Mark Watches ‘The Next Generation’: S03E12 – The High Ground

In the twelfth episode of the third season of The Next Generation, Dr. Crusher is kidnapped by a group of terrorists. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Trigger Warning: For talk of terrorism

Well, that was good. All five of them this week were quite good! And intense. Like, each of these episodes has covered something that’s heavy as hell. The opening scene of “The High Ground” is one of the most intense things filmed for this show, and I think it was meant to invoke the kind of imagery that would frighten us. I have some problems with the ultimate conclusions that the episode makes, but I was fascinated by this episode. LET US DISCUSS, THOUGH. I think that coming off of the recent batch of episodes, we finally get a story that feels like an amalgamation of a lot of recent themes. We’ve got two warring parties, each unable and unwilling to concede anything to the other side. We’ve got a character stuck in the middle of a longstanding and lengthy fight. So I spent a great deal of “The High Ground” wondering when the other shoe would drop. What was really going on here with the Separatists? Had the other side lied to us?

I expected that because it had happened so often. Thus, there’s a part of me that’s glad that the show didn’t go there because it made this one different; it stood out by breaking the pattern of the previous four episodes. At the same time, I think that’s one of the major flaws that unfolds over the course of this episode. Once we learn more about what the Ansatas actually want, the show never bothers to treat them respectfully or to subvert any of the tropes that appear here. No, they’re just terrorists who are greedy… sort of? I think that there might have been a way to do this we could have used to avoid some of the disastrous plots. We hear references to the Ansatas wanting peace and autonomy and freedom, but it’s barely explored. Devos reveals to Riker that this whole conflict started when the Ansata were denied independence, which seems like a fair reason for revolting against a government. But now? Devos’s characterization of the opposition makes them sound like they could care less about any sort of freedom; they just want to murder people. So that made me wonder how big of an issue this was to the writers. Were they more interested in a dramatic, action-filled adventure than a good book? I’m serious, though! There’s very little nuance here. The terrorists are just terrorists, though we get to see a tiny, tiny glimpse into their lives.

Instead, “The High Ground” references global conflicts such as those in Ireland and the Middle East to give us a very plain and uninteresting version of real-life events. Again, this was a good episode, but one that suffers from some bizarre writing choices and poor placement within the season order. Honestly, I think that with so many episodes like those before this one, I was bound to compare them. So what exactly is this episode trying to say? That terrorism is wrong? Not exactly a groundbreaking hypothesis, sure. I then began to wonder if there’d be anything at all to differentiate this from what came before it or the standard story choices you’d expect from something like this.

Let’s talk characters, then. Finn’s character is one-note, and by the end of this episode, I was actually horrified by him. See, the thing is that the Ansatas plan shit before they act. He’s not impulsively killing people, nor does he have any real need to do so. And yet, he still kills. He still feels justified. And the episode never truly bothers to condemn him all the much. Hell, there’s a scene where Picard and Data actually wonder aloud whether or not terrorism is a viable means of achieving change. Like, that’s a real thing that they did, and it seemed EXTREMELY crass, both because of the references to Ireland and because this all has a different context. Suddenly, the metaphor falls apart upon examination.

I did initially enjoy the characterization of Finn, at least until it became clear that the show wasn’t truly going to address Finn’s horrible acts. Taking Picard and Crusher captive was bad enough, but the man ruthlessly killed countless people in the name of his “freedom.” So, in that sense, he was always going to be an antagonist. I can accept that part of the reason I didn’t end up enjoying him is because I kept hoping that the show would do more with him. But I don’t think that’s always such a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with wanting more from a fictional world, especially when it has shown you some pretty wonderful things in the past.

About the only thing here that I found truly compelling, though, was Dr. Crusher, and Gates McFadden knocks it out of the part in “The High Ground.” Seriously, she’s so fantastic in this episode, and I think that’s the major reason I can criticize the story and still say that this was a “good” episode. She’s placed in the most precarious position out of anyone here, since she’s got to convince Finn to let her go and save the Enterprise from destruction. She tries her damnedest to appeal to every sense that Finn has, but what’s fascinating about that is that she doesn’t do it without her trademark honesty. She’s still brutally truthful to the man about how she feels about him and his actions, and I admire that. Other people might have tried to placate him or patronize him, but Dr. Crusher has no interest in doing so. Even when Finn threatens to kill Picard? She still angrily refuses to agree with his tactics. (ALSO: THAT DRAWING WAS THE CREEPIEST.)

Bless Dr. Crusher. I’m so glad she’s back on this show.

The video for “The High Ground” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– The Mark Does Stuff Tour 2015 is now live and includes dates across the U.S. this summer and 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 the remainder of The Legend of Korra, series 8 of Doctor Who, and Kings. 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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