Star Trek Episode Autopsy – Where No One has Gone Before

What can I say about this episode? Not a lot. It was fun!

It touched sideways on an argument between anecdotal evidence versus scientific evidence and scepticism. Kasinsky is arrogant but misguided, and although his actual changes are meaningless he has evidence to back him up. It isn’t mentioned in the episode, but based on the circumstances that the changes had an effect on the engines, we can say with certainty that if someone had taken his published findings and tried them on a starship without his (and more specifically, the Traveller’s) help, they would find nothing to back him up. Of course, given Kasinsky’s arrogance, he would put this down immediately to people not doing it right, only he is able to do it properly, and so on.

This technobabble sets a disturbing precedent...

Riker and Argyle (the early, bearded chief engineer – or one of them) are the voices of scepticism putting Kasinsky down. They’ve analysed it from a scientific point of view and find errors with the reasoning. Kasinsky isn’t smart enough to answer these, and doesn’t have the core scientific value of trying to prove himself wrong, or testing under neutral conditions. That being said, Riker and Argyle appear hostile to Kasinsky but let him try anyway. They didn’t really have an opportunity to be anything but hostile, given Kasinsky’s general demeanour towards them – rude, condescending, dismissive of rank and disrespectful. I think the crew’s attitude is entirely justified. Actually, I think quietly stuffing him out of an airlock is entirely justified.

If Kasinsky is the only person who could make these changes work, is he planning to visit every starship and upgrade it personally? Did the other starships see continued improvement once the Traveller had left?

Like a cosmic hitch-hiker.

How did the Traveller end up with Kasinsky anyway? Kasinsky was investigating ways to get warp engines to run better. He presumably didn’t see results until the Traveller became his assistant, but how does a non-Starfleet person, a civilian, join a Starfleet research project? Was the Traveller involved in any research institute, hoping to hitch a lift on board starships? If his goal is to explore, finding Kasinsky seems like a roundabout way to do so. Maybe he only approached Kasinsky once there was a trial beginning to test his theories, or maybe Kasinsky was already doing his research on a travelling starship.

Other Captains

How would this have played on Deep Space Nine? They don’t  really have engines, just ‘reaction control thrusters’ to move the station nearer to the wormhole in the first episode. The Defiant is the only ship with a warp engine. I can see O’Brien wanting to punch Kasinsky for his attitude – considering how Kasinsky treats Commander Riker, I can’t see him appreciating O’Brien’s authority (as an NCO) or later in the series, Rom’s (as a Ferengi working for the Bajorans!) Worf would actually hit him. He would guard the Defiant’s engine room with a bat’leth to stop Kasinsky getting near it (especially with knowledge of the Enterprise’s encounter…)

That being said, I think Sisko would overrule any misgivings based on personal feelings (O’Brien and Rom can be petty) and allow the changes to be made. Kira would have broken his nose in about ten minutes – twenty in later series, when she mellowed out a bit.

Given that the Defiant is more for defence of the station and engine efficiency is not the key point of the Defiant (officially – escort vessel, from the design brief – to battle the Borg), as well as the fact that it has a really convenient way of getting halfway across the galaxy faster than Kasinsky’s changes – it’s probably end of the queue for any changes.

Janeway would not hesitate to do anything that might make her engines a little bit faster. B’elanna would punch Kasinsky in the face if he treated her as anything less than chief engineer (let’s not forget, she never finished the academy and is a wanted terrorist). Seven of Nine would definitely need a chat with Janeway before she’d even work with Kasinsky, after the first antisocial encounter. His enhancements would probably not match whatever Borg magic she pulled anyway. How Kasinsky gets to the Delta quadrant to offer these enhancements, I don’t know – if he’s an alien, maybe there’d be a little more scepticism and mistrust from the crew.

In the second half of the episode, the problem is not Kasinsky’s stinking attitude – it is getting the ship home safely. I can’t help but think that with the parallels between Wesley’s inherent understanding of space and Sisko’s inherent understanding of time (as the Emissary) could give the spark of realisation a little sooner – the Prophets would give a little hint, perhaps, but Sisko would lead everyone with varying degrees of reluctance depending on his acceptance of his Emissary status in believing themselves home. And Kira already has a belief you can power a starship with, that will be proven right here. Dax and O’Brien might find it more difficult, as Dax is a hardcore scientist, and O’Brien is a very literal person. That being said, he’d already lived through this somewhere on the Enterprise (although I don’t remember seeing him in the episode)…

One fun thing to imagine is how rich Quark would be once he saw that belief (and he has incredible belief in his own abilities as a businessman and entitlements as a person, even without adding Rom’s faith in him to that) becomes real. The look on his face when it all vanishes too, would be absolutely priceless.

