Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The Battle"

2.5 stars

Air date: 11/16/1987
Teleplay by Herbert Wright
Story by Larry Forrester
Directed by Robert Bowman

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Ferengi return in an episode where they're much more tolerable than in their completely over-the-top, caricatured debut in "The Last Outpost." (Though I should add, "tolerable" is a far cry from "good.") Here, DaiMon Bok (Frank Corsentino) offers as a gift to Picard the USS Stargazer — his old ship from his previous command, abandoned and believed destroyed nine years earlier in a battle with an unknown vessel that attacked the Stargazer without provocation or identification.

"The Battle" is perfectly acceptable TNG fare but without being compelling. The episode is actually an elaborate revenge scenario where Bok is using the pretext of this well-intended gift as a way to torment Picard with a mind-control device hidden on the Stargazer. The device is programmed to make Picard vividly relive his memories of the battle with the unidentified vessel. (The unidentified vessel was actually of Ferengi origin, commanded by Bok's only son, hence the vengeance motive.)

The story of the Stargazer proves to be the most interesting aspect of the show, with a psychological component that's sometimes effective. There's a respectable symmetry to the idea of Picard being set up to relive this battle by attacking the Enterprise with the Stargazer, inevitably resulting in his own death at their hands.

Unfortunately, the plot is like a meditation on slow-study characters; Crusher can't explain Picard's headaches, and it takes too long for the crew to connect the dots between Picard's mental anguish and Bok's plan. The characters practically stumble over the silver, glowing mind-control sphere and yet don't find it. Ultimately, it takes Wesley, Boy Genius, to detect the signal and alert the adults to his discovery, which breaks the logjam.

Previous episode: Justice
Next episode: Hide and Q

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29 comments on this review

Fri, Apr 20, 2012, 3:51pm (UTC -6)
Starfleet's procedures are looking really suspect. What kind of military abandons their warships, including their armaments (torpedoes), and doesn't scuttle the ship? What if an enemy found it? Or heaven forbid, the ship was found by an early warp civilization?

Now I know it's said that Starfleet isn't military (and I'll grant you it's not a good one), but what organization in the Federation would be tasked with re-taking a Federation world that was invaded -- this is a very military task? Starfleet.

Basically, if they were leaving in a hurry it should have been scuttled, and if there was time enable a beacon so it can be found and recovered later -- you would think this would be desirable, as some of the crew's personal effects were on board.

I liked the episode, though. The crew looked a bit incompetent though - either with their jobs or their acting.
Sun, Jun 17, 2012, 1:36am (UTC -6)
I like this episode (and I think the rating it's spot-on) if only because there's a lot of Patrick Stewart, and the revenge story was kind of complex compared to all the other 8 episodes before it.

Although, the acting was generally lame, even Stewart as Picard was overacting a bit. And, of course, the Ferengi still suck as a new species.

But the worse is that Wesley saved the day. It is beyond me how a child could be smarter than apparently trained and way older adults. It definitely breaks the logjam =/
Mon, Jul 23, 2012, 2:48pm (UTC -6)
Ok - the episode was kinda predictable. And it was pretty annoying to see Wesley Save The Day. Couldn't they have let Geordi do it? And the way Riker beat the Picard Maneuver was kinda confusing and muddled - I couldn't quite follow it.

That said, this is the first TNG ep I can actually recommend. After the travesty that was "Justice", this restored my faith in TNG. The plot itself was pretty well executed and had a certain amount of intrigue to it. As Jammer said, the psychological component of the episode is the most fascinating part. The action sequence at the end was well done, and the music during the same sequence was passable. Nowhere near the Sol Kaplan level, but passable. The final message/line "In revenge there is no profit" was pretty well realized too. Patrick Stewart put in some good acting in this ep. The cast as a whole just seemed more energized as well. (I still don't like the bridge set though - looks too much like a living room for my tastes. If they just straightened up the chairs of the conn and helm positions it would make a big difference.)

