Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Descent, Part II"


Air date: 9/20/1993
Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by Alexander Singer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

If "Descent, Part I" was an entertaining but inconclusive setup episode that ended on a head-scratcher, then "Descent, Part II" is like watching a balloon slowly deflate for 44 minutes. It's not horrible — especially not in theory — but boy were we hoping for something better than this.

The episode opens with Lore explaining in lengthy fashion how he became the leader to these lost Borg and how he "helped" Data realize the "truth" about the great quest of definitive purpose ahead of them. Lore believes in the superiority of those like himself — artificial lifeforms that have no biological makeup — and he hopes to remake the Borg in that image (which has resulted in failed experimentation and brain-damaged Borg). But there's still no useful rationale for why (to say nothing of how) he wants to conquer the Federation, other than to justify the lame line that capped part one and artificially inflated the stakes.

There's something interesting in the idea that sending Hugh back to his ship caused these Borg to fall into individualized, unworkable chaos, as well as the notion that they would be willing to turn to anyone — even an egomaniac like Lore — just to quell the disorder. But all of that has already happened well before "Descent" begins, and we now get everything told to us in exposition, and I have a hard time actually picturing it. The complexity of such a task becomes a lot more prosaic when we hear Hugh (who is part of a rival Borg faction that has sided against Lore) gloss over it. Lore clearly must have done something to bring the Borg back from chaos, but the story offers no details. It just kind of happened.

As for Data, "Descent II" turns him into a puppet of his programming. There is no characterization of any interest here, because it's all a form of mind-control that Lore has instituted. Thus, Data's defection has zero character consequence. If Lore had actually been able to find a way to make a case that Data could believe in (not that I can picture one), that might have been more interesting. But instead this is just a matter of an ethical "off" switch being flipped to make Data an automaton. His thirst for the emotions Lore feeds him comes across as a half-baked analogue for drug addiction. Really, the whole would-be arc is vaporware.

Meanwhile, the idea that so many members of the crew are on the surface of the planet makes no sense at all. (More than 70 just to search for Data? Why?) This leaves a skeleton crew aboard the Enterprise, with Crusher in command, which serves no purpose but to put a character in command of the ship who normally never would be. The bridge sequences where the Enterprise engages the Borg are easily the weakest part of the episode — jam-packed with who-cares technobabble and who-cares temporary placeholder bridge characters, utterly devoid of tension or danger, and featuring a resolution that makes you shrug. (Not to mention, it employs the shield technology from "Suspicions," of all episodes. My, how Borg engagements have fallen, even from part one of this story.)

"Descent II" is a disappointment because there's clearly some underlying ideas here about actions having consequences (Hugh returning to the collective), and the susceptibility of the vulnerable being exploited by a charismatic savior who promises them greatness. Unfortunately, it's all half-formed and compromised, and executed with an almost stunning lack of urgency when you consider this is the kickoff episode to the final season of a sci-fi television giant. The most interesting character nugget comes at the end, when Data retrieves the emotion chip from his deactivated brother, hinting that one day he might install it. Too bad we now all know how that worked out.

Previous episode: Descent, Part I
Next episode: Liaisons

Season Index

28 comments on this review

Thu, Sep 20, 2012, 8:09pm (UTC -6)
Even though this episode is mediocre, it did lay some important elements that would be used in both Star Trek: Generations (the emotion chip) and Star Trek Insurrection (the ethical subroutine).
Thu, Sep 20, 2012, 11:45pm (UTC -6)
Yes this is a 2-star episode It is okay but to me it is the epitome of mediocrity and felt like it was just lumbering through the motions. Part I promised epic things that Part II never delivered on--Lore/Borg attacking the Federation(we never even saw Nechayev or the rest of the fleet once in the hour) for example.

I did enjoy seeing Hugh again and Crusher in charge. I even appreciated the continuity callback to the metaphasic shielding and it being employed here in a reasonable manner but the engagements were underwhelming and I was disappointed we never saw the interior of the new Borg ship.

