Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Myriad Universes: Separation Anxiety Part 5: Strange Bedfellows

Out of options, Commander Riker turns to the last one he has: Ask the pursuing Sztazzan ship if they would extend their shields, and thus their warp bubble, around the saucer section to get them both to the second relay station, which will hopefully bring them back to where they started from. The Sztazzan are predictably boisterous and recalcitrant, but Will reminds them that its his people who have the coordinates to the station, and he's likely to erase them should the Sztazzan try to invade the saucer.

Alexander is depressed and wants nothing except to be reunited with his father. Similarly Worf thinks only about getting his son back, to the point he puts it above his mission and the rest of his crewmates. It seems at first a perhaps shallow form of characterization, but it builds upon the turmoil both characters have been through over the past few stories. Alexander has already lost one parent and now faces the prospect of being completely orphaned, while Worf lost not only K'Heleyr as well, but almost lost his closest friend in Commander Riker in The Return of Okona. Mott comes to visit Alexander in his quarters and offers a suggestion. He's come up with a tactical plan he thinks might help the crew, and asks if Alexander would like to come with him to tell Commander Riker about it, so long as he thinks it's a good plan (Alexander of course being a superior tactician). Mott's idea is to...Ask the pursuing Sztazzan ship if they would extend their shields, and thus their warp bubble, around the saucer section to get them both to the second relay station, which will hopefully bring them back to where they started from.

We cut to a scene on the Sztazzan ship, where we at last get to see a little more of their own cultures and beliefs. As Miles O'Brien guessed last month, the Sztazzan see humans as dangerous and untrustworthy with no set of morals or code of honour (a perhaps not unjustified assumption given what we've seen of how humans organise themselves in the 24th century at large). The Sztazzan are all ready to say no to the saucer crew, but one officer pleads the case that perhaps not all humans are as bad as all that, as he had personally witnessed the heroism of one human who went out of her way to rescue an injured Sztazzan when the two away teams had clashed on the planet's surface earlier. Swayed by the story of Terry Oliver's act of selflessness, the Sztazzan agree to Commander Riker's plan, just before Alexander and Mott come to the bridge to tell him about it.

And it couldn't have come at a better time too, as things aren't looking so good for Captain Picard, Ro Laren and Deanna Troi back on the battle bridge. Outmanned and outgunned by the Sztazzan fleet and with multiple hull breaches to contend with, they're about to be forced to abandon the saucer section to its fate and retreat with Geordi, Worf and Data. But just in the nick of time, the saucer and the Sztazzan flagship reappear, and the Sztazzan fleet captain orders his crew to cease fire. Informing the battle bridge crew of how the two ships worked together to find their way home, he singles out Terry Oliver for particular praise, as it was her actions that helped convince him of the necessity of cooperation towards a common goal.

It's here where the thematic focus of Separation Anxiety truly comes into view. As I mentioned before, this is a story about being kept apart from others by distance, but it's also a story, fittingly, about reunification. The endgame here has always been to get the Enterprise back in one piece, because it's really meant to work together as one holistic unit. And that's even true granting the existence of those interesting subgroups and subset cultures (such as the dynamic duo of Captain Picard and Ro Laren and their battle bridge team): One thing I've really enjoyed about this series is all the little cuts like we talked about in part 3 that show all these different micro-teams are working on the same problem from slightly different angles pretty much simultaneously in real time. And in this issue we add to that not just the Sztazzan, but Mott and Alexander as well! So there's the obvious teamwork and cooperation theme we get from the Sztazzan cease fire (laying the groundwork to build a new bridge, if you will), but the Enterprise itself serves as fitting visual metaphor for not just the message of the story, but one of Star Trek: The Next Generation's most fundamental core values.

It's beautifully elegant and perfectly crafted science fiction from the person I am increasingly convinced is the only author working on this property who has a decent handle on what that means. I really have to sit back and take in the craftsmanship on display here: Not only is it a deft execution of genre fiction where the world itself embodies the story's ideas and concepts such that it organically grows out of them, but there's that novellesque richness and sense of scale here too. This book has a sprawling cast of characters by Star Trek: The Next Generation standards, and each one has their own unique, individual, hand-crafted story arc that ties into to the larger plot. Nobody feels left out, left behind, ignored or given up on, which is quite frankly something of a miracle at this point.

Well, nobody except one, some might say...? But this miniseries isn't done yet...

This has got to be one of my favourite cliffhangers to date, because the story is more or less done. The action is over, the big plot has wrapped up and we've had our nice speeches about diversity and tolerance and working together. There's no stinger with somebody in mortal danger, or some heretofore unknown plot element flying in at the eleventh hour. There's nothing really left except a denouement, should you want one. But we haven't seen the saucer reconnection. We still have unfinished business.

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