For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here.
Overview – The Borg are back, and the Enterprise is sent to confront them. Assisting them is Borg Specialist Lt. Cmdr. Shelby, who has career aspirations to replace Riker as Picard’s first officer. As Riker questions his own career decisions, the threat of the Borg looms. When the confrontation occurs, Picard must find a way to defeat this formidable enemy. As the stakes are raised, Picard is captured and assimilated by the Borg, which forces Riker to make the impossible decision to end the third season.
Score: 10/10 – There is little that can be said about TBOBW that has not already been said. It is one of the most influential and impressive episodes in all of Star Trek, and set the bar extremely high for season-ending cliff hanger episodes. While today we can quickly insert Disc 1 of Season 4 or hit “Play Next” on Netflix (or even let Netflix do it for you automatically), when this episode was first aired it would be many weeks of waiting to learn Picard’s fate from the end of the episode. My family and I, as we watched it, almost fell out of our seats when “To be continued” appeared after Riker’s final line. Rumors ran amuck about Patrick Stewart leaving the show and Johnathan Frakes being promoted to Captain. There is even a story (verified by Patrick Stewart, I believe) where a fan who was terminally ill was saddened that she may not get the chance to see how everything worked out. Patrick Stewart was given permission to give her a phone call where he told her about what the second part was all about (and if my memory serves me correctly, she survived to see the episode herself). In addition to a spectacular ending we also had, from start to finish, a near perfect episode. The music was fantastic at setting the proper mood, the acting was on point, the writing was excellent, and the pacing was near flawless. Shelby was a great character that I would have loved to have seen again and was a perfect foil for Riker. While many found her abrasive and difficult, she was a nice breath of fresh air that shook up the status quo. The character development was wonderful, and the surprise assimilation of Picard was eerie and exciting. This is what many consider the episode that put TNG on the map.
Relevance – 3 points. This picks up the Borg storyline from “Q Who”, and asks the question if the cube vessel was the one the Enterprise encountered almost two years ago or if all cubes look the same. The events of this episode will have far reaching impacts on the show. In addition to the Season 4 opener, we will deal with the after effects on Picard immediately on the second episode, “Family”. Locutus of Borg will be a tactic used by Picard in another classic “I, Borg” and the season 6/7 finale/premier “Descent”. We also have Riker turn down another command, having done so in the second season episode “The Icarus Factor”. Finally, this episode will be essential for making heads or tales of the movie “First Contact”, widely regarded as the best TNG film of the four that were made. To make it short, this is one of the most relevant episodes in the TNG series.
Continuity – 3 points. Character continuity is intact here. In particular, Riker having to deal with questions about his career ambition, then dealing with someone who is after his job, and finally the assimilation of his captain and having to make a difficult choice, he pulls it off in true Riker fashion. Picard also has a lot of focus, and he is as ever his pragmatic self. Everyone else, though in more minor roles, acts the way they should. Story wise, all is intact and nothing contradicts anything from before. Finally, Universe continuity is also solid. Full points here.
Character Development – 3 points. It seemed in some ways that this was going to be a Picard episode, and with his assimilation is likely the most significant event for the development of Picard’s character. Yet while it looked at first that this would be a story about Picard, it evolves into one of Riker’s best stories. As mentioned above, he deals with a lot, and we really get some great insight into who Riker is. We learn the reasons behind his sudden halt in his goal to become a starship captain. He is happy where he is, and for the first time in his career he chose happiness over career. We also see him make the near impossible decision to potentially kill his former captain in the final seconds of the episode. We see his true grit here, as well as his fierce will. Likely the best Riker episode of all.
Social Commentary – 3 points. Riker finds himself in a situation where everyone around him is wondering why he has stayed on the Enterprise for three years, turning down his third command. He comes to terms with the fact that while his career had always been his primary focus in life, he found that the happiness he has on the Enterprise is ultimately the most rewarding. Finding happiness is always one’s truest of goals, but we may be surprised as to what makes us happiest.
Cool Stuff – 3 points. I have to score a point for the soundtrack. If there is any episode that has music that is truly iconic, it is this one. Also, a point is scored for the ultimate cliff-hanger that is one of the best season finales of all time. I score a third point for the scene that reveals Picard after he has been assimilated. It ramps the intensity of the story to the highest level. Let’s face it, the whole episode is cool.
Rank – Admiral (25 points). Season 3 was largely seen as a turning point for TNG. While there are some excellent episodes in the first two seasons, the third season was solid and where the show really found its stride. “The Best of Both Worlds” took that stride and catapulted the show into the proverbial stratosphere. This was a defining moment that clearly said to the world that Trek is here to stay, and it was after this moment that the Next Gen characters were seen to have earned their place alongside their legendary counterparts. I cannot think of any reason why anyone would not suggest this episode as a must see episode. According to this rank (and this is a first for my reviews), it was a perfect episode.
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