Star Trek: The Next Generation: The High Ground   Rewatch 
October 26, 2020 11:47 AM - Season 3, Episode 12 - Subscribe

Doctor Crusher is captured by terrorists who want to involve the Federation in their struggle for freedom.

Memory Alpha is an imperfect solution for an imperfect world.

Story and production
  • The episode was conceived in response to the producers' request for more action-adventure scripts. Dimensional shifting technology was created to meet Gene Roddenberry's concern that the terrorists would need a logical method to defeat the Enterprise-D's technology. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2nd ed., p. 113)
  • Originally, the plot was intended to have parallels to the American Revolution, but writer Melinda Snodgrass was told to change the analogy to Northern Ireland, a change she was very unhappy about. "I wanted it with Picard as Cornwallis and the Romulans would have been the French, who were in our revolution, trying to break this planet away. Suddenly Picard realized he's one of the oppressors. Instead, we do 'Breakfast in Belfast,' where our people decide they're going to go off to Northern Ireland." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 191)
  • Many other writers of the show were extremely unhappy with this episode. Ronald D. Moore described it as "an abomination. It's our one terrorist show. We didn't have anything interesting to say about terrorism except that it's bad and Beverly gets kidnapped – ho hum. They take her down to the caves and we get to have nice, big preachy speeches about terrorism and freedom, fighting and security forces versus society. It's a very unsatisfying episode and the staff wasn't really happy with it." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 191)
  • This episode was cut from first-run transmission in the UK and the Republic of Ireland due to references to the reunification of Ireland being achieved through terrorism (when the episode aired in early 1990, the idea that a peace treaty would exist by decade's end was almost as inconceivable as the breakup of the Soviet Union had been when it was referenced in "The Naked Now"). To date, it has not aired on RTÉ, and only aired on the BBC for the first time on 29 September 2007 (with the Ireland reference intact), fifteen years after it was first intended to go out. It has, however, been aired several times on satellite and cable television (occasionally edited to remove the reference) and was released uncut on video and DVD in the UK and Ireland.
Poster's Log:
Going into this episode, I'd confused it with "Attached".

As with so many episodes, this one leans heavily on the early description of the terrorists, as offered by Devos - they're "animals" who rely on "atrocities" to spread their message. They'll turn out to be very human, with legitimate and sympathetic complaints.

Troi's astonishment at LaForge's "lock on to my signal" command to the transporter surprises me. Did she really imagine Geordi calling for a transporter to send him into space while tightly clutching the bomb?

As noted in "The Defector", distance in space is hard to display, but that explosion looks much closer than two kilometers. Kudos to the continuity folks for making sure that it exploded where Geordi asked, off the starboard nacelle.

I do love seeing Picard fly across the bridge to tackle a terrorist.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
This one is incredibly dark, enough to make it difficult to find a pull quote for the Memory Alpha link.

Aside from confusing it with "Attached", I have no memory of seeing it before. The ending doesn't feel very much like TNG; I'd expected more negotiatin', less shootin' people in the back.
posted by hanov3r (10 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Yeah, this one's pretty forgettable. A noble effort, and it's nice to get a Crusher episode, but it's not until halfway through the episode that the stakes really develop. And speaking of pacing, is it just me, or does this one feel longer than it is? Must be all the repetitive speechifying by Head Terrorist Bob Geldof.

I can appreciate that they took the time to show the human*ity of both sides, and it touches on some Big Social Topics more effectively than Trek sometimes does, but it's weak sauce otherwise. Made me wistful for the Maquis, really.

The "Greatest Gen" guys rightly point out one notable thing here: no sexual subtext is even hinted at between Riker and Devos, which is nice.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:44 PM on October 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I have seen this one a few times, but I have never liked it. Head Terrorist is preachy. Crusher is kind of naive if I recall. And I never liked Head Terrorist's white hair streak as a way of showing the dimension shift problem.
posted by Fukiyama at 12:53 PM on October 26, 2020

I know nothing about genetics, and even less about what dimension-shifting would do to you, but I kept wondering what the deal was with all the men in the episode having dark hair with the white streak, while the women seemed to have different hair colors. Wouldn't genetics usually mean some men would have red hair, or light brown, or blond? But like I said, I'm not very knowledgeable about it so I could be wildly off base.

I got the feeling they were trying to make some kind of emotional attachment happen between Beverly and Terrorist Guy. At least, thank god, Riker wasn't hitting on the security woman.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 1:04 PM on October 26, 2020

I find myself oddly reluctant to criticize this episode; it's Melinda Snodgrass' last script for the show (and the franchise), and my past criticism of her work, both on Trek and in general, lead me to worry that people will think that I'm down on this episode only because I'll never have anything nice to say about her stuff*. But, you know, Ron Moore et al. aren't wrong--it ain't good. I'm not sure what she would have made of her original premise; it certainly seems bold on the face of it--Picard-as-Cornwallis is an interesting way to go, and flipping the script (which thus far has been pretty consistent in establishing the Romulans as not just the avid imperialists but very sneaky about it) to ask "are we the baddies?" (at least in this particular situation) would be something, if it could be made plausible. (Certainly Picard, being the usual Prime Directive hardliner, isn't really a Cornwallis type--the actual Lord Cornwallis was an unapologetic imperialist whose loss at Yorktown was a minor bump on his road to being viceroy of India and, ironically for this ep, the architect of the union between Great Britain and Ireland.)