I actually preferred VOY's Unimatrix Part II more even though it was similiarly disappointing in really exploiting the story idea and actually fundamentally altering the Borg and maybe even bringing them down once and for all.
Fri, Sep 21, 2012, 10:48am (UTC -6)
This was an awful episode that soured "I, Borg" (Hugh should have been completely cleared of all individuality, period, and the last we should have ever seen of him was his poignant glance toward Geordi at the end of that show). It also eviscerated the once-menacing Borg into mechanized Lost Boys. But considering STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT showed the collective much as their old selves anyway, at least it seems that many Powers-That-Be chalked this two-parter up to a misfire (thankfully, this was indeed only a small sect of the Borg as a whole). Lore was at his worst here; we were never provided with a satisfactory explanation of why he was involved with the Borg in the first place and what prompted his quest to "save" them other than "I can use them to destroy the Federation, bwahahaha." Some of the scenes between Lore and Data were nice but because we all knew Data would be back to normal by the end, I agree with Jammer that it would have been more interesting if Data had been given the ability to make a true choice to join Lore instead of being totally under the control of him. *1/2 stars for me.
Fri, Sep 21, 2012, 2:43pm (UTC -6)
I also think that Jammer was being too generous with 2 stars, but the review was otherwise spot-on.

As pointed out, there's lots of interesting issues that could have been examined. I would've found it interesting if they could have compared and contrasted Lore wanting to make the Borg more machine with Federation members wanting to make them more 'human.' Surely some Borg would've been happy staying more-or-less as they are.

These issues would be more timely if they were addressed in a new version of Star Trek. Are the Borg any more attached to their implants than consumers are to their smart-phones?
Latex Zebra
Sat, Sep 22, 2012, 3:18pm (UTC -6)
The ruination of the Borg started here.
Duke of Earl Grey
Sat, Sep 22, 2012, 11:47pm (UTC -6)
Data is lucky that he got the best of Lore in their private confrontation. Imagine what would have happened if Lore had gotten the drop on him...

Based on every one of Lore's appearances on the show prior to "Descent, Part I", I imagine Lore would switch clothes with the unconscious Data, then strut out into the hall, walk up to Captain Picard, and say "I have deactivated Lore. We must disassemble him so he no longer poses any threat!" And of course Picard, knowing Lore's tricks, would surely not immediately say "It's good to have you back, Data" and then merrily deactivate the unconscious android in the next room.

Oh wait, he really did say that!

Shawn Davis
Sun, Sep 23, 2012, 6:34am (UTC -6)
I would give this episode at least 2 1/2 stars. I do agree with you Jammer with some of the problems that plague both parts of the Decent story like such as Picard sending down almost all the crew of the Enterprise just to look for one crew member not making sense and the part Where Dr. Crusher took command of the Enterprise was the boring part of the story. However, I did enjoy the conflict between Data and his problems with having human emotions, especially with his evil twin brother Lore goading him on. I also enjoyed the return of the borg Hugh as he added a bit of depth to the story on how he changed since his last appearance from the episode "I, Borg" from the fifth season and how he changed some of the borg from where they have only their own thoughts instead of one mind, which lets us know that the borg do have some chinks in their armor per se. I aslo don't think that this episodes make the borg look weak at all, although the story line probably could have done better without Data's bother Lore causing the problems. "Decent" of course is not as powerful as "The Best of Both Worlds", but it's better to me than any borg episodes from Star Trek Voyager.
Sun, Sep 23, 2012, 5:51pm (UTC -6)
I actually enjoyed the scenes on the bridge (as contrived as the situation was), it was one of the few times where Crusher had interesting things to do. Other than that, this episode was of course a disappointment.
Tue, Sep 25, 2012, 11:11am (UTC -6)
@Nic -- McFadden wasn't bad, but the other actors playing bridge officers were TERRIBLE.

Also, the writers really misfired on the grouping of characters in this episode. Having Hugh interact with Riker and Worf -- when he interacted with everybody BUT Riker and Worf in "I Borg" -- was a weird decision. At a minimum, Worf and Geordi could have flip-flopped roles. Riker and Geordi interacting with Hugh would have been more interesting. Lore could have made Data experiment on Picard, instead.

Or, Worf, Riker and Troi could have been the group held prisoner (maybe Data would have experimented on Riker or Troi?) and Picard and Geordi could have interacted more with Hugh. That would have been far more interesting that Picard technobabbling his way through the most implausible way to get out of the holding cell.
Tue, Sep 25, 2012, 1:37pm (UTC -6)
It's funny how metaphasic shielding from "Suspicions" is used here, because the antagonistic bridge officer is played by James Horan, who played the lizard alien who tried to steal the metaphasic technology in the aforementioned episode.

