The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: Peak Performance

When Picard agrees to take part in war games, Riker and a hand-picked team of forty officers head over to the derelict USS Hathaway in order to make it serviceable. Riker and his team will need all their ingenuity in order to defeat the superior Enterprise, but when a Ferengi ship shows up, the game becomes a potentially deadly reality.

Given how poor some episodes have been this season, this one isn’t too bad in comparison. Most of the episode is spent making preparations for the wargames, which seem designed to be massively unequal, and also to encourage cheating by any and all means necessary. The final showdown with the Ferengi does at least showcase some typical Starfleet ingenuity, whilst a B-plot involving Data losing self-confidence is mildly interesting.

Character moments

  • Compared to how she was when she first came aboard, Pulaski has become much more accepting of Data – even regretting being the reason he lost his confidence.
  • Picard says he resents wargames because Starfleet on a mission of exploration and is not a military organisation – except, in many ways they are. They have ranks, phasers, weapons and shields, and whilst they don’t actively seek out war and conquest, they often play a defensive role. What about the Romulan War, or the once-mentioned Tholian conflict? Besides, not only are there many combat simulations at the Academy, but Picard himself invented a combat manoeuvre! I have no problem with him being a pacifist, just as long as he’s not deluding himself.
  • Worf is able to fool the Enterprise sensors because he still has the computer passcodes even when on the Hathaway. Isn’t this true of all the officers on Riker’s team? And why didn’t Picard temporarily revoke all their accesses so they couldn’t cheat?
  • On a similar note, how was Worf able to pull the same sensor trick on the Ferengi? Did he have access to their computer too? Is Worf a master hacker?
  • Starfleet doesn’t seem too bothered about encryption, but presumably communications between the Enterprise and the Hathaway were encrypted, or the Ferengi could have eavesdropped and figured out the plan.
  • Stratagema seems to be more like an arcade puzzle game depending on speed and reflexes, than a deep strategic game like chess, shogi or Go. That being said, surely Data’s reflexes were sufficient to completely outclass Kolrami, even if his moves weren’t optimal. Unless of course the game itself enforces a maximum turn rate.
  • If Sima Kolrami is a Stratagema Grand Master, how come his strategy was always purely to win, and never incorporated any of Data’s strategy of blocking the opponent from winning (which is a fairly obvious tactic to employ). Also, if merely blocking your opponent from winning is enough to cause a stalemate, then this game is effectively solved and is of no further interest.
  • Data and Kolrami’s final game runs to over 33,000 moves, which at the play speed we see on screen, would have meant over an hour of intense finger twitching. Of course, Data’s an android, but most humanoids would surely start cramping up by that point. Then again, maybe Kolrami’s race doesn’t experience lactic acid build up in their fingers, and that’s what makes them so good at the game.

    Summary – Peak Performance: Don’t they have game theory in the 24th century?

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