Star Trek 165: The Defector

165. The Defector

FORMULA: The Enterprise Incident + 100 years of isolationism

WHY WE LIKE IT: James Sloyan puts in an excellent performance as Admiral Jarok. Unpredictable double-dealing. The model ship photography.

WHY WE DON'T: The rabbit-out-of-a-hat ending.

REVIEW: I'm glad to see the Enterprise is still near the Romulan Neutral Zone and the Tomalak gets to return to dog our heroes, but if The Defector works, it's really thanks to James Sloyan's Admiral Jarok. What a great character. He's haughty and superior, but manages to be sympathetic at the same time. Desperate not to betray his empire, but as Picard reminds him, in for a penny, in for a pound. His final betrayal at the hands of what can only be the Tal Shiar (gotta be!) is painful, destroying the man before our very eyes. He's done the right thing and paid dearly for it. I love how duplicitous it makes the Romulans, how very smart an opponent they can be. Also loved that they knew about Data and would love to get their hands on him. Imagine The Measure of a Man if Data had been found by Romulans instead!

And the creators did the episode justice, whether because they were inspired by the script and performances or not. That initial battle between the scout ship and Tomalak's D'deridex represents probably the best model ship photography we've seen outside the movies, with real motion and energy. A sign of things to come, hopefully. The rest of the cast is as good as ever, with the mounting pressure of possible war looming over them, and while the Henry the Fifth scene seems an amusing aside at first, it really does inform the rest of the piece.

The Defector is similar to The Enterprise Incident in a number of ways, with a standoff in the Neutral Zone with multiple warbirds, and the idea of someone defecting to the other side (but can they be trusted?). The parallel gets a bit more obvious when the birds-of-prey appear at the end of the episode, looking like the uncloaking battle cruisers in that original series episode. This is a low point in the episode, since the Enterprise gets bailed out by the Klingons coming out of left field. Deus ex machina if I ever saw one.

LESSON: We know a lot more about Romulus than we're willing to say (note the holodeck scene).

REWATCHABILITY - High: A real winner that builds on a Romulan arc with strong performances and doing a lot more for the race than The Enemy did.

5 comments:

LiamKav said...

Aren't there hints throughout the episode that Picard is trying to get help from the Klingons? Subtle, but there if you know what you're looking for?

Andrew Gilbertson said...

It is prefigured a couple of times- not enough that it doesn't feel out-of-nowhere on the first viewing, but when watching through with a knowledge of the ending, the hints are there.

LiamKav said...

It's a tricky balance to get right. I seem to recall Picard talking a call from a Klingon captain at one point off screen. I suppose if we saw it we'd be able to guess. Of course, this does then raise the issue of why they don't use hidden cloaked Klingon ships on other occasions.

Also, SFX fact: This is the first time they use the new, slightly smaller but more detailed model of the Enterprise. You can tell because the saucer rim is a big thicker, and the panel lines are much more pronounced. It's noticeable when watched the blu-rays how much detail the original 6-foot model of the Enterprise had that was completely washed away by the limitations of TV at the time. Although the new 4-foot model is smaller, it's much more thickly detailed, with really obvious depressions along the saucer rim which show up better in standard definition and make the ship seem much bigger. A lot of folks think the changed proportions make the ship look less elegent, but it was apparently far easier to work with, which helped them to do more dynamic stuff with the Enterprise from this point forward. (The Romulan Warbird is also a new model, for what it's worth...)

Siskoid said...

I never even noticed the models looked different.

LiamKav said...

It's fairly subtle. And the show mixed shots of both models for the rest of the run. Originally it was a 6-foot and a 2-foot model, built by ILM. Then Greg Jein built a 4 foot one (that couldn't separate). The 6-foot was only used in BOBW for the separation sequence, and then cleaned up and used in Generations.

It's more obvious when compared side by side. This is the 6-foot model:
http://www.ex-astris-scientia.org/observations/thedefector/24-thedefector-1.jpg

And this is the 4-foot model:
http://www.ex-astris-scientia.org/observations/yesterdaysenterprise/25-yesterdaysenterprise.jpg

The panelling is much more noticeable.

(Those are both SD caps, by the way. In HD the requirement to show more detail isn't as big, because the details show up better anyway due to the increase in resolution and other technologies. Here are the equivalent HD caps:

6-foot:
http://www.ex-astris-scientia.org/observations/thedefector/24-thedefector-1-r.jpg

4-foot:
http://www.ex-astris-scientia.org/observations/yesterdaysenterprise/25-yesterdaysenterprise-r.jpg
)

I will now stop being nerdy. I will say though that watching TNG in HD really breaths new life into it. It's very delicately handled, with most of the ship shots being the original footage, just reprocessed, but between that and the vastly improved colour reproduction and contrast, the show has lost about 15-20 years.

(A similar thing happens when you put HD episodes of Friends next to contemporary episodes of Frasier. One looks new, the other looks really, really old.)

 

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