Recap / Star Trek The Next Generation S 3 E 2 The Ensigns Of Command

The Enterprise receives a message from the Sheliak, insisting they remove all humans from a planet that the Sheliak have the legal right to colonize. The Federation has no record of a colony there - there's radiation that would normally be lethal to humans - but it turns out that, about a century ago, a colony ship went off course and ended up there. The colonists, after losing a third of their number, adapted to the radiation, settled in, and by now have grown to a population of 15,000 or so.

The evacuation will take weeks by shuttlecraft (the radiation also messes up the transporters), but the Sheliak are arriving in four days; Picard negotiates with the Sheliak, who keep insisting on not giving them any extra time. Meanwhile, the colonists don't want to evacuate at all (screw the treaties, many of their ancestors died building that colony!), and Data must convince them otherwise.

  • Blue and Orange Morality: Discussed by Picard and Troi. The Sheliak have radically different thought processes from humans, and Troi points out that the fact they can communicate with them at all is fairly remarkable.
  • Bothering by the Book: The Sheliak constantly stand on the exact wording of their very long peace treaty with the Federation...
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Data finally overcomes the colonists' pride by demonstrating that one android with a hand phaser can seriously wreck their equipment, then stating that the Sheliak are packing much bigger weapons and will blow them away from orbit without a second thought.
    Data: That was the stun setting. This is not.
  • Planet of Hats: The Sheliak are of the Obstructive Bureaucrat variety. They don't put any value on words that haven't already been signed and sealed in a treaty.
  • Planetville: One of the series' bigger aversions, in earlier episodes entire planetary populations fit in a single cargo hold but this relatively tiny colony is a logistical nightmare to evacuate.
  • Scotty Time: Averted. Picard demands that Geordi and Wesley figure out a way to get the transporters to work through the radiation in the four days they have. At the end of the episode, after numerous attempts to compensate end in failure, Geordi admits it would require fifteen years and a complete redesign of the transporter system.
  • Translation: Yes: Apparently the massive treaty is this to the Sheliak, used to compensate for Federation languages being ludicrously imprecise from their perspective.
  • Tuckerization: Data's shuttlecraft is called the Onizuka, named for Ellison Onizuka, who died in the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Part of Data's troubles on the planet come from the leader, Gosheven, having no respect for him because he's an android. Gosheven even hits Data with some kind of stun-rod, having no idea nor any apparent interest in whether he survives.