TNG Episode 1.26: The Neutral Zone

In which cryogenically frozen twentieth-century humans followed Data home, and can he keep them?

Memory Alpha says: An encounter with the Romulan Star Empire is complicated by the presence of three Humans rescued from an ancient cryoship. (Please click the Memory Alpha link for detailed information.)

My Review
I do not remember this being an exciting or dynamic season finale. In fact, pretty much all I can remember about it is ‘there were some frozen people they defrosted.’ I am sincerely struggling to recall any Romulan involvement to speak of. It will be interesting to find out what the episode is actually like.

So without ado beyond noting the fact that going back to the Khan well in any way worked exactly ONCE, and it was called Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, let us begin.

  • Riker gets to do the opening narration again! Lucky boy. I do actually really dig the idea that Starfleet ships occasionally encounter old stuff sent up from Earth in the early days of the space programme. There is no reason why a lot of it still shouldn’t be floating around, full of – was it Chuck Berry or Buddy Holly records we sent into space? Obviously very different artists, but the similarity of their names (Chuck and Buddy are such corn-fed American names, holly has berries) means that I sometimes get them mixed up.
  • ‘It’s just a piece of space debris.’ RIKER YOU BUTCHINNED DICKFACE THAT IS A PIECE OF YOUR SPECIES’ HISTORY. RECOVER IT AND SEND IT HOME TO THE SMITHSONIAN. And Data, the android, has the curiosity and imagination to be interested in investigating the old craft. You’ll recall my Harry and Hermione rant from earlier. Consider it re-ranted.
  • I have no idea why Riker sends Worf to go with Data. Does he think asses need to be kicked over on the derelict?
  • I enjoy the set design of the old ship very much – though of course it’s a giggle and a half that it still has a disk drive.
  • DATA’S PRIDE AT KNOWING HOW TO OPERATE THE DOOR HANDLE IS ADORABLE. Worf, have you seriously never been in an older building with handles on the doors?
  • Ooh. A desiccated corpse. Ooh! Another! How do you know this one is empty, Data? It might contain a short person you can’t see through the panel at the top.
  • Worf found a fresh one!
  • GUEST STARS MARC ALAIMO. SQUIRMING WITH EXCITEMENT.
  • Why are both Data and Worf raising their voices when they’re standing side by side and the room is not noticeably noisy?
  • People on board, who you would have allowed to DIE, Buttchin. And Data doesn’t want to leave them to die, because he is a moral person.
  • We’re goin’ to the Neutral Zone! Adventures ahead!
  • Now, the destroyed outposts are, retrospectively, the first sign of Borg depredations, I think. Not Romulans at all. But nobody knows this at this stage. And the Borg were going to be insects related to the bugs from ‘Conspiracy.’
  • So Picard asks the ship’s shrink for a profile of the Romulan people. Another of those times where she seems to be a diplomatic liaison officer and I wish she actually were.
  • Oh dear, nobody has bothered to tell Picard that Data brought home popsicle people – and Beverly, on her own initiative, has thawed them! You couldn’t have kept them in stasis?
  • So Beverly has, yet again, brought dead people back to life – when it suits the plot, but not to save Tasha.
  • ‘People feared dying. It terrified them.’ Whereas now we just don’t give a shit!
  • For the first time, Picard tries and utterly fails to get properly cross with Data for doing something inconvenient. He’s just kinda rueful.
  • Why should they be up and about as soon as possible? Beverly doesn’t bother to explain. And what is the purpose of having Worf there? Do you think these naked, recently comatose people are going to cut up rough? Do you want to make their reawakening hundreds of years from their own period more traumatic by immediately confronting them with someone who is blatantly not human? Even Data, sweet as he is, could freak them out considerably.
  • ‘Welcome to the 24th Century,’ Picard says to an unconscious woman whom he just set up for a nasty fright.
  • The idea that the expression ‘homemaker’ is so outdated that Data can only speculate that this woman was a construction worker is just silly – particularly given the extent to which twentieth century gender roles are still alive and well.
  • If she died suddenly of an embolism, how was it possible to freeze her at the moment of death? Embolisms don’t give you much warning. By the time she was brought to a cryonics centre surely she wouldn’t have been viable any more.
  • Everyone stands back talking about the patients as they are woken up. Nobody speaks to them to say anything helpful or orientating like ‘You’re going to be all right. You’re in a hospital.’
  • KEEP THEM OUT OF MY WAY. LIKE CHILDREN.
  • It’s the 60s! Just, the 2360s. And we have dressed you in jumpsuits and turtlenecks. Why did they choose a sort of dark tealy blue instead of the gold jumpsuit they put on Lore? The turtlenecks are the same.
  • Nice shitkicker accent on this dude. By which I actually mean ‘irritatingly broad.’
  • For some reason Data using the word ‘jive’ makes me chortle.
  • It would be truly disorientating to find that even the bank your money was with may no longer be in business. Not just that your money is gone… the bank is gone.
  • Deanna quickly recaps Romulans for people who didn’t watch TOS.
  • So! The shitkicker has his own steel guitar music on the soundtrack. He really isn’t enough of a cool dude for that to feel justified.
  • Let’s all enjoy all the TV we can before 204o, guys! To be honest, I already watch far more of it on my computer than on a TV set (so it’s kind of stupid that I bought a nice new TV last year), and I tend to presume that Data just means that broadcast television did not last beyond that. People must have kept watching TV programmes and movies, but through the internet/Interface.
