"Starship Mine"

Season Six, Episode 18
Written by Morgan Gendel
Directed by Cliff Bole
Main Cast:
Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes as Commander William Riker
LeVar Burton as Lt Geordi LaForge
Michael Dorn as Lt Worf
Gates McFadden as Dr Beverly Crusher
Marina Sirtis as Counsellor Deanna Troi
Brent Spiner as Lt Cmdr Data

Guest Cast:
David Hudson as Commander Hutchinson
Marie Marshall as Kelsey
Tim Russ as Devor
Glenn Morshower as Orton
Tom Nibley as Neil
Tim deZarn as Satler
Patricia Tallman as Kiros
Arlee Reid as Waiter
Alan Altshuld as Pomet

The Enterprise is undergoing a routinr baryon sweep, having been shut down and evacuated at the Remmler Array. As the crew are "entertained" by the terminally boring Commander "Hutch" Hutchinson, Picard makes the excuse that he must return to the Enterprise for his saddle, hoping to do some horseriding at the nearby Akaria Base. However, he discovers that six thieves have boarded the ship, determined to steal the engine's trilithium resin, which has great value on the black market for use as a weapon. Unable to contact anyone at the base, Picard must outwit the thieves as the deadly radiation begins sweeping the ship. Meanwhile, co-conspirators hi-jack the Base, taking the ship's senior officers hostage. As Picard manages to stop the terrorists one by one, thanks to some ingenius booby traps and his superior knowledge of the ship's design and layout. He foils their plan, just as the captured officers overpower their captors.


Essentially "Die Hard in space", Starship Mine is a reasonably engaging, refreshing story which gives Patrick Stewart a race chance to assume the role of action hero. Not to say that it's perfect, however. While the basic premise is fine, there are numerous flaws in its execution. First of all, this was another example of the heroes winning simply because the bad guys were dumb. It strains credibility ever so slightly that these terrorists have orchestrated a plan to board and steal from the Enterprise, but they don't even know who its Captain is. Oh sure, they knew Picard's name, but you would have thought they'd at least recognise him! It would also have made more sense had they killed Picard right from the offset to preclude ANY possibility of him foiling their plans.

Still, this is nothing compared to the ineptitude of the terrorists that hold Riker and co. captive. They are so stupid that they let the prisoners devise an escape plan right on front of their noses. Even if they didn't stop them from talking amongst themselves like that, you'd have thought they'd at least have listened to what they were saying. Another problem I had was with the starbase. Exactly how many people were on it -- and what the hell were they doing? Surely they'd have noticed that terrorists had seized one of their conference rooms? And don't tell me that no one was monitoring the ship while it was undergoing the baryon sweep! Wouldn't one of the first things they ought to do before initiating the sweep be to check for LIFE SIGNS aboard the ship? I had the amusing image of the starbase being run by a race of Homer Simpsons, sitting at the controls scoffing doughnuts! :-)

Still, if you can suspend you disbelief then good for you. Next problem -- the directing. Whilst it wasn't absolutely awful per se, it could have been a hell of a lot better. As such it's lacklustre, dull and ineffective with Cliff Bole seemingly unable to gain much in the way of pace or suspense and botching a number of the action scenes. James Cameron he ain't. Things were little helped by Jay Chattaway's bland, banal score which is similarly dull and routine.

So what did I like about the episode? I liked the easy-going, refreshing tone, with everyone seemingly letting their hair down -- something that was particularly welcome following the previous week's unbearably uptight, insipid angst. Patrick Stewart was obviously enjoying himself as he got a rare chance to shoot first, talk later. And while I felt a lot of the action scenes were botched by Cliff Bole, Kelsey made a suitably good adversary for the good Captain, even if her tactics were somewhat lacking. And look out for appearances by Tim Russ (Voyager's Tuvok) and Patricia Tallman (Babylon 5's Lyta Alexander). There were also some delightful character moments in the first half, particularly in the early reception scenes with the larger than life Commander Hutchinson ("call me Hutch"). Data's attempts to master the art of small talk by observing Hutchinson, the master of small talk, were a delight. I was actually disappointed when poor Hutch got shot. Not a great episode, but in spite of the disappointing directing and occassional plot oversights, there's still a fair bit to enjoy. 

Rating: 6.5

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