Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The Ensigns of Command"

2.5 stars

Air date: 10/2/1989
Written by Melinda M. Snodgrass
Directed by Cliff Bole

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Sheliak, who consider humans to be beneath them, order the removal of a human colony from a planet that, in accordance with the Federation/Sheliak treaty, they own. The colony of 15,000 was unknown to the Federation, and is made up of the descendants of a Federation vessel that crashed there more than a century ago. The Sheliak intend to colonize the planet in four days; they will likely eradicate the population if the Enterprise does not remove it.

One of the appeals of "Ensigns" is its two-tiered plot structure, in which both storylines document the problem-solving methods in an uphill climb to fix a mess of a situation before the ticking clock expires. Picard must figure out how to negotiate more time from the hopelessly obstinate Sheliak, while Data must figure out how to convince the prideful (and perhaps equally hopelessly obstinate) colonists to give up their homes and leave.

The results are mixed. This is a competent TNG story, but it has some evident problems in execution. Most notable is the depiction of the colonists in their extended dealings with Data. While Data's assignment gives him a new challenge (figuring out how to improvise while working a problem that requires extensive knowledge of human nature), a lot of these scenes simply don't work because of the belabored drama. The talky grandstanding of this kind of TNG effort requires actors that can rise to the challenge. Grainger Hines as Gosheven, the wrongheaded leader of the colony, is a wooden actor that sinks many of these scenes. In fact, a lot of the guest performances in these scenes are misfires. Data's interactions with Ard'rian (Eileen Seeley) are merely adequate.

Faring slightly better are Picard's dealings with the extremely inflexible Sheliak (whose homeworld is appropriately dubbed "Sheliak Corporate"); they continuously hang up on Picard when he tries to talk to them. Picard's bureaucratic solution to the bureaucratic problem makes for a truly funny and satisfying payoff.

Meanwhile, the scenes on the colony build to an effective demonstration of action by Data, but the ending only underlines (1) the obvious lack of communication up to that point and (2) the apparent stupidity of Gosheven and the colonists. Simply put, if the colonists know what a starship is (and they do), they should understand what kind of threat is looming without Data having to prove it.

Previous episode: Evolution
Next episode: The Survivors

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87 comments on this post

Tue, Apr 24, 2012, 11:10am (UTC -6)
I liked this episode. Picard's final solution to the Sheliak problem was very satisfying, as Jammer mentions. It was interesting to see Data adapt to the colonists resistance to his idea of evacuation. This is one episode I never skip when I re-watch the seasons of TNG. I have to agree with Jammer's assessment of the colonists. A 20th century weapon (atom bomb), looks like it would destroy the colony, much less 24th century weapons. When the colonists were "defending" the water hole (or whatever) they didn't have 20th century weapons equivalent!
Mon, Sep 10, 2012, 7:43am (UTC -6)
What I liked about this one is that there's a subplot about O'Hara, La Forge and Wesley trying to get the transporters to pick up the colonists. Now a lot of Star Trek episodes would have them succeed and thereby save the day in an all too convenient way. Here they fail miserably and it's up to Picard's igenuity to get the job done.
Mon, Jan 14, 2013, 12:50pm (UTC -6)
Kieran is right...only because Picard had a legal-based Plan B up his sleeve did the Plan A fail.

Had all the chips depended upon Plan A succeeding, it would have...Trek sees to it.
William B
Mon, Apr 15, 2013, 12:03pm (UTC -6)
I agree that the episode’s main problem is the weakness of the guest actors; the lack of conviction makes the premise of the community’s flat-out irrationality, already implausible, seem flat-out ridiculous. However, I think the episode succeeds despite this weak element, due to strong character work for Data and a nice thematic unity.

The A/B plot structure has rational Data on the planet, trying to convince the irrational humans to leave their planet, which they are attached to for its sentimental value, while out in space, Picard attempts to find a way to communicate the value of human life to the hyper-rational Sheliak. In essence, both plots are about “emotion vs. logic” (though logic here is closer to strictly deductive logic with no possibility of creative inspiration or induction), but Our Heroes are on opposite sides in each plot. The Sheliak are so coldly rational they have no regard for anything outside their stated agreements, and thus are totally unmoved by Picard’s pleas. (I don’t think that one has to be emotional to believe in the value of human life, of course, but I think there is a sense here that lack of feelings for humanity make it much easier for the Sheliak to exterminate them.) Similarly, Data’s sensible arguments fall completely on deaf ears, because the colonists in general and Grainger in particular simply ignore logical thought entirely. The structure of both plots is that the Enterprise crew, who ultimately are able to combine the emotional and the rational, must stretch themselves to find a way to communicate entirely on the myopic terms of their antagonists. Picard cares about treaties in general but the extreme inflexibility and precision of the Sheliak treaty bores him, but he figures out how to use that to his advantage, just as Data would not be affected particularly by the dramatic flourishes he uses, but recognizes their value in influencing others. Note that Data is not at all defeated by his being attacked/deactivated the way Grainger immediately relents at Data’s display of force later in the episode.

So part of the theme of this episode is that one needs both—deductive and inductive logic, understanding of coolheaded reason and emotional connection—to be a good person and to be whole and to coexist with others. Ultimately, while very entertaining (Picard’s casual stroll to wipe the dust off the Enterprise plaque is a scream), the Picard material is mostly an inverse/reflection on the Data material; Picard has no trouble being rational, for the most part, though it does require him to stretch to deal with a species as rigorous as the Sheliak. Data has a problem with emotions. The primary things that distinguish Data from the Sheliak are that Data is capable of thinking creatively (which perhaps the Sheliak are, but of which we have no evidence) and that he has an ingrained respect for life in all its forms, which is (as we discover in future episodes, unless it’s been mentioned already) part of his programming. Data’s creativity is a subject of many episodes going forward, and previous episodes by this episode’s writer, Melinda M. Snodgrass, include “The Measure of the Man” and “Pen Pals,” both of which suggest that Data has wells of childlike compassion and something like feeling that perhaps go beyond what his programming suggests (but also perhaps do not). This episode has Data re-establishing himself as emotionless at the end, unmoved by romantic feelings for Ard’rian, but has Data learning human emotion from the outside-in and learning the necessity of understanding human emotional reactions if he’s to interact with humans. Because his shipmates are nowhere near as irrational as the colonists, it’s been possible for him to get by in his duties while keeping his attempts to understand human irrationality as mostly a hobby; here he learns how necessary it is to understand people and to have respect for how their feelings work, in order to be able to save them, even if he can’t feel what they feel. I think it’s a natural progression for the character and I think this is an important episode for him.

The gentle sadness of the end of the Data/Ard’rian scenes speaks to the tragedy associated with Data and with people around him. He wants to be human, and he is a unique form of life, worthy of regard and even love even if he is incapable of returning emotional love. His good qualities are obviously overwhelming, and Ard’rian thinks he’s wonderful because she’s fed up with the irrationality of those around her. But while Data is not the Sheliak, he’s still distant and intractable in his own way; she loves him for his absolute rationality and can never be loved in return, and resents him, for the same reason. Data’s kiss at the end is not about him, because he has no romantic desire, but for her because he recognizes she needs it, the culmination of what Data has learned in the episode about the necessity of (sometimes) communicating with humans on emotional terms while his own feelings do not exist. There is the slightest inkling that there’s something more to Data, that he has something closer to feelings than he is capable of recognizing, but it’s too deeply buried for him to conceptualize it otherwise.

