Written by Robin Bernheim
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 3, Episode 11
Production episode 40273-159
Original air date: January 8, 1990
Captain’s Log: Picard and Riker are getting a tour of Angosia, a planet that is applying for Federation membership. Prime Minister Nayrok’s tour is interrupted by an alert that a prisoner has escaped from the Lunar V maximum-security prison. Nayrok asks Picard for help, and Riker orders Data to detain the vessel.
On the Enterprise, they find the ship orbiting an asteroid. When it comes around to the other side, it’s just the drive section with no life signs. So Wes takes the ship to the far side of the asteroid, and they find the debris of the rest of the ship. But when they come all the way around, the drive section’s gone. They’ve lost him.
Picard and Riker beam back. Nayrok provides a name: Roga Danar, and his criminal record is “too long to get into.” Riker figures out that he’s got the drive section hovering over the planet’s pole, using the magnetic interference to shield him from sensors. They lock a tractor beam on him, but then he rushes the Enterprise, forcing the shields up and the tractor beam off. He bounces off the shields, but Data anticipated that diversionary tactic, and picks up an escape pod in orbit of Angosia. They beam him on board, even though they still aren’t picking up any life signs from him.
Worf sends two security guards to the transporter, and O’Brien deactivates his weapon. Despite this, the two guards and O’Brien get their asses kicked, and Worf and Riker are barely able to finish the job of subduing him.
Nayrok recommends keeping him sedated. As he sleeps, he tosses and turns his thoughts sufficiently turbulent to come to Troi’s empathic attention. She talks to him, and despite his hostility comes to know him. She also researches and discovers that he’s not a prisoner, he’s a soldier who served with distinction during the Tarsian War. After the war, he was placed on Lunar V. Nayrok allows as how Lunar V was a resettlement colony, but they had to add security due to malcontents like Danar. (And now we know why he wanted to keep Danar sedated and why he wouldn’t go into his criminal record )
Crusher examines him and sees that his cells and brain chemistry have been altered, and Troi senses a duality in him he’s typically Angosian in that he’s thoughtful and calm, and not at all violent. (Picard points out the fallacy of calling someone it took five people to subdue as not being violent.) He and other soldiers volunteered for duty and were physically and psychically altered to be the perfect soldier. But there was nowhere to put them in society when the war ended.
Data speaks to Danar, finding common ground in that they’ve both been programmed. But Data’s program can be changed, and he wonders why Danar’s can’t. Danar himself can’t answer that question.
Due as much to Data and Troi vouching for him, Picard feels the need to tell Danar himself that he has no choice but to return him to Lunar V. Danar appreciates that, and also feels the need to tell Picard that he will try to escape by any means necessary.
Sure enough, when they attempt to beam him to the Angosian police ship, he manages to break out of the transporter beam, something we’ve never seen before or since. It’s never made clear why the Enterprise doesn’t just beam Danar straight to Lunar V, but never mind. (Because then Danar wouldn’t have a ship to take to the planet. But I’m getting ahead of myself )
Danar leads Worf on a merry chase through the ship, trashing engineering in the process. He dashes about through the Jefferies Tubes, nearly blows up a turbolift, and generally makes a nuisance of himself. Worf comes closest to nabbing him, and he is done in by a distraction caused by a phaser on overload that Danar left behind in a Jefferies Tube. Danar beams to the Angosian ship, and the Enterprise can’t track him because the Jefferies Tube explosion killed their sensors.
After freeing his fellow soldiers from Lunar V, they attack the capital. Nayrok asks for Picard’s help, since they’re not equipped to handle this sort of thing”that’s what we created them for,” he says oh-so-compassionately.
Picard beams down, not with a security detail, but just Troi, Data, and Worf. Nayrok is a bit peeved, but Picard doesn’t feel that he should be fighting their wars for them. But when the soldiers arrive, Picard cautions everyone not to fire. The soldiers’ conditioning is such that they only respond to a threat. Danar shoots the wall behind Nayrok, but can’t shoot Nayrok himself. (Amusingly, the hole in the wall behind him disappears without a trace.)
Nayrok offers to negotiate if Danar and the others will go back to Lunar V, but Danar makes it clear that they would rather die than go back. Nayrok then desperately asks Picard to call his ship.
Picard does so: he asks for beam-out, leaving Nayrok and Danar to their confrontation.
Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: Crusher lets loose with a stream of medical technobabble to explain Danar’s condition, of which I understood precisely none of it. I could barely make out the words.
Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi senses Danar’s distress and is his first advocate on the Enterprise, and the one who finds out the truth about him.
If I Only Had a Brain : Data is Danar’s second advocate, and is the one who truly makes Danar realize that he has people who can help him on the Enterprise. He also does a good job of anticipating Danar’s strategy. He’s also wonderfully literal with Danar: “Am I disturbing you?” “Yes.” “Then I will leave.”
There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf actually comes close to capturing Danar, and generally does as good a job as possible against him, seeing through his ruse in the cargo bay, and also stopping a phaser from blowing up a turbolift.
I Believe I Said That: “In your own words, this is not our affair. We cannot interfere in the natural course of your society’s development. And I’d say it’s going to develop significantly in the next few minutes.”
Picard hoisting Nayrok on his own petard.
Welcome Aboard: James Cromwell appears as Nayrok with an unfortunate attitude and an even more unfortunate moustache. It’s the first of many appearances on modern Trek by Cromwell, who will go on to play Jaglom Shrek in “Birthright,” Minister Hanok on Deep Space Nine‘s “Starship Down,” and Zefram Cochrane in Star Trek: First Contact.
Jeff McCarthy, who plays Roga Danar, will also be back on Star Trek: Voyager, playing the never-named, ill-fated chief medical officer of Voyager.
Trivial Matters: Danar appears again during the Dominion War in the short story “Orphans” by R.S. Belcher in Strange New Worlds 9.
Danar’s attack on engineering, which happens off-screen, is dramatized in the Starfleet Corps of Engineers novella Many Splendors by your humble rewatcher.
This episode marks the first appearance of the fancier, remodeled brig, which is much nicer than the one in “Heart of Glory,” and which will be used moving forward. It’s also the first TNG appearance of a Jefferies Tube.
Make it So: “My battle is never over.” When this episode first aired, I referred to it as “Born on the 24th Century of July,” after Born on the Fourth of July, the biopic of Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic that had come out the year before. It’s the world’s most unsubtle Vietnam vet analogy, with veterans coming home and being ignored by the country they fought for.
Having said that, it’s filled with Star Trek‘s trademark humanism, where the person who we think is a criminal and a murderer turns out to be a victim, and our heroes respond with compassion rather than judgment.
It’s also a fairly strong action episode, filled with tactics and fights and other fun stuff. Nothing life-changing, but a perfectly good, if sledgehammery, episode.
Warp factor rating: 6