Settling in for my second episode of my TNG season 3 rewatch!
I remember The Ensigns of Command as a good Data show, one that gets into his ability to command and persuade as he’s faced with convincing a group of colonists they must leave their home as it’s been ceded to the Sheliak. (Hey, that sounds like a bad move on the Federations part, to just give away these poor colonists home! Let’s hope they’re never daft enough to give away people’s colonies again, say to oh, the Cardassians or something… That wouldn’t go well!)
I’m sad to say… I was a little disappointed.
Ok, put down the stones and let me explain. I just think that this storyline, essentially Data and Goshoven, wasn’t as good as I remember it. I think I remembered the concept but when I watched it this time, I just don’t think it quite worked as it should.
If I’m going to be honest, I blame Goshoven. He was immediately hostile but we didn’t really get into that. There was some mention of him not listening to Data as he wouldn’t see a machine as a person. But we didn’t really, I felt, explore Data trying to head off that prejudice. We touched upon Goshoven’s deep pride in what the colony had achieved and created, but with his unremitting hostility, he just came across as a jerk stuck in the past. Whereas I think we could have explored this and given Data some really deep scenes of trying to relate to him. Or, it occurred to me that this episode could have gone in a direction that would have reflected current day events and had the colony essentially be conspiracy theorists who saw only nefarious purpose in the Federations offers to help. Like if you thought a vaccine in a pandemic was a tracking implant. I’m not criticising the episode for not reflecting events 30 years after it was made, just I thought at one point we veered so close to this it almost seemed it was going that way.
On the flip side, the colony itself is absolutely gorgeous and the combination of the set and the matte background showing the water piping system blends beautifully and really does give you a great sense that they have built something impressive out of nothing in a place that tried to kill them. Really the colonists should have got so much more sympathy from the viewer I think and having Goshoven be so hostile spoils this. Why should they give up their home for a treaty signed by a Federation who gave them up for dead 90 years ago?
It’s been said that the reason many people disliked Pulaski in season 2 (bear with me, this is relevant) is that from the off she was hostile to Data. It was an attempt to recreate the Spock/McCoy dynamic, but it just came off as being mean to Data and of course, we already loved Data so Pulaski was never going to come off well here. Likewise, because we started off with Goshoven being hostile and prejudiced, we basically lost our chance to sympathise with the colonists and our natural instinct is to close ranks and protect Data.
See, I tried to find a good there and again fell back on the storyline that I didn’t enjoy as much! I need to move on…
The B story of Picard trying to stall or negotiate with the Sheliak is a lot of fun though. We’re used to seeing Picard as the accomplished diplomat, he loves his diplomacy and surely a good speech about cooperation will sort this situation out? Not this time! The Sheliak are quite a fascinating race, seeing others as inferior life, they’ve got no time for Picard and his talk. Why talk after all, they signed the treaty already! Picard’s frustration is played brilliantly and the payoff, when he works out a solution and makes the Sheliak wait for him is so much fun and quite satisfying to watch. After all, we’ve all come up against someone like the Sheliak, who won’t budge or talk so Picard turning the tables is a little victory we can all enjoy vicariously!
So all in all, it’s an enjoyable episode, but the Data story just wasn’t as good as I remembered. Unusual, most Trek I find is more enjoyable as I age, but this was an exception. Absolutely saved by Picard polishing the Enterprises dedication plaque while he keeps the Sheliak on hold though!