The poor acting and implausible stubbornness of the colonists hold this episode back from greatness, but I think it is good. 3 stars.
Sun, Jun 9, 2013, 1:08am (UTC -6)
Just rewatched this one. I agree with pretty much everything you say. The actor who played Gosheven actually had all of his lined overdubbed by someone else at his own request, citing unhappiness with his performance. Even if the overdub was better (no way of knowing), This probably led to a nevertheless poor performance. The two lackies who meet Data at the start (Kentor and Haritath) are played very well (especially the latter), imo.

I love the Picard plot (and they have an unreasonable immovable villain here, but at least they've couched it by giving us the background and telling us the Sheliac think of Humans as a lower life form - It's not a villain who ought to be reasonable who is just being difficult for no reason.

I also love the LaForge plot.

The problem is the Data plot. As you say, why the hell isn't the first thing out of Data's mouth "they will fire phasers from orbit and vaporize the colony"? He doesn't mention this once in the 2nd encounter where Gosheven announces that they will stay and fight. My response would have been "what weapons do you have to fight a starship in Orbit?" Completely pointless plot on that end, unforutnately. That and the way-too-overeager computer-doctor lady made for Data's plot to be poor.

It was just poorly written. Data consults Riker at one point and Riker basically snaps at him "I don't know these people. I haven't talked to them. Use your positronic brain to figure it out." Riker doesn't usually lose his cool that quickly - esp. with Data. Usually he'd have some helpful general advice. Then, Data asks "How angry are the Sheliac really going to be when they get here?" Data is a walking encyclopedia. Doesn't he know more about the Sheliac (a species that hasn't contacted the Federation in a hundred years) than Riker?
Mon, Jul 15, 2013, 9:17pm (UTC -6)
Why doesn't Data just find an ant hill and step on some ants to demonstrate how worthless the Sheliak consider human life? Or just use it as a prop and not kill any ants. This analogy seems too obvious to miss.
Wed, Aug 7, 2013, 1:45pm (UTC -6)
I only liked the Picard bits on this one. I wanted to like Data's part but the acting of everyone but him was real bad. If we got better actors, then it'd have been one hell of an episode since Data ended up learning a lot.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong but I think this was the first time that Picard actually acted like "The Captain"(tm). He have just beaten the Sheliaks at their own game, and enjoyed every bit of it.

Back then, I thought Picard became a smart ass, but it was in fact him becoming a stable character with a defined personality. Totally different from S1's Picard, that'd have surrendered at the first five minutes.
Sun, Sep 29, 2013, 8:01am (UTC -6)
I liked this one much better than The Survivors, which most of you all seem to prefer. The script wasn't the best - Data could have and should have made the threat much clearer early on, and why didn't Picard talk to Gosheven?

But one thing Star Trek taught me is to overlook things like that and still enjoy the stories. There are a lot of plotholes or seriously bad story-writing and acting or unbelievable solutions in many Star Trek episodes, and it's still enjoyable. I can't exactly say why but it is. I don't think this particular episode was one of the worst offenders in terms of plotholes or bad writing.
Tue, Oct 8, 2013, 8:58pm (UTC -6)
I think I liked this one better than most, although only slightly. It's not all that special, but I think it does come together well. I don't really feel like doing a review of it, so just some random comments:

- O'Brien in a string quartet? I thought that was a bit funny, given his later DS9 role as the quintessential blue collar man. How many average guys do you know play the cello?

- I think this is the first example of Picard indulging Data in his witless exploration of humanity. Yes, he has passionately defended Data before, but not been involved in his growth (the only previous example I can think of is Where Silence Has Lease, and that was an illusion). Given that this becomes such a huge part of the show that even Q comments on it, I feel it's worth a mention.

- I didn't think any of the other guest stars besides Geshoven were that bad. And yes, Geshoven was terrible. I didn't know he was overdubbed, but I'm not surprised. The voice and mannerisms were just so far off it felt unnatural.

- I did not have a problem with the colonists refusing to leave. Did Data provide any proof of his claim? Did he bring a copy of the treaty? Do the colonists know anything of the Sheliak? Why should they immediately believe him and uproot themselves? While Geshoven himself was not believable as a popular strong leader when he was obviously so obstinate in this episode, I can see uncertainty in the people as being a reasonable portrayal of the colonists. And the episode did make great pains to show the colonists as being very uncertain.

- Speaking of which, I wonder how many people complaining about the colonists' refusal to leave here also complain about creating the Maquis? After all, it's the same concept.

- Speaking of Gosheven being such a bad character, his anti-robot attitude was gratuitous and pointless. Did we really need another arrow pointing to him that said "bad guy"? That should have been excised. I thought the girl being obsessed with androids was also unnecessary at first, but it actually worked well within the confines of the episode.

- I agree with TH; that scene of Data calling Riker was bad.

- The Sheliak were a cool design. It's nice to see that it wasn't just another rubber forehead alien, and having such a weird bridge and being unable to see their face just served to reinforce their alienness.

- Picard outlawyering the Sheliak at the end was great fun.
Mon, Aug 25, 2014, 3:22pm (UTC -6)
Actually I always liked this episode for the Data part. Data learned that logic and reason aren't always enough. Presentation is just as important.

Regarding the complaints that it was unrealistic that the colonists weren't "getting it", I tend to disagree.

Recall that they had not encountered any visitors in multiple generations. They had not had any contact with anyone off planet at all in over 90 years. The generation of people in charge were intelligent enough to understand the concept of spacefaring races and capabilities, sure, but they had never witnessed such capabilities firsthand in their entire lives. They didn't even get stories of this from their parents, since those parents had not experienced such things.
The problem with expecting them to just "get it" when Data explained is that the people he is explaining it to do not have the right frame of reference. Their reference was the challenge they and their ancestors went through to survive. And hey, they figured that out, didn't they?

The visceral demonstration Data gave at the end did the trick, and properly so. Makes sense to me.
Sat, May 23, 2015, 11:54am (UTC -6)
I agree with just about everything Jammer has to say about this episode.

The B-plot on the Enterprise is more satisfying than the A-plot with Data, mostly due to Gosheven's idiotic stubbornness. It gets the point where this supposedly elected leader starts acting like an autocrat and anyone who disagrees with his decisions just needs to be silenced. At least the Sheliak have legitimate reasons to be obstinate. They're sitting in a position of power while the colonists are hopelessly outgunned - a fact that the viewer is all too aware of right from the get-ready.

I'll disagree, however, on Data's interactions with Ard'rian. Those scenes are what really buoy up the A-plot for me. It's nice to Data in something of a subdued romantic relationship which isn't bogged down by constant references to the fact that Data is completely unfamiliar with human romance - which is a problem I remember having with "In Theory."

Diamond Dave
Mon, Aug 31, 2015, 1:49pm (UTC -6)
I always have an aversion to plot devices that nullify the simplest way of dealing with the problem - evacuate 15000 people with no transporters because of a radiation effect that never gets mentioned again? Boom, there's your episode.

