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WARNING:  The following posting contains virtually every imaginable spoiler for the season premiere of TNG.  So will the next one, so be warned, fools.

This is your absolute last chance before they come fast and furious.

Okay, then.

Thank you, Los Angeles KCOP.

Thank you for moving your TNG airtime to Wednesday night from the following Sunday, so I still got to see this (and all others) relatively ahead of the pack. The Review Lives On!!!

But anyway, I doubt you're reading this post to hear me ramble on about this. No--you want to hear about the show.  C'mon, admit it.  It's okay.  I don't mind.  If I were in your shoes, I'd be telling me to shut up by now.  I
guess I should then, huh?  :-)

Anyway, as before, here's an extremely detailed synopsis.  (Special note to all new to r.a.s.:  don't expect my synops to be this detailed all the time. Most of the time, they won't be. I'm making a special exception here.)  The story goes:

After a brief recap of part one, we see the weapon charge up, and fire. It hits dead-on--and NOTHING happens to the Borg ship.  After the Enterprise is forced to cease fire before the engines burn out, the surprised bridge crew
is informed by Locutus that everything Picard ever knew is now part of the Borg:  "Your resistance is hopeless..._Number One_."  [Ouch.]

Stardate 44001.4:  The Borg resume course, with the Enterprise powerless to pursue:  as expected, their main deflector is out, as are shields and the reactor core.  It's gonna be 8-12 hours for repair, as they tell Admiral Hansen. Riker, however, reassures Hansen that, even if late, the Enterprise WILL be at Wolf-359.  Hansen tells them that they bought the Federation valuable time: they've got 40 starships massed, the Klingons are sending ships, and they even considered opening communications with the Romulans. Hansen bristles when Shelby says Picard is working with the Borg, and says to all concerned that Picard, their captain and his longtime friend, is a casualty of war.  He field-promotes Riker to Captain, and wishes everyone good luck.

After a brief shot of Picard being altered further on the ship (having a prosthetic Borglike claw being inserted over his right hand, and having his coloration paled to that of the others), we see Riker (now with 4 pips on his
uniform) talking to Worf about strategy, primarily the question of fighting against someone who knows you better than you do. 

They arrive in Engineering, where Geordi, Shelby and others are working on repairs.  The deflector's back up, and the reactor core is almost working, but auxiliary generators keep going down:  there's probably 2-3 hours left of work. Riker commends Shelby for her away team duty, and says he wants her to keep him on his toes.  When she remarks that that's usually the duty of a first officer, he tells her she has a lot to learn:  "almost as much as I had to learn when I came on board as Captain Picard's first officer, which he remarked on when I
told him what a pain in the neck you were."

Hansen calls from Wolf-359, and says the battle does not go well--then communications are abruptly severed.  As the repaired Enterprise heads for Wolf-359, Riker tells Data, Worf, and everyone else that he needs them where they are, and somewhat reluctantly makes Shelby his first.  The senior crew discuss possibilities:  the heavy graviton beam won't do enough, newly destructive Nanites (!!) would take too long to engineer (2-3 weeks), and all the newly adapted phasers (adapted to be random with every shot) will do is slow them down.

Riker arrives in Picard's ready room and asks the empty chair, "What would YOU do?"  Guinan suddenly barges in, saying she's just "used to having the Captain's ear", and reports to Riker:  morale is very bad--everyone's expecting to die tomorrow, and only Riker can turn it around.  She says that he must do something
very difficult:  let go of Picard. (When he argues that he tried to KILL Picard yesterday, she claims that he was trying to kill "that thing on the Borg ship", not Picard.)  She tells him that her relationship with Picard goes beyond friendship and family, and she's prepared to let him go.  He must as well--there's only room for one Captain, and he's it.

The Enterprise arrives at Wolf-359, where it finds the Fleet--in pieces. Starship wreckage is everywhere, with no life signs ANYWHERE.  Shelby (now with three full pips on her uniform, by the way) mentions three dead ships by name: the Tolstoi, the Kyushu--and the Melbourne. They find traces of the Borg's trail and follow.  He orders Shelby to prepare to separate the saucer, remarking that he's counting on Picard having been briefed on that tactic, and then tells Data and Worf he has a special mission for them.

