Category Archives: Star Trek The Next Generation

REVIEW: Star Trek The Next Generation “The Pegasus”

Tony Wilkins reviews the Star Trek The Next Generation episode “The Pegasus”

Admiral Eric Pressman of Starfleet Intelligence arrives aboard the USS Enterprise with a secret mission for Picard and Riker. Pressman and Riker’s former ship, the USS Pegasus, once presumed destroyed has resurfaced and is in danger of falling in to Romulan hands. While the Enterprise searches an asteroid belt (with a Romulan Warbird close by) Picard begins to uncover that there was a mutiny onboard the Pegasus before it was destroyed and that Riker is deliberately hiding facts from him leading to one of their most fiery confrontations of the whole series. Upon discovering the Pegasus the Enterprise-D becomes trapped inside an asteroid after the entrance is closed off by the Romulans. It is then Riker finally reveals the truth; the Pegasus was testing an interphasic cloaking device in violation of a treaty the Federation signed in good faith. Picard fits the device to the Enterprise-D and uses it to escape the asteroid but not before revealing the truth to the Romulans.

“The Pegasus” is one of my all time favorite episodes of The Next Generation. It is one of the most military episodes that the show ever made and the whole affair plays out like a classic Cold War submarine story such as “The Hunt For Red October”. Like the Tom Clancy novel there is a new weapon that both sides are trying to get their hands on. Ron Moore who wrote the episode actually cited “Raise the Titanic” as his primary inspiration for the story and we can clearly see the comparison.

This episode would not have been so interesting had it not been for Terry O’Quinn’s guest performance as Pressman. O’Quinn had been used to playing a high ranking US Navy officer as a recurring guest star in JAG and so brought the authoritarian persona with him quite well. Pressman joins the long list of Starfleet Admirals who have gone mad but it was O’Quinn’s performance that made this one all the more believable and give a higher quality to the role. At times he makes some valid points which gives you some sympathy with the character although that sympathy soon disperses when you hear that he is quite remorseless about the loss of his former crew in trying to achieve the goal of giving Starfleet cloaking technology. A little known fact is that there were efforts to have O’Quinn reprise the role in future episodes of Deep Space Nine although that ultimately failed to blossom.

While this has been cited as one of Jonathan Frakes’ best episodes I have always seen it more as one of Picard/Riker’s best. The conflict that arises between the two over Riker’s refusal to reveal the truth to Picard is what makes this so fascinating to watch. Given that it was the last season the two actors now knew how to work off one another and it showed brilliantly. The scene in Picard’s quarters is one of the most tense moments between them ever seen on screen. It’s interesting to note that while Gene Roddenberry was alive he strictly opposed such character conflict believing humans had evolved beyond such petty arguments. This is why there was little character conflict in the early seasons but writers such as Moore felt this limited their ability to tell good stories and I have to admit that judging by this episode and a few others I have to agree. Even with our closest friends and colleagues there will be times we wont agree and to be true to life you have to show this.

One of my favorite scenes was watching Picard talking to the Romulan commander when the Enterprise arrives in the asteroid field. It has all the usual political double talk with both sides not saying much directly but indirectly there is a mutual understanding of the rules of the game. It really enforces my opinion that this plays out like a good Cold War story. It’s like the Soviets saying “we’re JUST conducting a test of our newest missile” when in reality what they are saying is “look at our newest missile; if you cause trouble this is coming your way.”

Perhaps the biggest contribution to the Star Trek universe this episode makes is the revelation about why when Starfleet often appears more technologically advanced than either the Klingons or Romulans do they not have cloaking technology? The real reason from a writer’s perspective is that cloaking technology is seen as a tool of the villain but having a treaty prohibiting the technology was a good way of explaining it in-context even if it does feel a little stretched. Sticking to the Cold War analogy it would be akin to the US signing a treaty preventing it from deploying nuclear missile submarines. I loved the fact that the cloaking device itself is largely transparent; it’s like saying even the components are cloaked. An interesting sidenote is that in the expanded universe of the Star Trek:Titan novels it is revealed that all Federation ships carry schematics for building cloaking devices hidden within their databanks should the Romulans ever start a war thereby nullifying the Treaty of Algeron. This is similarly implied on-screen in the final episode of The Next Generation, “All Good Things” where in the future scenes the Romulan Empire is under Klingon occupation and as such Federation starships now have cloaks.