But these naked plot contrivances aside, I found the Data story to be interesting. Here he is having to improvise and be creative - and yet, really, he makes no progress, simply trying a number of menu options until finding one that works. And in Data's relationship with Ard'rian, even the final kiss is something he computes is required, rather than intuits.

The B-story also reaches a satisfactory conclusion, as the Seliaks are hoist with their own legalistic petard. And the C-story reaches a conclusion with a miracle not being completed, highly unusually, and the transporters remaining unfixed. Overall, a solid 2.5 stars.
Fri, Sep 18, 2015, 5:02pm (UTC -6)
I'm sure glad that I don't serve under Picard and Crusher... Dear lord, can you imagine it? Your ship is being wrecked and everyone's life is at risk - but you mustn't do anything about it because there may be "life" there. So do nothing and risk the entire crew.

Serving on the Enterprise would be a death trap. No one would take a captain like that seriously. It's even worse that the motive of these machines is totally unknown, so leaving them because of some hippy dippy morality may in fact still cost everyone their lives, and leave no time for any action.
Fri, Sep 18, 2015, 5:05pm (UTC -6)
Oops... wrong episode. Evolution >>>>
Fri, May 6, 2016, 12:47pm (UTC -6)
Great Data episode. I found the Sheliak to be one of the most memorable one appearance species in all of Trek.
Thu, May 26, 2016, 9:26am (UTC -6)
One of the best things about this episode is that it shows something the audience rarely sees, and that's things not going so well for Data. Data is an extremely powerful tool, an asset to the Enterprise and particularly to Picard. But here, we see that Data, without anyone to guide him through social nuances, struggles. Riker's line to Data shows the frustration, "I don't KNOW these people, Data. Use that fancy positronic brain of yours and get the job done!"

It's also nice to see a piece where Picard fumbles a little in diplomacy. Usually we're treated to these grand speeches, but the Sheliak markedly cut Picard off before he has a chance to finish any. So basically we have Data in a situation where Picard's ethos would've been better, and Picard in a situation where Data's logic would be better. So this deserves at least 3 stars for that.

There are parts of this episode that are slow, and were well into season 3 so timing shouldn't be an excuse for TNG here. At least there is some good dry humor, like the bit at the beginning where Picard gets called out of Ten-Forward, and Data thinks Picard is walking out on his poor performance.
michael J
Sun, Jul 10, 2016, 7:50am (UTC -6)
The story is interesting because Picard and Data are finally in situations where their strongest talents don't work. I need not reiterate the theme -- stubborness -- and everyone gets the parallel in the two tiers.

What completely kills it is the awful acting of the colonists. How bad? It's it like porn except nobody takes their clothes off and nobody has sex. Things go a bit better on the Enterprise on the Picard side but it's a little exasperating listening to Riker talk in expositionary phrases. Worf has to have his grumble, Crusher has to explain Made up Medicine(tm) and Troi has to have her Little Chat With the Captain (tm). What completely uncalled for was sending LaForge off to do busywork on something impossible. Why?

The only thing that salvages this episode is the way Picard and Data resolve their parallel dilemna. Data goes BAD ASS and Picard flings the treaty back in the Shelliak's face. Delicious.
Thu, Oct 6, 2016, 4:37pm (UTC -6)
I realise I'm four years late pointing this out but, Kieran, Chief O'Hara? Really?
Sat, Nov 26, 2016, 9:55pm (UTC -6)
I'd say three stars just because the ending was so genuinely amusing. I finished watching it fifteen minutes ago and I haven't stopped chuckling yet.
Sat, Jan 28, 2017, 1:48am (UTC -6)
That ending when Picard completely owns the Sheliak was hilarious - well worth the 45 minutes! Goes to show that you don't always have to end an episode with a full phaser barrage to be satisfying!
Tue, Jan 31, 2017, 6:39am (UTC -6)
The colonists deserved to die because they were terrible stock characters: wooden and unbelievable. The smurfette should have died last (forced to watch the others go before her as her punishment for being boring, useless and silly). Only the idiot leader should have been rescued so he could see the full outcome of his irrational leadership.
Thu, Feb 16, 2017, 9:22pm (UTC -6)
The colonists are rather unbelievable because their position is so blatantly hopeless. They don't seem to have any weapons of consequence. Even if every last man woman and child has a phaser, it's hard to imagine a colony of 15 thousand beating the plain old army of a small real-world country like Peru, nevermind beings capable of dropping anti-matter-bombs from orbit. Their position is just so blatantly preposterous that it detracts from my ability to suspend disbelief.
Orion Slave Guy
Sun, Feb 19, 2017, 5:04pm (UTC -6)
I liked the way Data gets trapped in an impossible situation, being pushed way beyond his comfort zone. The other story lines all play out well. Troi seems to be Picard's top advisory now, though I don't think that's what the producers had in mind when they created her character.

It's also nice there's a race that lives on non-Class M planets. What I don't like is how Data blows up the aqueduct. It looked like it was still working afterward. I also don't like how Picard always assumes colonists are willing to re-locate on a whim.

Still, 3 stars for me.
Mon, May 8, 2017, 11:55pm (UTC -6)
There's way too much to like about this episode to get hung up on a few guest character performances. The production alone is a cut above just about anything in the show up to this point, from the sets to the costumes to the sound design. The colony is so well done.

And this is some quintessential Data. We're past the dead-end stuff like "Is Data sentient?", "Can Data learn to have emotions?" (Questions without answers insofar as TNG is willing to engage with the philosophy and hard science of them), and onto the real fun of Data's character which is watching a unique personality learn and adapt and use his strengths to overcome his limitations.

The ship stuff is great too, most of all in the way that it feels like everyone is being challenged. It gives the plot a real sense of urgency and stakes. And the Sheliak are wonderfully creepy in how alien and indifferent they are (it works to their creepiness that we never see them again). I can't believe this episode isn't more appreciated.
Wed, May 10, 2017, 2:36am (UTC -6)
Over the past however many months, I've rewatched TOS, DS9, VOY and ENT, in that order. When I decided to go back to TNG I started with season 3 (I never bought the first two seasons, as I recall how slow it was to find its feet.) I skipped the first episode, since I caught most of it recently on TV, and began my binge with Ensigns of. Ommand.

I was prepared for the effects to be primitive, having just stepped back 16 years from the final season of Enterprise. What really surprised me was how superficial, naive, and generally poorly executed the whole episode was. This is the show I'd imagined ENT to be so inferior to? Hell's Bells, it'd better pick up quickly, because the better, later episodes of ENT make this episode seem horribly dated and silly.

The fact that the writers and producers still hadn't settled the show down was flagged almost straight away when we see O'Brien playing Cello. I suppose you could argue that at this point they had no inkling or intention of developing him into the fully fleshed out character he would become, but it does seem a bit emblematic of the series as a whole at this point.

