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Recap / Star Trek The Next Generation S 6 E 24 S 7 E 1 Descent

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Now here's a scary Villain Team-Up: Lore leading the Borg.
Two-part, season-ending-and-beginning sequel to the fifth season episode "I, Borg." Hugh is an abandoned Borg drone rescued from an icy planet. An opportunity to destroy the collective from within is passed up in favor of Hugh's emerging individuality; he is returned to the collective and re-assimilated. Or was he?

Part I:

Original air date: June 21, 1993

Data is in the holodeck playing poker with representations of Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking (playing himself). Data explains that he wanted to observe how they would interact, but their incessant bickering seems to have taken him by surprise. As Hawking wins a hand, a Red Alert is sounded.

The strategically unimportant outpost at Ohniaka III is under attack. Orbiting the planet is an unknown ship that is not responding. It could be another victim, or the attackers; there is too much interference to tell. Riker summons Worf and Data to lead an away team to check for survivors. They arrive into a scene of carnage and are attacked by Borg.

But these Borg are behaving oddly. They take cover and express emotion. One even refers to itself as "I." During the combat, Data flies into a rage as he kills one Borg with his bare hands. One Borg who has been hanging back and observing identifies Data, stating his name and rank. He and the rest of the Borg beam away. Data is left stunned by his unexpected brush with emotion. Back on the Enterprise, Picard fires some torpedoes but is unable to hit the ship, as it vanishes with a curious effect. Frustrated, Picard orders the Enterprise to return to the planet to pick up his team.

While Data has himself analyzed by Geordi, Picard convenes the rest of his senior officers to discuss the situation. Riker notes all the ways that the Borg were different from previous encounters, such as having names. Troi notes that the only other Borg to have a name was Hugh. Picard announces that he'll discuss the matter with Starfleet command. Meanwhile, Geodi can find nothing wrong with Data and wonders if he really felt anger without having any frame of reference to describe the emotion. When Data presses him, however, Geordi admits that he cannot describe the feeling of anger without comparing it to other emotions. Geordi suggests that Data try to experience other emotions besides anger.

Data discusses his recent attempts to stimulate various emotions, which have all failed. Troi suggests that he try to make himself angry again, noting that no emotion is "good" or "bad," only the actions that come from them. Data admits that he did experience another emotion that troubled him: pleasure at the sight of the Borg he had killed. Troi is speechless.

Meanwhile, Starfleet Admiral Nechayev, who now heads a task force preparing for a Borg invasion, assigns the Enterprise to a patrol group along with two other ships. She takes Picard to task for letting Hugh go and orders him to take advantage of his next opportunity to destroy the Borg. As the ship patrols the sector, Picard expresses second thoughts about his treatment of the Hugh situation. Although Riker reiterates that it was the moral thing to do, Picard wonders if it was the right thing to do.

Geordi stumbles upon Data fighting holographic Borg, trying to recreate his outburst, but to no avail. He asks Geordi to co-sign on lifting the safety restrictions so that his life will be in danger, but Geordi is uncomfortable with that idea. Before the argument gets too deep, another Red Alert sounds. The MS 1 Colony is under attack. It seems as though the attack is over, and the Borg ship starts generating the subspace distortions it used to escape last time. The Enterprise gives chase and is pulled inside a brilliant blue corridor within the distortion.

The Enterprise drops out of the corridor into a far-off point in normal space. The Borg ship fires a green bolt at the Enterprise, and two drones appear on the bridge. Worf takes them both down, but the Borg ship abandons them. This diversionary tactic is another new one. The Borg even abandoned their dead without vaporizing them, leaving one alive.

In a holding cell, Crusher stabilizes the drone and awakens him. The Borg states that he has a name, Crosis, rather than a designation. He says he is uninterested in assimilating "lesser" biological organisms and is now led by the One, who will destroy the Federation. Picard tries re-assuming the mantle of Locutus, but the Borg doesn't respond. The captain then orders Data to keep an eye on the Borg. When they are alone, Crosis tells Data that he can join the Borg and begins grilling him about his newfound feelings. In spite of his conscience programming, Data reveals that he would do anything to feel emotions again, even kill his best friend, Geordi.

