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Old October 25 2008, 12:42 AM   #1
Rear Admiral
The Best of Both Worlds, Part Two

Plot Summary: Riker orders Worf to fire on the Borg cube where Captain Picard has been transformed into Locutus of Borg. But because Picard was briefed on the plan to use the deflector dish to amplify the Enterprise's weapons, the Borg are ready for the attack. Locutus informs Riker that the Borg now possess all of Picard's knowledge. After Admiral Hanson declares Picard dead, gives Riker a field commission as captain, and explains Starfleet's plan to intercept the Borg before they reach Earth, Riker asks Shelby to serve as his first officer. While the Borg continue the process of assimilating Locutus, the new captain orders the Enterprise to rendezvous with the Starfleet attack force, but it is too late: dozens of ships are floating lifeless near Wolf 359. The cube resumed course for Earth and the Enterprise pursues, but it is clear that they cannot overtake the Borg. Reminded by Guinan that he must throw away the rule book if Picard knew its rules, Riker goes ahead with the plan to separate the Enterprise's saucer section, assuming that the Borg will ignore it and fight the drive section long enough to send Worf and Data to return Picard to the Enterprise. The mission is successful, though Dr. Crusher reports that Picard is too deeply assimilated for her to remove the implants. Data attempts to wire himself into the Borg's neural network through Locutus but is unsuccessful at accessing the weapons or defense commands until Picard breaks through and suggests that Data tell the Borg to sleep. While Riker prepares for a collision course that will destroy the Enterprise as well as the Borg cube, Data successfully puts the Borg into regeneration mode. The shift in power that halts the Borg weapons creates an overload that causes the cube to explode. Crusher is able to remove the Borg alterations to Picard, and Riker remains on the Enterprise as first officer, while Shelby departs to help rebuilt the fleet.

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Old October 25 2008, 01:02 AM   #2
Brutal Strudel
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Re: The Best of Both Worlds, Part Two

I've never understood why so many people feel this episode is so terribly inferior to Part One. I thought it did a good job of wrapping things up. One of the few TNG episodes that is worth watching again and again and again.
Once every lifetime, we're swallowed by the whale.
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Old October 25 2008, 01:27 AM   #3
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Re: The Best of Both Worlds, Part Two

I have a very clear memory of the cool promo they had for this episode. “You once knew him as your captain…” To this day, this is the episode I've most anticipated.

What impressed me is the fact Michael Piller wrote this months later with very little idea how he was going to wrap up Part I yet you couldn’t tell that from watching this masterpiece. I thought it was every bit as solid as Part I and was permeating with the same off-the-scale tension. I've never understood those that felt it was weak or disappointing. The show amazingly managed to maintain the momentum built up three months earlier without skipping a beat picking up right where it left off.

The episode was relentless with its action, surprises, twists, harrowing moments, and characterization. I had no clue what would happen from scene to scene and I had no idea how things would ultimately end up.

It might have been just me but I never suspected, even for a second, that they would keep Picard alive by having the weapon fail to work due to Picard's knowledge that was assimilated by the Collective mind. I didn’t see this coming although in hindsight I really should have. The seeds were laid in Part I so subtlely that I wonder if Michael even knew that they were there to exploit until he sat down to write the second half.
Some writers plan ahead and intentionally go out of their way to put in place plot points that they know they’ll use to get out of a seemingly impossible situation in Part I therefore allowing for an exit from the corner they backed themselves into storywise. I never got that feeling here. This seemed more of an instance of a good writer being creative. I just loved the brilliant simplicity of how Michael resolved this.

This allowed us to wonder a little bit longer about the fate of Picard as well as allowing the story, of course, to continue but it plausibly played off of the Borg’s pre-established MO.

One of my favorite scenes was the one as the crew regroup, we get our first glimpse of the nightmare Picard is experiencing aboard the cube as it continues en route to Earth. Much like in “Chain of Command”, this is a trauma that Picard must endure alone on his own and one that no one else can even begin to fathom and for which no one can take his place for him. In an agonizing scene to watch, we witness the indignity Picard is subjected to as he is treated like an inanimate object as further alterations are made to him as part of the ongoing assimilation process.

We get the first indication that a part of the man is still alive struggling to break free, aware but trapped in his own body helpless to do anything.
It worked so well because it continues to show how alien the Borg are. They don't see this as punitive but that is the effect nonetheless. They see it as nothing more than a normal part of how they exist and they can’t even begin to understand the mental torture they are inflicting upon him as they leave Picard as not much more than a neutered silent observer passively watching as he is compelled to assist the Borg in the systematic deconstructing of his humanity as he raises his arm to receive an armature or as a device implants technology into his brain and drains the color from his face.

Picard can only shed a single tear that falls from his cheek. I loved that subtle but powerful touch. This scene is so powerful because it doesn’t use graphic violence or conventional torture but is just as unnerving in that it takes place in such a cold environment. This is why I find the portrayal of surgical assimilation to be a thousand times more effective than the instant assimilation facilitated by nanoprobes in demonstrating effectively the horrors of assimilation. The Borg cube is the equivalent of a 24th century house of horrors where unspeakable acts are committed.

