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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
ST:TNG:86 - "The Wounded" (Stardate: 44429.6) - this is the 12th
episode of the 4th season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
This episode introduces one of the more memorable of Star Trek villains, the Cardassians. In this episode, it is revealed that the Federation and Cardassians have been at war for years and have only recently (a year go) signed a peace treaty.
However, there is a rogue captain, Maxwell of the Phoenix, who starts destroying Cardassian ships seemingly for no reason. Maxwell, whom O'Brien has served with, lost his whole family during a battle on Setlick and Picard now thinks he's up to revenge. He enlists O'Brien's help (along with 3 Cardassians including Gul Macet) in trying to persuade his former captain to stand down, but in the process must confront his own demons.
This episode brings to question, when you were in war for so long, can you find a role in peace (the same question that the samurai had during the Tokugawa era after the long civil war period of Japanese history)? Trivia note: Marc Alaimo plays Gul Macet (he will soon play a memorable Cardassian named Gul Dukat on Deep Space Nine). And you see O'Brien and Keiko having dinner together, the first time we see them AFTER the wedding from the previous episode. And it is noted that Picard first met the Cardassians while on the Stargazer, and under not-so-peaceful circumstances.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This episode represents to me what is special about Star Trek namely
that it focuses on the people and characterizations and plot lines as
opposed to massive displays of special effects. The plot here focuses
on legendary star fleet captain Ben Maxwell, who can't put his war
demons and personal tragedies behind him. These demons compel him to go
rogue with his powerful starship against his old enemies, with whom he
should now officially be at peace. Picard and the crew of the
Enterprise are sent to corral Maxwell and preserve the peace. Among his
crew, O'Brien struggles with his affection for Maxell, his former
commander, and must also confront his own war demons.
I love confrontations between characters that showcase a strong script and strong acting. The best such confrontations not only advance the story but yield strong truths about the characters to each other and to us. The very best provide fundamental truths about human nature itself. There are several great confrontations in this episode. All of them showcase excellent understated acting: Picard and Maxwell verbally fence with each other in their first confrontation. Picard is quiet but forceful, simply questioning Maxwell into a corner. O'Brien and his former enemy sharing drinks in a bar as they unravel their own baggage. O'Brien shares an epiphany for him and us, and maybe for many a war veterans. "It's not you I hate. I hate what I became because of you." Let that sink in. Powerful. The best such exchange is in the climax when O'Brien quietly talks Maxwell back from the brink. His combination of reminiscence and the minstrel melody are perfect, leading to the saddest exchange "I'm not gonna win this one, am I Miles?" "No sir". Nothing more needs to be said. They and we are left with the realization that the collapse of a once great man was now complete. Picard's dressing down of Gul Macet at the end is a surprise plot twist as well as a way to put the entirety of events and people into the proper context.
Dialogue reigns supreme here. Bob Gunton is terrific as Maxwell and is easy to like and care about. Patrick Stewart also shines here, as he does so often. The real gem in this episode, though, is Colm Meaney as O'Brien. The episode has its flaws, the biggest of which is Picard releasing Maxwell back to his ship. Big tactical error, but then we would not have had the dénouement with O'Brien. I also can't figure out how going from a tactical officer to a transporter chief is a logical career progression for O'Brien. Still, what a treat to see such a strong script delivered so effectively.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This episode is just awesome. What I like most about this episode is
that it does not leave one feeling like what was right necessarily took
effect. Tom Gunton (the warden in shawshank redemption) does a fabulous
job as a guest star as another star ship captain in this one. The
episode introduces the Kardasians, and creates a terrific conflict
between the Enterprise, the Kardasians, and another star ship captain
who's about as respected as Picard in Star fleet. This episode deals
with the enterprise in conflict with starfleet itself,, which is a
concept that creates many great episodes, and in my opinion should have
been utilized more. The other captain attacks the kardasians without
approval, because he believes them untrustworthy, and secretly
preparing for war with the federation. Picard and the enterprise
partner with some Kardasians to halt the seemingly unprovoked attack.
In the end the other captain is taken into custody of the enterprise,
thanks largely to chief O'Brien's negotiations with the other captain
whom he used to serve under. At the end however, Picard realizes that
the Kardasians were being deceptive, as the other captain suspected.
The episode leaves the viewer wondering at the end whether the
Kardasians or the other starfleet ship was a bigger negative threat,
and the uncertainty makes a strong statement about the difficulty of
making the correct moral decision between two negative forces.
