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

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Old December 23 2013, 03:48 PM   #1
Jeyl
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Episode of the Week: 3x26 "The Best of Both Worlds"





For everyone involved in making the show, "The Best of Both Worlds" signaled what I can only describe as total uncertainty. All the writers who joined the show from the very first season were all but gone and the new writers who were brought in for this season were now just counting the hours till their contracts ran out so they too can abandon ship. Michael Piller was only contracted for one year when he started Season 3 with "Evolution" and was still pondering on whether he wanted to leave the show for good after this episode. To make matters even more pressing, there was even talk of Patrick Stewart not wanting to return after this season so there had to be something to give the possibility of his potential departure. All of this, plus many more that I'll get into later was put on Michael Piller's shoulders and it had all the makings of a disaster. To say that it worked out in the end is not only an understatement of biblical proportions, it would soon prove to be an even heavier burden on Pillar as well.

It's interesting how an episode like "Best of Both Worlds", a two-parter that would greatly affect the character of Picard in future stories and the big theatrical film First Contact is primarily a story about Riker. Most of the episode is told from his point of view with his career choices actually becoming a problem. Picard's scenes are just of him discussing the matters and even furthering Riker's story with his own "down beat" point of view. It's one of those nice little things that the episode does in order to justify why such a seasoned officer like Riker would not want to take command of a starship of his own instead of being stuck as Picard's right hand man. Having a character like Shelby introduced as his possible replacement and even being more capable than him in certain areas really brings this issue to a head. Probably the most telling concerns is the scene with Riker and Troi where he tries to explain how his position on the Enterprise is something he worked hard to achieve and wonders if he himself is capable of command, a point pushed further by Shelby who not only tells Riker that he's in her way, but that all he knows how to do is play it safe. While that is something that he proudly stands by, it only gives Shelby another chance to tell him that if he's not willing to make the tough decisions, he should let someone else do them instead.

But of course, how can we talk about Riker and NOT talk about Commander Shelby? Her character is one of two things in this episode that serve to remind us of the greatest tragedies in TNG's run, because she is so well portrayed and so well written that it was absolutely criminal not to have her appear in ANYTHING EVER AGAIN! How often is it that we not only get a female guest character who isn't used as a romantic interest in any way, but also someone who knows their stuff and can be put on equal fitting with a character like Riker? Remember, Riker is the first officer who encountered the Borg IN PERSON, boarded their ship and witnessed their destructive capabilities up close and personal. Shelby, an officer who has had none of that experience, is practically upstaging Riker at every turn. She may be the bad guy to Riker, but she is doing the right things. Even when Riker tries to get a little comment from his closer friends, they're even convinced that she can help them in dealing with the Borg.

Now we come to the moment we've all been waiting for. Picard is informed that a ship in a near by sector encountered a ship described as "cube shaped" and was not heard from again. Picard, knowing that the closest help is six days away orders without hesitation to set a course. So far everything has been hitting on all the right cylinders. The actors are all on their A game, the direction is tight, the pacing is fluid and the anticipation is almost tangible. But... if there's one thing that is clearly going above and beyond in turning this episode into something legendary, it's Ron Jones' score. The music that plays when the Enterprise waits for their inevitable confrontation helps sets up a tension filled tone that we haven't heard in Star Trek before, and the moment immediately after Picard orders "Magnify" is my absolute favorite score moment in the entire series. There's no exciting action music, no aspiring tunes to build up the courage of the characters, there's none of that. What we see is what we hear, and what we hear is doom. Ron Jones was a gawddang Albatross to this series, bringing it not only moments of good fortune in areas where there were none (Seriously, he was the only one who actually put effort into "Shades of Grey"), but also helped define some of Star Trek most memorable and iconic moments. His work on "The Best of Both Worlds" is not only one of TNG's most iconic scores, it's also one of two episodes that got IT'S OWN SOUNDTRACK RELEASE. And when they made the first teaser for "Star Trek: First Contact", they used Ron Jones' score in the actual teaser! A TV series score hyping up a theatrical movie! Back in the 90s, that kind of thing was unheard of. TNG had something great that was willing to go full out in even the worst moments of the series, and like the Albatross of that legendary poem, some idiot had to kill it for NO.... GOOD..... REASON!

