The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: Descent I+II

When the Enterprise runs into the Borg once again, they are surprised to find that their adversaries are no longer acting as a unified collective, but as individuals. Whilst the Enterprise and other ships try to track these renegade Borg down to their source, Data must deal with his first experience of emotion.

I’ve always felt ambivalent about this two-parter, and I was hoping that rewatching it would help settle things one way or the other. Unfortunately, it hasn’t, leaving me with an appreciation for this episode, but not an outright love of it.

On the plus side, more Brent Spiner is always a good thing, as he’s such a fantastic actor – there’s a reason Picard and Data are most people’s favourites, after all. It’s also good that the writers followed up on Hugh and his effect on the Borg – rather than freeing them all from the chains of mindless corporate tyranny, it turned them into angry, violent teens, with no real purpose and direction. Not everything the Enterprise does has a happily ever after!

On the other hand, I didn’t really get Lore’s motivation – yes, I get that he’s meant to be crazy and unstable, but it felt like he was just playing the villain because someone had to. It’s also unsettling to have Data turn evil – he’s so susceptible to manipulation when the plot demands it.

Descent into details

  • Troi claims that Hugh is the only Borg who had a name, but of course Locutus also did. Maybe she didn’t want to bring that up in front of Picard.
  • There are over 1000 people aboard the Enterprise, and although we don’t have exact figures for how many of those are civilians, it seems unrealistic that there were hundreds of people down on the planet searching for Data, leaving only Beverly and a couple of random crewmembers to be a skeleton crew. Given the importance of keeping the Enterprise intact and not losing its captain, first officer and second officer all in one go, some of the usual bridge crew should have stayed aboard. Of course, Beverly has passed the bridge officer’s exam, so she’s perfectly entitled to sit in the chair.
  • The metaphasic shielding from Suspicions returns here, having been experimentally adapted to fit the Enterprise.
  • In Redemption, Kurn’s ship performs the same manoeuvre of creating a solar eruption to destroy enemy ships – in fact, he even flies into a stellar corona with nary a mention of metaphasic shielding. Ensign Taitt’s supposedly revolutionary idea has therefore already been performed and proven successful two years prior to this episode.
  • I can understand that Data would have had been given ethical subroutines at the start to stop him randomly hurting or killing people, but surely over time his ethics and sense of morality have evolved into part of his core personality. How can all of that just be switched off?
  • Data’s holodeck poker game makes a joke about Einstein’s supposed lack of maths skills. Although this a popular wisdom, it’s not true – Einstein was, unsurprising, always good at maths.
  • Data will eventually use the emotion chip in Generations, at which point it will have a quite different physical appearance – perhaps due to having been repaired.

Summary – Descent: No disassemble!

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