Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation



Air date: 3/26/1990
Written by Richard Manning & Hans Beimler
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Picard is beamed off the ship by an unknown force and put in a holding cell with three other prisoners exhibiting widely varying personalities. Meanwhile, a perfect doppelganger of Picard is put aboard the Enterprise in his place and impersonates the captain. The false Picard alters the Enterprise's course and takes it on an extended detour away from its scheduled rendezvous. The real Picard attempts to maintain control of an uneasy room where the tension between the prisoners continues to escalate as they try, and fail, to find a way to escape.

"Allegiance" is about observing behavior, and to be sure, there's some interesting behavior to observe here, particularly involving the faux Picard. He goes about his role as captain, and everything is just slightly off, but faux-Picard's explanations and reassurances to the crew are so pleasantly convincing that it's not obvious to the crew for a long time that there's something truly wrong here. The oddest of the behavior involves Picard's dinner with Crusher in his quarters (and she's at a loss to explain what happens there), and especially when Picard buys a round of drinks for everyone in Ten-Forward. The most entertaining moments in the show are watching the crew's confused reactions to the faux-Picard's slowly (but surely) increasingly odd behavior.

Of considerably less interest are the scenes in the mysterious holding cell, which document too little progress and quickly grow repetitive. We've got an annoying bully monster-alien in the room who threatens everybody (Reiner Schone), an annoying pacifist alien who acts like a smug wimp (Stephen Markel), and a Bolian Starfleet cadet (Joycelyn O'Brien) who remains mostly neutral. Picard must maintain a balance and keep the peace in this room. The clue that leads him to his discovery of the truth is pretty lame.

The whole episode has a palpable what-the-hell-is-going-on-here vibe to it, but it's a very slow burn that takes a long time (too long) to reach its climax, which is less than satisfying. The problem with the episode is that the conclusion (which is actually the story's underlying premise) in retrospect cannot support what happens in the episode. If the aliens responsible are simply trying to study the concept of leadership, how can they be so good at faking competent leadership with their copy of Picard? In fact, how can they be so good at copying Picard at all? I don't buy it.

Previous episode: Sins of the Father
Next episode: Captain's Holiday

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12 comments on this review

Dave Nielsen - Mon, Aug 8, 2011 - 11:39pm (USA Central)
Well, I certainly had a different take on "Allegiance." I found the whole B Story of Faux Picard to be unnecessary and completely cheeseball, while the scenes with real Picard were very interesting and entertaining. I would have liked that to be the entire show, with the exception of the aliens revealing themselves and returning to the ship with Picard.
xaaos - Sat, Dec 1, 2012 - 4:31pm (USA Central)
I found the scene with Picard singing in 10-FW very funny. And I think that was the very first time that Riker belayed one of his captain's orders!

A nice episode, I would give it 3 stars.
fluffysheap - Sat, Feb 23, 2013 - 9:25am (USA Central)
Although this isn't itself a particularly memorable episode, I have to note the similarity to the Twilight Zone episode "Five Characters in Search of an Exit," which is largely summed up by its title. Four of the five characters are trapped in a featureless room, when a soldier arrives and attempts to get them to work together to escape.

That episode ends with a twist which is pretty weird even for the Twilight Zone (the five characters are actually dolls, and the featureless room is actually a bucket in which toys are being collected), but I have to wonder if the writers of this episode had seen that one and were, in some way, inspired by it.
William B - Thu, Jun 13, 2013 - 7:11am (USA Central)
I agree with fluffysheap that this episode is a lot like the TZ episode "Five Characters in Search of an Exit", though that itself is a riff on other works (e.g. Sartre's "No Exit," in which three people are locked in a room together for eternity in the afterlife).

Of the two plotlines, the Enterprise plot is a little more convincingly "about" the issues the aliens are ostensibly studying. The basic question of the episode becomes: how much strange behaviour does the false Picard have to exhibit before the crew mutiny? It's sort of a Milgrim experiment in which "Picard" makes increasingly bizarre commands, though it's only at the episode's very end that his actions become a threat to the crew. Meanwhile, "Picard's" strange behaviour in ingratiating himself with the crew seems to be about testing why the separation between captain and crew exists. Why can Picard and Crusher not date? "Picard" asks her explicitly if it's because he's her captain. Why does "Picard" not hang out in and sing songs in Ten-Forward? The last one is a bit iffy and a bit hard to parse -- I don't see what exactly "Picard" learned from the singalong, except perhaps how willing people were to start pretending they knew the lyrics to the song. Perhaps another element of it is just to test how much an authority figure can start acting like a completely different person before people start to question that authority figure's true identity or mental health. My favourite joke in this plotline is "Picard" ordering the ship to go to a not-particularly interesting pulsar at "Warp 2."

At any rate, while I agree with Jammer that it's not really convincing that the aliens can produce a near-identical Picard and not be able to understand the concept of authority without nearly destroying a whole ship, I find this storyline amusing enough to find it passably enjoyable, if not great, especially since the ending (Riker takes command when the ship is threatened) is not really in doubt.

The holding cell scenes don't really seem to be that on theme, actually -- testing "group dynamics" doesn't really seem to be the same as testing authority, though I suppose the way Picard manages to get the smug intellectual coward and the dumb violent thug to work together is a testament to his leadership and diplomatic skill, which are under test. Contra Jammer, I think Picard's figuring out who the ensign was worked fairly well, because it was a clue that was gettable by the audience -- i.e. the mission he refers to was the very same mission that was referenced in the Captain's Log at the episode's beginning. (Though I wish he had just said "they don't teach recent missions that just happened yesterday at the Academy, dummy," rather than saying that it was a SECRET MISSION -- since we didn't really know the latter and the former could have been guessed by us.) At any rate, the sequences go on too long and the group dynamics are not really probing or interesting enough to justify the time spent on them.