Data and Crosis abscond with a shuttlecraft and vanish into transwarp just like the larger Borg ship. Geordi sets up some Applied Phlebotinum so the Enterprise can open the conduit with a tachyon pulse and follow Data and Crosis. The Enterprise makes a transwarp jump of its own, traversing 65 light years in ten seconds. The shuttle's energy signature leads to a planet, and (eventually) a sizable part of the Enterprise crew beam down to organize a search, given Data and Crosis have a head start of three hours. Picard and Geordi themselves join the search parties, leaving Crusher in command of a skeleton crew on board. Picard gives orders for Crusher to turn the Enterprise back to Earth if she is attacked.

On the planet's surface, Troi spots a large building in a valley below, and the team starts moving towards it. Inside is a throne room covered in a strange claw- or torch-like symbol. Suddenly, they're ambushed by a horde of Borg, who surround them. Before they're all mowed down by plasma fire, a loud, commanding voice suddenly orders the Borg to stand down. It's Lore, and he's not alone. Data, still in his Starfleet uniform, stands beside him, and grins to match his brother, as he declares, "The Sons of Soong have joined together... and together, we will destroy the Federation."

To Be Continued...

Part 2:

Original air date: September 20, 1993

Lore explains that he has taken control of the Borg who rebelled from the Collective after Hugh introduced individuality to them, and they're now wiping out any civilization in their path. Riker demands that Data explain it to them, but Lore insists that he's in charge. Without any sense of connection to his former comrades, Data leads them away to a holding cell.

On Enterprise, Crusher is acting captain and cannot cut through the planet's interference to locate Picard's away team. A Borg ship swoops in on the attack, and Crusher barely has enough time to beam aboard some of the away teams before fleeing, as she was instructed. Riker and Worf stay behind with the remainder. Meanwhile, Data leads Geordi, Troi, and Picard to a holding cell, rebuffing their attempts to reason with him.

Against orders, Crusher returns to the planet. Working together with her skeleton crew, including the green Ensign Taitt and condescending Lieutenant Barnaby, she beams up as many people as they can before the Borg detect her. On the planet, Lore has Data retrieve Geordi's VISOR and prepares to begin experimenting on their human captives so as to spare the lives of their Borg minions.

Geordi reveals he was able to see the carrier wave that Lore is using to broadcast his emotion chip into Data, which is probably why his VISOR was stolen. For Lore's plan to work, though, Data's ethical program had to be remotely deactivated. It now becomes apparent that Crosis did this while in captivity. Geordi comes up with a way to reboot the program and bring "our" Data back, but Data barges in and takes Geordi away before they can make headway.

Riker and Worf find Lore's headquarters but get captured by Borg. They discover that these Borg are led by Hugh, who is resisting Lore. Hugh blames the officers for splintering the Borg, allowing many of them to fall under Lore's sway. He shows them the remains of Lore's botched attempts to turn Borg into fully artificial life forms. However, when Hugh learns that his friend Geordi is being held captive, he agrees to help Riker and Worf stage a rescue.

Data prepares Geordi for an experiment that will replace his brain with an artificial one and likely lobotomize him. Geordi pleads with Data not to go through with it, but Data ignores him and puts Geordi through a preparatory procedure. Meanwhile, Troi and Picard pull the old Sick Captive Scam and get the drop on a Borg guard. Data arrives with Geordi in tow to put a stop to their escape attempt, but not before Picard manages to snake a Borg transceiver. Once Data leaves, Geordi talks Picard through modifying it for their scheme.

Back on the Enterprise, Crusher and the skeleton crew run afoul of the Borg ship, and combat ensues. The Enterprise gets its warp drive knocked out, forcing Crusher to plot a course directly into the sun to flee, using the experimental metaphasic shielding to protect them from the sun's radiation. It works, but for how long?

Picard finishes his modifications of the transceiver and reactivates Data's ethical programming. Just as he's about to fully lobotomize Geordi, Geordi tells Data that if he actually goes through with the procedure, and he ever goes back to the way he used to be, he might never be able to forgive himself for what he is about to do. This triggers something in Data, who briefly pauses, before he makes a hollow excuse to put the experiment on hold and goes to see Lore with his concerns about the procedure. Lore punishes Data by momentarily cutting off Data's emotions using a trigger under his fingernail. Data reasserts his loyalty but is clearly troubled by Lore's behavior.

The metaphasic shielding is falling apart. The Enterprise has to leave the sun's corona soon; once they do, they'll be at the mercy of the Borg. Taitt suggests using a particle beam to cause a solar flare that would destroy the Borg ship, but it must be accurate or it would also destroy the Enterprise. Barnaby is dubious, but the plucky ensign pulls it off, and the enemy ship is destroyed. The Enterprise speeds back to the planet.

