Performance Piqued - season 2 in its near-finest

Discussion in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' started by Cutie McWhiskers, Dec 27, 2017.

  1. Cutie McWhiskers

    Cutie McWhiskers Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Rewatching "Peak Performance", it shows pre-TNG3 at its near finest.

    Witness:

    * Riker, again, is a standout character and, once again, proving he might make a great captain. Along in showing a privilege to just getting to be invited to play a game by a game master, he is quick to show his taking responsibility to do something he might not otherwise want to do. It's an obvious callback to "The Measure of a Man", but Riker is definitely a reason to watch this episode.

    * Worf - I adore his reasons for questioning the point of the exercise. The episode is a bit woolly, something doesn't feel quite right as to why and it's all almost contrived. Yet it doesn't quite fail... and then we get the Worf/Riker scene, which makes all the concerns go away. Not because they're not addressed, but because of the philosophical bent behind the episode.

    * Data/Pulaski have a great little subplot. Pulaski covertly gets Data to play the Stratagema game, which also involves Troi relaying him advice on how to win - to which Data asks if any other way exists. Later on, the episode - brilliantly - has Data finding another solution, though it in of itself is not a solution as such. Yet is. This is definitely a Pulaski story that has her standing out in a good way - there are others, but it's nice to see Pulaski butting in and conniving as such.
    * Wesley too is of interest, he's not wearing his usual save-the-day cape that he wore in season 1 and, indeed, feels like a real teenage character. He's also quick to give up, which prompts Riker to react with some clever reverse psychology. Wesley cheats, just don't ask why the transporter chief doesn't verify the coordinates of where the antimatter pod experiment thing is set to deposit the object. Oops. The story clearly cheats with this scene, but the episode is so good that it's easy to forget... and even 24th century humans might make mistakes....

    Which segues; this episode has people working together using their wits as opposed to being know-it-alls, for which Data (who admits his knowledge should have him winning the game) has it the other way around. Dealing with mistakes, for which - in other episodes - it is Wesley who laments in how Captain Picard knows mistakes are made but they use persistence and work through them.

    It's something of a brilliant episode.

    One nitpick: Worf tells the Ensign where to find "opticable" - which is pretty much anywhere as he indiscriminately rips some from a conduit. It's meant to be comedic, and it is chuckle-inducing, but where were the cables intended to go and power and transmit/receive data from? Yanking out wires from a system they might actually need, it is an 80 year old ship seemingly prior to the days of the 1701-D where anything could easily be re-routed as if each screen on the ship emulates a dumb tube to dynamically control different functions...

    The only other nitpick might be, when the Ferengi come in - and what are they doing whizzing around in Federation space to begin with - how can Worf quickly figure out their computer systems to put in the sensor tricking gag he played on the Enterprise? (When the "Romulan" attacks, I did like how Picard gets Data to change the code, then asks if it had been changed as now a Ferengi ship appears. Worf could have anticipated Data (but didn't), the scenn has a procedural feel that feels germane.) But the episode was running out of time and it already made for a fun thrill ride.

    The premise may be that they are sprucing up their military strategies to beat the Borg, by engaging in games where everyone knows everyone else's strategies and ship capabilities and thus is a waste of time should the Borg genuinely arrive. But that isn't as much the main point as it is in an exercise for the crew to outwit one another as a more general exercise, of which the B-plot (Data) is, uniquely, the identical plot as the A-plot (war games for the senior crew to keep each other on their toes).
     
  2. Herbert

    Herbert Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I've always liked this episode. I do have a couple problems with it though. The Ferengi encounter seems odd. This one ship appears out of nowhere and attacks a Federation starship. An overt act of war that seems pretty ballsy even for ferengi. At least Shimmerman plays a great ferengi, as he always did.

    The other thing that never sat well with me was the point of setting the Enterprise, a Galaxy class starship against an 80 year old ship in need of repairs. The whole premise is that Picard wants to sharpen the crew's tactical edge in light of the Borg threat. Yeah, setting the Enterprise against the 80 year old Hathaway will really give you an edge the next time you go up against a Borg cube. Now, I get it that Kolrami says something about how Starfleet is interested in how they perform in a mismatch (and a Galaxy class starship against a Borg Cube is definitely a mismatch), but all the holographic tricks that Worf uses and Wesley's warp "jump", while inventive, wouldn't give them any sort of edge against a Borg cube. I suppose viewed within the context of coming up with out of the box solutions, it might work though.

    Again, it's a fun episode as long as you don't overanalyze it too much, but you can say that about many many episodes. ;)
     
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  3. Vger23

    Vger23 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I agree. The episode itself is "fun," but the Ferengi conflict at the end is so horribly shoehorned and contrived that it comes off as something worse than fan fiction.
     
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  4. Armus

    Armus Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    The cast had an informal, casual ease with each other by this point, which is what I liked best about seasons 2-3. My favorite part of this episode is watching Picard getting more and more teed off at Kolrami for continually denigrating Riker and seeing Data, with his innocent intentions, humiliating Kolrami at Strategema.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2018
  5. Amaris

    Amaris Abiding Eos Premium Member

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    This is one of my favorite season two episodes. I just wish Pulaski could have stayed on the ship.
     
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  6. Visitor1982

    Visitor1982 Captain Captain

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    Pulaski was great and this episode is another example (just like Pen Pals) were Pulaski actually supports Data and it not being mean to him.
     
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  7. Amaris

    Amaris Abiding Eos Premium Member

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    Yep. Pulaski warmed up to Data, as humans generally do. She learned he was more than a collection of circuits and respected him by the end of the season.
     
  8. Shikarnov

    Shikarnov Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    I love this episode. Season Two is my favorite of the series, and Peak Performance is at the top of my list for this season -- right along with Time Squared, Contagion, Emissary, Q-Who, and Measure of a Man.

    Pulaski was a fantastic character. I don't care that she was a McCoy clone; the TNG crew needed that foil to break up the homogeny -- and she was brilliant at it. She challenged everybody and brought out their best.

    Perhaps not in a literal sense, but the Hathaway was nearly as outmatched tactically as the Enterprise would be against a Borg cube. There's no distinct advantage -- or even competent offense. Movie-era phasers against TNG era shielding. No warp drive fast enough to run away (for very long). And so on. There's no conventional way to win -- and that's the lesson.

    And it was a valuable lesson, I think, since it came up again when the crew actually confronted the Borg in Best of Both Worlds. Ultimately, to win the day, they had to come up with new ways of thinking. From rotating phaser and shield frequencies, to repurposing the deflector dish, to having to rethink everything AGAIN after Captain Picard was captured, after which they devised the entire Intervention sequence and kidnapping of Locutus in order to hack the Borg...

    I imagine the crew might have fared very differently if they hadn't been training for exactly these sorts of unbalanced encounters.
     
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