Voyager was a much less spiritual show. I only see Chakotay as being the one to start ‘believing’ them home, and maybe the crew would go along with it? There are so many scientific, literal people on the ship it might be hard to generate enough good will past the scepticism. How would Tuvok fall on the issue? B’elanna believes what she sees, Seven even more so, Tom is naturally cynical of everything and Harry questions everything. Janeway has a scientific scepticism – I remember one episode where she could not progress until she accepted something that wasn’t scientifically sound or reasonable, and spent days looking for the ‘trick’. So much of Voyager took beliefs, such as Chakotay’s, and any number of Delta Quadrant aliens and reduced them to an explainable, scientific curiosity. Could the crew then get behind an apparently unscientific belief?

That’s not why I don’t like thinking about Voyager facing this situation though. The reason I don’t like it is because they will be moved to the furthest galaxy we know, and I know they would be returned to exactly where they began, give or take a month’s travel. The whole episode would be entirely pointless and not cut any time off of Voyager’s journey at all.


Nice strong episode, no science to trip them up and a good example of “there’s amazing things out there that we don’t understand”, a bit of optimism about humanity’s future, I liked it. The background story of Wesley being someone special is begun here, and I’ll try to remember to watch out for more indicators of this beyond the child prodigy he normally displays.

It’s also a good example of Wesley saving the ship without causing the problem in the first place. His role, like Deanna’s in The Last Outpost, is a little understated – he just pays attention and tries to get people to watch the Traveller and see what is happening.

  • Times Wesley saved the ship: 2
  • Times flung out of known space by bizarre entity: 1

Star Trek Episode Autopsy – The Last Outpost

The first appearance of the Ferengi! Wow! Oh, how they’ve changed since this episode. Their characterisation as (in Data’s words) “traders, mercantile… caveat emptor” has remained, with their aggressively capitalist nature transformed from a “violent thief” to a “sneaky thief”. Their stooping, clawing, twisted movements disappeared over time too. One of the poor Ferengi on the planet acted like a cross between a monkey and the Wicked Witch of the West.

A nice part of the episode was the senior staff going through their options – not least because Troi, who I always found annoying with the confused face and “I am sensing… frustration?” nonsense, provided the solution to their dilemma. Even if that solution wasn’t the one that they wanted, or after being given new information, the one that they needed.


Once, I accidentally broke a Thunderbirds model belonging to a guy called Angel who played the Admiral in the Admiral Insurance adverts. I wonder if these kids feel the same?

One of the most confusing parts of the episode was that upon entering the conference room, Riker had to shoo out two children. Maybe it’s because I’d forgotten how much the children are hanging around on the first season (reminding us that it’s a bigger ship than the original, that things are different?) or maybe it’s that certain areas – for example the conference room attached to the bridge – should probably be off-limits to civilians. Cruise ships today manage it, DS9 managed it, Babylon 5 managed it. Why can’t the Enterprise keep it’s children under control? Did the children leave the finger puzzle behind for Data to find? Or did they actually have no purpose at all for this episode?

I’ll have to try and remember the families on board the Enterprise when they are given a dangerous mission. So far, they’ve been on a routine negotiation (and kidnapped by Q), an investigation (and all contracted a dangerous virus), another routine negotiation (and Tasha was kidnapped) and this, chasing a thief. This is probably the most dangerous mission given so far, since the Ferengi are known to be vicious and their technology is unfamiliar to the Federation.

Viewscreens and Computers


I liked the way that the Ferengi used the viewscreens. Either they are trying to intimidate by having it so close-cropped to the face, or they are so unaccustomed to visual communication (as they say in the episode) that they don’t have it displayed on the main screen (as I would presume that they have) but instead on a small screen by the captain’s chair somewhere. The way that the Ferengi in their first communication always seems to be looking down and to one side, I’m inclined to believe the second. Maybe they only have visual communication for showing off merchandise for trade.