(Note: James Horan would go on to play 'Future Guy' in Star Trek: Enterprise.)
Wed, Sep 26, 2012, 8:39am (UTC -6)
Good tidbit, Patrick. Horan is on a commercial currently playing a cowboy.
Nick P.
Thu, Sep 27, 2012, 2:26pm (UTC -6)
This episode was when "feminism-trek" really started taking hold. I mean, sure, I guess it is cool they wanted the females to do more on the show, but they BOTH had to go to command school? Picard would really leave Beverly as the command officer when the likelihood of going into battle with the borg is actually quite high? What a Joke.

I have studied a little military history, and i really cannot recall an incident when a ship captain willingly left a doctor in charge of his ship.

And of course there are people that defend the writers, but that is horse-crap, the only reason it happened is because someone on staff (probably Jeri Taylor) thought it would be cool if Crusher was in command of the Enterprise while being attacked by Borg.

Finally, and this is a MAJOR problem with the final 2 seasons and all the movies, the producers seem to have completely forgotten that Picard should almost always stay on the enterprise for 3 reasons..

1. He has a 1st officer whose JOB is to do that stuff, since he has to, you know, command the ship.
2.He has 1000 other people to go if Riker cannot.
3. The episode are just BETTER when Picard stays on the bridge, at least for me. When Riker or someone is planet-side, I always feel more comfortable have the smart old man up their on the ship making decisions.

Think of the episode "Q Who", if it was made in the seventh season, Picard would have beamed over, by himself, and killed 12 borg without a phaser. But in season 2 (an unjustly criticized season), Riker and a team go over, with Picard on the bridge, and it FEELS like that is the way it is supposed to be. Picard is actually MORE involved when he is controlling things from the bridge.
Tue, Oct 9, 2012, 2:03pm (UTC -6)
@Nick P: I almost totally agree. With a caveat.

If 'Q Who' had happened AFTER season 7 then you're totally right. Picard would have beamed over to the Borg ship in a dune buggy, violated the Prime Directive and killed 12 Borg.

But in season 7, it's more likely that he, Data and Troi would have beamed over, met Sigmund Freud, taken a holodeck train to Ipsilanti, evolved into dinosaurs and met an alien posing as Geordi's mom.

Season 7 is just so bad. It continues the trend of Picard leaving the ship, but it does it in really sedate ways. It's good that Picard isn't yet Rambo-Luc Picard -- which is out of character -- but it sure is boring.
Sun, Feb 17, 2013, 3:08am (UTC -6)
If I recall correctly, neither Gates McFadden nor Marina Sirtis had signed on for the seventh season at the time that Descent Part I wrapped, but the rest of the cast had. The setup at the cliffhanger gives the opportunity to write them out (if they wouldn't even return for part II) with an FX shot of the Borg destroying the Enterprise or her bridge.

It's still ham-handed, but there is some logic behind it.
Mon, Mar 11, 2013, 11:12am (UTC -6)
I've heard Descent Part I was written as an "escape hatch" in case the show was not renewed for a seventh season. Most of the crew had evacuated the ship to form search parties so that they could crash the ship (with Crusher in the chair) and start the movies with an emotional Data and an Enterprise E. That's why it was called "Descent." The ship was supposed to crash.
nick P.
Wed, Mar 13, 2013, 7:51am (UTC -6)
@Paul, "taken a holodeck train to Ipsilanti"

I love that line! I will have to remember that one.
William B
Wed, Oct 23, 2013, 1:05pm (UTC -6)
I talked about this a little way back when (on part one), I'm going to propose a reading of the "Descent" two-parter that makes it somewhat work, but the implications of which are disturbing. To start with: I have fond memories of this episode from childhood, and I think some of that might be what makes me willing to look a little generously at it, even though it is (at best) a mess and at worst terrible. Here's what I think this two-parter does, however, and how, in theory if not in execution, it does something very interesting with Data.

