For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here.
Overview – When their last desperate attempt to stop the Borg fails, Riker and the crew of the Enterprise are forced to make repairs while Starfleet assembles a fleet to take on the threat. With Picard’s knowledge assimilated by the Borg, they make short work of the fleet. Riker, burdened both with the loss of his captain and command of the Enterprise, turns to Shelby to act as his first officer. Riker devises an unorthodox plan to both stop the Borg and to save Captain Picard.
Score: 9/10 – Three months was a long time to wait back in 1990. Amid all the speculation and rumors that were being kicked around, I remember well the anticipation behind the season premier. I felt that while the second episode of this arc was not quite as good as the first, it did not disappoint. There were a lot of interesting decisions made in this episode. Most notably was the choice to show the aftermath of the Battle of Wolf 359 instead of the actual battle itself. I felt that while the battle would have been nice to see, not knowing what happened made the revelation that much more powerful. I also liked how many of the characters were given integral parts in solving the dilemma. While Riker was the captain, he properly relied on the expertise of those around him. Beverly is the one who hones in on the Borg’s interdependency as their main weakness, Data and Worf go on the special mission to capture Locutus, and Troi is the one who identifies that it is Picard making his way through the collective to give them the key to their victory. Of course, we have to get Riker over the loss of Picard and get him to a place where he can be the leader everyone needs him to be. Enter Guinan, who gives Riker the right motivation in a brilliantly executed scene that helps us realize that the only way to both beat and save Picard is to let him go. The moment that Riker sits in Picard’s chair is defining for the new captain. There are also some great visuals during the rescue of Picard, and it is nice to see the saucer separation one last time on the series. There are some great moments in the telling of the story, and I would like to highlight one of them. When Locutus/Picard is in the lab and they are trying to use him to get Data in contact with the Borg collective, at one point Locutus attacks with his mechanical arm. Then, a few moments later, as Picard is struggling to break the influence of the collective, he grabs Data’s wrist with his human hand. I found that a great choice of imagery and symbolism, which adds to the strength of the episode. Where I gave Part I a 10/10, I have to admit that Part II is a slightly weaker episode. This does not mean that it is in any way a weak episode, but after such a strong and near perfect part I, it is difficult to maintain that level. Where I think the episode could have been a bit stronger is with the character of Shelby. In part I she was a force to be reckoned with. In part II, while she was now a cohesive part of the team, her contribution seemed to have lessened. For being an expert on the Borg, she might have been in a better position to contribute a lot more, but in the telling of the story her role seemed to have been sacrificed a bit. The final solution of the episode is also a bit of a controversy in fan circles. Even Cliff Bole, the director of the episode, felt that the end was a bit rushed, even going so far as to call it a cop out. While that may be, I thought that the resolution of the Borg invasion was appropriately simple. While many may have wanted a big “blow them up in a huge space battle” type of ending, I liked how it was by thinking through the problem that they found their way to beat the Borg. Still, I get why some felt a bit let down by the ending.
Relevance – 3 points. This episode will have a great impact on the Trek franchise. The Battle of Wolf 359 will be referenced later in the season in the episode “The Drumhead”, and it will serve as the launching point for Deep Space Nine’s premier episode. We also have Q elude to these events in Voyager’s episode “Death Wish” that without Q(uin) saving Riker’s ancestor, the Borg would have assimilated the Federation. In “Way of the Warrior”, which was DS9’s Season 4 premier, Worf and O’Brien reminisce over the events in this episode. This makes this episode one of the most influential and relevant episodes in Star Trek.
Continuity – 3 points. Riker acts as one would expect. First, he is uncertain and distraught over almost killing Picard, and conflicted over failing in his attempt to do so. He then has a great dialogue with Guinan that finally allows him to both literally and figuratively take Picard’s seat. He swallows his pride and sees the value in Shelby’s skill set and makes her his first officer. This is so true to Riker’s character. Universe continuity also works here. There is one part of the story continuity that might have some people scratching their heads a bit. When Data is linked to Locutus in an attempt to access the collective, he is being monitored by Chief O’Brien. One would assume that with this mission they would need the best people monitoring Data’s well-being you would want the officer who is most knowledgeable with Data’s circuitry, and that person is Geordi. However, in researching this episode, I learned that actor Levar Burton was hospitalized during the filming of this episode. This limited his availability for filming, so having O’Brien in this role made sense.
Character Development – 3 points. This is again a strong Riker-Picard episode. For Riker it’s about his first time in the big chair as captain. He had to learn how to make some real tough choices (choosing Shelby as his first officer is one of the main ones). He showcased his brilliant strategic mind by beating the Borg, even though they had Picard’s knowledge. He had to learn to lead without having Picard to back him up. His growth in this episode is significant, and he is a stronger character for it. Picard’s growth was very different, and we saw it through a very different lens. As we see his humanity stripped away from him, we are told a story without hardly any dialogue being used. The scene where we see more of the transformation of Picard into Locutus is so powerful when we see the single tear trickle down his face. Picard has been violated in ways that we cannot imagine and has likely, with this single event, suffered more than any other character in Trek to this point. It will continue to haunt him for years to come.
Social Commentary – 3 points. Similar to Part I, we see some themes of being thrust into the role of leadership. Where before the idea of Riker’s seemingly stalled career path was the focus, now we are forced to look at him in the command that has finally come to him. For a while, Riker refused to sit in the captain’s chair in his ready room, still thinking that Picard should be there. In comes Guinan, who takes the chair herself to make a point. Like it or not, Riker, but that is your chair now, and the crew needs him to sit in it. Through Guinan, Riker has to learn that he must let go of Picard in order to both defeat and save him. It shows us that we must let go of the past if we are to move on with the future.
Cool Stuff – 3 points. A point is scored here for the afore mentioned scene with Guinan and Riker. It is a great moment, almost a coming-of-age one, for Riker. It works on many levels. Another point is being scored for the rescue of Picard (or the capture of Locutus, however you want to see it). It shows some great effects and gives us the most action in the episode. Best of all, we see the saucer separated from the drive section one last time on the small screen. Picard’s transformation into Locutus is also neat to see.
Rank – Admiral (24 points). When we look at both parts of “The Best of Both Worlds”, it is hard to argue that Part II did not quite live up to the bar set by Part I, but that is not a criticism of the episode in itself. While it is a little weaker, it is still a very strong episode that gives us a great mix of drama, action, and thrills. Perhaps in today’s standards it might seem that more could have been done, but again, that does not detract from how wonderful this episode really is. So while Part II may not pack as strong of a punch as Part I, it is still worthy of its association. Besides, you cannot watch Part I without having to see how it ends. This is a must see episode.
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