On the other hand, Data’s console flashed rapidly when someone accessed the Enterprise computers. I still don’t remember if it was confirmed that it was the Ferengi or the T’kon, but either way – why Data? Why not every computer console on the Enterprise? Why should a screen flash at all, who is looking at it? This really winds me up in film and television. It gets a bit of a pass in this episode because writers in the 1980’s are not necessarily as computer-literate as they are today.

I also noticed that the conference room had a table hologram in it to show what was going on with the planet and the power drain. I know that in Voyager, everyone was huddled around a relatively small monitor. Did the Enterprise crew break their table hologram? I’ll have to watch out and see when it was used again.

When was this hologram used again?

Power Drain

So power was draining out of the ship, and they prioritise life support. That makes sense. But life support appears to include artificial gravity and exclude heat. I would posit that regardless of relative energy consumption, people would last longer with the radiators on and floating around than they would sitting on the floor at minus 100 degrees. I would have guessed that artificial gravity would have taken much more energy than a bit of heating – especially if they were able to shut down levels of the ship to concentrate the life support on a fraction of inhabited decks to conserve power.

Other Captains

It’s a little hard to imagine how Sisko would deal with this situation, since he has so much more experience with the Ferengi – dealing with Quark, working with Rom and the whole spectrum from strong disapproval to mentor and sponsor for Nog. It’s a little unfair to Picard since the Federation at this point was only just encountering the Ferengi and preparing for some major friction. Janeway would probably have done the same as Picard. I can imagine Neelix, Kes, Paris or even Tuvok to provide Troi’s insight into first communication with the Ferengi. I would expect them to try and capitalise on the bluff with some impressive light shows, however doubt it would be too effective.

I think both Sisko and Janeway would have tried to go to the planet to investigate and regardless of whether the Ferengi joined them, encountered the Portal Guardian.

It all comes down to whether or not the Guardian mentioned Sun Tzu accidentally, dredged it up from deep in Riker’s memory (implying he scanned a lifetime in seconds) or read it off of the top of Riker’s mind, since the crew had only just been discussing Sun Tzu.

If Jadzia had been on the planet, I expect her long history and wisdom would have helped get past the Portal Guardian. Maybe he would even see some of the Emissary in Sisko? Tuvok might have provided the calm and wisdom for Janeway’s away team – she has a far younger crew than Sisko.


So this episode is noteworthy for the first appearance of the Ferengi, even though they will change a little over the course of The Next Generation before we end up with Quark on Deep Space Nine. The Ferengi were clearly never intended as an ‘alien of the week’, they were teased in the first TNG episode (Encounter at Farpoint) but this is the first appearance (Picard even notes that they don’t know what the Ferengi look like).

There’s a couple more things to add to my episode tracking…

  • Number of almost complete power drains: 1
  • Hackers advertising themselves: 1
  • Number of surrenders: 1

There’s a couple of things that I hope to keep a track of over the series – whether or not the table hologram in the conference room ever comes up again, for instance. The Ferengi are surprisingly strong in this episode, although possibly that’s unique to the ‘marauder’ culture of Ferengi. Also, the Ferengi are keen on gold. As a big DS9 fan, that surprises me because the key currency there is gold-pressed latinum – “the valuable and unreplicable latinum encased in worthless gold”. Possibly increased contact with the Federation and other ‘post-scarcity’ cultures with replicator technology instigated this change in Ferengi values. Gold coating adorns all of the indicators of wealth we see later in Ferengi culture, it can’t be merely a container for the latinum that is the real prize.

Star Trek Episode Autopsy – Code of Honour

I find it incredibly difficult to write “honour” incorrectly, like the actual title of the episode is. So I won’t.

This was an interesting episode. It was quite obviously an Original Series episode, in the way that it was shot, dressed, the aliens are “really humanoid” (meaning entirely human with no latex). If you swapped out Kirk and Picard, almost nothing would be different. On the other hand, quite a few of these early episodes were in the mould of the Original Series – more omnipotent, wondrous, unknowable aliens whereas later on, it seems that they transitioned throughout TNG to weirder looking aliens but whose godlike powers were limited or explained by technology somehow.

I noticed on the two named male aliens, they appeared to have scars on their faces – is that to show that they’re aliens, or something to do with their culture and tradition?

I'm going to be so embarassed if that turns out to be his normal face and not makeup...

