Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Relics"

***

Air date: 10/12/1992
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Alexander Singer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Every once in a while, the Trek franchise will stop for a moment and indulge its inner fan for a Very Special Episode that reflects upon its mythos. The most obvious way of doing this is to bring aboard TOS characters — something it did in the pilot episode (McCoy), season five's "Unification" (Spock), and would later do in Generations (Kirk) and even Star Trek 2009 (Spock again, in the rebooted alternate timeline). There seems to be an aura of legitimacy that bringing TOS forward into the future seems to bestow upon the latter-day mythos. It's a uniquely fascinating construction: Some of the actors were still playing the parts off and on even when this aired in 1992, but the time frame between TOS and TNG made the fictional TOS characters a piece of decades-old history.

In "Relics," we get Scotty, who is found having been suspended in a jerry-rigged transporter beam on a downed vessel for the past 75 years. In that time he hasn't aged a day. His ship crashed on the surface of a mythical Dyson Sphere — a massive sphere constructed by an ancient society around a star. The Dyson Sphere has a diameter equivalent to Earth's orbit around the sun. Whoa.

"Relics" is a good title, because it not only describes the mysterious Dyson Sphere, but gets to the heart of Scotty's dilemma, where he wakes up to find that he's become mostly irrelevant. Technology has moved on, most everyone who knew him is dead, and when he tries to help out in engineering, he becomes such a nuisance that Geordi finally snaps and tells him that he's in the way. (Picard, ever the wise, recognizes Scotty's plight, and appeals to Geordi to take one for the team and find a way to help a former Starfleet officer be useful again.)

Yes, the episode lays on the nostalgia fairly thick. Sometimes it is too broadly played, with a few too many examples of Scotty saying he was doing this, that, and the other while your great-grandfather was still in diapers. (One of the problems with James Doohan's take on Scotty in general is that the affects of the character are at times so overpowering that he edges close to cartoonishness.) But the scene that really works in "Relics" is when Scotty recreates the original Enterprise bridge on the holodeck. It's a terrific homage, made all the better because it's grounded in believably nostalgic dialog between Scotty and Picard about old glories that cannot be recaptured. (Scotty's drink with Data also has an elliptical quality; Data's line, "It is green," borrows from a TOS drinking scene Scotty appeared in decades earlier.)

If there's a problem with "Relics" — and I must regretfully admit that there is — it's that, apart from the holodeck sequence, the storytelling can be too earnest for its own good, and without the benefit of digging as deep as it perhaps might have. There's also an abundance of forgettable technobabble — probably a symptom of this particular period in TNG's run while also being a symptom of putting two chief engineers in the same room for long stretches of time. And I felt the awesomeness of the Dyson Sphere, a fascinating sci-fi concept, was never adequately realized. (The visual effects of the time reveal their limitations, and the sphere ultimately becomes a means to an end to supply a routine jeopardy plot.)

Still, I want to be clear that this is a pleasant and even admirable example of the Very Special Episode. It understands its characters, gives them a personal story worth telling, and uses them to drive the plot. If it doesn't achieve greatness in the process, well, so what?

Previous episode: Man of the People
Next episode: Schisms

Season Index

30 comments on this review

Latex Zebra - Mon, May 28, 2012 - 3:08am (USA Central)
I liked this episode but found (and I'm sorry for saying this) James Doohan's potrayal of Scotty as a bit hit and miss.
Great story overall though and as Jammer says the Dyson Sphere is an awesome invention, well realised on screen.
Sean C. - Mon, May 28, 2012 - 10:21pm (USA Central)
The conversation between Picard and Scotty about their first ships is one of my all-time favourite Trek dialogue scenes.
Johnny - Wed, May 30, 2012 - 12:33am (USA Central)
I agree with this review. I think it could have been an easy 2 episodes based around Scotty and the Dyson Sphere. I would have loved to see more of the mystery behind it.
Van_Patten - Thu, May 31, 2012 - 11:32pm (USA Central)
Jammer

Have realised that I have been following your reviews (even of Andromeda) for nearly 15 years which brought me to a juddering halt and gave me an intimation of my own mortality! Delighted you're back at it and remember Handlen has to go through at least five seasons of DS9 and seven seasons of Voyager (at least) before he equals your longevity !