Data is introduced to us as a Pinocchio figure pretty explicitly -- he might turn into a real boy, if he's good enough. Data values humanity, and his love for humanity makes humanity shine all the brighter, because Data himself is just so awesome. He's super-strong, super-smart, and super-ethical; his one obvious significant flaw is his lack of understanding of human emotion, and he wants to make that correction. In essence, Data is as close to perfect as can get. And then we meet Lore, and "Datalore," goofy though it frequently is, makes Data genuinely interesting by suggesting that the core assumptions about the character may be wrong. To wit: if Data gets emotions, becomes more human, he might become a monster, like Lore. The episode emphasizes his crew's discomfort with Data's being a machine, which they have not really been able to internalize; and it turns out that Data's being sufficiently machinelike is also the thing that distinguishes him from Lore, who immediately turns his physical and intellectual powers for destruction because of his emotions, which lead him to the very worst of humanity.

The next Lore episode, "Brothers," actually pushes even further, subtly. The episode is the closest, most in-depth look at the whole Soong-Lore-Data family that we ever get, though certain other episodes (including this season's underrated "Inheritance") go there as well. Once again, we get a reminder of how stone-cold scary Data can be if he for a moment is not oriented toward the good of the ship, which, like "Datalore" (and a few other crucial episodes, like "The Schizoid Man" or "Clues," which I won't talk about here), make it clear that we should be worried about Data's strength and skill, should he ever stray. But more than that, Data's ethical subroutines are completely suppressed/surpassed. Soong activates Data as a machine, and Data goes to him, absolutely and completely under Soong's control. The episode has Soong call Data to him to announce that he's prepared a new emotion chip for Data that will make him more human, but in order to get him there he exerts total control over Data by reducing Data to a good machine. Soong is a complicated figure (like Gepetto is, for that matter), not wholly good or wholly bad, certainly, but I want to focus on his dark side a bit here. Essentially, when he wants Data to be human-like to flatter his ego as parent/creator, Soong pushes Data to being human, but when he wants Data to be a machine so that he can control him, he pushes Data into being a machine. And Data, when it comes right down to it, is fairly helpless. Data has total power over the Enterprise crew, but he is almost powerless within the family dynamic of the episode -- totally manipulated by Soong, who does not at all listen to Data's genuine, correct warnings about Lore, and even anticipating Lore's betrayal Data is unable to stop him.

Somehow, Data is a figure that we love and admire because he seems to have the best qualities of machine and human without any of their worst: he has the total rationality and skill and strength and incorruptibility of a machine along with the free will, self-determination, creativity and complex inner life that a human has. For the most part, Data is treated as a person who happens to be also a machine. But, in a way that "Brothers" somewhat foreshadows, "Descent" inverts this. When offered emotions, Data seizes them and becomes the worst type of human -- willing to hurt other people for his own selfish desire for pleasure, and because of his own overwhelming anger.

And at the very same time, Lore also makes him the worst kind of machine. It's hard to imagine "our" Data acting the way he does in this episode. I'd say that up until the scene with Crosis in part 1, where Crosis convinces Data to go off with him and kill Geordi if he can feel a blush of pleasure again, Data acts totally recognizably Data, and then after that he's transformed in a way that distorts him. It's tempting to write this off as a bad story dramatically, because the Data we see in most of part 2 is not really recognizably Data. But the explanation given is that Lore has deactivated Data's ethical subroutines and is feeding him "negative emotions." And somehow, the chilling implication of that is this: all you have to do to Data is flip a certain switch off, and he becomes evil. (They do the same thing with The Doctor in "Equinox.") This makes Data the worst kind of *machine* -- one whose whole identity is dependent only on a series of circuits, and modify those circuits and Data becomes something else.

Now, I don't entirely believe that the Data we see in this episode is just Data + negative emotions - ethical subroutine, and that is a failure of execution that probably ultimately torpedoes the episode. But maybe it doesn't. Back in "The Quality of Life," when given the opportunity, Data was willing to let Geordi and Picard both die when his pet project of the Exocomps were threatened. As I talked about there, I actually pretty much agree with Data's choice, but the choice depends at least a little bit on the fact that Data's emotional connection to La Forge and Picard is weak enough that when given a more important task he is willing to let them die. Geordi is Data's best friend, and he is very close to Geordi, but on some level that connection is simply not as strong as the emotions that he's being fed by Lore, and when given a new purpose that he believes, in the moment, to be worthwhile enough -- i.e. carrying out Lore's plan of creating a new race of artificial life forms -- he is willing to run over Geordi for this Greater Good. Without his ethical subroutine in place, Data cannot distinguish between the Greater Good that Lore tells him about and actual goodness.

