Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The Pegasus"

****

Air date: 1/10/1994
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by LeVar Burton

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Admiral Eric Pressman (Terry O'Quinn) is posted to the Enterprise on a provisional basis to oversee the search for the wreckage of the missing USS Pegasus, the ship he commanded 12 years ago before it was lost (and, until recently, presumably destroyed, along with most of its crew) in a calamitous accident. Also aboard the Pegasus at that time was a young Ensign Riker, fresh out of the academy on his first starship assignment.

Pressman intends to find the Pegasus and its valuable and highly classified experimental technology, the details of which he has no intentions of revealing to Picard. The mission is chock-full of secrets, but time is of the essence — because the Romulans also have gotten wind of the whereabouts of this mysterious ship and are looking for it in an asteroid field. They can't be allowed to find it first. Riker, forced to confront ghosts from his past, is ordered by Pressman not to talk to Picard about the classified details of the Pegasus' disastrous fate.

Where "Parallels" was so clearly pure Brannon Braga, "The Pegasus" is just as clearly vintage Ron Moore, delving deep into the complicated and messy military aspects of Starfleet and the themes of duty, loyalty, and integrity. This episode is one of the most perfectly balanced episodes of TNG ever made, featuring a myriad of great elements in one cohesive package.

We've got ominous intrigue and conflict in the hidden agendas of Pressman and the Pegasus past: Just what were they building on that ship that went so awry, and why is everything so secretive? We've got great tension and backstory in the characterization of Riker and his questionable role in that event: Picard cashes in favors to get a classified report on the Pegasus and learns of an unthinkable mutiny. We've got an entertaining cat-and-mouse game with the Enterprise and the Romulan warbird racing to find the prize first: There are brilliant moments between Picard and Romulan Commander Sirol (Michael Mack), who hilariously threaten each other through the false facade of idle pleasantries. And we've got some terrific, atmospheric sci-fi FX sequences when the Enterprise ventures into the tunnels of an asteroid and finds the Pegasus, which lies embedded in a rock face because of the experimental technology that put it there. Oh, and in this otherwise serious episode, there's even a perfect comic note in the opening teaser's hilarious idea of "Captain Picard Day" (and Picard's grumbling about it).

And all through "The Pegasus" is Riker struggling with his conscience. He knows the story's secrets but has been forbidden to divulge them under orders from Pressman. Picard's ensuing conflict with Riker is serious and rare stuff as TNG goes, with Picard promising that if Riker's refusal to come clean in any way puts the Enterprise at risk, then he will have to "re-evaluate the command structure of this ship." For that matter, as the episode progresses, Pressman seems more and more like a villain waiting to be uncovered. (This many secrets can't be hiding anything good.) Terry O'Quinn is especially effective here; the villains in these sorts of stories believe themselves to be doing the right thing at the cost of acceptable collateral damage — in this case, the deaths of much of the Pegasus crew 12 years ago when the secret technology (ultimately revealed to be an illegal cloaking device with phase-shifting abilities that permit the ship to move through objects) blew up in their faces just after the mutiny that divided the crew. Riker, then a rookie, took Pressman's side in that mutiny because Pressman was the captain. But in the years since, Riker has grown to regret that decision as the morally wrong one.

And that's ultimately what "The Pegasus" is about — making the moral choice rather than "following orders." The themes of duty and truth are similar to the themes Moore used to great effect in "The First Duty," but they're employed to even greater effect here — because sometimes the truth of a messy situation only becomes clear with the passage of time and the gaining of maturity and perspective. Now, 12 years later, Riker is able to do what he couldn't do as a rookie by standing up to Pressman and revealing the truth that has been buried for so many years. It's one of the great showcases for Will Riker in TNG's run.

Previous episode: Parallels
Next episode: Homeward

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32 comments on this review

Patrick - Wed, Nov 14, 2012 - 11:24pm (USA Central)
Wow. Four stars? I'll guess we'll have to agree to disagree. I've always considered "The Pegasus" a sort of "First Duty"-lite. Where "The Pegasus" had some good drama with solid conflict, there really wasn't that much intensity to it. "The First Duty" on the other hand, had my stomach in knots 20 years ago.

Wesley was in a major bind, and he didn't get a "get out of the brig free" card like Riker because he was following orders, as a matter of fact it was the reverse. Robert Duncan McNeil's Locarno was a far more three dimensional character than Terry O'Quinn's rogue admiral #715. Locarno ultimately accepts the blame and takes the hit for his colleagues, while Admiral Pressman is a sleaze, incapable of taking any kind of responsibility. Picard's final scene with Riker was basically telling Riker not to beat himself up, where he basically tears into Wesley in his last two scenes with righteous indignation. For TNG, that was a shocker.