Broadly I agree with most of what has been said: the shipboard moments generally worked much better than the planet-bound ones, though even they faltered, and most of the time were just decent. The whole way the plot unfolded from the moment Data landed was borderline embarrassing. "We saw your ship", says one of the colonists to Data. He might have added "In fact, I'm still seeing it. It's about four feet away." The dialog and planetside plot doesn't improve. As pointed out, Data should have made his point about the Sheliak's firepower as soon as it became apparent that the colonists were too stupid to figure it out themselves. The lady scientist with the android fetish (who looks and behaves like she just wandered in from 'Mork and Mindy') was pathetic.

Picard saves the episode (and you know it needs saving when Troi's performance is one of the stronger supporting moments).

This was a serious shock to the system after returning from the future. Perhaps it's largely an effect of my dislocation, but either I need to re-adjust to 1989 Trek, or it needs to lift it's game pretty quickly.
Tue, May 30, 2017, 3:25pm (UTC -6)
A rather unsatisfying episode - the guest actors who are the colonists are terrible and really let this episode down.
A female colonist falls for Data - interesting plot device, but she is a bit of a geek herself and that part about the interaction with the colonists is probably the most noteworthy.
Have to wonder why didn't Picard speak with the colonists via communicator before sending Data down to do the real work? Goshevin's arguments for staying behind are ridiculous and I suppose this is just another plot device for getting Data to think outside the box.
No issue with the Shelliac wanting to do their thing but shouldn't Picard & co. have had a whole bunch of legal eagles hammering through the treaty to find any way out? Finally Picard finds something and probably the best part of the episode is when the Shelliac are trying to reach him and he makes them wait.
This mostly dull episode is not worth more than 2 stars out of 4.
Wed, Jul 5, 2017, 3:59pm (UTC -6)
This story succeeds where the previous story fails.
It doesn't matter about the A and B plots-they are both pretty pedestrian.
Picard's solution to the problem is entertaining in a way I suppose but it isn't the reason for the success of the episode.
It all comes down to this:
Finally the program makers have grasped that we primarily are interested in the characters and treating two of its principals with care and precision is what this episode was all about.
Picard 's nature is expressed well here, pomposity notably absent and ,for once, Data's non-human nature is treated with some respect.
In that context who cares if the guest cast are lacklustre?
Four stars from me.
Daniel B
Mon, Jul 17, 2017, 1:52am (UTC -6)
Too many episode ends with a sudden brand new scientific technique being invented out of thin air to solve the problem at the last minute. The way a lot of episodes work, at the last minute Geordi would have found a way to transport through the radiation "technoblob the science through the plasma phase gibberish coupler" and they'd have - with fake tension - transported the last person off JUST before the Sheliak got there.

Instead, they try all episode to get the transporters to function through hyperionic? radiation and never can. It makes sense. If there was a way for transporters to do this then StarFleet's 743,204 scientists should have built into the transporter.

{ Picard's bureaucratic solution to the bureaucratic problem makes for a truly funny and satisfying payoff. }

That scene was AMAZING.

"You enjoyed that."
"You're damn right!"
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 6:26pm (UTC -6)
2.5 stars. Average

Nothing really wrong with it. But not quite up there as far as being solidly entertaining

Everything works and makes sense just kinda mechanical. Data was best about episode and his ultimate approach to getting through to the colonists was good. The Sheliak were a welcome non humanoid race
Sat, Oct 7, 2017, 4:08am (UTC -6)
I actually enjoyed this one. I must be the only one who thinks Goshevin turned in a solid performance of portraying someone willing to die for his life's work, rather than run away.

And Data having to learn the hard way that simple logic is not always enough to persuade a group of people to relocate their homeworld... when emotion drives the debate. 3 stars from me.
Derek D
Mon, Nov 20, 2017, 6:27pm (UTC -6)
Despite its flaws I enjoyed this one a lot. 3 1/2 stars.
Tue, Feb 13, 2018, 2:42pm (UTC -6)
How cold they test to transport through this radiation on the planet while warping to the Sheliak ship? Other than that I liked this way more than the season opener. A- and B-Plot worked together well, the characters were very clearly defined, and even Troi had some stuff to do that fit her designated role somewhat. Not overly engaging, but a masterpiece in furthering the pattern for so many more great episodes to come.
Baron Samedi
Mon, Feb 26, 2018, 2:15pm (UTC -6)
I watched this episode on a whim because it's one of the few I had never seen before. It was such a delight! "The Ensigns of Command" perfectly captures the spirit of TNG. The story is all about diplomacy, contrasting the crew (sans Data) dealing with a hyper-textualist alien culture and ultimately solving the problem through a third-party arbitration clause hidden in a treaty with Data dealing with a hyper-emotional human culture that fails to respond reasonably to the logic he presents.

I enjoyed the interactions between Data and Ard'rian, though I wish she didn't have to develop vaguely romantic feelings towards Data. She seemed too smart and sharp to believably fall so quickly for a machine. Still, it was cute subplot that added depth to the colony and the story.

Overall, I thought this was a great episode, one that encapsulates TNG's strengths as a show - namely, its focus on problem-solving as carried out by a smart and diligent cast of characters trying to live up to Starfleet's ideals. It was a breath of fresh air after the bleakness, rushed pacing, and overplotting of so much of Star Trek Discovery.
Peter Swinkels
Fri, Mar 23, 2018, 4:59pm (UTC -6)
Okay episode. Needlessly stubborn colony leader. Why is this episode called “Ensigns of Command”. I can easily look up what “ensign” means but the use of the word in the title makes no sense to me. Oh well Star Trek does have a knack for pretentious (imho) titles.
Sarjenka's Little Brother
Fri, Apr 13, 2018, 2:54pm (UTC -6)
I didn't understand the title either.

The needlessly stubborn colony leader has a certain physical hotness to him.
Dr Lazarus
Sat, Apr 14, 2018, 6:41pm (UTC -6)
Goshevin, was a close minded idiot. If I was part of a group stranded on a planet, I wouldn't want just a single individual making all the decisions. He reminds me of our current president. A small portion of the population think he is very intelligent and will gladly do his bidding with no questions asked. If anything, the ones who wanted to leave should had just left the planet when Data said so, and let Goshevin fight the good fight on his own.

I laugh every time I see this episode when the Sheliak call back Picard and he doesn't answer. "Hello? Hello? Is this phone still on? Lol
Daniel B
Sun, May 20, 2018, 3:21am (UTC -6)
Another lame attempt at a modern political insult on another JR comment....
Sat, Jun 9, 2018, 10:20pm (UTC -6)
A planet deadly to humans except those who live long enough to adapt to it.
Now that your belief is sufficiently suspended, cue Data for his showcase.
Let's see. descendents of human settlers have become comfortable on this planet that a ship blown off course had brought their ancestors to. Now the owners of said planet want it back.
'Heck no we won't go' ... a familiar mantra oft quoted by human invaders who think they are the center of the universe. Whatever is a a Data to do?
Of course though the gist of the show is to explore Data's depth of feelings which he insists are non existent. Ok Data, we believe you (wink wink)
Tue, Oct 9, 2018, 4:24pm (UTC -6)
Dr Lazurus. Your post is garbage. Why do "Progressives" always seem to want what is worst for America, and the entire globe for that matter?

