Rewatching ST:TNG after a 20-year break
After a tight recap of Part 1, we pick up where we left off. The jerry-rigged deflector dish weapon unleashes all its sparkly-glowy MacGuffinality at the vessel containing the Borgified Picard, and — nothing. “Your resistance is hopeless, Number One,” Locutus intones, borrowing Picard’s nickname for Riker. Chills!
On my rewatch it bothered me that the Borg vessel departs without trying to finish off the Enterprise-D, but I give credit to the scriptwriter for trying to mask that plot hole by only mentioning it in a voice-over first officer’s log.
If Riker makes his peace with Shelby a bit too quickly, that’s only so the episode can highlight his next challenge, which Guinan articulates in an unexpected visit: “You must let [Picard] go, Riker. It’s the only way to beat him. The only way to save him. And that is now your chair, Captain.”
After an alarming visit to the wreckage from the Federation’s disastrous stand against the Borg, an exciting sequence jumps between Riker on the battle bridge, Shelby on the saucer section, and Data and Worf in a shuttle.
We in the audience are at first just as confused as Locutus, who’s watching from the Borg vessel, but soon we learn this is a Riker-riffic rescue mission, designed to distract Locutus and take him by surprise. Soon the Borgified Picard is back on the Enterprise-D, and once again the Borg cube inexplicably warps away without finishing off its adversary.
I really didn’t mind, because the next act, with Data trying to hack into the Borg network through Locutus, the human Picard reaching out with his own message, and the countdown until the Borg cube reaches Earth, is just brilliant Trek.
After the climax, because this is a two-parter, we have time for a longish wind-down, during which Data droidsplains why the Borg attack stopped, Shelby and Worf visit the Borg cube again, dialogue establishes that Crusher will be able to remove all the Borg implants, Picard congratulates Riker for his “brilliantly unorthodox” moves, and the Shelby subplot wraps up.
The final scene, of Picard picking up his tea, then putting it down untouched and staring out his window, is as evocative as any speech. This silent moment nicely lays the groundwork for next week’s episode, which we might as well consider the third in a three-parter.