*clears throat*

So after being over powered and damaged by the Borg Cube, the Enterprise manages to escape into a "not the mutara nebula" to hide from the Borg Cube. This episode is so awesome even bits of Star Trek II wants in on the action! After figuring out a way to damage the Borg that could be used to destroy them for good, Picard takes some time off to contemplate in Ten Forward with Guinan. What follows is a scene, even for Star Trek, is too honest for it's own good. Picard talks to Guinan about how this could be the moment that history will remember as the end of human civilization. Guinan says that this isn't the end, and backs it up with experience.
Guinan: When the Borg destroyed my world, my people were scattered throughout the galaxy. We survived. As will humanity survive. As long as there are a handful of you left to keep the spirit alive, you will prevail. Even if it takes a millennium.
This is one of my favorite exchanges between Guinan and Picard because it puts the whole universe in Star Trek into perspective. Picard is contemplating the end of human civilization, and Guinan who isn't human tells him that even if that were to happen, there is still hope for humanity if there are still some humans out there (which, let's not joke ourselves, are pretty much EVERYWHERE). More importantly, her presence shows that the Borg are not just here to end human civilization, but all civilizations. Her species was one of their victims who they couldn't fight back, but here they are still trying to prevail. What ever meaning Picard, or even the audience was supposed to get out of this exchange is completely lost when the episode resorts to... wait for it...
Worf: Sir, the coordinates they have set, they're on a direct course to sector zero zero one. The Terran system.
Riker: Earth.
*groan*
So much for not being predictable.

So after the Borg scare the Enterprise our of the nebula, capture Picard and set course for Earth, we have a nice little realization scene of Riker not being fully aware of the circumstances he is in. Captain Picard has been kidnapped but he's doing his job like a first officer. It's not until Troi of all people who informs him that until they retrieve Picard, Riker is in command of the Enterprise. This one scene accomplishes two things. It shows Riker being forced to accept the role that he's been hesitant to take on this entire episode, and it also serves to showcase to the audience that things are getting very, VERY serious.

After boarding the Borg cube and successfully sabotaging it enough to slow it down so the Enterprise can use it's weapon, the crew discover Picard, only something is different. After a failed attempt by Worf to rescue Picard, the team beams back to deliver the news to Riker.

We now come full circle. Not only has Picard been lost, he's also a borg. The crew, even commander Shelby implore Riker to give them a chance to rescue him. Riker on the other hand cannot ignore the opportunity they have to end this Borg threat once and for all. Just before Riker is about to give the order, the Borg hails the Enterprise. Instead of a vast structure of thousands upon thousands of drones all speaking as one, they are confronted by an assimilated Picard.
Locutus: I am.. Locutus.. of Borg. Resistance.. is futile. Your life as it has been.. is over. From this time forward.. you will service.. us.
Riker is now presented with two options. Stop this Borg threat once and for all, or withdraw and work out a way to rescue Picard. He does not hesitate.
Riker: Mr. Worf, fire.


CONCLUSION:
Television history right there. The return of the Borg managed to not only match the threat they presented in "Q Who", but also add something else that made them even more horrifying. They not only wanted your technology, they wanted your soul. It's one of the most iconic Star Trek episodes, and for good reason. But the real mark that the Borg leave on Star Trek history is what comes next.

STINGER:
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Old December 23 2013, 09:54 PM   #2
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x26 "The Best of Both Worlds"

Much has been said about this episode, and it deserves it. This episode (particularly part 1), I feel, is the best TNG committed to film, including the four movies.

Even from the opening establishing shot, and the transporter room, there's something "different" and special about this episode. There's a dramatic weight to it you would find in a movie. The impending doom is helped greatly by Jones' score. The editing is tight, and there are no wasted scenes. I also get the sense that this was the best possible effort by everyone, meaning it was nearly impossible for the payoff to be as good. Part I is so good that it makes up for the weaker part II.

