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The Trek Nation - Allegiance

Allegiance

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at August 22, 2008 - 8:35 PM GMT

See Also: 'Allegiance' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: Picard is abducted from his quarters with an energy beam and replaced immediately with a double. While the real Picard finds himself imprisoned with three others - Bolian Starfleet cadet Haro, Mizarian pacifist Tholl and aggressive Chalnoth Esoqq, the fake Picard orders the ship to abandon its mission and follow a new heading. The crew becomes concerned when the captain plays poker with the senior officers and buys a round of drinks for the crewmembers in Ten-Forward, singing drinking songs. He also makes a pass at Beverly Crusher, though when she performs a medical exam on him, she finds that his readings match those of his last physical. A suspicious Riker orders an investigation and learns that alien technology has been used in the captain's quarters. When the captain orders the ship into an area with dangerously high levels of radiation, Riker overrides his command and the crew refuses to follow the strangely detached Picard's orders. Meanwhile, the real Picard tries to get his fellow captives to work together, but they all suspect one another of collaborating. Though Haro defends Picard when Esoqq and Tholl challenge him, Picard realizes that she knows far too much for a cadet and accuses her of being behind their imprisonment. Haro vanishes and is replaced by three telepathic aliens who explain that they were conducting an experiment to study leadership qualities. They return Picard to the Enterprise, but when the false Picard turns into an alien before their eyes, the crew traps him in a force field along with one of his fellow aliens and Picard makes them understand why such experiments are wrong.


Analysis: I suppose it's possible that "Allegiance" isn't a terrible episode, just a mediocre one suffering from comparison with the brilliant set that went before - "Sins of the Father," "The Offspring," "Yesterday's Enterprise" - but it feels dragged, half-baked and bombastic in the end. Episodes where evil aliens abduct crewmembers were never good bets on the original series; "Arena" is pretty good, but "The Gamesters of Triskelion," "The Mark of Gideon" and "The Empath" make few Top Ten lists. And although the upcoming "Darmok" works out very well for Picard, "Allegiance" suffers retroactively by comparison. The prison scenes are like an after-school special ("We've all got to work together!") while the ship scenes make the crew look a bit silly for not knowing what to do about their increasingly erratic captain. Troi and Crusher in particular come across as passive and easily led, which are really not qualities I admire in female crewmembers. How is it possible that the ship's resident empath doesn't detect a tremor in the Force when it comes to the replacement captain? If the duplicate Picard is really so supremely confident, then it wouldn't seem that the nameless experimenting aliens really need to study leadership, let alone by kidnapping people, so if Troi is right not to be as suspicious as Riker, then the explanation seems preposterous. It's more likely that the faux Picard is putting on a show, in which case both Troi and Crusher should have red alerts going off about this newly chummy captain. Instead they're initially charmed by him.

Riker, at least, has doubts from the moment the double steps on the bridge and starts countermanding Starfleet orders. He knows it's Picard's prerogative to say that he's on a secret mission and not at liberty to discuss it with the first officer, but he also knows that when such things happened in the past, like with the Giant Worm Conspiracy, Picard managed to clue Riker in to his concerns even when he didn't want to violate Starfleet orders. LaForge, too, finds the newly ebullient Picard pretty hard to accept, and he's quick to let others know it. (Worf spends so much of his time as a security officer looking suspicious that it's hard to say whether he seems more concerned than usual.) I imagine, though, that for everyone but the crewmates who know him best, the double Picard is a refreshing change. He's sociable with junior officers! He's concerned what people think about him! Okay, the buying a round of drinks might not be good for discipline, but I doubt too many enlisted officers were going to Troi complaining that the captain was freaking them out.

Really, the story of the false Picard on the Enterprise is just filler, because we don't learn anything about the crew that we didn't already know, except that Crusher can probably be bought for a few more drinks and some dancing. Have I mentioned that I'm not a Crusher/Picard fan in the least, as I think nearly all their onscreen romantic interaction makes her in particular look unprofessional and needy, until she abruptly dismisses him after long teases which then makes it look like she's been using him to flatter herself? I prefer the curt Crusher to the "Jean-Luc, I have something to tell you" Crusher, but defining the character alternately as Wesley's mother and Picard's potential love interest restricted her potential in a way that Riker was not restricted despite having an ostensible emotional attachment to Troi throughout the series. So while I'm sure there are people who enjoy the dining-and-dancing and Beverly's reactions, it makes me think of the X-Files episode where Mulder walks in on a half-drunk Scully being seduced by his evil shapeshifter doppelganger.

Which leaves us with the story of Picard trying to teach everyone to cooperate and figure out why they're being held captive...a more compelling story because it's not immediately obvious. It makes sense that a Starfleet cadet would instinctively follow a senior officer and tend to back him in an adversarial situation with unknown aliens, and it's pretty obvious to anyone who's ever watched Star Trek that the dangerous monster-alien isn't really a villain, so the self-righteous pacifist seems like the most obvious collaborator and makes a rather entertaining foil for Picard, who wants to do something even if it means that someone might get hurt or someone might get quarrelsome. But the clue that tips him off to Haro's dishonesty isn't one that will be obvious to viewers, so it feels like a cheat, like reading a mystery novel only to be told that the viewer couldn't ever have solved the crime along with the detective because the critical piece of information was withheld. There's also much too long a time between Picard's realization that Haro isn't what she seems and the revelation both to the other prisoners and to the viewer.

Then there's the ending, which wants to be a Valuable Lesson in the finest manner of James T. Kirk, but comes across mean-spirited and...well, just not the lesson in leadership I'd expect from Picard, who usually opts for compassion and dignity over vengeance and mockery of stupid aliens. Can you imagine if Picard had tried to pay Q back in kind to teach him a lesson? He's very lucky these aliens with their fabulous transporter/replicator technology didn't absorb his guidance and become petty show-offs themselves. This Picard seems just as suspicious to me as the one Troi said seemed detached from his emotions. The wit at the ending redeems a bit - Riker tells Picard he found it hard to believe that Picard was such a good singer - but this is definitely a weak spot in the generally solid third season of The Next Generation.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green is a former news writer for TrekToday. An archive of her reviews can be found at The Little Review.