Star Trek 159: Who Watches the Watchers

159. Who Watches the Watchers

FORMULA: A Private Little War + Justice + The Enterprise Incident + Pen Pals

WHY WE LIKE IT: Picard as a god. Certainly one of the better Prime Directive episodes.

WHY WE DON'T: Some may find distasteful the suggestion that religion is a superstition to be outgrown.

REVIEW: We return to Vasquez Rocks! Ok, once that euphoria wears off (I'm kidding), we actually get a very good episode dealing with the Prime Directive. In the past, these haven't been so strong, mostly because Picard hasn't really worked hard to obey it. In this case, while mistakes are made, the idea is to repair a series of accidents rather than deal with a crew member's screw-up, a better focus. While the Mintakans do come away changed and retaining knowledge of their encounter with the Enterprise, I think it all works better than the brainwashings that previously capped these episodes.

The best of the episode is seeing Picard try to squirm out of his godhood. His scenes with Nuria are excellent, almost a preview of First Contact, which owes a lot to Who Watches the Watchers. His final solution is in the spirit of the Prime Directive even if it does betray it in another way, but shows that he is willing to die for it after all. Troi does a good turn as a Mintakan too, acting intelligently under pressure.

I must say that though Liko is a little strident at times, I think we can see from what kind of trauma he's coming from, desperately wanting to believe his wife can be resurrected. It's through Nuria that this culture becomes an engaging one able to touch Picard's heart. They're certainly not your everyday primitives. I won't go into the episode's implication that religion is a primitive impulse, since that pretty much goes hand in hand with the characterization of the Federation throughout TNG's run (not until DS9 will we really see any main characters discuss their faiths). Let's just agree that having The Picard as your god would have been a bad thing and leave it at that.

LESSON: My ancestors would have worshipped me as a god. My kingdom for a time machine ;-).

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: But a high Medium. The Mintakans are a memorable people, coming off very sympathetically, and for once the Prime Directive drives the action rather than creates an obstacle to be talked around.

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