3 stars, solid.
Tue, Sep 11, 2012, 2:41pm (UTC -6)
For me only the second (maybe excluding the pilot) episode that I would unambiguously argue is watchable. Whilst the costumes for the Ferengi still look absurd, the acting is far superior to their appearance in 'Outpost' - Frank Corsentino is rather hammy but his obvious insincerity and 'fake smiles' strike the right note making him more two dimensional than some villains on the show.

The main issue I have is, as Jammer says, this is another example of 'Wesley -Boy wonder' solving a puzzle which trained officers should easily be able to spot days before he does. Also, how the devil did a hitherto only glimpsed and presumed hostile race get access to a Decommissioned Starship, and also acquire the means to make it functional again? It's easy to slag off Wil Wheaton but to my knowledge he didn't write the script and he's badly served here. The rest of the cast come off looking like dullards.

However, the pacing is much better in this than most previous season 1 outings.. I liked the further exploration of the relationship between Crusher and Picard, and Frakes gives a better performance than in most previous shows -.All in all, despite it's obvious flaws, I'd agree with the rating - 2.5 stars from me, the equal 'best' rating thus far for the season.
Mon, Oct 29, 2012, 4:10am (UTC -6)
Doctor Crusher's acting is so flat and wooden, I guess that explains her "son's" acting aswell. And I just couldn't stand Wes'geek smile when he came up with the solution.

Other than that, a nice episode, the best so far in 1st season. Graphics are awful (check how unrealistic looks when the Stargazer is loose and speeds up) but nvm... it was still 1987 (Aliens and Terminator had been already produced ofc, but I guess their budgets were bigger than a TNG single episode).
Wed, Nov 14, 2012, 11:14pm (UTC -6)
Like you all, I found it annoying that Wesley had to play any role in this episode, but the worst part of "The Battle," in my opinion, is that throughout the episode, there lacks any reason why the Ferengi vessel should still be in close proximity to the Enterprise. I guess I'll go ahead and buy the premise of their original meeting,an unknown mission of diplomacy, but once it is revealed that Daimon Bok simply wants to give a gift (and a suspicious one at that) to the Federation, wouldn't everyone logically just go home? And, wouldn't suspicions abound on the Enterprise about Bok's motive? Wouldn't Data go through all of the Enterprise's files and use his super-computer mind to figure out possible scenarios for sabotage? Instead, for the entire episode, the two ships remains uncomfortably locked in cruise control next to each other, thus allowing Bok to carry out his diabolical plan with the mind control device. I don't know, I just kept asking myself, Why haven't they parted ways yet?
Wed, Jun 12, 2013, 1:31pm (UTC -6)
I always find the littlest thing to nitpick when going back and watching the old episodes. This time its Troi claiming to sense great deception from Daimon Bok after it was already established that she can't read a Ferengi mind. Overall though probably the best episode so far from Season One.
Wed, Aug 21, 2013, 5:42pm (UTC -6)
This does appear to be the first real complete episode of TNG. It's a bit slow moving, but there aren't any critical flaws like all the previous episodes.

One nitpick/annoyance I did have was with Dr. Crusher. While her acting was a bit wooden, I didn't mind that she had plenty of scenes; it made sense in the context of the episode. And I can pretend that her over-formality she displayed to Picard in the first season could be just uncomfortableness about her situation serving under not only a friend but someone who reminds her of her dead husband.

But what annoyed me was that she didn't say a thing about the Stargazer. Good TV shows can create a believable world where all the characters act like they would in the real world. Yet here was a ship that had a significant impact in her life (and Wesley's, but his presence in the episode was limited), the ship her husband served on and died while serving on. And that merits no interest to her at all? Not even a comment? Not even a sideways glance?

I did like the Ferengi first officer. At least it was nice to see a bit of different characterization from aliens instead of them all acting the same.
Tue, Sep 9, 2014, 3:43pm (UTC -6)
Not bad episode for early TNG and it gives some essential background for Picard. However I too felt that McFadden's acting was flat here, when it needed to be much stronger and really explore her relationship with Picard. And of course there's Wesley Sue the boy wonder swooping in to save the day once again (eyes rolling). How many times do we have to endure that?
Tue, Dec 30, 2014, 12:52am (UTC -6)
I definitely appreciate this episode on the "origin-story" level of things concerning future ST (canon and non-canon) but I also find the revenge angle obtuse and underwhelming. Otherwise, it's one of the better episodes of the season and shows a lot of promise of what's to come.