  • What makes the man think they don’t drink? They drink like sonsabitches. They get shitfaced and sing ‘Jerusalem.’
  • Report to the bridge, leaving the three total newcomers to this historical era unsupervised? Why the fuck isn’t Deanna here to help them cope with this shit? I am getting very profane in my impatience.
  • What the fuck is a ‘low-mileage pit-woofie’? If you mean hookers, say hookers. And why do you want to go whoring with Data in particular?
  • ‘From what I’ve seen of our guests, there’s not much to redeem them.’ What an incredibly smug, judgemental thing to say. Yes, one of the men has mostly talked about finance, and the other just wants to watch TV and have a drink (WHAT A SIN), but what did the woman say or do to make you think she’s a waste of space? And you’ve known them for what, an hour or two, based on which you can judge their worth as people? Fuck you, Riker. And our species survived the twenty-first century by being smart, creative, resilient, persistent, spunky, and really fucking lucky. Urgh, I know it was humour, but it was CLUNKY. And SMUG. SMUNKY.
  • Well, look at that! A clever twentieth-century human figured out how to use the intercom.
  • ‘He’s comparing the Enterprise to a cruise ship?’ AND NOT WITHOUT REASON. HAVE YOU SEEN IT FROM THE OUTSIDE.
  • I know we’re supposed to think the businessman is being an asshole, but honestly, I feel for him! Nobody has given him a straight answer to any of his questions, when it would not take long, instead of demonstrating to the shitkicker how to get a martini out of a hole in the wall, to say ‘Human society has changed a lot since you were alive. We’re a socialist utopia, the Wall Street Journal is no longer published, and although you can have an excellent standard of living on Earth without any personal wealth, you need to understand that your personal wealth no longer exists. Indeed, probably, no record of it has survived the Third World War.’ But then we couldn’t have all these hilarious misunderstandings! He’s scared and confused and adrift and he is trying to get some answers from the person in charge. Have a bit of compassion for that!
  • How far from Picard’s office is the room where they’re holding the popsicles? He seemed to get there really quickly.
  • Picard tells the man to ‘refrain from using them’ as if he’s a child (not that children on the Enterprise notably exercise self-discipline, or are even corralled in safe areas). Is it any wonder he gets cross? Yes, you are having a hard day at work, but the reason he’s not AWARE of his situation is that nobody has explained it to him properly!
  • A military career isn’t upwardly mobile?
  • You know, Picard, maybe it’s not just about being ‘obsessed with the accumulation of things.’ Maybe it’s about urgently needing to see that some vestige of the world he lived in survives! That there are still some familiar certainties! GET OFF YOUR HIGH HORSE. I hate seeing the script make Picard so smug.
  • Poor Suzy Homemaker starts to cry and Picard asks her ‘What is it?’ IT’S GRIEF. HER FAMILY IS DEAD. WHY WAS COUNSELLOR TROI NOT BROUGHT IN ON THIS HOURS AGO. THIS REALLY IS SO BADLY RUN.
  • When did Suzy get moved into a different room? (No, I’m not going to learn their real names.)
  • For someone who ‘can’t stop crying’ she’s pretty dry-eyed, with intact makeup.
  • Why does the shitkicker latch onto Data so hard? I mean, you obviously know why I would, but I’m not sure that’s his angle, given that he has not once used the word ‘squee,’ nor engaged in an utterly humiliating display of blushing and eyelash-fluttering.
  • Do you think Data later plays the guitar because of his encounter with this man?
  • I THINK YOU SHOULD INVITE THE ROMULANS TO YOUR PARTY. Come on, I bet they never get invited to parties, they’ll find it really disarming. Offer them a beer. Ask them what they want from the grill. Try to get them involved in a game of swingball.
  • ‘The tension level on this ship has jumped up.’ Give this man Deanna’s job!
  • That is the tawdriest honky-tonkiest guitar I’ve ever seen.
  • Still sympathising with the businessman, quite frankly!
  • ASSUME A MORE DEFENSIVE POSTURE. Riker says it with such intensity.
  • Helpful computer!
  • I love how anyone can walk onto their bridge. You don’t even need a security pass to get in the lift that goes up there. This is precisely how you guys make it easy for jackasses like Lore.
  • It’s very green!
  • Worf pronounces Khitomer ‘Khitomar.’ But he uses the expression ‘waste of skin,’ which endears him to me, and makes him sound oddly like Granny Weatherwax for a moment there.
  • I AM COMMANDER TABOK. AND I HAVE A CERTAIN SMUG DEMEANOUR WHICH DELIGHTS THE PICARDIGAN. Hallo Mr Alaimo!
  • ‘They haven’t got a clue!’ announces the businessman, again demonstrating that he is exactly as empathic as Deanna. Seriously!
  • UNF Alaimo smugness. It is the best smugness.
  • ‘Get him off my bridge,’ even though he earlier gave me a helpful insight.
  • I don’t find it particularly plausible that a family resemblance could survive through that many generations – not without a lot of inbreeding.
  • Oh, so someone has finally explained the situation to the Businessman. What will he do? Well, I think he should retrain as a Starfleet Counsellor, since evidently that’s where his talents lie.
  • I presume that the Shitkicker ends up dead in a ditch on Risa, his system full of more exotic dope than you can shake a syringe at.
  • ‘Having them on board is like a visit from the past,’ says Riker, as if he gives a shit. It’s just a derelict!
  • And off they go to the hiatus.