Just as in part I, the show does a tremendous job with creating the feeling of a hopeless dire cause. Here we once again wonder if the Federation will be successful and whether Locutus would escape death once more. The scene shows an acceptance that all hope of retrieving Picard is gone and that the priority now is saving Earth and the rest of the Quadrant from a similar fate befalling them.

Michael Piller took every opportunity to keep upping the stakes and portraying events so devastating in their unpredictability realizing the Borg invasion was the one chance to really pull out all the stops like the Borg steamrolling through 39 starships leaving what we later learn is 11000 deaths in its wake. Nothing comes close to the dramatic impact of this scene until years later with DS9 and the Dominion War. I suspect some might have been disappointed in not seeing the actual battle but I preferred this creatively just seeing the aftermath. (First Contact was the time when a full scale Borg battle sequence could have been done justice and been a thrill. In fact I was expecting that but I wasn’t particularly satisfied with it).

Just when you think the Borg threat could not get any more dangerous- they have assimilated an entire colony, kidnapped and assimilated Picard, absorbed all his knowledge now they have just crippled the Federation fleet and are proceeding unimpeded straight to Earth undaunted. The scale of devastation was hard-hitting. The Borg truly seemed unstoppable.
I loved the tragic irony for Riker as Shelby begins naming off the destroyed ships and one of them is the Melbourne.

Stewart must be commended for an outstanding performance. Locutus was a chilling figure. He captured perfectly the controlled tone never once betraying emotions yet he was able to convey menace. No one before or after has come close to walking this fine line. Jeri Ryan’s portrayal in “Scorpion II” was too human-like.

I loved the wonderfully choreographed assault on the cube with the Enterprise separating off into the saucer and drive sections unleashing the anti-matter spread was not only a visually stunning sight to behold.
Picard’s exchange with Worf was excellent further showing even more insight into the Borg mindset.

The solution to the Borg threat was clever. It was just different enough but still keeping with Borg parameters to make sense and played well off the theme of the best of both worlds ie the Borg using Picard to see Federation weaknesses and now the Federation using the Borg part of Picard to see their weakness. Personally for a weak cop-out ending I look to First Contact where by destroying the Queen all the Borg on the E-E self-destruct. And I love the execution of the cube’s demise with it giving off sparks initially before blowing up into pieces as we see the various parts be blown outward.

But even then the suspense wasn’t over since the very real possibility existed Picard could die when his link was severed. I can honestly say I wasn’t expecting him to survive and return to the series but the way in which it was done was extraordinarily satisfying. Patrick captured the sense of wariness just as I would have imagined after his ordeal. Then in the next scene with the haunting epilogue--Picard looking through his window with the reflection of Earth framing him as that wonderful little piece of music plays we know the worst is still ahead of him as he begins the process of healing emotionally.

Michael Piller must be congratulated on getting the most out of the Borg’s one major appearance. I figured the Borg were just a one shot wonder and we’d never see them again. I felt he did everything he could have using them to full effect that their presence afforded.

Best of Both Worlds was a very dramatic moment not just in the Trek universe but in the series itself. It really gave momentum to the series that IMO would propel it for the remainder of its days. Both hours are classics.
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Old October 25 2008, 01:35 AM   #4
Fleet Captain
Re: The Best of Both Worlds, Part Two

While it felt like too much in this part was simply trying to resolve what was offered in the first part -- that is, this episode felt more mechanical and constructed than the other -- it was pretty good, especially for TNG, whose episodes and characters typically were bloodless. I almost wish that Ronnie Cox could have been in here, too, playing that stooped-over, WASPy prick Jellico, adding to the cliffhanger's turmoil.
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Old October 25 2008, 02:37 AM   #5
Location: Maryland
Re: The Best of Both Worlds, Part Two

I wish they'd brought back Shelby in a guest role - I liked how she was played.

This story's effect on Picard is followed through in the next episode very effectively - the early stages of his recovery on Earth make Best of Both Worlds even stronger in retrospect.
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Old October 25 2008, 05:04 AM   #6
Brutal Strudel
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Re: The Best of Both Worlds, Part Two

Indeed. I'd have much rather seen Shelby than those goddamned Klingon sisters or that sexless, silly Vash or--heaven help us--Lwaxanna Troi (that episode where she takes Alexander onto the holodeck--have never been able to sit through it). If it weren't for Ro Laren and Admiral Nechayav, I'd say all of Trek's recurring female guests were pretty annoying. (I don't count Guinan, she was as good as a regular.)
Once every lifetime, we're swallowed by the whale.
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Old October 25 2008, 05:23 AM   #7
Re: The Best of Both Worlds, Part Two

I've always found part 2 the equal of part 1. For me, parts 1 & 2 constitute the first TNG film and what a thrilling, superior, character-driven classic it is!
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Old October 26 2008, 05:31 AM   #8
Re: The Best of Both Worlds, Part Two

I always thought this was a little bit of a letdown from the cliffhanger, but still good.