While Jones had been butting heads with Berman and (was it Livingston?), I think it was BOBW that sealed the deal for his eventual firing. Jones went above and beyond, creating one of TV's finest scores, and got plenty of recognition for it, and I think it was the beginning of the end for him.

This was the peak of the Borg. As much as First Contact is praised, I think it ruined what the Borg were, while Voyager just ran with it....into the ground.
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Old December 24 2013, 02:02 AM   #3
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x26 "The Best of Both Worlds"

"The Best of Both Worlds I" is, by far, the best episode of TNG ever produced.
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Old December 24 2013, 12:50 PM   #4
Jeyl
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x26 "The Best of Both Worlds"

While this episode did indeed establish that this was the same cube from "Q Who", there were some changes done to the Borg that made them a bit different. Some of these changes are even acknowledged by the characters, while other have not.

In "Q Who", it's made clear that the Borg's purpose was to scrap and pillage advanced civilizations of their technology. Assimilation was not established at this point because the idea of Borg reproduction was actually shown in the episode. This is further emphasized on how every borg drone, despite having different looking components were all humanoid with no distinguishing marks or features that show they were from a different race.

When the change also involved assimilation of other species, we actually get a taste of continuity from Shelby who assumed they weren't interested in life forms but just their technology.

The other change is, well, debatable. It's also the biggest and most glaring issue that I have with the Borg as a whole. The famous "They'll ignore us if we don't pose a threat". While the episode "Q Who" assumed that this was a possibility when the Borg ignored the away team while on the Borg Cube, that was not the ONLY conclusion they made in that episode. When Data discovers that the Borg Cube was regenerating, it was using the combined power of all of it's drones to make it happen. So the reason why the Borg didn't care about the away team, it was because they were repairing their ship so that it could deal with the Enterprise. For me, it made perfect sense! If the away team boarded the Borg Cube without them dealing with the damage, they would have taken notice.

But not here, and certainly not in future installments. No. Michael Piller took the "They don't see us as a threat" and ran with it, and it's been stuck with the Borg ever since. What makes this worse is that assimilation has just been introduced, and even further expanded upon to have the borg want to assimilate ANY SPECIES IT CAN! So what sense does it make when a group of unassimilated people roaming around the halls of their own ships clearly carrying weapons does it not make sense to just assimilate them right there on the spot? It's literal "The enemy doesn't care".
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Old December 25 2013, 01:13 PM   #5
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x26 "The Best of Both Worlds"

Oh, I forgot to mention. The "Q Who" Picard makes a little cameo in this episode when the Borg demand that he surrender himself.
Picard: We have developed new technology since our last meeting and we are prepared to use them if you do not withdraw from Federation space!
lol. Does Picard have any idea what he just said? The Borg are here to capture and assimilate both our species and our technology, and Picard is threatening them with.... NEW TECHNOLOGY! It's like fighting off a bank robber with gold coins.
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Old December 25 2013, 05:50 PM   #6
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x26 "The Best of Both Worlds"

I remember, as a kid, one Saturday afternoon when some of my cartoons were preempted by something called "Star Trek: The Next Generation". The station first showed "Q Who", then "The Best of Both Worlds", and finally "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II". (Then, after the news, they showed "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II" again in what turned out to be TNG's regular time slot. )

After that, um... "random" selection of 3 episodes, I seriously thought that TNG was the greatest thing ever.

Then I tuned in next week.*

Merry Christmas to everyone!

*To be fair, though, I do appreciate "Family" now that I'm older.
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Old December 25 2013, 10:33 PM   #7
Lance
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x26 "The Best of Both Worlds"

"jimbotron" wrote:
This was the peak of the Borg.
It definitely was, which unfortunately means (being as it is only their second appearance) that the writers had to backtrack/castrate them considerably in nearly all future instalments. They peaked early.