Honour and Culture

I’m not sure what the point of the episode was – or whether it was designed that way deliberately. The main thrust of the episode seems to be that we must respect this other culture if we want to deal with them, but their notions of “honour” are weird and backwards to me.

The idea that counting coup in a form of ritual kidnap and return can be reconciled – in the end, no harm, no foul. It’ll be something to be more wary of next time. But not returning Tasha Yar after the kidnap seems to be breaking that ritual – it’s clear that the aliens don’t get it, they think that they are doing Picard a favour by allowing him to request her back.

Nor does it seem honourable to me to declare “I’ll take her as my wife” without giving her the chance to break your leg, entirely reasonably. You can’t kidnap someone and then force them to marry you, unless both cultures allow such a thing.

And as much as I understand the bias and highly subjective nature of it, I don’t think that culture or tradition is an acceptable excuse for doing something wrong. Any suppression of a person’s rights, be that because of gender, race, sexuality, health, is just plain wrong and it doesn’t matter if “that’s just their culture”. They’re wrong, and their culture is wrong. That doesn’t need to be respected, even if for the greater good it must be tolerated.

Equality of the Sexes

I feel like in some ways this was a more important part of the episode than the “honour” point. I think it was dealt with well – the only people making a big deal out of Tasha Yar being head of security were the aliens, whereas the Starfleet crew didn’t really make a big deal out of it. Maybe they’re so used to dealing with sexist cultures that they can take others actions in their stride, but they didn’t go to great lengths to make their point of equality to the aliens.

Cultural Research

While some points in the episode show a great deal of research about the alien culture has been done, they seem to have completely missed the “ritual kidnap” custom there. That seems like the sort of thing people should be aware of… on the other hand, the one most likely to be aware of it is Tasha Yar and if Starfleet in general has such a culture of equality, why would she suspect that she would be kidnapped? Surely the Captain or First Officer would be better prizes. Perhaps ritual kidnap isn’t that popular, and there’s a lot of more likely things that need to be researched – for instance, how to convince these guys to give up their vaccine.

I loved the fact that this is a race that has customs associated with their transporters – rolling out a red carpet before their leader beams aboard! It reminds me that Stargate SG-1, so much closer to our own time, lines the ramp to the Stargate with a ceremonial guard when they have visiting leaders and adapts some of the tradition and respect of the US military to a completely new context. It’s a shame that this isn’t used so much, and that everyone, from high to low, uses the transporter the same way.


Hit 'em with the pointy bits!

I don’t get the impression that these women really have been training with the dangerous spiked gauntlet weapons – if they have, then their trainers are absolutely rubbish. They’ve forgotten everything they ever knew about using them. I’m not even sure that they’re made correctly. There’s so much apparent weight on them, sitting on the end of the arm, that ideally you wouldn’t be swinging like they do in the episode – you’re far too likely to miss, and end up striking yourself at the end of the arc. If anything, you’d be better off in a sort of fencing pose to keep your killing fist as far from the rest of your body as possible and use jabbing actions to reduce the chance of hitting yourself. It seems much too easy to avoid a swing, then use your own weapon to push your opponent’s weapon back into them. The momentum of their swing will add to your own push, and the humanoid arm is hinged to go back to it’s own body very easily. Could be a short match if you had your timing right.

Other Captains

How would the other captains have dealt with this? I think Sisko would have been much less diplomatic about things. He wouldn’t have chatted to draw out information, he would have followed the letter of his obligation with obvious distaste, and once they’d got the vaccine, I expect he would have told them where to shove their culture. I can’t see him finding a way out of the fight to the death though. I expect that Kira would have been abducted, as the second in command and liberator of her world – Dax, while a more competent fighter (if she could use a bat’leth), was only a science officer. Would she have been such a desirable prize? I can’t see Kira giving in at all. She would be willing to scrap the vaccine to get herself, or anyone else, out. Sisko or the Bajoran government would have to convince her otherwise. Of everyone on DS9 I can see that she would suggest a rescue operation and steal the vaccine – she’s not a long-term planner or a diplomat, and she is used to guerrilla operations to uphold her inflexible principles.