I do have to pick some faults with the episode though in the interests of fairness. Being a technogeek my first complaint was the USS Pegasus itself. I know they had to use a previously established class as a cost saving measure but why the Oberth-class? It is probably the most uninteresting Starfleet design ever. Given that Pressman describes the ship as a prototype technology testbed for systems installed aboard ships like the Enterprise-D wouldn’t it have made more sense to use the Ambassador-class model or even an Excelsior-class to imply the common belief that modernized Excelsiors were still being built in the mid 24th century (which explains why 80 years after the original Excelsior there are still vast numbers of the class in service and still putting up a good performance against the Dominion). Apparently a new design was considered hence Pressman’s line but this was dropped at the last minute on cost grounds.

My second criticism of the episode comes with the scene where the Enterprise goes inside the asteroid. I understand the reasoning behind it with regards to the story and drama but was it really necessary to endanger the crew and their families (who seem to be onboard occasionally by this point) like that? Surely it would have made more sense to separate the saucer section and take the engineering hull in. This would have the advantage of reducing the mass of the ship so the engines wouldn’t have to work so hard in the gravitational sheer and keeping the vast majority of the crew/families out of danger. The real answer of course is that this would not make for good storytelling because the separated saucer section could have prevented the Romulans from sealing Picard and co. inside the asteroid.

Those things being said; I can overlook them. This was a fascinating story and is one that perhaps best plays out better as a repeat when you feel like you too are now hiding the secret of the cloak along with Riker and Pressman. Would I have wanted to see Pressman again? No, it is better to have appeared in one good episode than in several possibly mediocre ones and Terry O’Quinn’s performance will leave this episode a legend in its own right. Its just a shame it was sullied by the last episode of Star Trek:Enterprise.


Thanks for reading…


REVIEW; Star Trek: The Next Generation “Yesterday’s Enterprise”

I have been a fan of Star Trek for as long as I can remember. I first started watching it in the late 1980s when Star Trek The Next Generation was still going through its maturity phase of Seasons 2 and 3. Star Trek has evolved a long way since then and there are countless moments or episodes that stand out. I have often been asked what my favorite episode is and in truth I can never decide. I therefore often compile lists of my favorite episodes. These lists tend to change from time to time but one episode above all others has always appeared on that list. I am referring to “Yesterday’s Enterprise”.

Season 3 will be remembered by most for its penultimate episode “Best of Both Worlds Part 1” but hidden in among the series was this gem. It has often been remembered simply as the one where Tasha Yar comes back but it’s much more than that. Although 41 minutes occur in an alternate timeline there are several moments that set up important plotlines for later episodes.

So let’s begin.

The episode begins simply enough with Worf sitting alone in Ten Forward when he is approached by Guinan insisting he try a drink. This drink would prove an almost religious experience for Worf for it is the first time he tries Prune Juice; a drink that would later become a trademark of the character as he describes it as “A warrior’s drink“. Worf is called to the bridge as the crew stumble across a temporal anomaly. A ship appears from the anomaly and everything changes. The Enterprise-D takes on a menacing tone, Wesley Crusher is wearing a uniform, the other ship turns out to be the Ambassador-class Enterprise-C and Tasha Yar has replaced Worf entirely.

This scenario seems a little tired now as we have seen it several times since but back then it was new and interesting. Before the opening credits we already have a sense that in this new timeline things are not great even though we know nothing of it yet except for the aforementioned changes. This is such a compliment to the production values of this episode. Having seen the altered credit sequence of the mirror universe episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise I can’t help but wish they had done something similar here too.

