I mentioned last week that I really missed seeing Worf and Musiker, and this week reminded me why. The two remain a superb pair, with the older, more mellow Worf in the hilarious position of being the calm, rational one. (I found myself reminded favorably of the period on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, when Chris Noth’s Detective Mike Logan was teamed with the hot-tempered Detective Nola Falacci, played by Alicia Witt, and Logan at one point marvels at the fact that suddenly he’s the diplomatic one for a change…)
The first thing we see of them is a sparring session on La Sirena, and it’s a magnificent scene that illustrates both characters very nicely. Musiker has no kind of poker face, grinning at one point, snarling at another. Worf, meanwhile, is efficient and calm, and constantly giving advice. It resonated with me due to its similarity to sparring sessions in my dojo, specifically when experienced black belts spar with less experienced color belts, and the former are giving advice to the latter. Worf does that here, and my favorite moment is toward the end of the fight, when he’s just standing there, looking almost bored as he parries every single shot Musiker takes.
The batshit crazy plan, by the by, is nifty on two different levels. For one thing, it’s Crusher who’s responsible for its genesis, because the writers finally remembered that she’s a doctor, not just a mother. She figures out that the nebula is, in fact, a creche for a lifeform that lives in space. Picard specifically cites the creatures from “Encounter at Farpoint” as an example of a similar type of lifeform, and the aliens that are born when the nebula “gives birth” look very similar to those aliens. (Regular commenter Christopher L. Bennett coined the term “cosmozoan” to refer to such lifeforms, which also applies to things like the giant amoeba from “The Immunity Syndrome,” the crystal entity from “Datalore” and “Silicon Avatar,” and Gomtuu from “Tin Man.”)
That moment of birth is the other nifty aspect of the plan, because we—as Crusher comes out and says—get the seeking out of new life. Which is, after all, supposed to be the point.
The Titan portion of the plot gives us a chance to explore the Picard-Riker dynamic, and in particular how it’s changed. We start with the flashback to Picard and Riker drinking a toast to the latter’s kid (complete with Jonathan Frakes’ hair dyed brown—but his beard more salt-and-pepper, a nice touch—and both Frakes and Sir Patrick Stewart digitally de-aged in that manner that makes their eyes look incredibly sunken…). At this point, the new dynamic is still, well, new, plus Riker’s off on his own ship now. But they’re not captain and first officer anymore, and in the present we see that the pair of them aren’t always on the same page.
More to the point, this is the latter-day Picard that we’ve seen on this show for a couple years now whose super-power as he’s gotten older is to royally piss off everyone who’s ever cared about him. And the admiral does a lovely job of doing that, mostly by bullying Riker into fighting the Shrike, even though it’s a fight Riker knows they can’t win. More to the point, they have to protect this crew that they stupidly endangered with their dumbshit off-book mission. And in the end, when the Titan has had the shit kicked out of it thanks to Vadic’s clever use of a portal weapon (like the one that destroyed the Starfleet Recruitment Center), Riker kicks Picard off the bridge.
Since the title character is an admiral, we can’t do the Evil Admiral cliché, so we substitute with the Evil Captain. Shaw, played with gleeful smarm by Todd Stashwick, is in the tired tradition of Decker, Tracey, Garth, Esteban, Maxwell, Ransom, etc., ad nauseum. The deck is so totally stacked against him it bleeds into the absurd. He insists that Seven refer to herself as Hansen, a cruel and unnecessary insistence. He invites Picard and Riker to dinner, but starts eating before they arrive—and also leaves before they finish, which would be appallingly rude even if they weren’t VIP guests. At the gift of a bottle of Château Picard, he dismissively says he prefers Malbec (a Spanish wine), and he also makes his disdain for jazz clear, commenting that he had to delete all the jazz Riker had in the databanks when he took command. And finally, the guest quarters for an admiral and a captain that he provides is a single room they have to share with bunk beds, which is a protocol violation of the highest order.
Oh, and he refuses to change course as Picard requests, as Picard is a retired admiral, and Riker isn’t captain of this ship anymore. I mean, he’s right, but that doesn’t make him any less of a dick.
Ultimately, though, the biggest failure of this movie is a fundamental plot one: Shinzon’s entire cunning plan to get Picard to Romulus depends on factors completely out of his control and impossible to predict. What if another ship found the positronic emissions? What if Starfleet Command sent a different ship—or, y’know, a diplomatic envoy like, say, the Federation Ambassador to Romulus, who’s probably already there—to meet with Shinzon? What if Picard politely asked Janeway, “Can you please send someone else? I’ll never hear the end of it from the mother of the bride if we’re late…”
But the movie ultimately feels more like a middling episode of TNG than a feature film. There are far too many tired Trek tropes here, starting with the Evil Admiral, a well that TNG in particular dipped into way too often, and continuing to the technobabble-laden space battle that has all the excitement of a badly programmed eight-bit video game (complete with joystick!). Not helping the former is that Anthony Zerbe is precisely nowhere. I mean, if you’ve got to have an Evil Admiral, at least cast somebody with the chops of a Terry O’Quinn or a Jean Simmons in the role…
Plus, there are humorous bits shoved in that are, well, not funny. Worse, they mess with the tone of the story, whether it’s Picard, Data, and Worf inexplicably bursting into Gilbert & Sullivan or Crusher and Troi talking about their boobs (with Data then doing likewise with Worf, to make it even more cringe-y) or Worf’s pimple.
Concluding the three-part reading of the TNG/DS9 crossover novella Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment, the final part of the Slings and Arrows miniseries released to celebrate TNG‘s 20th anniversary in 2007 by chronicling the first year in service of the Enterprise-E leading up to the movie First Contact.
In this final bit, the Enterprise races to the Badlands to rescue Captains Picard and Sisko from assassins.
Continuing the three-part reading of the Star Trek novella Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment, a TNG/DS9 team up taking place right before the movie First Contact (and between the DS9 episodes “The Ascent” and “Rapture”), in this second part, Picard and Sisko travel to the Badlands to meet with Gowron, while Worf conscripts both Data and Nog to aid in an investigation that may reveal that all is not as it seems….
For Thanksgiving week, I’m doing a three-part reading of a Star Trek novella written as the concluding volume in the six-part Slings and Arrows novella miniseries done for The Next Generation‘s 20th anniversary in 2007 taking place in the year leading up to the movie First Contact. In Part 1 of Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment, a TNG/DS9 crossover, Captains Picard and Sisko are charged by the newly elected Federation president with reaching out to Gowron to convince him to re-enter the Khitomer Accords.