Thursday, August 27, 2015

Myriad Universes: Separation Anxiety Part 3

Picking up where we left off last month, this issue opens with Captain Picard and Ro Laren trying to figure out where the hell the saucer section went. It obviously wasn't destroyed, but somehow it's been picked up and moved somewhere without any indication of how it was moved or where it ended up. One thing they can be reasonably certain of is that it likely *wasn't* the Sztazzan, as one of their ships has apparently gone missing too. Thankfully the battle bridge crew soon receives word from Geordi, Worf and Data, and it turns out they may have found a clue as to what happened.

They figure the artificial moon is actually some kind of large-scale relay transporter device meant to move entire ships across huge distances instantaneously. Reasoning it must have been triggered by the energy discharge from the Sztazzan's weaponry, they think they might be able to tease out how to make it work on command and bring the saucer section and the other Sztazzan ship back if they had some time. Unfortunately time is not something our heroes have in abundance, as the Sztazzan are a bit rattled and trigger happy about what happened, and, to make matters worse, there is naturally an energy buildup inside the moon that will cause the whole thing to go up in flames if Geordi and Data can't shut it off. Meanwhile, at the other end of the galaxy, the saucer section crew has come to the same conclusion and have problems of their own. They too are dogged by a Sztazzan ship with an equally itchy trigger finger, and don't have the benefit of a nearby relay station to work with. What they do have is a seemingly uninhabited planet, presumably one the builders of the moon intended to send people to, so Commander Riker sends an away team down to see if there are any clues still to be found on its surface.

One thing that's immediately somewhat of a concern with the way this serial is shaping up is that it's already bearing a worrying number of similarities with The Star Lost. Once again, we have a huge portion of the crew flung across the galaxy by unknown forces, giving us two discrete teams each with their own unique dynamics. It's not that Separation Anxiety is doing this poorly or is coming across as a pale imitation of The Star Lost so much as we've seen a lot of this before already and it simply can't be as effective the second time around. However it must be said this serial gives a significantly different weight to certain thematic aspects such that it still feels relatively fresh: In The Star Lost, for example, the Enterprise was eventually forced to give up on the Albert Einstein and leave its crew for dead. The story thus became one about loss, grieving and moving on. Here though there's never any indication this situation is anything other than temporary-The whole crux of the motivation for everyone involved is reunification. Indeed, Captain Picard is steadfast in his dedication to stay put until he can both rescue Geordi, Worf and Data *and* reunite with the saucer, damn what the Sztazzan want, and you could read that as a direct outgrowth of what he was almost forced to do in The Star Lost. 

Separation Anxiety is not a story about loss, it's a story about distance and being apart from one another. We get confirmation of this during a succession of scenes where Alexander asks when he'll get to see his father again, followed by Keiko O'Brien conversing with an officer whose husband is on the stardrive section, not long before she expresses concern to Miles about being separated from him after Doctor Crusher picks him to join her away team to the planet. One thing Separation Anxiety does carry over from The Star Lost, and actually The Return of Okona as well, is the notion of various crewmembers in positions we wouldn't normally expect to see them in and acquitting themselves really well. In Deanna Troi's absence, it's Robin Lefler who gets to explain the situation to the children of the saucer in her usual confidant and chipper tone. We didn't get to talk much about Robin Lefler in the show proper because “The Game” was so fuck-awfully shitty the criticism sadly wound up eclipsing her, but seeing her here reminds me of how good Ashley Judd was in that part and how I used to wish she had become a reoccurring character.

As mentioned, it's Beverly Crusher leading the away team again, just as she did in The Return of Okona, and she's got Miles O'Brien on it. Terry Oliver is there too, and this may or may not prove to be a bad idea. We also build some more on the theme of paralleling people between both teams: Last month we compared and contrasted Laren with Terry. Here, the big one is obviously Captain Picard and Commander Riker, with both of them in a leadership position and Will having to relinquish his usual role as away team action hero. There's Robin/Deanna, which is interesting in a lateral sort of way, and then finally there's Data/Jenna D'Sora.

Naturally I'm not sure this was the wisest move Michael Jan Friedman could have made here seeing as I'd just as soon retcon “In Theory” and anything that reminds me of it out of existence, but I have to say it works and gives us probably the most memorable exchange in the issue. When Data and Geordi contact Captain Picard and the battle bridge crew, he's about to explain their theory about how the moon works. But then, in a wonderfully elegant cut, we switch to the saucer section where it's Jenna who gets all the tech exposition dialog as she's explaining the theory to Will. Then we cut back to the stardrive section where Data has already finished his spiel, and we never get to hear it. As Will's tactical officer you wouldn't expect Jenna would get a scene like that, but she sells it really well: In a sense I guess it really did have to be her, as it's her connection to Data that ironically helps underscore how it's really not necessary for him to do *everything*.

The cliffhanger is one I like. Nobody is in any real danger, or at least not any more then they were when at the beginning of the issue. Beverly's about to take her away team down to the planet, and the stardrive section is in a continued standoff with the Sztazzan fleet. As Captain Picard remarks they obviously have no choice but to remain, the final text box gives us a truly Star Trek: The Next Generation version of “To Be Continued”: “Continued? Of course”.

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