Revisiting Star Trek TNG: The High Ground

Review James Hunt 23 May 2014 - 07:37

James revisits a Star Trek: TNG episode too po-faced to be any fun. Here's his look back at The High Ground...

This review contains spoilers.

3.12 The High Ground

The Enterprise arrives at Rutia IV to drop off medical supplies. Worf, Data and Crusher are having lunch (that restaurant must have a pretty diverse menu) when they're caught up in a terrorist attack. Crusher attempts to help the survivors, against Picard's orders, but she's kidnapped by the terrorists, who disappear in a literal flash!

Although she resists engaging with her captors, Crusher eventually gets talking with their leader, Finn, who explains that they need a doctor. He's annoyed that the Federation is helping their enemies, but Crusher agrees to treat Finn's sick and insists that the Federation is not taking sides.

Meanwhile, Riker is off taking the other side. He's met with Devos, the leader of the Rutian anti-terrorism force. After spending a long conversation explaining why the terrorists are upset (it's a thinly-veiled Sci-Fi Northern Ireland analogy, only without any space-catholics or robo-protestants.) Riker gets bored and forces them to release a prisoner so they can negotiate with the rebels.

Back on the ship, Wesley has figured out how the rebels teleport so quickly. They're using technology that was deemed harmful to shift dimensions and gain the advantage, but each time they do it poisons them a little more. It's like smoking, only with teleporting. They set about trying to track the origin of the teleports.

Meanwhile, Crusher is treating the sick. It's not going well. Finn keeps shouting slogans at her, like "I am prepared to die for my beliefs!", so she can give pithy answers like "If you keep using this device you may not have any choice." I'm not sure those are actually in the episode, but they sound like they would be. A long conversation ensues in which Crusher re-iterates that the enlightened twenty-fourth century people think that killing innocent people is wrong. How progressive.

The Enterprise is close to figuring out where the rebels are hiding when they attack the ship using their dimensional teleporting, killing several crewmen (who are wearing old-style uniforms, for budgetry reasons) and putting a bomb on the warp core. Geordi manages to remove it before it blows up, but the rebels attack the bridge. Picard gets in one good punch before they retreat, taking him with them.

Now with the rebels, Picard and Crusher argue about whether any of the rebels' actions are justified for what seems like hours. Eventually Finn decides that they'll probably just kill Picard, or keep him hostage or something, so that the Federation gets involved. When he goes to tell Troi his terms, Wesley manages to track where he's teleporting to/from.

While Picard and Crusher continue to argue moral semantics, Worf, Riker and some faceless nobodies storm the rebel base and save Picard and Crusher. Devos hitches a lift and takes the opportunity to shoot Finn in the back, saying he'd have been a lot of trouble in prison if they let him live. One of the rebel children is about to retaliate, when Crusher talks him down. The cycle of violence has been broken! All the terrorism is now over. Another victory for talking.

TNG WTF: The rebels use a kind of weird dimensional shift transport to circumvent all of the Enterprise's defenses. And when the crew manages to save the ship by the barest sliver of a moment, what's the response? They leave the Enterprise where it is and basically hope that nothing bad happens again. Luckily the rebels don't think to try a second time.

TNG LOL: The only funny thing in this episode was how ridiculously heavy-handed it was. For example, when Riker sees the Rutians arresting children. Not just arresting, either, really properly manhandling them like they're hardened criminals. Subtle stuff, guys!

Mistakes and Minutiae: This episode contains a reference to the Irish reunion of 2024, and as such wasn't shown uncut on terrestrial TV until 2007.

Time Until Meeting: 5:20. Straight in after the credits as they meet for a recap of the thing that just happened to them.

Captain's Log: The best episodes of TNG have a deeper moral message about the society we live in. And the worst ones? They tend to have an incredibly shallow one. Case in point: this week on Star Trek The Next Generation: Terrorism is bad and killing is wrong.

In fairness, that sort of message would not be an entirely unacceptable basis for an episode, were it nor for the fact that most of the story involved people shouting moral absolutes at one another. "Killing is wrong!" "But they started it, so I am entirely justified!". And so on.

There's a reasonably good sequence where Geordi stops the ship blowing up and Picard punches someone in the face, but the rest of the episode is so hideously po-faced despite its painfully simple treatment of a very serious subject that it's impossible to enjoy.

On the plus side, Gates McFadden is finally given more than six seconds of screen time since her return and she's allowed to do her stubborn doctor routine that gets rolled out a few times whenever there's some morally ambiguous medical treatment to perform.

Watch or Skip? Skip. 

Read James' look back at the previous episode, The Hunted, here.

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