|The Next Generation|
After helping to cure the dread Philox plague, Picard is relaxing in his quarters when a monolith appears above his couch. Pardon? Monolith? Yes, you know, that black thing that featured so prominently in the Arthur C. Clark stories. Is this one full of stars? Maybe, but it is certainly full of technology as it scans Picard and beams him away to we know not where. Worf and a security team rush to Picard's quarters to see what the strange energy readings were, and find that the Captain is still there!
Although we don't don't actually know where Picard was beamed, we do know what it looks like. A holding cell with 4 beds. Two others are occupied. In the red corner we have a Starfleet cadet who looks like she was playing with a chainsaw too much. He face has a big scar line straight down the middle. For the sake of simplicity, and because it is her name, we will call her Haro. In the blue corner we have Mr Tholl from Mizar 2. Mr Tholl is wearing a shapeless grey number and wearing what looks suspiciously like the Sydney Opera House on his head. He has been here 12 days and has discovered that (a) the red agar jelly slabs are food, and (b) that you get punished for trying to open the door.
Back on the Enterprise, Picard is still there. Let's call him Picard2 to keep it simple. Picard2 asks Data about the nearest pulsar and is told by Wes that it will take less that an hour at warp 7 to get there. Picard2 tells Wes to set course, but at Warp 2. This will take 31 hours. The Enterprise is supposed to rendezvous with the Hood in 36 hours, so it will be cutting it close. Picard2 also tells Riker that there is to be no communications off the ship without his personal authority, and that he might act a little strange for a while. Ok, hands up all those of you who just know that Picard has either been taken over by an alien force, or has been substituted by an alien. Counting... All of you! Good, at least you are brighter than Riker. He never seems to get it on time.
Picard in the holding cell starts tapping primes on the door opening pad to tell their jailers that they are intelligent. Intelligent maybe, but fashion conscious definitely not. I suspect that fashion crimes are punishable by death on some worlds, so these unlikely cell mates had better hope they their captors are not from one of them. Picard tries to determine what makes each of the captives special. Easy nothing. Next dumb question. It seems that Tholl's race has no enemies, but has had its planet conquered 6 times in the last few hundred years. Capitualtors of the world... do nothing. During this diatribe someone else beams into the empty bed. It is an ugly brute from Chalnoth, who's teeth are glued to his lip!
Esogg means fighter in the language on Chalnoth, but then, so does almost every other personal name. Esogg also means hungry as he can't eat the food gel that has been provided. As his world has no laws and no government, his first thought is to eat Tholl, after all, Tholl will probably capitulate anyway! Picard suggests that this probably isn't a great idea, mostly I assume because the blood would make a mess. Esogg says that he can cope for only 3-4 days without food.
The holding cell is getting boring, so Picard tries to escape. He can't get access to the door controls because they are behind a secure plate. No problems, get the Ogre to open the panel, which he does in a shower of broken glass and metal. Tholl refuses to help in the attempt as he tried it once before and was punished. I wonder if his punishment was the terrible dialogue that he was lumbered with. The cadet jury-rigs the controls, and the door opens a bit - then slams shut, irradiating them all in the pain beam.
Picard2 is wearing a dressing gown. Picard2 is sitting at dinner with Bev. See Picard2 drool. Picard2 drools well. Bev is wearing a very off the shoulder number and says in a seductive voice "Out with it Jean-Luc". I thought for a moment that the rating on the show was wrong, but he missed the obvious come-on line and goes on to prove that Picard2 is without doubt a SNAG. Maybe he would be better than the original... Picard2 says that he wants to get closer, and Bev deflects the advance with all the panache of a skilled fencer. Picard2 puts on music and asks Bev to dance. In the heat of the moment he kisses her passionately and she returns the gesture... and then breaks away. What does Jean-Luc2 do? Shoves her out the door and says see you later. Maybe he's not such a SNAG after all.
Riker is finally starting to get concerned. He shares these concerns with Troi, but she cannot "sense" any outside telepathic connections to the captain. In 10-Forward Picard2 toasts the crew with ale and starts singing drinking songs, and not well at that. Geordi and Wil may have just realised that something is amiss.
Approching the pulsar, Picard2 orders the ship to 20Mkm. At this range the shields will hold for 18 minutes. Riker finally gets the balls to ask Picard2 what is going on, and says that without a good explanation he will take control of the ship. Picard2 says that Riker may be the problem...
Picard, with all the skill and dexterity of a brain surgeon hacks at the door control panel with Esogg's knife to deactive the pain beam. I guess subtlety has never been one of his strong points. After the cadet plays with the mechanism again, Picard, Tholl and Esogg force the door open, to find... nothing. A blank wall. Has this all been a waste of time - specifically our time?
The Enterprise's number 4 shield has failed, and Picard2 orders the ship closer, to a distance of 10Mkm. At this range, they will not survive. Picard countermands the order, and when Picard2 orders Worf to escort Riker from the bridge he ignores it. Mutiny! Riker orders Wesley to get them away from the pulsar.
Of course it was not a holding cell at all, but a first year psychology experiment. Each of the captives was chosen because they represented a different outlook on authority - Collaborator, Anarchist, Captain and Cadet. One of these is not like the others, one of this isn't quite the same, can you tell me which one is not like the others boys and girls? Picard puts his hand up and says that it is the Cadet as she couldn't have known about the plague as it was classified. One wonders how this as yet undiscovered alien race knew about it then. The cadet splits - literally into 3 ugly monsters. It seems that they have been studying authority and have sent copies back for the flip-side test. What a great surprise.
The aliens return Picard to the Enterprise where Picard2 turns back into another one of them. Through some careful hand gestures Picard indicates to the crew that they should contain the aliens. He gives a final backhand threat, "We know how to imprision you." he says. "Now Get off my ship!" He can only be assertive at the most inopportune moments can't he? Bev comes onto the bridge and gives Picard a look that he can't quite understand.