Star Trek: The Next Generation
"The High Ground"
Air date: 1/29/1990
Written by Melinda M. Snodgrass
Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
While on a mission of mercy delivering medical supplies to a war-torn world, Crusher is taken hostage into underground tunnels by Finn (Richard Cox), the leader of a terrorist group that commits frequent violence against the planet's functioning government and its civilians. With the kidnapping, Finn hopes to get the attention of the Federation and shine a spotlight on his cause, which he feels has long been ignored. Finn's methods start with kidnapping Crusher, and then he raises the stakes with an attempt to destroy the Enterprise by using untraceable (and fatal to its users, when used repeatedly) transporter technology to get aboard the ship and plant a bomb. When that fails, Finn kidnaps Picard.
"The High Ground" takes a surprisingly candid and surprisingly balanced look at the issue of terrorism from multiple points of view. Finn, while clearly taking violence to extremes that prove counter-productive even to his own cause, is not a cardboard madman. He wants his grievances heard; violence is merely his currency. At the same time, the episode does not condone or make excuses for his actions.
The episode also takes a hard look at those who attempt to fight terrorism — what they do and why. One key point of view is from the head of the counterterrorism force, Alexana Devos (Kerrie Keane), who has had to deal with Finn's daily violence for years. She's become a hardliner, and her stance is understandable; she's trying to minimize violence in a war zone where civilians have become routine terrorist targets. But, for that matter, the civilians have also become routine targets for arrest for being sympathetic to the separatists; one shot shows a 12-year-old kid being hauled away as a suspected terrorist. This is a police-state society.
Caught in the middle is the Enterprise. Finn has an attention-getting speech about the Federation's willingness to supply the government with medical supplies while turning a blind eye to the separatists. Is he right? Not really, but it demonstrates how appearing to choose sides gets the Federation pulled into an otherwise obscure struggle that does not concern them.
This is one of those rare episodes of TNG where, by the end, essentially nothing has been solved. Sure, Crusher and Picard have been rescued, but the cycle of violence will continue, and the episode doesn't pretend that the situation can be fixed simply because the Enterprise was here or Picard came in and made a pithy speech.