Liberal ideology is a mere plantation for mind control. Slaves to the "Globalist" master George Soros, who designates mandatory victimhood. For people who claim to be so smart, it's amazing how ignorant you really are.
Tue, Oct 9, 2018, 7:49pm (UTC -6)
Baron said: "Overall, I thought this was a great episode, one that encapsulates TNG's strengths as a show"

It's always been one of my favorite TNG episodes as well. Yes, the village leader is poorly acted, written and heavyhanded, but the episode quickly sketches two neat alien cultures, has some excellent Picard and Data moments, and has some nice diplomacy, anthropology and politics. It's a shame Melinda M. Snodgrass didn't hang around for another few seasons. This, Pen Pals and Measure of a Man are some of Trek's more interesting and overtly political/philosophical scripts.
George Monet
Thu, Jan 24, 2019, 8:57pm (UTC -6)
I had a lot of problems with this episode.

Problem 1: What is the treaty? What were the rights each party had?

Problem 2: Was this even a treaty at all? According to the Shelliac it wasn't a treaty but a contract. According to the way each party is flaunting their rights under the document it is also a contract and not a treaty.

Problem 3: What are the rights of each party? What are the responsibilities? You can't have an episode about a contract but then not once discuss the actual contract itself until 5 minutes before the episode is over when the entire issue at stake depends entirely on the contract itself.

Problem 4: Why didn't Data ask the colonists how they plan on fighting the Shelliac? The colonists do not appear to have any weapons at all. They certainly don't have a standing military or even conscripts or police.

Problem 5: The writing. Golshevik spends his time trying to convince his fellow colonists that their essentially isn't going to be an invasion at all but that isn't the issue. If Golshevik had a plan for how the colonists would resist the Shelliac then we could understand why some colonists might be going along with Golshevik. But he has no plan. The writer is confusing denying that there is an invasion coming with a governor's inability to correctly analyze his own ability to resist an invasion. The writer is trying to have Golshevik deny an invasion by having him say that the colony can resist the invasion despite having no weapons or military or plan of any kind. If he doesn't have a plan then clearly he should actually be denying the invasion if the first place.

Problem 6: How can there be no other Starfleet ships in range? Aren't there other ships with warp 9.5? They don't even have to be Starfleet ships. Just hire some mercenaries or something.
Sun, Mar 17, 2019, 2:18pm (UTC -6)
8/10 mostly due to it being a Data centred episode and well done at that.

Troi was helpful and not annoying.

Minimal Crusher and Wesley

Good Picard role as well. Although I thought risking the treaty was idiotic. I thought they were much more powerful.
Mon, Mar 25, 2019, 9:45pm (UTC -6)
There's a part of me that wonders if the idiot colonists here were the inspiration for the Maquis later on in some way. The Maquis were obviously better and I could respect their position at times, especially their antipathy for the Federation, but these colonists were so simplistically dumb and completely without imagination that I find that impossible. It wasn't their territory, and I would not have been particularly sad to see them get blasted out of the way by the Sheliak.

But that scene with Picard on the bridge, mining the technicalities for leverage, is just fun. Totally saves the episode.
Wed, Jul 24, 2019, 11:30pm (UTC -6)
( When Picard cuts off the Sheliac Negotiator and makes them wait before resuming the transmission )

Riker: “You enjoyed that...”

Picard: “You’re DAMN RIGHT!”

( I’m smiling smugly and chortling...)
Mon, Jul 29, 2019, 2:43pm (UTC -6)
excuse me, but despite any of its flaws, this episode objectively needs to get 4 stars just for the infamous ending ;-) picard checking the dust on the nameplate before picking up the call is one of the best TNG moments of the entire series.
Fri, Aug 9, 2019, 8:23pm (UTC -6)
My biggest problem with this episode was the claim that no other starships were available in time to help with the evacuation. The Federation has more than enough resources to pull this off.

And as many others have pointed out, Gorshevin was a complete fool who would have gotten his entire society killed.
Fri, Sep 27, 2019, 10:02pm (UTC -6)
Eh. Average at best.

Ambitious, but doesn't get there.

Good character development for Data.

Clever ending for the Picard plot line.

And I'm all for suspending disbelief when needed, but if I'm gonna do that, I'll need some better reward than this ep provides.

I did love the Sheliak, but the business on the planet was just really hard to swallow and not well conceived or performed.
Sun, Sep 29, 2019, 8:28pm (UTC -6)
Just had to add, talk about your strange titles!

I looked up the definition of ensign:


--a flag or banner, as a military or naval standard used to indicate nationality.

--a badge of office or authority, as heraldic arms.

--a sign, token, or emblem: "the dove, an ensign of peace."

--U.S. Navy and Coast Guard. the lowest commissioned officer, ranking next below a lieutenant, junior grade, and equal to a second lieutenant in the Army.

--Archaic: standard-bearer

Ok, well I'm going with emblem. Symbols of Command.

The ep definitely had a lot going on when it comes to who's in charge, who's got the power at any given moment. I suppose the title is connected to that.
William B
Sun, Sep 29, 2019, 8:47pm (UTC -6)
The title appears to be a reference to a poem by John Quincy Adams:
William B
Sun, Sep 29, 2019, 8:56pm (UTC -6)
From "The Wants of Man":

I want the seals of power and place,
The ensigns of command;
Charged by the People's unbought grace
To rule my native land.
Nor crown nor sceptre would I ask
But from my country's will,
By day, by night, to ply the task
Her cup of bliss to fill.

I can see how this relates to the episode's themes - - not just about command, but about when that command is "freely given" and when it is compelled by threats of force or trickery.
Sun, Sep 29, 2019, 10:28pm (UTC -6)
@William B

Thank you!

It did not occur to me that the whole phrase might be a reference to something.

Yes, it definitely fits.
William B
Mon, Sep 30, 2019, 12:51pm (UTC -6)
@Springy --

I had never thought much about it either, until you mentioned how weird the title is. I think I always thought it had something to do with "ensigns" (low-ranking officers?) in command positions, but given that Data *is* a command officer it never made sense. Your linking it to ensigns as symbols, flags made me realize that must be what the title is, and then it felt like an archaic way to say it, which is what got me thinking. Melinda Snodgrass, who wrote this episode (and, more significantly, The Measure of a Man) strikes me as a literary type, as well as one interested in politics and history, so quoting a president's poem seems to fit.

Amusingly, I had to sift through several pages of internet search results exclusively about this episode before finally hitting the poem.
Top Hat
Fri, Jan 17, 2020, 7:25am (UTC -6)
One thing I always liked about this episode is that it's fairly technobabble light. We're told that the radiation is such that nobody but Data can go to the planet, and that phasers won't work for the same reason. Reasonable. Picard has O'Brien and Geordi seek a technical solution but this just supplies a comic sub-subplot, with exchanges like this:

RIKER: Gentlemen, we're giving you an assignment. One thing we don't want to hear is that it is impossible.
PICARD: I need the transporters to function despite the hyperonic radiation.
LAFORGE: Yeah, but that's im... Yes, sir.

The stakes are clarified with a minimum of dialogue. Later, Data rigs a phaser and the explanation for how he can do it is pretty short and clear.

