Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Lower Decks"

4 stars

Air date: 2/7/1994
Teleplay by Rene Echevarria
Story by Ronald Wilkerson & Jean Louise Matthias
Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Lower Decks" is a uniquely rare perspective in the TNG annals. Here's an episode told from two points of view: the regular characters we're used to, and also four young junior officers who serve under them. Seeing this perspective is strikingly refreshing, because you get the sense of how Starfleet is not simply this narrative vessel we take for granted, but an organization made up of many people who also view it as their careers.

These four junior officers are friends who hang out a lot together in Ten-Forward. Ensigns Sam Lavelle (Dan Gauthier) and Sito Jaxa (Shannon Fill) are both up for the same promotion to lieutenant. Riker will be the one making the decision of who gets it. Meanwhile, Nurse Alyssa Ogawa (Patti Yasutake) is up for a promotion of her own in sickbay. Ensign Taurik (Alexander Enberg) isn't up for a promotion, but he's ambitious when it comes to engineering enhancements, which can sometimes be a thorn in Geordi's side. Spending time with the junior officers reveals a side of the Enterprise we haven't really seen before, and certainly not in this depth. (We even learn that ensigns must have roommates.)

There's a certain fascination in seeing how the junior officers view their superiors, and vice versa. Lavelle feels intimidated by Riker, who himself finds Lavelle a little "anxious to please"; there's a scene where Lavelle tries to have a friendly drink with Riker and the awkwardness of the situation, however mild, is magnified tenfold simply because of the chasm that separates the ensign from the commander. Similarly, look at how Taurik wants to mass-implement his engineering enhancements prematurely, which seems to annoy Geordi. What Taurik doesn't see — and we do — is the big picture where Geordi has to run an engineering department as a cohesive functioning unit and not simply a lab where a theoretical idea can be rolled out at will.

As sort of a narrative conduit between these two perspectives is Ten-Forward barkeep Ben (Bruce Beatty), who is able to move effortlessly between both worlds because he's a civilian who doesn't have a stake in the career game. He's friends with everybody and can see and hear what's going on from both ends. (One wonders if this character is meant to be a stand-in for Guinan; was Whoopi Goldberg unavailable? But Ben is specifically enough drawn in his social demeanor that I accepted him as just another new character alongside all the others.) There's a standout scene where the junior officers' poker game is crosscut with the senior officers' game, and their complementary discussions are revealing and insightful.

The fresh perspective isn't the only thing that makes "Lower Decks" so memorable. This is also an episode that takes an unblinking look at what it means to be a Starfleet officer (from the more military aspects of the organization) and the sacrifices that come with it. The plot documents political intrigue near the Cardassian border, a secret mission, and a mysterious passenger. The junior officers all get pulled into this mission in one tangential way or another — mostly on a need-to-know basis when it comes to the particulars of the facts. They are mostly in the dark for a long time.

Ensign Sito's role is the most crucial. Sito, you will remember, was the academy cadet who, along with young Wesley Crusher, covered up the death of a fellow cadet who died in a flight accident in the also-terrific "The First Duty." That fact is critical to the effect of "Lower Decks" for many reasons, including the way it drives the plot and characters — but especially in how it makes the arc of Sito's story all the more tragic and affecting than if she had been a character we'd never met before. We are more invested in Sito's fate because we understand why she feels the need to redeem and prove herself for her well-known past transgression.

This is made abundantly clear from the early scene where Picard "tests" Sito by savagely berating her for that past sin. This scene shows just how scary and intimidating Picard can be when he wants to be, particularly as seen from this uniquely vulnerable point of view. (And when we first see this scene, we don't know it's a test; everything Picard says, while harsh, is plausible and grows from past facts.) In reality, Picard brought Sito to the Enterprise to give her the fair shake she might not have gotten somewhere else. But in retrospect, Picard's gambit — to first unload these harsh words and then later recruit Sito into the dangerous mission — almost comes off as a calculated manipulation to get an impressionable young ensign to step up and volunteer.

Meanwhile, Worf's role as Sito's mentor is also a great notion, revealing a corner of a character that you sometimes imagine as existing off screen but rarely get to actually see. He gives her a crucial piece of advice about being judged fairly that moves her to stand up to Picard. (This whole episode feels like an exercise in revealing how the margins of TNG were there all along, waiting to tell their stories.)

I won't belabor the meat of the plot of "Lower Decks," although it's first rate, and it smartly ties the ensigns together, who aren't allowed to talk to each other about their involvement in it. There's a mysterious Cardassian patient for Ogawa (who is actually a Federation spy); there's Taurik assisting Geordi in intentionally damaging a shuttle; and there's Sito doing the heavy lifting by accompanying this undercover operative back to Cardassian space — a perilous mission from which Sito, tragically, does not return. Her loss is a punch in the gut for the four friends, and particularly for Lavelle, who ends up getting the promotion in part because Sito doesn't survive to compete for it. In the end, "Lower Decks" is a brilliant episode of TNG that shows how some Starfleet careers are made with some bitter pills to swallow ... while others — who choose to risk all and step up in the name of the uniform — are cut short.

Previous episode: Sub Rosa
Next episode: Thine Own Self

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174 comments on this post

Tue, Dec 4, 2012, 10:38pm (UTC -6)
This is a damned brilliant episode, which was inspired by the interplay of the lower rank crewmen in TOS's "Balance of Terror".
Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 6:45am (UTC -6)
sometimes i wonder if episodes like this are science fiction at all. I liked the episode very much but it seems to me that science fiction here is just an excuse to tell a story that is not science fiction at all. It could have happen to any military.
Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 7:54am (UTC -6)

You realize you're indicting 70% of Deep Space Nine with that statement, don't you?
Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 8:11am (UTC -6)
Sorry, Jammer. You're just wrong here. This would have been a great episode with Guinan. It's only a good episode because the Ben character is never seen before or after this.

Ben getting Worf to change tables? What a bunch of crap.
Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 8:25am (UTC -6)
It's too bad Whoopi Goldberg was (probably) unavailable for this... it would have been a far better last episode for her character than "Suspicions" was.
Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 9:02am (UTC -6)
I think Ben is one of Guinan's many children. Outside of his African features, he has her easy going wisdom and he's tending bar in Ten Forward.

Also, it's sad that we never see Sam or Taurik on the series again--even in a throwaway scene. (And Taurik was *not* on Voyager. It was a different Vulcan character played by the same actor).
Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 9:45am (UTC -6)
@Patrick: He has Guinan's easy-going wisdom because the role was clearly written for Guinan!
Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 11:18am (UTC -6)
well not 70% of it but definitely some part of it
Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 6:06pm (UTC -6)
Perhaps this episode would have been better with Guinan in it, but it still gets 4 stars in my opinion.

Interestingly this is the second instance of an actor playing two very similar characters on two different series (the first being Nicholas Locarno/Thomas Paris). Royalties can be a b+tch.
Fri, Dec 7, 2012, 2:39pm (UTC -6)
I like that it was Sito that Picard requested (it could just as easily have been the other woman from the incident); it kind of complimented what Picard said to Sisko in "Emissary" about the bond he has come to have with the Bajorans, a bond that Sisko would of course go on to have writ much larger.
Fri, Dec 7, 2012, 2:52pm (UTC -6)
I don't agree that Ben was supposed to be or should have been Guinan, because he clearly follows the pattern of the other junior officers. Each of them is a junior version of one of the senior officers. Lavelle = Riker. Sito = Worf. Ogawa = Crusher. Taurik = LaForge. and Ben = Guinan.
Sat, Dec 8, 2012, 3:54pm (UTC -6)
Lavelle = Riker. Sito = Worf. Ogawa = Crusher. Taurik = LaForge. and Ben = Guinan.

Well put, I agree.
Sat, Dec 8, 2012, 8:57pm (UTC -6)
I agree with Paul that getting Worf to switch tables at the end was awkward and clunky--it would have been better for Ben to say something like "Well yes, you were her superior officer, but her friends know you cared for her and they'd like your company," instead of the completely untrue "she considered you a friend." That struck a wrong note in what was otherwise a great episode.

The first time I saw this, I thought Worf's gik'tal challenge was going to be a Star-Wars-like "with the blast shield down I can't see a thing!" moment--this was much better in how it played out.

Is it just me, because I hate Beverly, or was her relationship with Alyssa cloying? That's your BOSS acting like a silly schoolgirl over your romance! Just struck me as false.

And with all that said--this one makes me cry every time when Picard makes his announcement.
Shawn Davis
Sun, Dec 9, 2012, 12:16am (UTC -6)
I agree that this was a great episode. Too bad that there was no follow-up to this episode. According to Memory Alpha, there was suppose to be a DS9 episode that was to follow up on the fate of character "Sito Jaxa" and the situation with the cardassians, but sadly the writers with DS9 never followed up to that story.
Sun, Dec 9, 2012, 1:36pm (UTC -6)
@ grumpy_ - yes, I don't generally hate Beverly, but she could be cloying, and this episode is an exhibit.
John the younger
Mon, Dec 10, 2012, 2:45am (UTC -6)
If only there was more of this in Season 7.
Mon, Dec 10, 2012, 9:54am (UTC -6)

I'm totally fine with Ben interacting with the junior officers -- whose lives up until this episode hadn't been fleshed out.

But, no, Ben -- a character we never saw before "Lower Decks" and never saw again -- hanging with the senior staff of the Federation flagship? A staff whose daily lives (and time in Ten Forward) had been detailed for more than 160 episodes?

Sorry, weak sauce there.
Jeffrey Jakucyk
Wed, Dec 12, 2012, 2:04pm (UTC -6)
I can see how Ben is basically a lame Guinan ripoff, but could you really see Guinan playing poker? Maybe with the senior staff, MAYBE, but not with these kids. I'm guessing the writers originally had her in mind for the part, but just couldn't make it work with her character.
Joseph B
Tue, Dec 18, 2012, 2:41am (UTC -6)
Well Guinan or no Guinan, this was still one of my favorite Season 7 episodes, and so I'm happy to see Jammer reaffirm my affection for this ep with the Four Star Rating.

I remember when this episode first aired if struck me as an immediate "lost opportunity" coming as it did so late in the series run. Something like this should have aired no later than the sixth season which would have allowed for a follow-up in the last season. For those that don’t know, Paramount announced immediately following TNG's fifth season that the series would be renewed for two more years and then would "graduate" to the movies. So the producers, writers, and actors all knew that Season 7 would be the last for TNG as a TV series at least 24 months in advance. And something like this episode was just made for episodic TV as opposed to a movie. A movie -- by its very nature -- has to be *defenitive* in some way for the major characters. There's therefore no time for something like this in a movie.

There was a lot of experimentation in Season 7 which led to it being very uneven in quality. This was one of the experiments that worked. It’s still astonishing to me that neither DS9 nor Voyager thought about picking this up and running with it.
Nick P.
Wed, Dec 19, 2012, 12:51pm (UTC -6)
This was a delightful episode, but I would certainly not give it "classic" Status like some here. I think much like "Pegasus" this episode just looks amazing with the crap around it. You stick this in the middle of Season 3, and I am guessing the reviews hover somewhere around "above average". This was a very good episode, no doubt, but I wouldn't even put this in the top 20 of the whole series.

BTW, the STTNG companion confirms Ben was suppossed to be Guinan, but she wasn't available for filming. I gotta admit, I kind of like Ben MORE than Guinan. I "BUY" that this guy would be a bartender, I never really believed Guinan would be a bartender.
Thu, Dec 20, 2012, 1:17pm (UTC -6)
@Nick P: Buying Ben as a bartender is an interesting point. However, making him the senior staffs' best friend is just ridiculous. It's too bad he couldn't have shown up in an episode or two after this.

Also, it kind of bothers me that the creators felt the need to replace Whoopi with another African American actor.
Paul M
Sun, Dec 30, 2012, 8:19am (UTC -6)
@"Also, it kind of bothers me that the creators felt the need to replace Whoopi with another African American actor."

A strange thing to say. Only plausible if you approach race from the position "white=default" (which is a problematic idea, to be honest), so anytime someone isn't white, there has to be some kind of explanation.

Utterly strange.
Mon, Dec 31, 2012, 11:15am (UTC -6)

'Only plausible if you approach race from the position "white=default" '

It seems like you're saying that "white or black = default". Ben couldn't have been Asian or Latino?
Paul M
Mon, Dec 31, 2012, 8:53pm (UTC -6)
You're right, I should've phrased it differently. I was trying to simplify my argument. But the point still stands. Why does it bother you that the bartender is black?
Wed, Jan 2, 2013, 1:06pm (UTC -6)
Other than you questioning why I was bothered by casting choice, I truly don't understand the point you're trying to make.

As for why it did, I don't like the idea that the creators found out Whoopi was unavailable and said to themselves, "Well, we need another black actor, obviously!"

Don't get me wrong -- I don't have a problem with the actor not being white.
Paul M
Wed, Jan 2, 2013, 3:04pm (UTC -6)
But that's just the point I was trying to make!

How do you know that's what creators said? In the absence of any evidence, you just come across as someone projecting racial issues where there are none.

Let's have a thought experiment, shall we? Let's say Guinan was, for example, white as they come. So white Peter Jackson would be proud to cast her as an elf in one of his movies. Then, in one episode, for some reason they introduce another bartender, also white. Would you say: "Hey, it bothers me the guy's also white! Obviously,the producers felt the need to get a white actor!"

Somehow, I doubt it. Some people, whether they are conscious of it or not, think of a certain race as being the "default" race, with every other choice "calling attention to itself", and needing to be explained.

In the words of Orwell, all people are colour-blind, but some more than others :)
Wed, Jan 2, 2013, 7:37pm (UTC -6)
I didn't say I knew it happened. I said the idea of it bothered me.
Wed, Jan 16, 2013, 3:53pm (UTC -6)
This is an absolutely wonderful episode that is one of two or three of TNG that generally puts a tear in my eye. The fact that we are familiar with Sito's back story and we effectively know that it was mainly Locarno who talked the team into the illegal maneuver so like Wesley we feel a bit bad that she took such heat and we also feel like she's a more real character because they didn't just introduce her to die in this episode.

I find your comment that Picard almost backs her into a corner of having to volunteer as an interesting perspective, although I think that most ensigns (especially one like her who had already agreed to the dangerous maneuver at Locarno's insistance) was likely to agree in any event. The fact that Picard essentially tells her that he requested her as a sort of "wipe the slate clean" chance makes it that much more tragic that she dies.

