Star Trek: TNG Season 5 “Redemption Part II” and “Darmok”

Let's Darmok this, Shaka arms wide Temba. Sort that out for me!

Let’s Darmok this, Shaka arms wide Temba. Sort that out for me!

I’m going through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and reviewing every episode, complete with commentary and a grade from A-F. I’ve also included a score and comment from my wife, who has never seen the show before. There are SPOILERS for each episode below.

“Redemption, Part II”

Plot

The Klingon Civil War continues as Romulans try to influence it through the Duras family. Picard gains permission to form a task force to prevent Romulan supplies from getting through to the Duras faction as Worf continues to fight for his honor among the Klingons. Data is assigned to captain one of the ships and his first officer doesn’t trust him to succeed. As Picard and the Romulans, led by the apparent daughter of Lieutenant Yar, play a chess game to see who will outsmart whom, Gowron and his forces attack several Duras bases, pressing them to the limit. Data’s decision to disobey an order in order to prevent the Romulan fleet from breaking through saves the day, and the Duras family is defeated. Worf, however, spares the life of the young Duras child and returns to duty.

Commentary

As with almost every one of the Klingon story arc episodes, this is jam-packed with story. There’s so much going on that I just will pick out a few highlights. First- Data: “I understand your concerns… request denied.” – In response to his first officer’s request to transfer. Epic.

Worf’s character is, in my opinion, one of the more complex ones in the series now. The writers have done well by putting forth his balanced loyalties and cultures sometimes face off against each other as he paves his own way between human and Klingon. His ultimate decision not to kill Toral–the Duras child–was just such an excellent moment. It really showed how he has come into his own rather than doing what is expected of him.

The way the heat was turned up during this Civil War arc over several episodes is also impressive, and seeing it come to fruition was great. I think having the Romulan commander be Tasha Yar’s daughter was unnecessary, and there are all kinds of questions we could ask over Worf’s leave of absence, resignation, and reinstatement, but none of that mars what is a simply phenomenal conclusion to a major story arc. The fact that they left it just open enough by sparing Toral and leaving Worf to develop further was also brilliant.

Grade: A+ “An overarching plot is brought to an epic conclusion with enough left open to continue it if desired. Worf’s back!”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “A satisfactory conclusion to the Worf Saga.”

“Darmok”

Plot

The Enterprise comes into contact with the Tamarians, a people who have tried to connect with Starfleet in the past but have failed due to an apparently incomprehensible language barrier. Picard is kidnapped by the captain of the Tamarian ship–Dathon–after another failure in communication, and as he delves into the motivation behind Dathon’s motivations, Riker and crew try to rescue him. Ultimately, Picard begins to realize the Tamarians are communicating in metaphor, and after Dathon is injured by a strange beast on the planet, tells the story of Gilgamesh to him. Dathon dies, and the crew of the Enterprise rescues Picard, who manages to forestall any conflict with the Tamarians by conversing with them via metaphor.

Commentary

Here’s an amazing idea for an episode: how do you create a language barrier for a people who has a “universal translator” at their disposal? Make the language entirely dependent on metaphor–references to things beyond the words and even grammar themselves. The universal translator can make the words, but cannot convey information it doesn’t have about what the metaphors mean.

Sure, this idea starts to break down the more you think about it (after all, to have metaphor, you have to be able to tell other people what the metaphors are about; or, as one friend said: “You can’t build starships with metaphors”), but that’s beside the point. The point of “Darmok” is that moment of connection, the transcendence beyond language when two people are able to come to an understanding of each other. And that’s where “Darmok” excels.

Viewers will probably figure out the metaphor angle faster than the crew/Captain did, but that doesn’t take away from the journey the episode takes as Picard struggles with Dathon to come to a mutual understanding. When Picard finally figures it out and then has his attempt to fight with Dathon interrupted by getting partially beamed up, his frustration is palpable: it’s just at the wrong moment! Then, when he tells the story of Gilgamesh to Dathon as Dathon is dying, it’s a beautiful scene which required the investment of time before it to be pulled off.

“Darmok” is such a memorable episode that it sticks with you for years afterwards. It’s one of the only episodes with a name I have memorized, and its impact is undeniable. Sure, you can’t push the premise too hard without finding some cracks in the edifice, but you don’t want to. It’s just that great.

Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra!

Grade: A+ “One of the most unique and satisfying episodes in the series.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “They did a great job imagining a different culture with its own language and the challenge of communication.”

Two A+ this week means this episode-combo can only be tied for the highest grade ever awarded!

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: TNG– For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.

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