So once we have come to terms that we are in a new timeline we start learning a few things. Firstly this new timeline has been created as a result of the Enterprise-C not getting blown up 22 years earlier and Guinan’s sixth sense tells her the ship has to go back although she can’t tell us why which is an almost certain suicide mission. As the episode progresses we learn that the Federation is at war with the Klingons and eventually Picard reveals that they are just months away from surrender. Captain Garrett of the Enterprise-C decides to do the honorable thing and lead her ship back but is killed in a brief battle with the Klingons before she can do so. Then finally under the captaincy of the helmsman, the brash Lt. Castille, and along with this alternate Tasha Yar the Enterprise-C returns to its own time to be destroyed and repair the timeline. Worf is back and everything is right with the universe.

It’s difficult for me to put a finger on what it is about this episode that makes it one of my favorites. I never liked Tasha Yar very much and so seeing her again was not really appealing to me although it really did make me feel like I was watching an episode set in an alternate universe (something similar episodes often failed to achieve). The sad part is though I really liked this Tasha. Denise Crosby gave her a heart and that is probably the biggest tragedy in this episode – we saw what Tasha could have been not the forgettable character she was in Season 1.

I have to get this out of the way – I adore the Ambassador-class Enterprise-C. I am so glad they didn’t just reuse the Excelsior-class model which they had done several times for other starships. It really made this Enterprise feel as unique as the Enterprise-D even though we had no real idea of its history. The bridge is another redress of the battle bridge set but I don’t care. It looked the part and really made me feel like I was on a ship from the end of the so-called movie-era of Starfleet. That being said I don’t understand why the crew were portrayed without the undershirt and belt of the movie-era uniforms. It just made them look half dressed.

Captain Garrett really felt like a proto-Janeway in her few scenes. She felt very real and had that gung-ho attitude that comes with being captain of the Enterprise. Lieutenant Castillo on the other hand, while he had a lot of screen time, has never endeared me as much as Garrett. I do like him but I would have been happier if Garrett had remained alive long enough to command her ship at the end.

Some of the biggest changes of this timeline are perhaps the most subtle and are only really picked up upon after watching the episode several times. Picard and Riker at times feel like they are very distant with one another as though they have a history of conflict. Thats understandable in the high stress environment of a ship at war and again gave what are in-effect ‘new’ characters a lot of depth. Every set aboard the Enterprise-D has a darker tone reflecting the scenario. The repeated PA announcements also make it feel like a US or Royal Navy destroyer in war. One thing I never liked was Picard’s “military log” however. Starfleet had been through wars before the timeline split after Narendra III and kept the “captain’s log” so why change it now?

The climax of the episode is of course not the battle at Narendra III but rather the battle to get the Enterprise-C back to its own time. Patrick Stewart has had some great lines during his time as Picard and I plan to list my favorites in a future post but in this episode he gives one of the best lines he had given at least to that point.

Let’s make sure history never forgets the name…Enterprise.”

God, everytime I hear that the hairs on the back of my neck go up and to see him as the last man on the burning bridge firing the phasers was such a powerful image that has stayed with me for years. The battle is slow paced compared to the battles of the Dominion War in DS9 giving it a real old-world naval battle feel reminiscent of an Horatio Hornblower novel. We are left with the impression that the Enterprise-D is just moments from destruction when the timeline is restored. Even though it doesn’t happen, of all the moments when we have thought the Enterprise-D was going to go up in flames this was the one time it felt most real.

I can’t leave this review without talking about the consequences of this episode. Even though they are oblivious of these events the Enterprise-D run in to the half-Romulan Sela, alternate Tasha’s daughter. Sela was a very two dimensional enemy at times but she was at least interesting and went some way to absolving Denise Crosby of ditching the show early on. My only regret with Sela is that she did not make an appearance in Star Trek: Nemesis. I would have preferred it to be her rather than Commander Donatra.

So there it is one of my favorite episodes of all time. It had everything; drama, action, tragedy, traditional sci-fi themes. It also had very notable performances by Denise Crosby, Whoopi Goldberg and Patrick Stewart. I sometimes wish we could have learned more about the Enterprise-C but when I really think about it the myth this episode created will always be better than anything thats portrayed and I am happy with that.