I feel like a few seasons later there'd be a full act of tehnobabble in there.
Fri, Feb 21, 2020, 1:10am (UTC -6)
Btw, the title refers to an ancient poem. In the context of this poem, the subject lusts for power. "Give me power! give me the 'ensigns of command'". in this archaic context, "ensigns" means "trappings," or "symbols"
Wed, Apr 22, 2020, 9:23pm (UTC -6)
The dialogue said that the gathering was in Ardrian's home, and in barges Gosheven, totally uninvited.

This society seemed pretty totalitarian. The Enterprise shoudln't have wasted so much time placating it.
Sun, May 3, 2020, 8:39pm (UTC -6)
It feels very strange the way so many posters here fumed away about pretty trivial flaws, while ignoring the delightful stuff that sticks in the memory - notably the way Data coped with his two dilemmas, dealing with the suicidal obstinacy of the settler community, and with the emotional issues with Ard'rian. Picard's moment of triumph, with his brushing the non-existent dust off the Enterprise plaque was another moment to savour.

As for the reaction of Goshevan to the demand for uprooting his community, I can't agree with those who think that kind of suicidal obstinacy is improbable. In fact it's very typical of the settler mentality. And not just settlers, consider the fact that for several generations now most people have accepted the concept of MAD, "Mutual Assured Destruction" as a basis for international relationships.

The assumption that there is anything improbable or absurd about a man like Miles O'Brien being able to play a cello, because he is the wrong class to do stuff like that does not actually recognise the way that the Startrek culture is portrayed as not bogged down in prejudiced ways of thinking and behaving, either racist, or in this case, class driven. (And after all, how absurd many people from a few centuries ago might have thought of the notion of peasants and labourers being able to read?)
Andy's Friend
Mon, May 4, 2020, 4:31am (UTC -6)

While I agree with you on everything else about this episode—Data's dilemmas, Picard 'moment of triumph', and O'Brien's cello playing—this that you write is incorrect:

“As for the reaction of Goshevan to the demand for uprooting his community, I can't agree with those who think that kind of suicidal obstinacy is improbable. In fact it's very typical of the settler mentality.”

No, it isn’t. It may be that such is an American myth fuelled by literature, the western films of the 1930s-1950s (which I am a big fan of, by the way) and western television series of the 1950s-1960s, but it has little basis in reality.

I am a historian of European empires in the age of sail, in every aspect: royal and local governance, Crown and Church relations, colonist and native relations, etc. The English empire was different from the Spanish and Portuguese in that it was much, much less centralised: it was a laissez-faire empire, best expressed by the euphemistic term of its ‘salutary neglect’ policies. That notwithstanding:

Many settlements in the New World were relocated as colonists and/or local or central authorities grew aware of the poor choice of the original site. In the overwhelming majority of cases this was welcomed by the colonists, as they were the ones most aware of the problems offered by that site. Problems might include communications (e.g., a settlement built on the ‘wrong’ side of a series of waterfalls, or a mountain, initially thought sound but later realised to be a mistake), health risks (e.g., too close to marshlands the breeding ground of hideous disease; in one famous case those marshlands only appeared later as the colonists dammed up a river), and most obviously, native attacks.

Colonists might be unsympathetic to such relocation plans—especially in English America—for entirely practical reasons only. Naturally, the relocation of a settlement was only considered for such settlements as were struggling, not prosperous ones. And in struggling settlements the colonists usually lacked the resources for a resettlement. A vicious circle had been created.

In the Spanish and Portuguese empires this was much less of a problem as the Crown was much more active in directing the affairs of the empire and was much more generous in providing economic and military support for such relocations. We therefore find a very great number of such relocations in especially the huge Spanish empire, and virtually always to the colonists’ satisfaction.

In English America, where colonists were more left to their own devices, communities received much less central support and relocation therefore represented a much greater challenge for the community. This is the main reason why settler communities there would sometimes balk at the prospect of a costly and uncertain relocation. This was the result of the policies of the English Crown, not of human psyche.

It follows that in Star Trek, with the unlimited support of the Federation, one would expect colonists to behave like the Spanish and Portuguese colonists in the New World and gladly accept the support of the Crown/Federation in order to relocate to a safer location/world.

The bottom line is: Gosheven’s reaction is absurd indeed. As is, by the way, that of the Maquis, and for the same reason.
Sat, May 23, 2020, 6:53pm (UTC -6)
Moving the location of a settlement is a very different thing from what was involved here.

When i said "typical" I didn't mean universally the case, or even necessarily mostly the case, but rather quite frequently the case.

And I had in mind such settler states as South Africa, Southern Rhodesia (as it was formerly called), Israel and Northern Ireland. In all of these I believe that the die-in- a-ditch stance of the settlers here would have be familiar enough. This was not a colony of Earth or the Federation and never had been. They were settlers, not colonists, and there's a difference, which is why I used the term.

But I fully accept the validity of noting the differences between the colonial practice the different European states.
Andy's Friend
Sun, May 24, 2020, 9:18am (UTC -6)

“They were settlers, not colonists, and there's a difference, which is why I used the term.”

Both Picard and the colonists themselves beg to differ:

PICARD: We need more time. Mister Data, prepare the colonists for an evacuation.

GOSHEVEN: Hyperonic radiation took the lives of a third of the colonists before they learned they could adapt to it. (…) This colony exists because generations gave their lives for it.

More fundamentally, however, you are arguing that there is a difference between ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’. ‘Colonist’ is the Latin, ‘settler’ the Germanic word for the same. In Romance languages and scholarship there is only the former word.

“Moving the location of a settlement is a very different thing from what was involved here.”

No, we are speaking of a resettlement, with all the means available:

KENTOR: And once the Federation resettles us, we'll be left alone?

DATA: The Federation will offer as little or as much help as you dictate.

See also my example below.

“And I had in mind such settler states as South Africa, Southern Rhodesia (…) In all of these I believe that the die-in-a-ditch stance of the settlers here would have be familiar enough.”

Indeed it would, but that is not the correct analogy. The white colonists in South Africa and Southern Rhodesia had been the masters of the Africans for generations. They were not offered help by the United Kingdom or the United Nations to continue elsewhere the life they were used to: they were told to abandon that life, to share their power. And they were sanctioned with embargoes when they failed to comply. This is in fact the opposite of what we see in this episode.

The correct analogy would be if the United Nations in 1965 had offered the white colonists of South Africa and Southern Rhodesia another, correspondingly large territory—say, Madagascar, independent from France in 1960—for them to rule supreme and lord over the natives as they wished, without any interference or sanctions from the outside world.

Try imagining that, with the United Nations even offering help with the relocation of those white colonists, and the building of their first settlements to the standards they were accustomed to, in order for them to continue their way of life in a segregated, 'Whites Only' society.

Contrast now the actual international response to South Africa and Southern Rhodesia in the 1960s to that of the Spanish and Portuguese empires three and four hundred years ago, offering their colonists in more precarious settlements help with relocation. Consider one example: Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

Today a city of almost two million inhabitants, less than twenty-four hours away from anywhere, when founded in 1561 Santa Cruz de la Sierra was one of the most remote settlements in the world. It was more than six hundred miles from the sea across the Andes as the crow flies; a couple of weeks from other European settlements in the middle of a huge expanse of wilderness; surrounded by aggressive natives everywhere.