Janeway’s crew is another matter. If the aliens were aware of the Klingon reputation, then maybe they’d have abducted B’elanna. Kes, being a child and not a crewmember, would not be a prize and Seven of Nine would likely have broken his nose before Janeway returned. Janeway herself would be a valuable prize too, possibly the most valuable. Regardless of who is abducted, I can’t see Janeway allowing the fight to go ahead. In the Delta Quadrant, there’s less Starfleet interference so the vaccine mission would be one that they took on themselves and they’d be in the unfavourable position of choosing between appeasing the aliens or giving up on someone they’ve promised to help. If she was abducted, I can see her telling the crew to leave without her rather than acquiesce.

Being in the unique position of not having to maintain diplomatic relations, I expect the Voyager crew would mount a raid and steal the vaccine they wanted (as well as rescue the captive) – as a payback for stealing their crew member. It can all be justified as being for the greater good.


I just wasn’t certain of the point of this episode. Are we supposed to respect other cultures regardless of their customs? Their giving Picard the opportunity to request Yar back, and the last thing we hear from the aliens (“You may excel in technology, but not in civilised behaviour.”) both suggest that they are incredibly tolerant of Starfleet, and Starfleet need to be more polite. On the other hand, Picard and company don’t seem to care too much. They certainly don’t act like they’ve been chastised and they make it clear that their only priority is to acquire the vaccine legally. It isn’t said explicitly, but the impression is given that Tasha Yar would not be given a choice in the marriage. If she was, I doubt that she would have been returned, deathmatch or no deathmatch. “Well, I abducted you, I refuse to return you because I want to marry you, and my wife wants to challenge you to the death. If you survive, I’ll ask if you want to marry me and then respect your decision with grace and dignity.” It just doesn’t make much sense as a motivation.

I didn’t realise that Wesley was allowed onto the bridge so early – we’re only on the third episode! At least he didn’t screw anything up this time.

Star Trek Episode Autopsy – The Naked Now

Another episode autopsy! And also the first that isn’t a two-part episode. As usual, some massive spoilers in this one.

In this episode, the crew contract a virus that first appeared in the Original Series that gets the crew drunk. Overall, they make very few scientific statements (unlike later series) and it’s difficult to make incorrect statements when everything is kept vague.



Regardless of that caveat, the explanation for Data’s intoxication doesn’t sit well with me. It’s explained that he has a “bloodstream” carrying synthetic compounds around his body, thus can be intoxicated. For that to have a real effect, he would have had to have been created with chemoreceptors for those intoxicants, and specific behaviour modifiers to make him appear/act drunk. That’s how humans become intoxicated, after all. Was Dr Soong having a bit of a laugh when he designed/created Data?

On a longer term basis, Data acts more human and seems to feel some emotion when intoxicated. If his goal is to be more human and experience emotions, couldn’t he just swig a few vodkas and get wasted? Even if it’s just a similar compound to alcohol, haven’t they got enough information to synthesise it and experiment?


Although only the second episode, already three important things are established about Wesley Crusher. Firstly, he’s a genius. Secondly, he will constantly threaten the ship with destruction. Third, he will constantly save the ship from destruction. In this case, his “saving” the ship is only true if you take his idea to let Data repair engineering count. He had more opportunity to save the ship by not letting the drunk engineer take out all the chips and play with them, and by not blocking access to engineering with a homemade force-field.

Isolinear Chips

I find it interesting to work out how computers of the future work, and whether the original designers of Star Trek were trying to imagine how different computers informed by alien technology might function or whether they just didn’t know how computers function. In the 80s, that was a reasonable assumption.

The fact that the ship can’t operate because a bunch of isolinear chips were pulled out of the computer in engineering suggests that machines have moved back towards programmable chips, such as are found in single-purpose machines like microwaves, dishwashers, calculators, etc. In contrast, home computers are general purpose machines with different software running on them. As a software developer, it is hard to get my head around the physicality of programming in the Star Trek universe. I deal with things that are intangible, whereas in Star Trek a program can be hobbled by pulling a real bit of it out with your hands.

Software nowadays can be written in a modular fashion that looks like the isolinear chip model, except it doesn’t have any real components. It’s possible to have dynamically loaded and unloaded software modifications from single files, and why not have these files on a USB stick? If it was written the right way, a program could watch for new USB devices and automatically load (relevant) additions that are plugged in. This would obviously be a major security problem (you’d want an “Are you sure?” prompt, at least) but it would mean that you can modify your computer by plugging in and removing USB sticks. They’re like chunky isolinear chips, really.

Computer Security

"It looks like you're trying to move environmental controls outside of human tolerance. Would you like me to help?"

