TNG Rewatch: 5x02: "Darmok"

Discussion in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' started by Trekker4747, Jul 30, 2014.

  1. Trekker4747

    Trekker4747 Boldly going... Premium Member

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    [​IMG]

    The Enterprise is en-route to meet up with an enigmatic race known as The Children of Tama (also Tamarians.) The Federation and the Tamarians have tried several times to establish relations but are stymied every time due to in inability to communicate. While the Universal Translator is working to literally translate the Tamarian language into Federation Standard the translation themselves are not making sense as the UT doesn't seem able to parse the translations in a way that makes any sense. Similarly it seems the Tamarians' version of the UT is unable to properly translate FS to the aliens in an understandable way.

    Seemingly frustrated by the lack of communication the Tamairan captain takes drastic actions, seemingly against the judgment of his first officer, and has himself and Picard transported to the surface of the planet they are in orbit of. After transport the Tamarian ship creates a disturbance in the atmosphere of the planet that prevents transporters from working.

    On the ship, Riker wrestles with what is going with the Tamarians and with Picard and the captain on the planet's surface. He tasks Data and Troi with trying to find a way to communicate with the Tamarians and Worf and Geordi with a means of recovering the captain without having to go into battle with the Tamarian ship.

    A shuttle craft is tried but the Tamarian ship fires on it damaging it just enough to preclude it from being able to take off it again once it has landed. Geordi is able to get a transporter beam through the scattering field but it's not enough to recover the captain and prompts the Tamarians to make the field stronger to prevent another attempt.

    Data and Troi are eventually able to figure out the Tamarian language but ends up not being very helpful. The Tamarians speak in something akin to metaphors, citing examples from their mythology, culture and history in order to invoke imagery of the idea of what they want to communicate.

    In a meeting Troi gives an example of this by saying, "Juliet on her balcony." Crusher says this creates a image of romance and passion for another but then points out the problem is that if someone doesn't know who Juliet is or what she was doing on that balcony the meaning is lost. Data says it's akin to knowing the grammar of a language but none of the vocabulary.

    Meanwhile, Picard and the Tamarian captain, Dathon, struggle to communicate together but seem to make better and quicker progress than what's going on in orbit. Picard initially thinks he and Dathon are there to do battle and is reluctant to participate. But he soon realizes Dathon's motives seem less sinister and begins to pick-up some clues in the Tamarian language as he sees it used in context.

    He soon realizes that he and the Dathon are not there to battle on another but to join forces to battle an invisible and powerful creature on the planet.

    Dathon is mortally wounded in a battle with the creature and that night he and Picard bond as Picard learns more about the language, in particular the story of "Darmok." In the story, according to Tamarian mythos, two men arrived separately on an island, battled a beast, and then left the island together. The idea being that a shared threat can bring two people together.

    Picard, similarly, does his best to translate the story of Gilgamesh from Earth's mythology to Dathon and concludes as Dathon succumbs to his injuries.

    The next day Picard has a brief encounter with the creature on the planet just as the Enterprise decides to fire on the Tamarian vessel in order to disrupt the scattering beam. They're successful and are able to recover Picard in the time between the attack and re-raising their shields. The Tamarians retrun fire but Picard is now able to communicate with the Tamarians enough to establish something of a relationship with them, ending the hostilities. While it is not yet known if the Tamarians are "new friends", Picard muses that at least they're not new enemies.

    This is one of my absolute favorite episodes of the series. It's one I can watch again and again and never get tired of; as it's just a fantastic episode in the way everything his handled, particularly the interaction between Picard and Dathon on the planet's surface. The scene with Picard and the injured Dathon sharing stories around the campfire is probably one of my top scenes in the entire series.

    The episode has flaws, the Tamarian language really doesn't make much sense because there's a lot of questions we can ask on how their language works. Mostly how do they write their mythology if they don't have a conventional language to make these stories in order to create the imagery? The best thing I shrug and come up with is that the Tamarians must have some other form of communication that goes beyond the verbal that allows them to communicate things. Perhaps in their written language or in some form of telepathy (and a form of telepathy that cannot be read or sensed by other telepathic species like Betazoids.)