Santa Cruz de la Sierra was originally founded 137 miles east of its present location. After a precarious existence, frequent native attacks, and under the threat of continued attacks, the entire settlement was proposed relocated by the regional governor thirty years later in 1590. Not quite as long as the colony in this episode has existed, but long enough for many of the original settlers to have died, and a new generation to have been born and raised there in the meantime. The settlers accepted.

This is perhaps the closest historical analogy to what the Federation offers the colonists on this planet, only without the aid of warp power, transporters, and terraforming technology. How is being offered such a resettlement in the year 1590, across almost 140 miles in the middle of nowhere, after you have invested thirty years of your life there against all odds, very different from being offered relocation from one planet to another by the Federation as here, you think?
Jason R.
Mon, Oct 12, 2020, 2:57pm (UTC -6)
Although it is laughable that no one states the obvious to the colonists prior to Data's demonstration, I do think the episode makes a pretty good allegory for a fundamental challenge in human psychology - how do you persuade people to go against their own immediate interest based on a hypothetical, invisible threat?

The scene where Data described the attitude of the various colonists to Riker (10 favour negotiation, 12 don't believe the threat is real, 5 want to fight...) rang true and would have made a great reference to the climate change debate years before it came about. Data's challenge is to show, not tell. But the underlying problem is that this is not always possible in the real world until it is too late.
Sun, Mar 7, 2021, 5:29pm (UTC -6)
Picard taking his sweet time in responding to the Sheliak was some serious *Chef Kiss* stuff, genuinely enjoyed it.

At this point I think TNG is starting to beat me into submission. Humans going somewhere that is deadly and just sorta adapting to radiation? 15k people with like, no technology who have convinced themselves they can stand up to a race because they just sorta like their land?

It's a post-scarcity world for members of the Federation. Dying for 'your land' would invariably be such an anachronistic concept. "Hey instead of bleeding for that water again we can take you to this planet of Aryan sex nymphos as long as you don't fall on their plants."
Sun, Mar 7, 2021, 7:53pm (UTC -6)
Yeah, because in this wonderful utopia people shouldn't have emotional attachments to things anymore. Right?
Sat, Mar 13, 2021, 4:48pm (UTC -6)
The idea of being one with your land is deeply-rooted in the Western idealization of pioneer culture. Your land was your possession. It gave you the means to survive or thrive. It was your little kingdom whose borders, to one degree or another, provided you with autonomy.

That plus the Puritan Christianity view of the world as an apocalyptic test and the relatively short lifespans made the idea of nobly dying for some acres of land at 28 rather than dying to cholera at 33 highly appealing.

There's an entire universe of uninhabited Class M planets. It just is too much for me to accept that people would want to face certain death for some rocks. A few people? Ok, sure, whatever. But an entire 15k person civilization being just a brief, bland speech away from flinging themselves into martyrdom for nothing? Nope.
Sun, Mar 14, 2021, 8:05am (UTC -6)
Okay, I think I see now - you wouldn't do it, so nobody should.
Jeffrey Jakucyk
Mon, Mar 15, 2021, 9:14am (UTC -6)
"There's an entire universe of uninhabited Class M planets. It just is too much for me to accept that people would want to face certain death for some rocks. A few people? Ok, sure, whatever. But an entire 15k person civilization being just a brief, bland speech away from flinging themselves into martyrdom for nothing? Nope."

While I do think overall the colonists were drawn a bit too obtuse, one of them said explicitly, "Gosheven doesn't speak for all of us." They went to the trouble to gather up a group of more open-minded and concerned people to listen to Data (can't get too many though because actors cost money). So I view Gosheven as a demagogue. He's riling up the people based on false information, scapegoating, and appeals to emotion.
Sat, Mar 20, 2021, 5:29pm (UTC -6)
Yes. I wouldn't do it so nobody should. FINALLY someone who understands. Good job, Luke!
Sat, Mar 20, 2021, 6:48pm (UTC -6)
Well.... at least you’re honest about it.
Daniel B
Sun, Mar 21, 2021, 3:11pm (UTC -6)
{{ The title appears to be a reference to a poem by John Quincy Adams: [The Wants Of Man] }}

Only a few episodes in any Trek series I can think of took their titles from lines of somewhat obscure poems:
The Ensigns of Command (from The Wants of Man, by John Quincy Adams)
Where Silence Has Lease (from The Spell of the Yukon, by Robert W Service)
Is There in Truth No Beauty (from Jordan (1), by George Herbert)

Any others I missed?
Daniel B
Tue, Apr 6, 2021, 11:44am (UTC -6)
One other -
Who Mourns for Adonais is from "Adonais" by Percy Bysshe Shelley (maybe not super obscure, but at least much more so than a shakespearian or biblical allusion title)
Frake's Nightmare
Thu, May 6, 2021, 4:43pm (UTC -6)
Zappy thing trumps discussion every time. Zap! Get the humans off or zap. Data arguing with Gorsheven. Zap. Data persuading the colonist. Zap.
And how come no-one's talking about the Sheliak's lovely Klimtesque robes and subtle mood lighting.
Thu, Jun 17, 2021, 11:28am (UTC -6)
“He's riling up the people based on false information, scapegoating, and appeals to emotion.”

Try to imagine how Trump would have responded to a demand that we evacuate the country. Now imagine what his supporters’ course of action would be. We say the response is shallow and two-dimensional. Seems spot-on to me.
Thu, Jun 17, 2021, 12:17pm (UTC -6)
And when you have a chance, read the section of the agreement that Pikard uses to end the standoff. Bits like “in the event something screwy happens with the treaty, messages in bottles or any other water, gossip and half truths,” It’s hysterical!
Thu, Jul 22, 2021, 2:07am (UTC -6)
Let me get the “new” TNG observations out first: a musical score we haven’t heard before; the absence of the previously inevitable “Captain’s Log, Stardate…” update that followed every commercial break; a new, more ‘talky’ style of dialogue that gives us better character insights than before. However, the new uniforms haven’t prevented the Picard Manoeuvre which is more apparent than ever!!

As to the plot.. I quite like this episode, being fairly solid sci-fi and consistent up to a point. I could understand Goshevin’s determination not to give up a century of colonisation, and his dislike of Data compounded that (plus he may have had a mistrust of androids to start with).

However.. the Sheliak? Not only were they badly drawn (poor shape, clumsy movements), we are supposed to believe they drew up a treaty with “vermin”, and that their spaceships are on a par with those of the “vermin”? Just not convincing in any way.

There was a good moment though, where Picard and Troi were discussing communication between aliens who have entirely different languages (assuming no universal translator).. and we will see this developed further in “Dharmok”.

Another Data moment:

DATA: “I do not have any feelings” (except of course, for the deep-rooted desire to understand humans, even to be human!)

2.5 stars?
Thu, Jul 22, 2021, 2:28am (UTC -6)

“ Liberal ideology is a mere plantation for mind control”. You see, here’s where we need the universal translator. What you write just appears to my eyes as incomprehensible blather.

Covfefe, anyone?
Ben D.
Thu, Jul 22, 2021, 1:42pm (UTC -6)
I want to like this episode, and I do like parts of it, especially the Picard/Sheliak interactions, but the gaping plot holes ultimately sink it.