There were two moments I thought about computer security – the environmental controls being set to fatally cold on the Tsiolkovsky, and vital isolinear chips being pulled out of engineering. Then again, in both cases, compromised officers with a high level of access were present to override any computer queries. Engineers should be able to pull out isolinear chips, although perhaps they should have a locking clip for more critical components that makes it a little harder. “Removing this chip will disable forward propulsion. Are you sure?” Click. “Removing this chip will disable positive yaw adjustments. Are you sure?” Click. “Removing this chip will disable negative yaw adjustments. Are you sure?” Oh screw this I’m too drunk to carry on.

Given that the ship’s internal sensors can presumably detect death or near-death conditions, maybe it should include some kind of failsafe to prevent a crew compromised in this manner from hurting themselves or others. If it detects that someone has died or is about to die, it adjusts the environmental controls back towards “not lethal”? Other than the blanket argument “you’d always want to have the option” to deal with alien invasions, viruses, a storage space for strange interplanetary phenomena, I can’t think of a good reason why the computer should allow someone to set environmental controls to kill another. Even if not overriding the environmental conditions, perhaps a sort of deadman’s switch where a person near death will be beamed to sickbay (or suitable alternative, if sickbay doesn’t qualify).

Database Searching


They searched the database for “showering in clothes” and “aberrant behaviour”. Seriously, that must be a massive dataset to scan through! Storage on the Enterprise must be completely a non-issue, since they apparently are able to store every log and incident that happened on every ship, colony and starbase for the last couple of centuries. I guess I’ll get a better idea of how this is handled as the series progresses…

Other Captains

I don’t think that Picard had too much to do with things in this episode, since the ship was essentially held hostage by Wesley until the doctor could develop a cure (as long as Picard left her alone). Sisko could probably have held his own against the virus as long as Kasidy Yates wasn’t on the ship, although he may have been found playing baseball instead of handling the situation. Quark would likely be the one to threaten the station, and Bashir may have had trouble leaving Dax, Leeta or the nice Bajoran travellers alone for long enough to create a cure… but would his genetic enhancements give him an edge in resisting the effects?

On Voyager, Janeway and Chakotay could probably keep their hands off of each other. If Seven of Nine was present, she would either shrug off the effects completely thanks to the Borg nanoprobes or her Borg implants would not deal with the virus at all and she’ll spend all the episode in sickbay. The Doctor’s only problem would be keeping intoxicated revellers out of the sickbay long enough to synthesise a cure, since he definitely wouldn’t be disadvantaged by the virus at all.

Would anyone even see a difference in Kirk if he were affected by the virus?


Wow, I didn’t think I’d have anything to say here. Guess I can whine about anything. I’m going to try and keep track of some stats while I do this, partly because there are certain things that everyone knows about long-running shows like this, or seem like recurring plot points. It’ll be interesting to see if they really are as repetitive as they seem. There’s a couple of new ones here (quite obviously this early in the series!):

  • Times Wesley threatened the ship: 1
  • Times Wesley saved the ship: 1
  • Number of viruses contracted: 1

Star Trek Episode Autopsy – Encounter at Farpoint

So after starting at the end, let’s jump to the beginning! Encounter at Farpoint is a very different episode to Endgame, as the world we live in was a different place. There’s nearly two decades between the two episodes, and the loss of Gene Roddenberry and his particular vision for the future.

Although it’s a double-length episode, I don’t have enough to say about it to stretch this over two blog posts. Also, since it is the first episode of all the modern series (although since that really covers the period 1987-2002 calling them ‘modern’ is stretching it a little bit…) there’s not a lot to pick holes in it exactly, and it wouldn’t be completely fair to pick holes in future episodes based on this episode.


I love timelines! I love alternate and future histories! If I remember (and it’s been a while) my original Star Trek lore, two thirds of Earth’s population was wiped out in the Eugenics Wars of 1996-99, leading to a worldwide ban on genetic engineering. Of course, by 2063 we’d already fought the Third World War…

A couple of key dates in Earth history are brought up in this episode’s court scene. The United Earth Government was set up in 2036, showing that at least some nations on the planet are going to unite. My best guess for how this might go down is a convergence of economic collapse (see: the last few years) and energy crisis. Given most government’s inability to make bold changes that might upset voters or damage their own dreams of power, things would likely degenerate enough to force states to band together to fix things. It’s a bit of a stretch, maybe, and probably doesn’t match projected energy crisis timescales, but like I said – it’s my best guess for how nations might be forced together.