I'd say this is worth 3.5 stars, whilst I recognise James Doohan's performance, especially The scenes with Burton were hit and miss, it still resonates. the interaction ( or lack thereof) between Worr and Scotty and the scenes with the ensign providing Scotty with quarters are excellent, so for pure nostalgic feel, this is one of season six's better offerings

Looking forward to the remainder of the reviews, and you remain the true 'No.1' for Real Star Trek fans!
Sxottlan - Fri, Jun 1, 2012 - 3:06am (USA Central)
The conversation between Scotty and Picard in the holodeck is one of the all-time best scenes in Trek.
grumpy_otter - Mon, Jun 4, 2012 - 2:58pm (USA Central)
Imagine you are an airplane designer. Suddenly, Orville and Wilbur Wright appear before you. Are you too busy?

NO!!!

THAT is what has always bothered me about this episode--Picard is an amateur archeologist who can wax rhapsodic about a clay pot for hours and when a real, live relic appears he is too busy?

Geordie will build old ships and talk to a hot hologram for days but can't spare a moment for the GREATEST ENTERPRISE ENGINEER ever?

And don't tell me the Dyson sphere was urgent--damn thing wasn't doing a damn thing until much later.

If a random person from 75 years ago suddenly appeared in our midst, he/she would be the most talked-about person on the planet--the most feted, celebrated individual in many years.

But on the Enterprise they are too busy? FAUGH!

Scotty is brilliant and wonderful in this--and I love the nods to the past, especially "How long will it really take you?" so I put the failure here solely on the writers. They threw in completely erratic character traits for the others, so this did not ring true.

Seriously--SCOTTY had to "prove" himself useful before they appreciated him? That's a big 'ol pile of steaming plop out the back end of a bull.

And all that being said, Scotty's conversation with Picard on the original Enterprise is indeed moving and touching, one of the best moments ever.

Just don't expect me to believe that every crew member on that ship wouldn't be clamoring for time with Scotty! Phooey.
Weiss - Wed, Jun 6, 2012 - 10:11am (USA Central)
bringing old stars to new shows was done in ds9 and voyager (but i dont care for voyager so wont even bother listing)... picard in pilot, thomas riker (in a clever twist)... hell they even did a reverse and brought Bashir onto TNG (for the Data episode)!, Gowron, Duras's son, Lursa Betor, Kang/Koloth (weren't they in TOS?), and then the whole Tribble episode... i miss DS9

the only one in voyager i cared for was quark in the pilot.
Dean Grr - Wed, Jun 13, 2012 - 11:06pm (USA Central)
Just passing through on my walk through the web ... I wonder how your reviews of TNG are affected by the changes in storytelling since they were aired. When I watch an episode today, it's a mixture of nostalgia and comparing that to recent dramas. Just watched DS9's "Emissary" and that episode has withstood the test of time.

"Relics" is one of my favorite eps from Season 6, due to the idea of the Dyson Sphere, and of course, Scotty. Anytime they feature ancient advanced civilizations, it's the best!

...

It would be interesting to note what reviews would keep their ratings, and which would decrease over time. It would also be fun to compare notes with fans that watched the shows when they aired, versus new fans today. I suspect as long as the props or cgi don't give away their age, many Star Trek episodes tell universal stories. Anyone watch TOS remastered - does it help the shows compensate for their age?
Elliott - Thu, Jun 14, 2012 - 4:49pm (USA Central)
The episode as a whole is barely better than 2 stars, in spite of the fact that I found the idea of the Dyson Sphere intriguing (ridiculous though it is). However, the nostalgia factor does indeed kick it up into "must-see" territory, so I have to say that an honorary 3-star rating is appropriate here.
Jammer - Thu, Jun 14, 2012 - 7:41pm (USA Central)
@Dean Grr:

I've said this before in various ways, but the reviews are as much a product of their time as anything. I can certainly point to episodes that I would view (and rate) differently if I saw them today. That's just a matter of the fact that times have changed and so have I.

