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Lunch » Tags » Tv Shows » Reviews » Star Trek - The Next Generation, Episode 26: The Neutral Zone » User review

The human icicles are a distraction

  • Oct 30, 2004
This episode suffers from the serious affliction that occasionally happens in the Next Generation, in that they try to have too much in the plot. The main story line is that many of the Federation outposts on the edge of the neutral zone with the Romulans have been destroyed. There has been no contact with the Romulans for many years, so it is very possible that this is a probing action by the Romulans where they hope to ascertain the current technical status of the Federation. The Federation leadership decides to respond by sending a single ship, the Enterprise. As they travel to the neutral zone, the senior officers debate their options for response. The consensus is that they should be prepared to fight at the first provocation, as Romulan tactics are to attack without warning.
When they arrive at the neutral zone and find that the outputs are gone, "as if a giant force scooped them up." As they continue their investigation, the Enterprise sensors detect a distortion and a Romulan warbird decloaks directly in front of them. Captain Picard opens a dialog with the Romulan commanders and the Romulan commanders inform him that Romulan outposts on the border of the neutral zone have also been destroyed. Since the Romulan commanders have already concluded that the Federation is not responsible for the destruction, they agree to cooperate on this matter. The warbird then departs and the Enterprise continues on their mission.
This is one of the ways in which this episode fails. Since there has been no contact between the Federation and the Romulans for so many years, Captain Picard should have been eager to share information and shifting from soldier to diplomat, should have suggested a formal meeting. Given the atmosphere of suspicion, this is a tremendous opportunity to launch a new diplomatic initiative.
What transforms this episode from one that could have been very intense into one that is lackluster is the second plot of the episode. The Enterprise encounters a derelict ship with several people aboard who had been frozen at the time of death. Three canisters are still functioning and they are transported to the Enterprise and the people inside are revived. The interaction between the crew of the Enterprise and those who were revived after centuries of slumber has many possibilities, although the major plotline does not allow them. Given the major ramifications of re-establishing contact with the Romulans, and the possibilities of an interstellar war, this second story line is totally unnecessary.
Later in the series, we learn that the missing Federation outposts have been absorbed by the Borg, setting the stage for some of the best episodes of the series. That, and the fact that the Romulans are re-introduced to the series, makes this episode worth seeing. However, the handling is so cluttered with unnecessary verbiage that what could have been an extremely intense episode is occasionally boring.

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Charles Ashbacher ()
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Charlie Ashbacher is a compulsive reader and writer about many subjects. His prime areas of expertise are in mathematics and computers where he has taught every course in the mathematics and computer … more
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The first season comes to a close with Captain Picard being called to an emergency conference on Starbase 718. While waiting for him to return to the ship, Data and Worf investigate the wreckage of an old space capsule they find, one that was launched from Earth in the late 20th century. On board the capsule are three humans in suspended animation: a businessman, an artist, and a housewife. Each were frozen at the moment they died from fatal diseases, hoping that sometime in the future they could be thawed out and cured. Meanwhile, Picard brings theEnterpriseinto the neutral zone to investigate the destruction of a few remote outposts. Rumor has it, after 50 years of quiet, the Romulans have returned to annoy and fight against the Federation. The gravity of the situation is lost on the unfrozen humans, particularly the blowhard businessman who is itching to find out how his stocks are doing after more than 300 years. The comic aspects are rather broad, but the reintroduction of the Romulans is well played. The question of the destroyed outposts isn't resolved until season 2 (hint: it's one of the series' favorite villains), but the most interesting revelation is that TV on Earth only lasts until 2040. Watch this episode now, before it's too late!--Andy Spletzer
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Studio: Paramount

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