But the subject of the episode that we got should have been plenty for making this much better than it was. Even given that the most dramatic of the developments during the Troubles was yet to come, several years after the ep was produced--the Good Friday agreement that all but ended the Troubles--there was still plenty of history and background that they could have drawn on. Instead, we get a very paint-by-numbers terrorism-is-bad-mmkay-kids ep, reminiscent of the anvilicious after-school special-type eps of the first season. There's a stab at trying to create some nuance and complexity with Davos commenting that she hadn't been a hardliner before the thing with the schoolbus, but then we get the heroic idiot-ball-toting of the Ansata deciding that they're going after the E-D; I try to imagine any possible circumstance in which the Provisional IRA might have decided to try and sink, say, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier because the US sent some medical supplies to Britain, and I really can't. The performances are likewise nothing to write home about; again, the actress playing Davos isn't too bad, but the same can't be said of Finn's actor--I wish that it had been Bob Geldof, because while "Saint Bob" can be a bit of a bastard (his eminent charitable work notwithstanding), at least he's a charismatic bastard.

And if this all seems a bit harsh, remember that the next two Trek series both prominently feature current/former terrorists and terrorist organizations as main characters and background. (Not to mention the eventual fate of an upcoming recurring character on this show.) VOY may have dialed it back for the most part, with a more-or-less annual "We used to be Maquis" episode, but it got used on DS9 quite a bit; Sisko's "It's easy to be a saint in paradise" speech and Kira's recounting of her first direct action against the Cardassians in "The Darkness and the Light" are two of my favorite scenes in the whole series. If I can give Snodgrass any credit, as I did with "The Ensigns of Command", which has a very origin-of-the-Maquis set-up, it's that she may have inspired other writers to do better with the premises.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:48 PM on October 26, 2020

*I actually liked her earlier contributions in George R.R. Martin's Wild Cards superhero-SF anthology, although I ended up caring for her stand-alone WC novel not at all.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:49 PM on October 26, 2020

My brother's comment on this one:
I've always been impressed with the worldbuilding in The High Ground. The episode starts out with the Enterprise already in orbit, Bev and friends having lunch in their off time on an alien world, something TNG didn't do everyday. And Rutia is maybe the most fleshed out planet the Enterprise visits in seven years. The episode does an excellent job of making Rutia and the Ansata feel big and planetary.
posted by Fukiyama at 5:10 PM on October 26, 2020

It’s funny they did two episodes in a row about insurrections, maybe this is meant to counterbalance The Hunted, which was pretty positive on the subject of taking arms against the state (and a more fun watch).
posted by rodlymight at 7:54 PM on October 26, 2020

Troi's astonishment at LaForge's "lock on to my signal" command to the transporter surprises me. Did she really imagine Geordi calling for a transporter to send him into space while tightly clutching the bomb?

Considering the look on my face when I think I've lost my keys that are in my hand because of the delay this will cause, I wouldn't be to surprised by the occasional mis-assocation in a stressful situation.

If I can give Snodgrass any credit, as I did with "The Ensigns of Command", which has a very origin-of-the-Maquis set-up, it's that she may have inspired other writers to do better with the premises.

See also, Gene Roddenberry. But that's how Trek works.
posted by juiceCake at 8:29 PM on October 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

This week, on forgettable titles on forgettable episodes from the Star Trek CCG:
Premiere('94): Medical Kit.
Second Edition('02): Triage; Medical Kit; Dimensional Shifting.
All Good Things('03): Dimensional Shifting.
Reflections 2.0: Aftermath.

Zero personnel cards, when's the last time that happened? So, you get to compare the 1E Med Kit vs 2E. Both are bland support cards.

Next, you get to compare the Second Edition Dimensional Shifting with the First Edition DS...and, like, they're the same card. And the 2E card came out first! The idea was that they'd close out the remaining broken links in 1E with backward-compatible 2E cards, and they changed their minds. The broken link was on '95's Barclay Transporter Phobia, incidentally.

The two 2E Dilemmas, Triage and Aftermath, are actually decent. Triage lets you distract your opponent's doctors to set up some other nasty like Biochemical Hyperacceleration, and Aftermath helps you deal with your opponent's dang TNG weenie deck.
posted by StarkRoads at 10:27 PM on October 26, 2020

I'm slowly catching up to the rewatch front but I have to say... I was bothered that Riker didn't hit on the security woman. It makes him seem more sleaze not to hit on the one woman we see him interacting with extensively who is in a position of authority in a technologically advanced society. No sir, not for Will Riker, only servants and bumpkins will do.
posted by yonega at 6:56 AM on December 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

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