The Defector (ST:TNG Rewatch; Season Three, Episode 10) Cold War Brinksmanship, via Shakespeare

(Rewatching ST:TNG after a 20-year break.)

A Romulan defector exposes a planned incursion against the Federation, in a slow but gripping character study that comments on the Cold War.

As I kid, I remember being transfixed by the 1983 TV movie The Day After, which depicts a nuclear attack on America. I doodled mushroom clouds in my Latin textbook, and more than once I woke up from a nightmare in which “they dropped the bomb.” Yet I had no reason to hate the Russians.

I recall being thrilled by a moment in the 1979 disaster movie Meteor and by occasional episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man depicting Americans and Soviets working together to avert a greater threat. I wasn’t a huge fan of any pop music, but Sting’s refrain “I hope the Russian love their children, too” resonated throughout my adolescence.

Rewatching this episode, I expected to see Worf and Riker challenge the defector’s story, since that leaves room for Picard to be the voice of reason. But it was disturbing seeing touchy-feely Troi participate in the interrogation.

The teaser cold-opens into a scene from Shakespeare, as Picard directs Data as Henry V, moving secretly among his troops secretly on the eve of battle. If there’s a B-plot in this script, it’s Picard’s deliberate choice to expose his crew to death, confident that his cause is just.

Knowing how much work it was to build physical models and film them against bluescreens, I appreciated the chance to get a good look at the design of new Romulan scout ship. The scale of the ships doesn’t seem to make much sense, especially when some familiar ships appear in the climax — but back in those days, you took what you could get in your TV Sci-Fi.