Overall, this is one of the top 10 episodes in my book. The only thing that bothers me is the unrealistically conflict of cultural food between O'Brien and his new wife. In the episode it's like their first meal together is after they got married.
What really bugged me about this was that The Cardassians had been
DROPPED into the Future History of Trek from basically out of nowhere.
Not only had we never seen these ugly guys, suddenly O'Brien had this
story about Setlik 3 he starts telling.
Apparently "The Cardassian War" had been over for a couple of years, when The Enterprise D first pulled out of The Utopia Plenicia Shipyards. But until this episode we had seen not hide nor hair nor even the spoons in their skulls.
Bob Gunton is Captain Benjamin Maxwell, who had been stuffing some Cardy-related emotions and now he is out of control, he goes into Cardy space and starts blowing up ships and space stations.
So as The D enters Cardy space and Gul Macet (Marc Alaimo) starts shooting at them, Picard is handed a worm can that he has to fix.
But in Maxwell's Mind, he is not doing anything wrong. In fact, the Cardassian War never ended for him.
The problem is, Maxwell is right, but he's going about it the wrong way. How do we deal with a guy named Maxwell? We need a guy named O'Brien. But before O'Brien can help Maxwell, he has to face his own prejudices- Which he does by finally sitting with a Cardy who is just trying to be friendly and drinking some Kanar with him- And admitting what the Cardy War had made him become.
It takes O'Brien sneaking onto Maxwell's ship and confronting him about Setlik 3. And a song:
"The Minstrel Boy to the War hath gone, In the ranks of death you will find him. His father's sword he hath girded on, And his wild harp slung behind him."
This song was used to define Miles Edward O'Brien for the rest of his stay on The Enterprise and also on Deep Space Nine.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A respected Starfleet captain has gone rogue and started destroying
ships and bases belonging to the newly-introduced Cardassians,
threatening the fragile peace with them. The Enterprise is ordered to
hunt him down and "preserve the peace, no matter the cost."
This is easily one of my favorite episodes of any Star Trek series for many reasons. It introduces us to the Cardassians, who are probably the most interesting alien race in Star Trek. They make for an excellent case study of humanity because they are probably the most human of all the major Star Trek races. The Klingons are too hot; the Romulans are too cold; and the Vulcans are colder still. The Cardassians are just right. The Cardassians also seem to be completely on par with humans in terms of abilities; they are equally intelligent, equally strong physically, and have no special powers that humans lack. Basically, they are just ugly humans with cooler uniforms. Because of this, it's safe to say that their society is exactly what the Federation would be if it was ruled by a military dictatorship. On top of that, the Cardassians have many admirable qualities; their dedication to family being the one that stands out the most. In all, they are a great race for storytelling purposes and my personal favorites of all.
We also get our first glimpse of Marc Alaimo (AKA Gul Dukat) in this episode. Alaimo is an excellent actor--in particular his voice drips with emotion and rhetorical flair without ever going overboard--and his character of Dukat is easily the best villain Star trek has ever had. His character in this episode, Macet, is essentially just Dukat by a different name; he posses the same arrogance, charm, and love with the sound of his own voice that audiences will eventually come to love and hate about Dukat. It's a juicy teaser of things to come on Deep Space Nine.
This episode stands out too in being the first to heavily feature Colm Meany in his role as Chief O'Brien. Those who have seen Deep Space Nine already know that Meany is an incredible actor, but the job he does on this episode is spectacular even for him. His rapport with, well, basically everyone is almost uncanny. He makes Chief O'Brien so human and relatable that the viewer will wish they could sit in Ten Forward and have a drink with him. In particular, his scene with the Cardassian in Ten-For and his scene with Maxwell on the Phoenix are where he gets to show the true reach of his acting talents.
As you can see, this episode obviously does a lot to set up for Deep Space Nine. The Cardassians, Marc Alaimo, and Chief O'Brien will all play major roles in that show and they all give an enticing glimpse in this episode of what a great show DS9 will eventually become.
But all the great lore and setup for DS9 aside, this episode is great in its own right. The action is compelling and the suspense is gripping. The story is very tight and well-written. But most of all, the dialog and the acting are off the scales. There's so many great scenes (basically every single one), but here are some of the best:
-O'Brien and the Cardies in the turbolift
-O'Brien and Maxwell in the transporter room
-Maxwell and Picard in the ready room
-O'Brien and Maxwell on the Phoenix
-Picard and Macet in the final scene
The last two scenes are particularly great, ranking #2 and #1 respectively in my book. I love how O'Brien barely says anything to Maxwell but somehow his presence is calming to the point that it causes Maxwell to see reason on his own. And when they sadly sing the minstrel boy song with their thousand-yard stares--haunting and beautiful.