1. How did the settlers learn to adapt to the planet's radiation -- is it technological or biological? The obvious thing for Data to do would be to see if that "adaptation" could be replicated for a full Away team to beam down. Regardless, why doesn't the Enterprise have a stock of anti-radiation/hazmat suits?

2. Why did the vastly superior Sheliak (who seem to be an evolved form of the Skin of Evil tar monster) need to enter into treaties with the Federation, which they consider inferior vermin (as mentioned by one of the comments)?

3. Why did the (apparently) vastly superior Sheliak have anything to fear from being "blocked" by the Enterprise? And how can a single ship "block" a single other ship in 3-dimensional space?

4. Why did the planet's inhabitants believe Data was who he said he was, and why did even SOME of those inhabitants believe that what he was saying must be true? I mean, some random shuttle lands on your planet, an android steps out, tells you that you are doomed and everyone must evacuate, and you just believe him? Of course, WE know that Data is right, but there should have been someone who wanted to see proof. As it turned out, both the pro-Gosheven contingent and the pro-Data contingent were ultimately guided purely by blind faith.

5. Why didn't Picard get more people involved in reviewing the Sheliak treaty than just Troi? Also, how is Picard capable of reading tiny print from six feet away with Data-like speed?

But we did at least get some great lines. My favorite, which may be subject to interpretation, is that one of the early dialogues between Picard and the Sheliak, Picard is saying something like "A trieaty is not supposed to be a straightjacket." But the Sheliak abruptly close the transmission after "straight." Picard then says, "jacket" in a manner that sounds very much like "jackass." I do believe that's what was intended.
Ben D.
Thu, Jul 22, 2021, 1:49pm (UTC -6)
**shuttle down, not beam down***
Jason R.
Thu, Jul 22, 2021, 6:00pm (UTC -6)
@Ben D. The Sheliak look nothing like Armus. Actually I would say they are carbon copies of those rock guys in TOS The Savage Curtain.

And yes they think they are superior- nowhere in the episode is it stated that they outgun a Galaxy Class Starship. And I'd imagine a ship in 3d space could block another by perfectly mirroring its movements to be between it and wherever it is going.

The colonists believed Data because he was obviously an android from Starfleet which they knew about even if they had not been in contact with for ages. They are not primitives on some uncontacted world. They know what the Federation is. Which makes their actions even more ridiculous.
Top Hat
Thu, Jul 22, 2021, 6:43pm (UTC -6)
Funny enough, both Armus and the Sheliak were played by the same actor, Mart McChesney.
Sat, Aug 14, 2021, 7:50pm (UTC -6)
As others have said, this episode suffers what Roger Ebert calls "idiot plot": A plot that would be resolved instantly if anyone involved would stop acting like an idiot. Even Data fails to make obvious points that don't get made until the end.

Another example in this episode of the lazy writing - and a personal pet peeve - is the walk-away; that moment in a scene where someone walks away before the other person can make the obvious point that will resolve the situation, as if by turning their backs, sound doesn't travel to them anymore, or everyone else's legs stop working or something. It's incredibly lazy, and not just a little frustrating for the viewer.

TNG does the walk-away a number of times in its run, about as often as they use idiot plot. They're both examples of lazy writing, and either will kill an otherwise good episode (or movie).
Sat, Sep 25, 2021, 1:42am (UTC -6)
This one was hobbled by the utterly wooden acting of everyone but the regulars. This looks like ALL of the guests got handed their lines a minute before each take. This is actually embarrassing.
Wed, Nov 10, 2021, 7:33am (UTC -6)
Just to say - Sitting here rewatching this episode right now and reading this review and it's comments. In the context of the current situation, the irrational stubbornness of the colonists doesn't seem so implausible anymore.
Mon, Dec 13, 2021, 7:43am (UTC -6)
It's a passable episode but there's still way too much eye-rollingly dumb stuff happening. For example, when Nerdy Space Girl kisses Data, he acts as if he's totally surprised. This is the "fully functional" android who's (we learned in S1) is programmed in "multiple techniques". Apparently his comprehensive memory bank full of "a broad variety of pleasuring" does not include kissing a girl. Uh huh. Talking of Data, isn't he supposed to be one of a kind ? How is Nerdy Space Girl "fascinated" by cybernetic intelligence when she's literally been stranded on a remote planet for a hundred years ?

There's a nice little Easter Egg around the 38 min mark, when Picard and team are reading through the treaty text. If you hit pause, you'll see references in the text to messages in bottles, cute girls and "this bloody document". There's a full transcript at IMDB, just search for "We can do search-and-replace. Come to think about it, that's what the Shelliac want to do with the colony on the planet". Well, it made me laugh.
Sat, Jan 29, 2022, 6:21pm (UTC -6)
@Chrome (2016)

"One of the best things about this episode is that it shows something the audience rarely sees, and that's things not going so well for Data."

One of the best things about this episode is Eileen Seeley.
Sat, Apr 16, 2022, 10:38am (UTC -6)
This is a very solid 3-1/2 stars.

It's an episode where you (kinda) know what the end is going to be but are curious to see how they get there. It has drama and intrigue, the "sci" part of sci-fi is on point, and it raises--even if it doesn't too explicitly cover or expound--quite a few eschatological questions. For me, wondering how a (very truly) isolated community with few things but a pioneering spirit would evolve, not just technologically but in terms of nomos, over the course of 2-3 generations is deliciously intellectually titillating.

There's also Data's growth in the whole shooting match, which was welcome, especially since it didn't overpower the main story.

Minor kvetches:
1. If the colony numbers 15,000 people, the "town hall" scene with barely a couple dozen in attendance makes no sense. In an existential dilemma, surely just about everybody would make an effort to be there.
2. The chick's kiss with Data... - just...gratuitous.
T Sand
Sat, May 28, 2022, 12:02pm (UTC -6)
Have just watched this episode on my 20 year old 21 inch TV on regular TV with commercials just as in the old days. .First, thoughout SNG , by far the best programs were those that showcased Picard (before he decided he needed to get off the ship and seek action and the Borg).and Data (before he got tired of the role and the makeup). This was just such an episode. Secondly, one must remember that this was broadcast in1989 ,when most TVs were not gigantic, and not in hi-def and it was supposed to be watched in real time, and not ruminated over . As I watched in real time , the colonist acting just flowed over me as plot devices, so I could enjoy the Captain and Data. Even the dubbed colonist did not bother me, tho I knew he was dubbed.
Thu, Jun 23, 2022, 11:28am (UTC -6)
If Riker hadn't cut Data off perhaps he would have said that 14,975 people couldn't even be bothered to even show up to the meeting.
Wed, Feb 1, 2023, 12:33am (UTC -6)
The colonists' position of not wanting to move doesn't seem so crazy if you try to think of it from their perspective. An artificial life form lands on their planet and says they have to leave their homes immediately or else they'll all be killed. To the audience, the Enterprise crew, and Data, it seems silly. But of course they'd be hesitant to just up and leave. The ways Data convinced them were a bit contrived, but even that makes sense given Data's personality.

Overall not a bad episode, not a stone cold classic but totally fine.

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