I still don't like the idea that all you have to do is flip a switch and give him emotions he's completely unprepared for and you change Data so radically, because I want to see Data as a person, whose identity is based on more than just his programming. But of course, on some deep level, Data is just his programming, and change that, you change Data. Meanwhile, a Data who is akin to a human is totally unprepared for his emotional wants, needs, and whims, and is carried along by them in a way that he never has before by anything else. Data's obsessive personality has always been on display, but in general he had no emotions to drive him to the degree that he would neglect his duty or hurt someone else. Now he does, and he's a monster. This episode flips Data from having the best of humanity and best of technology to the worst of both.

Now, does Data's being so easily manipulated by appealing to his machine status, turning off his ethical programming, mean that thinking of him as a person is entirely wrong? I don't think so. I think that Data is more easily manipulated technologically than most humans are, but as Picard said back in "Datalore," humans are machines of a different sort. For all humans' free will and self-determination, it is still possible to manipulate and control them, with drugs (e.g. the truth serum given to Picard in "Chain of Command") or brainwashing (c.f. La Forge in "The Mind's Eye," Picard as Locutus, or everyone in "The Game") or memory wipe ("Conundrum"), etc. I wouldn't go as far as to say that free will is an illusion, but humans are partly physical beings and affecting our body and brain affects who we are in a dramatic way. It is unpleasant to think about it (I still have trouble thinking about brain chemistry), and it is existentially unsatisfying that our identities are so dependent on the physical reality of our brains.

I think the closest parallel in Trekdom to what happens here, besides the Doctor's ethical subroutine being flipped off (and besides First Contact, which, more on that in a bit), is Odo in "Behind the Lines," a story which is superior in almost every respect to this one. There, as here, the outsider character who has deep affection for, and even love for, his friends, is tempted by something that they cannot offer him. Odo gets fulfillment from the Link in a way that is simply impossible from his solid friends, and I am almost sure that were it not for the depth of his love for Kira he would have turned his back on the solids entirely at that point; the experience of the Link, and of being fully understood by someone, was so new to him that his ethics mostly flew out the window. Data's experiencing emotions, as well as his kinship with his brother, who is so much more like him than anyone else in the universe, changes Data. The drug parallel is clunky, to say the least, but there is a real parallel to drugs. The reason that drugs can rewire some people so much, when people let them, is that they can give people a kind of experience and pleasure that goes beyond anything else that they experience in their life, to the point where their whole worldview changes and what had seemed to matter before no longer did.

Anyway, I love every Data scene in "Part 1" before the Crosis scene, at which Data is manipulated to the point where he's no longer recognizably Data, and he's not really Data again until his ethical subroutine kicks back in. I think it'd be one thing if the show spent time developing exactly what Data thought about his situation; I would love to see what form his anger at Picard/La Forge/Troi would take, beyond "I'm not your puppet anymore, Picard." (Certainly, Data is treated pretty frequently as a convenience by the rest of the crew, and I think it'd be interesting to see that expressed more clearly.) And then I find myself touched by the last Data/Lore scene, Data deactivating Lore and knowing once again that he's alone in the universe.

And then I really, really like the last Data/Geordi scene, in which Data prepares to fire at his emotion chip and Geordi stops him. Now sober again, Data is able to see how his brief experience with emotion (and oneness with his brother) nearly led him to kill Geordi, and he cannot let that happen again. Data's first (well, second, after "Deja Q") encounter with emotion overwhelmed everything else he valued. Troi had predicted that if Data truly became a human, he wouldn't be a bad one, but his first brush with being a real human proved that wrong. He cannot let that happen, and he nearly destroys the chip, dooming himself never to achieve the thing he wants the most, because to achieve it means he will become a monster and lose Geordi. And then Geordi stops him. As has been pointed out by others (see, e.g., the SFDebris review), Geordi's stopping Data from destroying the chip is an inversion of Geordi refusing to deactivate the safeties so that Data could pursue his anger-at-Borg experiment at the risk to his own life. Knowing how deeply important emotions, and the possibility of becoming human, means to Data, Geordi is willing to take the risk that someday Data will turn on him again, rather than let Data destroy himself. Both Data and Geordi make huge sacrifices in this scene, in a way that I find very moving.