This great episode saves the best for last, though. After putting up with Macet's insufferable arrogance for the entire episode--and always doing so with a smile on his face--Picard finally gets to tell Macet off. Even surrounded by great actors like Meany and Alaimo, Patrick Stewart manages to shine here as he delivers his stern warning to Macet, "Take this message back to your leaders...we are watching." When he holds that intense stare for a few seconds and then silently turns his back to Macet, it's spine-tingling. Perfect way to end this episode.
-The acting, dialog, suspense, lore, story, characters, and everything else listed above
-O'Brien's career progression makes no sense and the writers and producers did a horrible job of figuring out his position in Starfleet. First he's the tactical officer on the Rutledge (which is the position Worf has on the 1701-D), then he is a mere transporter technician with a noncommissioned officer rank on the Enterprise, then he's a chief engineer on DS9. Makes zero sense.
-Re-uses bad trope that recurs throughout Star Trek--that of a "very highly respected" captain in Starfleet going off the deep end.
-The Cardassian's complete incompetence in this episode makes me wonder how they ever were considered a threat to the Federation. Picard gives their warship the ability to disarm the Phoenix, they get in the first shot, and they STILL get obliterated. Pretty pathetic showing for them.
-The Cardassians' uniforms. Literally ugly. Fortunately this is the only episodes for those uniforms and the ones they use in DS9 are actually some of the coolest-looking uniforms in all of Star Trek. But holy Prime Directive are they ugly in this one.
-The window in the Phoenix's shields that allows O'Brien to beam through seems like a fatal flaw for a vessel to have. An enemy could beam a bomb through that gap and destroy the vessel.
I have to confess that the Cardassians have never been my cup of tea;
it's part of the reason I've never taken to Deep Space Nine. As I
understand it, 'The Wounded' serves as their official introduction, and
it's evident why Marc Alaimo was brought back later in a larger role;
the guy's got screen presence, heavy makeup notwithstanding.
The virtues of this episode lie in the acting and writing, both well done. We've seen a rogue starship captain before, but Capt. Maxwell (Bob Gunton, making the most of a one-shot) isn't a typical sufferer of space madness. This is a grief-stricken skipper who doesn't accept a peace treaty as a reason to stand down. And who better to talk him down than former crewman Chief I'Brien (great use of a minor character). Theirs is a powerful bonding scene between two comrades in arms, and it's a heartfelt story overall.
This is an important episode because it's the first one involving the
Cardassians--an enemy which will become very important later in "Star
Trek:The Next Generation" and even more important on "Star Trek:Deep
Space 9". And, like in so many later episodes, the same actor plays the
Cardassian baddie---though here Marc Alamo plays Gul Macet instead of
the familiar Gul Dukat.
The show begins with a Cardassian ship attacking the Enterprise. They are easily rebuffed but Picard demands to know why they were attacked--after all, there is a peace treaty between the two empires. It turns out that this attack was in response by an attack by a Federation ship on the Cardassians. Picard finds this very hard to believe but agrees to investigate. When he learns that this is TRUE, he has no choice but to help the Cardassians seek out this rogue ship.
While nothing super-exciting happens in this one, it's an important and must-see episode because so much follows this one. Well worth seeing for a glimpse into the future of the show.
This is an episode that gets at the real dirt of entrenched enemies. It must have been hard for war veterans of World War II to embrace the Japanese after the conflict ended. In this one we are introduced, for the first time, to the Kardassians. They have formed an alliance with the Federation but are now seeking retribution for the actions of a rogue Starfleet Captain. A supposed, Kardassian "scientific" outpost has been obliterated by a Federation starship. Picard has orders to investigate and to solve it by peaceful means. This, of course, ties his hands but in the meantime, the same vessel destroys two other Kardassian crafts. The Captain is intercepted and ordered to bring his ship in and surrender himself to his superiors. At first he acquiesces, but soon alters course and heads for another Kardassian supply ship. Now, Picard must negotiate or open fire on a ship like his own. As a show of good faith, the Kardassian captain and two of his aides have had a limited run of the ship. They are at odds with the crew and acting victimized. I believe that Patrick Steward as Jean-Luc Picard gives his best performance in this episode. It is about balancing the threat of reprisal versus the future of the bond between these two entities. Later, in other Star Trek incarnations, we come to know the Kardassians quite well and know them to be anything but trustworthy. They have a certain charm that the Romulans don't have that allows them to slime their way into situations that benefit them.
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