Star Trek: The Next Generation
Air date: 3/29/1993
Written by Morgan Gendel
Directed by Cliff Bole
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
High Concept 101: Die Hard on the Enterprise!
Actually, that's a pretty good one, and the setup is appealing: The Enterprise is vacated by the entire crew in order to make way for a baryon sweep, during which some bad guys posing as technicians try to steal trilithium resin from the warp core. Picard ends up as the only person on board (because he went back for his saddle, of all things) and becomes the starship's last line of defense. He must sneak around the ship and stop them from getting away with the resin, which in the wrong hands could be made into a weapon, exclamation mark!
I really like the idea of the baryon sweep as this slowly moving, deadly, implacable force that gives the story its ticking clock while also decreasing the real estate available for the cat-and-mouse games. So you have an action premise that seems like it would be reasonably adaptable to the decks of the Enterprise, you have Picard taking up arms (look, a crossbow, with poisonous — but not deadly poisonous — arrow tips!), and you have an amusing (if disposable) subplot aboard the planet where Data takes up the activity of small talk and ends up in a small-talk duel with chatty Commander Hutchinson (David Spielberg). What's not to like?
Well, some of the execution, unfortunately. The plot holds together fine, but "Starship Mine" is a pale imitation of Die Hard (and, honestly, how couldn't it be?) and suffers from some hacky moments and a weak villain in the bland Kelsey (Marie Marshall). There's a scene where Picard and Kelsey trade barbs over their communicators, and it's here where the riffs on Die Hard become (1) glaringly obvious and (2) a liability — because "Starship Mine" suffers when it makes us think of similar, better scenes in Die Hard. There's also the problem that an action premise like this feels watered-down when Picard has to be in a constant state of tempered restraint in his response; Star Trek has an inherently non-violent philosophy, which is kind of counterproductive to thwarting bad guys in this sort of plot. And the fairly laughable final fistfight in Ten-Forward suffers in no small part because of an especially atonal Jay Chattaway score (albeit one typical for this period of the TNG era). If ever a sequence needed to be carried by music (and isn't), it's this one — because the stunts sure aren't much to speak of.
On the other hand, as a wind-up action toy with these built-in restraints, "Starship Mine" works about as well as it probably could've. Motormouth Hutchinson always makes me grin (and killing him in the planet-side action was clearly a wink to the audience, even if I don't think Hutch deserved it). Picard posing as barber Mr. Mott is fun. An abandoned Enterprise turns out to have a fair amount of atmosphere for playing hide-and-seek. And the final scene where Picard is reunited with his saddle shows that this story knows that "light" is the right tone here. This is a guilty pleasure that maybe could've been more fun had it been guiltier.
Footnote: Tim Russ has a small part as one of the bad guys.