Mark Watches ‘The Next Generation’- S06E18 – Starship Mine

In the eighteenth episode of the sixth season of The Next Generation, WOW, WHAT THE HELL IS THIS EPISODE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

This was a journey, y’all. There is a singular narrative in “Starship Mine” from the point of Hutch’s death (WHAT THE HELL, THAT CAME OUT OF NOWHERE) right through to the end, and it’s one of the most brutal things we’ve ever seen on the show. It’s not outside the realm of possibility, though; it’s just a different kind of story than we’re used to.

Let me back up. Until Hutch dies, this was actually a really funny episode. I liked the idea that Picard showed a different side of him through the riding saddle gag, and Data’s imitation of Hutchinson was PERFECTION. Initially, I thought this was going to be a silly story, one that tracked what the crew would do when they were forced off the Enterprise and had to deal with the kind of social interaction they normally get to avoid. Who are they without adventures and missions to go on? Then we got Data trying to out-small-talk Hutchinson, and everyone acting shocked that Picard kept a saddle in his quarters, and this was a pleasantly bizarre episode.

AND THEN EVERYTHING GOES TO HELL. I love the tonal shift here. We go from delightful absurdity to a dual set of tension-filled stories in a matter of minutes. Picard is stuck on the Enterprise as a baryon sweep slowly moves through the ship, and he discovers that the operation is a red herring so that technicians can steal trilithium resin to sell to TERRORISTS. Meanwhile, back on the base? The unnamed aliens accompanying Hutchinson take everyone hostage, killing Hutchinson in the process. (Strange thing: everyone had a lot to say about him and his ability to small talk everyone into submission, but not one person said anything about his death. That’s weird, right?) Both sets of people are dealing with life-or-death disasters, all so someone can steal from them.

Admittedly, I like Picard’s plot a whole lot more, mostly because the remainder of the crew either lays around (Geordi) or just stands around, whispering so loud that it is impossible that Orton could not hear them. Right??? They were all so loud!!! But I think that it’s a little unfair to compare the two of them because stylistically, Picard’s plot is trying to achieve something the show has never really done. I think that Picard’s love of the Enterprise plays fairly heavily into his scenes. I mean, the opening of “Starship Mine” gives us a sequence where Picard admires the bridge, caressing a console during a moment when no one else is on board. So when he discovers the sabotage, he does whatever he can to save the ship from these people.

I think that’s part of the reason why he’s so relentless in his journey here. We go from one scene to the next where Picard picks off these saboteurs and thieves, and then HE LEAVES THEM BEHIND TO DIE FROM EXPOSURE TO RADIATION. For what it’s worth, Picard does not do this with glee etched onto his face. You can see that he’s concerned about his own actions from the emotional weight present in his expressions. He never tries to actively kill anyone, but incapacitates them so that he can keep moving forward. And yet, they die. It’s not something that we’ve seen much of, you know? But this is a survival scenario, and the writers pit Picard against a group of people who are absolutely willing to sacrifice him in a second. What is Picard supposed to do with limited resources and extremely little time?

Apparently, he turns into MacGyver. AND IT’S SO SATISFYING TO WATCH. Again, I think that you can’t ignore the fact that Picard’s relationship to the Enterprise influences his behavior here, especially since there’s no one else on board aside from the thieves. He doesn’t need to save lives, aside from his own. So why care for the ship? Because it’s his duty? Perhaps, but I think that over the years, Picard has come to think of the Enterprise as an extension of himself. Like the thieves, he becomes willing to do anything to reach his goal. The thieves underestimate Picard’s dedication, though, right up until Kelsey herself dies at Picard’s hands when HE STEALS THE CONTROL ROD AND IT BLOWS UP HER SHIP. Oh my god, this episode is RUTHLESS, y’all!

It’s an entertaining story, too. Some parts are better than others, but I think it was pretty damn effective.

The video for “Starship Mine” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! 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 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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