Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II”

“The Best of Both Worlds, Part II”
Written by Michael Piller
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 4, Episode 1
Production episode 40274-175
Original air date: September 24, 1990
Stardate: 44001.4

Captain’s Log: Majel Barrett intones, “Last time on Star Trek: The Next Generation,” followed by highlights of Part 1, ending with: “Mr. Worf—fire.”

The modified deflector fires, and has absolutely no impact on the Borg cube. When they assimilated Picard and made him into Locutus, the Borg absorbed all of the captain’s knowledge—and therefore knew of the modified deflector weapon and adjusted their defenses accordingly.

The Borg continue toward Earth. Firing the weapon burned out several of the Enterprise‘s systems, so they must remain until repairs are effected. Riker contacts Admiral Hanson, who has gathered a 40-ship fleet at Wolf 359. Shelby points out that with Picard’s assistance, the Borg will be ready for Starfleet. Hanson slaps Shelby down, saying that Picard would never help the Borg under any circumstances, which mostly proves that Hanson is a moron. Following this idiotic declaration, Hanson gives Riker a field promotion to captain.

On the Borg cube, Picard’s assimilation continues. More electronics are grafted onto his person, and the color is drained from his flesh. A single tear rolls down his cheek.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch:

Shelby, La Forge, and Worf are all involved in trying to get the ship up and running again. Shelby makes the case to Riker for being his new first officer, and she and Riker almost start to come to something vaguely resembling a rapprochement when Hanson contacts them from Wolf 359. “The fight does not go well, Enterprise,” Hanson says through a badly garbled comm line before all communications are cut off. Riker hopes that it’s due to Borg interference. (This is, as we will discover, a forlorn hope.)

Once repairs are complete, the Enterprise heads for Wolf 359 at top speed. Riker officially makes Shelby first officer, and gets a report on possible new defenses. A heavy graviton beam won’t work; Crusher and Data propose creating nanites that could infiltrate the Borg, but it would take two to three weeks.

Riker admits that this would be the part where Picard would give an inspirational speech, and further admits that he wishes Picard were here to deliver it, because he could use it, too.

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The Enterprise arrives at Wolf 359, which is a graveyard of broken and destroyed ships. (One of the hulks they see is the Melbourne, the very command Riker was offered in Part 1.) They pursue the Borg ship, which survived the attack wholly unscathed. Riker tells Shelby to prepare to separate the saucer, as she had previously suggested. Shelby points out that Picard was briefed on that plan (when she went over Riker’s head, a detail she omits when reminding him), but Riker says he’s counting on that.

When the Enterprise intercepts the Borg, Riker is on the battle bridge and hails the Borg, asking to discuss terms. Locutus deems discussion to be irrelevant, as there are no terms, and rightly views this as an attempt by Riker to delay the inevitable. Locutus announces that they will continue to Earth, and if Riker attempts to intervene, the Borg will destroy them. “Then take your best shot, Locutus,” Riker says, “because we are about to intervene.”

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Shelby, in command of the saucer, separates the ship. Both halves of the ship fire on the Borg, but the Borg only go after the drive section. The saucer fires an antimatter spread, which covers Data and Worf launching a shuttlecraft. Once the shuttle is close enough, the two of them are able to beam onto the cube and nab Picard. They beam back to the shuttle and fly back toward the Enterprise. Once they’re clear of the cube, O’Brien beams them back, right before the Borg blow up the shuttle.

The Borg cube then buggers back toward Earth. The Enterprise reunites and Crusher examines Locutus. The Borg implants themselves could easily be removed, but there’s the question of his link to the collective. Data detects a massive network of subspace signals that allows the Borg to all be linked to each other. In the past, Borg have removed components from their dead comrades, after which they disintegrated. Data theorizes that that cut them off from the collective. Crusher fears that cutting Picard off may kill him as well, so instead Data tries to hook into the collective via Locutus.

