"Descent, Part Two"

Season Seven, Episode 1
Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by Alexander Singer
Music by Jay Chattaway
Main Cast:
Patrick Stewart as Capt Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes as Cmdr William Riker
LeVar Burton as Lt Cmdr 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:
Jonathan del Arco as Hugh
Brian Cousins as Crosis
Alex Datcher as Ensign Taitt
James Horan as Lt Barnaby
Benito Martinez as Salazar
Michael Reilly Burke as Goval
 

Synopsis:
 
Picard, Troi and LaForge are held captive by the Borg who, like Data, are under Lore's control. Lore explains that following Hugh's return to the Collective (following events of season five's I, Borg), that particular Borg ship underwent a metamorphosis, gaining individuality but not knowing how to deal with it. Lore stepped in and, under his leadership, provided an answer to their troubles. In their cell, the prisoners deduce that Lore is controlling Data via Dr Soong's emotion chip and that perhaps they can block his influence by building a device. Data, however, has other plans, taking Geordi to a laboratory where he proceeds to carry out experiments as per Lore's orders.

Meanwhile, Crusher commands the Enterprise, and is forced to leave behind several teams on the planet when the Borg attack. One of those teams, comprised of Riker and Worf run into a faction of Borg led by Hugh who oppose Lore's domination. As Crusher uses metaphasic shielding to lure the Borg ship into a sun's corona, destroying it, Hugh helps Riker and Worf infiltrate the Borg complex, where they rescue Picard, Troi and LaForge. Lore's control over Data stifled, Data deactivates his evil twin and LaForge retains the emotion chip.


Review: 

Ho-hum. It may be something of a cliche to say that TNG's two-parters always begin with a bang and end with a whimper, but nowhere is the case moreso than here. Whilst the first part of this story had its fair share of problems, it did at least have potential and posed a number of interesting possibilities that ought to have been further expanded upon by this concluding part. But, as is sadly the case with so many of the show's two-parters, this is a painfully rushed, wholly unsatisfying resolution -- a prime example of painting strictly by the numbers.

It's clear right from the offset that the writers had very little idea what they were going to do with this story and how it was going to be resolved. And so the trend continues. The first part of the story was spent building up to a cliff-hanger that was probably pre-ordained before anything else. The second part, of course, is simply a matter of resolving the cliff-hanger and restoring the status quo with the help of that good ol' "reset button". It's little wonder that these stories reach their peak with the cliff-hanger and rapidly go downhill from there. That said, they're rarely as dull and tepid as this, a preposterous episode with precious little to recommend.

How about I start with the main storyline which features Lore, Data and the new Borg. While I do appreciate the attempt to explore the consequences of season five's I, Borg, the way this turned out I rather wish they hadn't bothered. The notion of tear-aways from the Collective has potential, but it's altogether squandered on a ridiculous premise that puts Lore in the role of charismatic but malevolent "cult" leader. I'm sorry, but bleah. The whole cultism angle was hopelessly out-of-place, forced as hell, trite and almost embarassingly obvious. I didn't buy it for a second. 

I've never been all that big a fan of Lore but never has he been this transparent and quite where the writers got the notion of portraying him as the stereotypical cult leader is a complete mystery. It makes him look horribly obvious and one-dimensional (what were his motives, anyhow?!) and even worse it reduced the Borg to...oh, I don't even want to talk about it. How they managed to take Trek's most terrifying, spine-chilling villain and turn them into the laughable likes of Goval ("I have doubts." You and me both, pal) is almost inconceivable. The menace factor is no doubt further erased by the fact that they can now be killed by simply tugging on one of their tubes.

Data's brief foray into the darker side of humanity is completely wasted on a pointless sub-plot where he performs experiments on Geordi. This should have been such an important, pivotal moment for the character but it comes across as a totally uninteresting damp squib. Evidently he's behaving like this because Lore has switched off his "ethical program" which seems a big cop-out, completely erasing any potential for real drama by underlining that Data was not responsible for his actions. But fear not, for using a piece of the dead Borg, Picard can evidently trigger a pulse that will reboot this program. Come on, guys. Since when was Picard a cybernetics expert?! All this provides a cheap, easy, by-the-numbers resolution which relies heavily upon contrivance. Also, as if the risible cult analogy wasn't bad enough, we're expected to believe that Data's emotions are analogous to a junkie's drug addiction. Oh, puh-lease. I happen to consider Rene Echevarria one of Trek's best writers, but evidently Lore must have not only switched off Data's ethical program but also Echevarria's brain this week.

It was nice to see Hugh again, but as with the main plot, his sub-plot was glib and mechanical, featuring a gaping continuity gaffe: who told Riker and Worf that Lore was on charge of the Borg? Are they clairvoyant now? Perhaps the episode's biggest crime was incorporating a third plot, particularly one as redundant and pointless as Beverly Crusher coaxing the annoying Ensign Taitt. Where the hell did that come from? Was it at all necessary to the episode? Absolutely not, it just seemed to be thrown in for no good reason other than to fill time. Given not only its utter irrelevance but also the rather awful performances by the actors playing Taitt and Barnaby and...no thanks. Which is a sentiment pretty much elicited by the episode as a whole. Shoddy, hollow and calculated -- this is not good.

Rating: 3.5


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