Best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes #7 – Capt Picard dies
This blog post needs a subtitle because this episode delivers a truckload of backstory, character development, and a really good plot. Most of the regular cast are thrown out like overused garbage, and guest-stars have to carry this one, with a little help from Patrick Stewart.
John DeLancie is back once again as “Q” and does his usual schtick, but his dialogue is perfect. He injects himself into the episode when the plot needs a boost and starts moving the plot at a good pace every time he appears. The thing about this episode is that every scene has consequences and seemed to mean something. Every single scene. It’s great.
After a near-death experience, Captain Picard is taken back to earlier in his life to relive a mistake, like out of some Christmas special with Scrooge. JC Brandy plays Picard’s friend Marta, and eventually they sleep together, which is a big mistake for their relationship. Brandy is a television actress, but she’s done film too, and she does a good job here. She injects every scene with a sense of youth, and I think her character comes across really well. She was seventeen when she made this episode. Amazing.
Ned Vaughn is a little more stiff as Picard’s friend Cortan, but I think he does alright. He’s the typical friend-jerk-bully-wild-guy, as seen in every buddy movie ever made. Vaughn has done a LOT of television, and was the go-to guest-star for a lot of dramas, like JAG, Boston Legal, and 24. He must be on somebody’s short-list. Cortan is not a deep character, but has some good dialogue nonetheless.
There are some other guest-stars, but the real star is the script, written by Ronald Moore. As a side note, Moore wrote the spectacular Battlestar Galactica reboot mini-series, which I think is a great piece of science fiction. Just great. It has layered themes and meaningful character development, just like this episode.
The young Captain Picard is so different from the older Captain Picard that it’s hard for me to see them as the same person. It’s like two different characters. The script plays it right, I think, and throws Patrick Stewart a bone. It doesn’t ask Stewart to pretend he’s a hip youngster, instead it recasts his older, wiser self into his younger body, as Q teaches him a lesson. This way, Stewart can be sullen and groan about how irresponsible he used to be.
When he returns to the present, Patrick Stewart plays it perfectly. You can see how annoyed he is with his present state, how stupid he feels as an Ensign running reports like an errand boy. Jonathan Frakes adds some crisp commentary and sums up “Ensign” Picard as a very different person than “Captain” Picard. I can’t get over how well-written this script is. John DeLancie’s monologue at the end of the episode is especially good. It’s Ronald Moore’s favorite episode and on Entertainment Weekly’s “best of” Star Trek episode list.
All in all, this is one of the best dramatic Next Generation episodes ever made. The guest-stars carry the whole thing, but I think my favorite part is John DeLancie’s dialogue, and his appearance as a flower delivery-man. Priceless. Some argue that it is way too talky, but I think it is clever and the whole thing is only missing a Christmas tree.
Worst Part: Georgi and most of the regular cast are missing.