Episode of the Week: 3x18 "Allegiance"

Discussion in 'The Next Generation' started by Jeyl, Oct 28, 2013.

  1. Jeyl

    Jeyl Commodore Commodore

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    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.

    CONCLUSION:
    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.

    STINGER:
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    BONUS!!!
    The Mirror Universe's take on Picard singing "Heart of Oak"
     
  2. jimbotron

    jimbotron Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Contrast Picard's reaction to that of season 7's Liaisons, where he is trapped again in the name of alien research. He takes it much much better that time, despite it being much more compromising. It took a while before we got the softer, gentler Picard.

    I'd love to see the next conversation between Picard and Crusher. :lol:

    Too bad we didn't see more of the Chalnoth. If it's one thing Trek needs more of, it's warrior races. ;) They easily could have made him a Nausicaan.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2013
  3. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Did we have a description or see a Nausicaan by that point in the series?
     
  4. MikeS

    MikeS Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    An enjoyable romp!
     
  5. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Pretty much how I feel about the episode. Not TNG's best, not its worst.
     
  6. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I would disagree with the assessment that Picard's treatment of the aliens is unethical, especially considering he let them go right after. You don't gain somebody's respect by letting them walk all over you with impunity then begging them not to, you have to defend yourself and show them that there are limits to what you will accept. That way they'll see you more as equals and interact with you in a more mutual manner.

    Tolerating other's beliefs does not mean ignoring it when their actions infringe on your rights.
     
  7. jimbotron

    jimbotron Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    No, but they were implied to be some big dudes you wouldn't want to mess with, like these Chalnoth guys.

    I wonder if in the script for this episode, it just said "a warrior race that looks like Beast-Man", and Michael Westmore went to town.
     
  8. jimbotron

    jimbotron Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    The episode didn't explicitly say it, but the drama around Esoqq not being able to eat the "food", and only being able to go 3-4 days without food. Was that implying that he would inevitably turn on the rest of them and eat them?
     
  9. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Esoqq sure didn't seem to have a problem with the concept and I don't think he'd be squeamish about it if it came to that. Heck, it's not even cannibalism if you want to split hairs. I mean Klingons dined on the hearts of their enemies and from what we sall of Esoqq the Chalna weren't even that "cultured."

    Picard called it pretty accurately, they manufactured the situation to create conflict among them. I really didn't get why they mimicked the Bolian girl though. It just increases the chances of them being found out, which is what happened.
     
  10. Trekker4747

    Trekker4747 Boldly going... Premium Member

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    I know we're talking about a different species but only being able to go three days without food seems like a huge handicap, on an evolutionary scale it seems like something that shouldn't have survived. Consider that a human can go more than a week before succumbing to hunger. The evolutionary idea being that it'd be a while between meals. To go without food and to burn through stored fat and even muscles in 3 or 4 days seems pretty shitty.
     
  11. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Or there's the possibility Esoqq just figured that's how long his self control will hold out.
     
  12. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    It's also possible that 3 days was the longest he would be willing to go without food. Esoqq clearly did not place a large amount of value on the lives of other people, he spoke regularly of slaughtering his enemies.
     
  13. Trekker4747

    Trekker4747 Boldly going... Premium Member

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    I dunno, someone asks me how long I can go without food I'd probably have an answer like "a couple of weeks" meaning thats how long I can live before I die without eating. Not something like "a couple of days" before my hunger pangs are so severe that I'd be willing to eat anything at all even if means slaughtering people.
     
  14. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Did Esoqq really look like he was a contemplative fellow? ;)
     
  15. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    Esoqq obviously had Kova Tholl selected as the first course.
     
  16. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Yes, and if somebody asks me if conquering my planet was acceptable so long as they don't kill me I would say 'No', that doesn't mean the blue fellow in the room would answer the same way. This guy clearly would not find preying on these random aliens morally objectionable.
     
  17. Strange Citizen

    Strange Citizen Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    An interesting and surprisingly dark episode, in some ways, with very eerie undertones. The music in some parts is really creepy and near atonal (notably, in the holding cell right after the episode begins), Esoqq is terrifying in certain moments and overall extremely menacing, and there is just something...weird and off-kilter about the episode in general. And here's something: one just has to imagine if Star Trek was a slightly darker show, they end up being trapped just a little longer, and...well, it's entirely possible they might have actually shown, even if the worst details were off-screen, Esoqq attacking Kovar Tholl, killing him (or perhaps not), and then..."satisfying his hunger"... :eek:

    Worse of all, then Picard would really have a serious bone to pick with the aliens, once he saw they had such little care about moral concepts that they were willing to allow a sentient being to kill and actually eat another sentient being in the presence of a third sentient being, all for the sake of "scientific research", and on top of that, Picard had to watch Kovar Tholl being eaten. I can only imagine what tone the episode would've had if it'd been like that. It certainly wouldn't have had the jolly, everyone smirks at the captain ending, unless it was really tonally inconsistent. It would have had one of those rare dark, sober, eerie endings which only a select few TNG episodes have, such as "The Mind's Eye", and "Schisms". Picard might have killed one of the aliens out of anger. Who knows? Just some food for thought - alternate endings are always interesting.

