Star Trek 202: The Drumhead

202. The Drumhead

FORMULA: Court-Martial + Coming of Age + Reunion

WHY WE LIKE IT: It's always great when Picard gets righteous.

WHY WE DON'T: So where's Troi THIS week?

REVIEW: It's hard to go wrong when Picard plays the advocate, but The Drumhead would work half as well without an actress that has the chops necessary to take on Patrick Stewart. Jean Simmons has them, and soon enough you're watching one of those modern lawyer shows where no one can trust anyone, and dirty tricks come out of left field. But the episode is also a taut political thriller.

In the great Star Trek allegory, the Drumhead is McCarthyism in action, and Romulan is just another word for communist (or today, it's the Patriot Act and terrorists). There's an avowed spy (with a cool mode of encrypting intel), possible sabotage, and suspicions laid at the feet of the innocent. Just to raise the stakes, Satie's investigator appeals to Worf's inner Nazi and turns him into a willing participant in a witch trial... until he himself is betrayed. It's a good show for Worf overall, from his quick attack on J'Ddan in the teaser to his realization that he let his Klingon heart get the best of him.

But the star is really Picard. Patrick Stewart gets the unenviable task of making speeches throughout, but he always makes them interesting, always makes us believe it's more than just a writer's words. When Satie starts questionning how the past episodes reflect on his competence and loyalty, we know the truth, but it's still an excellent nod to continuity (anyone else try to find the 9 times he broke the Prime Directive?). When she opens the wound of his Borg assimilation, it really hurts, and that's when he goes on the offensive with her father's own words. Great moment. One of many for Picard.

The mystery of the sabotage is solved with technobabble, but here it works. First, it's not the point of the story, and second, it makes Satie's inquiry even more dubious, even more paranoid. I must mention the noose she wears around her neck, a lovely and subtle piece of design. Everyone was doing their best in this one.

LESSON: A "bottle show" doesn't have to be boring.

REWATCHABILITY - High: With no effects (except stock footage) and only one new set (the inquiry room, as modified from the computer core in Evolution I think), The Drumhead stands up thanks to great writing and acting. One of the best episodes this season.

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