Allegiance is one of those episodes that when taken solely on it's own, is a decent episodic outing. Things get weird, things go back to normal, the end. But when you look at it from the perspective of everything TNG has done as a whole, it actually sets up a pretty important moment that we won't see until the last season.
This episode could also be regarded as the first attempt to "appease" Patrick Stewart in his apparent disappointment with the series. Before Season 3's end, there was some serious talk about Patrick leaving the show and throughout the rest of this season, several attempts were be made to try and spice up Picard's role. Some worked (THIS ONE!), others didn't (NEXT WEEK!).
Our episode opens with Picard in his quarters sleeping on his very long chair when an energy beam transports him away and replaces him with a duplicate. The real Picard finds himself in a room with three other occupants who upon waking up, don't know why they're in this room either. Since this episode is one of the TNG episodes I never saw before the BluRay release, it felt weird watching this episode and not thinking about the "SAW" series.
While the real Picard is trying to piece together why they're trapped in this room, the fake Picard is doing all kinds of stuff that the crew fine awkward. What is he doing that has the crew suspicious? He's acting NICE! He not only wishes to join them in their poker game, he's overly complimentary, assuring and even starts singing "Heart of Oak"
. But things start to get really weird with fake Picard when he orders the Enterprise to look at a Pulsar. So weird that despite the dangers the Pulsar presents, he orders the ship to move in closer for what seems to be no reason at all. And when the crew finally disobey him, we get this little charm of a line.
Picard: You're destroying yourself and anyone who is foolish enough to listen to you.
I just love the complete disconnect of how Stewart delivers that line when put in context to what fake Picard wants the crew to actually do. And I wouldn't be surprised if this exact line is what everyone wanted to say to Gene Roddenberry when they left the show.
Back in the SAW room, the real Picard realizes that it was the starfleet cadet who was fooling everyone, and once he's back on the bridge and catches the aliens responsible, we have this scene.
ALIEN 1: We wanted to examine the nature of command.
ALIEN 2: Our replicas of Tholl and Esoqq explored this issue on Mizar Two and on Chalna, just as our Picard replica did on the Enterprise.
ALIEN 1: Your responses were most intriguing.
PICARD: You have no right to put us through this just to satisfy your curiosity.
ALIEN 2: Why not?
PICARD: Because kidnapping is an immoral assault. The rights of other races must be respected.
ALIEN 1: This concept of morality is a very interesting human characteristic. We shall have to study it sometime.
Am I the only one who thinks that Picard was being a little too pushy on these aliens? They are after all stating that these concepts are new to them and they wish to study it further. Instead of Picard offering a chance to teach these aliens what those concept are like, he has the aliens imprisoned by a force field against their will and starts lashing out at them like they should know better.
Picard: And now that you have had a taste of captivity, perhaps you will reconsider the morality of inflicting it upon others. In any event, we now know about your race and we know how to imprison you. Bear that in mind. Now get off my ship.
And that folks is the Federation's mission statement at work. To seek out new life and imprison them, threaten them, lecture them and tell them to fu** off. It's moments like this where I wonder if the writers didn't see any previous first contact episodes like "Who Watches the Watchers" where Picard treats ignorant aliens with some shred of dignity and understanding. Than I realized that this episode uses the events of "Who Watches the Watchers" as a plot point, so I got nothing.
A nice episode that gives us a different take on Picard that, when taken in the context of the series as a whole, will actually have a very nice payoff in the series final. And it gets better. This isn't the last episode of TNG where the so called "fake" elements inadvertently foreshadows things that will soon come to pass. If it wasn't for the fact that Picard acts like a pushy jerk to the newly discovered aliens and that the writers made the only female captive in the room turn out to be the baddie, this would have been one of my favorite Season 3 episodes.
The Mirror Universe's take on Picard singing "Heart of Oak"