Data comes to retrieve Picard as a new test subject. Data is still conflicted, and Picard leans into it, urging him to analyze the morality of his actions. Lore arrives and demands that Data prove his loyalty to the cause by killing Picard. This is the final straw, and Data refuses. Lore is about to kill Data when Hugh, Riker and Worf burst in, phasers blazing. There's a big fight, and Lore runs away, with Data giving chase.

Lore tries to talk Data down, claiming that the emotion chip also contains memories that he can give Data for his help. Data doesn't rise to the bait, so Lore takes away Data's emotions so that he can get the drop on him, but Data recovers quickly enough to beat Lore to the draw, stunning him. Before shutting him down for good, Data tells Lore that he will have to disassemble him.

Data rejoins his comrades, who share some parting words with Hugh. Riker asks him what made him change his mind about helping them rescue his friends. Hugh says that perhaps his time on the Enterprise has changed him more than he realized, and he is very fond of Geordi, anyway. Picard notes that, with the rogue Borg now leaderless, Hugh himself could take over. Perhaps in time, Hugh muses, they will learn to work as a group and as individuals. Picard wishes Hugh luck, and they depart as friends.

Some time later, a fully recovered Geordi visits Data (and Spot). Data is contemplating the damaged emotion chip he removed from his brother. Data deems it too dangerous to keep around even though it doesn't work anymore. Geordi stops him, saying the emotion chip might be repaired, and he wouldn't be much of a friend if he allowed Data to abandon his life-long dream. Maybe one day Data will be be ready for emotions.

Tropes featured:

  • Air-Vent Passageway
    Worf: We can use the environmental control ducts to get into the compound. They should lead us to the detention area.
  • All There in the Manual: It is not explained in the episode but the Borg here are a segment cut off from the greater Collective because of Hugh's learned independence from "I, Borg." The Borg proper would return in Star Trek: First Contact and future works would run into a handful of Borg splinter groups that resulted from similar problems.
  • And I Must Scream: The Borg drones that Lore tried to turn into completely synthetic lifeforms.
  • Answer Cut: With Picard sending most of the crew (including himself) to the surface to look for Data, Geordi asks him who will command the Enterprise. Cut to Doctor Crusher being given the big chair.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • The person in charge of programming Albert Einstein's holographic counterpart apparently fell for the anecdotal misconception that Einstein was bad at math, which is quite laughable when you consider he was one of history's most influential physicists. In reality, Einstein was actually an exceptional mathematician. This rumor was actually started while he was still alive and comes from his bad university grades. The reason? The curriculum was too easy, so he would skip lectures to teach himself more advanced concepts at the library. Einstein even commented on the original article himself.
      Einstein: I never failed in mathematics… Before I was fifteen I had mastered differential and integral calculus.
    • Newton uses the word "science" in its modern context, but when Newton was alive, the term was "natural philosophy."
    • Also Lampshaded when Newton recounts the apple story and Data mentions that it's "generally considered apocryphal."
  • As Himself: Stephen Hawking is, to date, the only person to appear as himself in a Star Trek production, playing his holographic counterpart.
  • Bait-and-Switch: It's initially assumed that Hugh is the leader of these individualistic, aggressive Borg. The audience doesn't discover that Lore is involved until the Cliffhanger.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Lore basically does this to Data by deactivating his ethical subroutine and transmitting only negative emotions to him, leaving Data only able to focus on the negatives of his experiences with the crew and unable to acknowledge the ethics of what he's doing.
  • Cain and Abel: Lore announces that he's going to kill his brother in a noble sacrifice (yeah, right). He gets shot and deactivated by Data instead.
  • Call-Back:
  • Casting Gag: A minor in-show example: the Enterprise is forced to hide within a star's corona by using an experimental shield. The lieutenant at Tactical doesn't think that the shield will work, but is proven wrong. The actor played a different character in a previous episode who tried to make it appear that the shield didn't work.
  • Combat Medic: Beverly Crusher is put in command of the Enterprise. She... does great, actually.
  • The Corrupter: Crosis and, later, Lore are this to Data.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • Lore's control of the Borg resembles a cult leader; or a dictator seizing power after the collapse of the previous regime, when people are drawn to any voice that promises order and security.
    • And speaking of dictators, the rogue Borg have red-and-white flags with a black symbol in the center. That doesn't conjure up certain historical imagery, does it?
    • Lore keeping Data on his side by supplying him emotions and threatening to cut him off if he doesn't behave is reminiscent of an abuser controlling an addict's supply of drugs.
  • Dull Surprise: Played for Laughs as Data goes to the holodeck and attempts to recreate the emotional outburst he experienced against the Borg drone. After pushing the safety parameters to put himself in genuine danger, he would repeat "Stop it" with no rising inflection and throw them across the room with a blank expression.
  • Dying Declaration of Love: Lore declares that he loves Data just before getting deactivated. Given that Lore is a Manipulative Bastard who'd just tried to murder Data, this might have been one final gambit rather than a sincere declaration.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first appearance of the Borg Transwarp Conduits here is much different from what will become their standard design on Voyager and later Picard.
  • Easily Forgiven: Geordi completely forgives Data for what he did, and in fact when Data plans to destroy the emotion chip out of shame he encourages him not to, saying he wouldn't be a very good friend if he let him destroy his dream.
  • Evil Me Scares Me: Data is disturbed by the anger he experienced fighting the Borg drone, and in the end, feels so ashamed by his behavior that he contemplates destroying the emotion chip.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!:
    Troi: That's not Data.
    Picard: What?
    Lore: You should listen to her, Captain. She's way ahead of you.
    Picard: Lore!
  • Eye Lights Out: Lore's pupils shrink when he's deactivated.
  • From Bad to Worse: After Lore reveals he's the true mastermind, he shows off his new partner: Data.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: The guard who operates the forcefield for the cell which Crosis is kept in, should by all means be able to clearly hear the highly suspicious conversation Crosis has with Data happening a mere few feet away from him, including the part where he clearly manipulates Data to join his side and begins planning their escape — which would very likely involve getting the guard himself out of the way somehow — but it somehow never occurs to him to interfere or report to anyone what is happening right in front of him.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Much of Part 2 sees Picard, Troi, and Geordi trying to reason with Data and warn him that Lore's manipulating him.
  • Innocuously Important Episode: This is the first episode to reveal the existence of the Borg's transwarp corridor network, as well as the fact that the Collective is based in the Delta Quadrant. Both of these facts will have major importance in Star Trek: Voyager.
  • Ironic Echo: Taitt points out that Barnaby's calculations, if wrong, would bring them crashing into the planet's atmosphere, and Barnaby says, "Well, then I'll just have to make sure my calculations are correct, ensign." Later on in the episode, when Taitt figures out how to use a solar fusion eruption to destroy the Borg ship, Barnaby points out that the flare could destroy them as well. Taitt snaps back, "Well, then I'll just have to make sure my calculations are correct, lieutenant."
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: Because sensors can't check the surface of the planet the Enterprise does a mass away team search across numerous possible spots. The Critical Staffing Shortage causes Dr. Crusher to take command of the Enterprise for the majority of Part 2, which is the first time she does so.