"The First Duty" by and large is a better episode.
Paul - Thu, Nov 15, 2012 - 12:31am (USA Central)
@Patrick: I generally agree. I like this episode, but I think Jammer overrates it. It is a little slow and talky, and some of the bridge scenes aren't great.

Also, Troi's absence -- after the opening scene -- is odd (and not just because of how this story was redone for the ENT finale).

I'd definitely say this was a three-star ep. But not four.
karatasiospa - Thu, Nov 15, 2012 - 5:53am (USA Central)
I absolutely agree with jammer. Pegasus is a great episode! Together with Parallels, Peemptive strike and, of course, All good things ( and perhaps 2-3 three star episodes) made the final season worth to see.
Tim - Thu, Nov 15, 2012 - 12:54pm (USA Central)
Only really watched next gen out of the star treks and had wondered why they didn't use cloaks, this episode explains that, but still think it is a rather big compromise for the federation to make.

Decent enough episode, but didn't really believe in how the characters behaved.
Andrew - Thu, Nov 15, 2012 - 1:47pm (USA Central)
Sorry guys, I love this episode too. I love the dielemma Riker faces, and how he finally makes right the mess he was in.
methane - Fri, Nov 16, 2012 - 11:43am (USA Central)
I agree with Jammer, this is one of the best episodes of the season.

It's too bad one of the best Riker episodes had to wait until the very end of the series.
grumpy_otter - Fri, Nov 16, 2012 - 1:28pm (USA Central)
This episode has some weird symmetry for me. I never saw it until shortly after the BP oil spill disaster and somehow the "deaths of 11" resonated with the "deaths of 12" and I started crying about halfway through the episode. So I never was able to really judge it objectively.

And now Jammer posts his review of it right after BP has "agreed" to pay 4.5 billion.

But that won't bring back the dead 11.
Grumpy - Sat, Nov 17, 2012 - 1:09pm (USA Central)
"...'The Pegasus' is just as clearly vintage Ron Moore..."

Only in retrospect, in light of BSG. At the time, Ron Moore was "Klingon Guy," period.

I wonder if Gene Roddenberry would've approved of this story, with its shady dealings by perfect Starfleet officers. Probably not, even though GR was around for "Too Short A Season," with its Ollie North-esque admiral, and allowed that to happen, too.
Nick P. - Tue, Nov 20, 2012 - 8:54am (USA Central)
I agree with Patrick and Paul, very good episode, but a far cry from great. I give it 3. Maybe 3.5 if I am having a good day.

I have stated this on other review sites regarding this episode, that I believe the love you get for this episode is simply because it is head and shoulders above the rest of this dreadful season 7. I suspect that if this aired in the middle of season 3 this would be considered an average or slightly above average episode.

There are issues.

1. I didn't care for the romulan commander.
2. the music was a tick above most music this season, but it was still pretty bad.
3. It was slow.
4. Morally. I never understood why the stupid federation couldn't use cloaking technology?

And for everyone that hates that this "evil" captain was working on a cloaking device, I never hear a peep when the Defiant comes out in DS9. But isn't kind of EXACTLY THE SAME THING? But of course, then our HEROES are doing it so it is OK.
Paul - Tue, Nov 20, 2012 - 9:23am (USA Central)
@Nick P:

It's an issue (whether it's moral or not) because the Federation has a treaty with the Romulans that prohibits Starfleet from using cloaking technology. Violating treaties with aggressive empires who think humans are "wastes of skin" is never a good idea.

Meanwhile the Defiant's cloak in DS9 was on loan from the Romulans because the Romulans wanted to help get information about the Dominion. With the Romulans' permission, there was no treaty violation.

Now, Sisko did occasionally use the cloak in the Alpha Quadrant -- which he wasn't supposed to do (Trials and Tribble-ations, For the Cause, Way of the Warrior). But aside from that, Sisko had permission to cloak the Defiant.
Nick P. - Tue, Nov 20, 2012 - 1:10pm (USA Central)
@Paul,

I get there was a treaty, but what did the federation get out of it? Nothing. People love to make excuses, but at the end of the day there is only one reason. Roddenberry said early on he thought the cload was devious, and he didn't want Starfleet being devious. My problem is that they are devious all the time. Every single series, including the original, found a way to use cloak here and there. And the fans are very selective in what they consider wrong. Supposedly fans think the cloak from this episode is "wrong", thus making Picard right, but wasn't it the same cloak that saved the life of his 1st officer. Let's be honest, if the federation LITERALLY never used cloak, DS9 would have been destroyed in the 4th season by the Jem Hadar.

