EXTREME CAUTION: This post will contain large amounts of spoilers regarding the TNG season finale, "The Best of Both Worlds". If you don't want to know what's going to happen, DO NOT proceed further.
In brief: YIPE!!
It's going to be a very long three months, folks. Very, very long. At least they went out for this season well, though. I'll go into details later, after a nice detailed synopsis. (Be warned--I WILL, at the end of the synop, give away the season-ending cliffhanger. Repeat: I WILL REVEAL THE CLIFFHANGER!! There, now you can't say I didn't warn you.)
Stardate 43989.1: The Enterprise comes to take a look at the Jure 4 colony, one of the outermost colonies of the Federation, with about 900 residents--all contact was recently lost. Riker takes an away team down to the "middle o' town", as O'Brien tells them, but finds himself on the edge of a crater. The entire town has been scooped away.
Stardate 43992.6: Admiral Hansen and Lt. Cmdr. Shelby have come to view the evidence, very worried that this might be the beginning of the Borg invasion. Shelby has been in charge of Borg tactical analysis over the last six months, and although she's done her job well, no defenses are as yet beyond the drawing board. After Shelby accepts Riker's invitation to the poker game that night, the two leave Picard and Hansen alone to talk.
Hansen tells Picard that Shelby really knows her stuff, and says she'd "make one hell of a first officer". When Picard replies that he already HAS one hell of a first officer, he's informed that Riker was offered the Melbourne (his _third_ chance at command) recently, but hasn't yet responded. He urges Picard to kick Riker in the pants a little "for his own good", and get his career moving again.
Meanwhile, Riker and Shelby discuss traces the Borg leave behind--special magnetic resonances that were found both on the Enterprise after the slice of hull was taken out, and from the Neutral Zone outposts--a Borg "footprint", if you will. Shelby starts trying to co-opt the away team authority, but Riker quickly reasserts command before the two leave. She tells Riker that, since she thought he was leaving, she's after his job. Later, at the poker game (in attendance: Riker, Shelby, Data, Geordi, Troi, and Wesley), Wes falls for Riker's bluff, but Shelby doesn't--and wins handily.
The next morning (the away team was scheduled to leave at dawn), Riker and Geordi go to the transporter room, only to have O'Brien inform him that Shelby and Data have already been down on the surface for an hour. The two beam down, and an exceedingly annoyed Riker pulls Shelby aside to talk. She tells him that she got word a storm system was moving in, and wanted to get her readings before it hit. After Riker tells her to notify him before changing his orders, he hears her report: she found the footprint. It *IS* the Borg.
Stardate 43993.5: Hansen is now back with Starfleet Command to plan, and Shelby has remained on board. Riker tells Picard what he's done so far (ordered a standing Yellow Alert, and warned all ships & outposts on the perimeter), and the conversation turns to Shelby. After hearing a few of Riker's gripes, Picard points out that her ambition reminds him of how Riker was when he first came on board. He then asks, suddenly, "Will--what the hell are you still doing here?", and when he hears Will has turned down the Melbourne because he feels he's nee- ded here, "particularly now", says, "Starfleet needs good captains--PARTICULARLY NOW," asks him to look at his career objectively, and reassures him he's ready to "work without a net". Riker talks to Troi in 10-Forward, concerned that he's lost something in coming on board. Troi says she thinks he's just older and wiser, and says he's happier here than she's ever known him. She tells him it all comes down to one question: "What do you want, Will Riker?"
A little later, Shelby starts discussing redundancies in the Borg systems, and includes the unnerving statistic that the ship could probably still function with up to 78% of the ship completely inoperable. Any new weapons systems will take at least 18 months to develop, and modifications here may be possible, but right now Geordi and Wes are too tired to think about it. Riker breaks up the meeting until the next morning, and when Shelby asks to continue working with Data (who doesn't, after all, need rest), Riker points out that SHE does, and sends her packing.
The next day, Hansen calls--the ship Lalo sent a distress call, describing an encounter with a "cubical" ship (clearly the Borg), and have not been heard from since. All help other than the Enterprise is still 6 days away, but the Enterprise is only 77 minutes away at Warp 9, and they head there, as Geordi starts working with his plan to retune shield harmonics and phasers to better bands in the EM spectrum to confuse the Borg ("just a shot in the dark", he says). About 77 minutes later, they find the ship, and Picard tells Data, "send a message to Admiral Hansen--we have engaged the Borg."