Only thoughts - I think it's implied that the First Duty kids were all from the same year of call. Did Picard also request Ensign Hajar to give her a fair shake too? or did she not make it through in the end?
Tue, Feb 5, 2013, 10:59am (UTC -6)
@ TH...

I think that since Bajor has such a place in Picard's heart, as stated in "Emissary", that he extended Sito the extra hand.
Tue, Feb 26, 2013, 5:52pm (UTC -6)
I agree with Paul M - there is no evidence that a casting call went out for "male, 20s, african american". They could have auditioned a white girl, an asian man and a russian teen and simply found this actor was the best fit and happened to be black.

Alternatively, and I haven't seen the episode for a while to actually see if this is plausible, but it is possible that given the dialogue may have been written for Goldberg, it may have been more toned towards her style of speaking/her manerisms, which, as she happens to be black, might better suit another actor who is black. That's just hypothetical though.
Nick P.
Wed, Mar 13, 2013, 8:20am (UTC -6)
@TH, if you had read my comments from above, the producers have confirmed that the role was written for Whoopi, and she was just unavailable for the shoot.

further, to defend Paul from "racism", or whatever you are limply accusing him of, african americans make up less than 33% of the american population, and far less in LA's casting halls. Since Whoopi herself is African-American, and Ben is playing a role written for her specifically, how can you say that race was not a factor in that decision?
Sun, Jun 9, 2013, 2:36am (UTC -6)
@Nick; I agree with you, as I said: Maybe it's just possible that the part which was written for Whoopi was written with a tone or dialect that just sounded more fitting coming out of a black actor. Alternatively, maybe it was just coincidence that he was the best audition. We don't know who they auditioned or whether they put out a call for a black actor.

I WILL note tho, that they wrote the part for Whoopi but did not elect to cast a woman in the role...
Wed, Jul 10, 2013, 1:32pm (UTC -6)
I find the fact that Paul M and TH felt that Paul was insinuating so etching to be even *more* indicative of a deep social issue than Paul's original comment. Here's a thought experiment: If Paul M's white-bartender thought experiment were true, would Paul M still find the need to provide Paul with a thought experiment as a demonstration of some point? After all, it was Paul M who interpreted the statement as problematic and perceived an issue when no issue really seemed to exist.

That aside, Whoopi vs. Ben is irrelevant, the character was a device to provide a narrative bridge between the junior and senior staff that otherwise couldn't have existed. Ben himself wasn't important to this story, only his actions and presence were important.

I loved this episode. Seeing the Enterprise from a junior staff point of view brings so much needed cohesiveness to the Enterprise and the TNG character universe, and serves as a "reality" check -- we, the audience, are so used to an intense level of familiarity with the senior staff that we take it for granted and forget that the ship extends beyond the camera's field of view, and that the bridge crew isn't he only group of meaningful people in Starfleet.

Picard informing the crew of Sitos death is one of TNGs most poignant moments for me, right up with Picard breaking down in front of his brother in Family and Worf accepting discommendation. I give this one 4 stars plus a bonus half.
Wed, Jul 10, 2013, 1:33pm (UTC -6)
"so etching" = "something"
William B
Tue, Oct 22, 2013, 12:26pm (UTC -6)
Probably my favourite non-AGT episode of s7, and there's so much to say that I will probably skip talking about it extensively (as I apparently do most good episodes?), but a few quick notes:

* Love Lavelle sitting down in Ten-Forward by straddling the chair the way Riker sits down.

* I have a feeling that Picard opts to give Sito a second chance after "The First Duty" because he sees Wesley as needing a second chance and recognizes that it's not fair to apply that standard only to Wesley.

* In a way, Worf sitting down with the junior officers foreshadows Picard sitting down with his crew in AGT.
Fri, Oct 25, 2013, 10:01am (UTC -6)
@Shawn: Yes, there was a DS9 episode that would have revelaed that Sito did not die at the end of "Lower Decks" and was instead imprisoned. The focus was changed to O'Brien and became the wonderful episode "Hard Time". Moore explained that the reason for the change was that it would have robbed "Lower Decks" of its great ending, and I absoloutely agree.
Wed, Jan 29, 2014, 9:59pm (UTC -6)
It coulda been a contender. The death ruined what could have been an interesting insight into the lives of Jr. officers. Instead we end up with a morbid last days in the life of episode. I'm never entertained by pointless deaths.
1 star
Thu, Feb 27, 2014, 8:12am (UTC -6)
The junior officers/actors were so cheesy and artificial it made this a tough show to watch (the nurse was a good actress though).

What really hurt the show was the one-dimensional obsession the "officers" had with their military careers and ranks. A very militant/hierarchical show that loses focus from Gene's vision of an evolved human race (Gene HATED the saluting in the Trek movies). To top it off, the subplot focuses on a CIA type infiltration mission to get a spy delivered to infiltrate the Cardassians.
Sun, Jul 27, 2014, 1:50pm (UTC -6)
grumpy_otter said, "Is it just me, because I hate Beverly, or was her relationship with Alyssa cloying? That's your BOSS acting like a silly schoolgirl over your romance! Just struck me as false." Yes! I found this inappropriate, especially woven into conversations that involved clearly professional issues such as proportion. Beverly could be accused of favoritism. I don't mind when Beverly and Troi talk about their social lives, but I do mind when scenes perpetuate an inaccurate stereotype that women cannot be professional.

I also appreciated Jammer's observation that Picard's harsh treatment of Sito just before recruiting her into a dangerous mission could be viewed as manipulative. (He even said, while referencing the mission, that he needed to 'test' her.) I thought this was just shy of unethical, but I may be giving Picard the benefit of the doubt because I like his character so much.

There was much to love about this episode. I particularly found Worf's mentorship of Sito enjoyable to watch, the look on his face when Sito showed up with the pseudo-bruised face, and the look on everyone's faces when the Cardassian observed, "I did not think she would be so young." How did I reconcile the seemingly out of character joining of the table at the end of the episode? Worf is big on honoring tradition and ritual, and perhaps he recognized that joining Sito's friends was a way of honoring her memory. (I don't think he did it with the thought that it would make him feel better, even if that might have been the end result.)
Sun, Jul 27, 2014, 1:52pm (UTC -6)
proportion = promotion
Mon, Aug 18, 2014, 11:04am (UTC -6)
Simply put, one of the finest Trek episodes of any series or season.
Tue, Aug 26, 2014, 6:06pm (UTC -6)
One of my favorite episodes of ANY Trek ever.

I loved the concept of seeing things through the Junior Officers eyes, so simple, yet never been done before. This give a real "life" to the Trek universe, that there is so much happening on a Starship we don't see.

How cool would it be to see (or even hear mentioned) one of the Characters again someday? Can you imagine a line of dialogue like "Captain Worf, Captain Navelle of the Archangel is hailing us" A man can dream.
Thu, Aug 28, 2014, 9:38pm (UTC -6)
I think people are being way too hard on Beverly. For one, her persona has always been that of a Doctor and humanist first, and a military officer second. She never really stood on protocol nor on caring about Starfleet philosophy; she always did what she felt was best. Thus, it's not outside of her characterization to ignore the distance of command. For that matter, even in modern militaries specialized areas like medicine see a more relaxed chain of command.

And we've already seen Beverly be friendly with Ogawa in the past. Heck, they were close enough that Alyssa risked her career for Bev in Suspicions. Given that Beverly is not one to stand on protocol, and has worked with her head nurse for years (she first showed up in Season 4), why wouldn't she be friendly with her?It doesn't strike me as being unrealistic or sexist at all.

Would you also complain that Worf was having a friendly chat with Sito in Ten-Forrward? Or was singling her out to give her special advice? And do you also complain that Kirk was so chummy with Bones and Spock, despite being their superior officer?

Really, the biggest unrealistic part of that is that Ogawa has been an ensign for 3 years, especially since she seemed to be the head nurse for a significant chunk of that time.

Besides that, I think this episode is somewhat overrated, although it's still very good. I guess I just see the switch to the junior officer's perspective as being an interesting and worthy change of pace, but not some mindblowingly brilliant idea. And while Sito's death was tragic, I didn't see it as a brilliant piece of storytelling that was the crux of the story.

But that said, there was plenty that was good here. Each of the relationships between the juniors and their superiors (except Lavelle, ugh...) was good to see. The Taurik/Geordi subplot doesn't get much attention, but I thought it was pleasant. As a Vulcan, obviously Taurik is rather intelligent and engaged in his work. But, of course, he comes off as pushy, arrogant, and unlikeable due to his inexperience with working with humans. And given Geordi's relative lack of tact and empathy, his demeanor towards Taurik initially comes off as rather off-putting. He basically looks like the bad guy here by brushing off Taurik's offers for improvements, putting down his speculations, and so forth. And yet, in the end, it's just because of the way Geordi works. He actually does go through Taurik's list of suggestions and does help implement them. It shows that, despite a difficult working relationship due to some personal problems on each of their ends, they are still professional. And Taurik, the wise Vulcan, was incorrect in his initial assumptions about Geordi, and shows that he still has room to grow despite his obvious engineering ability.
Jeffrey Jakucyk
Sun, Oct 26, 2014, 7:42pm (UTC -6)
I was always struck by just how much bigger the regulars are compared to the junior officers, both literally and figuratively. Sito and Ogawa are physically quite petite, but even Lavelle and Taurik are small compared to the senior officers, if not in height (Taurik is taller than Geordi) then in build and mannerisms.

Seeing Sito and Picard walking down the hallway or in a turbo lift is quite a striking contrast. Even so, the presence of the regular cast is so "big" compared to these kids that Picard can come across as frightening even while sitting behind his desk.

I just find the dynamic very interesting, and extremely effective. Kudos to the director for using many low angle shots when the junior officers are with their elders, reinforcing the contrast and especially making Picard, Worf, and Riker all that much more imposing.
Wed, Nov 5, 2014, 11:34am (UTC -6)
I've probably seen this episode at least five or six times and it always makes me cry. Every. Single. Time. The scene where Picard announces Sito's fate and her friends all over the ship look up from what they're doing in shock? Sucker punch.
Thu, Jan 1, 2015, 7:01am (UTC -6)
I don't know if I'd give 'Lower Decks' four stars, but it's both original and thought-provoking. The four junior officers are all interesting in some way, though I didn't care for Taurik; the actor played him too odd and creepy for a Vulcan. The intersecting senior and junior poker games were well done, and the loss of Sito is sincerely felt. I wish there had been more episodes like this in TNG, or at least more recurring minor characters with distinct personalities. (I guess that's why DS9 is my personal favorite Trek series; the presence of those characters really helped to develop the show.)
Mon, Jan 5, 2015, 10:12am (UTC -6)
I found both Lavelle and Ben annoying and Sito not very likable; aside from Taurik and, in other episodes, Ogawa, we were just told rather than shown that the junior officers were really good (what does an exemplary record really mean?) and Sito didn't offer any explanation for her past behavior and didn't seem too sorry it had happened (her defense/justification indeed seeming too much like pointing out the rest of her Academy days were unpleasant, which shouldn't have impressed Picard).
Tue, Jan 13, 2015, 10:18pm (UTC -6)
I don't really like this one.

It's a very un-evolved vision of the military and careers in general. This is the 23rd century we're talking about and in most respects it's even less evolved than the modern military. Cadets obsessing over their career, senior officers (including Riker and Picard) lording it over them with their huge egos. All the senior crew adopt this impenetrable 'business' persona which has even gone out of fashion today, for the most part. For a future without money, it's very depressing. I'm no worshipper of Gene but I think had he been involved in this episode he would have given thought to how jobs and how we think about them would change in the future, one where there is supposed to be full equality, no hatred or discrimination and no money.
Sat, Feb 7, 2015, 3:24pm (UTC -6)
"This is the 23rd century we're talking about and in most respects it's even less evolved than the modern military."

I can't speak for other countries, but having served in the American military, I call BS.
Mon, Mar 16, 2015, 3:24pm (UTC -6)
This is a brilliant episode. When Picard gives the eulogy at the end, you can see all the mixed emotion in his face.

They should have done this episode earlier on and followed up on the junior officers from time to time. It was refreshing.

I'm no fan of queen amidala aka troi, but I liked her sticking up for lavelle. There for once she showed the qualities of a great counselor.
Fri, Apr 3, 2015, 6:13am (UTC -6)
Sure, it's a magnificent piece of drama with fleshed-out characters and very competent guest actors. However I have to side with James' comment above. With all the talk about how evolved Federation culture is, why do these cadets only care about their careers? Are they not interested in science and exploration, or in serving the progress of UFP society? Exactly the same story could have been set in a modern-day military. There really is nothing Star Trek specific about it. Sure, it has a few things to tell us, but nothing about what a future of mankind could look like. Still, a great hour of television in its own right.
Mon, May 4, 2015, 3:48am (UTC -6)
"Why is it these cadets care only about their careers"

This episode takes place during a short period of time, during crew evaluations. Of course the people up for promotions would be particularly concerned with their careers at this time. Who wouldn't be if they knew that in the next few days they were going to find out if they made it. Also, 24th century, not 23rd.
Sun, May 24, 2015, 2:18pm (UTC -6)
I'm pretty critical, but I see no reason why I should give this episode anything less than 4 stars and 10/10. Having Ben instead of Guinan hurts a bit, but it doesn't harm the episode so much as it harms the cohesiveness of the series.

Without repeating all the great comments above, I'll just say that I'm having a hard time thinking of an episodes that I can say is definitively better put together than this one. The only ones I can think of are "The Best of Both Worlds Part 1", "Darmok", "The Measure of a Man", "Ship in a Bottle", "The Wounded", and *maybe* "First Contact". "Lower Decks" is in some pretty elite company.
Sun, May 24, 2015, 2:22pm (UTC -6)
^ Just clarifying above -

I *don't* necessarily think those episodes are "better put together" than "Lower Decks". Just that "Lower Decks" is at least as good as those ones, if not better.
Wed, Jul 15, 2015, 10:10am (UTC -6)
I think this is a brilliant episode. Easily 4 stars. It is such a fresh take and new perspective on the standard Star Trek episode. I also liked that it was free of pseudo-scientific technobabble.

