The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: The Chase

Picard is delighted when his old archaeology professor Richard Galen pays him a visit – but Galen has an ulterior motive. He wants Picard to join him on a mission that could lead to a great discovery about the history of the galaxy – but as it turns out, some powerful enemies are also on the trail of what Galen has found.

Back in the day, I was looking forward to this episode – at last, an explanation for why pretty much every race we meet on Star Trek is humanoid. Now that I’m older and wiser, however, I wish they hadn’t bothered. Yes, it’s unlikely, but let the audience accept it – don’t try to explain it with shaky science.

With that in mind, this episode isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be. There’s an excessively long sequence at the start where Picard muses on the road not taken and whether he could really abandon the Enterprise for an archaeological adventure, whilst Professor Galen is rude, dismissive and downright manipulative.

When we finally get to the actual story, there are alien races shoehorned in left and right, whilst plausibility is stretched to the limit even by Star Trek standards. The episode is clearly meant to be very ambitious, but sadly, it just doesn’t quite hit the mark.

Bonus section: the Captain’s hobbies

Picard’s off-duty pastimes have taken centre stage of late. Let’s review them.

  • Archaeology: a keen interest of Picard’s – so much so that he considered pursuing it as a career. Even though Galen seems like a bit of a git, Picard considered him to be as good as a second father – and better yet, a father that understood him.
  • Horse-riding: We’ve seen Picard go riding on the holodeck – he even keeps his own saddle on the Enterprise.
  • Music: as of The Inner Light, Picard has had a keen interest in learning the flute.
  • Mathematics: we’ve seen the captain puzzle away at planetary orbits and proofs of Fermat’s Last Theorem. Shame no one told him about Andrew Wiles.

Comments and observations

  • Galen tells Picard that his Starfleet career is mundane and not nearly as profound as the discoveries he could have made as an archaeologist. Given the things that the Enterprise has seen and done in the six years we’ve charted their journey, I would hardly call it mundane!
  • The Enterprise has extensive records of decryption keys, even though nothing ever seems to be encrypted as standard.
  • Why does Picard get Crusher to do the computer programming for the DNA puzzle? I’m sure she’s a competent enough programmer, but software isn’t her job – give it to Data or someone in the computing department to do.
  • An ancient race of humanoids seeded their DNA about various planets in the galaxy, explaining why humanoid life evolved on disparate worlds. If you ignore the fact that it’s unclear how this would even work without extensive deployment of retroviruses, at least. Plus, we humans share 50% of our DNA with a banana, so even under such restrictions, massive variations in form and appearance could arise.
  • If the Klingons have a weapon that can destroy the biosphere of a planet, shouldn’t everyone else should be a bit more worried as to when and where they might deploy it? Or is it like nuclear weapons – everyone has the technology, so that forces a stalemate.
  • Since I haven’t mentioned it before, ever since Chain of Command, Troi has been wearing an official Starfleet uniform most of the time.
  • This is the first time a Class-L planet is mentioned.
  • With regards to the artefact that Galen gives Picard – how could you ever tell if such a thing was genuine? If it’s been through the transporter, then technically the original has been destroyed and replaced with an exact quantum duplicate. If you replicated a copy, it would have the same proportions of carbon-14, for example, as the original, so you couldn’t use carbon dating to distinguish its age. Effectively, actual objects in the 24th century are worth much less than the information needed to create or recreate them.

Summary – The Chase: Captain’s Holiday was a much better archaeological adventure.

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