I was going to agree with the 2 star rating, but I feel like I might have almost talked myself up to 2.5 on this one. Still, ultimately ... while the episode has some interest, it doesn't hold together enough. 2 stars on the high end.
Corey - Tue, Jul 9, 2013 - 2:07pm (USA Central)
I don't agree with Jammer about his assessment on the cell scenes. I did find those interesting, and there was some conflict between the prisoners, which helped. Though surely with no bathroom available, things are going to get real messy! And that the food was poison for one prisoner I think is an interesting take.

While agree that a few scenes of the faux Picard were amusing, I had a problem with this part of the story. Namely, that this faux Picard was too perfect - like Jammer, I just don't buy it. The episode needed to sell me better how this faux Picard could be so perfect, and didn't. Especially how the faux Picard used the same word combinations that Picard did - they would have needed to study Picard for years, and that's just not practical with the Enterprise being mobile and changing positions all the time. Planet-side study would have made infinitely more sense.

Thus, I too give this episode 2 out of 4 stars possible like Jammer.
Nissa - Thu, Jan 9, 2014 - 1:37pm (USA Central)
Yeah, this episode was a misfire. But at least it was a fun misfire.
SkepticalMI - Sun, Feb 2, 2014 - 4:10pm (USA Central)
Awwww, I really liked this one. No, it's not some brilliant character piece or epic drama, but it was fun. And being fun is really all I can ask for. I think both plots were pretty well done and kept me engaged. One minor piece that I liked was that, on second viewing, it's pretty obvious that the fake Picard is running an experiment on loyalty and authority. He continuously asks the rest of the crew questions about his authority, in a fairly non-chalant way so that no one picks up on it. It backs up the plot even when we don't know what the plot is.

There's a few scenes I really like and think were really well directed and scripted. Picard and Crusher's date (appropriately awkward), Riker's discussion with the rest of the senior crew, and the actual mutiny. There was a particularly nice visual effect of having fake Picard standing in front of the viewscreen with the pulsar in the background. It made him look rather unnatural (which, of course, he was).

If I did have to quibble though:

- If the fake Picard really wanted to test the crew's loyalty, maybe he should have just parked at a safe distance at the pulsar and waited to see how long it would take before a mutiny started. It would have been a lot more interesting. Of course, then the show couldn's get wrapped up in 43 minutes. And I've designed a dumb experiment or two, so maybe these novices in authority just weren't smart enough.

- Yeah, the revelation about the cadet was a bit awkward. Clever, perhaps, but makes Picard look arrogant. "But this is the great Capt Picard. He did awesome things like X and Y." "Hey, you forgot the awesome thing Z I did!" Who talks like that?
Adara - Fri, Feb 28, 2014 - 8:32pm (USA Central)
It's like TOS's original pilot "The Cage," and the movie "Cube," had a baby.
Rikko - Thu, Mar 20, 2014 - 3:51pm (USA Central)
I completely forgot about the B-plot (Fake Picard on the ship) until it was brought up in the review and comments.

Isn't this the one with Picard saying "Here's to the finest crew in Starfleet!" and makes a toast for all of them? Somehow, I was convinced that was part of another episode. Because that scene was hilarious. The comic highlight of the episode, for sure.

(and it reminds me of the great "The Picard Song" that every Trek fan should check out, in youtube)

But what I did remember of the episode is rather boring, and I mean the whole real Picard bits. I don't know, it felt repetitive.

@ Nissa summed it up nicely: "Yeah, this episode was a misfire. But at least it was a fun misfire."
Tom - Wed, Apr 9, 2014 - 11:08pm (USA Central)
I liked this one. It's funny and engaging. I think they messed up on the reveal though. The aliens weren't very convincing and the explanation seems rather contrived.
Jeff - Mon, Dec 1, 2014 - 8:26am (USA Central)
I agree with Tom that the episode was engaging -- until the ending failed miserably. Are we to believe the blue aliens had the technological ability to remove their subjects and replicate faux versions, yet were so naive that they could not understand how objectionable this was? Were they going to allow the ship to be destroyed, and to allow their subjects to kill eachother? Why did Picard let them go, instead of detaining them and bringing them to Starfleet for punishment?
Dusty - Thu, Jan 1, 2015 - 12:30am (USA Central)
This theme was repeated years later in the Voyager episode 'Scientific Method.' I enjoyed this episode a bit more than that one, but the premise of an alien race that has developed scientifically but not morally remains thin--though not implausible.

Such a common perception of aliens is no coincidence. Maybe it comes from us, and our willingness to perform uncomfortable and sometimes deadly medical experiments on animals to learn about how said procedures will affect humans. The fictional aliens regard us the same way our scientists would the animal subjects: they're not as important as us, so we don't use the same moral guidelines with them as we would with each other. But I'm not an animal rights activist or anything; that's just the first comparison that popped into my head. And however you look at it, the ending is pretty weak.

I like both plots: the fake Picard and the real one in the cell with the strangers. I found Esoqq, the Chalnoth, especially entertaining; Reiner Schone did a great job through all that makeup. The situation on the Enterprise plays out realistically. The crew are suspicious when they should be suspicious, and rebel when they should rebel: when fake Picard's behavior goes from simply odd to inscrutable, putting the Enterprise and their lives in danger. I'd rate this half a star higher.

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