I do think that "Inheritance" and First Contact pick up some of the things I like about this story the most and take them to new places which manage to deal with the themes in a more consistent and interesting way. "Inheritance" has Data once again recognize his alone-ness in the universe, and make a self-sacrificing choice because (in his emotionless, or low-emotional, way) he cares more about someone else than himself. And in First Contact, the Borg Queen makes him an offer he feels like he can't refuse, but he does. In First Contact, the possibility that Data might really betray Picard and all of humanity when offered the chance at real humanity and pleasure is floated, but dismissed -- but our experience with this episode is what allows the possibility to remain, that Data's goodness is entirely dependent on *not* being emotional. I think First Contact is the last great Data story for that reason -- because it finds a way for Data to manage to be a decent person while being emotional.

In any case, while I (again) have big problems with the way "Descent" was written, I'm sort of glad the story went there. (Sort of how I am glad that Deep Space Nine went to "Behind the Lines," even though IMO the episodes following BtL dealt with Odo's betrayal unsatisfactorily.) It makes both Data's machine-status and the possibility of his humanity frightening and unsettling in a way that throws his whole arc into a new light. And given that First Contact eventually revisits this and shows that, given the chance to process the emotions in a holistic manner, Data's good nature prevails, the episode's subversion of Data's goodness does not ultimately damage his story.

Episode ratings: well, I actually pretty much agree with Jammer about the quality of both episodes when all is said and done, although I think I value things about them much more than he does (which ironically makes me more upset that they weren't handled better), so I would still say 2.5* to part 1, and 2* to part 2. I will however say that the early Data scenes in part 1, before the scene with Crosis in his cell, are a 3.5* for me.
Sun, Jan 26, 2014, 7:32pm (UTC -6)
Probably lots I could bash here but to tell you the truth, I enjoyed it. Even Hugh bashed Picard for sending him back rather than destroying him. I'll find out later what you all are griping about with this episode. I'm not really rigid with my expectations of a Star Trek episode. First and foremost, it just has to entertain me. Having Hugh point his finger and say 'Look what you did!', that's entertainmentfor me. Even though he helped them in the end, he still thought Picard did a bad thing. Should he and his motley crew eventually get it together and become a productive community, in the end it was still a bad decision that some good came out off.
So the emotion chip turned Lore into a cheesy villain. Big deal, it wasn't made for him anyway. That was the side effects for taking wha was made for Data.
Wow, petty squabbling and one upmanship among the Enterprise underlings. That's what career defining moments are made of. This episode revisited the meta something or other shield of the late great Ferengi scientist, Dr. Whatzisname. Nice continuity going on here.
3.5 stars for me
Sun, Jan 26, 2014, 7:55pm (UTC -6)
Ok now that I've read the gripes, I don't know why people are reducing the situation to Picard almost emptying the ship to look for Data. I think Picard was finally making sense considering that the murderous, individualized Borg were a partof the equation. Why would he send a skeleton crew when Data ran off with a Borg presumably to join his companions. Seems like a red alert, all hands situation to me.
As for Lore's motivation, already easily explained as side effects of the chip not meant for him. Even Dr Soong said that he didn't know what it would do to Lore.
Sat, Feb 1, 2014, 11:08am (UTC -6)
2 stars?? I didn't think it was that bad.
Sun, Feb 9, 2014, 4:43pm (UTC -6)
I think you're right that this episode was disappointing. When Lore disappeared in the episode "Brothers" we were all excited for an episode of "Lore's Revenge" All we got was this.
Sun, Feb 23, 2014, 8:52am (UTC -6)
A souless episode. We had borg characters not being borg like. We had androids being emotional and petty. We had bridge officers not being bridge officers.