Locutus sees the Enterprise approaching on the Borg viewscreen (also cubical, and rotating!), and hears "Captain William T. Riker of the starship Enterprise" hailing. Locutus demands an unconditional surrender, and dismisses Riker's wish to talk terms as a deception, until Riker points out that Picard trusted him implicitly and that he's never lied to Picard.  He then simply terms it irrelevant.  (The sensors, meanwhile, manage to pinpoint Locutus's position to within 30 meters, but the Borg EM field has been adapted to prevent the main transporter from working.)  When Riker asks for time, Locutus says it's not necessary, and threatens them with destruction if they intervene. 

Riker says that Locutus had better take his best shot, and all hell breaks loose.  Communications are scrambled (code Riker-1), the saucer separates, and the stardrive opens fire.  The Borg, ignoring the saucer, try to lock onto the stardrive with the tractor beam.  The stardrive evades (with maneuvers Riker-alpha and Riker-beta), and Riker signals Shelby (commanding the saucer) to commence her attack.  She does so, launching antimatter charges, which seemto confuse Locutus a bit.  Meanwhile, Data and Worf launch their shuttle, cutting their engines when it looks like the power's been sensed, and penetrate the EM field.  Once inside the field, they beam in close to Locutus, subdue the few Borg near him, stun him, beam back to the shuttle, leave the Borg field, andare beamed off milliseconds before the Borg destroy the shuttle.

The saucer has sustained impulse damage, and the Borg power back up and leave, heading for Earth again, as the Enterprise reconnects and pursues.  Meanwhile, Bev studies Locutus, whose DNA is apparently being _rewritten_ near all the implants.  Riker, hoping the Picard/Borg link goes both ways, has Bev wake Locutus, who calls the stratagem ill-advised and futile (saying "Picard never would have approved" of risking all for one man), but says he means no harm,and will simply continue to speak for the Borg as they head for Earth.

Data finds that Locutus is linked into the Borg consciousness via a transporter-like subspace field.  It's jammable, but would probably cause Locutus to self-destruct just as the damaged Borg did when they were cut off (the severing being what was done whenever Borg had bits taken off them).  Until that link is down, however, Bev cannot "separate the man from the machine". Data then decides to try to access the machine.  After Locutus says the Borg merely wish to improve the "quality of life" for all species, and says they will all become
one with the Borg (except for Data, who will be obsolete), Bev knocks him out and Data takes him to his (Data's) lab.  Meanwhile, Shelby reports that the Borg have entered sector 001, as we see the Borg swing by Saturn.

Planetary defenses are up and functioning, but aren't expected to do much good. Worse yet, the Borg are only 27 minutes away from Earth at current speed, and the Enterprise is at least 42 minutes away from intercept.  Meanwhile, Data tries to establish a neural link between himself and Locutus, with Bev checking Picard's vital signs, O'Brien monitoring Data's stats, and Troi scanning for any sign of Picard's consiousness.  As the first stage of the 3-stage link is established, no important progress is made (as the Mars perimeter is swept aside
with no effort).  The second stage is equally unrewarding, but the final link hits the jackpot:  as both systems run a little wild, Data links into the Borg consciousness, where he mentions his discoveries:  although the Borg have subcommands relative to the three main functions (defense, communication and navigation), they all have root commands.  As he's about to go into details, though, Locutus revives, knocks out a security guard, and almost deactivates the link, until Data grapples with him and rips off the tool-portion of his right-hand prosthetic.

Bev picks up increased neural activity, and Deanna finds that, despite no real success on Data's part, Picard's consciousness is starting to revive.  The Borg, meanwhile, have stopped (clearly they're paying attention to this), and move to intercept the Enterprise, just as Data and Bev figure out the Achilles heel: they cannot cut the link to Locutus, any more than we could cut off a leg and survive. Riker orders Data to plant a command in the Borg consciousness to disarm, but Data cannot (either to disarm or to power down), as all high-level commands are protected.  The Borg lock on to the Enterprise, and weapons do no good.

