Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Next Generation, Season 3: Allegiance

The Next Generation, Season 3
Airdate: March 26, 1990
65 of 176 produced
65 of 176 aired


En route to a rendezvous with the USS Hood after a mission of humanitarian relief, the crew of the Enterprise must deal with their captain acting a little... off. He begins singing drinking songs, wooing his coworkers, and giving unusual orders which might end up threatening all of their lives. When will the other shoe drop, and how long can the crew last before mutiny becomes their only option?

Come, Beverly. Let's tease the absolute daylights out of the audience...


Matthew: The title of this episode perhaps indicates what is going on here. This is a meditation on why people follow Captain Picard's orders. The sci-fi element to the story is a race with no concept of hierarchy, owing to their identical natures. As a concept, it's been done - in "11001001," for instance. It wasn't really developed there, and neither is it to any great degree here. It really provides more of a backdrop for a story about what makes the crew of the Enterprise tick - the steady, metronomic behavior of its stalwart captain. And as in most cases, the best way to investigate this is when it breaks down. The scenes we get with the duplicate Picard running afoul of expectations are delicious and informative.

Kevin: I agree watching how the crew initially trusts Picard enough to not voice their doubts then turn to outright disobedience is pretty interesting. As opposed to lesser outings, like "Lonely Among Us," the crew does not have to act stupid to progress the plot. Up until ordering them dangerously close to the pulsar, nothing the duplicate did was far enough to warrant mutiny, and the minute it did, Riker jumped in. Picard didn't admit he was a duplicate to Crusher to only have her do...nothing. I also always enjoy any impromptu conference scene in a crew member's quarters. The change in scenery really drives home the unique nature of the problem.

Matthew: Most any "prison" scenario is inherently interesting. We meet two new species here, and see a female variant of another. It seems like the Chalnoth was a precursor to the Nausicaans. The Mizarian provided a nice contrast. I enjoyed the attempts at prison breaking, and the tension between the prisoners. It might have been more interesting had they actually gotten out of the room. We also got the nice continuity reference to the Mintakans.

Kevin: The reference to Mintaka was good, though I have a few issues with this half of the episode. Individual moments are good, but I found Picard's solving the mystery a little too neat. Haro was participating more than Tholl, so Picard's accusation about her just watching everything seemed odd. I also have problems with Starfleet apparently classifying knowledge of a plague. Is there no independent news service in the Federation. Another, legitimately secret mission could have been references without turning the Federation into a military-run police state.

Matthew: The Picard/Crusher scene was an awful tease. Like, awful to the point of being painful. To do this does tell us something about their relationship, but it also dampens our hopes of the characters truly getting together. It was redeemed somewhat, though, by Crusher really messing with Picard at the end. She must have known he was back, and was playing up the fact that he had no idea what transpired.

Kevin: It would have been awesome if this episode had been the catalyst for something more. The fake Picard discussing feelings she thought she buried could have spurred her to make a move and that would have been neat, but as it stands, both the viewers and Dr. Crusher got seriously blue-balled by Fake Picard.

Matthew: In the end, I find myself liking this but not really having a good argument for why. The way it subverts comfortable characterizations must be it. It doesn't develop the idea of a non-hierarchical society far enough. It doesn't make the prison break interesting enough. But the mutiny angle is good, and it's cool to see the crew get wise and take action. The scene where Riker confronts Picard-duplicate was really great. So I consider it entertaining, if not spectacular.

Kevin: The character moments are strong, I agree. My issue with the episode is that we know the whole story pretty much from the teaser. Has we stayed with just the Enterprise longer without knowing Picard was a replicant, we could have shared the unease, without knowing what the real reason was. Also, an actual exploration of the alien culture would have been good. I understand they don't understand hierarchy, but given their profound reaction to captivity, why did they have such a hard time understanding Picard's outrage?


Matthew: Patrick Stewart again does a great job (the first was in "Yesterday's Enterprise") of playing a "slightly off" Picard. Many of his scenes were quite funny. His dinner with Dr. Crusher, despite its being an awful tease, was a lot of fun to watch. His singing in Ten Forward and his awkwardness at the poker game were funny. Then, when he threatens Riker's career, things turn creepy and a bit scary. Then, when you see the "real" Picard in the prison, things feel immediately "right" by comparison. Just really well done all around by Stewart.

Kevin: I liked Picard in the prison scenes. Trying to keep everyone together and non-violent while taking the risks necessary to affect escape really lend support to his reputation as both a good leader and good negotiator. I'm always happy when they show someone doing a thing rather than merely being described as doing it.

Matthew: The guest actors again were strong. Joycelyn O'Brien was good as Mitena Haro, bringing a nice innocence to the role. Reiner Schone was good as Esoqq, too - he was aggressive and full of braggadocio. But best of all was the somewhat sniveling Tholl, played by Stephen Markle. There's always something endearing about a coward in a sci-fi drama - perhaps as an avatar for the viewers. All in all, yet another strong casting job. Season Three is really kicking butt on this score.

Kevin: I would have enjoyed an episode that stay almost entirely on Picard and the three guest stars. They all did a really good job of portraying a rounded character in a short time. I think the rest of the ensemble did a good job too. They were simultaneously competent enough to detect and act on the problem, but still display some genuine confusion and vulnerability at the idea that Picard is not who or what he seems.

Production Values

Matthew: The effects on the "obelisk" and its transporter effect were pretty good - better than many opticals thus far in the series. This show wasn't a bottle per se, but the prison room was the only other set. It looked nice, and had a visually interesting design - especially the "jell-o jiggler" dispenser.... Poison! I will say that the purple force field on the bridge was a bit odd. It would have seemed more consistent if it had been the standard blue force field effect.

Kevin: I liked the claustrophobic feel of the prison set and it looked fully designed, not like they just slapped together some grey walls.

Matthew: The cadet costume was an almost perfect precursor to the DS9/Voyager costumes. It looked good, and it's obvious why they picked it up again. The Mizarian and the Chalnoth looked fine, nothing too spectacular. But the aliens - whew! Tight blue glittering pleather... wow. They did have some nice Westmore-heads, though.

Kevin: I was not a fan of the alien design this time around. They looked too much like lumpy rubber masks. And the neon blue jumpsuits weren't doing anyone any favors, least of all the view. I like Tholl's costume and head wrap a lot. It just looks bookish. Overall, production values were okay, not great, but okay.


Matthew: I've always liked this episode. There is something comfortable about it, like a nice pair of slippers. I never skip it on a TNG watch-through. But I can acknowledge that, while entertaining, it is not particularly deep. The writing and production values are average, the acting a bit above. So I will grudgingly give it a 3, even though I like it so.

Kevin: I enjoyed this episode more than I thought I would based on my recollection, but it still never really grabs me. I think the episode would have benefited from picking either the Enterprise or the cell and not flipping back and forth so much. It solves the mystery of where the real Picard is too soon, and doesn't give time for the more interesting ideas behind the episode to develop. Still, it's certainly not a bad episode. I agree with the 3 for a total of 6.


  1. The aliens have remarkable buttocks and pectoral muscles, but the faces just don't match up. That whole blue jumpsuit thing fails on that account. Why have a scaly head and neck and a physique model's body?

  2. Barton, your comments imply that this is a "homo sapiens only club."