Star Trek 209: Darmok

209. Darmok

FORMULA: Devil in the Dark + The Enemy

WHY WE LIKE IT: A wonderful concept for an alien race.

WHY WE DON'T: Picard's a bit thick.

REVIEW: I have a very special place in my heart for Darmok. Where Kirk is remembered as a fighter, Picard is a diplomat, a communicator. And this episode's dilemma is really about communication. As with the Jarada in The Big Goodbye, it's extremely refreshing to see the universal translator not smooth over how difficult it would actually be to understand another culture. The Children of Tama have an evocative culture too, not only with their highly metaphorical language, but in their postures, mannerisms, connection to objects... It's all quite fascinating. Subtleties about even on repeat viewing.

The late Paul Winfield is very effective as Captain Dathon, to the point of being touching in his last scenes. Picard's choice of a Babylonian myth is novel and a unexpected, but creates a narrative that relates directly to the action, as serves as a fitting eulogy for Dathon. It's unfortunate that Picard has to reason things out out loud, because it makes him appear quite a bit thick, but I suppose we need to understand what he's thinking. On repeat viewings, this is tedious however.

Up aboard ship, it's gratifying to see Troi actually be useful, like a crew member trained in the social sciences could be. Note Ashley Judd in her first tv role ever as Robin Lefler - she'll turn up again later with a bigger part. I like how they're seeding characters for later appearances, giving us a better sense of an actual crew. Also new this season: Picard's velvet jacket and gray "Away Team" shirt. It looks good, and if Kirk could wear that green shirt when he wanted, I say Picard can have a jacket.

LESSON: A whole new dictionary.

REWATCHABILITY - High: Intellectually AND emotionally rewarding, Darmok bears repeat viewing. You can eventually understand both sides of the conversation!


Anonymous said...

Was there an in-continuity explanation for why Picard sometimes wore that jacket?

Siskoid said...

Not that I remember...

Wax Frog said...

A minor quibble perhaps, but I was always bothered by the idea that a society using metaphoric language could develop high tech. Perhaps they had another 'undocumented' mode of communication?

Siskoid said...

If they thought in the abstract, perhaps they had advanced mathematics. But I imagine sending lists of primes wouldn't help you say much more than "hi, I'm here!"

Alain Degrace said...

Top 5 episode for me. Understand your point about Picard, but I find myself thinking that in the same position, I would also think out loud to help me make sense of the new way of communication.

Siskoid said...

Probably because you were raised on TV shows ;-).

Alain Degrace said...

Touché !


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