The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: Relics

When the Enterprise discover a crashed ship that went missing 75 years ago, they are surprised to discover that someone survived by suspending themselves in the transporter. Upon rematerialising this person, the crew discovers that the survivor is none other than Montgomery Scott, the famous chief engineer of the original Enterprise. Scotty is amazed at how much time has passed whilst he was in the transporter, but soon finds himself out of his depth in the 24th century, where his knowledge and expertise are outdated and obsolete.

Having been disappointed with season six thus far, it’s good to have a decent episode to restore my faith in the remainder of TNG. One might argue that bringing back yet another TOS character is just fan pandering, but just as with the return of Spock, I don’t care – it’s good fun. Scotty’s return feels different to McCoy, Spock and Sarek’s appearances – instead of being a revered legend, he’s a fish out of water, with the engineering skills that defined him seemingly no longer up to scratch. Of course, by the end, the “old can still be useful” moral is rammed down our throats, but that doesn’t stop this from being an enjoyable ride. We even get to see the bridge of the original Enterprise on the holodeck!

Scotty and the Enterprise-D crew

  • As chief engineer, Geordi is the one who spends most of his time with Scotty, and their contrasting styles are clear. Scotty is from a different era, and Geordi soon finds him a nuisance, which of course means that they end up on an away mission together so that they can learn to work together and appreciate each other’s skills.
  • Picard has a nice scene in which he visits Scotty on the original Enterprise holodeck program, and they reminisce about their first starship loves – for Scotty, the NCC-1701, and for Picard, the Stargazer.
  • Scotty is surprised at both Data – the artificial man – and Worf, a Klingon lieutenant. He would of course remember the Khitomer peace talks from Star Trek VI, but even so, a Klingon in Starfleet was a distant prospect in the 2290s.
  • Troi’s one appearance in this episode is saying goodbye to Scotty. Apparently she was supposed to appear in an earlier scene, but it was cut.

The dangers of retconning, and other issues

  • When Scotty learns he has just been rescued by the crew of the Enterprise, he says “I’ll bet Jim Kirk himself hauled the old gal outta mothballs to come lookin’ for me!”. This is later contradicted by Generations, where Scotty knows full well that the Enterprise-A has been superseded by the Enterprise-B, and that Captain Kirk is presumed dead. Maybe this memory lapse was the 0.03% signal degradation that his pattern underwent during transporter suspension.
  • Once again, the Enterprise’s sensors fail to detect something because of interference – this time, the Dyson sphere. Those sensors suck!
  • Similarly, this is yet another case of a crashed Federation ship – essentially, if your ship isn’t called Enterprise, don’t bother leaving spacedock.
  • Although synthehol is clearly safer than alcohol, and better for serving officers who might be called back onto duty after a few drinks, why does Scotty need to rely on Guinan’s limited stock of real alcohol? I believe we’ve already been told that the replicator can produce real alcohol, and indeed there’s nothing especially difficult about the ethanol molecule that would prevent this. Scotty isn’t a serving crewmember, so surely it’s fine – albeit less amusing – for him to replicate some scotch. Of course, it’s possible the replicator is restricted from making alcohol, both for health and safety and proprietary reasons; for example, Chateau Picard might lose its value if it could be replicated freely.
  • A Dyson sphere is an actual hypothetical concept that predates Star Trek. It’s an interesting idea, and a decent choice of B-story, although for various reasons actually building one would be impractical. For example, the shell would have no net gravity, so not only would it be subject to drift rather than uniformly orbiting its star, but anything on the inside would not feel a gravitational pull to the surface, and would just fall into the star.
  • “It is a green” is a reference to By Any Other Name, when Scotty found an unknown bottle of green alcohol whilst getting one of the Kelvans drunk.
  • Scotty claims he never wanted to be anything other than engineer, even though in TOS he was second officer and often took the bridge. Perhaps he just did this because he had as part of his job, rather than because he harboured aspirations to be a bridge officer.
  • The Jenolen still has its shields up when Geordi and Scotty are beamed back – what happened to not beaming through shields? Maybe the Enterprise transporters are sufficiently advanced compared to the older Jenolen shields, thus bypassing this restriction.

Summary – Relics: Mr Scott learns to work engineering miracles in the 24th century.

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