@ James: I disagree that this episode focused on "cadets obsessing over their career, senior officers (including Riker and Picard) lording it over them with their huge egos." I viewed the "lording it over" as mostly imagined from the perspective of the ensigns. (With the exception of Picard's "test" of Sito.) In other words, what we were seeing was filtered through the ensigns' own insecurities. We get a clue to this when Riker reveals that he thinks Lavelle is competent but perhaps a little too eager to please. Lavelle instead perceives that Riker believes he is incompetent and he therefore should try harder to please him. As for the ensigns "obsessing about their careers, I figure this is natural because Starfleet is an all-volunteer force in which one enlists with the express desire to make a career of it. These are not draftees, nor are they people who signed up for a term of service in exchange for scholarships or something. By going to Starfleet Academy, they intended to spend their career serving in Starfleet, so of course they're "obsessed" with it.
Mon, Aug 10, 2015, 8:33am (UTC -6)
I'd give this episode 3-1/2 stars, but I'd add an extra 1/2 star because the writers made it a tragedy. Pretty unusual for Star Trek, where the only deaths are people you don't know and therefore don't care about. As for the replacement of Guinan, sure it'd be better to have her, but since no time travel parodox was involved she was essentially replaceable so I give the producers of the show a pass.
Yes people will still obsess over their rank in the future. The change in perspective works very well here and fills in an added dimension of the Trek universe. (Reminds me of archeologists who try to fill in the gaps of what day to day life was like in an ancient culture, when most of the records were of the kings, queens, and the high borns rather than the lowly serfs.)
Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 4:44pm (UTC -6)
Brilliant episode. Death. One of our own. Sacrifice. Friendship versus command. The wisdom of Starfleet leadership. What makes the Enterprise special in cold space is that it has a beating heart.

The Gik'tal really touched me. "But perhaps the next time you are judged unfairly, it will not take so many bruises for you protest."

Stand up for yourself. And give people second chances.
Fri, Sep 11, 2015, 6:51pm (UTC -6)
Why did it take Nurse Ogawa nearly six years to become a lieutenant?
Sun, Sep 13, 2015, 10:43am (UTC -6)
For the same reason it took Harry Kim 7 years? Seems like it takes forever to move up from ensign.
Sat, Oct 24, 2015, 8:14am (UTC -6)
Well, it looks like I have to go against the grain on yet another beloved episode. Is "Lower Decks" bad? Absolutely not. It's a very good episode, just not great, certainly not perfect. I guess the main problem I have is that, like SkepticalMI, I only see the change-up to the junior officers as a nice change of pace, an interesting little diversion, and not some earth-shattering piece of narrative brilliance.

In a lot of ways "Lower Decks" reminds me of the 2005 remake of "War of the Worlds" with Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning. That movie tried to tell the "big blockbuster epic" story from the perspective of characters we never focus on in that genre - the everyman and everywoman just trying to survive. The reason that movie failed was because there is a good reason big blockbusters never focus on the common person - that's boring. It's like watching a James Bond movie but instead of focusing on Bond we spend the whole time with one of M's analysts who has to try to keep track of Bond's movements. We don't want to see that - we want to see the non-boring, action packed story. "Lower Decks" tries to do something very similar, but on a much smaller scale. Why should I care if Lavelle and Ogawa are up for their first promotions? What difference does it make Taurik, one of the most junior members of the Engineering staff, has some ideas on improving efficiency. And why should I care about some waiter in Ten Forward? (Though, I will admit, I did like one thing about the Ben character. It was nice that he was a civilian and perfectly content with his job. He didn't feel the need to constantly be on edge to "improve himself." TNG has always had everyone fanatically devoted to service and duty. It was nice to see someone who was happy right where he was.) The story with the Cardassian operative was much more interesting than anything we saw with the lower decks characters, save Sito.

But the main problem, which Jammer kind of round-aboutly touches on, is that we have a group of characters that are mostly unknown to us. As a result, I just don't care about them. I really don't; I'm sorry. I don't care about Lavelle. Why should I? We've never seen him before and will never see him again. I don't care about Taurik. I suppose I could have been made to retroactively care about him if they had used this character on VOY instead of creating the character of Vorik (but we all know why that didn't happen - the same reason Tom Paris was created instead of using Nick Locarno). And I don't care about Ben. The only characters here I can get in any way emotionally attached to are Ogawa and Sito, precisely because we've met them previously. If the other three characters had been introduced in earlier episodes, this idea would have worked just fine. But, as it is, the Lavelle, Taurik and Ben stories just feel like a waste of time to me. To be fair, even the Ogawa story feels unnecessary. The only worthwhile junior character here is Sito.

And that brings me to the truly shining gem of "Lower Decks" - Sito and her story. If they had jettisoned the other junior officers and focused this story of what life is life for lowly ensigns solely on Sito, I would have gladly rated the episode much higher - it's that good. The wonderful scenes between her and Worf, her struggle to overcome her mistake in "The First Duty," the nice shift in her relationship with Picard (from hostility to genuine mutual respect) and her reactions during the Observation Lounge scene with the Cardassian spy (Shannon Fill conveys so much with just her eyes in that scene - WOW!) all make this story a stand-out for TNG (and, of course, it doesn't hurt that Shannon Fill is so spectacularly gorgeous). But it's the pathos of the ending that really elevates it. Dear Lord, talk about an emotional sucker punch right to the gut! And, in its own way, it's absolutely beautiful. Not only does Picard's speech to the crew hit all the right notes of sadness and heartbreak but it also provides the only good use of the other junior officer characters in their reactions to Sito's death. TNG hasn't had the guts to do something like this since the death of Tasha Yar, which was one of the best moments of the first season. They took a risk here and it paid off in spades!

So, it's a damn good episode that sadly spends too much time on elements other than what could have bought out its full potential.

Diamond Dave
Fri, Nov 6, 2015, 1:25pm (UTC -6)
An interesting example of how experimentation can work successfully (as compared to Sub Rosa, which shows how experimentation can fail spectacularly. But it's noticeable how this lives or dies without relying on a sci-fi story and plays it as a straight drama.

The different perspective does indeed bring a freshness and new dimension to the story. The upward looking view gives us a different angle on the senior staff and how they are seen by the crew, and how while we, as the viewer, always have insight into the day to day command activities of the ship the majority of the crew would have only a very narrow view. The carefully inter-cut poker game highlights those differences subtly and masterfully.

The conclusion does indeed make the story a tragedy, which is something that elevates it from normal fare. That said, it's not entirely perfect. Outside of Sito the new characters are not entirely compelling, and the lack of Guinan is noticeable. But that's a small gripe. 3.5 stars.
Thu, Dec 24, 2015, 4:39am (UTC -6)
@James I agree with your assessment 100%. The portrayal of the senior command was generally unflattering and inconsistent with what had been implied and established up to that point in the series. 'one aye is sufficient...' i mean, c'mon.
Fri, Feb 5, 2016, 10:14am (UTC -6)
One reason I disliked Ben was he instantly presented too much as both loveable and all-knowing while Guinan from her beginning was well-meaning and very wise but hardly all-knowing, she made some mistakes and had frustrations as well as wisdom.
Sat, Apr 2, 2016, 5:00pm (UTC -6)
While I like this episode, I do not put in my top 10. I feels to me that the junior officers were forced on the viewer as part of a bid to introduce a spinoff, sort of like Married With Children did way back when introducing Matt LeBlanc as a failed boxer... It's interesting, but it just doesn't seem to fit.

I understand this is hard to do in an hour, but every scene to me stands alone and doesn't seem related (other than the plot designed for Sito), so it jumps around a lot with no real resolution at the end for the other characters that we just learned about (Sito notwithstanding.) It comes across a just a bunch of scenes sewn together. To echo someone's earlier post, the main problem is that we have a group of characters that are mostly unknown and I just don't care about them. For example, I would have loved to have seen more on Ensign Taurik. I don't think there were a lot of Vulcan crew members on this show prior to this episode. That could have been a fascinating storyline.

In fact, I feel Worf's brief appearance in this episode cemented his loyalty to his people and showed how honorable a man he really is. I think he shined the most.
Sat, Apr 16, 2016, 4:56am (UTC -6)
This was an excellent episode, until the good captain reveals the lamebrain logic of why he wants his ensign to risk her life. "The Federation operative has just come to us with tremendously valuable intelligence, which will dramatically assist in our defense. Now, even though when all this is revealed, the Cardassians might suspect they have a security breach, we're going to send him back. It will be much easier for him to pass through their frontier if he has a captive Bajoran terrorist with him, because....ah, he could say he's a bounty hunter, and then could bribe the border guards." Wow, a major star faring nation that is a serious threat to the Federation and they don't even posses the voice, retinal, DNA, and other recognition technologies of the 21st Century? Nobody would produce some scans on our "bounty hunter," and compare against a data base? And let's not even talk about the corrupt frontier defense force - they're just a bunch of useless rummies who can be bought off with some coin. If the Cardassians were that inept, they'd be like Iraq before the 2nd Gulf War, and would fold just as quickly. This could have been a fabulous story about juniors on the way up, a nice break from the normal story line - I guess I should not expect so much from writers who have to produce so rapidly, they can;t see the logic holes in their "plot."
Thu, May 26, 2016, 8:33pm (UTC -6)
I have to agree with Jammer on this one. It is a 4 star episode. But my take on this is that it's the most anti-military episode of Star Trek. It aptly illustrates to what extent the military uses psychological manipulation of its personnel to achieve its ends.
First of all we are shown 3 ensigns that are up for promotion. Sito, Lavelle, and Ogawa. Sito and Lavelle find out that they are competing for the same promotion.
Now it just so happens, un be known to the audience or the ensigns, that someone needs to volunteer for a secret and very dangerous mission. And it is further stipulated that the mission has no chance to work unless the volunteer is Bajorin. And Sito is the only Bajorin in sight.
So what happens? Picard calls Sito in his ready room and rips her a new ass by telling her that because of an earlier incident at Starfleet Academy that she participated in that resulted in the death of a cadet that he considers her unfit to serve on the Enterprise. Since she was expecting a possible promotion this blow was doubly hard on her and she leaves his presence feeling about one inch tall.
Later Worf invites her to participate in a rather unfair martial arts test. When she finally realizes the test is unfair and says so to Worf he tells her she passed the test and suggests indirectly that she has been judged unfairly by Picard.
Sito, encouraged by Worf, confronts Picard and tells him that she thinks he has judged her too harshly and asks for a transfer. Picard then tells her that his initial ass ripping was just a test to see if she would stand up for herself and that he himself asked for her personally to be posted to the Enterprise. Sito is no doubt overjoyed to hear this and leaves Picard's ready room feeling ten feet tall and bullet proof.
Shortly there after Sito is ordered to the ready room to discover that there is a mission that she is requested to volunteer for that has a high probability of her not returning. Does she volunteer for the mission? Hell yes! She knows she is up for promotion. And she just got torn down and then told it was all a test ,so her ego is all built up again better than new. Hell she would probably volunteer to eat anti-matter rather than disappoint the Captain. And the Captain knows this and uses it to his advantage.
Finally when we are on the bridge and are waiting for her overdue escape pod the jr. Officers wonder what the hell is going on. So once again we are shown military tactics in the handling of their own personnel.
For the jr. Officers, they are treated like mushrooms. Feed bullshit and kept in the dark.
For Sito. First she is torn down. Then she has "smoke blown up her ass" to build her back up again and then she is invited to die.
And finally we are shown the 3 ways to be promoted. Ogawa is promoted because she is liked by her superior. Sito would have been promoted because she volunteered for a dangerous mission. And Levelle is promoted by default. Because Sito didn't come back.
All in all I took this as a rather scathing look at military life. And it's spot on.
Peter G.
Fri, May 27, 2016, 5:28pm (UTC -6)
Great review, Greg. Trek fans should keep this episode in mind when suggesting that Picard is pure as snow while Sisko dirties his hands in an un-Federation way. Sisko would never manipulate his screw in agreeing to something rather than just being honest with them. This is no slight against Picard, but rather, as you say, a noteworthy look at the fact that things need to get done and in the military you use whatever methods you have available to get them done. It isn't pretty and at the end of the day not exactly Federation, which is why I think there's a firm distinction between Starfleet and the Federation.
William B
Fri, May 27, 2016, 6:00pm (UTC -6)
I agree, great comment Greg. And I agree with Peter G. as well. It is worth noting that Picard is less concerned with loyalty than Sisko is, which is not to say that he considers it unimportant, but he generally believes that ethical concerns are more universal than interpersonal commitments. That question is also something of a theme in "The First Duty," from which this episode spins off -- the conflict there was also between loyalty and more abstract commitments (which also doubled as being between loyalty to the living and loyalty to the dead). Picard is sometimes described as aloof, and there is some truth to this, though I do not think it is a weakness in the writing and performance at all, but a measure of the personal cost that comes with Picard's level of commitment to his principles and duty. In this case, Sito being a Starfleet officer means that the threshold for what constitutes fair treatment is different than it would be for a civilian, or someone else not under his command. Conversely, Picard is also clear that this is a volunteer mission...though how much of that is a rationalization and how much is what he really believes is a little difficult to say. There is an element of guilt in Picard's final description of Sito's death as well, I think, which Stewart marvellously conveys. I like that the shift in perspective allows us to subtly look at a darker version of Picard -- of the kind in, for example, "Yesterday's Enterprise," allowing Yar to go off. I also think that the manipulation-but-while-allowing-choice is a kind of practiced diplomacy, where Picard has spent years honing the talent of convincing people to do things that they do not want to do for a greater good, which is difficult to do without some manipulation.
Peter G.
Fri, May 27, 2016, 10:00pm (UTC -6)
"It is worth noting that Picard is less concerned with loyalty than Sisko is, which is not to say that he considers it unimportant, but he generally believes that ethical concerns are more universal than interpersonal commitments."

