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The Next Generation All Good Things come to an end...but not here.

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Old July 8 2013, 01:53 PM   #1
Jeyl
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Episode of the Week: 3x02 "The Ensigns of Command"


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Chrissie's Transcript

We now come to Part three in the four part series of TNG episodes written by Melinda Snodgrass, a writer who started out with a huge hit in the form of "The Meaure of a Man" only to have her nest story gobbled up in executive stupidity for "Up The Long Ladder". Now that it's Season 3 and everyone still working on Star Trek doesn't have to deal with Maurice Hurley, things should start to finally pick up. The result is "Ensigns of Command", a pretty average episode that, despite some obvious writing tropes, isn't really bad at all. I like the idea behind it and the execution is pretty sharp.

We start off by being introduced to a human colony that settled on a planet that once belonged to a race of black shiny rugs. These rugs have reappeared and are using legal rights to acquire their planet back. Problem? They want it back now and they're perfectly willing to kill anyone who happens to be on it that's not a rug. It's no easy feat to evacuate the colonists due to the planet's atmosphere playing havoc with the crew's health and the transporter systems, so the most effective means of evacuation won't be completed for a whole three weeks. When the Enterprise sends in Data to deal with the colonists, they're not so open to leaving either. So Plot A will revolve around Data trying to convince the colonists to evacuate, while Plot B focuses on Picard and Troi's efforts in trying to appeal to the rugs' good nature so that they can delay their massacre long enough to evacuate the planet.

This episode has a lot of things going against it on the premise alone. A-hole colonists who won't leave even for their very lives, and a-hole aliens who will murder innocents just because they want to start unpacking asap. I can imagine how difficult it must be for a writer to come up with a way to care enough about these colonists' well being when most of them are portrayed as a bunch of close minded people who would rather die than be inconvenienced. But that's ok, because when we have a story written by Melinda Snodgrass, we get her trademark "Mary Sue" in the form of Ard'rian McKenzie. She's part of this human colony and unlike a lot of crap we're going to have to put up with in regards to "re-location" stories in Star Trek, she actually treats this situation with an open mind and even delivers a line that I thought was awesome when I was still in my single digits. It's nice having a character who's a member of a group where the story draws conflict from that's on the side of our heroes. Can you imagine if there were characters like that in Star Trek Insurrection where some Baku were willing to leave their homes if their planet's healing properties could be used to end the Dominion War in a more peaceful manner?

But not everything about Mary "Ard'rian" Sue is good. For one thing, it's an obvious self-insurtion character done for the sake of having intimate moments with the character of Data (whom Melinda admits is the best character) and has herself moments where Data praises her character and that he would not have accomplished his mission without her. When I read about the last minute budget slashing which resulted in their relationship not being developed more deeply, I couldn't help but wonder if that was actually a good thing. I'm not opposed to Data having a romance with someone, I'm just opposed to a romance that goes nowhere and does nothing.

Where I really give this episode credit is how it gives each plot it's own moment of "awesome". For the A Plot, we have Data literally coming in guns blazing and making a really cool stand off moment showcasing his modded phaser. The B Plot gives an awesome moment for Picard when he finds something in the treaty that can be used to his advantage (An area Melinda is really good at) and has a really great moment where he literally cuts the rugs off mid sentence and does a little walk around the bridge. The moment where he looks at the Enterprise-D plaque and rubs off some dust is a moment that not many Star Trek stories get to have. It's probably my second favorite "Now we wait" scene in the whole series (first favorite coming this season).

So with the treaty loophole giving Picard time to evacuate the colonists and Data successfully convincing the colonists to leave and (SHOCK) giving Mary a kiss, our episode ends.

CONCLUSION: This episode gets an "Above Average" grade in my book for it's good execution of a typical (and soon to be overused) storyline. While Ard'rian will always be a Mary Sue in my eyes, the fact that she wasn't a character who "woos" Data into seeing her people's ways that results in Data siding with them was very welcome. If you can get passed the stubborn preachy leader who won't leave no matter what, this episode is quite good. And even though they're rugs, the Sheliak are pretty awesome looking.

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Old July 8 2013, 04:52 PM   #2
Kevman7987
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x02 "The Ensigns of Command"

That budget slashing may have saved us from this episode becoming Snodgrass' personal Fifty Shades/Twilight.
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Old July 8 2013, 05:21 PM   #3
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x02 "The Ensigns of Command"

This is one that hasn't aged particularly well.
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Old July 8 2013, 05:42 PM   #4
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x02 "The Ensigns of Command"

Some nice things visually in this episode. I like the statue in McKenzie's place, which looks like it's made from a gas can and other spare parts. The look of the Sheliak and their ship is pretty cool too.