What I think really would have jacked up the tension would have been to have *Riker* deliver the "Space... the Final Frontier" monologue in the opening of the episode. Think of that... just once... to show that at that point, HE was the captain of the Enterprise, and all bets were off (as much as they could have been) as to the future! That really would have gotten people on edge as they watched the first-run episode.

No doubt that would have been a contractual issue with Patrick Stewart, but I think he might have gone with it for the dramatic impact it would have had.
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Old October 26 2008, 05:55 AM   #9
Brutal Strudel
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Re: The Best of Both Worlds, Part Two

I believe the rumors about Stewart wanting to leave were planted to ramp up the suspense. I remember scenes from "Future Imperfect" being shown on that Primetime Live piece with De Kelley, apparently as a red herring to make fans think Riker would become captain.

Here's the piece:
Once every lifetime, we're swallowed by the whale.
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Old October 26 2008, 06:27 AM   #10
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Re: The Best of Both Worlds, Part Two

I like how "Captain" Shelby's name came up later in DS9. I think it's Dax who knew her? Unless it was a different Shelby. But I have a feeling it was our Shelby
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Old October 26 2008, 06:57 AM   #11
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Re: The Best of Both Worlds, Part Two

I've never understood why so many people feel this episode is so terribly inferior to Part One.
Reset. Button.

Poor Borg, they'd barely begun, and already their credibility was being destroyed...
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Old October 26 2008, 03:34 PM   #12
Brutal Strudel
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Re: The Best of Both Worlds, Part Two

I don't see it as a reset. For it to be a reset, things would end up exactly the same as before--indeed, the Borg incident would never have happened--and that's not really what happened. Picard was changed by the experience, as was Riker, and the damage the Borg did to Starfleet would figure into several episodes, most notably "The Wounded." Also, the Borg self-destructing after having their systems subverted from without was a good way to defeat them (and they had to be defeated--TNG wasn't about to become NuBSG) which maintained their invulnerabilty to more direct attack.

(Here I am, strenuously defending an episode of TNG. I didn't know I had it in me.)
Once every lifetime, we're swallowed by the whale.
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Old October 26 2008, 04:39 PM   #13
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Re: The Best of Both Worlds, Part Two

^ I guess you either buy the quick-fix or not.

I found that, after 1:52 of Borg invulnerability, it came out of nowhere. I wouldn't call it a reset button, but I would say it smelled like someone got painted into a corner, and did a little hokey three-card monte to wrap it up.

(How did the Borg figure in "The Wounded"? Are you thinking of some other episode?)

Ultimately, if you're going to introduce a huge, indomitable enemy, you can't maintain your "everyone back to where they started" show format. If you're dedicated to your status quo, then you need to abandon the idea that you can have world-shaking threats on the show. Or introduce their Achilles heel earlier.

This overstates my case - BOBW II wasn't awful, but it didn't live up to the promise of BOBW I.
Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter could be said to remedy anything.
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Old October 26 2008, 06:48 PM   #14
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Re: The Best of Both Worlds, Part Two

Brutal Strudel: I'm with you. I don't understand all the hating on BOBW, Pt. II. I think they both hold up quite well, years later. For such an indomitable foe, you had to find weaknesses in the Borg in order for our heroes to prevail. Achilles had his heel, Balder had mistletoe, and Superman has kryptonite. Why should the Borg be any different? I also wonder how much of a shock it would've been to the audience if Picard did, indeed, bite the dust as Locutus and Riker got to be in the big chair. For one thing, it would've been Riker yelling, "THERE . . . ARE . . . FOUR . . . LIGHTS!" in Chain of Command, Pt. II. -- RR
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"I would make this war as severe as possible, and show no symptoms of tiring till the South begs for mercy." -- William Tecumseh Sherman
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Old October 26 2008, 06:53 PM   #15
Brutal Strudel
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Re: The Best of Both Worlds, Part Two

Yassim wrote: View Post

(How did the Borg figure in "The Wounded"? Are you thinking of some other episode?)
Picard can't press the Cardassians because Starfleet, weakened after Wolf 359, can't afford to fight another war, even against such a relatively minor power.

Oh, and the Borg's Achilles heel was introduced at the end of BOBW I--it was Locutus himself. I thought--in Star Trek terms (which has to take us back to the status quos by the nature of the show; it's built into the dramatic DNA)--the resolution was rather elegant. FC is what did the Borg in (I'll give the execrable "Descent" a pass since those weren't "real" Borg). And I enjoyed FC. Really, all TNG needed to do after BOBW was to say "space is vast and the Borg are busy in it--they may not return for years but they will return." The Borg work best as a Sword of Damocles, like that asteroid strike/magnetic pole shift/big California earthquake we are currently overdue for.

I do see your point, though.
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