7 comments on “The Neutral Zone

  1. I bet you anything that the Romulan ship has two captains because it’s literally two ships taped together.

    Picard’s closing line, “the past? that would be the wrong direction” seems like meta-commentary on bringing the Romulans back; either snark, or a reminder that the Romulans weren’t the real crisis in the episode. …I forget if we ever learn what was keeping the Romulans occupied for the last fifty years.

    Heh, they think it’s a cruise ship… y’know, as roomy as the Enterprise seems to be, it’s kind of amazing that Starfleet doesn’t prefer cryonics over burial at sea. “Leave the familiar past behind to go explore future frontiers” seems very on-message.

    I like how the three guest characters represent different attitudes towards crisis; if the writers were to take it deeper, it could’ve been nice to see them grapple with other articles of the Starfleet worldview. The other good, “naive” POV for that kind of thing would be Starfleet cadets, and they’d already be pretty thoroughly indoctrinated.

    I don’t want to nitpick the episode too much, because of the writers’ strike, but did you notice how Troi vanishes for a couple scenes? She leaves the housewife’s quarters, the three guest characters gather in their lounge, Offenhouse heads to the bridge, and then Troi returns to the housewife’s quarters; if she’s babysitting them then why wasn’t she in the lounge, and if she wasn’t babysitting then why wasn’t she on the bridge? Makes me think she was meant to be in the bridge exchange between Picard and Offenhouse, and the scenes got reshuffled to cover her absence. (If true, then considering Troi’s track record in these situations, I’m inclined to agree with Derek that Picard already knew the Romulans were bluffing.)

    It’s fun to have an episode recognize the downside of not having a comms officer. I wonder if the school’s computers didn’t have parental locks up to this point either.

    TNG does have *some* passive entertainment. They read books, they go on holodeck picnics… I don’t know how much middle ground there is between paper and holograms, but at the very least there’s music, and Riker once watched a hologram of harp music.

    That hallway connecting the three lobes of sickbay, we don’t get to see it often; I forgot it has benches.

  2. I don’t think we ever learn what was keeping the Romulans occupied. My pet theory for a while was that it was The Borg. The Romulans are on the border of the Delta Quadrant (depending on your map), they were gone for a while, and came back with a radically different table of equipment. That would mean that the Romulans played Offenhouse and Picard by feigning ignorance when they were damn well seeing if this latest incursion was aimed at them.

    Showing more of our three temporal castaways (Or Gillian Taylor) would have been a great way to explore the society of The Federation and Earth of Star Trek’s future, but Star Trek gives 0 fucks about doing that, so they just vanish.

    I think in “Rascals,” we see that computer permissions for kids are altered, apparently based on age. Maybe school consoles are hard-coded to be fucking worthless in a crisis, but if all of the other panels are pretty modular in their function and layout, it’d be hard to argue that the school computers would be an exception.

    I’d argue that books are not passive entertainment. They take more mental energy and focus than television; they’re harder to digest in general. That’s why folks would rather watch television. As for Riker’s holo-harpists, I think we’ve established that’s pornography and in a different class altogether. 😉

  3. Alright, yeah, you got me on the entertainment.

    It’s hard to credit the Romulans with resisting the Borg for fifty years. A wave of refugees fleeing the Borg, sure, but I wouldn’t think it big enough at the time to draw the Romulans full attention. Maybe Q was screwing with them and accidentally toppled a regime.

    • A fifty year conflict with the Borg doesn’t require a decades-long campaign any more than The Federation’s two fights with the Borg were seven year-long running battles. I’m not really committed to the theory, but Memory Beta draws a blank, which means even the books haven’t garbaged this up with garbage.

      I’ve always seen The Romulans as being analogous to The Federation, which is why–I believe–they’re traditionally seen as Picard’s rival (the same way Kirk is seen as rivaling the Klingons, Sisko: The Dominion, and Janeway: the Borg). The Romulan Star Empire is an omnipresent government with Oceana-ic overtones mixed with random Roman elements.

      Plus slavery–thanks Nemesis.

      It also has a senate (albeit one which probably represents the social elite like the Roman senate it’s patterned after). It has patriots who aren’t blind nationalists. It has commanders which aren’t paranoid maniacs or determined imbeciles. The Romulans we meet are, y’know, people. They seem to have a lot of the individualism, cunning, and drive we usually see in The Federation and all-too-rarely see in the Ferengi and Klingons.

      What I’m struggling towards is that I trust the Romulans to come up with an outside the box solution to the Borg. I trust them to have the (marginal) diversity which allowed The Federation to handle the myriad threats of space.

      How the Klingons or the Ferengi handled something like Armus or Nagilum or the Lights of Zetar is beyond me. They probably just write off their losses and stop going there. The Romulans seem a bit more likely to have The Federation’s approach.

      • “Write off their losses and stop going there” was exactly the Federation’s response to Armus and Nagilum, they killed–killed with science, but killed nonetheless, a Klingon specialty–the Lights of Zetar; and, aside from the unfrozen Klingons in “The Emissary,” I’m hard-pressed to think of Klingons without unique motivations/characterization.

        Can’t argue the Ferengi.

        I’ll buy that the Romulans are analogous to the Federation, but… I mean, I’d have to watch more to be sure, but I don’t think the Federation puts even a whole year of undivided focus into the Borg.

        It’s weird that Beta canon didn’t try to fill this Romulan gap in. Maybe there was a gag on it due to movie development? I could almost believe extended universe creators got distracted by Cardassians and the Delta Quadrant and all that, but that’s a whole four years off.

        • For some reason I didn’t find it under Romulan history, but I did find it under the Tomed Incident.

          Apparently, the crew of the Enterprise-B and Elias Vaughn–that mary sue motherfucker–staged the Tomed Incident (and the deaths of thousands of Federation citizens) to bring Romulus and The Federation to the brink of war. When the Klingons aligned with The Federation, they leveraged that into a Romulan geopolitical withdrawal and the Treaty of Algeron.

          For reasons, I guess.

          Fair point about the diverse Klingons.

          I was painting with a broad brush. Maybe on second glance, I have given our cast a lot of credit for solving problems other folks could have solved. I guess I fell prey to the “I respect your stupid culture and its idiotic ways.”

          The Klingons could’ve lost a ship to the Klingons trying to kill him or they would’ve abandoned their friend. The Ferengi would have unleashed him onto the galaxy. Sure, Starfleet abandoned him, too, but they overcame him and rescued their friends.

          Cardassians would have probably rolled the dice on Nagilum, if they ever figured out what was happening. A clever Ferengi probably would’ve negotiated him down and may have happened on Picard’s brinkmanship approach.

          Anyone else would’ve killed Lt. “Crunches” Romaine in “Lights of Zetar,” which would’ve accomplished the same thing, but left the lights at large in the galaxy. Alternatively, they may have the lights take over their Romaine and gained the knowledge of a long-dead race.

          • Huh. The Borg are almost preferable.

            I’d agree with those assessments. I think I’d prefer a “we let the lights take over a Romainulan” over the Borg.

            Watched Star Trek: What Does God Need With a Starship, and of all the “just, why” in that movie, man, that Romulan woman. Just, why.

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