As for wonderboy Wesley coming in to save the day...I really wouldn't mind it so much if it was written a little less obvious (and if it didn't happen every other ep of the 1st season). Or maybe if the crew accepted him as little more than a nuisance every time he flaps a little jaw. Hell even his own mother seemed annoyed with his existence in this particular episode. Seeing as they're the ones that practically gave him a field commission to be an Ensign, you would think they would at least entertain his ideas once in a while. On the other hand, it would also help if he wasn't so seemingly naive. I do really want to elbow-punch him in the eye-socket sometimes...but the writers didn't help much either.

Pretty decent episode overall, though, with just enough here to recommend. I would call this an episode that is good enough if you try to take from it what you can, if that makes sense. The only major downfall is the revenge element which weighs everything down with it's own contrivance. Otherwise, it's good backstory with passable filler.

2.5 stars.
Shannon Jeffries
Tue, Jul 21, 2015, 6:23pm (UTC -6)
A good effort, and I did enjoy the episode, but yet another example of why the old TOS writers needed to get swept out, which is what happened and led to much more relevant storytelling in Season 2 and beyond.
Diamond Dave
Mon, Aug 10, 2015, 1:34pm (UTC -6)
With the Ferengi dialed down a bit from their last appearance, this actually makes for a reasonably effective slow-burner of an episode. Some welcome back-story for Picard.

The main problem with the plot device is that we see early on the who of the plot, and the why is fairly easy to figure out from that point forward. The only tension is then how the protagonists will figure it out - and while I don't have a problem per se with it being Wesley to do so (let's face it, someone was going to have a revelation of some kind so it might as well be him), the smirking delivery of "adults!" really doesn't endear me to the character.

"As you humans say, I'm all ears" did raise a smile though. 2 stars.
Tue, Aug 18, 2015, 7:22am (UTC -6)
The technology level of Star Trek amazes me. I didn't think much of it when I was watching this episode at age seven, but since then I've gotten into a lot of "hard" sci fi.

To think, what advantage FTL sensors would give a ship versus a less advanced opponent! FTL sensors combined with FTL movement would be a near unbeatable combination.

The Federation of Star Trek reminds me more of Babylon 5's Vorlons than Babylon 5's humans.
Rick Taylor
Sat, Sep 26, 2015, 11:42am (UTC -6)
I remember watching this with my friends when it came out. We were all excited to see the new alien race. We'd heard somewhere the Ferengi were to take over from the Klingons as the federations new menacing adversarial race. There'd been that ominous line from Picard in the first episode when Zorn threatens the station might ally with the Ferengi: "Fine, let's hope they find you as tasty as they did their past associates." Ohhhhhh, we didn't know what that meant, but the Ferengi sounded evil and dangerous.

So we were all worked up. And then we saw them. As my friend put it, "Mutant hobbit accountants from outer-space." Oh well. By the end of the season, it was established that the Romulans would take over from the Klingons as the new as the federation's new menacing adversarial race.
Rick Taylor
Sat, Sep 26, 2015, 11:43am (UTC -6)
Whoops, I'm sorry, I posted that to the wrong thread. Would it be possible to delete it?
Sat, Jan 16, 2016, 12:15am (UTC -6)
Going through Season 1 this month for the first time in a long time.

The amount of plot holes that I notice now are incredible.

Honestly, I question how TNG survived it's first season.

