(written from a Production point of view)
While the Enterprise-D is reviewing a seemingly idyllic planet's application for Federation membership, an escaped prisoner leads its crew to discover an ugly secret: the government's shameful treatment of its war veterans.
- "Captain's Log, Stardate 43489.2. We have arrived at Angosia III, a planet that has expressed a strong desire for membership in the Federation. Prime Minister Nayrok has taken Commander Riker and me on a tour of the capital city."
At the conclusion of the tour, Captain Picard and Commander Riker congratulate Nayrok on their culture's rapid recovery from the Tarsian War, and Nayrok says their people are equally grateful; violence of any kind is abhorrent to the Angosians, who consider art and intellectual achievement to be their greatest virtues. As they are talking, Nayrok's aide pulls him aside with an urgent matter. In private, Picard comments that the Angosians will make a fine addition to the Federation's members. Riker agrees, though he finds the people of Angosia III somewhat stuffy.
Nayrok returns and asks for Picard's help: an Angosian prisoner has escaped from a penal colony, Lunar V, in a stolen transport vessel. Angosian security forces are trying to track him down, but, frankly, are not very well-trained or equipped. With Picard's agreement, Riker signals the Enterprise, where Data is in command. The ship's sensors locate the sub-warp vessel with little difficulty, but as soon as they begin pursuit, the transport ship ducks behind a nearby asteroid and jettisons its drive section, which is devoid of life readings.
When the Enterprise circles around the asteroid, they locate the wreckage of the ship's main body, but Wesley Crusher reports in surprise that the drive section has meanwhile disappeared. Slightly bewildered, Data reports to an astonished Picard and Riker that the tiny vessel has successfully eluded the Galaxy-class starship.
Picard and Riker return to the ship to command the pursuit. Nayrok calls to inform them that the fugitive's name is Roga Danar, and warns them that he is extremely violent.
Without a warp drive, La Forge is certain that the vessel could not have fled the system, but sensors cannot locate it. Riker guesses that he must be suspending his ship over the magnetic poles of the planet to avoid detection. When the Enterprise flushes him out and locks a tractor beam on him, he pushes his vessel towards the Enterprise in a Kamikaze run. The ship's computer automatically raises the shields and disengages the tractor beam, and the shuttle bounces off their shields. Becoming exasperated, Picard prepares to have the whole craft beamed into a shuttle bay, but the prisoner anticipates them and ejects from the drive section in an escape pod.
The pod is still devoid of life readings, but Picard orders Miles O'Brien to beam the contents of the pod aboard. O'Brien detects a weapon in the transporter beam and deactivates it, before completing the transport with a two-man security team standing by. When Danar refuses to surrender, he is shot twice with phasers set on stun, which have no effect on him, and he overpowers O'Brien and the security team. The fight takes Danar out into the corridor, but before he can get further, Riker and Worf are able to subdue and capture him.
While Picard and Nayrok make the arrangements to send Danar back to Lunar V, Riker asks why the sensors did not detect him. Data has confirmed that the sensors are functioning properly – for some reason, Danar has no discernable life signs.
In the brig, Danar is tossing and turning on his bunk, apparently in the grip of a violent nightmare. Deanna Troi is passing by the cell in a corridor when she senses his turmoil, and goes in to talk to him. Her conversation with the man is a surprise: though he is distrustful and suspicious, he is also intelligent, emotionally perceptive, and even has a fine-tuned sense of humor and irony. She describes her role as ship's counselor, and is offended when he labels her a "mind-control expert." She is unable to fathom what has made Danar – for all appearances a civilized man – commit such violent acts, and asks if the other prisoners on Lunar V are mistreated. Danar replies that, on the contrary, Lunar V is a very comfortable and well-provisioned prison, but a prison nonetheless, since no one is allowed to leave.
Troi tells Picard that she senses something wrong – Danar has a thoughtful and intelligent personality typical of his Angosian heritage, and she does not sense anything inherently violent about him. Picard reminds her of the mayhem he caused while they were trying to capture him, and says he will be glad to transfer Danar off the Enterprise when the Angosian shuttle arrives.
Troi asks Data to check the Angosian government's records, trying to find out what crime Danar committed that sent him to Lunar V in the first place. Data finds that Danar has no criminal record whatsoever. As a matter of fact, Lunar V is a military facility, and Danar's records show him to be a highly decorated soldier of the Tarsian Wars. Troi goes back to Danar and asks what did he do to end up at Lunar V, and he replies that he did everything the Angosians asked him to. Her next supposition is that his psyche was damaged by his experience in the war, and he says the "damage" began when he first volunteered for service, and was introduced to his first military instructor - who, ironically, also carried the title of "Counselor."