The first part was a bad episode and this was the natural extension. Data SHOULD NOT have emotions. Makes him too anthropomorphic and changes the focus from his perceptions (which is great) to his ego (boring). That's why Lore is such a weak character. Borg lose their collective identy and just regalar thug aliens would not metaphorical value.
Fri, Jul 25, 2014, 8:23pm (UTC -6)
The incident with metaphysic shielding is a little confusing. The Borg ships stop and wait and the Enterprise stops, not taking advantage of the opportunity to put some distance between them.

Didn't like the "Innocent girl-mean man" dynamic at play with the junior officers.
Mon, Jun 22, 2015, 9:44am (UTC -6)
I agree with the reasons for your two star review of this one, Jammer, but I'd give it one extra star. First, half a star for putting Crusher in temporary command. I happen to really like Beverly and liked seeing her in a completely new placement. I'd also award the episode an additional half-star for the continuity element of using the Ferengi scientist's new shield technology from a few episodes before. These days we take it for granted that series follow long story arcs rather than being episodic. I felt like TNG was taking baby steps at this point into pioneering non-episodic TV.

It's true that Hugh the Borg's appearance is also a representation of continuty, but one that I wasn't as pleased to see. To me, of all the new "villain" races that TNG intrduced, the Borg was the only one that was actually frightening. I think that, to those of us who value liberty and individuality, the concept of losing those things entirely by being forcibly assimilated into a collective is far more frightening than merely being vaporized by some hostile alien race. When the Borg were transformed into a non-hive mind, they ceased being nearly so scary or so effective. I actually like Hugh as a character, and I get that the show is trying to make us understand that we don't have to hate all Borg, but I don't like the change in Borg society that Hugh represents.

As for Lore in this episode, I kept thinking of the stereotype of the older brother who terrorizes and bullies his younger sibling. (Yes I know Data is techncially not actually much younger.) His telling Data that he loves him right before being deactivated was a nice touch...He's manipulative to the very last. I also kept expecting Data to contact that commander from "Measure of a Man" who wanted to disassemble him and say, "Remember me? Well, I've got a duplicate android for you -- and you are welcome to take this one apart."
Fri, Jul 3, 2015, 12:42pm (UTC -6)
@ Peter: Haha, I love the idea of Data calling Dr. Maddox over to pick up Lore. Dr. Maddox would be so grateful! It would have been too comical a way to end the episode, but oh well.

I guess I'm one of the few who really liked Descent I AND II. I can concede that they are both flawed episodes, but they were interesting to watch. I didn't mind the presence of Hugh, or the change in Data, plus the dynamic between him and Lore and him and Geordi was interesting. I also liked the way Beverly commands a ship, although when the question is posed to Picard "Who will stay behind to command?", the OBVIOUS choice is Captain Picard, not the freaking CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER (who should be sending some of her medical staff with the teams instead). I scratched my head when the possibility of Picard staying behind isn't even *considered*. (But this episode involved a mistake that Picard made, so he had to fix it in person, I guess.

It was also interesting to see a multi-away-team deployment - like, they can DO that? Neato. But just as it's easier to pretend most of the time that the ship can't separate and doesn't have a battle bridge, It's also simpler most of the time to pretend the ship isn't a compliment of just over a thousand, except as an abstract reference during times of all-encompassing danger.

I laughed at how Troi had to make herself useful somehow. "I'll watch the door". And then she bungles the attempted escape. (Or was that an intentional bungle, just so Picard could retrieve the transceiver thingy from the downed Borg? That wasn't made clear).

I also didn't mind the bridge officers bantering, even if the dialogue was very "OF COURSE the Lieutenant is a dick, and the Ensign is a chirpy fresh-out-the-Academy uber-genius, who talks WAY too damn much." [I guess all the other bridge officers there are mutes? Ehh, they hardly ever talk anyway]. But at least the Ensign character progressed in her scenes from being nervous and unsure of herself to being confident and bold, which is slightly more than one can say for entire seasons of certain TNG character's arcs.... And some of the banter between her and Lt. AngularFace McTallGuy was cute enough, esp. the reversed "I'll just have to make sure my calculations are accurate, ".

I actually starting thinking of some fanfiction story for the grumpy Lieutenant and uppity Ensign, but that would be too likely to descend into a cheesy "characters in conflict for no real reason realize [because...plot] that they're totally IN LURVE with each other" kind of storyline that infests most romantic comedies.
Wed, Oct 7, 2015, 8:14am (UTC -6)
Well, they certainly didn't start this season off with a bang, did they?

