In the eighteenth episode of the third season of The Next Generation, this show continues to get better and does so by using a common trope EXTREMELY WELL. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Goddamn, this was great! Seriously, the writers room for this show has been KILLING it with this recent batch of episodes, and I’m so pleased that this is the case. Let’s talk about “Allegiance”!
This is not the first film or episode of television I’ve seen where the characters are all stuck in a room and must figure out how to escape. There are variations of it in Buffy, on The X-Files, on The Twilight Zone, and many more. (One of my favorite films that uses this trope is called Exam. It’s a treat.) I don’t think that The Next Generation takes this story to a place we haven’t seen before, but that doesn’t mean it fails to entertain. On the contrary, with the addition of another story element, “Allegiance” ends up standing out more than I expected it to.
I’ll get to that other plot in a bit. “Allegiance” wastes no time dropping Picard into the surreal. There’s an immediacy to his scenes in that room, namely because the writers do such a fine job with the intensity of the situation. I think it was clever to stick Mitena and Tholl in with Picard first, only to introduce Esoqq right when the three of them got comfortable. In hindsight, I should have realized that this was a clue that someone was testing these characters, but hey, I RARELY GET THINGS BEFORE THEY’RE REVEALED. I enjoyed being able to immerse myself in the situation instead of trying to figure it out, though.
It helped that the set was claustrophobic and simple, that the actors playing these four characters were so recognizable as tropes and as individual people. I enjoyed that they were both instead of just archetypes, you know? But let’s not fool ourselves: this is Picard’s show. I mean that both as a whole and for this specific episode. “Allegiance” acts to show us what kind of leader Picard is. Obviously, that’s the entire point of this test, since the unnamed aliens who kidnapped everyone wanted to observe how leadership is. But how does Picard maintain peace while balancing that with ambition? How does he prevent these people from turning on one another amidst such intense paranoia? Those aspects of this episode is what made it such a pleasure to watch. But the depth of this story comes from more than just the events in that room. LET’S TALK ABOUT THAT.
If this is a study of Picard’s leadership abilities, then it is integral to look upon the other subplot with a critical eye, because I think it shows how great a captain Picard is. How? By showing us all the things he never does. It’s unnerving to watch the Replica!Picard make his way around the Enterprise, acting close to the original character but just slightly off. It is in those moments where Replica!Picard is off that this episode speaks volumes about this character.
It made me realize that I don’t want Picard to be overly sentimental. I don’t want him to be exuberant and over-the-top and overtly friendly. I like that he’s reserved, that he gives off an air of intimidation, that he’s never quite approachable. It’s only after watching him do all these things that his character feels more well-defined than ever. We know that Replica!Picard is simply not the real Picard. Would Picard ever wander into the crew’s poker game? Would he ever pursue Dr. Crusher so intensely, only to shut her out coldly? (WHAT A BRUTAL AND UTTERLY UNFAIR SCENE, I SHIP THE TWO OF THEM FOREVER.) And would he ever take the crew on an unnamed, purposeless mission that would severely risk their lives?
While I do think this is mostly a chance to study Picard, it was also neat to see how these other characters interacted with Replica!Picard. From Dr. Crusher’s growing interest to her ultimate disappointment; to Deanna Troi’s confusion; to Riker’s increasing suspicion that something is utterly wrong with his superior; to the BRILLIANT expression on Geordi’s face once Picard starts singing. It’s a lot of fun, and I think this is yet another solid episode this season. HOW IS THIS SHOW GETTING SO GOOD?
The video for “Allegiance” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
– I am now on Patreon!!! MANY SURPRISES ARE IN STORE FOR YOU IF YOU SUPPORT ME.
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