Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Pegasus   Rewatch 
October 25, 2021 9:50 AM - Season 7, Episode 12 - Subscribe

When Riker's first commanding officer comes aboard to aid in the search for the vessel they served on, he is forced to rethink the actions he took at that time.

Memory Alpha is... ha,ha... umm... a role model.

Story and script
  • This episode was inspired by the novel Raise the Titanic!. Writer Ronald D. Moore started with the premise of a mystery ship from the past which holds a secret within it. "It's a classic sort of tale and right from the get-go I thought maybe Riker could have been on that ship. What is he protecting?" (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Moore noted that this episode had similar themes of honor and duty to "The First Duty", in which Wesley Crusher didn't have the benefit of a good record to atone for his early-career mistake. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (? ed., p. ?))
  • This is the first Star Trek episode since "The Enterprise Incident" in which the Enterprise uses a cloaking device. The episode finally provides a canon explanation for why the Federation doesn't use these devices. Moore stated, "I thought, let's sew this up, not because it's the last season but because I'm sick of that question at the conventions!". He believed the treaty was the easiest explanation, and better than those offered in the past – that the cloaking device harmed Humans, that the device wouldn't work on Federation starships, or that "we don't sneak around". (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (? ed., p. ?)) The last explanation was in fact Gene Roddenberry's. He is quoted in the Star Trek Encyclopedia (2nd ed., p. 79) as having said "our people are scientists and explorers – they don't go sneaking around."
  • For the lighthearted teaser, Moore initially settled on Data, Troi, and Riker rehearsing Pygmalion. However, Michael Piller was skeptical and the idea was soon dropped. Instead, Moore conceived of "Captain Picard Day" to make use of Jonathan Frakes' impersonation of Patrick Stewart. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (? ed., p. ?))
  • Noting that once again a high-ranking Starfleet officer goes rogue, Moore quipped, "I am proud to say that I've written another insane Admiral. They must put something in the water at Federation Headquarters." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • The events of the Star Trek: Enterprise series finale, "These Are the Voyages...", take place during this episode. In that episode, we find out that Riker ran a holodeck simulation of Enterprise NX-01's final voyage to help him decide whether or not to tell Captain Picard about the cloaking device.
  • Michael Mack becomes the first African-American actor to play a Romulan in this episode. Initially, however, Mack was made up with lightened skin. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (? ed., p. ?))
  • The production staff was so impressed with Terry O'Quinn's performance that Michael Piller considered using his character in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This idea did not come into fruition. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Background actress Joycelyn Robinson as Ensign Gates gets to utter an uncredited reply to Picard in this episode. The line was written for Data, but Brent Spiner and the rest of the cast pointed out that the helm and not the ops officer should carry out the "course plotted" order. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (? ed., p. ?))
  • The entries for "Captain Picard Day" were sourced from two local elementary schools and the children of property master Alan Sims. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (? ed., p. ?))
  • When Admiral Pressman and Riker are being transported back from the USS Pegasus with the cloaking device, the tricorder used by Pressman is left behind on top of the console where the equipment was installed.
  • The dead crew of the Pegasus are wearing the newer loose uniform with shoulder pads, despite their lying there for 12 years, before the uniform change.
  • When Pressman asks Riker how long he's had a beard, he says "about four years". It's actually been almost five and a half at this point, as he first wore the beard in "The Child", at the start of season 2.
Poster's Log:

I'd thought "Captain Picard Day" was related to the events of "Disaster", but it's apparently unique to this episode in TNG. It'll get referenced a couple of times in Lower Decks, and Picard has a "Captain Picard Day" banner in his storage space in the Starfleet Quantum Archives in PIC: "Remembrance".

Frakes' physical display of discomfort every time he has to lie or hide the truth is palpably painful.

One could probably write a pretty interesting study comparing captains' self-appraisals and confidence levels with their adherence to the chain of command and whether they allow their senior officers to disagree with them.

It is so rare to see Picard enter a thunderous rage that it hits as a complete surprise when he yells at Riker, "I'm taking this up with YOU, Will!".

Sirol may be the most unctuous Romulan we see in all of TNG. His voice almost literally oozes oiliness.