Well that was nothing to write home about.

I feel like I should make some kind of great summing up statement about the quality and tone of the first season overall. I just don’t have anything very wise to say about it. It’s uneven. Sometimes it’s very silly. A few times it was way cool. I liked it when Data wore two-tone shoes and when Picard and Riker shot poor Remmick’s head off. In many ways it still feels mired in TOS’s style of storytelling and characterisation, and I am looking forward to seeing it break out of that.

Okay. Having finished the first seasons of both, I think I’ll just go on with the first two episodes of TNG season two, then alternate as before with DS9. Good things are coming, people. Good things… like beards.

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5 Responses to “TNG Episode 1.26: The Neutral Zone”

  1. Mark Says:

    I didn’t actually realize that this was the last episode of the season. How unfortunate. Still, Marc Alaimo!

  2. jakeish Says:

    I always forget that Conspiracy isn’t the season finale. It’s such an awesome finale-type episode and this one is just… this. Such a weird decision.

    I would be totally excited about finding a piece of a spacecraft now, and it wouldn’t even be an ancient artifact!

    The only thing good about this episode is that fact that Data exists.

    • picardigan Says:

      Riker throughout this episode: I don’t give a fuck about history! People from history are beneath me! Fuck knows how they even survived! NOW WE ARE PERFECT ESPECIALLY ME.

      Data throughout this episode: is a darling and doesn’t get on my nerves.

  3. solo Says:

    ARGH THIS EPISODE. Sucks. I will not watch it even for the awesome of Marc Alaimo. (Well, maybe…NO. No I will NOT.)


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