Original air date: January 8, 1990
The Enterprise and crew are visiting Angosia, a Proud Scholar Race that is applying for entry into The Federation. Picard and Riker are praising Angosia's society for its rapid recovery from a recent war when the Angosian authorities request some assistance. A prisoner has escaped from a penal colony on the moon of Lunar V, and they need the Enterprise's help in apprehending him.
After a quick bit of searching, the Enterprise locates his stolen shuttle but have difficulty apprehending it. Using a series of clever misdirections, the ship nearly eludes the Enterprise, but Data eventually manages to locate an Escape Pod that contains no signs of life. Picard tells O'Brien to beam over anything humanoid-sized within the pod that might be the convict. It works, and the convict is brought on board.
The convict refuses to surrender and puts a serious beating on two security guards and O'Brien at the same time, shaking off phaser blasts all the while. Riker and Worf finally arrive as reinforcements and manage to subdue the convict. Strangely enough, the convict continues to show no life signs on the ship's sensors.
The mysterious prisoner is identified as Roga Danar. Troi senses him having nightmares and goes to his holding cell to meet him. She notices that for such a violent man, he is intelligent and thoughtful while displaying no signs of uncontrollable anger. He admits that he has been augmented to serve as a Super Soldier, giving him an enhanced capacity for violence and the mental conditioning to use it when threatened.
With a little research into the Angosian files, Troi and Data find something odd. Roga has no criminal record whatsoever, and his military record is an exemplary one at that. And as it happens, Lunar V is a military prison where all of the soldiers from its previous war were dumped because they had become unfit to live in society anymore. They all can't turn off their military conditioning to react violently to any perceived threat.
Angosia arranges for Roga to be transported back to Lunar V and tells the Enterprise to keep their noses out of their internal security matters. In spite of his distaste over Roga's treatment at the hands of his own government, Picard's hands are bound because he has no authority over Angosia.
When the Enterprise attempts to beam Roga to the Angosian shuttle, Roga does the impossible. He breaks out of the transport beam and begins running amok on the Enterprise. Still unable to locate him with the ship's sensors, the bridge can only track his interactions with the ship, creating a cat-and-mouse game between him and Worf's security team. Roga leads them on a merry chase, using misdirection to consistently flummox the crew and keep his plans a mystery. Worf finally gets the drop on him, but Roga outfights him and beams himself aboard the prison transport ship.
Roga commandeers the transport vessel and steers it to Lunar V to round up his former comrades and lead an insurrection on Angosia. The government pleads with Picard to help defend them from the threat of their own making. Picard beams down personally along with only Troi, Data, and Worf just in time for Roga's commandos to storm the capital building. Picard warns the Angosians not to provoke the commandos in any way to avoid triggering their military conditioning and starting a bloodbath. He then urges the two sides to talk to each other.
The two sides seem intractable. The soldiers insist on returning to their home, while the Angosian government maintains that nothing can be done to make them suitable for society again. The away team chastise the government for never even trying to help the soldiers who protected them. Picard refuses to interfere in the negotiations, saying that they will have to find a solution together. The away team then beams away, leaving Angosia to its fate, after telling the Angosians when they are truly ready the Federation would be happy to reconsider their application.
Back on the ship, Picard prepares to leave the planet telling Riker to note in their report that if the Angosian government survives the night the Federation would offer assistance in treating their veterans. He expresses confidence that Angosia will find a way to survive, before having helm set a course for a nearby starbase.
Tropes featured in this episode:
- Anti-Villain: Danar. He is what his people made him to be. Applies to his engineered cohorts as well.
- Arc Words: "Survival," and the choice or compulsion to do so, comes up many times. It is the idea that made Angosians create the soldiers in the past, a word that ironically damns those soldiers in every respect of the word in the present, and what to Danar is simply not enough for the future. Picard's closing words on the subject highlight this as it's turned on the Angosian government— the government might not survive this crisis, but he suspects in the end that they will choose to.
- Battle of Wits: Danar and Data fight it out this way. Danar is impressed with Data for figuring out his plan.
- Blessed with Suck: One of Roga Danar's enhancements is an improved memory. He can remember everything in perfect detail. This includes the faces of the people he killed in the war. All eighty-four of them.
- Borrowed Biometric Bypass: Danar knocks out a security guard, then uses the guard's hand to tap his combadge to shut off a force field in the corridor.