So the major plot-line of Part I, the Borg being uber-badasses again, is dropped almost instantly in favor of... .... a look into the psychology of cults in 1990s America? TNG has given us some head-scratchers of ideas before (a dog being the killer, an evil little girl with glowing red eyes, a celebration of euthanasia under the guise of cultural diversity and the entirety of "Up the Long Ladder" to name just a few), but this stands in a league of its own. You start your final season, with the Borg and Lore as the main antagonists (with the threat of the Federation's destruction) and you instead do this?! Look, I'm sorry but - WHAT THE HELL WERE THEY THINKING?!?! This is what all that build up and padding in Part I was for? This?! Talk about a misfire!

You know what, though? The saddest thing about "Descent, Part II" is that it actually does have potential. But then again, so did TOS: "The Way to Eden" and look where that ended up! The idea of examining the phenomenon of cults could have made for an intriguing episode. But two things had to be done. 1.) Don't make it the season premier episode! 2.) Have it involve a "race" other than the Borg. Even having Lore be the cult leader could work under those guidelines. DS9 actually did a rather nice job with this very concept in "Covenant". But they were smart enough to follow those two rules - "Covenant" takes place in the middle of Season Seven and involves Dukat manipulating a group of Bajorans, a race the audience had come to care about. I don't care about the Borg, certainly not in this fashion. For instance - the scene where Lore manipulates a Borg who doesn't want to follow him any more - was I supposed to find that disturbing? Because I didn't. The Borg should not be used this way. They're supposed to be the Big Bad and I thought that was what these two episodes where trying to make them again. Geez, a lot of people talk about how VOY neutered the Borg as villains but if you want to see where that all started look no further than right here! How the mighty have fallen!

"Descent, Part II" goes beyond even this failing, however, because the examination of the Lore-Borg cult isn't even given top priority. We have four (yes, FOUR) different story-lines all competing for screentime - the cult, Data's betrayal/redemption, an escape plotline for Picard/LaForge/Troi and Crusher in command of the Enterprise. As a result, not only does the cult plot suffer, they all do. None of them get adequate time to be worthy of all that much. The cult story goes nowhere until its inevitable tidy conclusion. Data's story is so weak that it's basically resolved by technobabble (and I'm usually a defender of technobabble). The escape plot is painfully cliched - they actually had the Borg guard fall for the old "help, my cellmate is sick" ploy! The Crusher in command story is (as Jammer wonderfully points out) "easily the weakest part of the episode." It serves no purpose other than to further weaken the Borg. What's the solution to the Borg threat? We're going to hit them with the sun! Stepping back for a moment - I guess that would be an effective way to stop the Borg, but (again) oh how the mighty have fallen. Then, throw into this amalgamation a fifth subplot involving Hugh, which apparently is only there to highlight both the cult story (by showing us that Lore is - for some odd reason - lobotomizing drones) and the escape plot (by having Hugh help Riker and Worf and then saving Picard). Was this only put in because of all the references to "I, Borg" in Part I? Because, it was pointless. I take it back: this is easily the weakest part of the episode. I actually cared more about Crusher and her who-cares bridge crew than I did about Hugh and his who-cares "resistance movement".

Given the fact that the next time we see the Borg on the small screen they're used as little more than an allegory for society readjusting itself to life in post-Communist eastern Europe, I say thank God that "Star Trek: First Contact" and "Scorpion" came along and actually made them formidable again.

Diamond Dave
Sun, Nov 1, 2015, 6:13am (UTC -6)
After having enjoyed Part 1, it's sad to say that Part 2 fails to live up to the premise established earlier. This feels like nothing less than a series of disjointed cameo scenes that fail to gel into a satisfactory whole - the promised pay off never really arrives and the aggressive Borg get tossed out of the window when they were a genuinely interesting element.

As noted above, we get vague references to cults (through Lore's messiah complex) and addiction (through Data's desire for emotion) that also never really get followed up. Hugh feels like a bolt on that cannot be properly explored in the time available. And the concluding Borg fist fight is a rather strange thing to behold. 2 stars.
Thu, Nov 12, 2015, 7:00pm (UTC -6)
i saw descent once, never again

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