Troi and Dr. Beverly Crusher examine Danar and finds that he has been psychologically manipulated and biochemically modified – programmed to become "the perfect soldier." The conditioning enhanced his strength, reflexes, and intelligence, and programmed him to survive at any cost. Crusher adds that one of the chemicals also shields his cellular electrical impulses, masking his life signs to sensors. Unfortunately, the soldiers became a liability to their people after the Tarsian Wars. Minor arguments could trigger their programming on and result in extreme violence. Instead of trying to reverse their programming, the government simply exiled them to Lunar V, including those like Danar who committed no criminal acts.
Data visits Danar in his cell. Danar is initially mistrustful and asks Data to leave, but then asks him back, admitting that he needs company. Data identifies himself as an android and says that they have one thing in common – they have both been programmed. Data asks Danar if his programming cannot be changed, and Danar says bitterly that no one on Angosia has ever explored the possibility – instead, they left him to live with the alterations they made to him.
Picard confers with Nayrok, who says that Danar is putting an undeservedly harsh spin on the truth. The soldiers had trouble readjusting to normal life, so the government resettled them to a "colony" on Lunar V. Nayrok assures Picard that the Angosians went to great lengths to give the "colonists" a comfortable way of life, and it was only later, after the agitations of a few men like Danar, that they had to add security measures and convert the soldiers' "colony" into a prison. Picard asks if the resettlement was of the soldiers' own choosing, and whether the government ever explored the possibility of reversing the soldiers' conditioning. Nayrok curtly replies that the Federation is "treading on matters of internal security," and cuts off the transmission after thanking the Enterprise for its help. "A matter of internal security - the age-old cry of the oppressor", Picard states.
In conversation with Data, Danar says the man he used to be is still inside him, but the "programming" takes over at the slightest provocation. Danar asks Data whether Data is programmed for combat like he is. Data says no, he is not programmed to kill. Danar reflects that his enhanced combat abilities have enabled him to kill 84 people in his lifetime, and his enhanced memory enables him to remember each of the 84 faces with perfect clarity.
Picard enters with Troi and says that he has no choice but to transfer him back to Angosian custody, even though he sympathizes with the plight of Danar and his compatriots. Danar courteously thanks the captain for being upfront with him, and returns the favor by telling Picard that he will do anything in his power to escape. Troi tries to reassure him that if Angosia joins the Federation, its resources will be put to use finding a cure for their condition. Danar says simply that even if that happens, he will not be around to see it, because he would rather die than return to Lunar V - and that resolve is stronger than the imperative to survive programmed into his soul.
The Enterprise readies Danar for transport, and knowing how intelligent Danar is, Worf has calibrated the transporter beam to activate 0.1 seconds after the cell's force field is shut down. During the attempted transport from the Enterprise's brig to the Angosian police transport vessel, Danar literally breaks out of the transporter beam, causing an explosion of energy within the cell that momentarily blinds Worf and Troi . When they come around, Danar has disappeared and a phaser is missing.
As with the initial pursuit in space, Danar's cunning and resourcefulness are on full display during the chase through the bowels of the Enterprise's interior.
Picard blocks off the decks where Danar was held and shuts down the power to the turbolifts. Since the sensors cannot follow Danar's movements, he is able to evade the internal sensors.
Riker tells Data to reactivate the turbolifts, to trap Danar if he tries to use them. When a turbolift is engaged, the bridge diverts it to where Worf and a security team is waiting. But when the doors open, instead of Danar, they find a phaser set on overload. Worf disables it barely in time. Meanwhile, Danar knocks out a security guard and uses his combadge to order a force field shut down.
Danar moves quickly through the hallways and heads to engineering to override the system lockout. Geordi and the rest of the engineering crew are overpowered by Danar. Data reroutes everything from the bridge, but Danar still manages to restore power to the shuttle bays by rerouting power through engineering's isolinear chips, something which Data finds Danar to be incredibly adept at. To avoid the sealed hallways, he crawls through the core reactor and enters a Jefferies tube. He places another of his captured phasers into a power conduit and sets it to overload.
Riker orders security teams to the shuttle bays, but Data volunteers that Danar's past strategy has been based on misdirection and diversion; it is extremely unlikely that he is planning to use the shuttle bay, but Data cannot anticipate what his true destination is.
