Revisiting Star Trek TNG: Allegiance

James revisits a slow-paced episode of Star Trek TNG that proves things on the Enterprise don't have to get hectic to be fun...

This review contains spoilers.

3.18 Allegiance

Captain Picard is reading in his quarters when, out of nowhere, a blue light transports him to a room! No, it’s not Chief O’Brien finally snapping, but something more sinister. Captain Picard has been abducted! The bridge crew notice some odd readings from the Captain’s quarters and when he doesn’t respond to pages, they send Worf down there with a security team. Except when they get there they find… Captain Picard, acting completely normal. Too normal!

Meanwhile, Picard is actually locked in a strange holding cell with two other aliens: a Bolian Starfleet cadet called Mitena Haro, and a Mizarian called Kova Tholl. They are soon joined by a Chalnoth called Esoqq, proving that if you name your characters by pulling scrabble tiles out of a bag it’s going to go wrong eventually.

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In a grand tradition of alien races having a single dominant character trait, Tholl’s people are basically the American idea of a French person, instantly surrendering when invaded and collaborating with their captors, all because they’re “peace-loving”. On the flip side, Esoqq’s people are anarchic and violent, to such a degree that you wonder how they managed to get as far as space travel in the first place. Although Haro is loyal to Picard (who exhibits the dominant Human trait: bossiness) the group does not mesh well as they squabble over what course of action to take.

Meanwhile, back on the Enterprise, the duplicate Picard (hereby referred to as Duplicard) is walking around in a serene haze, warning people in advance that things are going to get odd but that they have to trust him. They accept his advance notification of this, and dutifully follow his order to cancel the current mission and head towards a perfectly normal pulsar at the satirically slow speed of Warp 2.

Later on Duplicard has a complete physical with Doctor Crusher, but before that he has a medical examination with her too. Crusher is surprised by Picard’s willingness to have an exam, which he normally hates, and then things get even weirder: he invites her to dinner, hits on her mid-meal, then gets all weird about it when she suggests it would be morally wrong to date the captain. The he kicks her out before they even replicate the coffee.

Back in the holding cell, Picard is oblivious of the duplicard’s attempt to demolish his personal life and is pouring all of his energy into opening a door, despite Tholl’s warnings that they’ll get zapped by a thing. They almost succeed, but are then zapped by a thing. Relations break down as everyone accuses everyone else of being a mole for the captors. Haro vouches for Picard, listing a succession of missions he’s helped people in, and this convinces the others to let him be in charge.

Back on the Enterprise, Troi and Riker are saying how weird the captain seems, when Duplicard bursts in, gives a big speech about how great the Enterprise crew is and buys them all ale before singing an 18th Century drinking song. This is too much for Riker. He calls a meeting in his spacious, open-plan quarters and the senior staff agree that while mutiny would be premature, they’ll keep an eye on his craziness.

The Enterprise finally arrives at the pulsar and Duplicard keeps ordering Wesley to fly them closer and closer, until the Enterprise’s very survival is at stake. Riker decides that now is the time to mutiny, and he, Worf and the rest of the senior staff start to ignore his orders to basically fly the ship into certain death.

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Back in the holding cell, the boresome foursome finally co-operate and open the door only to find nothing but blank wall behind it. As they all despair, Picard finally reveals what he has deduced. The holding cell isn’t a holding cell at all, but an accusing parlour! He explains that this has all been playing out just like an experiment on caged rats, and then turns on Haro, who – as a cadet – had earlier revealed knowledge of classified missions she couldn’t possibly have known about.

She drops her act, and transforms into three aliens who share a telepathic link. The aliens explain that everything which has happened was part of a study into the concept of authority which they don’t have. They agree to return the captives now that the experiment can no longer continue.

Back on the bridge, Picard and one of the aliens appear in front of Duplicard. He too transforms into an alien, revealing that he was seeing how far they’d follow him. Picard gives his crew some subtle instructions and before the aliens can escape, they are imprisoned in a hot pink disco light forcefield which has been installed on the bridge in case an emergency disco is needed, one assumes.  The aliens beg for mercy and, after giving them a stern Picarding, frees them and lets them leave.

The threat ended, Picard asks if the alien did anything weird while he was gone. Riker can barely contain his glee, especially when Crusher turns up. What a dick. But it ends with the WHIMSICAL ENDING music, so we know everything’ll turn out okay in the end.

TNG WTF: As well as wondering how the Chalnoth managed to make it out of the primordial ooze without killing one another, such is the depth of their violent instincts, it’s also hard not to look at those teeth and ask: just how are you supposed to eat with those things in the way anyway?

TNG LOL: It’s impossible not to find Duplicard hilarious, just because he’s doing stuff the real Picard wouldn’t ever. It’s also doubly enjoyable, because when they sing the drinking shanty it’s clear Patrick Stewart is having the most fun he’s ever had on the series, bar that one time he snuck in a bit of Holodeck Shakespeare.

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Time Until Meeting: 30:26. At the Casa De Riker, where you can replicate as many whiskeys as you like and apparently it doesn’t matter that no-one else is on duty. Up on the bridge it’s just Duplicard and Wesley wondering where everyone went.

Captain’s Log: At this point in the show, it’s worth acknowledging that even the weaker, less eventful episodes are hitting a pretty high level of quality. Aside from having several good alien characters and a few Crazy Picard moments with Duplicard, there’s nothing here that makes it stand-out. And yet, the writing is coherent, the design is convincing, and the characters just sing. Sometimes literally. It’s unrecognisable from the meandering, uneven mess that characterised series one and two.

It certainly helps that there’s not one but two mysteries at the heart of the story: How Will Picard Escape? and What’s the Duplicard Doing?. Either of those could’ve carried an episode in themselves, so it’s great to flit between both, even if one story takes place in a single room and the other’s just Duplicard walking around and confusing people. It really goes to show that Star Trek doesn’t have to be fast-paced to be engaging. JJ Abrams, I’m looking at you.

Watch or Skip? It’s technically skippable, but it’s also quite good fun at times. So watch it.

Read James’ look-back at the previous episode, Sins Of The Father, here.

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