I do kinda appreciate that they were *so* bold here though. To really throw caution to the wind like they did in Part 1 and just say, hey, forget about what might or might not happen at some hypothetical point further down the track, let's just make this the best God-damn hour it can be.
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Old December 26 2013, 09:20 PM   #8
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x26 "The Best of Both Worlds"

Jeyl wrote: View Post
Oh, I forgot to mention. The "Q Who" Picard makes a little cameo in this episode when the Borg demand that he surrender himself.
Picard: We have developed new technology since our last meeting and we are prepared to use them if you do not withdraw from Federation space!
lol. Does Picard have any idea what he just said? The Borg are here to capture and assimilate both our species and our technology, and Picard is threatening them with.... NEW TECHNOLOGY! It's like fighting off a bank robber with gold coins.
Actually, I think his line is:
We have developed new defense capabilities since our last meeting and we are prepared to use them if you do not withdraw from Federation space.
So, he's not saying "technology" literally, but certainly implying it. "Hello, Moth, I've got this new hotter version of fire, so you'd better back off."
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Old December 27 2013, 11:45 AM   #9
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x26 "The Best of Both Worlds"

Maurice wrote: View Post
So, he's not saying "technology" literally, but certainly implying it. "Hello, Moth, I've got this new hotter version of fire, so you'd better back off."
Actually, it is quite literal because the very thing that is going to use these new defensive capabilities is the Enterprise, a piece of literal technology. Don't tell me that you thought Picard was choosing his words wisely in order to fool the Borg into thinking that his new technology wouldn't be regarded as technology at all, because the Borg's immediate reply to that very claim was a direct attack!
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Old December 27 2013, 12:00 PM   #10
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x26 "The Best of Both Worlds"

Jeyl wrote: View Post
While this episode did indeed establish that this was the same cube from "Q Who".
Interesting, I never interpreted it that way. "It's Dimensions are exactly the same" could just an example of their lack of individuality - that all Borg cubes are exactly the same.
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Old December 27 2013, 12:40 PM   #11
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x26 "The Best of Both Worlds"

Rarewolf wrote: View Post
Jeyl wrote: View Post
While this episode did indeed establish that this was the same cube from "Q Who".
Interesting, I never interpreted it that way. "It's Dimensions are exactly the same" could just an example of their lack of individuality - that all Borg cubes are exactly the same.
I thought Data said he wasn't sure if it was the same cube from the J-25 system?
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Old December 27 2013, 07:02 PM   #12
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x26 "The Best of Both Worlds"

He said he was not sure that it was the same cube, but that its dimensions were exactly the same.

With the use of stock footage from Q Who (cube tractoring the 2-foot model, and the interior shot during the communication), it ends up LOOKING exactly the same.
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Old December 27 2013, 09:55 PM   #13
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x26 "The Best of Both Worlds"

jimbotron wrote: View Post
He said he was not sure that it was the same cube, but that its dimensions were exactly the same.

With the use of stock footage from Q Who (cube tractoring the 2-foot model, and the interior shot during the communication), it ends up LOOKING exactly the same.
I'm pretty sure the Borg don't give their ship designers style leeway on individual cubes.
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Old December 27 2013, 10:09 PM   #14
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x26 "The Best of Both Worlds"

Jeyl wrote: View Post
Maurice wrote: View Post
So, he's not saying "technology" literally, but certainly implying it. "Hello, Moth, I've got this new hotter version of fire, so you'd better back off."
Actually, it is quite literal because the very thing that is going to use these new defensive capabilities is the Enterprise, a piece of literal technology. Don't tell me that you thought Picard was choosing his words wisely in order to fool the Borg into thinking that his new technology wouldn't be regarded as technology at all, because the Borg's immediate reply to that very claim was a direct attack!
Did you even bother to read what I wrote? I essentially said he was offering a brighter flame to a moth even if he didn't say the word "technology". "Don't tell me..." indeed.
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Old December 27 2013, 11:20 PM   #15
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Re: Episode of the Week: 3x26 "The Best of Both Worlds"

Certainly a great episode, and a great Riker story.

I always figured that the cube in BoBW was the same one from j25, and the Borg just turned it around to follow the Enterprise back to Federation space. It also makes sense to think it was the same Cube from TNZ.
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