Terry Quinn's scenery chewing whilst yelling at Riker is some badmiral gold. "I can break you" is such a gloriously clichéd villain line.
posted by hanov3r (19 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This week's two-fer is "Ethics? Heard of 'em", and Pressman may be the worst Badmiral of them all: not only was he cool with breaking a major treaty*, and insists that the Pegasus crew (save for Riker and a few other people) were mutineers and thus besmirched their memories, but tries to suborn (and actually does endanger) an even larger crew--which, Captain Picard Day reminds us, includes civilians and children--not only to keep the phasing cloak out of the hands of the Romulans, but because he still thinks that it's a good idea. What else could he do wrong, literally take candy from a baby, or try to sell MLM schemes to his subordinates, or kick Spot? It's not great that it took this long and this much to get Riker to finally come clean; it's even worse that Pressman seems to have some support in Starfleet, although how much, and how much they knew about the situation and the device, remains unclear. The Borg incursion may have pushed some of the admiralty to take a more aggressive posture generally (see, for example, Nechayev's statement about the Borg in "Descent"), but the comments about continuity re: the uniforms reminds us that the incident happened twelve years ago, not only before the Borg but also before the Romulans broke their long retreat behind the Neutral Zone. They didn't have anything like the Dominion War to justify taking this action in the first place. The best retcon that I can think of is that this may be early evidence of Section 31.

Terry O'Quinn was great here; probably the thing outside of Trek that I remember him for the most is the X-Files movie Fight the Future, in which he plays another government official with hidden motives. Ditto for Michael Mack as Sirol, who may be the first African-American to play a Vulcanoid character, before Tuvok, if I'm not mistaken. Speaking of African-American actors, I thought that it was interesting (and a little sad) that this is the only episode in which Gates' dialogue is actually spoken by the actress. I think that she could have been part of the featured characters in the upcoming "Lower Decks."

*The Treaty of Algeron, which, like the Prime Directive, seems to have never been completely spelled out (although the latter was stated, very briefly, in a TAS episode). Pressman could have been speaking for a number of mil-SF fans when he bitched about it in this episode: "That treaty is the biggest mistake we ever made; it's kept us from exploiting a vital area of defense!" My headcanon is that it may have included a provision that the Romulans wouldn't attempt to create a cloaking device that would allow them to fire while cloaked, as the Klingons had (in a single prototype ship) in Star Trek VI; presumably the Federation would have put a similar agreement with the Klingons in the Khitomer Accords. I also think that, if the Romulans had known that the Federation had that kind of technology in a finished state, they might have ended up forming an alliance with the Klingons and maybe even the Cardassians to fight the Federation.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:15 AM on October 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

What?! No Badmiral tag?

I love Terry O'Quinn when he gets his mustache-twirling on; the first thing I ever really noticed and remembered him was from the 1987 movie The Stepfather, because he'd been on a sort of recent Miami Vice episode and I was like, oh, he specializes in sleazebags.

Agreed about the unctuousness of the Romulan commander--he was just marvelous. I wanted him to come back so bad. I feel like he helps this episode become less of a shipboard confined episode with a lot of manly angst about duty and honor.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 11:52 AM on October 25, 2021

Cards of the episode in the Star Trek CCG:

Premiere included Asteroid Sanctuary, Incoming Message - Romulan, Eric Pressman, and most notably the 50 point Pegasus Search, which would get you halfway to winning the game if you met its requirements. Many a deck was built around this mission.

By the Q-Continuum expansion, the relative weakness of the Romulan affiliation was widely recognized, so why don't give them a nice 9 range ship in Terix and a five skiilled commander in Sirol? He was pretty much their best dude for a minute.

Later, we got the Phased Cloaking Device and the final 1E set introduced U.S.S. Pegasus, finally closing the matching commander status of Eric Pressman after nine years. The only other ship with a Phasing Cloak was Apnex, which we saw earlier in the series. Normally, a cloaked ship avoided battle, phase cloaks were also protected from effects such as Gaps in Normal Space. Neat, even if it didn't come up much. The +4 RANGE increase is pretty sweet though.