Inevitably, the cameltoe must be mentioned, so here's the mention. I never really noticed it before, but it's very noticeable in HD.

Problem with the central conflict: it will take weeks to evacuate the colonists, but the Sheliak will only allow a few days. It's hard to believe that the Federation had 374 legal experts working on this treaty and nobody anticipated this situation.
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Old July 8 2013, 05:48 PM   #5
hIndsIght
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x02 "The Ensigns of Command"

I wish the Sheliak were further expounded upon. I felt that TNG could use more non-humanoid aliens. But I agree, when Picard cut them off in mid-sentence and walked around the bridge was a moment of awesomeness.
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Old July 8 2013, 06:09 PM   #6
MacLeod
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x02 "The Ensigns of Command"

Captrek wrote: View Post
Some nice things visually in this episode. I like the statue in McKenzie's place, which looks like it's made from a gas can and other spare parts. The look of the Sheliak and their ship is pretty cool too.

Inevitably, the cameltoe must be mentioned, so here's the mention. I never really noticed it before, but it's very noticeable in HD.

Problem with the central conflict: it will take weeks to evacuate the colonists, but the Sheliak will only allow a few days. It's hard to believe that the Federation had 374 legal experts working on this treaty and nobody anticipated this situation.
Lets examine the situation

Planet is an area with high levels of Hyeronic Radiaton which is lethal to humans

The treaty which seeded the Planet to the Sheliak Corperate was sign long before the S.S. Artemis was launched.

It's not like they could have forseen a later event. If there was any planet swapping due to the treaty no doubt they would have been something in it. That said" this treaty comes into effect on stardate xxxxx.x you have until then to remove any colonies."
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Old July 8 2013, 06:20 PM   #7
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x02 "The Ensigns of Command"

Ah, villain ADR Guy, how great you were.

Good moments in this episode for me, mostly dealing with Picard's dealing(s) with the Sheliak. I also like calling this planet's inhabitants the "Brushed Aluminum People" as they seem fond of that material. The robot-looking statues in the house of the colonist looks like one of the attack drones from the Star Wars Prequels. And I liked Data's ultimate demonstration to get the colonists to realize how in over their heads they were but, really, you'd think they'd already know about orbital bombardment and how they can be wiped out with very little effort or confrontation from a powerful warp-capable race.
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Old July 8 2013, 07:55 PM   #8
Captrek
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x02 "The Ensigns of Command"

MacLeod wrote: View Post
Captrek wrote: View Post
Some nice things visually in this episode. I like the statue in McKenzie's place, which looks like it's made from a gas can and other spare parts. The look of the Sheliak and their ship is pretty cool too.

Inevitably, the cameltoe must be mentioned, so here's the mention. I never really noticed it before, but it's very noticeable in HD.

Problem with the central conflict: it will take weeks to evacuate the colonists, but the Sheliak will only allow a few days. It's hard to believe that the Federation had 374 legal experts working on this treaty and nobody anticipated this situation.
Lets examine the situation

Planet is an area with high levels of Hyeronic Radiaton which is lethal to humans

The treaty which seeded the Planet to the Sheliak Corperate was sign long before the S.S. Artemis was launched.

It's not like they could have forseen a later event. If there was any planet swapping due to the treaty no doubt they would have been something in it. That said" this treaty comes into effect on stardate xxxxx.x you have until then to remove any colonies."
I don't mean that they should have anticipated that this situation would arise at this particular place and time, just this kind of situation in general.

Trekker4747 wrote: View Post
Ah, villain ADR Guy, how great you were.
Why was he ADRed?

The robot-looking statues in the house of the colonist looks like one of the attack drones from the Star Wars Prequels.
I think it looks like a relative of Crow from MST3K.
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Old July 8 2013, 11:24 PM   #9
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x02 "The Ensigns of Command"

Has it ever been impossible to evacuate planets within days? I mean, we have evidence of colonies being evacuated in far less ("For the Uniform", say) if the folks have ships of their own, and of shipless colonies in general being very, very small and easily beamed up by a single starship. In turn, things that stop transporters would normally tend to stop colonization, too, while a colony 15,000 people strong would be quite unlikely not to sport ships of its own.

And it seems inevitable that better-established, non-trivially evacuable worlds with hundreds of thousands of people are covered by different rules altogether - the whole situation only arose because there were illegal squatters on Sheliak property, not because there would be an established UFP settlement there, and those normally tend to be separate things.

The fun thing is, evacuation is hindered by lack of surface-to-orbit transportation; apparently, there's no problem in accommodating 15,000 people aboard the Enterprise as such. And while all Starfleet technology seems to go haywire, including sensors, transporters and weapons, our heroes seem to accept that Sheliak sensors work (they saw the colonists) and Sheliak weapons work (they are a deadly threat to the colonists). So the thing Picard should be asking for is the use of Sheliak transporters in moving the colonists from Tau Cygna V to the Enterprise.