I also don’t believe that just by using the term “United Earth” makes it a unanimous consensus. This is the best explanation for how a Third World War can arise later, given the arrogance and presumption of using the name United Earth for yourself when some nations aren’t invited or refuse to join!

That uniform is so well cushioned he probably sleeps in it

The courts of 2079, in the wake of the Third World War, are a bit more difficult to reconcile. We know that First Contact occurs in 2063, and ushers in an age of peace, prosperity and extra-terrestrial contact. But these courts show that that process evidently took some time to establish. Again, in the absence of an official explanation, my best guess is that the different factions of WW3 – which are still openly hostile in 2063 – take different lengths of time to accept the Vulcan’s contact (given a recent global war, paranoia and suspicion are likely still high). I can’t imagine how a nation would feel being contacted by an enemy who says “Hey, we met some aliens and they’re really cool, shall we form a united government together?” Most nations today would not agree on a common set of goals, etc., and may disagree on how to govern equally and get angry about an apparent inequality in that proposed governance (over ideological things like human rights, for example).

The Court

Justice is blind when the light shines in it's eyes like that

The court scene puts me in two minds. I can see the point of courts becoming more theatrical, since everything nowadays is more theatrical and dramatised. The parliament of the UK has long been full of buffoons braying to each other and joining in daft mock-indignant laughter, and it’s all got a kind of tradition and pageantry of its own. In addition, the growing ubiquity of personal communication gadgets (including the upcoming field of wearable networked devices) mean that courts may not be able to keep from becoming completely public over the internet. In the worst possible case, this would combine with modern trash-television standards and the sensationalisation of news stories to create a court that panders to the crowds for entertainment values. It won’t happen fast, but could easily happen over a couple of generations. Since Star Trek’s view of the 21st century is pretty bleak (the Bell Riots, World War Three, drug-controlled armies and almost including the Eugenics War) it’s not impossible that in their world, things could move towards a media-savvy court.

In the fallout of the Third World War, a media-savvy court could easily become a entertainment form, especially since the court itself is just a prelude to sentence. It’s clear from Q’s remarks that the verdict has already been reached, and the court does not bring innocent people to trial.

An additional wrinkle though is that this isn’t time travel – it’s a Q illusion. Is it a true reflection of the courts of the late 21st century, or is it an analogy used by Q to frame his own trial (with a lack of justice, preordained verdict, etc.)?

Q’s Intentions

Q’s intentions are difficult to fathom. I can’t take them at face value. The fact that he is bringing humans to trial for savagery, but leaving the Klingons alone? That the Borg are assimilating their way across the Delta Quadrant, and aren’t being interfered with? I can only speculate that the Q (or just Q himself) are testing humanity, or else doing it for entertainment value. Their decision to limit humanity could have been done earlier in their history when Kirk is travelling around the galaxy (he goes further than Picard has at this point), or they could try to limit a more savage race instead (the Cardassians are more wicked, the Klingons are more barbaric). Not to mention that with the Q’s power, couldn’t they just send each vessel back to Earth and disable it from superluminal travel?

The trial is not Q’s intention, he instead instructed Picard to go. Picard mentioned a trial, and Q decided to acquiesce and give him one – although just as he’d already chosen what he wanted the Enterprise to do, he chose a trial where the verdict is preordained. Finally, despite both of these one-sided decisions, he chose to allow Picard a chance to prove humanity was no longer savage. He went from a 100% declaration of “go home” to “it will be proved you should go home”, to “show me why you shouldn’t go home” in very short order. He either allowed a mortal to talk him out of it, or he is playing a game with the Enterprise crew – the first of many.

There's three people in the back standing smartly to attention, but only one next to a console.

When it appears that they may not complete his challenge, he turns up on the bridge to gloat but also to nudge them in the right direction. It’s possible that the Enterprise would, through no fault of it’s own, fire on the alien vessel that is attacking (apparently unprovoked) an ally currently in friendly negotiations with the humans. They would be showing compassion to protect the Bandi, and yet damning themselves in Q’s eyes. But since Q appears and boasts, taunts and mocks the humans they get an idea of what they should be doing. Why would he jeopardise getting what he demanded at the beginning, unless what he really wanted was something else and it didn’t matter whether humans were sent back to their own solar system?