Second Edition brought back some notable 1E cards in its early run, Pegasus Search returning as a high value lodestone for a deck. •Terix, and •Sirol, Diplomatic Adversary also appeared with some typical Romulan interference effects.
posted by StarkRoads at 12:01 PM on October 25, 2021

probably the thing outside of Trek that I remember him for the most is the X-Files movie Fight the Future

I mostly remember him as Locke from Lost and Howard Hughes from The Rocketeer (starring The Outrageous Okona).
posted by hanov3r at 12:14 PM on October 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

In which Picard learns the danger of not checking your Zoom background before you take the call from your boss.

Terry O'Quinn was impossible to tear your eyes away from in the strange, fascinating, dark, and often hilarious Amazon series Patriot. It's one of only a handful of recent TV series (that aren't Star Trek) that I have definite plans to rewatch sometime. He's very good here too, but not as good.

The most gangbusters moment here (and there are several) has gotta be Riker's trip to Picard's quarters. I'd forgotten that this was the "Captain Picard Day" episode, but I shouldn't have, because it sets up the easy relationship between Picard and Riker—we can tell they are actual friends at this point—right before Pressman comes along to test it.

At least one novel or other noncanon source tells us that the head of Starfleet Intelligence during the TNG era is Uhura. On rewatch, this script is careful enough not to intimate that Admiral Blackwell, the head of Intelligence, or any other specific persons are culpable here besides Pressman.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 1:06 PM on October 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

I remember O'Quinn's X-Files role as Shadow Man in 'Trust No. 1' more than from the movie, and often misremember Jesse Ventura/ Alex Trebek as MiB in 'Jose Chung's From Out Space.' Oh boy, going through his IMDB, he's even more prolific than I thought.

"Oh, yes. It's for the children. I am. Ha ha. I'm a role model."

Really like that angry-Picard is used so sparingly that it does carry weight when he blows his top.
posted by porpoise at 1:44 PM on October 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

They really fell in love with "inter-phasic" stuff this last episode or so. It seems to work fine, and seems like it would make most defensive systems mostly obsolete, so it's weird when they don't think about trying to use this all the time, even if it's just used as a shield rather than a cloak.

I always wish they had made cloaking technology more interesting by having more drawbacks. Like, a cloaked ship should be hugely expensive to build and maintain, require major design compromises, be toxic to the crew, and limit normal shipboard functions even when not in use, like making advanced medical procedures impossible or something like that. That would make sense as technology the Federation chooses not to pursue. But as its depicted, cloaking is such an enormous tactical advantage, it's not just strange the federation doesn't pursue it, it's strange that the Romulans and Klingons can't dominate militarily. They can just fly five ships around while cloaked, wait to find a single ship, uncloak and require it to surrender or be destroyed. Between them they should be running the quadrant.
posted by skewed at 1:56 PM on October 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

At least one novel or other noncanon source tells us that the head of Starfleet Intelligence during the TNG era is Uhura.

Quoth Memory Alpha:
Nyota Uhura was depicted in the novels The Art of the Impossible, Catalyst of Sorrows, and Vulcan's Soul: Exodus as later going on to achieve the rank of admiral and becoming the head of Starfleet Intelligence in the 24th century, serving into 2377.
Picard is canonically close to his centenary in Picard. This would be Uhura serving in Starfleet for more than 110 years.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:00 PM on October 25, 2021

We haven't a chance! Your overthruster's for shit!
posted by phooky at 2:07 PM on October 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

How could I forget to point out that this is one of just two post-"Force of Nature" episodes in all of Trek that explicitly mention the warp speed limitation?
posted by hanov3r at 2:10 PM on October 25, 2021 [4 favorites]

Really like that angry-Picard is used so sparingly that it does carry weight when he blows his top.