An interesting parallel to this is Worf, who was on both shows, and whose loyalties in both cases seemed to veer more towards doing the honorable thing rather than strictly what the Federation would prefer. I would liken this to loyalty in the personal sense since his honor is typically directed towards individuals rather than abstract causes. In WYLB, when invited to be ambassador to Kronos, Worf's reaction isn't to cite his oath to Starfleet but rather says that his first loyalty is to Sisko and will only go with Sisko's blessing. This is quite a striking statement since a career move of that sort would typically be seen as not really infringing on one's CO or even being his business to comment on. In that sense I'd say Worf and Sisko have something in common in that they prefer commitment to people over and above commitment to strict rules. In Picard's case his faith in the Federation allows him to typically equate following the rules with adhering to his principles, but Lower Decks gives us a peculiar case where I think doing his duty veered somewhat away from 'nice' Federation principles and took on a military quality, as Greg said. I wonder how someone like Picard fared in the Dominion War, since unlike in peace-time he'd not have the luxury to question to moral implications of his orders on a regular basis as he was wont to do.
Sat, May 28, 2016, 7:22pm (UTC -6)
I must agree with Peter G. that while Picard is usually painted in very heroic and morally unambiguous terms he certainly doesn't come out here snow white. He killed Sito just as if he had pushed her out an airlock and he knows it. I agree that Stewart nailed the scene where he announces Sito's death to the crew. His voice and manner conveys just the right combination of regret, guilt, and resignation.

A lot of TNG comes off as adventure in space and I think it was the writers intent to remind the viewer that if this was really the military in space things would be a lot tougher and it would probably be more like the military is now. Most of the time the viewer is invited to love Picard because he is portrayed as not only an exceptionally great man but also because you know that if you were one of his crew and were in mortal danger he would move heaven and hell to do his best to save your bacon and consequences be damned. The Picard we see here is more militaristic. Totally willing to manipulate his crew in order to accomplish the mission. More willing to see his crew not as living breathing people but as pawns on a chessboard that are at his disposal for use in any way he sees fit. This is not a Picard we are used to seeing and it is a bit uncomfortable.

I am also forced to agree that Sisco was frequently painted with a darker brush. (No double entendre intended) He was a man that tried to do the right thing but as his character progressed he continually found that Star fleet set the bar too high with the prime directive and finally he was forced to take a more pragmatic view of things. He was faced with morally ambiguous choices while at war and had to sometimes abandon his principles or else risk losing the whole ball of wax. This was very reminiscent of Kirk, a man that could dance on the head of a pin with respect to the prime directive. Most of his compromises were both creative and pragmatic.
I did like the journey that Sisko made. From a man not quite sure if his new assignment suited him to a man that was faced with an interstellar war and was forced to compromise his principles for the greater good. In some ways I see him as a sort of Lincolnesque figure. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during his war. But he did it for what he saw as the greater good. Sisko did much the same.

And DS9, while a bit uneven, had one of the best episodes in Trek. Yes, I'm referring to Far Beyond the Stars. That show was pure art. And I'm to the right of Attila the Hun.
Sat, Jun 18, 2016, 4:16am (UTC -6)
I really enjoyed this episode, I wish there had been more like it. I even think it might be cool to have a new trek series that followed a group of junior officers instead of the command officers. It has always bothered me that the main officers go on the away missions and take other similar risks, it would make more sense for others to do so.
Mon, Jul 11, 2016, 11:20am (UTC -6)
I liked this episode. Something that always bugs me though is that Beverly is the boss of RN Alyssa Ogawa. It just seems very antiquated to establish that kind of hierarchy. Why can't Alyssa be a young doctor herself? Ie a resident? Would make more sense to me.
It's not like you go from RN to MD , it's two completely separate tracks (sure some nurses do choose to go on to medschool but, and I say this as a doctor myself, I feel like setting it up with the doctor as the boss of the nurse cheapens the nurse's value somehow.
OK rant over.
Sun, Jul 24, 2016, 9:49pm (UTC -6)
I'd rather they do an episode about the ship's lavatories, who cleans them and fills the soap containers, and the cabin cleaning staff than this dreck.
Fri, Sep 2, 2016, 9:54am (UTC -6)
This show is interesting because it makes TNG somewhat a harsh corporation to "work" in rather then to "boldly go where no one has gone before" exploration party. Yes. Sito had covered up the death of a cadet in First Duty, but this does not explain the hazing she receives from the main characters especially Picard, Riker, and Worf. And then the producers kill her character off in a horrible duty of being teamed up with a Cardassian double agent. The overall aspect of the show seems very petty. The main characters seem to be in real life wanting to protect their acting jobs and not have any fresh actors be promoted in the show. This episode is an interesting mix of science fiction fantasy meets corporate producers at Paramount Studios.
Fri, Sep 2, 2016, 10:12am (UTC -6)
"The main characters seem to be in real life wanting to protect their acting jobs and not have any fresh actors be promoted in the show. "

You do realize the actors knew this was the last season of TNG, right?
Fri, Sep 2, 2016, 10:48am (UTC -6)
Last season, yes. But there were movies to make for TNG. There was suppose to be one more season that was never made. The Producers continued the series in their TNG movies. There is a term called "babyfacing" in the business and "jobbers". Meaning the Sito's character is hazed because she did a bad thing in a previous episode making the main cast look "good". The movies continued the series. I am a TNG fan and wondered what it would be to work on the TNG set as an actor. This segment was my answer.
Fri, Sep 2, 2016, 11:15am (UTC -6)

Well, it's certainly an interesting point of discussion. I would submit, though, that Sito isn't really a great example. The character was scripted to die this episode. It doesn't matter if Frakes and Sirtus were super courteous to Shannon Fill, Sito wasn't coming back.

How about Ensign Selena Gomez? Robin Lefler? That one Black admiral who was in like every episode of season 4 but never seen again after?

One last thing, although another season was in the contract, "All Good Things" was already filmed during the same time as this episode, so I want to repeat that the actors knew TNG was ending as a TV series. If anything, you should be picking on Berman for not wanting to use Fill's character on DS9 where she'd have a logical role.
Peter G.
Fri, Sep 2, 2016, 11:36am (UTC -6)
@ Charles,

"I am a TNG fan and wondered what it would be to work on the TNG set as an actor. This segment was my answer."

Are you an actor? Be honest now. I am one, although I've never worked a major TV gig like TNG. Most actors would love to be on a show like this, and reportedly the morale and friendliness on this set was legendary. So I really have no idea what you're talking about. Your contention is that having a guess actor do just one episode and then not be brought back is some kind of scam by the producers? You really have no idea, man. This is so left field.

Also I think you are for some reason confusing the hazing of a character on the show with the hazing of the actress. The actress got to actually do some difficult work, for which I'm sure she was thankful. The character has nothing to do with the production side of things. And she wasn't even hazed, anyhow, she was being tested to see if she could handle brutal work.
William B
Fri, Sep 2, 2016, 12:10pm (UTC -6)
Margot Rose was *so good* as Eline in "The Inner Light," it's downright criminal that the producers wrote her out by killing her and then revealing that her character actually died (or was a representative of a person who died) millennia ago so they wouldn't have to pay her to be a regular in s6. Bad working environment.

Don't get me started on Harris Yulin in DS9's "Duet."
Fri, Sep 2, 2016, 2:05pm (UTC -6)
Peter G. First I have been in a short film and am credited on the film. Yes. I am an actor. There is no need to make this personal. I would call her being hazed by the crew, not tested, and then her character is killed off violently. She was not allowed to have any redemption. This was done to make the crew look like the good people at her expense and had little to do with science fiction. To team her up with a Cardassian double agent, who treated her terribly, was bad. Also, her make up was to make her look abused. It not clear whether the cast new the last season was cancelled. The series ended a year early and was replace by the TNG movies. Actors I believe want to keep their jobs and roles can make are break a career. These are my opinions.
Peter G.
Fri, Sep 2, 2016, 2:19pm (UTC -6)
@ Charles,

I'm not making this personal, as in, a personal attack, but I was trying to get at your what your knowledge of the industry is, because there isn't a chance in hell an actress is cast in a leading guest role in a popular series and thinks she's being mistreated. What she does is thank her agent for landing the audition as she puts it on her resume. I know many people who've done guest spots on hit shows, and believe me they aren't busy criticizing the minutiae of what their characters had to go through, as if it was personal. The reaction invariably is "Awesome! I'm going to appear in X show!" There is no sense of entitlement there; at least not for young actors and actresses.

You're speaking as if she should have had some kind of shot as a regular on the series, which is...weird. Why would you think that? She never had any such chance, and therefore nothing she was 'owed' was denied her. The contracts with the studio don't work that way; they can't just bring in new permanent talent. The best they can reasonably do is create a recurring character like a Barclay or a Nurse Ogawa, and even then I don't see why you assume Sito was going to become a fixture like they are. I mean, at this rate you can look at any guest actor whatsoever in any episode who dies and say "actors I believe want to keep their jobs." Yeah no kidding, but that's not how guest roles work. Now, sometimes if the role is a smash hit (like a Garak situation) they'll bring it back, but since Sito was written in to die that was never going to happen.

Also are you sure you know what hazing is? Hazing is when a person is put through hell in order to induct them into a society or group, and is used to create bonds and a sense of having earned being there. In Sito's case they were not inducting her into anything, but rather were prepping to ship her out on what was basically a suicide mission. By definition that is not hazing, which is even aside from the point that what they did to her wasn't out of cruelty but out of duty to the mission.
Fri, Sep 2, 2016, 2:55pm (UTC -6)
"It not clear whether the cast new the last season was cancelled."

I'm sorry, Charles, you're wrong on this one.

From Memory Alpha:

"Production of the seventh Star Trek movie, Star Trek Generations (the first one starring the Next Generation cast) began simultaneously with the last season of the series. "

You can
Fri, Sep 2, 2016, 3:02pm (UTC -6)
@ Peter G.
I don't pretend to be an expert on the acting business nor do I speak for other actors or their motivations for acting. 90 % of TNG episodes are great. "Lower Desks" is in that 10 % category in my opinion. I look at acting from a scaffolding view. Smaller roles are made to get into larger roles on TV or Movies. The Sito character was treated horribly by the TNG crew and her career was ended by a suicide mission handcuffed by a Cardassian double agent. Sito never found redemption. Imagine if the writers killed off Riker, Pikard, or Deanna Troi in similar manner to Sito. There would be hell to pay by Trekkies. That would destroy the franchise. Protection of characters is job security if there is such a thing in acting. That is what I would advise actors. I think we are going around in circles.
Fri, Sep 2, 2016, 3:45pm (UTC -6)
Either we are having our legs pulled, or someone is the king of bizarre non sequiturs here...
Tue, Sep 27, 2016, 1:06pm (UTC -6)
This episode has just screened again tonight here in the UK. I must say that I like it more each time I see it. As Jammer said, the inter-cutting of the poker games is inspired. I still have to hide behind the sofa when Lavelle 'makes friends' with Riker in the bar.

What I like the most is that we finally see the 'real' characters of the senior staff. Their faults have been mostly airbrushed in the series- mostly implied rather than shown- but here we see what it really takes to command a starship in a dangerous universe and what it mens to serve under them.

(By the way, has someone been feeding the trolls??)
Wed, Nov 16, 2016, 11:51am (UTC -6)
I don't mean to nitpick a fantastic story - I really have nothing bad to say about Lower Decks, except maybe that it's a shame we didn't get Guinan here, but that's not really anybody's fault. I just have to ask, because it's bothering the hell out of me.

Is it not utterly pointless for Deanna Troi (or any Betazoid, really) to play poker? Her empathic sense would allow her to perceive deception, confidence, uncertainty, etc (especially from someone like Riker, whom she knows intimately). Essentially, it should be impossible to bluff her. And poker is a game of skill entirely because you have to determine whether your opponent actually has a strong hand or just wants you to believe he does. Without that element, it would seem to be a pure game of chance. Except, of course, that it makes the game unfair for one player to know her opponents' intentions while the others do not.

Maybe they should all play Space Monopoly.
Wed, Nov 16, 2016, 12:02pm (UTC -6)

Troi's abilities would certainly give her a leg up in poker, but her abilities are far from perfect. Also, if you're good at bluffing, you're good at controlling your emotions and even giving false tells to the table.

It's kind of like how Data's allowed to play. Having someone who knows the exact probability of each player's hand and potential draws should give Data a huge advantage. But, poker has many different factors, making neither emotion-reading or data calculating a sure thing.
Peter G.
Wed, Nov 16, 2016, 12:42pm (UTC -6)
Chrome is right, but let's face it, TNG never took telepathy/empathy seriously. After watching the show treat as a funny joke that Lwaxana would rummage through everyone's thoughts, it was pretty clear that Troi's abilities were going to be used as plot points on rare occasions but would never become part of any kind of world building. Babylon 5 did take this seriously, and I more or less see its treatment of telepaths as being a commentary on how naive the Trek writing was on that front.

That being said, given that telepaths would no doubt be employed by every major power, it would be massively important to be trained in mental defence to prevent being read. I could see a poker game with Troi as an excellent training ground for someone like Riker to practice shielding his thoughts from an enemy agent.
Fri, Nov 18, 2016, 1:46pm (UTC -6)
Maybe- despite accurately reading the emotions of everyone at the table- Troi was simply really bad at poker?

'Riker is bluffing. Now's my chance! a pair of threes good?'
David D
Wed, Jan 25, 2017, 6:48am (UTC -6)
Interesting how they followed perhaps the worst episode of TNG (the ghastly "Sub Rosa"), with one of the best.
Mon, Feb 6, 2017, 10:32am (UTC -6)
I'm surprised that nobody mentioned that Alexander Enberg who played the Vulcan ensign in this episode, is the son of Jeri Taylor! How nice it must be to have a mommy who can get you a role on TV because of who she is...
Fri, Feb 10, 2017, 11:03am (UTC -6)
Just watched this ep for the first time in years. Agree with all who give it 4 stars. It really would have been nice to see Sito Jaxa continued into DS9 somehow...survived the escape pod crash, rescued by a passing ship, blah, blah. But I can also see how it would have taken away all the punch from this TNG ep. Darn it. She would have added a lot to favorite overall Trek universe show.
Wed, Mar 1, 2017, 7:14am (UTC -6)
I love this one. Love it, love it. And, let my say again, I really enjoy Jammer's reviews and all the comments. Especially Greg's take, which didn't occur to me. It's brilliant and dramatic and deeply cynical and yet undeniable: under the shine of Starfleet and the bright optimism of 'seeking out new life', there's a pervasive dark underbelly, as in all militaries, that everyone draws a polite doily over.

