The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: The Drumhead

When there’s an explosion in the engine room, suspicion falls on Klingon exchange office J’Dan. Admiral Nora Satie is brought out of retirement to lead the investigation, but when it seems as if J’Dan must have had an accomplice, she is determined to investigate anyone who had anything to do with J’Dan, from a lowly medical technician to Captain Picard himself.

McCarthyism hits the enlightened 24th century here, as yet another stubborn admiral makes themselves unlikeable by leading an investigation into the loyalties of the Enterprise crew. What seems to begin as a “yet another Romulan plot” episode slowly evolves into the hounding of an innocent crewman, culminating in Picard being put on trial. It’s clear to the audience what the episode is trying to do, of course, but it’s still worth watching along the way -even if Admiral Satie’s anti-Picard rant is a clear sign that a more senior admiral is going to step in, put a stop to the whole thing, and let the Enterprise go on its merry way. Later, DS9 would tackle this subject matter better in the two-parter Home Front/Paradise Lost, but for now, this is a good first attempt.

Points of note

  • J’Dan tells Worf that “on the Klingon homeworld, your name is not mentioned”. Is Worf really so famous that even random scientists would expect to be chatting about him? If someone told me “on the planet Earth, your name is not mentioned”, I wouldn’t be unduly concerned. I don’t expect everyone on Earth to be talking about me.
  • Data gives a repair estimate time of 49 hours, rather than 48 hours, 37 minutes, 52 seconds as he usually would.
  • This is our first time seeing a quarter-Vulcan, or rather quarter-Romulan as it turns out – another one for my list of mixed-race humanoids.
  • If Sabin Genestra is a full Betazoid, can’t he do a better job of actually reading the minds of the crew, rather than just giving vague reports on their emotions? I thought Troi was merely empathic because she was only half-Betazoid – we’ve seen others like Lwaxana Troi and Tam Elbrun actively reading minds. Maybe the spectrum of Betazoid ability is wide enough to encompass “can vaguely feel other’s emotions” to “can read specific thoughts”, and Genestra is on the weaker end of the scale.
  • Medical personnel have special security clearances that allow them to get into the lab. Shame that most of the time access controls are completely ignored.
  • Not only is J’Dan seemingly allowed everywhere on the ship despite not being a fully cleared Starfleet officer, but there’s no review of access logs to see when he was stealing information, or where he was at any given time.
  • The warp engine explosion was caused by shoddy servicing, or to put it another way, “we got screwed at the garage”.

Summary – The Drumhead: “Father loved it when I nailed one of them”

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