76: The Neutral Zone (1.26)

Synopsis:  Data unfreezes some backwards 20th century folk and we finally meet up with the Romulans again.

Memory Alpha Summary:  Introduction of the Borg, if not by name.

Review: This episode is weird in that Conspiracy felt like it ended on an appropriate cliffhanger regarding the parasites, while this one also has a cliffhanger regarding the Romulans and some other unknown adversary.  On the other hand, we kind of needed to see the Romulans before season two, especially since the Ferengi have proven to be a buzzkill.

The first three-quarters of the episode are spent talking about rumors and conjecture about the Romulans and how the Enterprise has little information on them.  I find this surprising.  Are we to assume the Romulans have also ignored the Vulcans and Klingons for thirty years?  For such a strong adversary to all three empires, it seems odd that they had contact with nobody, although I suppose they could have spent that whole time in an arms race.

We also find more annoying behavior among the crew.  There is much more preaching about how silly 20th century humans were.  We are afraid to die, which somehow has been cured in the 24th century.  It’s also a surprise that we somehow survive the 21st century with how stupid we are.  Also, when Ralph Offenhouse is messing around the ship and asks why there aren’t security codes (which is what I’ve been wondering all season), Picard admonishes him by saying that all humans are capable of self-discipline.  Uh, yeah.  Except Wesley, who can’t keep his hands off of com panels, sensor readings, and captain command authorizations.

We’re not done.  Picard is really, really cold to their new guests.  Granted, he’s under stress from being on his way to face the Romulans, so some flippancy can be expected.  But for someone who highly values life, he gets almost angry that Data saved these three cryonically frozen humans.  He does everything short of place them in the brig.  At least he calls Troi in there to get them “under control.”  Speaking of which, Offenhouse is a little over the top, even for a miser, but I do like the dynamic of the three newbies.  It’s too bad nobody mentioned to Sonny that his Braves went on to dominate for 15 years shortly after he died.

Even with all this junk, I love the meeting with the Romulans.  Picard fights off the entire bridge crew’s desire to start a fight, has a tense but highly calculative conversation with the Romulans, and Offenhouse gets a great moment where his business instincts make Riker look like a douche.  “We are back!” is a simple, great line and a solid way to lead us into season two.

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3 thoughts on “76: The Neutral Zone (1.26)

      • I almost made a comment about how cool it was that the actor who played one of the best supporting alien characters in Trek history got his Trek start playing another major Trek antagonist race, but then I remembered Alaimo first showed up playing one of the aliens who was going to eat the other aliens in that one where Picard got possessed by the alien blue energy thing.

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