I’m watching a fictional character on a TV show filmed over two and a half decades ago and I felt the urge to apologize to him.
posted by Servo5678 at 4:04 PM on October 25, 2021 [8 favorites]

I remember O'Quinn's X-Files role as Shadow Man in 'Trust No. 1' more than from the movie

He also had a major role in Millenium, which was later established as part of the same universe as The X-Files. For the longest time I thought he was in Simon and Simon, because he reminded me so much of a younger Gerald McRaney.
posted by Pryde at 10:09 PM on October 25, 2021

The one question I've always had about this one is how Will knows so much about the cloak. He was a little ensign on the bridge at the time, but he has all this knowledge despite the fact he and Pressman keep repeating that the crew of the ship was afraid and didn't know what was happening with the cloak and killed themselves. Did Pressman's XO and chief engineer not have a working knowledge of an experimental tech tied into their own ship? Gosh.
posted by Fukiyama at 6:43 PM on October 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

so it's weird when they don't think about trying to use this all the time
Agreed. I can understand that restrictions on cloaking are part of important diplomatic agreements. That's plausible. (And, cloaking is kind of shit anyway. It takes a random Starfleet engineer 20 seconds to reveal a cloaked ship most of the time.) But, it does seem weird that the idea never gets mentioned during the Dominion Wars or in the Delta quadrant. The Vidiians and Species 8472 didn't sign any treaties about cloaking technology.
posted by eotvos at 10:01 AM on October 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

cloaking is kind of shit anyway. It takes a random Starfleet engineer 20 seconds to reveal a cloaked ship most of the time.

Yeah, that always makes me laugh -- like, wouldn't the Klingons and Romulans try to improve their tactics or tech even a little bit? I also wonder why everyone doesn't immediately direct their first volleys at either their opponents' weapons systems or warp core; 9 out of 10 times, the Enterprise knocks them out with one shot, even if the enemy's shields are at 100%.
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:08 PM on October 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

But, it does seem weird that the idea never gets mentioned during the Dominion Wars

I mean, it kinda does, which is why the Defiant has a borrowed cloak. But that's a Starfleet that is still adhering to the treaty they signed. And, if you were the Romulans and could 'loan' Starfleet a little bit of equipment while maintaining that they have to continue to not research their own stuff, you'd totally do that.

or in the Delta quadrant. The Vidiians and Species 8472 didn't sign any treaties about cloaking technology.

That's... not how that kind of treaty works in real life. "We're not going to research a thing" is not the same as "well, we're going to research it but we PROMISE that it's for use against those guys over there". And Janeway is a very, very Starfleet captain.
posted by hanov3r at 2:06 PM on October 27, 2021

Re: Cloaking
This is one of those elements of Star Trek that I choose not to look too closely at. Cloaking is confused because of the limitations of Trek's storytelling. In TOS, the cloaking device was simply a plot device to allow the Enterprise to hunt a submarine for an episode. After that, like everything else in TOS and BermanTrek, cloaking evolved an episode at a time. I cannot think of any glaring unforced errors regarding the cloak; unlike a lot of other tech, it's been pretty consistent. So if the writer's didn't spend an afternoon mapping out a Romulan invasion plan utilizing cloaked warbirds, I'm not holding it against them.
posted by Stuka at 3:45 PM on October 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

You can imagine the Federation frequently develops countermeasures to cloaking, like the tachyon net during the Klingon Civil War, and that those countermeasures are constantly evolving. But yes, it's pointless to demand continuity from a franchise that didn't care much about continuity until quite late in its development.
posted by Cash4Lead at 10:09 AM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

Picard broke the code with the Tamarians, he got tortured by the Cardassians, they sent him deep undercover to Romulus, he's the the guy for managing relations with the Klingons -- basically the biggest hero the galaxy has ever known. But every time an Admiral talks to him on Zoom they treat him like an irresponsible teenager.

The crew of the Pegasus have been exposed to space for 12 years? Shouldn't they be all be dessicated mummies?

I'm concerned about Picard's decision to immediately show the cloaking device to the Romulans. My first take is, that it's a good faith move with the Romulans because that's just what Picard does. My second thought is that it's actually a Realpolitik move because he knows that the mutiny on the Pegasus got buried by shadowy forces within Starfleet, but now he's forcing them to hold their own Iran-Contra hearings. And then there's the matter that looking at the nuance of the situation and returning good faith seems to be something the Romulans never do. They're going to say "Treaty's broken! Shooting starts!"
posted by polecat at 10:43 AM on January 25, 2022

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