Rewatching ST:TNG after a 20-year break
The Enterprise-D finds a crater where a colony used to be, then apparently does nothing for a few days until a team from Starfleet Tactical arrives. Because it will soon be dark at the site, and tricorders apparently don’t work at night, Riker says they’ll wait until morning, and suggests a poker game.
Admiral Hanson pressures Picard to kick Riker off the Enterprise and into a command chair of his own, and later that evening at the poker game, the ambitious Commander Shelby calls Riker’s bluff, winning the hand. The next morning, she beams down to the planet without him.
Although Riker’s conflict with Shelby seems forced and perfunctory, the fact that it comes so early leaves time for the episode to explore the ramifications, as Riker talks over his professional development plans with Troi in Ten Forward, and later orders Shelby to take it easy in engineering.
On my rewatch I can see that Shelby’s tactical insights are bland place-holders, but the story works because the other characters respond to her as if she is brilliant and formidable. Even Picard seems almost apologetic as he dislodges her from the spot where he usually stands when he is being heroic and captain-y.
After the Enterprise-D buys time by hiding in stock footage of the Matura Neubula from “The Wrath of Khan,” we have some more good character scenes as the conflict between Shelby and Riker escalates. A scene in which Picard speaks to Guinan about the fall of the Roman Empire is great Trek.
The technobabble about constructing the deflector dish weapon, the dialogue between Picard and the Borg collective, our introduction to Locutus, and Troi speaking up unexpectedly during a tense moment were all thrilling to me as a 21yo watching in my apartment with 20 or 30 friends.
When I saw the “To be continued” announcement, I parked myself in front of the TV and stated that I was going to sit there on the floor until the fourth season premiere. (See Part 2.)
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