCandido
15. krad
Quoth Mike S.: "Worf is affected by Sarek's telepathy. That's why he put the "model officer" ensign (I can't remember his name) on report."

Nope. It was Ensign D'Mato, and it was D'Mato who was affected by Sarek's telepathy, not Worf. If Worf was affected, he wouldn't have responded by filing a report--but D'Mato being dumb enough to be insubordinate to a Klingon does fit the pattern. :)

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
16. Mike S.
@15 krad:

Fair point, I guess. The way that scene is presented, I got the impression that D'Mato didn't do anything wrong, and Worf put him on report anyway. At least, that's the way Riker's dialouge came across to me.

You're way makes more sense though, and is probably what the writers were shooting for. Still I agree, would have been nice to see Worf kick a fellow crewmember's you-know-what.
Jenny Thrash
17. Sihaya
Completely disagree with you about all your dislike for "Journey to Babel" (good episode) and Spock's mom (who has more presence of mind ahnd command of the room than many female characters in the show's old days). We've already gotten into it about your feelings regarding the supporting charactesr who are spouses and, ya know, play a supporting role in the episode plot. I won't write all my points out again, but I will register my disagreement again. Thanks.
j p
18. sps49
I liked "Journey to Babel" just fine. Big scale, plenty of action, and gobs of character development. My take is that the mom-arguing may have lasted as long as a TV transfusion, but in real time would be dealt with quickly. And probably every reason listed is part of why Spock refuses at first; that complexity is more real to me.

Christopher L. Bennett @6-

Amok Time showed an aberrant Vulcan marriage ceremony. If the ceremony had proceeded the way the attendees had expected, everything would be fine and equal. T'Pring's choice of challenge meant a significant change, thus T'pau's (certainly unneeded) caution to T'Pring that, under the challenge rules, she would (theoretically, at least) become property.
Jane Smyth
19. Kaboom
Since there is some disussion on the quality of actors with vulcan roles in TNG, I was wondering what people thought of these in the other series, in particular in Entreprise (T'Pol).
Jane Smyth
20. Kaboom
Another question about Vulcan characters. Was is intentional from the begining that male names start with and "S" and female names start with a "T"? Or was that just a coincidence that later became the rule?
Justin Devlin
21. EnsignJayburd
@19 Kaboom: I didn't like T'Pol at first, but she grew on me in the later seasons. I wish they had just given her a normal looking uniform. Catsuits are illogical. Gary Graham was very good as Soval.

Tim Russ as Tuvok from Voyager goes without saying. Alexander Enberg as Vorik was also good. He also played a vulcan in the TNG episode Lower Decks.

I liked both Kirstie Alley and Robin Curtis as Saavik. Kim Cattrall was also good as Valeris, but the writers should have stuck with the original idea that Saavik was bent on revenge for David. Dame Judith Anderson was an excellent T'Lar. Arlene Martel was sufficiently cold and calculating as T'Pring. Celia Lovsky was fantastic as the elder T'Pau. Kara Zediker as younger T'Pau had huge shoes to fill and was merely adequate. Also, where was the accent?

Bertila Damas was very good as Sakonna, the young Maquis member from DS9 who tried and failed to mind meld with Gul Dukat.
22. StrongDreams
There was a making of Star Trek book in the 70s that included some production memos. The original idea for vulcan male names is that they would all be 5 letters starting with S and ending with K. A memo circulated with Spork, Spook, Stink, Stank, Stunk (etc., obviously a little inter-office humor thrown in for good measure.) They obviously diverged a bit (Stonn) but the basic pattern was intentionally set. The choice of the later series to keep the pattern was probably also intentional.
Nice review and I agree that Patrick Stewart is at the top of his game. I still think "Chain of Command: Part 2" is his finest performance of the entire series. THERE. ARE. FOUR. LIGHTS!
rob mcCathy
24. roblewmac
I really LOVE journey to babel! epeseclly Kirk post knifing.
25. Brian Eberhardt
I think you have done a great review.
Very well articulated, and you touched on all the subtlies in the episode.
26. Mike Kelm
It's interesting that this episode comes right after "The Most Toys" since both have at the heart of their plots the question of emotional control. Did Data show whatever passes for anger within him and fire the disruptor? We know that Vulcans control their emotions, but what depth do those emotions go to? This episode does a good job of investigating that latter question. It seems that Vulcans are just as burdened by emotions and use a huge amount of self-control.

Which leads me to the question of emotionless versus emotion control. Tuvok, Spock, Sarek and T'Pol all have large amounts of screen time which lets us their emotions "slip out" in subtle ways. Spock telling Star Trek to go to hell (if he were human), Tuvok's sneaky sarcasm, Sarek's pride and T'Pol's concern for Archer all come out over the various hours they are on the screen. Also, Kirstie Allen as Saavik and Kim Cattral as Valeris also do this to a lesser extent. The other characters don't get as much time to be Vulcan so we never really get a chance to see them be multi-dimensional.

Also, I wonder if part of the problem with Vulcans, especially in TNG is misunderstanding by the directors. Rather than tell their minor characters to mute their emotions, they just tell them to be emotionless, making this less an acting issue as opposed to a leadership issue. It still doesn't help Perrin and Amanda, who are humans and are just plain wooden, but I wonder if the other Vulcans are just poorly informed as to what they should be.
27. turtletrekker
RE: Sarek in Star Trek V-- Despite the character of young Sarek played by Johnathon Simpson only having two words of dialogue to speak in the script ("So human"), the voice is actually that of Mark Lenard, who was brought in to provide the voice-over.
28. heather d
For all the greatness of this episode, the concert scene is spoiled for me by the sheer hideousness of the performance miming. The other players are at least reasonably close, they're probably actual musicians trying their best to 'violin-sync', but Spiner is just hideous. Data would have flawless technique, you would think, but he can't even draw the bow across the strings realistically, or even hold his hands the right way, much less do a convincing 'air violin' with his fingers.