They bring Locutus to Data’s lab, Data attempting to form a neural link with Locutus. He manages to gain access to the Borg subspace signals, which he discovers are sorted by sub-commands. Data tries to plant a root command into the collective, but power and defense subsystems are protected.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch:

Picard manages to seep his consciousness through Locutus and says the word “Sleep” to Data—who interprets this to be a command he can plant. The regeneration commands don’t have the same level of security on them, and Data can easily plant that command via Locutus.

The Borg break off their attack—not half a second before Riker is about to order Wes to ram the Enterprise into the cube at warp speed—and have gone into a regeneration cycle. A few minutes later, they blow up. Picard is himself again, “with a bit of a headache.” He remembers everything, including the brilliantly unorthodox strategy by “a former first officer of mine.”

Shelby is assigned to head up the task force that will put the fleet back together. She tells Riker that he must have his choice of assignments, and Riker demurs, saying that his career is his business.

Riker and Shelby leave Picard alone in his ready room. Once alone, Picard looks haunted….

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Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: Data uses multimodal reflection sorting to map out the intra-Borg subspace communications.

If I Only Had a Brain…: Data pretty much saves the day here—he and Worf are the ones who rescue Picard, and it’s Data’s ability to access the Borg communications that ends the threat by putting them to sleep.

Riker also tells Data that he seriously considered the android for the position of first officer (a position he’s had twice before, in “A Matter of Honor” and “Peak Performance“).

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Data uses Troi to sense how Picard is doing when Data tries to link up to the Borg via Locutus, and it’s Troi who verifies when Picard manages to poke his own consciousness past that of the Borg.

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Riker also considered Worf for first officer, and he and Data engage in a nifty retrieval of Locutus from the Borg ship.

The Boy!?: When Riker orders the Enterprise to ram the Borg ship, Wes looks positively ill. And who can blame him, really? I mean, he was just told that his job description had changed from that of Starfleet conn officer to kamikaze pilot….

Syntheholics Anonymous: Guinan gives Riker a come-to-Jesus speech, telling him that he has to let Picard go. It would’ve been easier if Picard had died, but instead the Borg took him and perverted him. When Riker says that Picard wrote the book on the ship, Guinan points out, rightly, that if the Borg know what he knows, it’s time to throw the book away.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch:

I Believe I Said That: “At what point should I shut it down if there’s a problem?”

“I do not know. I have never done this before.”

O’Brien asking a reasonable question, and Data giving a brutally honest answer.

Welcome Aboard: Elizabeth Dennehy and George Murdock reprise their roles of Shelby and Hanson, respectively, from Part 1. Todd Merrill gets a few lines as Gleason, the battle-bridge ops officer; he’ll get a few more lines in “Future Imperfect.”

Trivial Matters: Despite picking up immediately after Part 1, the episode was very obviously filmed months later—Elizabeth Dennehy, Gates McFadden, and Jonathan Frakes all have slightly different hair, the lighting on the bridge is a bit different, and now nobody is wearing the “unitard” from the first two seasons (thank goodness).

And despite being the conclusion, the next episode, “Family,” really will serve as Part 3—but we’ll talk about that on Tuesday….

Michael Piller didn’t figure out how to end Part 2 until shortly before filming started. He wrote Part 1 without any idea of how to end it—but then, he wasn’t even sure he’d be back for the fourth season, and if he didn’t re-up his contract, it would’ve been someone else’s problem in any event.

LeVar Burton had to undergo emergency surgery during the filming of this episode, so his part was reduced. His dialogue was all filmed later on, done in closeups or single shots. The only shots of him with others around are in the observation lounge, and a body double was employed there. His role in the climax was given to O’Brien.

While only the aftermath of the Battle of Wolf 359 was seen in this episode due to budgetary constraints, parts of the battle were shown at the beginning of Deep Space Nine‘s pilot episode, “Emissary.”

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Riker will not be seen to be offered another command again until Star Trek Nemesis, which ends with him going off to captain the Titan, though he will briefly command the U.S.S. Excalibur in “Redemption Part II” as part of Picard’s armada. In Peter David’s Double Helix novel Double or Nothing, a crossover between TNG and David’s novel series New Frontier (which features the Shelby character), Riker is put in temporary command of the Excalibur, with Shelby once again as his first officer.