  • Meaningful Echo: In the first part, Troi tells Data that there are no good or bad emotions, rather what one does with them. In the second part, Troi tries to point out that Lore is only giving Data the negative emotion of fear, to which Data reminds her of what she told him.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: During the procedure, Geordi tells Data he might not be able to forgive himself for what he's doing. The ending shows he was right.
  • Never My Fault: When Lore tells Data that the humans are unlikely to survive the medical experiments, Lore adds that their deaths would be their own fault.
  • New Meat: Ensign Taitt, who has only been on the ship six weeks and is clearly nervous and flustered when she's put in charge of Tactical. However, once Barnaby relieves her and she's moved to Science, which is her field, she's clearly a lot more confident, and ends up coming up with the plan that saves the ship.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: A recurring theme.
    • This situation is the result of the crew not using Hugh to destroy the Collective as originally planned. Picard gets grief from his superiors for passing up the opportunity, and he acknowledges how he could've spared the Federation from "a mortal threat." Lore even goes as far as to say that his actions were simply cleaning up the crew's mess.
    • Conversely, Picard's plan to infect the Borg with Hugh's individuality worked, at least for the one cube, and it caused chaos and mass death, eventually allowing Lore to take control of the vulnerable ex-Borg. Hugh calls Riker and Picard out on this.
  • Non-Standard Character Design: The Borg ship is notably asymmetrical, defying Borg highly brutalist designs. It's never explained, but possibly reconfigured by the Borg splinter group.
  • Noodle Incident: Geordi discusses Data trying to swim in a lake, only to sink to the bottom.
  • Oh, No... Not Again!: Hawking's reaction when Newton mentions that apple. "Not the apple story again!"
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • The Borg are acting like individuals, and they're fighting to kill instead of assimilate. Their tactics are noticeably different, with Will noting that fighting them felt more like fighting Klingons than Borg.
    • Data as well, as he violently strangles a Borg and slams it into a wall, feeling anger as he did so.
  • Orphaned Punchline: How the episode starts, delivered by Stephen Hawking himself.
    Hawking: ...but then I said, in that frame of reference, the perihelion of Mercury would have precessed in the opposite direction.
    Einstein: [laughing] Zat is a great story!
    Data: Quite amusing, Dr. Hawking. You see, Sir Isaac, the joke depends on an understanding of the relativistic curvature of space-time. If two non-inertial reference frames are in relative motion
    Newton: Do not patronize me, sir! I invented physics!
  • Poisonous Captive: Crosis helps corrupt Data while in the brig. This appears to be his whole reason for beaming aboard the bridge.
  • The Power of the Sun: The Enterprise triggers an artificial solar flare to roast the Borg ship alive.
  • Resistance Is Futile:
    • Inverted. Hugh has retained the impulse to resist from his time on the Enterprise, as he is leading a resistance cell against Lore and is protective of the wounded Borg in his care.
    • Crosis actually quotes the phrase verbatim to Data, but puts a somewhat different spin on it than the Borg normally use: rather than saying that attempting to fight the Borg is pointless, he's saying that Data will be unable to resist temptation.
  • Red Shirt: One is killed on Ohniaka III, Ensign Corelki, one is killed on The Bridge, Franklin, when the Borg beam onto the Enterprise, and an unnamed security Ensign is killed in the Borg temple.
  • Reset Button: A more literal, non-time-travel version of this is used on Data; when Picard, Troi and La Forge realise that Lore has disabled Data's ethical subroutines while feeding him negative emotions, they devise a plan to trigger a kedion pulse that will reset Data's subroutines to normal, with the result that Data is still experiencing negative emotions but can now choose whether or not to act on them.
  • Rogue Drone: A whole bunch of 'em, thanks to Hugh's influence. Deconstructed, however, in that they had no idea how to handle their freedom, allowing Lore to take advantage of them with empty promises.
  • Sequel Episode: To "Brothers" and "I Borg", as Lore and Hugh's storylines are followed up, merged, and concluded. Or rather, Hugh's storyline is concluded within the context of TNG. It will however be later revisited on Star Trek: Picard.
  • Sequel Hook: Data retrieves the emotion chip Soong intended for him but stolen by Lore. He was prepared to destroy it because of the events of the episode, but Geordi advises against it saying he should think it over. Data later has it installed in Star Trek: Generations.
  • Shoot Your Mate: Lore tries to test Data's loyalty by making him shoot Picard.
  • Shoulders of Doom: Lore's new costume makes him look more like a Borg, with a heavily padded chest and shoulders.
  • Sick Captive Scam: Picard pretends to have injured himself on the Force-Field Door to trick the Borg guarding him and Troi into entering the cell. It works, and Picard kills him and steals components from him.
  • Stock Footage: The matte painting depicting Ohniaka III is a reuse of the Darwin Research Station painting from "Unnatural Selection".
  • Stuff Blowing Up: A solar fusion eruption does very well in this regard.
  • There's No Kill like Overkill: The only option to Crusher and the remaining crew of the Enterprise, when they turn to a coronal mass ejection to rid the system of a menacing Borg ship.
  • Try and Follow: The Enterprise is outmatched by the Borg ship but has a previously established shield design that allows it to withstand the corona of a star for a period of time, which would be deadly to even the Borg ship. This gives them some time to devise a countermeasure, by which they triggered a solar flare that would catch the ship in its path.
  • Unfinished, Untested, Used Anyway: According to Barnaby, Geordi loaded the metaphasic program into the database but never got the chance to test it. They end up running a practical test in the battle with the Borg.
  • Walk, Don't Swim: Geordi recalls a Noodle Incident where Data sank to the bottom of a lake and had to walk back to shore.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The decision to send Hugh back to the Borg has adverse consequences; Nechayev chews out Picard, while Hugh tells off Riker.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Hugh wonders if the former Borg will ever be able to form a community now that they are leaderless, and Picard points out that they do have a leader in Hugh.
  • You Are in Command Now: Every other main crewmember goes looking for Data, leaving Dr. Crusher in command with a skeleton crew. A later episode, Thine Own Self provides an explanation about how a medical officer can actually command a Federation ship.