    In reply to a couple of Jeyl's points, notably his two complaints about the episode:

    1. About Picard's choice to (briefly, I might add) harmlessly imprison his alien captors to teach them a lesson: see what I said above: "all for the sake of scientific research". I may have misunderstood here, but do you believe the aliens should have just been allowed to get away scot free with abusing the rights of three life-forms? I don't understand this at all. It's better to be nice and gentle towards those who abducted you just for their research? What about the morality of telling them that it is wrong? Even if they didn't mean any harm, as they said - really not sure I believe them, to be honest - but for the sake of argument, let's assume that, even though their actions were deplorable, their intentions were genuinely not malicious or intentionally callous - they were simply curious. Even were this true, for Picard to simply let them walk away would mean that other life-forms would be at risk of being abducted and subjected to terrifying and potentially dangerous experiments - keep in mind that if Picard hadn't solved the puzzle soon enough, Kovar Tholl might have been eaten. Alive. Just because these aliens had no understanding of morality (what TV Tropes calls 'Blue and Orange Morality') doesn't mean for an instant that they should just be allowed to continue abducting helpless life-forms and abusing their rights. Otherwise, what was the point of the Federation even fighting the Borg? By this logic they should simply have folded, since the Borg "simply wished to improve quality of life". No...things don't work that way, and thank god for that. Roddenberry may have been flawed, but he always wanted to tell good moral lessons, and no commanding officer in his right mind wouldn't have stood up to the aliens by showing them - harmlessly, too - what captivity was like.

    As for comparing this episode to Picard's treatment of the native aliens in "Who Watches The Watchers", I don't think there is any real connection other than that both alien species have different ethic concepts than the Federation. These aliens are nothing like the ones in Who Watches The Watchers. The situation is the opposite - they aren't a group of people who are primitive enough to believe Picard is a god because of the teleporter. Instead, they are so advanced that they call human linguistic communication "primitive" and have the power to create a facsimile of Picard. How is there any similarity? Of course Picard is going to be understanding and compassionate towards a group of fairly harmless primitive aliens whose only crime is being superstitious, and of course he isn't going to be so forgiving of a group of technologically superior beings who treated him and his crew in much the same way as Q has.

    Finally, if the aliens really didn't know any better as they said, then explain why the moment they are imprisoned in the force field, they are terrified and say something like: "Our species cannot stand captivity, please release us!" - if they had such little understanding of how other species might feel about being kidnapped, how come they knew what it was like the moment it happened to them? It's more likely that they simply didn't care, being far more technologically advanced (this is established in the episode by dialogue), and had reached a level of technology where they clearly looked upon those of lower technological development as 'lower'. They may not have been evil or even malicious as such, but they were certainly callous, whether they meant to be or not. Picard absolutely did the right thing by teaching them a lesson. If he hadn't, he would have lost the respect of everyone and wouldn't have been the strictly morality-upholding Picard whom we know and love.

    Also, a similar thing happened in Voyager when a race of aliens experimented on Janeway's crew. Her reaction was way more extreme than Picard's, and she was also absolutely right. Whether malicious and/or callous (as the Voyager aliens were, while these TNG ones were not so much), or not, arrogant species who abuse the rights of other life-forms need to be confronted strongly, not allowed to walk away.

    2. About the facsimile of the female Bolian ensign turning out to be one of the aliens in disguise...I'm not really sure I understand your complaint here. If it was about the fact that she was the only female character in the holding room, I don't see how that's in any way a bad thing - first off, she turned out to be one of the aliens, not a woman at all, but (apparently) male, assuming the two aliens we saw were male and not hermaphrodites. Second, why would it have any bearing on the episode?

    In any case, this episode is great. Very underrated IMO and highly interesting overall.
     
  18. Makarov

    Makarov Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I really like Frakes' acting in this episode. And that scene where he's in Picard's ready room telling him he'll be forced to take command, they do some really good close ups. What a great scene.
     
  19. jimbotron

    jimbotron Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Yeah, nice closeups. I also liked the flashes of light on the bridge set from the pulsar.
     
  20. Merlanthe

    Merlanthe Commander Red Shirt

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    I was always disappointed that the Chalnoth werent featured again. I found one line of dialogue really fascinating. When Esoqq is speaking to the Bolian girl he asks who she is and then follows it up with the question 'Who would want to imprison a child?'

    I always foudn this fascinating because of how quiet and gentle his voice seems here than the rest of the time when he is loud and often aggressive. Though he is confontational with Picard and the other alien guy he is less so toward the Bolian girl. Is this because she is a girl or that he percieves her to be a child or both?

    It hints toward his culture/socioty being more than just aggressive warriors.