Danar makes his way to a cargo bay and plugs his phaser into the deactivated transporter console. Data reads the activity, and Picard has the cargo bay flooded with anesthizine. Seeing the gas, Danar grabs a pressure suit from a cargo container.
When Worf's security team is outside the cargo bay, Picard has the gas removed. When Worf and his team move in, the cargo bay is apparently deserted, but Worf notes the absence of the pressure suit and surmises that Danar may try to access the shuttle bay from an external hatch, such as from the Enterprise's photon torpedo launcher. Worf signals the bridge that he and his security teams will guard the external exits.
In a corner of the cargo bay, Danar smiles, and emerges from hiding, leaving the pressure suit (which he only needed to protect himself from the gas) behind. But Worf, having out-thought the Angosian for once, emerges from hiding, aiming his phaser. He congratulates Danar for his extreme cunning, remarking that he must have Klingon blood, but orders him to surrender. At that moment, the phaser in the Jefferies tube explodes, shutting down the lights in the cargo bay. That brief distraction is all Danar needs to tackle Worf, and knock him unconscious after a brief struggle. Using his phaser to power the transporter, Danar successfully beams himself onto the Angosian police shuttle and takes its pilots hostage. With the Enterprise external sensors disabled by the explosion, it has no way to track him, and Danar has made a clean getaway.
When the Enterprise restores its systems, Nayrok informs them that Danar has organized a mass breakout from Lunar V, and that several soldiers have made their way to Angosia and entered the capital city. Nayrok urgently asks Picard for help.
Picard, Worf, Troi and Data beam down to the surface while Nayrok's staff are arming themselves. Nayrok is surprised to see only four members of the away team - he was expecting Picard to bring an army to protect them. Picard says the Federation is not going to help them evade responsibility for their actions: they recruited an army of idealistic young men like Danar, turned them into killing machines, and then locked them away and did their best to forget about them. Troi and Data urge them to consider whether the soldiers' programming can be reversed.
Nayrok and his adjutant, Zayner, admit that the chemicals can be removed, but the psychological conditioning is considered irreversible. Even before the soldiers were trained, the government knew that was a risk they were taking – and Worf, whose warrior sensibilities are naturally outraged, asked whether the government revealed that risk to the men who volunteered to fight for their world (Nayrok's evasive answer makes clear that they did not).
Underneath their sophistry, it is clear that the government never seriously tried to cure the soldiers; instead, "the people" chose to "resettle" them, "for the greater good," turning their backs on the soldiers who helped defend their way of life. Besides, Zayner adds tactlessly, they do not wish to undo the programming, because they may need the soldiers again if Angosia ever fights another war.
Just as Picard and Troi are about to detonate with anger, Danar and his fellow inmates storm into the building. Picard warns everyone not to raise their weapons. Since Danar and his fellow inmates are not being provoked, they can not willfully attack the Prime Minister or his staff. Danar demands that the Angosians fight back, rather than continue to ignore them. Nayrok says that the soldiers have been given the skills they need to survive, and should be able to survive on Lunar V. Danar says that is not enough: he and his comrades want their lives back, and they want to come home. Nayrok then says that he is not going to bow to a threat of violence, but promises to review their case if they surrender and return peaceably to Lunar V. Danar laughs the offer back in his face, knowing full well that Nayrok has no intention of helping them once he has them under lock and key again.
Nayrok says the Enterprise must do something about the situation, and Picard agrees – he tells the transporter room to beam the away team back aboard the ship. Picard says that, after all, he cannot interfere with the "internal security" of Angosia. He tells the government that they must make a decision regarding the fate of their veterans. In the meantime, Picard has all the information he needs for his report, and, if the Angosians wish to reapply for Federation membership, their application will be given all due consideration. Danar seems pleased that he is being recognized and smiles at the away team (Troi, in particular) as they leave.
Aboard the Enterprise, Picard notes that if the government survives the night, they will be given assistance by the Federation in helping their veterans with their conditioning. When Riker asks whether the government will survive the night, Picard remarks dryly that he believes it will "choose to." The Enterprise leaves Angosia.
"I am afraid the prisoner has eluded us, sir."
"[incredulous] Eluded the Enterprise?"
- - Data and Picard
"This guy knows all the tricks, doesn't he?"
- - Riker, when Danar's ship is discovered hiding in the planet's magnetic field.
"He bounced off the shields!"