The effects of being transformed into Locutus will continue to have ramifications, both onscreen (“Family,” “I, Borg,” DS9‘s “Emissary,”Star Trek: First Contact) and in the tie-in fiction (Resistance by J.M. Dillard and the Destiny trilogy by David Mack).

Although Dwight Schultz does not appear in the episode, Shelby does make reference to Barclay.

This is the third and final time the Enterprise will separate the saucer on the series, after having done so previously in “Encounter at Farpoint” and “The Arsenal of Freedom.” It will separate for the last time ever in Star Trek Generations.

The Borg will appear again on TNG in “I, Borg” and “Descent.” The movie Star Trek: First Contact is more of a direct sequel to this two-parter, more or less ignoring those subsequent two appearances. In addition to their flashback appearance in DS9‘s premiere, the Borg recur throughout Voyager—which goes so far as to have a de-assimilated Borg become part of the opening-credits cast—starting in the episodes “Blood Fever” and “Unity,” continuing all the way through to the series finale “Endgame.” The Borg also appear in Enterprise‘s “Regeneration.”

In the seventh-season episode “Parallels,” Worf will visit several alternate timelines in which Picard was not rescued by the Enterprise in this episode (in one, the Borg has completely overrun the Federation). Two other alternate timelines that branched off from this episode were shown in David R. George III’s short novel The Embrace of Cold Architects in Myriad Universes: Shattered Light and “The Worst of Both Worlds!” storyline that ran in issues 47-50 of DC’s Star Trek: The Next Generation comic book by Michael Jan Friedman, Peter Krause, and Pablo Marcos.

Make it So: “Sleep, Data.” Let’s be fair: Part 1 was an incredibly tough act to follow. It would take one of the greatest episodes of TV ever to follow up to that.

This, well, is not one of the greatest episodes of TV ever. It’s good, but it kinda falls apart at the end.

In the abstract, the idea that the Borg are beaten by ingenuity makes a certain amount of sense. For one thing, it was made clear back when they first appeared in “Q Who” that a direct approach was never going to cut it. For another, it’s completely true to Star Trek that brains would win out over brawn.

But in practice, we wind up ending a tense two hours of action, one that’s been anticipated for three months—hell, since the middle of the second season, truly—in Data’s lab. Aroo?

Even that wouldn’t be so bad if the climax actually made sense. Data planting a root command into the Borg Collective to go into a regenerative cycle is fine—that’s actually very clever, in part because it’s so simple. But we’ve seen the Borg go into a regenerative cycle before, in “Q Who,” after the Enterprise trashed their cube. They regenerated, rebuilt, reconstructed, were better, faster, stronger, and proceeded to kick the crap out of the ship until Picard begged Q to send them home, please. So why the heck did Data putting them into that cycle now cause them to self-destruct like a Bond villain’s headquarters?

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch:

Riker’s strategies aren’t nearly as bizarre and unorthodox as the script insists they are, and after Guinan tells him to set Picard aside and take over, he moves heaven and Earth to get Picard back.

And in the end, the status quo is unconvincingly restored. While we don’t find this out until the next episode, Riker’s still on board, even accepting a reduction in rank back to commander, and everyone’s back where we expect them to be. Shelby doesn’t even join the crew, which might’ve been entertaining (especially with Wil Wheaton on his way out the door—but we’ll talk about that when we get to “Final Mission”).

The episode is by no means bad. The immediate cliffhanger resolution is brilliant, the sequence that culminates with Data and Worf liberating Locutus from the cube is a superb action scene, and the evolution of Riker and Shelby’s relationship is well played. But as a followup to one of the best episodes in the franchise’s history, it just doesn’t entirely hold up.


Warp factor rating: 6

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at the Farpoint convention this weekend in Timonium, Maryland (just north of Baltimore), along with fellow Trek scribes Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, Robert Greenberger, Glenn Hauman, Marc Okrand, Aaron Rosenberg, and Howard Weinstein. Come by and say hi! And go to his web site and order every single one of his books. Or just go from there to read his blog, check him out on Facebook and/or Twitter, or listen to his many podcasts.


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