Why, then, does Picard not negotiate for this from the very start? Why does he at first tell the Sheliak he doesn't want to uproot the colonists? No wonder the Sheliak find Picard's attempts offensive.

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Old July 9 2013, 03:41 AM   #10
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x02 "The Ensigns of Command"

Captrek wrote: View Post
Trekker4747 wrote: View Post
Ah, villain ADR Guy, how great you were.
Why was he ADRed?
IIRC, the actor wasn't happy with his performance and they didn't have the time/budget to reshoot the scenes so a voice-actor is brought in to dub in the new lines over the original ones. As a result the original actor asked not to be credited for the role.

I think the ADR was "slightly" better in the remastered version but still noticeable.

I think it looks like a relative of Crow from MST3K.
I can see that too, but I more see the SW drones.
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Old July 10 2013, 01:26 PM   #11
Jeyl
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x02 "The Ensigns of Command"

I recall reading somewhere that Melinda Snodgrass was unhappy about how Brent Spiner objected to her story that gave Data a lot more emotions. While I do sympathize with an actor wanting to remain consistent with previous performances, he was the one who pushed to use the emotion chip in Star Trek: Generations to give him more to do. I think we can all agree that whatever Melinda had in mind for Data in this episode probably wouldn't have been as glaring or over the top as it was in Generations.
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Old July 11 2013, 03:40 AM   #12
JirinPanthosa
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x02 "The Ensigns of Command"

I wouldn't really classify Data/Ard'rian as a romance so much as an asymmetric friendship. Also I don't have a problem with romances going nowhere, because I would prefer characters classify as friends with tension than get the usual predictable 'temporary romance' arc.
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Old July 11 2013, 06:14 AM   #13
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x02 "The Ensigns of Command"

I read the full script a couple months back. I felt the episode as aired was much better. The romance did not seem natural at all, given that it's Data. The Sheliak had a generic and forgettable name, Hrathans. "Sheliak", that's a name that's hard to forget.

Most of all though, Data's badass moment isn't quite so badass in the original script.

As aired:
*No dialogue*
*Data jumps out and shoots the guards*
Data: "That was the 'stun' setting ... This is not."
*Data destroys the aqueduct*
Data: "I could reduce this pumping station to a pile of debris, but I trust my point is clear. I am one android with a single weapon..."

In her script:
*Data shoots two guards*
Data: "I hope you were all paying close attention. Because I am one man with a phaser, and you see the result."
Gosheven: "Get him!"
*Data shoots more guards*
Data: "This phaser is set on stun. When the Hrathan arrive there will be hundreds of them, and their setting will be for kill."
*Data destroys the aqueduct*
Data: "Are you still eager to fight?"
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Old July 11 2013, 01:12 PM   #14
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x02 "The Ensigns of Command"

Jeyl wrote: View Post
I recall reading somewhere that Melinda Snodgrass was unhappy about how Brent Spiner objected to her story that gave Data a lot more emotions. While I do sympathize with an actor wanting to remain consistent with previous performances, he was the one who pushed to use the emotion chip in Star Trek: Generations to give him more to do. I think we can all agree that whatever Melinda had in mind for Data in this episode probably wouldn't have been as glaring or over the top as it was in Generations.
Remember, "Generations" came years later, and by that point the writers and Spiner all felt they'd kind of exhausted other avenues with Data, and the chip was the next logical step. Beginning of season 3 was too soon for a lot of what Snodgrass was suggesting...
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Old July 11 2013, 05:03 PM   #15
Jeyl
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x02 "The Ensigns of Command"

jimbotron wrote: View Post
As aired:
*No dialogue*
*Data jumps out and shoots the guards*
Data: "That was the 'stun' setting ... This is not."
*Data destroys the aqueduct*
Data: "I could reduce this pumping station to a pile of debris, but I trust my point is clear. I am one android with a single weapon..."

In her script:
*Data shoots two guards*
Data: "I hope you were all paying close attention. Because I am one man with a phaser, and you see the result."
Gosheven: "Get him!"
*Data shoots more guards*
Data: "This phaser is set on stun. When the Hrathan arrive there will be hundreds of them, and their setting will be for kill."
*Data destroys the aqueduct*
Data: "Are you still eager to fight?"
Is it me, or does Melinda's script make Data less emotional than the finished product? Sure, the line "this is not" is bada**, but the way he continues in the original script sounds a lot more like Data. That line "I could reduce this pumping station to a pile of debris, but I trust my point is clear." sounds pretty emotional, even how it's delivered.
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