If you think the lying is the problem, than fine, I agree with you, but there really is no reason Starfleet cannot have a cloak, that is all I meant by my comment.
Paul - Wed, Nov 21, 2012 - 12:15pm (USA Central)
@Nick P:

Well, presumably, the Federation got peace with the Romulans out of the bargain. You can definitely argue that the price was too high, but Picard's moral indignation toward Pressman -- whose illegal actions jeopardized -- resulted from the fact that Pressman violated the treaty.

The use of the cloak in DS9 is a totally different issue -- when it was in the Gamma Quadrant -- because the Romulans loaned it to the Federation. There were no ends-justify-the-means arguments because there were no means to justify.

I don't think Picard thinks cloaks are wrong as a technology -- or, at least, there's no evidence of that. Heck, he borrowed a cloak from the Klingons in "Unification".

As for Roddenberry's thoughts on the matter, it's pretty clear that his vision wasn't the only one that mattered starting in TOS. He wasn't even around for the third season, he was dead against STV and the Sybok storyline and, well, he died about halfway through TNG's run.
Sxottlan - Fri, Nov 23, 2012 - 3:06am (USA Central)
Loved this episode! Great work by Stewart, Frakes and of course Terry O'Quinn.

Perhaps it was the darker story popping up in TNG, but I found the story refreshing. And hey, you can just retcon the Pegasus mission as a Section 31 operation. ;) Loved the misdirecting and lighthearted opening scene. Genuinely hilarious and then meant to contrast Riker and Picard's friendship against the later scenes.

The visuals were great. Loved the Enterprise going into the asteroid. The mystery was well played and kept me riveted. The Enterprise engaging a cloaking device is a rare "cool" moment on TNG. In the books, the Romulans have perfected the phase cloak, which is kind of terrifying.

The only thing that felt a little hollow was how Riker was going to face some "hard questions" and of course he never does and it never comes up again. Not even in the books.
Paul - Fri, Nov 23, 2012 - 8:34am (USA Central)
@Sxottlan: As far as consequences, I always thought that this episode explained why Riker didn't get another offer for his own ship until Star Trek X. Considering he got three offers in about four years ...

That said, it still doesn't explain why he didn't get an offer after BOBW and this episode (a span of three and a half years).
Patrick - Fri, Nov 23, 2012 - 3:57pm (USA Central)
Somewhere on the internet, I'm 100% certain that some Trek fan with mucho time on their hands have edited TNG's "The Pegasus"
and ENT's "These Are the Voyages..." into a strange mega-episode.
"Yes, see Riker and Troi alternately look younger and older throughout this mega-sode!"

And the only thing slightly sadder than that, is how much I would kind of want to see it.
karatasiospa - Sun, Nov 25, 2012 - 2:18pm (USA Central)
@Paul
Roddenberry was around in the third season of TNG even a little before the beginning of season 4. It is confirmed by Michael Piller in the special features of the seasons 3 and 4 boxsets (region 2)
Paul - Mon, Nov 26, 2012 - 11:29am (USA Central)
@karatsiospa: I was referring to the third season of TOS, not TNG. IIRC, Roddenberry left TOS because of the time-slot change.

Generally, I think Roddenberry's control of the franchise is overstated. The Sybok character, a central piece of STV, was considered apocryphal by Roddenberry, and yet STV exists (sadly).
Ospero - Tue, Nov 27, 2012 - 8:02am (USA Central)
@Paul: Put yourself in Starfleet's shoes for a second. Riker rejected three offers of his own ship. I guess I would go "well, if he doesn't want it, we won't force him" and just stop offering him promotions for a while. And just when that ran out and they might have gone "well, perhaps we might try again", this episode comes along, triggering "then again, maybe not".
Paul - Tue, Nov 27, 2012 - 5:48pm (USA Central)
@Ospero: That almost makes sense, except Riker, you know, saved the Federation in BOBW.

Now, maybe you figure he stays on the Enterprise for a year after that as they try to replace the ships lost at Wolf 359 (especially when it's hinted at that 39 ships is a big chunk of the fleet -- even if DS9 changed all that). But by season 5 of TNG, Starfleet should have been beating on Riker's door.

Now, maybe, they figured that his actions in BOBW should allow him to do whatever the hell he wanted.
John (the younger) - Wed, Nov 28, 2012 - 2:53am (USA Central)
Easily my favourite of season 7.

Yes, that includes All Good Things...
karatasiospa - Thu, Nov 29, 2012 - 2:33pm (USA Central)
@Paul
Roddenberry was not in control of the movies after the first one (paramount removed him) but he was in absolute control of TNG at least as long as he lived. The fact that paramount gave him this control was the factor that convinced him to do TNG in the first place. And even after his death and as long as TNG is concerned Berman systematically refused to do anything that roddenberry wouldn't do (according to a LeVar Burton interview about 3 years ago).
Paul M. - Thu, Nov 29, 2012 - 6:38pm (USA Central)
"...'The Pegasus' is just as clearly vintage Ron Moore..."

