In the sixth episode of the fourth season of The Next Generation, Data grows close to someone who might be related to an old friend of his. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
This was a subtle heartbreaker, y’all, and yet another example of how much better the storytelling has gotten this season. It’s kind of amazing how this episode starts off so intensely, only to end with such a quiet sense of betrayal and regret. They’re polar opposites in terms of tone, but it works. Of course, the poker scene in the cold open of “Legacy” makes even more sense, given that Data seems to be adapting to human behavior better than he had been.
And then he’s delivered a devastating example of how he’s got a whole lot more to learn.
BUT LET’S TALK ABOUT THINGS THAT ARE NOT SAD FIRST. There’s so much good shit here because the writers do things they’ve never really done on The Next Generation. I’ve never seen a distress signal story with so much urgency, and I think part of that comes from the brilliant set built to house the Turkana IV bases. It’s huge, which allows the actors to actually run through it. There are so many new angles we haven’t seen, and this all creates an atmosphere of NOT OKAY. When have we ever seen an away team land and IMMEDIATELY START RUNNING? All of this helps to convey how serious this rescue mission is. VERY SERIOUS BUSINESS. And I’m not jesting, either. I honestly think that this was done well!
That’s why the first (of many) twists is so much fun. After hearing from Tasha Yar (NOOOOOOOOOOO IT’S TOO SAD) about life on Tarkana IV, we expect a certain amount of chaos. We expect lawlessness, violence, and terror. The first shock comes when the people the away team interacts with are… friendly? Not at all ready to harm them? MANY MYSTICAL THINGS ALL AT ONCE???That’s where trust comes into play, and goddamn, y’all, the writers use that concept to build an unending sense of tension throughout “Legacy.” Can the Enterprise team trust Hayne and his people? Are they truly trying to maintain peace, or is that a terrible lie? And then they drop the big one: HERE IS TASHA’S SISTER, ISHARA.
I mean, the actress they chose to play Ishara looks like Tasha’s relative. But it’s very easy for all of this to be nothing more than a trick, a method that the Coalition are using to gain the upper hand on the Alliance. That threat hangs over this entire episode, even after Ishara grows close with Data. What I loved about Ishara’s characterization, though, was the fact that while she accommodated some of the crew’s requests to prove her identity, she largely didn’t care about winning them over. She’s still abrasive and ambitious, to the point that she pursues her goals without worrying about how she comes off. Of course, that doesn’t mean she’s cruel or unlikable. On the contrary, I found her immensely charming.
But like everyone else within this world, I was utterly confused by Ishara’s constant claims that Tasha Yar was a coward. Again, the writing for this episode is what makes this such a rewarding experience, and I love that within this huge action plot, we can have moments like that scene between her and Data in Ten Forward. Ultimately, I think that’s what is most memorable about the story here: Ishara is given her own tale, and it reflects on Data’s growth as well. We learn enough about Ishara to understand that she wouldn’t just call Tasha a coward without some sort of justification. But we also know that every person on board the Enterprise knows Tasha as someone else: a hero. The very idea that Tasha ran away from her problems sounds ludicrous to us!
So it was satisfying to watch as Ishara got a better understanding of who her sister was by rethinking why Tasha left Tarkana IV. There’s nothing inherently weak about seeking out a better situation, and Tasha knew she would thrive if she lived somewhere that wasn’t as vicious as Tarkana. Isn’t adaptation a key theme of the story here in “Legacy” anyway? Data learns to adapt to human behavior, and Ishara comes to understand why her sister left. But she also adapts to the situation she is in and, unfortunately, that is at Data’s expense. An opportunity arises, and she takes the chance to deliver a crushing blow to the Alliance, even if it means risking the reputation of her friends and the Federation. (Did anyone else keep thinking of Firefly every time they mentioned the Alliance?)
It’s heartbreaking because so much of this is seen through the lens of Data, who had actually become friends with Ishara. SERIOUSLY, LOOK AT HIS FACE WHEN ISHARA EXPLAINS WHAT SHE’S DOING. Y’all, she might have actually killed Data to get what she wanted. Does that invalidate her growth or friendship with Data? Well, that’s complicated. So much of their interaction over the course of this episode was part of a con, so it’s entirely fair for Data to question the validity of anything she said. Of course, it’s possible that much of what she told Data was true, but the deception is still a terrible stain on everything else. I think that’s why Data has O’Brien energize the transporter without saying goodbye. The scene is cold and brutal, but it has to be. Data learned about a new form of human behavior through Ishara: betrayal.
And lord, it looked like it actually hurt.
What a great episode, y’all. I would love to see more of Ishara, but I imagine this is her only episode. Still, we’re 6/6 in season four. THIS IS SPECTACULAR.
The video for “Legacy” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
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