A few other thoughts:

-- I liked Ben and preferred him to Guinan here, as he fits in well with the younger set. It's illuminating to see an example of the civilian infrastructure on the starship. Ben's everyone's friend and doesn't take orders or call anyone 'sir'. Yet he's agreed to a dangerous gig: he rides along and he'll die with the rest if the ship blows up. It's interesting. It did leave me wondering how many civilians serve on board. Don't forget, they've got the best barber in Starfleet!

-- To JadziaDaxMD: My understanding is that Beverly is Ogawa's boss not because a doctor should be a nurse's boss, but because Beverly is the head of the medical department, the same way a pathologist is head of a clinical lab. In a bigger medical department I suppose Ogawa would have reported to a director of nursing - but on the ship, with only one doctor and a thousand or so healthy people to care for and brilliant machines that do most of the work, I would guess the whole medical department aside from Crusher consists of fifteen or so medical support staff like Ogawa. So Crusher is the de facto boss of them all.

It certainly would have been nice if Ogawa were shown to have her own expertise, which would explain why she got the plum job on the Enterprise. (Like, she's done research in trauma care or specialized in diseases of non-human humanoids). That would also establish her cred as equal-but-different, which I agree is the right relationship between nurses and doctors.
Fri, Apr 7, 2017, 4:54am (UTC -6)
I thought this episode made for great space drama and a fantastic hour of TV, but I would hate to see this happen in real life. Very mean spirited and petty, as some have pointed out before me. Greg's analysis of how Picard manipulated Sito into her suicide mission was spot on. There have been a few examples of how a senior officer uses reverse psychology to chew out a much younger officer in Starfleet in order to achieve their own ends, and I can't condone any of them, least of all this one. It's genuinely disturbing to watch how Picard attack an emotionally vulnerable and easily malleable kid in order to force through his own agenda, and the producers may or may not have been trying to make a statement when this plan of Picard's culminated in the youngster's death.

Most of the senior staff in this episode came off as jerks with large egos. Riker's 'One aye is enough,' had me rolling my eyes, and was only offset by Troi's dressing him down at the poker table and reminding him that he, too, behaved like Lavelle when he was Lavelle's age. Geordi was probably a bit more likeable than Riker but still not a manager I'd want to work for. In fact, Worf came across as the only senior officer who was emotionally capable of command. The others were either too insecure or egotistic, and had no idea how to manage people.
Fri, Apr 7, 2017, 4:55am (UTC -6)
*watch Picard attack, sorry for the typo.
Thu, Apr 13, 2017, 8:42am (UTC -6)
I looked up Shannon Fill's career and sadly it seems that she stayed forever on the lower decks. She stopped acting in 1995.

This also true of all the other young ensigns, except Dan Gauthier (Lavelle).

Alexander Enberg (Taurik) was producer Jeri Taylor's son. Bruce Beatty (Ben) seems to have found some work in the 2010s after a hiatus during the 2000s.

Great episode btw.
Wed, May 10, 2017, 12:56pm (UTC -6)
Just hit this one on my latest re-watch.. I remembered it fondly but found myself utterly engrossed in it once again. I think the episode's success comes in making the viewer care about the junior characters enough so that the emotional gut-punch carries enough weight at the end of the episode. The number of Trek episodes across all series which have this power are few and far between, and "Lower Decks" ranks with the best of them.

Like others, just want to thank Greg for his fantastic insight also. That angle probably would not have occurred to me, at least not explicitly, but Greg is absolutely spot on.

Lastly, Shannon Fill. Fantastic performance, for me one of the best guest spots in the entirety of TNG.
Tue, May 30, 2017, 11:24am (UTC -6)
Mister Experiential here again....

I see that the elders of this council have spoken again! I too am regularly moved to tears by this episode, as my own life, even as a post-college adult, is filled with redemption stories!

I loved the Sito subplot. Two distinct points make this grown man cry every frackin' time I view this ep.

One: Worf and the sparring session. When Worf "concedes" that the test is unfair and lectures Sito that she should act on that, I get choked up. I always enjoyed the character of Worf during the first run of this show (while I was in grad school...). My best friend was just like him in character. That probably added to it. Seeing Worf's soft side peek through the chain mail once in a while was always refreshing, and occasionally very moving -- like this example here, and like his chat with Guinan about his parents in Ten Forward (in "Family"--another tear jerker for me).

Two: Picard's initially reaming Sito a new one, followed by his response to her 'standing up' to him ("May I speak freely?" "Please do") When Picard recoils with his revelation that he indeed requested Sito be assigned to him because he thought she deserved a fair chance to rebuild her career. Boom. Tears.

Old Codger here, but damn proud of it.

On a somewhat lighter but more annoyed note, I'm in the crowd that was originally taken aback by Beverly's school-girlish approach with Ogawa. But I also remember years of criticism that so many of ST:NG's characters were puppet-like and flat. Give a character some depth, and then get slammed for it? May be depth you don't like, but then hey, that's real, flawed people for you. I saw good and bad qualities (if these were real people in a real work relationship--and they aren't...) in their girly-girl behavior, but again, giving the characters leeway to be who they are, it flew....
Tue, Aug 29, 2017, 9:22pm (UTC -6)
A recent rewatch had me wondering exactly how the mission went bad. Picard says:
"We have intercepted a Cardassian report stating that a Bajoran prisoner escaped her captor and was killed in an evacuation pod as she tried to leave Cardassian space." Did the Cardassian spy actually make it back and use Sito as cannon fodder? I had just assumed the shuttle was destroyed because the patrol ships saw right through the ruse.
Sun, Oct 15, 2017, 4:25pm (UTC -6)

I can see Greg's points on how Sito was manipulated. That being said- its shown in Thine Own Self that you have to be willing to sacrifice someone if that's what it takes to protect your crew, ship, and Starfleet. Troi has to do that in her test- and her sacrifice is Geordi. I think Picard hated the fact that he had to put Sito in that position- he hesitates when he sees her outside of Sickbay and his face is very much unhappy as he asks her if shes a pilot. Being put into a position like she was- pretending to be captured, possibly getting tortured and still having it understood that she needed to protect Dal's identity as a turncoat- is extremely stressful. The only reason she knew she was up for a promotion in the first place is Ben manages to overhear Riker and Troi talking and told her- which is not Picard's fault. He does ask her if she knows about it and goes from there. We didnt see Starfleet talking to Picard about this situation, but we can almost certainly guess they did. If the only way to safely get Dal home was to send a Bajoran with him, I have no doubt thats what Picard was ordered to do. Worf wasnt happy with it, Picard wasnt happy with it- not even Dal was happy with it. Would Sito have volunteered for it even if Picard hadn't berated her? Honestly probably. She wanted redemption for something SHE did in the past- regardless of if Picard had brought it up or not. Having Picard- pretty much a living legend- ask her to do something is likely something of a fantasy for someone 7 months out of the academy and on the flagship of Starfleet.

As for the escape pod being destroyed, thats tragic but it also made sense to me. Dal needed a reason to show up with her one moment and then not have her there the next. They said picking up the pod would be harder for the patrols but not impossible.

As for Ogawa- shes shown doing amazing things in Sickbay for literally years. If Sito was up for a promotion after 7 months of being on the ship, why shouldnt Ogawa be?

Lastly, I can see the difference between being in command and being a junior officer. Even so, Riker's tone of voice in Ten Forward when hes speaking to Lavelle wasnt harsh. He didnt tell him to go away or to stop talking. He just corrected a misconception and Lavelle pretty much ran for it (no judgement here- I wanted to die of embarrassment just watching it). All Geordi says is that hes essentially busy. He doesnt raise his voice, he comments that he will talk to Taurik later, and him saying that Taurik might not be ready to test out his theories is solid- hed just heard about the theories after all. He needs to actual study them himself before he can let Taurik (whos come up with brand new information based on papers hes read in the Academy that Geordi did not read) do what he wants.

In all, I didnt see hazing at all. I saw the crew dealing with their different roles and from different perspectives. Saying that Picard doesnt value his crew because he loses one (and you KNOW he knows he lost her- he broke the treaty with the Cardassians just to find out where she is) is harsh imo. He has to do what he has to do- it doesnt mean he likes it.
Fri, Oct 20, 2017, 2:00am (UTC -6)
Picard is kind of a dick here, practically forcing Sito to volunteer on a suicide mission. I put her death on his head. She didn't deserve to be put in that situation. Hell, I don't think Ensign Ro would have survived.
Sat, Nov 25, 2017, 12:36am (UTC -6)
I don’t get the appeal of this episode. I tune in to watch the tng cast not essentially a whole new cast of characters like are featured in this episode. TNG isn’t the only show I’ve seen do that and I never liked it when it was done. I’m also not a Trek fan who clamors for stories featuring lower ranked crewmen—I wasn’t crazy about VOY’s “Good Shepard” for similar reasons
Tue, Dec 19, 2017, 3:55pm (UTC -6)
Loved the refreshing perspective of life aboard the Enterprise here through the eyes of 4 different junior officers (and their senior officers). It is a strong episode for sure and one that I wish was more of a minor story arc starting with "The First Duty".

The 4 juniors weren't wooden actors - Sito was fine, Sam looked like a young Tom Cruise and had his awkward scene with Riker, the Vulcan did about as well as a Vulcan could (even with some subtle facial expressions when Geordi asked him to help after the poker game) and Alyssa was very buddy-buddy with Crusher. All having somewhat slightly different relationships with their commanding officers.

It's good to see the HR function and promotions aspect of work on the Enterprise -- so many seasons, so many episodes that more time should have been spent on this story arc.

What's also good is it touches on the Bajor/Cardassia theme and it was tough to hear of Sito's demise -- that brings an added weight to the episode and the 4 juniors grieving and Worf reluctantly joining in.

A couple of gripes would be -- why no Guinan? The young black guy did the job well but Guinan has always been that person who brought a nugget of wisdom to senior officers and could be the same go-between between the seniors and the juniors. Also thought it was odd that Riker/Troi would discuss duty rosters and promotions in the bar not far from the people they're evaluating...

Sito really gets tested -- probably because of her past transgression. Certainly Picard tests her, Worf tests her and she's only too willing to go on the dangerous mission to prove herself. In a sense you gotta feel bad for her as that one mistake plays into her demise -- although she should have been kicked out of Star Fleet for me after "The First Duty".

A strong 3.5 stars for "Lower Decks" -- well-acted all around, compelling and well-written (liked the overlapping poker games and how we sort of understand the different challenges faced by the seniors and the juniors).
The Ubiquitous
Sun, Dec 31, 2017, 1:07am (UTC -6)
I don't see Picard as being manipulative except from the perspective of the Lower Decks. We know Picard to be straightforward and honest with his crew, and so we know to accept his stated reasons at face value. However, it does happen to be manipulative even outside his intent---and therefore he reacts with resignation and regret more than for any other death announcement. Picard is a basically virtuous man who is incapable of intending such an act, even if he does it.

As far as the comment about it being the enlightened 24th century and the careerism of junior officers not being true to Gene's utopian vision? Well, Gene's utopian vision stinks. That cookie-cutter approach to the ideal virtues of the far future blanded all but two or three characters in the main TNG cast into indistinguishable lumps of easy-going quippers. Picard and Data are the only
sure exceptions, largely because of the command of their actors' performances.
(Worf is the "or three" because the character is an idiot who gets shot down for three straight seasons, even if he is later redeemed a bit.)

There is no utopian cure for the malice of the human heart, and not its envies, not its selfishness. Even if poverty were eliminated---it won't be---there would still be petty evils, just as there are grander evils. I don't think Picard is guilty of such an evil in his intent, but in a believable universe there must be such people, and not just among the Tal Shiar or Obsidian Order.
Dr. Lazarus
Fri, Apr 6, 2018, 6:47pm (UTC -6)
Just watched this episode. Wesley and Sito got busted for covering up how their teammate got killed in an accident in Space. Wesley was going to be expelled from the Academy, but was allowed to stay, although all his credits were cancelled for the year. Did Sito get to stay too? Someone pulled some strings for Wesley, but I doubt the same strings were pulled for Sito. I don't believe for one second that Picard would let this Ensign serve together with Wesley on the Enterprise. If he was going to hook her up with a second chance, he would had gotten another Captain he trusted to take her on. I think Wesley is still at the Academy, so he is still an acting Ensign, while Sito "is" an Ensign. So it sounds like she didn't lose any credits and graduated on schedule. That's got to burn when Wesley comes back for a visit. He squealed on his team to please Picard, and lost all of his years credits as an result. A vindictive Picard waiting to rub it in Wesley's face????
William B
Fri, Apr 6, 2018, 7:16pm (UTC -6)
IIRC, in The First Duty it was explicitly stated that all the Nova Squadron cadets would have this year erased but would stay on at the academy, except for Locarno who was expelled. Also, Sito was a year ahead of Wesley -- so her being out of the academy while Wesley isn't doesn't indicate she wasn't punished. OTOH, I think the timing is still off; Sito was a third year cadet in late s5, so, repeating a year means she should have graduated in late s7.
William B
Fri, Apr 6, 2018, 7:17pm (UTC -6)
I could imagine Sito taking extra courses per semester to graduate a semester early though, to try to make up for lost time (and escape from an unpleasant academy environment).
Tue, Apr 10, 2018, 6:56pm (UTC -6)
This is my favorite episode of season 7. I love AGT too but that was also a non-sensical technobabble story. This hour holds together tightly. Just a lot of sweet character moments for the senior crew, the junior crew, and their interactions. The end is so bittersweet and touching.
Wed, Apr 11, 2018, 2:46pm (UTC -6)
Rewatching this episode, Picard seems very sinister and manipulative.

He needs a Bajoran officer for what might be a suicide mission. He finds a young, vulnerable Bajoran whose self-esteem is damaged, who is alienated, isolated, and who hungers to prove herself to Starfleet. He invites her to his room and berates her and then invites her again and praises her, an emotional roller coaster, and form of covert blackmailing, that is straight out of cult indoctrination leaflets.

Desperate to win daddy's love, the Bajoran officer gleefully accepts the mission. Finally she will be accepted! She dies. Picard gives her a eulogy.
Peter G.
Wed, Apr 11, 2018, 2:59pm (UTC -6)
@ Trent,

Giving Picard full benefit of doubt, consider why he might have put Sito through that. They needed someone fitting her profile for the mission, who was a good pilot. It was established from The First Duty that she's an outstanding pilot so that isn't out of the blue.