That being said, there is, to a certain degree, a closed universe that each of these shows lives in. When I watch TNG today, I find myself entering into "TNG mode." I think of the shows in terms of who I am today and what I know, but I also do not forget what it felt like to watch them 20 years ago and how they were a product of their time, as all things are.

It all probably swirls around my brain and finds a balance. Who's to say how much of it gets factored in either way as I'm writing a review today of something I remember from 20 years ago.

I don't bother changing old ratings because at a certain point the review should just stand for what I thought at the time. I stand by most of what I wrote and most of the ratings. Some things I might change if I were writing them today. But I'm not writing them today, so that's pretty much all there is to it.
Paul - Tue, Jun 19, 2012 - 7:27am (USA Central)
@Jammer

I don't bother changing old ratings because at a certain point the review should just stand for what I thought at the time. I stand by most of what I wrote and most of the ratings. Some things I might change if I were writing them today. But I'm not writing them today, so that's pretty much all there is to it.

So, just for fun, if someone put a gun against your head and told you to pick a Trek episode rating your current self disagrees with the most, what would it be? :)
Niall - Thu, Jul 19, 2012 - 1:59pm (USA Central)
I can only second Van_Patten's comments. I've been visiting this site for over a decade now - ever since we got our first internet connection (dialup, of course) in 1999 back when I was a DS9-mad teenager. Now I'm almost 30.
Rachel - Wed, Aug 22, 2012 - 4:40pm (USA Central)
I really disliked Geordi in the first half of this episode. Obviously he was redeemed by the end, but I found it surprising that more respect was not shown to Scotty..not just because of who he is, but because, well, he had been in the pattern buffer for 75 years. Coming out of that was no small thing, and yet in this episode it was treated as standard fare. Although it focussed on engineer to engineer, I found the chat with Captain Picard and also Data most rewarding. Geordicould have been written as more humble, which I think the character generally is...but overall a very good episode.
BZ - Mon, Oct 22, 2012 - 12:51pm (USA Central)
Thinking about it, it's true that Geordie should have acted around Scotty like he acted around Cochran in First Contact.
Comp625 - Fri, Jan 18, 2013 - 2:33pm (USA Central)
Jammer's review is SPOT ON. The heavy-handed nostalgia works very well for anyone who has followed Trek since TOS days and/or has appreciation for the foundational groundwork that the TOS crew provided to the Trek franchise.

For anyone who didn't know, the concept of Dyson's Sphere is actually one cultivated in the real world during the 1950's. Freeman Dyson was amused by this episode. Per Memory Alpha:

"Freeman Dyson himself called his theory a 'joke.' About 'Relics', Dyson said: 'Actually it was sort of fun to watch it. It's all nonsense, but it's quite a good piece of cinema.' [1] In the same interview, he said that 'Stapledon sphere' would be a more appropriate name, in honor of Olaf Stapledon, whose depiction of such an object in his 1937 novel Star Maker inspired young Dyson to look into the theory."

That said, the Dyson's Sphere was a fantastic sci-fi concept that helped to continue bridging both television series. The notion that Scotty randomly shows up 70+ years later in the Trek Universe is far-fetched itself, but the Sphere allowed for both his appearance AND for Scotty to save the day. Perfect homage for TOS, in my opinion.

Furthermore, Scotty's interaction with the TNG crew is well-executed. Much like his reaction to Ensign Sonya Gomez in "Q Who," Geordi expresses quick frustration over dealing with annoying personalities. Meanwhile, Picard expresses sympathy with Scotty, not only as a Captain, but also as someone who is a bit senior in age himself. And the Data scene in Ten Forward eerily reminds you of Scotty's conversations with Spock, his own non-human crew member on TOS.

I do agree with Jammer that the Dyson's Sphere was a grand concept that was not properly addressed in the Trek Universe, and that technobabble may have stolen away a bit of screentime from further deepening the emotional impact of Scotty's return. However, I'm not sure if it deserves the demotion of an entire star.

My rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars
Jack - Tue, Feb 12, 2013 - 10:55am (USA Central)
The zaniest thing about a Dyson sphere is where the raw materials to build it would come from. Not sure how "thick" it is (though the depiction of its thickness in this episode seemed grossly inadequate to allow for agriculture on the surface (to say nothing of trees).
navamske - Tue, Feb 26, 2013 - 11:47pm (USA Central)
A minor nitpick: Hasn't it been established canonically in Trek that you can't transport people through shields? Geordi and Scotty were using the Jenolen's shields to hold the front door open and the Enterprise beamed them out before destroying their ship.

Maybe twenty-fourth-century transporter technology can beam through twenty-third-century shields. Yeah, that must be it.

Also, Starfleet Medical should have been all over Scotty's feat. Say someone has a terminal illness for which there's no treatment -- stick them in a transporter buffer until such time as a cure is discovered. Sorta like the Phantom Zone.
T'Paul - Sun, Jun 16, 2013 - 10:58am (USA Central)
I think this episode was a little sad... and undignified for Scotty... I agree that surely Picard and Geordi would have had a bit more time for Scotty, but sure, the plot was about feeling out of your time and useless...

The drinking scene with Picard was OK, even if Picard was a little patronising.

Agree that the Dyson Sphere was insufficiently explored.

In the end a bit of a gimmick episode that could have been far better and a sad way for Scotty to finish up!
mephyve - Fri, Jul 26, 2013 - 6:34pm (USA Central)
O yeah,Scotty's turn!! Superb episode, 4stars. Even more enjoyable than Spock's appearance. The lines borne out of Scotty's indignation had me in stitches. "I was driving starships when your great grandfather was still in diapers." Data had the line of the show though,'It's green.'
The disrespect was uncalled for though, from Geordie patting his broken arm to his treating him like a pest. Everyone else from the old crew were treated with the proper respect in their appearances. And someone could have mentioned to him that McCoy and Spock were still around.
navamske - Sat, Aug 10, 2013 - 6:43pm (USA Central)
Missed opportunities:

Scott: "You're not quite human, are ye?"
Data: "No sir. I am an android."
Scott: "I hope your name isn't Norman."

Computer: "Please specify program."
Scott: "Christine? What the bloody hell are ye doin' in there, lass?"

Scott: "I was doing blah blah blah when your great-grandfather was in diapers!"
Guinan: "I doubt it."

I think that last one is actually in the novelization.
William B - Wed, Aug 21, 2013 - 5:34pm (USA Central)
The Dyson sphere in this episode is a piece of engineering which has long since been abandoned, for reasons which aren’t clear until most of the way through the episode, when we find that the colony on the inside surface seems to have been abandoned because the star the sphere encircles is dying, and not going quietly. Eventually, we find too, though it takes most of the episode to find that both the Jenolen and the Enterprise tried to hail the “communication arrays” on the sphere which were not communication arrays at all, but portals to enter the sphere which send out tractor beams which wreak havoc on ships’ systems. The threats in this episode, then, are a star which is not “aging gracefully,” “flaring up” as it dies away, and a matter of increasingly severe technical miscommunication. In other words, what the episode is about: Scotty flares up in anger, and Scotty and Geordi's inability to talk shop with each other is a specific instance of the generational conflict that the episode demonstrates. To save the day, Scotty and Geordi have to communicate across generations, Scotty has to let go of his certainty that he knows what’s best in this new world and Geordi his smug assurance that Scotty is a pest without much to contribute. In the process, the Jenolen, whose initial crash ended with Scotty only able to save himself and Franklin, and only Scotty making it all the way through, is destroyed, with Scotty beaming away, this time with Geordi in tow. Saving the Enterprise and regaining his dignity, in Scotty’s case, means letting the ship which would have taken him to his retirement be destroyed. Someday, he will retire; someday, he will have nothing to contribute to the outside world as an active presence; someday he will die, like the star at the centre of the abandoned sphere. But not yet.

