Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Peak Performance"

***

Air date: 7/10/1989
Written by David Kemper
Directed by Robert Scheerer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

As a result of the Borg threat (a nice little nod to continuity, that), Starfleet orders Picard and Riker to go head-to-head in a simulated battle as part of a new program to develop tactical skills among Starfleet crews, which Picard notes "is not a military organization." Along to observe is brilliant war strategist Kolrami (Roy Brocksmith), from a race of strategy masterminds that no one has dared challenge for centuries. In an observant detail of one sizing up someone else, Worf says the lack of any direct challenge essentially invalidates the reputation. (The theme of the show is sizing up people and situations.) Riker takes command of the derelict USS Hathaway to oversee a crew of 40, hand-picked from the Enterprise. He and his crew must improvise a way to compete in a battle where they are outmanned, outgunned, and, well, out-everythinged.

I enjoy stories about tactics and cunning, and this is a good one from TNG. One tactic involves Wesley playing the innocence routine "to shut down a science project" in order to steal some antimatter from the Enterprise. Another involves Worf creating an illusion that looks like something real (a Romulan Warbird) in an environment that's supposed to be all simulated.

There's also a subplot where Pulaski sets up a match of Strategema between Data and the arrogant Kolrami (Pulaski hopes to deflate Kolrami's ego), and Data ends up losing. This sends Data on an over-analytical search through his systems to find the "problem." The scene where Picard sets him straight is classic Picard — thoughtful, firm, reassuring.

The show's plot twist is that a real Ferengi ship shows up in the middle of the simulation and opens fire on the Enterprise, leading to a real test of improvised tactics. Armin Shimerman makes another appearance here as yet another Ferengi. (Another cameo I found amusing was by Glenn Morshower — the always reliable Aaron Pierce on 24 — as Ensign Burke.) Honestly, I could've done without the Ferengi altogether. The episode cunningly distracts us: By having the Ferengi interrupt the war games between Picard and Riker, the story doesn't have to offer up a resolution in which one of them actually wins. I for one am curious: Who would've won this battle simulation, and what would that have meant?

Perhaps the only satisfactory outcome would've been a draw. The story saves that for the Strategema rematch between Data and Kolrami. The payoff has Data saying, "I busted him up," which goes down (or at least should) as a classic Data line.

Previous episode: The Emissary
Next episode: Shades of Gray

Season Index

10 comments on this review

Dan Nugent - Tue, Jun 3, 2008 - 3:35am (USA Central)
I love Peak Performance, I actually rate it a proper TNG classic. Kolrami is a fantastic character and his mannerisms and interactions with the crew are brilliant. Picard, Data and Riker all shine. Hell even Wesley's sneakiness earns a smile.

William - Wed, Aug 29, 2012 - 7:27pm (USA Central)
This is one of those next-level very good episodes. Not GREAT, but very good.

It doesn't have the epic sweep of Best of Both Worlds; the punch of Measure of a Man. BUT it's just a damn fun episode and well-executed.
xaaos - Thu, Nov 22, 2012 - 8:00am (USA Central)
This episode should have been this season's last one. Nice and solid episode. I liked when the Ferengi showed up and starting firing, because I have the idea that Picard believed it was another of Worf's tricks and looked like... having fun.

Data's line ("I busted him up") and his shipmates cheering gave me a big smile. Go Data!
Jay - Mon, Dec 17, 2012 - 9:57am (USA Central)
I liked how Picard's command changed literally mid-sentence from simulation mode to real mode as the first Ferengi torpedo hit...
William B - Tue, Apr 2, 2013 - 7:55pm (USA Central)
I remember Roger Ebert saying that a certain film was "a must-see three star film," and I feel that way about this episode (though it's not a film) -- it is a delight from start to finish, though lightweight and (ultimately) perhaps dramatically unsatisfying, in that the Picard/Riker war never gets answered, as Jammer states. However, I think that serendipity helps this episode. Coming at the very end of season two and namechecking the Borg, this episode ends up foreshadowing the much larger-scale "Riker vs. Picard" showdown that features as a part of "The Best of Both Worlds," in which Riker is again overpowered and facing Picard, and somehow has to succeed against a superior foe. I think that episode is a continuation of and answer to this one, and this episode helps to set up BOBW in ways I don't think were intended at the time.

Overall, though, this episode works for me so well because it's a chance to relax and spend time with the Enterprise crew without any grand threats (until the very end). In principle, that was true of "Manhunt" as well, but in this episode the characters have goals and seek to achieve them. The dramatic core of the Data subplot works quite well, and the fact that Data was roped into the Strategema game by Pulaski is a very nice cap to the Pulaski/Data arc over the season. Pulaski now sees him as an *admirable* machine, and that's why she wants to see him beat Kolrami, but once she realizes the damage to Data's self-confidence she genuinely regrets using Data as a tool to knock down Kolrami's ego and is genuinely concerned about him. Pulaski has fully seen Data as a person by "The Measure of a Man," but it's nice to see her warmth toward Data here; it's amusing to see *Picard* calling *Pulaski* (in addition to Troi) of imbuing Data with emotions he does not have. The solution proposed by the episode is a classic.