Thankfully they made it to Season 3 when it finally got on it's own feet.
Sat, May 7, 2016, 8:30am (UTC -6)
I just saw this episode. Knowing the Star Trek universe after this, the episode holds up pretty well.
Fri, Jul 1, 2016, 5:37am (UTC -6)
Didn't care for this episode. Too many things require too much of a stretch of the imagination. The biggest one is this - if Bok's son was responsible for his own fate by firing on the Stargazer first, then why would Bok be so enraged at Picard for firing back? The motive is lacking. Secondly, how on earth did the Ferengi just happen to stumble across the ship? Starfleet would have gone back to the site to retrieve the vessel, surely, at least so that it wouldn't fall into enemy hands. And even assuming the Ferengi did capture it, why wait 9 years for this showdown with Picard?? And why wasn't the chest that Picard brought aboard Enterprise checked out by security? I guess nobody ever heard of the Trojan horse before. The whole thing was just too contrived.

1.5 out of 4 from me.
Fri, Jul 1, 2016, 6:21am (UTC -6)
@David - I'm convinced S1 got graded on a curve called "lack of expectations"
Fri, Jul 1, 2016, 9:40am (UTC -6)

I admit I too thought about your first point about Bok's son for a while too the first time I saw this. But we need to remember that different societies can put different "spins" on the same event. Remember in "The Defector" when a Federation officer (Picard) brought up the massacre of the Norkan outposts, then the Romulan (Admiral Jarok) quickly corrected that the Romulans simply referred to them as the "Norkan Campaigns"? As with the Romulans, I could see the Ferengi having a very different take than Picard with his battle.

As for the Stargazer, well these are Ferengi, right? It was probably sitting in mothballs at some shipyard and the Ferengi were able to bribe/threaten/handsomely pay the quartermaster to let them have it. And maybe it took them nine years to find it.

You're right about the "Trojan Horse" though. That's some idiot plotting, if there ever was any. I haven't seen this one recently, but I'm guessing Picard also ignored a warning from Worf about it. I guess we're supposed to accept that the Federation is so complacent in its peace in the 24th century that it ignores obvious security risks.
Fri, Jul 8, 2016, 12:13pm (UTC -6)
@Chrome - On your last point, while the Federation itself is peaceful, it deals with violent races and risky situations regularly. I don't believe that they would ignore such a big security risk.
Fri, Jul 8, 2016, 12:25pm (UTC -6)

Starfleet definitely shouldn't, especially since the Ferengi are supposed to be big adversaries at this point in the series. What makes it worse is that Worf actually brought the stupid chest aboard, so he had a chance to check it. Even if Worf's scans were negative, you'd think he might pick up on some sort of causal relationship between the chest and Picard's headaches.

It's just goofy, I give it some slack because it's Season 1 and we're used to much better things from this franchise in the following years.
Jason R.
Sun, Sep 18, 2016, 7:40pm (UTC -6)
The headache thing really bugged the heck out of me. In the 24th century they've uncovered the root cause of all pain and have the medical tech to eliminate it? Okay, I'll buy that. But to the point where Crusher is shocked that Picard even would *have* a headache? To the point where she'd act like a headache was some obscure medical condition from the past? How does that even work? Assuming these are basically still human beings (I note that genetic tampering was outlawed) how can you pre-emptively stop all people from having headaches before they even start? Do people not bang their heads anymore? If someone slips and falls and bonks their head on a bulkhead, is Crusher standing there instantly to wave her little medical wand over his head such that it's impossible for him to experience any headache? What utter silliness.

And then a few scenes later Picard mentions his headaches to Riker et al. and they just react normally the way you'd expect anyone to react. What, so Riker knows what a headache is? Well which is it? Do people in the 24th century still experience headaches or don't they? AAGH!

As for the rest, it's just a meandering half-baked story. I found the whole forged Captain's log especially pointless. Did Bok not think they were going to figure it out? Especially since PICARD WAS NOT THE SOLE SURVIVOR OF THE STARGAZER! Did it not occur to someone to call up one of the *hundreds* of survivors apart from Picard, including the bridge crew, to ask *them* what happened? Why would this not be the very first thing they think to look into? Why is there this phony tension over whether or not they're going to be able to prove PIcard's innocence?
Wed, Sep 21, 2016, 3:27pm (UTC -6)
This story was much more palatable than most of its predecessors.
The high points, I think, were:
1. A new Federation Ship : the pretty stylish Constellation Class Stargazer.
2. A bad guy with a believable motivation: Bok attracts sympathy for the loss of his son.
3. Therefore the Ferengi come across much better than they did in The Last Outpost.
4. Picard exhibits some human vulnerabilities.

