"Surrender" is a bit of a mixed bag — one that gives me hope while at the same time trepidation for how this series will close things out. It has moments that are good enough to make me want to do fist pumps, and others that feel like they are scraping the bottom of the barrel of cinematic filler.
Let's start with the filler, since that's what the episode does. The first 20 minutes, where Vadic holds the crew hostage on the bridge, are tedious beyond words. "Hostage situation," as I've said many times over many years, is the hoariest old saw of action cinema crutches, and this episode does absolutely nothing to demonstrate otherwise. Any tension that might've been possible is dissipated by the wheel-spinning of the whole enterprise.
Amanda Plummer's cuckoo performance of Vadic Vadicking has grown tiresome, and it's on full display here. Vadic wants Jack to turn himself over. We still don't know why or how he will help the Changelings, except that he's somehow "special." Vadic postures, Vadic threatens, Vadic whispers and sadistically taunts her prisoners, Vadic promises answers to Jack (which she never supplies despite endlessly promising to), and finally Vadic declares a 10-minute deadline before she starts executing prisoners. Yawn. Get on with it already. You can tell when a story is stalling, and this story stalls for 20 minutes. Vadic's obsession with Jack is beyond all reason considering how entrenched the Changelings must already be in their plan to take over Starfleet. If there's a legitimately urgent need for him, it's not explained, because the story continues to keep the Jack mystery box firmly padlocked.
Meanwhile, Riker and Troi are stuck in a cell on the Shrike. They have some conversations about their separation, which mostly stems from Riker's grief over the death of their son Thaddeus, which was made more complicated by the fact that Troi, with her empathic abilities, tried to relieve Riker's emotional pain before he was ready. This stuff isn't bad, although the whole thing plays like a bit of revisionist history of "Nepenthe," where it appeared Thaddeus' death was long in the past and the grief mostly resolved. But then, this episode goes to lengths to undo much of "Nepenthe," with Riker and Troi both confessing their honest hatred for their house in the quiet countryside and their desire to move back to civilization, but having stayed put because they couldn't move on and leave their son's grave behind.
Then Worf shows up (getting aboard the Shrike with Raffi) and it's like we turn a corner into a much livelier and entertaining episode, one in which our crew will not be playing hopeless defense but proactive offense. (This week's New-Worf One-Liner: "One's personal space is a gift." LOL.) On the Titan, Picard has Geordi take down the partition in Data's positronic matrix that separates Data and Lore, so that Data can fight for control of his mind.
This for me was the highlight of the episode, because we get the mental showdown between Data and Lore. It looks like Lore will be able to beat Data through brute force, but Data's solution to surrender by willingly giving over his mind and memories (using them as a trophy-like lure, as Lore dismantles Data brick by brick) is what's able to defeat Lore. By absorbing Data's memories, Lore is overtaken by them and loses his control. It's a perfect Data-like solution to this particular problem — defeating your enemy by allowing him to become you. I like that it's a solution of humanistic intelligence over brute domination, and that the defeat means Lore is an integrated (but subsumed) part of Data rather than simply destroyed. Data is a "new" Data that still contains the essence of Lore. Brent Spiner, as always, is reliable as both the affable Data and villainous Lore.
And once Data is reactivated, retaking control of the Titan becomes easy. I have no problem with that. It's enjoyable seeing how our heroes, once overcoming the advantages Vadic had gained, are able to flip the script. Raffi gets to do some badass swordplay (though I am still mystified why people continue to bring swords to phaser fights in the 25th century). And Jack's gambit with the "bomb" device (it turns out it's actually a hand-held force field generator) allows him to stall long enough for Data to vent all the bad guys on the bridge into space. Vadic gets vented, frozen, and shattered (T-1000 style) into a million pieces upon the hull of her own ship. Then the Titan promptly destroys the Shrike.
It's a swift, rousing, and entertaining turnaround from the first 20 minutes, which seemed to promise a protracted slog. And then, finally, we get the entire TNG cast in one room, where they sit at the conference table and simply get to enjoy a moment together. The dialogue is a meta moment that perhaps calls too much attention to itself in stating the blatantly obvious, but I'll allow it. Getting an old band back together after so many years is hard, in fiction and in life, and this scene takes a moment to recognize it.
So the question now is, how do we stop the catastrophe that's set to unfold on Frontier Day in a matter of hours, and how does Jack fit into it?
Enter Troi, who finally gets something to do (she senses a "darkness" from the moment she sets foot on the ship), and it's in her TNG wheelhouse of counseling where she may get her most valuable scenes in these closing episodes. She tries to get Jack to face the mysterious door in his mind, behind which all his fears lie, and behind which perhaps the answers await.
I sure hope so, because the writers have put all their eggs in one basket behind this door, and it seems like an impossible order to arrive at something that could possibly be satisfactory after all these contrived delays and hours of build-up. "Surrender" has some really good stuff and some really obnoxious stuff, and ends with yet another deferral of the main mystery at the heart of this season. We're officially in the home stretch now. Can the Picard writers finally stick the landing?
A few other thoughts:
- New Data, or, I mean, Old Data — or more precisely, Data in a new form that's of an old age — injures himself when he cocks his neck. That was worth a good chuckle. The idea of Data getting to experience all the things that come with human aging is something that could be worth its own entire episode, if we had the time. Makes me wish we'd pondered a lot more mundane possibilities rather than hostage situations and escapes from Vadic and other obligatory plot things.
- Just who were Vadic's henchmen, anyway? Changelings? If so, why did they wear (or pretend to wear) masks and cloaks?
- Data acts as if emotions are novel and that he's never experienced them before. It seems everyone wants to forget Data had an emotion chip for two of the TNG movies before they quietly decided to abandon it.
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