- Broken-System Dogmatist: The government of Angosia III is adamant to keep the incarceration system of their war veterans in place, even though it means technically abusing them by keeping them in a Gilded Cage, and keeping them away from their former lives and families. Picard doesn't have any of it when the officials keep throwing "It was the will of the people" back in the away team's faces, as if it means something important.
- Call-Back: Riker figures out that Danar is hiding his ship over Angosia's magnetic pole; back in "Peak Performance," it was mentioned in Riker's file that he had once performed the same trick.
- Combat Pragmatist: Roga Danar again. During his fight with Worf, he realizes the Klingon is too tough to go down like ordinary humans, so he knocks down some nearby metal blocks onto Worf's head, knocking him out.
- Cursed with Awesome: Danar and his engineered comrades have extraordinary abilities, but when their society no longer needs those abilities, they become pariahs.
- Damn You, Muscle Memory!: The key problem the vets have. They can't turn their Super Soldier instincts off. They could easily kill someone by mistake if their survival instinct is triggered.
- Didn't Think This Through: The Angosians did a bang-up job turning soldiers into unstoppable killing machines, but didn't give any thought to whether or not the soldiers could readjust to civilian society.
- Near the end, there's a rather ugly subversion of this, as it is indicated that there were potential treatments already available after the war's end that might help suppress some of the soldiers' conditioning and allow them to potentially reenter civilian life, but it was never used, in no small part because the Angosians thought that they might need these super soldiers again one day. Of course, no one considered the possibility that the soldiers would never willingly fight again for the government that had treated them this way.
- "Die Hard" on an X: The episode's fourth act sees Roga sneaking his way through the corridors of the Enterprise, knocking out guards and stealing phasers, then MacGyvering them into bombs and power sources so he can bypass the security measures, until finally he reaches a transporter that allows him to hijack the Angosian shuttle.
- Do with Him as You Will: Played with. Picard decides to leave the Angosians with their outcast creations, except not for violent retribution, but negotiations.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: The Jeffries tube in this episode is a corridor, instead of the cramped crawlways of future Trek stories.
- Empty Elevator: Save for an overloading phaser that Danar left.
- Exact Words: Picard tells the Prime Minister that he'll send an away team. He never says that it's a security team, or that they'll actually intervene. Picard employs this again when the PM says "Picard, you have to do something." Picard agrees... and beams back up to the ship.
- Fast-Roping: One of Danar's men does this during the climax.
- Fate Worse than Death: How Danar feels about returning to Lunar V.
- Freudian Excuse: Danar pokes fun at Troi, coming up with different reasons for why he turned out so violent.Troi: Why do you have all this anger toward me?
Danar: A girl with long dark hair broke my heart a long time ago. Out of bitterness and resentment, I turned to crime. (laughs) How about this one? My mother abandoned me when I was a little boy. I never got the guidance that a wild young man needed.
Troi: Why are you doing this?
Danar: Playing games? Isn't that what you do, Counselor? Isn't that what all of you mind control experts do?
- Genius Bruiser: In addition to being an absolute beast in combat, Roga is thoughtful, erudite, and tactically brilliant.
- Gilded Cage: Prime Minister Nayrok assures Picard that the Angosians went to great lengths to make the soldiers' "colony" on Lunar V comfortable, and Danar admits that the prisoners are "well-fed and housed", and humanely treated. But, according Danar and Picard, "Even the most comfortable prison is still a prison."
- Gone Horribly Right: The Super Soldier conditioning wound up working too well, leading to their creations becoming uncontrollable.
- He Was Right There All Along: When the security team storm the cargo hold where Roga was incapacitated, he's already gone. Worf announces that he's going to check another location on the ship and leaves. We then see that Roga was there the whole time, hiding. When Roga emerges, Worf also emerges from his own hiding spot, as he'd anticipated Roga's tactics.
- Hoist by His Own Petard:
- The Angosian leadership learns to its horror that, when they refused to cooperate with Captain Picard when he inquired about the matter of their super soldiers because it was a matter of internal security, they gave the disgusted Starfleet captain the perfect excuse to abandon them when the powerful rebels are about to overwhelm the government.
- In addition, the fact that the super soldiers have turned on their creators.
- Holding Your Shoulder Means Injury: O'Brien, after being shot in the shoulder with a phaser.
- Human Aliens: The Angosians don't even have face markings to distinguish them from Earth natives.
- I Can't Sense Their Presence: Danar's life-signs have been masked enough to make him effectively invisible to bio-sensors.