    There is a nice contrast shown between how the Tamarians communicate and our characters communicate in the episode that suggest the Tamarians must have a more efficient means of communication. The Tamarian captain with the word "Darmok" is able to set into motion a lof of different things including the abduction of him and Picard, the placement of the scattering field and numerous other things. Meanwhile we see how much talking back and forth between people using technobabble to do something as simple as maintain defenses against the Tamarian's attacks/try and to disable the scattering field takes place on the Enterprise.

    The actor playing Dathon does a great, great job in his scenes particularly the one where he recounts the Tamarian story of Darmok and Jilad. He's essentially speaking jibberish but he does it in such a way to really invoke a lot of emotion and heart into the story that you really feel that this is a story Dathon believes strongly in. It's also nice as he seems to understand, however slightly, Picard's story of Gilgamesh. Dathon even smiles and chuckles a bit at the name "Gilgamesh."

    Overall just a fantastic, fantastic episode and while it certainly has problems in terms of how much sense the story actually makes, it's easily forgotten since it's all played out so well.

    Of note:
    This is the first episode where we see Picard's captain's uniform variant. This is the first iteration of it, being a heavy-looking jacket over a gray shirt. The jacket seems to be made out of crushed velvet with shiny leather shoulders. I think this is the only time we see this particular take on this uniform variant and, IIRC, we go through at least one more version of this uniform before settling on the version that'll be used for the rest of the series.

    This episode introduces Ashley Judd's Robin Lefler, who'll return in a few episodes as a romantic interest for Wesley Crusher.

    Before the Blu-Ray release one thing this episode was probably most noted for was the phaser-beam coming out of the torpedo tube during the attack on the Tamarian ship. While it's always argued that the writers of the script, the director of the episode and the SFX guys don't always talk to one another in keeping these things consistent you'd still think *someone* at this point in the show would have known what they were showing was plain wrong. Thankfully after 22 years this error is fixed, during the attack the phaser beam is shown coming from the dorsal saucer phaser array. I believe it was a re-used shot from the Best of Both Worlds.

    There's something of an internet meme that has Worf always being right when he jumps to the idea of hostility when it comes to these type of encounters. (Where he suggests aggressive or precautionary action that may have saved the day were people to listen to him.) But here we see that he's maybe a bit hasty in making these suggestions. After Picard is kidnapped Worf is asked what he thinks is going on there by Riker. Worf apparently just saw the episode "Arena" and seems to think that there's a contest of strength and bravery going on between Picard and the Tamarian captain. Obviously this turns out to not be the case.

    Again this for me is just a fantastic, fantastic episode and hands down one of my favorites. I'd probably put it in the top-5. Hell, I'd probably nail it down and put it as #3 behind "Tapestry" and "All Good Things..." (#2, #1, respectively.)
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2014
  2. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

    It's an okay outing. But I've never been in love with this one as much of the fanbase.
     
  3. Forbin

    Forbin Admiral Admiral

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    My friend Frank went nuts over Picard's "action jacket" and begged my wife to make him one. He bought all the material, and we sat with a VHS of the episode, continually FFing and REWing while my wife made notes and sketches. The jacket turned out great (Majel complimented it at a con!), and my wife declared she never wanted to watch that episode ever again in her lifetime. :lol:
     
  4. JesterFace

    JesterFace Captain Captain

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    A good one apart from one thing that ruins the whole thing for me, Riker's log says something like: "Despite the risk of war, we're going to attempt getting the Captain back."

    Riker... c'mon man, a war over one man (that may return safely even if you did nothing)
     
  5. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

    One of the things I noticed as the show went on was how Riker regressed as a character.
     
  6. Kevman7987

    Kevman7987 Captain Captain

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    I'll just leave this right here:

    [​IMG]


    The El-Adrel IV show was the greatest thing I'd ever seen. Especially when the "energy monster" appeared and they set off the pyrotechnics. It was epic.
     