But also necessary for the mission, and not entirely clear to Picard, is that she can take a physical and emotional beating and still keep her head on straight. The fact that she was potentially vulnerable is exactly why he needed to put her through that. If she was going to break down and lose her will to succeed then he'd know she wasn't the right person. It was all about the mission in that sense, and that was Picard's duty as Captain. It had nothing to do with grooming vulnerable people to take on dangerous missions, because we've seen Picard send people to their deaths before. Any Starfleet officer knows they might die, or even go on suicidal missions for the greater good. But Picard didn't just need an officer, but someone who was tough enough for the assignment, and she proved she was. The fact that it was an unpleasant test and her "prize" was death does not reflect poorly on Picard, because there is nothing untoward about fully assessing the qualifications of personnel for dangerous missions.
Wed, Apr 11, 2018, 7:17pm (UTC -6)
I don't see how Picard is "fully assessing her qualifications". He is exploiting Sito's particular vulnerability in service of manipulating her into feeling like she has to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to prove she has value as a Starfleet officer.

Picard repeatedly says "I wanted to make sure you got a fair chance to redeem yourself", and all his conversations with her are framed around redemption. So Sito goes into the mission conditioned to see it as a rites of passage. Picard even goes so far as to say that Sito would not have been given a fair shot at redemption on another Federation ship; this is why he saved her, and why she should defacto be grateful toward him.

An experienced person like Picard should immediately notice that this is an extremely guilt-ridden young woman predisposed to jump at anything in order to earn a promotion, earn her place and redeem her past. Knowing this, Picard's tactic should not have been to assess her by destroying her self-worth, but by assuring her that she has nothing to prove, that ideas of redemption are bogus, and that there are certain things that no Starfleet accolade or duty supersedes. Then, Sito's choice would have more weight. Insofar as hard free will can be said to exist, it would have approached something like a free choice.

But watching this episode again - and I've seen it about six times - it occurred to me that the whole thing was perhaps written to be deliberately dark and cynical. The episode matter-of-factly has Picard illegally breaking Cardassian treaties by sending probes across their lines, and matter-of-factly shows the Federation infiltrating and spying on other Empires. On another franchise, the episode would work really well as a comment on class and exploitative military hierarchies.

Peter G said: "It was all about the mission in that sense, and that was Picard's duty as Captain. It had nothing to do with grooming vulnerable people"

What is Picard assessing? What does his test achieve or prove? Sito is emotionally destroyed and made to feel worthless, is then told that "some things are not fair" and is then told that she is being benevolently "given a chance at redemption". Does this test make sense? Is it the best way to "test someone"? Does it show that Sito is "therefore capable of enduring the stresses and pressures of a secret mission"? I don't think so, but the point is that this is irrelevant. The test coaxes or pushes Sito into accepting a covert mission (of the kind she never entered Starfleet to pursue). It shows a lack of respect for Sito's dignity and autonomy. It's funny how Picard tries this same schtick on Ro Laren and she basically tells him to take a hike.
Wed, Apr 11, 2018, 9:05pm (UTC -6)

How do you know Sito is “accepting a covert mission (of the kind she never entered Starfleet to pursue).” It could be regular Starfleet business for officers from time to time having to go on such covert missions. We saw an example of this is in the “Chain of Command” two-parter. Sito should feel lucky that Picard allowed her to have the chance to redeem herself on the Enterprise - a most prestigious post on the flagship of the Federation. And you make Picard sound nefarious when he would have no way to predict that after allowing her to serve on his ship, that events would transpire that her talents and the fact she’s Bajoran were ably suited for the sensitive mission at hand. No one ever said Starfleet was safe.
Peter G.
Wed, Apr 11, 2018, 9:54pm (UTC -6)
@ Trent,

I agree with what SpaceCadet said. Your basic premise here seems to be that sending Sito on a suicide mission is an abuse of some sort. You don't quite say that but I sort of detect it in the mix. If we interpret the mission as merely 'throwing her life away' then I would see the argument behind saying that luring her into that is manipulative. But I think that premise is problematic, because the fact of the matter is that dying to protect Starfleet *is* a noble end, and it's no worse or less dignified than someone who lives to a ripe old age working in exobiology, Starfleet does need this kind of service, as brief as it might be for the people who don't come back. It's just as important as anything else and isn't a throw-away. Sito wanted to serve Starfleet and she got to do exactly that. No more, and no less. You seem to believe that no one who joins Starfleet believes they'll be sent to their deaths soon after joining; on an individual level I can see how we might be tempted to think that. However I think this view comes with the cynical view we may have towards the practice of luring in young people today to the military to serve masters that send them to die for dubious (or nefarious) reasons. Plenty of Vietnam material is all about that, how people with no skin in the game who live in safety send others in to die, often for their personal gain. But Starfleet isn't like that, or it isn't supposed to be.

So maybe the issue here is more with whether we should really buy into the premise that Starfleet is a noble institution, in an age when humans don't abuse each other as a rule, and where joining Starfleet is generally an act of full cognizance and willingness to follow orders and die if need be. In today's world we would likely obscure that fact from the screening process, but in TNG's world it's probably the opposite, especially as we saw (for better or worse) in Coming of Age, where you basically have to beg to join and know the risks all too well. So while I can understand cynicism about a chain of command, if we take TNG's premise at face value then I cannot see anything dubious about giving Sito a chance to redeem herself. Picard sending her on a mission from which she might not return is exactly what it's made out to be: her redeeming her past wrongdoing by serving Starfleet. It's not a punishment or a trick; it's an honor that she was chosen to go. Rejecting that means more or less rejecting the value of service in Starfleet in the first place. Just imagine a world so good, a people so united, a service so noble, that you literally would want to go die for it to serve your people, knowing it was actually for the good of all. I can see many people, especially a Bajoran who grew up in refugee camps, wanting to sign up for that and to submit themselves for whatever is needed of them. So yes, I think that allowing Sito to serve on the Enterprise, and then to represent the Federations interests as an agent on this mission, was very good of Picard to bestow on her.

The temptation here, I think, is to see Starfleet in a negative light when it wants to conduct covert missions against the Cardassians. I suppose we could debate the ethics of conducting 'illegal' like using spies and so forth. But this episode isn't really about that, and unlike DS9 where different kinds of questions are raised, in TNG I think we have to take it at face value that Starfleet is a good organization that doesn't abuse people just because they need bodies. Likewise, if a person is sent on a suicide mission I think we have to take it as a given that (a) this mission was necessary, and (b) that the highest respect and consideration is given to crew members who go on dangerous missions like this. It seems to me quite a leap to suppose that this isn't what Sito signed up for. What did she sign up for, cushy guard duty?

Now, to answer your direct question about why they had to test her like that, consider for a moment what the mission was going to be: she was going to be treated like a Bajoran whore by a Cardassian. This would potentially involve interactions with other Cardassians which could include humiliation, being treated like garbage, having her species insulted, being physically beaten or raped, and so forth. She needed to be able to take abuse and stay on her feet. For Picard to tell her initially that she had no business being on the Enterprise and was a disgrace was to see how she'd deal with humiliation and disrespect, and whether her sense of duty and need to serve outweighed her difficulty with self-esteem or feeling incapable. She needed to have that drive deep within her, because the way Cardassians might treat her she's be possibly stripped down to nothing but her sense of duty. If that was going to be strong enough to withstand that it had to be strong enough to withstand some berating from a superior officer. You're framing the issue of what Picard should have done in terms of what would give Sito's choice the most weight; but you're jumping the gun on that. It wasn't her choice at all until she had already proved herself. If she crumbled under the abuse they never would have sent her. As it was, when she proved herself, they could have just ordered her to go but Picard was nice enough to offer her the choice. Granted, it was a lopsided one, in the realm of "go or you will look like a coward who can't redeem herself". But to be honest that would have been the truth. To me it seems like his offer for her to volunteer was less about the fact that it was a volunteer-only mission, and more about the fact that her strong sense of duty *ought to make her want to go.* If she refused the assignment then it was very likely that she quite honestly didn't belong in Starfleet in the first place. So it was a very real redemption. For Picard to tell her that there's no such thing as redemption, and she could do it or not without consequence - that would be a lie. Someone who doesn't want to go into harm shouldn't be there, as they're just condemning someone else to go anyhow. If he was absolutely certain about her I think Picard might have just ordered her to go. But as it was she needed to want to serve badly enough that she'd put her life on the line for it, just like she agreed to put Josh's life on the line at the Academy to make her squad look good.
Thu, Sep 13, 2018, 1:37am (UTC -6)
I enjoyed this one. Years since I've seen it, and I wasnt expecting Sito's end at all, had completely forgotten that was coming.. I also liked the parallels between the Junior crew and the officers. One thing that did jump out at me quite quickly, Lavelle appeared to be a 'Tom Cruise in top gun' lite, rather than a 'Riker when he was younger' character. Maybe it was his mannerisms or the way he played it.
Wed, Oct 31, 2018, 6:20am (UTC -6)
Just curious - if they specifically need Bajoran on that mission, didn't they have Ro ? Who btw meantime was Lieutenant already, and so more logical choice for critically important and dangerous away mission than random young ensign.
William B
Wed, Oct 31, 2018, 7:00am (UTC -6)
I think Ro was already at the tactical training program where she became a lieutenant, and didn't get back to the Enterprise until Preemptive Strike.
Wed, Oct 31, 2018, 7:17am (UTC -6)
Well yeah that and Michelle Forbes wasn’t about to come back unless she got to be the star.
Tue, Dec 4, 2018, 11:09pm (UTC -6)
I could have sworn this episode ended slightly differently... unless there is another episode left that has almost the exact same plot concept? (If this is actually one of the remaining episodes, this would be spoilers for that episode.)

The way I thought this ended was similar, except the mission was different. She was supposed to be placed inside a probe that would be left near an enemy vessel. I can't remember what the point of her being there was, to eavesdrop in some way or something, but the danger was that the enemy vessel might decide to destroy the probe without knowing what it was. Then you see the enemy ship leaving, and it does decide to destroy the probe as it leaves, and you see the energy weapon vaporize it with her inside it.

Other than that is was the exact same thing, with a group of ensigns competing for a secret mission that they almost seem to be tricked into undertaking, leading to their death.

I do agree with Trent somewhat, where she seems to have been manipulated into a suicide mission, and I felt even more that way the first time I saw it with the ending I described above. (But maybe that is a different episode?)
Tue, Dec 4, 2018, 11:13pm (UTC -6)
(Regarding the above, the more I think about it, the more I think the scene of the ship destroying the escape pod/probe must have been cut/censored. But I'm not sure.)
Thu, May 16, 2019, 8:38am (UTC -6)

Unprofessional Troi and Riker discussing crew evaluations in the bar....

Interesting after the drill, when the two ensigns are talking, the female is self deprecating and complimenting the male. The male doesn't critique his own performance just blames Riker for having it in for him. Such beautiful stereotypes: women putting themselves down and males blaming others for their mistakes.

I'm actually enjoying these nitwit ensigns. it would have been good to have an ensign other than Wes as part of the main crew...maybe someone making mistakes as one does....

Actually I like a "day in the life of" type episodes and it is refreshing to have others besides the main crew in an episode. They should have done this earlier and then followed up...

Crusher telling a staff person that they are a friend.....someone she really cares about. I hope none of her other staff hear that...was it really necessary to say that in the middle of sick bay?

I can't believe they are using the Bajoran ensign for the mission...they have surgery in other cases...shouldn't Worf or Riker be altered and sent across? Or perhaps a fake corpse...the Cardassian could still say they had a prisoner but they died...I guess they corpse would have been tossed...shouldn't they have dummies or simple robots for this purpose by now?

Sam makes Sito's death about him by lamenting that probably Sito was going to get the promotion.....and therefore he can't feel good about it.
Cesar Gonzalez
Tue, Jul 23, 2019, 12:28am (UTC -6)
Am I the only one who is wondering what the heck.happened?
Why did Sito "escape"? She had a plan.
Safe to say something went wrong, but what?
Tue, Aug 27, 2019, 12:11pm (UTC -6)
I thought the manipulation of Sito by the Command on the Enterprise was appalling.

Having believed she's up for promotion, Picard suddenly calls her in and demolishes her for past misdemeanours one would presume overlooked or punishment inflicted.

Wesley was guilty of these same misdemeanours, but he's still the Captain's favourite ensign. He just got a private dressing down, because Nepotism is apparently alive and very much Kicking in the Twenty-Fourth Century. Rather disappointing. Sito of course, hasn't family in senior ranks.

Worf then goes on to fling the poor blindfolded girl, less than half his size, around an exercise room on the flimsiest of pretexts.

Apparently everyone wants her to speak up for herself, so they have selected this abusive procedure to do so. Yes it's a supposedly military vessel but she's well past basic training.

Having virtually broken her spirit, she is given a chance for redemption- a virtual suicide mission.

When she (not surprisingly) doesn't come back, she gets a Eulogy from Capt. Picard. Such a comfort for her, and presumably her family as they try to enlist lawyers to investigate the circumstances of her demise.
Peter G.
Tue, Aug 27, 2019, 12:20pm (UTC -6)
@ Richard,

You seem to be under the impression that Sito was abused, used, and then thrown out. The ending for her, of dying on a mission, seems to strike you as her getting screwed by the system. But maybe you might at least consider that dying on the missoin wasn't a 'bad ending' for someone who badly wanted to serve Starfleet. Of course no one wants to die, but if the best way of serving is to die for a cause, or to die in place of another, then you might see this as Sito being given the chance to serve in the ultimate way. That's not just mere redemption for her mistake at the academy, but serving just as much (or even more) as Picard or Riker. It sounds funny to argue this, but might it not be possible to view the ending of this one as "lucky Sito"? She served in a way that no future mistake could ever undo: she died for the Federation. That constitutes total, unadulterated success, her life's goal achieved.
Tue, Aug 27, 2019, 12:33pm (UTC -6)
Hi Peter,

Gosh I never expected such a rapid response!

Of course, you can see such a mission as the ultimate heroism- but not everybody feels the same way at all and they may have quite different career aspirations. The way this was gone about was not an upfront request for volunteers, giving the option to refuse. Her arm was twisted, quite literally.

She certainly wanted to serve Star Fleet, but she was given the impression this was the only way. That's not really fair play.

