4/8/13

Star Trek: Asterisk "The Ensigns of Command"

Vital Information
Series: The Next Generation
Episode: S03E02
Air Date: October 2, 1989
Written by: Melinda M Snodgrass
Directed by: Cliff Bole

Premise
Data tries to convince a human colony to move before some aliens come in and destroy them.

Review
This episode opens with Data showing off his musical skills by participating in a string quartet as the violinist. Picard and Beverly go to 10-Forward to watch, but he recommends they attend the next show where someone else will play the violin part because he has been told that his playing has no "soul." Thus, the writer slaps on the table the idea of whether or not androids can be creative. However, right in the middle of Data's concert, Picard is called to the bridge. The Sheliak have contacted the Federation after 111 years of silence. The reason? They found humans on a world they wish to colonize. Now it's going to take someone really creative to get those humans to move before the Sheliak calls pest control.

The planet that the Sheliak are looking at is one where hyperonic radiation makes it difficult, but not impossible, for humans to live there. Thus, there is no record of any human settlement in the area, thus the area was handed over to the Sheliak in a treaty. When they get there, they find human life signs, but the radiation interferes with pretty much all the technology, so they can't tell how many humans, they can't beam down, they can't use weapons. Basically, Data has to be the only one who goes down in a shuttlecraft to investigate because he's the only one that wouldn't die from the radiation.
Because he's Superman.
When he gets down there, he meets Goshevan and Ard'rian McKenzie. Goshevan is the leader and McKenzie is the chick who's really into androids. It's explained to Data that the settlers were from the ship Artemis which went off course and was considered missing in action. With that out of the way, Data attempts to warn them about the Sheliak, but Gosheven is an idiot and demands to stay because his grandfather was buried on a mountain. McKenzie, on the other hand, sees the wisdom in Data's eyes and the full-functionality of his body and teams up with him to find a way to move the colonists. Reverse psychology seems a good route to go.

Meanwhile, up on the Enterprise, Picard has discovered it'll take at least three weeks for Federation to send a ship to move the colonists, but the Sheliak are demanding that they move the colonists now. Picard has to do some keen legal maneuvering, but he eventually persuades the Sheliak that either they wait six months for a species that's currently in hibernation to wake up and represent the Federation in their dispute, or they allow the Enterprise their three weeks. The Sheliak having been bested in a legal dispute by what they consider to be an inferior species, zooms off with their tail between their legs. The rest is up to Data.
Space lawyers.
So, the reverse psychology thing. Gosheven called a meeting to dispel all the rumors that have been circulating thanks to Data, so Data interrupts the meeting to say how brave all the colonists will be when they all die honorably protecting their land from the Sheliak. Gosheven insists that his tactic didn't work, but some actually came around to Data's side. Data concludes that he'll need more than just words to win this argument, so, in a moment of creativity, he modifies his phaser to work in the hyperonic radiation and then used it to destroy the aqueduct that runs all the way up the mountain where Gosheven's grandfather was buried.

Data says he is but one android with a single weapon and the Sheliak will come in great numbers with far more powerful weapons. The visual aid is enough to make Gosheven concede defeat. Data assures Gosheven, that all they have built is just stuff and stuff can be rebuilt. What matters is the lives of the people he cares about. So, while Data is saying goodbye to McKenzie, McKenzie asks if he feels anything for her. He reminds her that, as an android, he doesn't feel anything for anyone. Regardless, he gives her a kiss to make her feel better. It's a logical decision.
Mmm... logic.
Back on the Enterprise, Picard is just listening to a recording that Beverly made of the rest of Data's concert and Data walks in on him. Picard notes that he is playing in the recording with a lot of feeling, but Data reminds him again that he has no feeling. He was, in fact, combining the styles of two other famous violinists. Picard then says that perhaps there is something of Data in that, after all. Because those two violinists have very different styles and Data was able to combine them perfectly. That shows a bit of creativity on its own. Thus Data advances to level 3 on the humanity scale.

Overall Thoughts
A beautiful story about Data dealing with an idiot and Picard dealing with a smarty-pants. Season three is off to a good start with the development of Data's humanity and Picard's diplomacy. Although, now the colonists have to wait three weeks without a working aqueduct... I hope no one dehydrates.