"That's an interesting twist."
- - Wesley and Riker, on Danar's second gambit.
"An escape pod!"
"This guy's incredible!"
- - Wesley and LaForge, on Danar's third gambit.
"More security, Transporter Room Four! More security! More security!"
- - O'Brien, as Danar attacks all of the security guards in the transporter room
- - Roga Danar
"He's intelligent, thoughtful... typically Angosian. I know what he's done, but when I'm with him, I cannot believe that he is randomly and deliberately violent. In fact, inherently he has a non-violent personality."
"Counselor, it took five men to restrain him! And he took about half the transporter room in the process!"
- - Deanna Troi and Picard, about Danar
"Lunar V... an orbiting gulag."
- - Picard
"What do you want?"
"Am I disturbing you?"
"Then I will leave."
"No, wait, wait! I'd rather talk to someone."
- - Danar and Data
"Prime Minister, even the most comfortable prison is still a prison."
- - Picard, to Nayrok
"'A matter of internal security' – the age-old cry of the oppressor."
- - Picard
"My improved reflexes have allowed me to kill eighty-four times. And my improved memory allows me to remember each of those eighty-four faces. Can you imagine what that feels like?"
"I am incapable of any feeling."
"Well, then I envy you."
- - Danar and Data
"Mr. Danar, I'm transferring you to Angosian Security. They're en route, they will arrive shortly. I wanted to tell you I have no choice. The Prime Minister insisted, and we have no right to refuse."
"Well, you would be foolish to consider it otherwise, Captain, for they are very correct. I am dangerous. There is no place for me in a civilized society."
"I do not believe that."
"Nor do I."
- - Picard, Danar, Troi, and Data
"Take care of yourself, android. I enjoyed our talk."
- - Danar and Data
"There is a full contingent of security at all shuttlebays."
"You want my advice? Double it!"
- - Worf and LaForge, the latter recovering from Danar's one-man assault on Engineering
"Danar! You are cunning. You must have Klingon blood. But the battle is over."
"My battle is never over."
- - Worf and Danar
"In your own words, this is not our affair. We cannot interfere in the natural course of your society's development. And I'd say it's going to develop significantly in the next few minutes."
- - Picard
Background information Edit
Story and production Edit
- This episode was an allegory to US veterans of the Vietnam War, integrating back into American society. Michael Piller remarked, "The whole theme of the show was let's look at how society treats its returning veterans. I thought from a conceptual level we handled that well, and we came up with good science fiction to make it interesting. There's some argument that the best soldier ever created bringing the Enterprise to its knees is a little hard to believe, and that might have been the weakness of the show. I enjoyed it, and was not ashamed of the show." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion; Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Originally, a different ending was considered where the soldiers violently stormed the capital. Director Cliff Bole recalled, "Originally, Danar was going to come back and there was going to be a big confrontation. That was cut due to budget and time. We simply did not have the time in seven days to do that. I thought the loss of that confrontation took away a little bit." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Piller commented, "At first we were going to have a huge shoot out and have everyone wiped out in the end, but that didn't really make anybody a hero. Picard goes down there and we're caught in a stalemate. We've now created the character of this planet's society in such a way that Picard can make the statement at the end, 'This is not our affair. You guys are going to have to solve it...' I thought it worked. There are people on the staff to this day who think it doesn't. I think it is an important enough theme that I cannot explore enough, but I don't think we really got to the heart of it because the story was one-note, and it could have used a little more texture." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Ira Steven Behr performed an uncredited rewrite on the episode during his first day as a staff writer on the show, in particular expanding Danar's escape from the Enterprise, which was only briefly shown in Robin Bernheim's original draft, into an action sequence that took up most of the third act. As Behr was only especially familiar with Star Trek: The Original Series and had paid little attention to The Next Generation, he had to get a "crash course" in the series from Hans Beimler and Richard Manning. (TNG Season 3 Blu-ray, "Technological Distinctiveness")
- During the filming of this episode, the energy weapon prop Roga Danar is holding when he is first transported to the Enterprise was broken during the struggle with security officers. What remains of it is on display at Seattle's Science Fiction Hall of Fame and Museum.
- The shirts worn by the members of the Angosian Senate were the turtlenecked men's shirts from the Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Starfleet officers' uniforms. (Star Trek Encyclopedia)
- First UK airdate: 8th January 1992
- This TNG episode is the only one to feature a Jefferies tube which is large enough to walk upright in. This is also the first mention of them in TNG.