The Borg, amazingly, hail *Picard* specifically. (It appears that it may well be the same ship they encountered before.) When the Enterprise answers, the Borg (again, speaking only as the collective--throughout the entire episode, we never see one single Borg speak, only the entire ship) demand he beam over to them, and say that if he resists, the Enterprise will be destroyed. Picard, of course, refuses, and bluffs about the strength of their "new defenses". The Borg start probing, and Geordi retunes the shields--miraculously, the tractor beam does not manage to lock on. The Enterprise locks weapons, but the Borg quickly adapt to the new shields, drain them, and lock on the tractor beam. After initial shots fail and they still can't move, a beam from the Borg slices into the Enterprise at Engineering, which Geordi is forced to evacuate. Shelby orders Data to fire while continually modulating the phasers, not giving the Borg time to adapt. This proves successful, and the tractor beam is broken. Picard orders Warp 9 away from the beast (no conference this time!!), and the Borg pursue.
The Enterprise enters the Paulson Nebula and drop to impulse--the nebula, they hope, will confuse the Borg sensors. When Worf reports that they cannot be located, but that the Borg are still trying, Picard says, "Good. As long as they're looking for us, they won't chase anyone else." As repairs of the hull breach in Engineering continue, Shelby and company analyze the earlier battle. They find that the Borg appear slightly vulnerable to one particular frequency band, and realize that they might manage to cripple or even destroy the ship in that band--but they need far more power than they can channel through phasers or photon torpedoes to do it. The only thing they can use to channel that much power is the deflection dish, and unless they can increase its range, the explosion would take out the Enterprise as well. Geordi and Wes get to work on that (and on retuning all the phasers, even hand phasers, to that band), and Shelby makes the additional recommendation to separate the saucer, to give the Borg two targets to worry about. Riker says they may need the saucer, and dismisses the plan as too risky, but assures Shelby that he will present all options to Picard.
Unfortunately, when he goes into Picard's ready room to talk to him a few minutes later, Shelby's already there. While Picard agrees with Riker that the plan is too risky to try now, he orders Riker to prepare for it as a fall- back option. Both Riker and Shelby leave, but Riker holds the lift long enough to tell Shelby, "you do an end run around me again, and I'll snap you back so hard you'll think you're a first-year cadet again." Not mincing words, she tells Riker that he's in her way, and that the only thing he knows how to do is play it safe.
Stardate 43996.2: They're still hiding in the dust cloud, and Picard is mulling over the possibility that none of their defenses will be adequate. He talks to Guinan in 10-Forward, concerned that this may be the end of his civilization's page in history, and Guinan assures him that humanity will prevail, even if it takes a millenium. Suddenly, a Red Alert is sounded--the Borg are sending magnetic charges into the nebula, essentially mining it. Shields are only back up to 48%, but with no other options, Picard orders the ship out (at half- impulse, with a sudden jump up to Warp 9 once they're out).
The chase lasts only seconds, and the Borg immediately knock the Enterprise dead in the water. One Borg beams aboard and is shot down by Worf, then two more appear. Both have shields, and while the first effortlessly tosses Riker and Worf around the bridge, the second affixes some sort of device to Picard--and then the two beam back with him (leaving the first one to disintegrate). The Borg disengage, and leave at warp 9, quickly moving to 9.4, then 9.6. While the Enterprise pursues, Worf tells Riker the Borg's course will take them to "Sector 001--the Terran system." Yep...they're coming straight for Earth.
Meanwhile, Picard is taken to a central area of the Borg ship, where he is told that humanity will be assimilated, biologically and technologically, into the Borg culture, and will be adapted to "service" the Borg. When Picard says it's impossible, because his culture is based on freedom and self-determination, the Borg reply, "Freedom is irrelevant. Self-determination is irrelevant. You must comply." When he says they'd rather die, the reply is "Death is irrelevant." (Brr...) They then tell him that, to more easily begin the assimilation, they require a human voice to speak for them in all communica- tions: and Picard's the only candidate.
Some time later (I'm assuming a couple of days, due to the stardate given in a later scene), the Enterprise can only maintain pursuit at that speed for another 2 hours 40 minutes--and with the deflector burst not yet ready (Geordi thinks he MIGHT have it in 2 hours), they realize they must get the Borg out of warp. Riker orders an away team to beam over to the Borg ship for some sabo- tage, and plans to lead it, but is forced to relinquish it to Shelby when Troi reminds him that, as Acting Captain in a wartime situation, his place is most assuredly the bridge.