- Ironic Echo: When Picard complains about how Danar and his comrades are treated, Nayrok tells him that it's an internal matter and none of Starfleet's business. During the climax, when Nayrok is pissed at Picard for leaving the government at the mercy of the soldiers, Picard reminds him that it's an internal matter and none of Starfleet's business.Picard: In your own words, this is not our affair. We cannot interfere in the natural course of your society's development, and I'd say it's likely to develop significantly in the next several minutes.
- It Gets Easier: Played With. When Troi asks how an apparently sane man like Danar can act so violently, he says he was trained to do it, and he had to because it was war. He tries to sound blasé, but Troi can sense that he is deeply troubled by his past acts. The fact that his enhanced memory allows him to perfectly recall the face of each of the eighty-four people he's killed doesn't ease the turmoil one bit.
- Lightning Bruiser: Danar is strong enough to fight two guards at once, match Worf strength-for-strength, and withstand multiple phaser shots, and he's fast enough to incapacitate the entire Engineering staff before they know he's even there.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Danar's ability to reroute the transporter beam comes out of nowhere, especially after he failed to do so in Act 1.
- No Place for a Warrior: The driving force of the episode. Angosia is a peaceful and intellectual civilization where their own soldiers cannot fit in.
- No-Sell: Phaser fire has little effect on Danar, at least at first. It takes a few shots at maximum stun to finally stagger him enough to incapacitate him. He is also immune to sensors.
- "Not So Different" Remark: Data mentions that he and Danar have much in common because both of them have been programmed.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Several of Danar's feats (such as breaking out of prison) occur off-screen. There's also the bit where he incapacitates the entire engineering crew — he's seen headed to the engine room, and when we next see him, everyone else is lying unconscious.
- Outside-Context Problem: The closest the Enterprise crew have come to dealing with Super Soldiers, up to this point, have been the Klingons. Someone as nigh-invulnerable as Roga Danar has the crew completely caught off-guard, and they certainly couldn't have foreseen anyone who could escape the transporter beam.
- Perfect Solution Fallacy: Regarding the super soldiers— Nayrok says that the strength-enhancing drugs can be removed from their systems, but the psychological conditioning may not be entirely reversible, so of course they don't even try. Troi calls BS on this.Troi: Even a partial recovery may give them some peace.
- Proud Scholar Race: The Angosians, which is why they turned Danar and others like him into super soldiers. And then it turns out that their peaceful society is No Place for a Warrior, especially one who can't stop being a warrior.
- Ramming Always Works: An odd variation. Danar starts what Geordi calls "a suicide run" against the Enterprise, which doesn't come close to damaging her thanks to her Deflector Shields— and then it turns out that it was just a distraction while Danar jumps into an Escape Pod.
- Recycled IN SPACE!: This episode is First Blood, the first Rambo film, in space.
- Science Is Bad: In the teaser, Prime Minister Nayrok tells Picard and Riker that the Angosians "are not warriors", and prefer to devote their culture's efforts to intellectual pursuits. He is not wrong: a less intellectually developed society might not have succeeded in creating a Super Soldier so proficient that he was able to outfox the entire crew of a Galaxy-class starship - twice.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here: When Roga and his fellows capture the leaders who have been insisting that Picard has no right to interfere in their internal affairs, he takes the opportunity to throw their words back in their faces and then leaves them to their uncertain fate.
- Super Soldier: What Roga and his fellow citizens were turned into. Thoroughly Deconstructed, as this leaves them unable to function in normal society and leads to them becoming outcasts who are only useful in war.
- Tattooed Crook: Roga and the other veterans have small tattoos on each side of their foreheads.
- Trail Of Breadcrumbs: During his second escape, Roga goes around opening panels, which the bridge crew can detect. It soon becomes obvious that he must be doing so intentionally as misdirection.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: The franchise never follows up on what happens to the Angosians, save for Picard recommending that The Federation reject their application.
- The Worf Effect: Roga Danar establishes his danger by stomping on two security personnel and O'Brien at the same time. The trope namer comes into effect in Act 5 when Worf squares off with Roga mano a mano, and yes, this threat is another one that Worf can't solve by punching it. The effect is mitigated because Worf is winning the fight and had briefly outwitted Roga, while Roga takes advantage of a prepared explosion to get the upper hand.
- Worthy Opponent:
- How Worf views Danar.Worf: You are cunning. You must have Klingon blood.
- Danar also seems to view the Enterprise crew as this. Especially Data, as indicated when they have a reasonably amicable chat in the brig.
- How Worf views Danar.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: Danar vs the Enterprise crew twice. Our heroes get him the first time, but the second time he escapes.