@Grumpy "Only in retrospect, in light of BSG. At the time, Ron Moore was "Klingon Guy," period."

Not really true. His writing and teleplay credits on Trek include a bunch of 'vintage RDM' episodes focusing on just those qualities Jammer mentioned. Let's see, just to name a few:

The Defector, Yesterday's Enterprise, The First Duty, Chain of Command, Defiant, Paradise Lost, For the Cause, Rocks and Shoals, Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges, Tacking into the Wind.

And there's more where it comes from. Even his Klingon episodes are very political and very personal.

karatasiospa - Fri, Nov 30, 2012 - 7:42am (USA Central)
Yesterday's Enterprise was not written by R. Moore. The story was by Trent Christopher Ganino & Eric A. Stillwell, only the teleplay was by moore.
Paul M - Sat, Dec 1, 2012 - 9:06am (USA Central)
@karatasiospa

Yes, that much I indicated in my previous post.
karatasiospa - Sun, Dec 30, 2012 - 6:21am (USA Central)
Ι already said that i like this episode but there is something i want to add. Pegasus was great because was both a dramatic character driven story and a science fiction story, i contrast with Lower decks which was a very good episode but not exactly science fiction.
petetonglaw - Fri, Oct 18, 2013 - 12:28am (USA Central)
I thought was some of the Enterprise's manoeuvres vis-a-vis the Romulans were a bit amateurish and the results were predictable (e.g. tipping off the Romulans that they were interested in the asteroid in the first place; entering the asteroid and exposing themselves to the risk of an attack).

Riker's broken rib scene in sickbay was a bit over the top.

Ensign Gates might be more of an android than Data. That extra couldn't even be bothered to appear in the slightest bit phased about piloting the ship into the narrow chasm of an asteroid.
Nic - Fri, Nov 8, 2013 - 1:46pm (USA Central)
The comparison to “The First Duty” is apt; there are also similarities to Season 4’s “The Wounded” with the Misguided Captain/Admiral angle. Personally I think “The Wounded” was superior, but I feel I may be the only one.

@Grumpy: This is probably one of many TNG stories Gene would not have approved of in its current form. His rationale for the Federation not having a cloaking device was that they were explorers and didn’t believe in sneaking around.

My own personal theory (unsupported in canon) for the existence of the treaty is that early in the 24th century, the Federation was trying to develop cloaking technology, possibly somewhere near the Neutral Zone. A horrible accident occurred which resulted in many Romulan deaths, and the only way to prevent the incident from sparking a war, the Federation agreed to cease their research into cloaking technology.
Jack - Thu, Dec 26, 2013 - 6:12pm (USA Central)
In dialogue, it was said that the chief of Starfleet Security and the chief of Starfleet Intelligence (interestingly, both of whom RDM decided to be females) were well aware of what Pressman was doing. I don't know why Picard can be so sure that Pressman will be in the trouble he declares him to be in....and if he is, then those two admirals should be as well.
mephyve - Wed, Jan 29, 2014 - 4:48pm (USA Central)
Nice episode with huge ramifications.
I agree with the admiral that it was stupid to sign a treaty that said 'We can cloak but you can't.' Who were the brainiacs behind that?
Nontheless, since the treaty was signed, the federation shouldn't have had a cloaking device on a ship. They could have still worked to develop the technology just in case, just don't put it on a starship.
Smith - Wed, Feb 26, 2014 - 8:06am (USA Central)
Very good episode. Like some Moore episodes this tended to drag on military-career-politics and looking backwards. But altogether a great story that was well produced and directed by LeVar Burton. One issue with LeVar's that I take...is casting the Romulan commander as black. I don't think it is realistic to assign human race identities to alien species.
Paul M. - Sun, Jun 22, 2014 - 4:30am (USA Central)
@Smith: "One issue with LeVar's that I take...is casting the Romulan commander as black. I don't think it is realistic to assign human race identities to alien species."

That ship had sailed the moment the very first alien that ever appeared on Trek turned out to fit nicely into human skin tones. I get what you're trying to say, but your solution would make every single humanoid race in Trek white, whether we acknowledge that or not.
Trevor - Mon, Jun 30, 2014 - 8:19am (USA Central)
"The Pegasus" was probably one of the Top 3 episodes of Season 7, plus it felt like it might've been setting up a major story-arc that might've occurred across the remaining TNG episodes, and into DS9 and Voyager. Unfortunately nothing like that occurred, and all we got was the pathetic and snore-bore "These Are The Voyages" that added nothing and even conflicted with the events of this episode.

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