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TNG 5-01

TNG 5x01
"Redemption II"

Original airdate: 9/23/1991
Rewatch date: 3/29/2012

Picard forms a blockade in hopes of preventing Romulan interference in the Klingon Civil War. Meanwhile, Data gets his first command, and Yar's dead ringer explains herself.

Spoiler-free notes:

The thick of battle is a great place to start the season. They should be careful going into warp so close to a star, though, because it could send you back to the 1980s.

They don't say it, but could the lack of starships and experienced officers be a lingering result of Wolf 359?

The tachyon detection grid--though a cool plot device--has never made a lot of sense to me. In the enormous expanse of three-dimensional space and with the power of warp drive, how hard is it to just go around the net? The ships would have to be really far apart for it to be effective, but at any large distance, there would be enormous holes in the grid that a ship could easily pass through.

The Klingon arm wrestling with knives is pretty hardcore.

"No one would suggest that a Klingon would be good ship's counsellor or that a Berellian could be an engineer. They're just not suited to those positions." Man, Hobson is a racist jerk. Doesn't he know he's on Star Trek?

I love how Gowron reacts when he is challenged, with that blood-crazed smile and eagerness to rise to it. "Now the war can continue."

Have we seen O'Brien at the tactical station before, or is this the first time?

Tasha obviously told her daughter some things about the future, but I wonder how Sela reacted to the future unraveling in a way that was quite different from what Tasha described.

Interactions with the Romulans are once again turned into a chess match. It's great that the episode shows you both sides making strategy before anyone makes a move. It's even more awesome that what eventually winds up happening is far more organic than either plan. It's some great writing.

Okay, so there's a lot going on in this episode, and I think it's easiest to talk about it as three separate stories going on simultaneously. The first belongs to Sela, Tasha Yar's daughter; the second belongs to Data as he takes command of the Sutherland; and the third is the wrapping up of the Klingon Civil War and Worf's story arc from "Redemption." All three stories reflect on the multi-episodic paradigm TNG has been toying with, so I want to make sure I talk about each one.

The first is Sela, because she represents one of the most difficult aspects of this kind of storytelling. One of the benefits of episodic television, like TOS, is that the audience doesn't have to worry about missing an episode here and there. In syndication, a show like that is easy to sell, because it doesn't matter what order you put the episodes in. However, TNG is starting to discover that this doesn't work so well when the show has stories that stretch across multiple episodes. "The Best of Both Worlds," for example, has the potential to alienate viewers who haven't seen "Q Who." Indeed, "Q Who" could alienate viewers who haven't seen any of the earlier episodes involving Q, meaning that the best way to watch TNG is in order.

The introduction of Sela is the best example yet of this problem, because anyone who happened to miss "Yesterday's Enterprise" would have no idea how to explain what's going on. It's a complicated bit of sci-fi, too, that is hampered by a need to explain it to viewers like that. TNG hasn't abandoned the casual viewer, so something like Sela is incredibly difficult to pull off well. As a result, the Sela storyline spends so much time explaining itself that it doesn't have time to do anything else. I like the scene with Picard and Guinan that mirrors "Yesterday's Enterprise," in which Guinan is asking Picard to accept something crazy based on nothing more than her intuition, but Sela's relationship to Yar serves no narrative purpose aside from being a weird curveball. Hopefully, now that her introduction is out of the way, we will get to see her again and have a more meaningful exploration of what she represents. There are some neat metaphysical implications of her existence, not to mention the potential emotional impact she could have on our characters.

Data getting a temporary command is a great way to further explore his character, a natural progression from "Measure of a Man" and "The Offspring." Like in those earlier episodes, Data takes his cues from Picard, first by getting his permission and then, in the end, by getting his approval ("Nicely done"). It's interesting that, so far, whenever Data's humanity takes center stage, Picard is always there, playing the part of the human conscience. The plot, though it is trying to do a lot of things at once, manages to give Data a perfect little arc in which he is fully tested and winds up saving the day. The bit with the phasers flooding decks with radiation and the first officer who doesn't trust a machine to command him all work together to bring up some uncomfortable questions about the android, even though we all know what's really in Data's heart.

Worf's storyline moves way to the background in this episode, even though the first part was all about him. At least he gets to beat up a Romulan near the end. Still, what little time is devoted to his character is well-spent, because it's about where he draws the line between violent Klingon traditions and overt human sentimentality. In a sense, the entire Kligon Civil War can be seen as a metaphor for the civil war going on in Worf's psyche--does his loyalty lie with Klingons or with the Federation? Granted, after all the build up from the previous episode, it all gets wrapped up with incredible speed. Apparently, the Duras family is so inept as a military leadership that a single blockade of Romulan supplies that lasts only a few days is enough to turn certain victory into dismal defeat.

As for Worf, he spends the entire episode picking apart whether violence is the appropriate answer to dishonor. He tries to understand why Gowron has to pause the war to answer a challenge with bloodshed, and then, when he is offered a chance to take his vengeance on Toral, whose family challenged his, Worf spares the young Klingon's life. The last scene, therefore, justifies the title: "Redemption." On the surface, Worf seems like a simple character, but when you compare the events of this episode with "The Enemy," in which Worf refuses to save a Romulan's life, you can see that there's a lot of turmoil and intriguing confusion underneath. The question now is where the writers will decide to take him from here, as this two-parter essentially wraps up his dangling plot threads. Granted, the Duras family lives on and stability is anathema to Klingon politics, so there's plenty of room for more movement on the Klingon front, but as far as Worf is concerned, he is no longer tied to it as intimately as he was before. His character should, from this point, focus more on his humanity, as the end of this episode seems to represent an important choice for Worf. Besides, he still has a son out there, and that's a good place to start a new arc.

Spoiler section:

The actor who plays Commander Christopher Hobson (Data's first officer), Timothy Carhart, also plays Eric Rayburn in the second season of 24. This is notable because one of the characters he plays off of is Lynn Kresge, who is played by Michelle Forbes, better known as Ro Laren, who will be introduced in just two episodes, in "Ensign Ro." Apparently, Dennis Haysbert, the actor who plays President Palmer on 24, was really excited to work with Michelle Forbes because he is a big Trekkie and loved her as Ro. Also, as one last weird coincidence, the ship on which Data and Hobson serve is called the Sutherland, as in Kiefer Sutherland! I think it would be best to stop going down this rabbit hole...

Kern implies, rhetorically, that Worf should challenge Gowron's role as leader of the Klingon High Council in single combat, which Worf of course dismisses as stupid. However, in DS9's "Tacking Into the Wind," that's exactly what Worf winds up doing.

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