Second Union

Second Union

STAR TREK REWIND: “The Neutral Zone”

“A lot has changed in the past three hundred years. People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of things. We’ve eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions. We’ve grown out of our infancy.”

It’s a little strange to me Riker wouldn’t be the least bit curious about an old satellite that’s been floating around in space for hundreds of years. The mission is to seek out yadda-yadda-yaddas … but the Enterprise has to get underway the minute Picard’s shuttle comes back from Starbase 718. He’s on urgent business, but I don’t understand why the Enterprise didn’t just take Picard to his destination, rather than throwing him in a shuttlecraft and sending him on his way. It doesn’t matter because we’ll get the straight dope when he comes back.

Data wants to take a look inside the satellite. Riker reluctantly agrees but tells him to take Worf along. Good idea, considering we had conspiratorial space alien insects crawling into our mouths in the previous episode. Onboard, Data looks at the disk-style hard drive and they find refrigerated tubes and three cryogenically preserved human bodies. The production design and photography are stunning for this episode, particularly the satellite interior and the Romulan ship revealed later. Picard arrives just as Data and Worf make their discovery, so Riker has to scramble to bring back the bodies. Picard wants a meeting as soon as possible.

It seems outposts along the Neutral Zone have been destroyed and suspicion points to the Romulans, although the method is beyond their comprehension. Instead of outright destruction, the outposts have been scooped up and taken away, it appears. Crusher summons Picard to tell him she thawed out the three frozen bodies and repaired their various ailments and injuries. He has no idea what’s she talking about. Doesn’t he look at ship logs recorded in his absence? She gives him a quick tutorial on “Cryonics” (“Freeze you now, heal ya later,” to quote Billy-Bob, or whatever his name was), and this is where she makes the ridiculous statement about idiotic 20th-century types: “People feared death. It terrified them.”

I’m sorry, I must’ve misheard. Death doesn’t terrify people anymore? In the 24th century? If death doesn’t scare you, where is the value of life, Bev? Remember Armus? He scared you guys a-plenty! Cue the Match Game theme! Our three frozen dinners are Clare, a housewife from New Jersey, Ralph, a financier, and our good-ole-boy, Billy-Bob­ (L.Q. “Sonny” Clemons, for those playing at home), a rockabilly musician from Atlanta or parts thereof. They each have difficulty adjusting to this new non-materialistic, non-death-fearing 24th century. Clare misses her family. Ralph misses his money. Billy-Bob misses his beloved Atlanta Braves.

This is a jarring juxtaposition to the nail-biting sequences involving the Romulans, which belong in a better episode. Putting this fish-out-of-water comedy of errors subplot into a possible skirmish between the Federation and the Romulans is extremely awkward and clumsy, but otherwise, the episode gets high marks for showing us a nervous crew and stand-offish Romulans in direct consultation with each other about a force much more powerful than the both of them who have also attacked Romulan outposts. We learn, later in season two, the Borg are the perpetrators of these attacks.

This could be part of the self-fulfilling prophecy of First Contact, where a future battle with the Borg was then transported to the past and would not only be responsible for the attacks discussed in this episode but also in the Enterprise episode, “Regeneration.” This is heady, well-staged stuff (reminiscent of the discovery of Data’s decapitated head in the “Time’s Arrow” two-parter) the writers and producers probably weren’t thinking about. In the end, Picard and the Romulans agree to an exchange of information. It is an uneasy truce. The first season was top-heavy with clumsy writing, overacting, and Tasha Yar, but the second season would be a vast improvement in quality.

Star Trek Rewind explores the Star Trek universe. From Archer to Janeway, Kirk to Picard, and Georgiou to Sisko — boldly read what no one has read before!

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