Most of the nit-picking that I would have done, I don’t feel fair doing because this is the first episode and thus so much of it is setting up the rules with the intention of breaking them later. The only one that I might bring up here is the fact that Admiral McCoy doesn’t like to use transporters. I’m not as big a guru on the Original Series as I am on later Star Trek series, but I’m fairly certain that he didn’t have such a problem with them in the past. Maybe if I feel malicious enough to give the Original Series this sort of treatment, I’ll revisit the decision then. It was a nice touch to see him though, with trademark casual racism (anti-Vulcanism sounds a bit more like an opinion on geology…)

It was also nice to see an admission that the Holodeck has a wall! I don’t think that this ever comes up again, I’ll make a note to keep an eye out for it…

Other Captains

As before, how would the other captains have handled this? Although it’s a single episode in two parts, there are two almost unconnected stories involved here – Q’s Ultimatum and the mystery of Farpoint Station.

The court is not necessarily an essential component of the ultimatum, since Q credits Picard with the idea. I imagine that Sisko would demand some sort of proof or trial, a way to fight his corner and justify humanity although he does believe that humanity can be savage (he himself will do terrible things in the Dominion War). In a way, he would need to argue his position since DS9 cannot separate or run away like the Enterprise can.

I can’t see Janeway submitting to any threats without proof that the Q have jurisdiction over them or that region of space. If it did go to trial, that’d likely be her point rather than argue the charges against humanity. I’m not saying that she’d get out of the situation happily or alive, but without previous contact with the Q (this is the first instance!) and without Starfleet’s briefings (based primarily on Picard’s future encounters with the Q), no-one would have a base level of knowledge of the Q and their capabilities, motivations, etc.

With the Bandi at Farpoint Station, I don’t see anyone acting too far out of Picard’s steps. In fact, most of the actions in investigating Farpoint were inactions. The negotiations had stalled because of a lack of information shared and the alien creature was rescued by one of it’s own. Nothing that happened in the investigation was as a direct result of the Enterprise’s actions. As far as discovering the odd emotions, Kes or Tuvok could help Janeway and Spock could help Kirk, but Sisko doesn’t have an empathic/telepathic crewmember to help.

Unlike the other captains, Kirk has previous experience with a Q-like being. It’s my personal theory that Trelaine could be a member of the Q-continuum, although a less disciplined and less dangerous being than Q. I recall that Kirk has dealt with other near-omnipotent beings too. I doubt he would submit to accusations of savagery (despite being more of a wrestler than any other captain), and would probably make a farce of any trial (I just can’t get his behaviour with Trelaine out of my head!)


It was strange watching this episode again, given the huge changes in general culture and television style since it first aired. It’ll be even stranger if I end up going through the Original Series too…

I also realised while watching this that computers at the end of the 1980s had very different designs, both in user experience, user interaction and architecture to computers just a decade later. The internet revolution hadn’t happened, and cloud computing was a pipe dream. It wasn’t really mentioned in this episode, but I know that future ones are going to show an interesting divergence of design.

I don’t think that I would actually do anything different with this episode. A bit boring, but there were no major plot-holes and since characters haven’t really been defined, no-one did anything out of character!

Overall, a nice utilitarian way to introduce the new series and all the characters – this is an android, this is a VISOR, this is a small boy who will threaten the ship with destruction. It also sets up some things that weren’t used as much in future episodes. The saucer separation in particular felt like either they’d want to do it more often and didn’t find a reason to (forgetting about it most of the time) or that it was being set up for the future so it wouldn’t feel like they made it up to get out of a sticky situation on the spot. Other things were being introduced that were left by the wayside – my favourite is the mini-skirts. Instead of dropping mini-skirts (oo-er) in the name of gender equality, they instead gave them to everyone in the name of gender equality! Then chickened out almost immediately. It’s a shame, it took guts to try it out.

There’s more that I could go into (Picard is clearly an angry man, hates Riker, swears a lot; O’Brien doesn’t seem to mind that everyone has been transported off of the battle bridge without him) but I think I’ll leave it there and maybe bring those up as they change in future episodes. Let me know what you think about my ideas, or what you think I may have missed!

  • Number of saucer separations: 1
  • Number of Q encounters: 1