Riker orders a collision course and warp power, but Data asks him to stand by, as Picard (NOT Locutus) says "sleep" to Data, who takes it as a suggestion. As Data acts on this, the Borg cutter breaks through the outer hull, and is about to break through the inner...when suddenly, it stops and sits dormant. Worf finds the weapons have powered down, and the EM field is nonexistent. When Riker asks what happened, Data tells him that he put the Borg into regeneration mode--in effect, he put them to sleep. 

Worf and Shelby beam over to check, and confirm that, but also find that the malfunction has triggered a self-destruct.  Despite Bev's warning that the ship's destruction might be very dangerous to Picard, and Data's thoughts of further study, Riker lets the destruct go on, and they steer clear as the Borg ship goes up in smoke.  The destruction shakes Picard up a little, but frees him, and despite the granddaddy of all headaches, he feels "almost human". When Riker asks him how much he remembers, he replies, "Everything--including
some brilliantly unorthodox strategy from a former first officer of mine."

Some time later, Picard has been disconnected from all the prosthetics (though his head's still bandaged), and the Enterprise still has 5-6 weeks of repairs due at Earth Station McKinley.  The door rings to the ready room, and both Picard and Riker say, "Come." It's Shelby, who's about to leave to take over the task force that's going to rebuild the fleet. When she says that Riker should have his pick of commands, he says "with all due respect, Commander...sir...my career plans are my own business, and no one else's." She leaves, as does Riker.  Picard picks up his tea, but stops as he's about to drink, puts the tea down, and stares out his window, as the Enterprise sweeps majesticallypast Earth.  THE END.

Phew.  Commentary will follow in a moment.
WARNING:  Here are the rest of the spoilers.  Only one chance this time.

Welcome back to those of you who made it through.

What to say?  The long wait is over.  First, a bit of smugness:

Hee-hee.  I got a lot of it right. I insisted that really was Picard. I knew the weapon wouldn't work (though to be honest, so did most of the net), and I said right from the start that Picard's link to the Borg would play a major
role.  Yee-Haa!!  :-)  Okay, smugness off.

I think Paramount must have at least one link to the net themselves, 'cos they thought of many things we'd brought up over the last few months. Let's see, there was a reference to antimatter (which hopefully should settle THAT argument once and for all), a mention of possibly using the Nanites against the Borg, and best of all, NO superbeings coming to the rescue!!! 

More interestingly, I think they actually managed to defeat the Borg in a way no one here had thought of (though I'll admit I didn't read all of the tens of thousands of messages that came 'round), at least not exactly.  Well done.

By the way, they passed one definite test tonight.  When the Borg were about to self-destruct, and letting them live was mentioned, I worried for an instant or three that they were gonna go that route.  I didn't need to worry so much. I suspect they put that scene in deliberately to show us "Uh-uh...even we realize that there are some enemies you do NOT leave hanging around."  After all, they could have just made the self-destruct completely unstoppable if they didn't want us to infer something.

They deliberately managed to AVOID revealing whether there are any more Borg out there as well.  Picard's pause at the end could be just his memories of his last Earl Grey with his old, now late, friend, or they could be the realization that this might not be it.  My own hunch is that there are others, from one interesting thought:  why would the Borg ship be self-destructing when beaten, if not to protect the core element, just as in the case of individual Borg? Ifthat's all there were, the only explanations would be random error or ego, and I don't like either.

I also particularly liked the way Riker managed to get Locutus back on board the Enterprise.  Everything about that just clicked right on target.  I was on the edge of my seat for that whole segment.  (Actually, by the time the teaser had ended, I was already OFF my seat and on the floor, but you get the idea.  :-) ) My synopsis fell a little short there in capturing how well everything flowed. See it for yourself.

Let's talk about the other resolution, namely that of Riker's career. This was left a little open-ended for my purposes, I think deliberately so.  I suspect this is something they may be dealing with in the long term, over the next several episodes, particularly since the Enterprise won't be going anywhere for a while.  It's probably important to note that even after Picard was restored, Riker STILL had the four pips.  Like it or not, he's a captain now. I'm happy with the temporary out (with much of the 'Fleet gone, there are NO ships around for him to take), but I'd like to see a little more reference toexactly what's going to happen next time there is.

