Mark Watches ‘The Next Generation’: S05E15 – Power Play

In the fifteenth episode of the fifth season of The Next Generation, this is spectacularly messed up. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Trigger Warning: For consent

Holy shit, THAT ESCALATED SO QUICKLY. I’m so used to this show doing the gradual mystery thing that I was completely shocked when all of a sudden, EVERYONE IS BEING SHOT AND IT’S ALL CHAOS AND WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING. That’s where the strength in “Power Play” is: the story wastes no time in going from oddly unnerving to downright suspenseful. Plus, unlike the last episode, I got a sense that the writers knew how creepy and terrifying all the consent issues were. Possession is not a new thing in the Star Trek canon, but somehow, “Power Play” felt so utterly unlike what we’d seen before.

I think the intensity is part of that. Colm Meaney, Brent Spiner, and Marina Sirtis are all frightening here, and I remarked in the video that I could not imagine a more perfect trio of people to be given this specific role. None of them are violent or aggressive, and thus, the contrast between those established characters and those of the prisoners is a brilliant choice. It makes this feel gritty without it being exploitative. Even when Miles goes after his wife, the writing is clearly done in a way to make us horrified of Miles’s behavior. (Well, the behavior of the prisoner inside him, of course.) It works because we believe these characters. We believe that they mean what they say and that they’ll do practically anything to get what they want. Hell, that much was evident after the brawl in Ten Forward. (Where was Guinan during all of this? Surely, she’d not allow such things to happen in her bar!)

AND WHAT A RIDICULOUS, SHOCKING SCENE THAT WAS. So many phaser shots! So many injured people! I had never seen anything like this on The Next Generation, and I think that was the point. It sets the tone for the rest of the episode, and that’s important if you’re going to do both a hostage story and a prison break at the same time. It’s gotta be intense!

But what did these beings want? Initially, I bought the basic idea that the person within Troi offered: this was the crew of the Essex, somehow alive after nearly 200 years, driven to desperation after such a long time without bodies. That being said, I suspected that something else was going on because I couldn’t understand why they’d go to such lengths. Maybe initially, they believed force was the only way they could escape. But why continue with it after Picard has made it clear that he’d help him? Why would members of the Federation treat other Federation members with such distrust and anger? I knew there had to be some other explanation here, but this script was clever. The truth of those energy beings was brilliantly hidden from the audience (still including all of you in this), and WHAT A RESOLUTION IT IS.

And yet, before we even get to that scene, there’s still a lot to appreciate here. Aside from the performances, we get to see Picard in top form as a negotiator who has to seem like he’s not negotiating or plotting the entire time. I loved seeing Ro and Geordi team up to try and take out the spirits. And I think it was pretty damn cool of the show to think of a way to do a ghost story on top of all of this, but to do so in a way that was very much in line with the style of the show. Even in the end, when it’s revealed that Mab-Bu was a penal colony full of prisoners condemned to life without bodies (WOW, THIS IS SO HORRIFICALLY FUCKED UP), we still get a beautiful dose of courage and loyalty. Picard, Worf, and Keiko all swear allegiance to their friends and to their ship, and we don’t question why they do this. It’s just part of who they are and part of their moral system.

I would have loved to learn more about the planet itself (who runs it??? Who condemns prisoners there???), but I think for what it is, this is a brutal and engaging episode, one of the finer entries for this season.

The video for “Power Play” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at Borderlands Books, Book Riot Live, and Windycon this fall! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be Kings, season 1 of Sense8, season 1 of Agent Carter, seasons 1 & 2 of The 100, Death Note, and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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