The screen grab towards the middle of this review shows this clearly. Every 5yo violin student is constantly reminded to not let their wrists go 'pancake' like that. It's a guaranteed sign of someone who does NOT know what they're doing.

It's just something that frustrates me, as a professional musician, when I see TV shows (not just Star Trek) go to great lengths to get details right in every other area, but figure "meh" when it comes to making music playing look convincing. It implies an attitude of "anyone can play an instrument, it's not THAT hard" or something. And then they don't even try to mask it (like doing closeups on a real piano player's hands but hide the hands in a wide shot), but even do close-ups on the shoddy attempt at performance miming. They put more effort into actors' accents, why not a little coaching on the physicalaties of a particular instrument?

So I really appreciated when Frakes would play his trombone because he would ACTUALLY PLAY the damn thing, and hell yes you can tell the difference.
Dante Hopkins
29. DanteHopkins
So we're back to disagreeing. This I am used to. Journey to Babel is one of my favorite TOS episodes. Amanda was such a sweet and devoted wife and mother, you can ignore any flaw of her not having her own identity beyond being Sarek's wife. I'm guess I'm less progressive (or less picky) about that, as I can appreciate the idea of the full time wife and mother, even in the 23rd and 24th centuries (somebody's gotta raise the kids, right?) Besides, this is the future, with freedom of choice and all that, right? A woman shouldn't choose to be a full-time wife and mother (or in Perrin's case, a full-time wife) just because she has other options? Thus I can appreciate Perrin as well, whose love for Sarek really comes through to me, as did Amanda's a century earlier on another ship called Enterprise.

That aside, despite whatever you think is a contrived plot, Sarek is aboard the Enterprise. That Sarek, Spock's father Sarek! Who cares about the flaws of the plot, its fricking Sarek of Vulcan! You can turn off your brain to any overused plot lines or whatever for that fact alone. Because when you do, you get a great episode with one of Mark Lenard's and (in particular) Sir Patrick Stewart's finest performances. A truly extraordinary hour with two extraordinary actors in the center. I give it an 8.
30. Ellis K.
The thing is, as of this point in the development of Star Trek: The Next Generation, you've got one good show after another, bang bang bang. You can quibble about this and that, but by this time--by this episode--ST:TNG has established itself as some of the best television ever made. Once you're finished with one show, you simply can't wait to see the next one. It's Star Trek done the way Star Trek is supposed to be done. It's an outstanding achievement, and this series is worth revisiting again and again over the course of a lifetime. It's smart, imaginative, well produced, and well written. It's even educational, visionary, and inspiring. It's very much unlike the vast amount of mainstream garbage that pollutes our culture. And, while the rest of the cast is darn good by this time, Spiner as Data and Stewart as Picard are OUTSTANDING at their craft.
31. Electone
I believe everything that needed to be said about this episode have been said. I like this episode, but what bugs me is the re-dress of the Ten Forward set for the concert hall. Really? Slap a moveable wall in front of the bar and in front of the windows, but leave the big wood doors and three sconce lights? It's so obviously Ten Forward. Why not just have the concert in Ten Forward? Also, the palm to the face Riker gets in the bar room brawl is priceless.
32. PAaaaaaiiinnnnnn!!!
Am I the only one who got really pissed by the weird aliens not showing up???
They show that damn whirlpool the whole episode, the preparation for the conference room, and them we get only the captain's report saying that " the negotiations were succesful" ????????? WTF??
33. uv
my respect for patrick stewart's acting, already high, went through the roof in that scene.
34. uv
another problem with this episode is why didn't they choose
sakkath to do the mind meld with sarek? after all, as a vulcan he wouldn't be as overwhelmed by emotions as the human picard was.
(the real reason is because then we wouldn't have gotten that awesome picard scene with some of the finest acting in tv history, but there's no logical reason in terms of the plot.)
ah well!
36. JohnC
@34 - I just watched the episode and that was my reaction as well. Maybe the idea was that Picard, having diplomatic experience as well, would be a good match for the state of mind Sarek needed to achieve to complete the negotiations, but given that there were two perfectly good Vulcans there for Sarek to meld with (one of which had already been covertly soothing his emotions for him), it seemed to be an awkward plot contrivance. I really enjoyed the Geordi/Wesley catfight. They said to each other pretty much everything I've wanted to say to them ever since I got a grasp on their characters.
37. Tiddles
@15ff I understood it as exquisite irony that the effect on Worf, who has to visibly restrain himself on every provocation, is to file a report, while the rest of the ship resorts to fists.
38. Ben McClure
I agree with a lot of what you've said about what makes this episode great - the concert scene, the mind-meld scene, Mark Lenard in general. I also agree that "Babel" isn't the greatest original series episode but I think it's got a lot going for it with the introduction of Sarek and a bunch of other alien races.

But I think your argument about Amanda and Perrin is a bit overstated. How would you suggest giving them an identity outside of being Sarek's wife? Throw-away comments about their hobbies or professional training before meeting Sarek? Certainly that would have intruded into the story (just as it would have had it come from any of the other supporting guest characters in this story). And I think it makes a lot of sense that both of these women might have subsumed their personal lives into their roles as the wife of one of the Federation's leading diplomats and ambassadors.

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