Stardate 43998.5: Shelby, Data, Worf, and Beverly (there in case Picard needs medical help) prepare to beam over. Each phaser is tuned to a different frequency, but Shelby warns them that they still will probably only get 1-2 shots apiece before the Borg adapt. They beam over, and are ignored just as they were more than a year before. Signs of human life are "inconclusive", and they begin searching for Picard. Bev finds a power conduit, and although it's obvious they'll never be able to take out enough equipment to force the Borg out of warp, Bev suggests the mosquito analogy--sting them in a tender spot, and perhaps they'll stop to scratch. They decide to take out several distribution nodes, but before they do so, Worf picks up Picard's communicator signal and the team heads for it.
With 22 minutes of pursuit left, Riker talks to Admiral Hansen, strongly urging that all ships be redeployed to defend sector 001. Hansen says they're regroup- ing to make their stand at Wolf-359. Meanwhile, the away team enters what looks like the Borg nursery, and finds only Picard's uniform, with communicator still attached. They continue the search, as Geordi and Wes tell Riker that the deflector burst is in business--but it will completely burn out the main deflector, and they will need to evacuate the entire forward half of the secondary hull and the lower three decks of the saucer due to radiation threats.
With 17 minutes left, and Picard not yet found, the team has no choice but to start taking out the distribution nodes. They take out three, and as the ship drops out of warp (allowing the Enterprise to begin channeling that power to the dish and arming it), the Borg converge. Six Borg are taken out before they adapt to the new phasers, and the team prepares to beam back.
Suddenly, Beverly sees Picard in profile (the right half of his face, as you'd see if you were facing him) and says, "Jean-Luc!" He slowly turns, and the team sees with horror that he has been altered--into a Borg himself. Worf tries to grab him, but is repelled by a force-field. The team is forced to beam back empty-handed.
They tell Riker what's happened, and Geordi says the Borg ship is already begin- ning to regenerate. Riker tells them to prepare to fire. When Bev objects, saying that Picard is alive, and she might be able to reverse the process, he says there's no time. Finally, the Borg hail the Enterprise. We (and the bridge) see Picard slowly walking up to the screen, and he says, "I am Locutus, of Borg. Resistance is futile. Your life as it has been is over. From this time forward, you will service...US." After several stunned reaction shots, the camera closes in on Riker as he says, "Mister Worf--fire." Fade out, and the screen says:
TO BE CONTINUED................. WARNING: Here there be spoilers.
Whew. That's probably the longest synopsis I've ever written. In fact, I'm sure it is, but there we are: it was deserved. Now, I suppose I've got to say something coherent, don't I?
I was extremely impressed by this show. I would not consider it to be quite on the level of "Yesterday's Enterprise", but it beats most of the shows, and certainly the other two season closes, hands-down. Some examples of things that impressed me:
There was lots of proper continuity. For example, I'd forgotten until Admiral Hansen mentioned it that this is the THIRD time Riker's been offered his own command, and not just the second. (The Aries, in "The Icarus Factor", was easy, but how many people remember that Riker mentioned in "The Arsenal of Freedom" that he'd been offered the Drake?)
Then, there were the guest stars. First, let's deal with Shelby.
When both Picard and Riker said that Shelby reminded them of how Riker USED to be, they weren't kidding. Shelby is rash, overbearing, and more than a little arrogant--almost exactly the way Riker was characterized in the first season. Over the past two seasons, I think Riker has learned a great deal from Picard, and has improved tremendously as a character. (Of course, the fact that the beard keeps him from looking like he's made of balsa wood helps too.) She was written to be Riker's foil, and she's certainly being that.
However, I think there's some development there, too. Although she's as ambi- tious as Riker used to be, she's not nearly as cardboard-like as he used to be. Although I'm not entirely sure she should be worrying quite so much about moving up in the ranks while trying to face down the Borg, I feel as though I can understand it being so totally ingrained into her nature. (Did that make any sense at all? I hope so. :-) ) She got more development in this one show than some of the characters (most notably Troi) got in the entire first season. I have some suspicions that she may be staying on next year, but we'll just have to see about that.
Then, there were the Borg. Someone at Paramount's been doing their homework. The Borg were written and directed almost identically to how they were written and directed in "Q Who", their only other appearance. Even some of their statements are unchanging: when they demand Picard, they say "Your defensive capabilities are unable to withstand us."--EXACTLY what they said last time around. In addition, there's the point I made earlier, that no individual Borg ever spoke, but only the ship--again, that makes perfect sense if you recall that the Borg are a collective intelligence. And, of course, the Borg's abillity to adapt quickly was put to good use. (I wonder, though--the Nannites seemed able to adapt almost as quickly. I wonder what would happen if you put the two together? I'd like to see that...from a safe distance.)