  7. bbjegglebells

    bbjegglebells Admiral Admiral

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    Right here buddy.
    It is one of my most favorite Star Trek episodes. It embodies everything that Trek is for me.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2014
  8. jimbotron

    jimbotron Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Worf is usually right. I just watched Where Silence Has Lease, and he talks about a Klingon story about a space thingy that eats vessels whole ... and what happened 30 seconds later?

    I wouldn't be too harsh on Worf in this one. Even Picard thought it was meant to be a fight to the death.
     
  9. Mutai Sho-Rin

    Mutai Sho-Rin Crusty Old Bastard Moderator

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    I have that T-shirt. A mystery to almost everyone who has seen it.
     
  10. MikeS

    MikeS Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    TNG does Arena. Better.

    Showed my wife this for the first time on Blu-ray. She just said "wow - that was deep" at the end.

    Or perhaps I should say "Mike and Rachael at Liverpool. The glowing box telling a story. Their eyes OPENED!"
     
  11. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Not even close, in my book. I think "Arena" is far superior. :p
     
  12. MakeshiftPython

    MakeshiftPython Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Star Trek at its finest, up there with the greats. No buts, it just is.
     
  13. Chairslinger

    Chairslinger Ensign Newbie

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    I don't really like saying things like it being better or worse than Arena. I think the important thing is that it is such a unique version of the same premise. TNG was at its worst in the first season when it tried to copy TOS, and started to get good when it found it's own voice with the second season(and The Measure of a Man in particular).

    What's important is that Darmok is such a uniquely TNG take on Arena.

    I love the scene where Picard finally starts to understand their language. His rendition of the Epic of Gilgamesh is one of my favorite TNG scenes.
     
  14. jimbotron

    jimbotron Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I like TNG's take on Arena better. TNG's take on Amok Time on the other hand. :lol:
     
  15. Forbin

    Forbin Admiral Admiral

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    Yes! He seemed to get stupider and stupider. I kept thinking this guy doesn't deserve to command a ship.
     
  16. 2takesfrakes

    2takesfrakes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    A good Picard episode. It seems whenever they let Sir Patrick Stewart on the planet, even the more poorly written episode transends the page and becomes something quite memorable ... like this one.
     
  17. Marsden

    Marsden Commodore Commodore

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    Complacency causes stagnation, and detrement. He was so comfortable with his boss, he couldn't even handle working with other captains when the need arose.

    This is one of my absolute favorites of TNG. I really like this one.

    Comparing this to Arena isn't even worthy of the apples and oranges anology. The only things that this and Arena have in common are two Captains on a planet. All of the reasons for that, how they got there, why they are there, what their crews are doing during this and the state of the ships are all completely different.

    In Arena, the Gorn captain isn't trying to communicate, his ship is not standing by carrying out his commands to create the situation, and there's no other monster, He is the monster for all intents. There's more, but that's just for starters.

    I just dislike anyone trying to make something they like seem better by trying to rip something else down, whether it's related or not. If something is good, it's good. It's not made better by pulling something else down to it's level.
     
  18. Jeyl

    Jeyl Commodore Commodore

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    Great episode. I love how for once the crew seek to understand an alien race rather than lecture it on how our ways are better. A credit to Paul Winfield who delivers an incredible performance. For having such a large portion of his head covered in make up, he's able to convey so much character in Dathon.
     
  19. Trekker4747

    Trekker4747 Boldly going... Premium Member

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    Yeah, Winfield does a great, great job. As I said he puts so much into telling the story of "Darmok", I mean he's only scantly speaking in a coherent way to us, the audience, but by and large it's gibberish. But there's so much emotion and passion in it, like at the end of the story when he almost sings in a "this is a great, meaningful, ending" sort of way, "Darmok and Jiliad on the ocean." Great stuff. Even the winces with the Tamarian curses/expressions of pain was really, really well done.

    The guy did a great job as Dathon.
     
  20. tomalak301

    tomalak301 Admiral Premium Member

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    One of my favorite episodes of the series. I've actually never made the Arena Or Amok Time connection before so that was interesting.