1. I still have an issue with Riker's bluster.
2. Not buying into that medical elimination of headaches.
3. The ending was too easy: no real tension as within a few seconds Picard blasts the sphere-it was a waste.
Fri, Aug 4, 2017, 11:10pm (UTC -6)
2.5 stars. Somewhere around that range

There's some interesting stuff like with the Stargazer and Bok's plan but then there are stretches where things stall I.e. The false log investigation or Picard hallucinating in his quarters. I did enjoy the First Officer camaraderie between Riker and the Ferengi
Sarjenka's Little Brother
Mon, Dec 4, 2017, 1:56pm (UTC -6)
I agree with the general consensus here.

When I was first watching this back in the '80s -- and now rewatching from the start -- one thing I really liked about this episodes: no very powerful, vague life-form aliens. I think they are fine in small doses (this is sci-fi), but Season 1 start was heavy with them:

Farpoint: Q and the jellyfish creatures

Last Outpost: The Tkon portal

Where No Man Has Gone: Wesley's boyfriend, The Travelah

Lonely Among Us: Energy cloud being

Justice: Edo Overload that's there and not there

And then Naked Now and Code of Honor were just TOS throwbacks.

This was the truly the first episode that gave us something of a somewhat equal adversaries in corporeal form plot. It's the first one to give us a little of the lay of the land about the Federation and the Alpha Quadrant.

Back in the '80s, I was really beginning to despair that all Next Gen was going to be was an endless series of encounters with energy beings and things not there, etc. And for the foundation/base of the series, I like it when our guys in spaceships meet up with other guys in spaceships or their planets.

This episode had plenty of plot holes and weaknesses already discussed (including the ridiculousness of the Ferengi as Klingon replacements and the crew's very slow catch-on to what was going on), but it was to me the very first Next Gen episode that laid the foundation for how the series would usually work.

Tue, Feb 6, 2018, 3:36pm (UTC -6)
A very basic slowly evolving plot in a borderline boring episode. Stewart was good in this one -- maybe his best performance to date in Season 1. Better episode for the Ferengi than "The Last Outpost" -- at least the Ferengi here appear to be devious villains and not purely caricatures. But ultimately it comes down to phasering the sphere and the mind control is gone -- hardly brilliant or compelling stuff.

What I don't get is how Bok was manipulating Picard -- he had headaches before the encounter so it wasn't an issue of just being controlled when in close proximity to the sphere. Something's missing here.

Once the Ferengi give the Enterprise the Stargazer, why did the Enterprise tolerate them continuing to hang around as it towed the old ship?

And boy genius Wesley Crusher came to the rescue again on a couple of occasions -- just not good writing in the grand scheme of things when he makes the rest of the crew look like dolts.

Barely 2 stars for "The Battle" -- not a lot of redeeming qualities here other than Stewart's performance and his old ship. Plenty of fumbling around by the Enterprise crew to figure out what the Ferengi are up to and Crusher dealing with Picard's headaches -- fairly typical weak TNG S1 stuff here.
Fri, Feb 23, 2018, 8:36am (UTC -6)
This was a pretty good episode. Well trained or not - any one can on occasion be so focussed on something that other things are overlooked. Wesley isn't that young and from what I understand happens to be smarter than average and observant. It may happen too often in tng in general but on a stand alone basis Wesley's noticing things missed by others doesn't seem wrong to me. Trained adult doesn't equal infallible, nor does child equal always dumber than any given adult. Okay enough preaching for today. :-)
Sat, May 19, 2018, 3:37pm (UTC -6)
Once again Picard's weak mind is abducted. How did someone so easily assimilated become captain of Starfleet's flagship?

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