Anyway, this episode hits just the right notes, and allows us to spend time with all the senior staff, so it works very well as the last episode to the 2nd season and a capstone on the amount of work the season did on progressing the characters forward. 3 stars, *just shy* of 3.5.

(...what do you mean, this isn't the season finale? I have no idea what you are talking about.)
Rikko - Sat, Apr 27, 2013 - 8:05am (USA Central)
Very, very good episode. One of my favorites of Season 2. Without "The Measure of a Man" and "Q Who" this would have been the very best of S2. And I have to agree with you all, guys: Even Wesley was cool, the overall quality was good, Data was fantastic and somehow Peak Performance prepared the ground for Season 3's finale.

Only two things bothered me: At first sight Kolrami was a bit too alien for my tastes, but I got used to him fast. At this point in the series, I was still worried about weird alien designs, as it usually meant bad episodes.

And the other thing is a bit bigger: The Ferengi. I don't think they needed to be there. It's a shame TNG came out way before the "Slice of life" genre was popular. Some episodes, like this one and (much later) Data's Day, are better off without a big evil lurking around or your classic Urgent Conflict Of The Hour(tm).

Still, this was a neat TNG moment and a Season 2 highlight. I bet everyone wanted this one to be the last of S2 because...
SkepticalMI - Fri, Oct 4, 2013 - 10:22pm (USA Central)
A few minor quibbles:

- Data's little pout went on too long. Hey Data, Riker did worse than you. So why does Picard listen to him? I don't mind that it happened, but it's a bit of a stretch that it would take 3 people to knock some sense into him.

- Why didn't Picard at least demand to the Ferengi to beam over the Hathaway's personnel and then let the Ferengi have the ship? Sure, it may not be completely honorable, and maybe the Ferengi wouldn't have accepted it, but it's at least another option.

But really, that's hardly a reason to ignore this episode. I don't think there is a problem that the Picard/Riker war was never resolved. I thought that they made it pretty clear through the episode that the Enterprise would win. Riker had two aces up his sleeve; we saw the first one which only created some damage. The second was an escape route. Yes, maybe he'd have found something else to come up with, but really, technological superiority is a big deal. It sounded like the war game was mostly about how long Riker would last, not whether he would win. So who cares that the game didn't end?

Instead, we got a good story and a good character piece. Finally, after two years of hearing that Riker is a great and wonderful leader, we get to see it. All it took was one skeptical alien, and one cool chess match. He had good moments with Geordi and Worf, and getting to see him scheme was great. This is really one of the best uses of Riker, and complements what we will see with Best of Both Worlds. Meanwhile, we see Pulaski promoting and vigorously defending Data, a lovely change from the beginning of the season. We see Wesley use his guile. We see Geordi having fun. And heck, it was a fun episode too. What's not to like?

It occurs to me that the Borg really should have caught on that something was up with Riker's plan to kidnap Locutus. After all, they had access to Picard's knowledge of Data's analysis of Riker. Of course, knowing the Borg, they would dismiss any personality aspect as irrelevent. Presumably, this was not on the writer's minds. But hey, it works anyway.

And as one more random aside, this is probably the most sinister that the Ferengi ever were. I guess they could have possibly been a serious species, if they weren't neutered so quickly. It seemed pretty odd actually seeing them as a legitimate threat.
Jack - Sat, Nov 16, 2013 - 1:15pm (USA Central)
Star Trek was all over the map on whether Starfleet is or isn't a military organization. TNG more often claimed it wasn't (which with the military ranks and hierarchy and, well, everything else about it, made that claim absurd on its face (see BOBW, Redemption, Unification, Ensign Ro, The Pegasus, Chain of Command, etc, etc, etc), as it is when Picard again spews it here) while DS9 (obviously for its later storylines) had to assert that it very much was.

Matt - Fri, Feb 14, 2014 - 9:52pm (USA Central)
While this episode was a lot of fun, I do have trouble with the resolution. Worf's sensor/holographic trick works fine on the Enterprise, but how would he have been able to fool the Ferengi?
Tom - Sat, Mar 29, 2014 - 10:44pm (USA Central)
I agree that this is a very solid episode.

Submit a comment

Above, type the last name of the captain on Star Trek: TNG
Notify me about new comments on this page
Hide my e-mail on my post

Season Index

Copyright © 1994-2014, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of any review or article on this site is prohibited. Star Trek (in all its myriad forms), Battlestar Galactica, and Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc., NBC Universal, and Tribune Entertainment, respectively. This site is in no way affiliated with or authorized by any of those companies. | Copyright & Disclaimer