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Recap / Star Trek: The Next Generation S3E23 "Sarek"

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Yes, that Sarek.
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Original air date: May 14, 1990

The ship prepares for the arrival of Vulcan Ambassador Sarek, Spock's father, who will close out his illustrious career as a diplomat by hosting a historic first meeting between the Federation and the Legarans. Before Sarek arrives, however, two of his aides beam aboard and state that Sarek has become infirm in his old age and must not be disturbed for any formal meeting or event until the conference. Picard is dismayed that Sarek will miss out on the concert they have arranged for him, but agrees. When Sarek arrives with his wife, he seems perfectly normal and accuses his handlers of coddling him unnecessarily.

Soon after Sarek's arrival, the tempers of the crew begin to flare up irrationally. Wesley and Geordi get into a shouting match over nothing. Later, Sarek attends the concert against the advice of his handlers and begins to weep. Troi notes the uncharacteristic display of emotion from a Vulcan. Across the ship, random crew members become irrationally angry, and a massive brawl breaks out in Ten-Forward.

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Picard believes that Sarek's arrival is linked to the disturbances. He meets with Troi and Crusher, who conclude that Sarek may be suffering from Bendii syndrome, a degenerative brain disease affecting aging Vulcans. His fraying emotions are spilling out psychically into random crew members and could ruin the diplomatic meeting with the Legarans. Sarek denies the accusation, but his Vulcan assistant admits that he's been using his psychic powers to hold Sarek's mind together as much as possible.

Sarek's presence is paramount to the meeting's success. Bereft of options, Picard offers to mind meld with Sarek, taking on the burden of Sarek's illness and leaving the Vulcan temporarily whole enough to complete his diplomatic role. Sarek concludes the meeting successfully while Picard is left under the care of Crusher to suffer Sarek's unrestrained emotions. In the end, Sarek and Picard bid each other farewell with immense respect, now sharing a part of themselves in each other. When asked about Sarek's prognosis, the diplomat's handlers state that the disease has no known cure, but medical advances are being made all the time...

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Tropes featured in this episode include:

  • Actor Allusion: While arguing with Wesley, Geordi tells him "You'd get more action out of a good book than you'll ever see on this date, I guarantee it!"
  • Armor-Piercing Question: The one-on-one confrontation with Sarek heats up when Picard cites him crying at the concert and asks, "Is it logical for a Vulcan to cry?"
  • Bar Brawl: Fueled not by alcohol but by Sarek inadvertently projecting his anger telepathically onto others.
  • Big "NO!": Picard screams this just after the mind meld.
    Picard: NOOOO! It is... it is... wrong! It is WRONG!
  • Blatant Lies: Ki Mendrosan assuring Picard that Sarek is in perfect health.
  • Call-Back: When Geordi insults Wesley's way with the ladies, Wesley snipes back that at least he doesn't find his in the holodeck.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: Inverted. When Perrin tells Picard that Sarek considers his work "satisfactory", Picard recognizes that, coming from a Vulcan (especially one of Sarek's reputation), that IS high praise.
  • Five Stages of Grief: Sarek and his party go through the progression more-or-less in order.
    • Denial: For the first half of the episode, nobody will admit that Sarek is beginning to lose his mind. Ki Mendrosan in particular lies his butt off to Picard.
    • Anger: Despite the denials, Sarek is unusually testy, but most of the anger comes out in the form of violence throughout the Enterprise. His confrontation with Picard is basically angry denial.
    • Bargaining: Once the truth comes out, Perrin pleads with Picard to undertake the mind-meld and allow Sarek to complete his final mission.
    • Depression: While channeling Sarek's emotions, Picard expresses both anger and regret over Sarek not telling his loved ones how he fells about them.
    • Acceptance: Sarek returns to Vulcan accepting his fate.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The fact that Sarek has an onset of Bendii Syndrome is hinted at in the first act, as he is increasingly concerned about the decor in the conference room, with unnatural intensity in his voice.
    • After being instructed to give Sarek privacy during the mission, Picard remarks to Riker with some disappointment that he had hoped to spend more time with the ambassador, "sharing his thoughts, memories, his unique understanding of the history he's made". He ends up doing exactly that, in a far more literal way than he had expected.
  • The Ghost:
    • We never see the Lagerans. All we know is that it's taken then decades to agree to meet with the Federation, and they live in pools of foul-smelling muck.
    • Wesley goes on a date with a girl we never see.
  • Gut Feeling: Despite being an emotionless android, Data clearly gets one when Sakkath starts asking about Picard's diplomatic abilities.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Picard and Riker go a round on the bridge until Data gets them to stop.
  • Hate Plague: Sarek's Vulcan Alzheimer's causes him to lose control of both his emotions and his telepathic abilities, transmitting powerful anger randomly around the Enterprise, which causes a number of arguments, much verbal sniping and one massive Bar Brawl.
  • I Have No Son!: Indirectly pulled by Picard-as-Sarek, who mentions Amanda and Spock, but not Sybok or his first wife. Unsurprising, as the writing staff had agreed between themselves to consign Star Trek V: The Final Frontier to Canon Discontinuity status. Admittedly though it does make sense that Sarek would disown Sybok, as his rejection of Surak's teachings would not exactly have gone over well with his fellow Vulcans.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: Worf and Riker are headed to Ten Forward, discussing an ensign challenging Worf.
    Riker: Is it my imagination, or have tempers become a little frayed on the ship lately?
    Worf: I hadn't noticed.
    [they enter Ten Forward to find a full-scale brawl going on]
    Worf: I see what you mean.
  • Irony: Sarek reflects on being accused of many things in his time, but never once of having excessive emotions.
  • The Knights Who Say "Squee!": While a bit restrained, Picard still can't hide how thrilled he is to host Sarek on his ship.
  • Large Ham: Picard really goes to town after the mind-meld.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Perrin, Sakkath, and Ki Mendrossen all know the truth, but they're keeping it from Sarek so he can complete his last mission and end his career on a high note.
  • MacGuffin: The main goal for the characters in this episode is for the negotiations between the Federation and the alien race Legarans to succeed. However, the actual negotiations are not shown, and we don't even get to see what the Legarans look like.
  • Madness Mantra: "ILLOGICAL! ILLOGICAL!"
  • Mood Whiplash: After the Mind Meld, we get a quick scene of Sarek being suddenly back to his old self, to Riker's surprise, and heading down to the negotiations. An innocuous scene, right before immediately cutting to Picard flipping the hell out.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Beverly after slapping Wesley.
  • My Skull Runneth Over: Sarek's illness causes his impulses to project onto others around him, leading to the crew of the Enterprise to become testy, if not outright violent, with each other.
  • OOC Is Serious Business:
    • Sarek's unusually testy behavior is revealed to be the onset of Bendii Syndrome.
    • Similarly, Beverly slapping Wesley, Geordi and Wesley sniping at each other, and then Picard and Riker having a massive blowup on the bridge as a result of Sarek losing his emotional control.
  • Right Behind Me: Sarek walks in behind Perrin when she tries to stop Picard from confronting him about his Bendii Syndrome.
    Perrin: Please, you mustn't do this to him.
    Sarek: Must not do what, my wife?
  • Sanity Slippage: Sarek is inadvertently projecting his emotions thanks to Bendii Syndrome, a rare ailment among elderly (200+ years) Vulcans.
  • Serious Business: Sarek makes sure to impart upon Picard the dangers of long-term mind-melding. He makes clear that Vulcans suppress their emotions because they're so intense, and that the full brunt of them could potentially kill a normal human.
  • Single Tear: Just shedding a tear is Serious Business for a Vulcan.
  • Shout-Out: During the argument, Wesley says that Geordi's more likely to spend his evenings with a book than with a woman.
  • Something Only They Would Say: A variant. After melding with Picard, Sarek starts calling Riker "Number One."
  • Starfish Aliens: We don't get to see them, but the Legarans are implied to be this. The wading pool of boiling sludge Geordi and Wes set up for them certainly suggests it.
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!:
    • Picard and Riker arguing on the bridge.
      Riker: I don't understand this. Everyone is protecting Sarek. His wife, Mendrosan, even you!
      Picard: What would you have me do? March right down there and destroy the man?
      Riker: The mission with the Legarans cannot be carried out with Sarek in this condition!
      Picard: I know that!
      Riker: THEN TELL HIM THAT THERE IS NO WAY!
      Picard: DON'T YOU TELL ME WHAT TO DO!
      Data: Captain...Commander...
    • Sarek, when Picard forces him to face his loss of emotional control.
      Picard: Sarek of Vulcan would never be afraid of looking straight at something he did not want to see.
      Sarek: I warn you, your efforts to discredit me will not succeed!
      Picard: Sarek of Vulcan never confused what he wanted with the truth.
      Sarek: I WILL NOT BE SPOKEN TO IN THIS MANNER!
      Picard: Do I hear anger in your voice?
      Sarek: It would be illogical for a Vulcan to show ANGER! It would be ILLOGICAL! ILLOGICAL! ILLOGICAL! ILLOGICAL!
  • Tender Tears: During their logical argument of the situation, Picard cites seeing Sarek cry during the concert as proof of him being emotionally affected.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Picard mentions in passing that he once met Sarek briefly at his son's wedding. This is the only on-screen mention of "Mrs. Spock" (although there's plenty of fan fiction covering it, and according to the Expanded Universe, it's Saavik).
  • Whole Plot Reference: Sarek visits the Enterprise for his last diplomatic mission that is compromised by an illness hidden from his human wife. The first line of dialogue even reveals the fate of Coridan, which was left hanging in the original TOS episode. (Unsurprisingly, Sarek convinced the other Ambassadors to vote in favor of admission.)

 
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I See What You Mean

In "Sarek" from "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Riker and Worf walk to Ten Forward, discussing an ensign who challenged Worf that Worf wants to bring up for insubordination. Riker comments that tempers have been a little flared on the ship lately, but Worf responds drily that he hadn't noticed. The two then enter Ten Forward to discover a full-on brawl in progress. "I see what you mean," deadpans Worf.

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