Similarly her family; if I were her family getting her full report the past week before she heads off, I'd quite possibly want an Industrial Tribunal to take a close look at the circumstances - assuming such institutions still exist and Nepotism hasn't just run amok!
Jason R.
Tue, Aug 27, 2019, 12:34pm (UTC -6)
"Wesley was guilty of these same misdemeanours, but he's still the Captain's favourite ensign. He just got a private dressing down, because Nepotism is apparently alive and very much Kicking in the Twenty-Fourth Century. Rather disappointing. Sito of course, hasn't family in senior ranks. "

Nepotism? Like Sito Wesley was held back a year and was treated like a pariah on campus. Picard never went to bat for him and we never see him serve officially on the Enterprise again. He does visit in Journey's End where he interacts with friends in the crew - is Picard supposed to forbid him from being on the ship to see his friends and mother??

Indeed your comment is doubly wrong because unlike Wesley, Picard reveals that he did go to bat for Sito, getting her assigned to the Enterprise, which we know to be a plum assignment from previous episodes.

Nepotism? Actually the opposite.
Tue, Aug 27, 2019, 12:49pm (UTC -6)
I'm not sure where this "twisting her arm" comes from. Here's the dialog before Sito takes on the mission:

PICARD: Ensign, this is obviously a very dangerous mission. I'm not ordering you to take part in it.
SITO: Then I volunteer, sir.
WORF: Be certain you understand the risk you are taking. If you are captured-
SITO: I'm Bajoran. No one knows better than I do what Cardassians do to their prisoners. I've made my decision.

Picard gives not one, but *two* opportunities out of the mission to Sito. I mean I can see some plausibility with the idea that they maneuvered her into this mission, but they clearly wanted to make sure she went on her own volition.
Peter G.
Tue, Aug 27, 2019, 3:25pm (UTC -6)
You know, something just occurred to me about them 'twisting Sito's arm.' Their whole treatment of her beforehand was to try to make her stand up to them, and this was laid home squarely in Worf's lesson to her. No matter how senior they are, and no matter how guilty she feels about her past and the need to atone, none of that should make her accept something they say or do if she's not ok with it. And this lesson, while brutal, seemed to be entirely for one purpose that I now see clearly:

Picard knew in advance she would be perfect for this dangerous mission, and also knew she has a score to settle in proving she was dedicated to redeeming herself. Therefore it would be highly likely that she's totally go along with this mission without taking seriously how dangerous it is for her. The stakes for her in doing anything at all to please them would override the process she really should go through to make her decision. What they did in this episode was whip her a little bit to push her into standing up to them, so that she would know *she's allowed to do that*. Not only allowed, but she really should. Once she learned that Picard could then offer her the mission, knowing that she had received the lesson that she really could refuse. Because otherwise him saying "it's optional of course" would have been interpreted as "no way man, I know what that means, it means this is my last chance to prove myself." They went super out of their way to show her that this *was not* the case and that she absolutely really could refuse. Without putting her through the ringer like that there's no way she'd believe she could really refuse. But after standing up to Picard point-blank she was ready to have the courage to tell him no if she didn't want the mission.

I never realized how awesome it was of Picard to go through all that for her.
Jamie Mann
Tue, Oct 29, 2019, 6:23pm (UTC -6)
There's some interesting elements in this episode, not least the fact that we get to see a different side of being on the enterprise. And there's some nice scenes - Worf's sparring session in particular stands out, as does the way that the various characters react to Picard's final announcement.

On the other hand, the ensigns are all a bit too wet behind the ears and a lot of the interactions with them are stilted throughout the entire episode. Equally, Ben's stint as a barman feels highly odd; a character who seamlessly fits in with everyone from the bridge crew down really shouldn't have just been a one-episode stand-in for Guinan.

Perhaps the most difficult element of this episode is the fact that it really does seem like Sito is manipulated into taking on this mission by Picard - and possibly even Worf during the aforementioned sparring scene.

To be fair, this does somewhat dovetail with the dilemma Troi faces in a later episode when she realises that Bridge command may involve ordering people to carry out an action which will kill them.

But TNG was the last true "Trek" series produced by Gene Roddenburry, and carried the flag of a brighter, better and more ethical future for Humanity. And Picard is meant to represent the finest of humanity - a man who sticks to his moral principles regardless of the situation.

As such, the idea that Picard would manipulate someone in this way - or consider sending a child on such a high-risk mission - feels like it goes completely against what we've learned about Picard over the last seven series.

It's not even like they offer much justification for this action, other than some muttered guff about how the Cardassian needs to return back across the border. And they don't even seem to consider any other options, despite the fact that various characters have previously successfully impersonated other species at very short notice with the assistance of Medical bay.

There's something to be said for introducing a darker edge to TNG, but at the same time, this would have fitted in much better as a DS9 or even a Voyager episode, where the stakes are higher and there's far more shades of moral ambiguity.
Wed, Jun 10, 2020, 4:47am (UTC -6)
Did no one else think, surely Ro Lauren would be the better choice for the mission (not story)?.

I saw through Picards shake down instantly, just before going into the ready room he asks if shes a pilot, thats not simply small talk but was a probe for details for something bigger.

I really liked this episode and there isn't much i would change except maybe add a brief sceane of Riker shaking Lavelles hand as he gives him his pip.
Sun, Jun 28, 2020, 11:51am (UTC -6)
This is also a perfect example of how prejudice, sexism and racism can decide job positions as well as personal biases. Riker had already decided Lavelle wasnt qualified and Sito was and you can't that it wasnt based solely on looks.
Sun, Jun 28, 2020, 11:54am (UTC -6)
No grumpy_otter that was your bias because for some reason you hate her. There was nothing wrong with that at all.
Sun, Jun 28, 2020, 12:04pm (UTC -6)
You're off in your own world @Richard. It wasnt nearly that bad. I mean Picard dressed down Riker in the pilot and gave him the same "abuse." He also regularly sends crew members on dangerous missions. I know you feel the need to defend the young blonde girl but she is a member of Starfleet just like everyone else on that show.
Mr Peepers
Sat, Jul 4, 2020, 4:26pm (UTC -6)
Sorry, Guinan is no Ben. She doesn't hangout or play poker with junior or senior officers. In fact other than Beverly, Deanna, and and maybe Worf, she doesn't interact with no one else other than Picard. Never cared for Whoopie, and hated the fact she was even on this show.

I also despised Picard for manipulated this young woman into this mission. And if Star Fleet isn't a military organization. then what is it? Is it like the Merchant Marines? And if it isn't military, why are members putting their lives at risk on missions? Also, if the current society is not based on the accumulation of things, but to better ones self and not get paid, why would anyone want to join Star Fleet, and fight like the devil to keep from getting kicked out?

Sito, almost got kicked out of the Academy after covering up a classmates death. She was almost in tears as she told Picard how she no longer had no friends, and almost quit. What would actually happen to her if she did? It seems like you would live an easy life if you weren't in Star Fleet.

I did like seeing how you got to see junior officers, and how they progressed through the ranks. These four Ensigns didn't have a very glamorous life on the ship since they were the bottom rung. They even had to share a room with someone. Makes you think why Wesley wanted to be an acting Ensign so bad, and thought it was the best thing ever. Having been in the military, the first three officer ranks were based on time in grade. That means you automatically got promoted to the next rank. There were special boards where you competed to get accelerated directly to the 3rd rank, but these four weren't doing that.

It was eye opening that within an organization, there were secrets that were kept from even junior officers. Maybe I could see the enlisted folk being kept in the dark, but not officers. The more they pretend this isn't a military organization, the more it looks like one. Uniforms, rank insignia, a hierarchy, and military bearing. I laughed when Riker dressed down Lavelle that a single Aye was sufficient when acknowledging an order.

Having been in the military, there is no way I would join Star Fleet. Not a career I would want to be part of. Until I saw this episode, I used to think being on a Star Ship to be kinda cool. But that's because you only saw life through the eyes of the Senior Staff, who were given great leeway in their jobs. Hooking up with aliens for a few days, and problem solving. What's not to like? The junior officers don't seem to do anything but training and routine work. They aren't seen to have anything to do with missions even though they are sitting on the Bridge. All you ever see is them navigating the ship to the next great adventure, then ignored. Again, I never really thought about them until this episode.

I like the political maneuvering episodes with Worf, and even this episode over the ones when some demon alien gets inside an officers body, or the ship caught in some snare.
Peter G.
Mon, Jul 6, 2020, 9:56am (UTC -6)
@ Mr Peepers,

"And if it isn't military, why are members putting their lives at risk on missions? Also, if the current society is not based on the accumulation of things, but to better ones self and not get paid, why would anyone want to join Star Fleet, and fight like the devil to keep from getting kicked out?

Sito, almost got kicked out of the Academy after covering up a classmates death. She was almost in tears as she told Picard how she no longer had no friends, and almost quit. What would actually happen to her if she did? It seems like you would live an easy life if you weren't in Star Fleet."

I think you need to give a lot of thought to these questions, more than I suspect you did when you wrote the post. If you're a Trek fan, try to answer for yourself why someone would want to make enormous sacrifice if there was no personal material gain involved. Ask yourself why someone would want to join an elite organization if it's not easy and carries risk. Why do anything at all unless you're paid for it, once we're on the subject? These are pretty central questions to Trek's vision of the future. It is *not* supposed to represent how our lives are now.
Wed, Aug 5, 2020, 2:17am (UTC -6)
I knew Sito didn’t have plot armor, but it was still a kick in the gut for her not to survive.

Great episode. I have a couple friends who complain that the waiter character was poorly written, that a civilian worker on a ship would not act like that. It seemed fine to me, but I have no experience with the military.
Dark Kirk
Thu, Aug 27, 2020, 11:31pm (UTC -6)
I'm seeing a lot of the stages of grief in the discussions about Sito Jaxa's fate. Shock reflected in the "punch to the gut" types of reactions, denial in speculation she could have somehow survived especially in Star Trek and which is what I personally wish as well, anger reflected in a lot of 'she was manipulated' comments, a little bargaining in a lot of 'where was Ro', but not much despair or acceptance because she was a fictitious character. I feel a form of grief too, and I would like to find some story about her fate and how she managed to survive, maybe in a novel. Losing a fictitious character is in some ways harder than losing a real person, which is why good fictitious characters never seem to stay dead.
Dark Kirk
Thu, Aug 27, 2020, 11:42pm (UTC -6)
Also to agree with a comment above, it's a shame Shannon Fill stopped acting in the mid 90s because she was good, but wish her well in her current position.
Mon, Oct 19, 2020, 8:32pm (UTC -6)
I had the same thought about Ben when I first saw the show, but, for me, he does feel as fleshed-out as any other character. I also think it was smart to cast a fresh face - we’ve been watching Guinan for almost seven seasons, and we’ve seen her have a lot of discussions with senior officers (including altering an entire timeline). Having Ben takes that particular history off of the table, giving the viewer a new perspective on familiar and unfamiliar characters alike.

I do wish that Sito Jaxa had come to DS9, as was rumored for a long time. I would read a novel or watch a short about her in a heartbeat.
James G
Thu, Dec 10, 2020, 11:32am (UTC -6)
This is a strong one. Very few criticisms to make about this one. Very nice to have an insight into Starfleet from a point of view of people progressing their careers. A bit different. And I like episodes that are predominantly set on the Enterprise.

It's good to see Geordi, Worf, Riker and Beverley from a command perspective, to see how they manage people.

I was a little surprised that Lavelle got promoted. I thought the scene in which he's anxious to talk about the shuttlecraft leaving the Enterprise was intended as where we see that he doesn't have the self-discipline for a higher rank.

And I wasn't sure about Ben. We don't see him in any other episode so having a new character, especially one who's pally with Riker, parachuted in for this story feels a bit contrived.

But what really gives this story its power is that the brave young woman is killed, especially since Picard sent her to her death. Very good.
Jeffrey Jakucyk
Fri, Dec 11, 2020, 11:33am (UTC -6)
"I was a little surprised that Lavelle got promoted. I thought the scene in which he's anxious to talk about the shuttlecraft leaving the Enterprise was intended as where we see that he doesn't have the self-discipline for a higher rank."

Perhaps, but he's still pretty green and there's nothing that says he can't learn (or be taught) better ways. Maybe if he had a mentor like Sito did in Worf he'd be more mature. I was under the impression that he and Sito were the only two being considered for this promotion, and Sito would have gotten it had she not been killed.
Thu, Dec 17, 2020, 5:30pm (UTC -6)
There isn't one thing I dislike about this episode. Not one.
Thu, Dec 17, 2020, 6:42pm (UTC -6)
If I had to criticise this episode I would say it would have been better if Sito was introduced at the beginning of the season, having her character slowly develop, that way we would have cared more about her death.
Frake's Nightmare
Sun, Dec 27, 2020, 5:16pm (UTC -6)
The life of the ordinary in Trekverse is never easy - cf. Barclay - the 'management' are full of themselves and bullying, and sit in the bar discussing your evaluations....lovely.
Mon, Jan 18, 2021, 9:49am (UTC -6)
''to first unload these harsh words and then later recruit Sito into the dangerous mission — almost comes off as a calculated manipulation to get an impressionable young ensign to step up and volunteer.''

when you put it that's almost cold blooded (mind you she was probably a lock for lieutenant junior grade if the mission succeeded) , it also illustrates Picard's tack for diplomacy and mediation
Thu, Jan 21, 2021, 8:38am (UTC -6)
Brilliant episode my foot! Four stars my starboard nacelle!

It has elements that could have led to brilliance if it didn't prove that the Starfleet elite hierarchy survive off the backs of the "lower" forms of life.

A young female Bajoran ensign: that's a quadruple handicap or disadvantage that makes you totally expendable to the Federation's agendas.

Picard is the sanctimonious manipulative hypocrite as usual. He emotionally blackmails the poor girl into thinking she's volunteering of her own free will. Then she's conveniently killed off so the promotions saga doesn't really test the capacity of these "superiors" to cut through their own moral fog.

All the schmaltzy sentiment at the end just makes me cringe. Give them hell when they're alive then praise them to hight heaven when they're dead.

A Cardassian who's sick of war and wants peace for his people; a young Vulcan so gifted he gives short shrift to La Forge; now, they're themes worth exploring. If you had the inclination to take the hard narrative and dramatic path, and not the schmaltzy Hallmark card sentiment approach to life.