The Dyson sphere actually reminds me a little of Percy Shelley’s Ozymandias—it’s a marvel of engineering and construction, in the middle of nowhere, abandoned. It’s perfect in construction, still functioning after what must be eons, but even a perfect technical achievement will be useless when the power source at its centre dies out. The idea of aging and outliving one’s usefulness runs through the whole episode, of course, but its cousin is the prospect of death and the recognition that everything will end, someday, and all that will be left are scraps of memories, which when you die will be gone as well. That recognition need not be miserable. There is dignity in recognizing that one will eventually cease to be, but that one can chose how on spends those moments and to find value in them; Scotty will never be on the Enterprise (no bloody A, B C or D) again, but he still has years of adventure left in him. Scotty’s parting advice to Geordi, to appreciate his time on the Enterprise, repeats essentially Kamin’s words to Meribor that now will never come again. But the episode also reminds us that there are some things that only change superficially but are somehow constant; the way to understand what happened to the Enterprise is in the past (i.e. in what happened to the Jenolen), the Jenolen is the key to saving the Enterprise, and Scotty’s quick-thinking, creativity and ability to use the tools he has at hand are timeless skills, even if the tools themselves are not.

From the general to the specific: I know what Jammer means about the over-the-top way that James Doohan plays Scotty, but I like it. I like it in general, but it works particularly well here, since Scotty’s neverending bluster is partly about Scotty always having wanted to be something of a living monument to himself; he purposefully crafted an identity to inflate his significance (as a miracle worker), partly because his ego needed constant stoking and partly because he also knows on some level that he isn’t taken entirely seriously, when in fact as the Chief Engineer he knows the ship more (in his estimation) than anyone else around. The mixture of put-on arrogance, genuine arrogance and insecurity seems believable to me and it also works great in this episode—it’s no wonder that Geordi finds Scotty grating, for example, and Scotty’s buying into his own myth makes his depression and rebirth all the more powerful and dramatic. Meanwhile, the contrast between Scotty’s over-the-top pioneer seat-of-your-pants spirit with Geordi’s easy-going competence brings out the contrast between the two series very nicely. Both men (and both shows) are brilliant, but one is and always will be a somewhat ludicrous trailblazer and the other a methodical (if occasionally a little sedate) professional.

