When an enemy is exposed it is easy to start seeing more enemies around every corner.  This is an easy pit to fall into and only if one is vigilant, one can avoid the easy path that leads to conspiracy.   This episode, that originally aired on April 29, 1991 addresses this and more.  This is The Drumhead.

The Episode:

Stardate 44769.2: The Drumhead

A former Admiral from starfleet makes accusations of a conspiracy aboard the Enterprise only to end up accusing Captain Picard himself of Treason.

The Breakdown:

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The episode opens with the interrogation of a Klingon exobiologist named J’Dan.  Although he denies the claims, J’Dan attempts to convince Worf to let him go free in exchange for the chance to return to Qo’nos.   Soon former Admiral Norah Satie arrives on board to investigate the claims made by Captain Picard.  They show her the footage of the Warp Engine explosion and she begins her investigations.   Worf soon presents new evidence that J’Dan is indeed a spy.  J’Dan has been using a device that allows people to transfer information in their body using a modified hypo-spray.   The Admiral is impressed and asks Worf to conduct the next interrogation.

During the investigation, Worf confronts J’Dan with the new evidence.  J’Dan admits that he is indeed a Romulan spy who wants an alliance between the Romulan and Klingon empires.   The Admiral interjects concerning the engine explosion but J’Dan claims he is not involved.  With J’Dan having admitted to the crime of information smuggling but not the explosion, there is likely a deeper problem aboard the Enterprise.

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The investigation continues and, as anyone who encountered J’Dan is questioned, they come across a young Ensign who appears to be hiding something.  Admiral Satie’s Betazoid assistant, Sabine Genestra, detects that Ensign Tarses is lying about something big so he believes that the Ensign is guilty of conspiracy.   Ensign Tarses is placed in a public hearing and, in that hearing, it is discovered that his grandfather was a Romulan.  This becomes the drumhead to which the witchhunt drives with.  Picard is determined to not allow this conspiracy to become a paranoid witch hunt and tries to reign in Worf as his Klingon Security officer has fallen prey to  the temptation of the hunt.

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Picard meets with the suspect Ensign to get to know him better.  He finds out that young Tarses was an eager candidate who lied on his application to hide his Romulan heritage.  Picard informs the Admiral that she has gone too far in her investigation.  She has lied about events and is determined to find fault in something even if there is no fault to be found.  It is clear that she will stop at nothing to ‘get her man’ even if it means that she accuses an innocent if it is for the greater good.

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After Picard refuses to allow her to continue, even though she has gone behind his back on many occasions, she eventually accuses Picard of being a conspirator himself.  Admiral Satie pulls Picard into a public interrogation where, after Picard quotes her father at her, she loses her cool and tells him that she has brought down bigger men than the Captain.  It is apparent not only to her that she has indeed gone too far this time.

In the end, Worf and Picard discuss the events.  Picard informs Worf that ‘she or someone like her will always be with us, waiting for the right climate in which to flourish – spreading fear in the name of righteousness. Vigilance, Mr. Worf. That is the price we have to continually pay.’

Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:

This is a classic and, while it was done to be a budget episode, it ended up becoming one of the best.  It fully explores the idea of a witch hunt and how it is easy to see conspirators under every shadow when looking for one.  The Admiral wants to lock down the ship at every turn and is so sure that anyone suspect is guilty of the crime she is desperate to solve.  Even accidents and coincidences begin to look like real crimes when one refuses to follow Occam’s Razor.

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Admiral Satie is not unlike Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter stories.  Although Satie is not malevolent, she is looking for problems and, when one looks for problems one tends to find them.   To Admiral Satie, everyone is guilty and need to proven innocent, thus this becomes her mantra on all things.  She has the very best of intentions but she can not allow herself to let go of something she has attached herself to.   This becomes a fault that she can not get past and it spirals into madness aboard the ship.  Sadly, she doesn’t care who she hurts in her hunts, bringing up past experiences and unrelated events to get to her point.  When Picard is on trial, she attacks him with his past including his encounter with the Borg.  Picard, however is not to be put down, and, in his own way, he represents the moral fiber that is the Federation.

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The moral of this episode is that it is very easy to fall prey to a conspiracy when that conspiracy makes us feel safer.  It is easy to see enemies at every turn when you have found one in your midst. There are many great examples of what happens when this line of thought is accepted, the salem witch trials, the inquisition, the crusades and still it continues despite the lessons of history.   This is an episode that really needs to be required viewing for all people in the legal and political professions.  It perfectly captures the danger of singling out a person or persons while continuing to jump at shadows.  We live in a time where our Governments want us to see enemies at the gate at every moment so that they can continue to justify their pursuit for ‘justice’ when we really need to step back and look at the big picture.   As Picard says, “Mr. Worf, villains who twirl their mustaches are easy to spot. Those who clothe themselves in good deeds are well camouflaged.”

Gleanings and Cool Bits:

This is the last time the events of the episode Conspiracy are mentioned.  Picard references that Admiral Satie was one of the Admirals who helped stop the alien invasion that was attempted three years prior.

We never seen nor hear from Admiral Satie after this episode.

We never see or hear from Ensign Tarses either but I hope he was able to come out of this rather unscathed.


Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review,  I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday!  Next Review: Half A Life

If you would like to read more reviews I have a weekly series called Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday and also a complete review of Star Trek Discovery.

For more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here.

As always, please feel free to comment below and share your experiences with these episodes as well. If you just happened by, tell me what you think! Don’t Forget To Follow me if you like the blog!

Late To The Game 8/6/18

drum head 1
We think we’ve come so far. Torture of heretics, burning of witches, it’s all ancient history. And then, before you can blink an eye, suddenly it threatens to start all over again.

Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available.  Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.

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5 thoughts on “Retro TV Review: Star Trek TNG SSN 4 Episode Twenty One: The Drumhead

  1. Okay, not specifally related to this post (On that note: I loved this episode, and felt total anger during some of the interrogations, you are not wrong about this being a classic), but did you hear that there is going to be a new Star Trek series with Picard? I’m quite excited for this 😀😀

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I am curious as to how we find Picard when the series starts. Clearly he will not be the same person seeing that approx 16 years have passed since we last saw him. I wonder if he is seeing the effects of the Irumoduc Syndrom he was suffering from in the future timeline of All Good Things…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s a really good question. I also wonder which timeline it will take place in as there are so many now one has to wonder where we will find ourselves ending up in 😊😊 And…will there be others that will be joining him on this journey? Riker, Data, Troi, Crusher, Wesley, Worf? ooh..so many scenario’s 😀😀

        Liked by 1 person

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