Characterization?  What can be said?  I thought that, despite minor flaws in other parts of the episode (which I'll go into in a minute), characterization was spot-on picture perfect.  Part 1 finally made me think Riker had the makings of a good captain; part 2 proved it, right down to his quick-thinking strategies (which, just as they've always been, were unorthodox).  The scene between Guinan and Riker took my breath away, and Mike Piller definitely managed to give Shelby a little more warmth here than she had in part 1. Patrick Stewart did a wonderful job speaking in a rarely-seen cold, menacing voice, and was a very convincing (not to mention chilling) Locutus.  Many of the other regulars didn't have a lot of air-time, so couldn't shine as much as Stewart and Frakes (though I'll be the first to commend Spiner's performance, particularly in the last act), but all turned in good performances (even McFadden and Sirtis, the two obvious weak links, though I've never loathed McFadden as much as some). Excellently written and acted.  Splendid.

In this one case, by the way, I considered Riker most of Kirk's good points without his bad ones.  Hearing "Captain William T. Riker..." brought back some misty memories to me, anyway.

I've got a few minor quibbles.  First, a technical one:  I'm tired of seeing Saturn as the boundary of the Terran system.  Can't we see Pluto and Charon once in a while?  (Granted, it's not as flashy, but I'd manage.)  Second, exactly how far out from Earth were they when the Borg went boom?  Close enough to be a worry, I'd have thought.  I don't think they were more than a few light-minutes away, and Zeus knows with a ship that big, I'd want to be a little further clear.  Just a thought.  See?  Both minor.

Now, a few random thoughts:

1)  (Thanks to my friend Gina Goff, occasionally on Usenet, for putting this in my head.)  We know Picard and Guinan's relationship goes way, way back, and runs very deep.  Considering how old she is...maybe she was his nanny?  'Twould certainly explain how she was used to having his ear.  :-)

2) I absolutely LOVED the Borg viewscreen, as well as the deflector firing.

3) I neglected to mention in the synop that one of the engineers mentioned as testing the newly restored deflector was Barclay. Someone's having fun...

4) GIVE O'BRIEN A FIRST NAME!!!!!!!  (Sorry...it's been months since I've written that, though.  ;-) )

5) This one's actually a major plot point for future consideration.  With the Federation fleet in tatters, *I* think the Romulans might consider the time  ripe for a little offensive of their own.  If they don't handle this angle, I'll
be mildly distressed to say the least.

Well, that's about all I can think of.  Suffice it to say I was VERY impressed, though part 1 did beat part 2, and the first half of 2 beat the second half.Now, I guess you want some numbers, huh?

Plot:  9.  I'm reserving the 10 until I see if they wrap up Riker properly in the next few weeks, and to see if they deal with (5) above.  Otherwise, a splendid resolution to what many considered an unresolvable plot.


Plot Handling:  9, for the same reasons as above.
Characterization:  10.  This one ain't getting any better.
Technical:  9.5.  A speck off for the Saturn boundary, but all the broken ships were a delight (er...sort of, anyway) to see, and the new ships in the defense perimeter looked great. 

TOTAL:  37.5/4 ===> 9.4.  Very, very nice work.

NEXT WEEK:

Picard returns home after his ordeal, only to find a nasty older brother.  It looks like they end up in a fistfight, with Jean-Luc throwing the first punch! To quote Zaphod Beeblebrox, "Neat."

I must say, it's good to be back.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to get some sleep.  :-)

Tim Lynch (Cornell's first Astronomy B.A.; one of many Caltech grad students)
BITNET:  tlynch@citjuliet
INTERNET:  tlynch@juliet.caltech.edu
UUCP:  ...!ucbvax!tlynch%juliet.caltech.edu@hamlet.caltech.edu
"Your resistance is hopeless, _Number One_."
--
Copyright 1994, Timothy W. Lynch.  All rights reserved, but feel free to ask.
This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the author*.  Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.

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