What a disappointment!
Q anon
Thu, Feb 18, 2021, 8:04pm (UTC -6)
Worf's reaction to Sito's death seemed at odds with his reaction to Geordi's and Ro's deaths in The Next Phase. It's interesting to speculate on why his reaction might have been different. It's also possible he didn't want to appear too celebratory in public.
Thu, Mar 25, 2021, 8:27pm (UTC -6)
William B said:

"I could imagine Sito taking extra courses per semester to graduate a semester early though, to try to make up for lost time (and escape from an unpleasant academy environment). "

I don't see the effectiveness of "cancelling" a school year of the academy. They took the courses, and they can't be stripped of what they learned in them, so it seems entirely punitive. Further, if they have to retake the courses, it only seems like they would have an advantage over the students that are taking those classes for the first time.
Tue, May 11, 2021, 8:58am (UTC -6)
Definetly one of the top episodes.

The Visitor, The Siege od AR-558, and some others are of this quaility.

Good acting, good cutting , swapping between the sceenes. Good to give Ogawa and Ben more life. Ogawa does appers every now an then but still good to see more of her.

It is a pity that this concept was not used more. There are some bridge crew among them a ensign with page cut hair who we only just get to see.
Tue, Jul 27, 2021, 7:57pm (UTC -6)
I can see how Picard's actions do look rather manipulative regarding Sito, and it kind of looks like Worf is in cahoots with Picard on this. How does Worf even know of her dressing down?

That said, I think Picard's actions were for the reasons he said- to make sure she could actually handle a very difficult situation.

After all, a green ensign assigned to the legendary 1701-D is almost certainly going to agree to any mission proposed by the mighty Jean Luc Picard. Probably that would be true of any ensign on any of these high profile ships.

Also, Picard (or Riker, Worf, etc) could indeed have simply ordered her to take the mission. There's no way Picard would manipulate her into "volunteering" just to make himself feel better, because he's far too self aware for that trick to work.

Ben is fine, and apparently it was originally meant to be Guinan but they couldn't get Goldberg. But mostly they pull it off, and altered the characterization enough to make it thematically fit.

Almost, because absolutely a civilian bartender would be on a first name basis with the crew, regardless of the crew member's rank. (Though, it's weird that the four Junior officers are shocked by this, considering they should have seen this before.)

However, Ben joining the senior officers' poker game did not seem plausible at all. In fact, it seemed flat out improper unless he was explicitly invited.
Tue, Jul 27, 2021, 8:09pm (UTC -6)
And while any green ensign* would jump at the chance to take a risky mission, Sito would even more so because she still has the First Duty stain on her record and psyche, and would want to prove herself.

*Obviously a Barclay type wouldn't ever volunteer for such a mission. He also would have been a disastrous choice, and would never have withstood Picard's initial dressing down of Sito. He probably would have resigned.
Fri, Sep 3, 2021, 11:32am (UTC -6)
I was pleased to see even the edgy alterna-critics could only find nitpicks to complain about in this episode. It's brilliance is in part owed to the compactness of the story and stakes. In the grand scheme of galactic politics and intrigue, one ensign is no big deal, but narrow the focus, and that loss can have a profound effect. Like the lower decks ensigns, we the audience will never really know the full story of why she died. We get glimpses of the mission, and can infer many things, but we don't *know* the particulars. Not even of her death. We get evidence of a destroyed escape pod, and a vague report from Cardassian space.

If I try very hard to find fault with this episode, it might be that we don't get to hang around long enough to see how very frustrating and troubling this is for her friends. They know the drill; they're Starfleet officers, as well. But still. Friend. No definitive answers. No real closure. Brilliant storytelling.

Anyway, I don't get all the consternation surrounding Ben. Sure, it would have made more sense as Guinan, but it works just fine as Ben. He's a civilian. The outsized impact and distance differences in rank has to the ensigns (and to an extent, the senior officers) has no meaning to him. They're just Will, Deanna, Beverly, Geordi, Sam, Sito, Alyssa, Taurik. He's the bartender; everyone is equal in his house. Of course he plays cards with both the lower decks crew and the senior officers. He's Ben the Bartender, dispensing comfort and relaxation in verbal and liquid form. He doesn't walk in the paramilitary world of Starfleet. They walk in *his* world. He owes none of them deference, or more respect than the others, because of their rank.
Sat, Sep 4, 2021, 3:39pm (UTC -6)
A better comparison:

The Good Place is a light-hearted sitcom, yet it still offers strong serialized storytelling, complex character development and a heavy dose of philosophical exploration. Sitcoms, especially modern ones, can be capable of much more than just poop and gorilla sex jokes, and it's not unfair for us to expect more from this show.

Lower Decks has shown us that's capable of doing all those things, the writers just need to resist the urge to go for the low-hanging fruit and trust their viewers will stay engaged, even if that means it goes 30 seconds without a joke or TOS reference.
Sun, Sep 5, 2021, 4:07pm (UTC -6)
Sito would have made an excellent replacement front line character. I would have much preferred her as a character for 7 years besides Geordi and Troi.
Sun, Oct 31, 2021, 1:00pm (UTC -6)
I generally like this episode but I actually think in some ways Voyager did it better with Good Sheperd. We actually got to see some crew working in the "lower decks." It gave a very different perspective of the starship.

I did find the discussion in this thread interesting (was Picard justified or not? Did it really have to be HER for this mission?). I'm not going to try to reopen that can of worms. However, I really have trouble getting around the huge plot device of Troi and Riker doing crew evaluations and discussing promotions in 10 Forward. Seriously? This is so inappropriate. Then Ben shares what he overhears? Instant dismissal if he was caught listening and then sharing what he heard. Well, maybe not given he shouldn't have been put in that position in the first place. This is and should be a highly confidential discussion.

At least in Man of the People Riker was meeting Troi in her quarters to go over the evaluations.

Oh well, it was all necessary for the plot. Worfy comes out as the best manager in this episode.
Peter Howie
Fri, Nov 12, 2021, 10:21pm (UTC -6)
I was feeling nostalgic so I put this episode on and one minute in I'm distracted by the absurdity of Deanna Troi being so heavily involved in crew assignments/promotions. It is absurd that the therapist for the crew ultimately decides their fitness for promotions.

If one were to rewrite this show, I would think Deanna should be given a more important role in the command of the ship and its missions, like second officer/diplomatic liaison. Then her involvement in senior staff meetings would make sense.
Fri, Nov 26, 2021, 2:47am (UTC -6)
Somehow, I feel this is not an episode we ought to rate highly, being more soap opera than sci-fi. Yet it’s done so well, so believably, so likeably, that you can’t help but love it. From the parallel poker games, and the preparation of Seato for her mission, to the rivalry over “who’s going to get the promotion?”, and the engaging character of Ben the Barman, it just keeps you interested and closely involved.

One minor gripe: while I agree that the ship’s counsellor ought to be involved in crew evaluations, somehow Troi made it seem that it wasn’t a natural part of her role. I’m not sure why, exactly - just a feeling I got from the way she spoke.

One other thing: I’m not sure if I remembered the outcome from an earlier viewing, or if it was just a feeling, but as soon as Seato said to Worf “I’ll see you soon” her shirt seemed to suddenly turn red and I thought “Uh oh, she’s a goner”.

By the way, what exactly is that horrible-looking red drink so many have in 10-Forward? It looks like that disgusting chemical filled cherryade we had as kids!

I wouldn’t go quite so far as 4 stars, but 3.5 easily.
Sat, Nov 27, 2021, 8:27am (UTC -6)
Why is this more soap opera than sci-fi? I agree it's very heavy on character development and minimal on weird sciency stuff, but so is much of DS9.

I agree with your praise. I think this does a great job with different characters, showcases an underexplored element of Starfleet and has a great redemption arc and good humourous moments. It's a great episode.
Daniel B
Wed, Feb 2, 2022, 2:49pm (UTC -6)
{{ [William B] I have a feeling that Picard opts to give Sito a second chance after "The First Duty" because he sees Wesley as needing a second chance and recognizes that it's not fair to apply that standard only to Wesley. }}

Hadn't thought of that before, but that makes perfect sense for Picard's character even if the writer's didn't specifically intend that at the time.
Thu, Mar 10, 2022, 1:33pm (UTC -6)
Love this episode.

The only issue for me is right at the end when we see Worfs reaction to Sitos death. Surely he would be happy that she died an honorable death in the line of duty. I can appreciate he may not have wanted to seem happy in front of everyone mourning in ten forward. I just thought it was a bit out of character.
Peter G.
Thu, Mar 10, 2022, 1:46pm (UTC -6)
@ odotb.

That's an interesting point, but I'd say Worf isn't a normal Klingon. In helping Sito in the first place he was already being pretty sympathetic to her.
Top Hat
Thu, Mar 10, 2022, 2:09pm (UTC -6)
I could see Worf being pretty conflicted here. It's true that Sito's death was arguably a better death than Tasha's, say, but there's still the fact that she died at all when she might have gone on and continued to do honourable deeds.
Thu, Mar 10, 2022, 2:52pm (UTC -6)
Thanks for your perspectives.

I suppose you could say that Worf has become more sympathetic to the human view of death after having spent so long in their company. He understood what Sitos death meant to her friends and didn't want to impose his own beliefs.

I can buy that.
Peter G.
Thu, Mar 10, 2022, 3:06pm (UTC -6)
@ odotb.

Have you watched any other Trek series besides TNG so far? I won't say why I'm asking if you haven't.

"I suppose you could say that Worf has become more sympathetic to the human view of death after having spent so long in their company. He understood what Sitos death meant to her friends and didn't want to impose his own beliefs."

Well we do see from both Sins of the Father and Redemption that Worf isn't a typical Klingon already. He talks the talk but he was raised by humans and it shows. He may have the warrior instinct but not all his instincts are Klingon ones.
Fri, Mar 11, 2022, 1:33am (UTC -6)
@ Peter G.

I've only seen TOS and TNG. Ive just recently started watching TNG again after many years. I did see the first season of DS9 years ago but never got into it. I will definitely give it another chance when im done with TNG and perhaps Voyager too.

The only reason Worfs reaction bothered me initially is because the way he reacted to Geordie and Ro's death in 'The Next Phase' is at odds with his reaction to Sito's death. But now I think he was being more empathetic towards the way the humans felt. Despite how he may have felt personally.
Wed, Mar 23, 2022, 1:59pm (UTC -6)
Is there a worse line reading by any regular on any Star Trek show than Crusher's: "I'm so relieved -- I mean happy!"
Sun, Jul 3, 2022, 3:58am (UTC -6)
I really, really enjoyed this one.

Though I'd ordinarily not care about almost totally new characters being parachuted in, the four junior officers were interesting enough (good acting, decent dialog, dynamic progression) to reel me into the story. The barkeep didn't add much but wasn't irritating either. Of course, the presence of Ensign Cutie didn't hurt one bit. Man, she's just as cute as a button, doggon'!

The ending was gut-wrenching. It's a testament to how well the episode (story, characters, even music) was done that I was shaken by the outcome of the mission.

Not much to say here. I don't think there are any underlying concepts to unpack and analyze. There's no deeper, profound message to gain from this episode. It's simply that the plot was very good and so was the execution. That'll do me.

Four stars.
The Man
Wed, Sep 14, 2022, 6:55pm (UTC -6)
@Paul You're whining just for the sake of whining.
Tue, Oct 11, 2022, 11:21pm (UTC -6)
A response to Nic's comment (even though Nic made it a decade ago):

I see it not as "royalties can be a b+tch" but as "executives can be a$$h*les when they feel like screwing writers out of their royalties."
Tue, Oct 11, 2022, 11:24pm (UTC -6)
I remember that when I first watched this, multiple decades ago, I kept expecting Ben to turn out to be some kind of double-double-agent who would be the key to the whole plot. I think he was set up as a deliberate red herring. There's even "foreboding mood music" when he sits down to poke with the senior officers before the commercial break.
Tue, Oct 11, 2022, 11:25pm (UTC -6)
That's *poker*.

Although Ben sitting down to poke with the senior officers could have been interesting, and necessitated an especially quick cut to commercial.
Peter G.
Wed, Oct 12, 2022, 12:01am (UTC -6)
@ Trish,

Interesting that you perceived Ben as having something up his sleeve. The way I always saw it he was like an apprentice Guinan, probably also an El-Aurian, since he somehow always knew what others were thinking. With that head canon in mind, of course he's be grinning sitting down with the senior officers at a poker table. Just imagine what would happen if someone in a poker game had empathic abilities...

That being said, as the stand-in Guinan it would also mean Ben stands askew from the normal chain of command and has a certain parity of status with anyone on the ship. If he's new here then that would probably feel pretty awesome.
Mon, Apr 3, 2023, 8:26am (UTC -6)
Can we all reflect on what a horrible plan Picard had to return the Cardassian spy.
- Sito is supposed to return from from Cardassian space via an escape pod. But how is this possible without a faster than light engine?
- The whole point of the spy was to give the Starfleet an intelligent advantage. Yet they GAVE Cardassia a complete shuttle for free to study. It's not clear what type of information one low level Cardassian could give to Starfleet. Perhaps the location of ships? It's not like that info made much of a difference when the future war happened.
- We're told the Cardassian border is heavily guarded...yet we know from DS9 it is extremely easy to enter Cardassian space. Worst case scenario they could use a third party trading vessel (again DS9 established these exist). Then of course let's forget about the DMZ where has mixed cardassian/federation citizens on both sides of the border. It should have been easy to return him.
- The whole point of having a bajorian prisoner was to avoid attention...but it would do the opposite. Think about it...a bored cardassian patrol ship comes across a stolen federation shuttle, a missing cardassian officer, and a captured bajaorian. They wouldn't ignore this and go back to their boring uneventful patrols, but would investigate this in depth.
- What would have been more interesting is if they "spy" was a double agent, and stealing the shuttle and killing Sito was always in the plan. DS9/Garek could have made a casual reference to this later.
Mon, May 15, 2023, 8:49pm (UTC -6)
I've long felt this is one of the finest hours of Star Trek in the canon. The conversation between SIto and the Cardassian aboard the shuttle is Trek at its very core.
P Car
Tue, Oct 31, 2023, 7:46pm (UTC -6)
Re-watched after Lower Decks (the series). Such a good episode and elevated higher now. Genuinely shed a tear at both episodes (The Inner Fight).

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