I really like the scenes on the Jenolen; Geordi’s attempt to reach out to Scotty is a little obvious, but both Geordi and Scotty know that, and the reason Geordi’s discussion of the Jenolen’s value works is that it is based in real technical knowledge; Geordi is trying to make Scotty feel better, but he’s also right and both men can see it. I love the whole scene on the original Enterprise bridge, both Scotty’s moment to himself and his conversation with Picard. I like the in-jokes and the episode is endlessly quotable. (My favourite: “Synthetic scotch, synthetic commanders.”) The episode’s flaw is that there is not enough sense of wonder about everything here—both at Scotty and the Dyson sphere. Picard, Geordi and Data have scenes being impressed with the Sphere and interacting with Scotty, which is of the good. But somehow the implications of the Dyson Sphere, and its relevance to Scotty’s story, don’t come through as well in the dialogue as they could (though it is a suitably awesome sight, especially the neverending stream of continents on the inside). This becomes an even bigger problem when the jeopardy plot comes along and it feels perfunctory, though I do think it’s very well integrated into the episode thematically. This is closely related to the problem of the crew insufficiently recognizing how remarkable it is that Scotty’s around; I don’t actually have a problem with Picard, Geordi or Data’s characterization (Picard is professional on duty and kind off-duty, Geordi’s annoyed territorialism is basically how he reacted to Leah Brahms too, and Data is Data as ever), but there is still a sense that people around the ship should be clamouring to talk to the guy who was on The Original Enterprise. In general, I think the story here gets mostly everything right, and most of the execution is right there, too, though there are some significant drawbacks. Still, the episode is an easy 3.5 star show for me.
Jack - Sun, Sep 1, 2013 - 11:01am (USA Central)
Scotty jury-rigs the transporter to keep him alive for 75 years, but can't jury-rig it to repair his arm upon re-materialization...
mephyve - Mon, Sep 2, 2013 - 8:02am (USA Central)
The idea of using the transporter as a medical device seems to be a ground breaking concept in TNG so I can see how it might not occur to Scotty when he came up with his ground breaking concept of living in a transporter beam.
Clash - Mon, Nov 11, 2013 - 9:07pm (USA Central)
Yeah I have to agree with grumpy_otter... the chief engineer from one of the most famous starships in federation history suddenly reappears and not a single person has the slightest desire to even have a conversation with him?? Considering the awe that people have when they even utter the name of Captain Kirk, you'd think people would be lining up to talk to Scotty in this episode! Still a fun episode.
Jack - Sat, Nov 16, 2013 - 10:05pm (USA Central)
I always found the inflated time estimates and subsequent "miracle worker" status would only work for so long. A captain who falls for it over and over without eventually "having the engineer's number" would seem, to me, to be rather dopey. And Kirk was many things, but not that. I suspect Kirk was onto him nearly from the gitgo, but simply let the baby have its bottle. And playing that goofy game is simply not LaForge's style.
Smith - Fri, Feb 21, 2014 - 12:30pm (USA Central)
Don't understand the harsh reviews! Terrific episode from top to bottom. Yes, Geordi is a little grumpy with Scotty, but it is a plot device and they get along in the end. Too much technobabble?? No such thing. Just like the visual effects, technical language helps paint a more richer and exotic picture of what is going on. There are too many "anti-techno-babble" zealots out there now and they don't know what they're attacking. You do NOT want a science fiction show with mundane/general descriptions of ship problems. It would be (and is on other shows) too boring.
SkepticalMI - Wed, Jul 23, 2014 - 7:35pm (USA Central)
OK, I'm going to have to come to the defense of the Enterprise crew here. Picard and Geordi were perfectly justified in their actions. For one, Picard took the time to immediately introduce himself to Scotty, and then went to see him as soon as he got off duty. Is it that unreasonable for Picard to not abandon his duties? After all, it's not like anyone expected Scotty to disappear or anything; he would still be around in a few hours. And one could naturally assume Scotty would want to spend a few hours regathering himself anyway. It's a big shock to his system suddenly rematerializing after 70 years; does he really want to spend his time talking to strangers? Certainly Picard's actions are reasonable.

Secondly, calling Scotty a living legend is probably a stretch. The difference in time between TOS era and TNG era is a bit more than the difference between now and World War II. Tell me, do you know the name of Eisenhower's quartermaster? Patton's chief of staff? Nimitz's second in command? I don't. It wouldn't surprise me that even quartermasters in the army now don't know the names of quartermasters from WWII. So while Kirk and perhaps Spock may be household names in the Federation, it's reasonable to assume Scotty was just a footnote in history. Heck, Data has a vast encyclopedic knowledge, and even he didn't know of Bones' aversion to Vulcans. So maybe LaForge had heard of him, but probably not as a legendary figure.

But most importantly, Scotty was acting very rudely in engineering. Someone used the analogy of Wilbur Wright suddenly appearing. Yeah, we'd be excited to talk to him. But what if someone was getting a jet ready for takeoff, and Wilbur kept interrupting our hypothetical mechanic with a bunch of complaints. "What are you doing building a plane outta metal, laddie? It's too heavy! And only one set of wings? Where's the propeller? Oh laddie, this bucket of bolts will never get off the ground..." I think the mechanic might start to harbor the same annoyances that Geordie showed.

I'm an engineer. I've given tours and shown off our company's technology to many other scientists, engineers, and professionals, the majority of which were older and more experienced than I. Not one of them acted in a manner that Scotty did. Not one was so condescending. Every one asked questions and tried to understand the technology and assumed I knew what I was talking about rather than being so dismissive. Scotty was being very unprofessional in there. I don't blame Geordi for showing him out. Especially since it was clear LaForge wasn't taking it too personally. He still seemed excited to talk to Scotty at first, and seemed ok with him while fixing up the old ship.