Hmm, let's see...what else can I say? For the most part, nearly every regular had some particular moment in which he or she could shine. We obviously saw a great deal of Riker and Picard. (Picard, in fact, had a wonderful scene with Guinan when he's strolling around the ship before the battle, with perhaps a bit of foreshadowing as well. See my .sig for details.) Wes had both his first poker game and lots of air-time with Geordi, working on the deflector. Deanna had her conversation with Riker in 10-Forward, and generally seemed to serve to keep Riker in check. Worf had his station at Tactical, and the away team duty. (In fact, of the four away team members who saw Picard, he seemed the most shaken. He was visibly upset upon returning to the ship. Curious.) Bev, unfortunately, got a little bit left out--all we saw of her was the last few minutes of the show (which is probably why she was written into away team duty in the first place). I suppose one could argue that if anyone had to suffer, she should have, since she got so much screen-time in "Transfigurations".
Then, there's the cliffhanger. Again, I can only say YIPE! And, I'd like to point out that I thought they might Borgify Picard as the ending. I was close.
Let's consider the future, now. What might they do to get out of this? (Remember, according to the most recent information I know of, the second part of this story has not yet been written, so this isn't even second-guessing; it's FIRST-guessing. :-) ) There are lots of questions here, and damned few answers beyond guesswork.
1) Is Picard going to stay on as Captain? Even if they manage to get him back, I'm not sure 'Fleet Command would want someone who'd been compromised like that in charge of their flagship. Even if they do, Picard may possibly be so traumatized by the experience that he'd resign. (I don't hold with the last, though. Picard strikes me as someone together enough that this would have the opposite effect--if he could handle the Borg, NOTHING would ever shake him again.) If he doesn't, that could justify keeping Shelby on--as Riker's exec (assuming Riker gets offered the Enterprise, of course).
2) How are the Borg going to get stopped? Is it possible that Picard has a strong enough will that he can overcome the conditioning? (Remember, the Borg probably aren't used to having the process resisted.) Is Picard perhaps only faking now? (Before you say, "but he knows the Enterprise can destroy the Borg ship!", let me point out that the deflector burst was only a THEORY when Picard was taken--it didn't become usable until well afterwards.) Will Q return and decide to help out, because after all, humanity is much more fun to bother than the Borg ever could be? Will the ENTIRE Q-Continuum join in the act? Will Guinan's people have regrouped enough since the Borg attacked her world to come in and lend a hand? I haven't the slightest idea, though either of the first two have that certain "indomitability of the human spirit" feel common to much of TNG.
3) WHEN are the Borg going to get stopped? As yet, all they've really done is take out one colony, one starship, and Picard. If they manage to get to Earth and do some serious damage, the Federation is going to need lots of time to recover. Are we, perhaps, going to see TNG evolve into a more war-oriented show a la "Yesterday's Enterprise?"
4) Am I ever going to stop talking about this show? ;-)
Well, with that last question firmly in mind (and a thunderstorm going on outside), I'd better wrap this up. Here, then, are some ratings (though it's difficult to do something like rate the plot when it's not yet done):
TOTAL: 9.75---> 10. For once, a good season close.
NOTE: Although next week is, of course, a rerun, it is NOT a rerun in the order they've been going, as expected. They're rerunning "Yesterday's Enterprise", skipping over "A Matter of Perspective". This might tie in to something I saw in TV Guide about a sort of "TNG's Greatest Hits" series of reruns for a few weeks. Hmm...
Well, that's it for this season. It's been fun, folks. I'll be back with my season-wide review in a couple of weeks. Until then, I remain...
Tim Lynch (Cornell's first Astronomy B.A.) BITNET: H52Y@CRNLVAX5 INTERNET: H52Y@VAX5.CIT.CORNELL.EDU UUCP: ...!rochester!cornell!vax5.cit.cornell.edu!h52y "It's a tradition--captains touring the ship before a battle." "Before a HOPELESS battle, if I remember the tradition correctly." "Not entirely. Admiral Nelson toured his ship before the battle of Trafalgar." "Yes, but Nelson never returned from Trafalgar." "Ah--but the _battle_ was won." Copyright 1994, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask. This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the author*. Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.
Hans-Wolfgang Loidl <firstname.lastname@example.org> Last modified: Sun Nov 24 00:36:35 1996 Stardate: [-31]8470.12