- The redesigned USS Enterprise-D brig appears for the first time.
- We learn in this episode that there are emergency airlocks and a control room for the aft torpedoes which are located between decks 37 and 39.
- James Cromwell, who starred as Prime Minister Nayrok, later starred as Jaglom Shrek in the TNG episodes "Birthright, Part I" and "Birthright, Part II", Minister Hanok in DS9: "Starship Down", and most notably as Zefram Cochrane in Star Trek: First Contact and ENT: "Broken Bow".
- Jeff McCarthy who starred as Roga Danar, made a second Star Trek appearance by playing the ill-fated original chief medical officer of the USS Voyager in Star Trek: Voyager's pilot episode, "Caretaker".
- J. Michael Flynn, who plays Zayner, later appeared in two guest roles on Star Trek: Enterprise: as a Mazarite magistrate in "Fallen Hero" and as the Romulan Nijil in "Babel One", "United", and "The Aenar".
- The maneuver Danar uses to evade the Enterprise, hiding above the planet's magnetic poles with all ship's systems powered down, is much the same tactic that Riker once employed on the USS Potemkin to confuse an enemy's sensors. Fittingly, it is Riker himself who suggests this possibility here. (TNG: "Peak Performance")
- Director Cliff Bole remembered: "I liked the story, because the premise was dealing with an issue that has happened and is happening in our present time. The end was again affected by a budget situation. We were going to do a big battle, but couldn't. Originally, Danar was going to come back, and there would be a big confrontation - almost a Rambo-like situation. I thought the loss of that [scene] took away a little from the episode, making it slightly anti-climatic. We simply didn't have the time to do it in seven days." ("Cliff Bole - Of Redemption & Unification", The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine Vol. 17, p. 31)
- A mission report for this episode by Patrick Daniel O'Neill was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine Vol. 12, pp. 10-12.
Video and DVD releases Edit
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 30, November 1991
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 3.4, 5 June 2000
- As part of the TNG Season 3 DVD collection
- As part of the TNG Season 3 Blu-ray collection
Links and references Edit
Also starring Edit
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Worf
- Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
- Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher
Guest stars Edit
Uncredited co-stars Edit
- Rachen Assapiomonwait as Nelson
- Majel Barrett as USS Enterprise-D computer voice
- Joe Bauman as Angosian soldier
- David Chanel as Angosian senator
- George Colucci as security officer
- John Gillespie as security officer
- Leif Johannesen as Angosian senator
- Tim McCormack as Bennett
- Lincoln Simonds as security officer
- Bryan Thompson as Angosian senator
- Guy Vardaman as Darien Wallace
- Unknown performers as
Stunt doubles Edit
- Dan Koko as stunt double for Jonathan Frakes
- Rusty McClennon as stunt double for Michael Dorn
- Unknown stunt performer as stunt double for Jeff McCarthy
- James G. Becker - stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Dexter Clay - stand-in for Michael Dorn
- Jeffrey Deacon - stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- Nora Leonhardt - stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Tim McCormack - stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Lorine Mendell - stand-in for Gates McFadden
- Guy Vardaman - stand-in for Wil Wheaton
Anabar Squadron; anesthizine; Angosia III; Angosian; Angosian capital city; Angosian police shuttle; Angosian Senate; Angosian senatorial database; asteroid; cargo bay; criminal behavior; cryptobiolin; duality; escape pod; Federation; general quarters; gulag; holding cell; Jefferies tube; Lunar V; Lya III; macrospentol; martial arts; meter; Much Ado About Nothing; murder; number one; penal colony; polar orbit; pressure suit; Prime Minister; priority one; prison psychologist; referendum; riot; sabotage; security team; stun setting; subahdar; Tarsian War;tour of duty; tracking station; triclenidil
Other references Edit
- Angosian senatorial database: ahdar; Chritezbr; Cragweis; Dantang; Davgrant; Derwarn; Dylhuc; Erbrun; Group Kikimorr; Hilgrelen; Jongri; Jangrinsb Theater; Janlee; Jaspania Theater; Keuscotti Military Base; Marjmaci; Marvhil Infantry Division; Marvhild; Nibbi-Br; Philibis Infantry Group; primeahdar; Robmeybur Rebellion; Roglay Outpost; Ryadam; Sarpaul Transport Complex; Toofrey Campaign; Wadfelk Ground Tactical Training Division; Wenruiz Indoctrination Center
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"The High Ground"