In any case, maybe its because I don't have the same nostalgia filter for TOS (TNG was my first Trek show, and so its the one that gets seen in rose-colored glasses), but I don't see this as an instant classic. I agree with pretty much everything Jammer has to say. The theme is hammered with no subtlety, and the intrigue of the Dyson Sphere was simply put by the wayside. It's still a fun episode, of course. And showing the old bridge (with the Star Trek fanfare playing in the background) was enough to force the nostalgia out of me anyway.

I think this would have been nice for a pseudo two-part episode. Leave Relics the way it is, and have it end with Scotty riding off into the sunset. Then have the next episode be focused on the Dyson Sphere itself. This is the biggest, best technology humanity has seen since the Iconian Gateway. This civilization had a level of engineering skill far beyond anything Starfleet has encountered so far. Doesn't that work as a mystery? Isn't that worth another episode? It's too bad that it didn't; I would have loved to see what they could have come up with.

As an aside, I'm not sure if anyone else noticed this, but the episode opens with Picard and Riker looking over Data's shoulder as he works at one of the science stations in the back. After some techtalk, the two stroll to the front of the bridge and continue the technobabble with... Data, who is now sitting at his normal console. Oops. Combine that with LaForge constantly grabbing Scotty's injured arm, and it seems the director wasn't a very detailed-oriented man.
Beeblebrox - Sat, Sep 6, 2014 - 7:38pm (USA Central)
Setting aside the fan nods of the episode, I was always distracted by obvious factual errors that were overlooked by the writers in order to move the plot along. Here are the main problems:

1. A sphere this size would have no visible curvature as we see the Enterprise orbiting it. They make it look like the Dyson Sphere is about the size of the Death Star with an equivalent gravitational field (which was massive when they were millions of miles away but had no effect on them when up close.)

2. The tractor beam slowly pulls the Enterprise in and after shutting down, the forward momentum of the ship continues. Within a few minutes, the Enterprise is about ready to crash into the star at the center of the Sphere. But the problem here is, that the distance from the inner surface of the DS to the sun is said to be roughly 93,000,000 miles. I don't know how fast the Enterprise was coasting but let's say it was an unusually strong tractor beam and it sent the Enterprise on its way at 1000 mph. At that speed it would take 10 years for the Enterprise to reach the star, give or take.

3. So the Enterprise narrowly averts crashing into the star and soon is traveling back to the hatch that LaForge and Scotty are holding open for them. But my question has always been, if they can open the hatch from the outside at will, why not open it once to signal the Enterprise to let them know that they will open it again in an hour so the Enterprise can slip through?

In fact, once everyone realizes that the Enterprise is no longer permanently trapped, then exploration of the Sphere would be possible.

Glaring issues like this tend to diminish what could otherwise be fun stories on TNG.
Prawn - Fri, Oct 3, 2014 - 9:38pm (USA Central)
Totally agree with the others who find it really bizarre that nobody on the Enterprise has any time for Scotty. The TNG writers had a weird habit of randomly throwing away all of the established traits of major characters from the show for the duration of an episode if it would further the plot and this episode is probably the best example of that trait: Since when were the entire Enterprise crew rude, irreverent jackasses? In reality, people would be tripping over themselves to get 5 mins with the famous Scotty.

Again, as others have said: why does nobody tell Scotty that half of his old shipmates are still alive? Also: is there not some planet with a nursing home for old engineers?
Nonya - Fri, Dec 5, 2014 - 7:29pm (USA Central)
The trouble with this episode is that it never utilized Scotty in the way we wanted to see him. Jimmy Doohan is a person I really love, and it's sad that no one appreciates him. At the end of the episode, he gets shoved off on a shuttle. The least they could have done was say that he was going to Vulcan to meet up with Spock. As a fan of his I want Scotty to actually do something [i]fun[/i]. I don't want him shown as some washed up has-been.

Scotty aside, this episode is just too obvious. The references are too obvious, the metaphors are too obvious, Geordi's arc is too obvious. Clearly Doohan's star power is the only thing holding this episode afloat.

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