When do you keep a secret and when do you admit the truth? This is the question that Riker faces on the episode that originally aired on January 10, 1994. This is The Pegasus.
Stardate 47457.1 The Pegasus
Riker is faced with a decision he made years before that has now come to haunt him. It appears that he and his fellow crew-mates on the USS Pegasus were up to something…
Starfleet contacts the Enterprise and instructs them to rendezvous with the USS Crazy Horse in order to pick up Riker’s former commanding officer Admiral Erik Pressman. Admiral Pressman brings news that the Romulan’s have found the USS Pegasus which was believed destroyed 12 years prior.
The Enterprise immediately begins their search for the experimental vessel when they encounter a Romulan Warbird. After a brief interchange with the Romulan Commander, Picard and the crew begin their search for the Pegasus.
Riker and Admiral Pressman catch up in ten-forward. Riker is concerned about something called ‘the experiment’ and asks if they did ‘the right thing’. Pressmen insists that whatever they did was for the good of the Federation and, if they find the Pegasus, he wants to continue the experiment that caused the loss of the Pegasus. Pressmen informs Riker that they have Starfleet’s support in continuing the experiment and that Riker has been ordered to keep it quiet, even from Picard.
The Enterprise continues to search the area when they find an asteroid with a subspace resonance signature. It appears they may have found their ship. Soon they detect that the Romulans are heading their way and they need to hide their discovery somehow. Riker suggests destroying the Asteroid but the Admiral is quite insistent that they recover the ship. They manage to hide the ship and, after Picard leaves Admiral Pressman has a discussion about the Pegasus with Riker. Pressman continues to be insistent about how important this ship is to the Federation. He tells Riker that the Commander must be willing to be loyal to his principles and that Pressman can count on him in keeping this experiment a secret. Riker is concerned and doesn’t like where this is going.
Riker takes his report to Picard where he finds his Captain has been doing some research. Picard has learned that there was a mutiny aboard the USS Pegasus on top of the other mysteries. He asks Riker for his version of history. Picard learns that Riker defended his Captain as the mutiny occurred and that he, along with Pressman and a few others, escaped. Picard finally demands that Riker tell him the truth of the matter. Riker reveals that he is under orders from Pressman to keep Picard in the dark. Picard understands but informs Riker that, should Riker allow the ship to be unnecessarily endangered, that he will have to reevaluate the command structure of the ship.
The Enterprise returns to the Asteroid and, despite Picard’s protests, Pressman orders the Enterprise into the Asteroid to find and salvage the Pegasus. When they find the ship, they discover it is partially trapped in the solid rock of the asteroid. Pressman and Riker beam down to the Pegasus without any support in order to find the sensitive equipment Pressmen is so keen on finding. Upon finding the equipment, Riker informs Pressman that he can no longer support Pressman’s orders. Pressman is shocked to learn this change of thought, and challenges Riker’s position. Riker insists that they abandon the experiment and that he should have killed the Admiral 12 years prior to stop him from continuing the dangerous experiments that killed the crew of the Pegasus. Just as things get heated, the ship shakes and Picard informs them that the Romulans have sealed the Enterprise into the asteroid with no chance of escape. Riker speaks up and offers up the device that Pressman has been hiding, it is a prototype cloaking device that allows ships to pass through solid material.
Pressman is enraged and insists that he takes command of the Enterprise. He soon finds that no one will follow his lead. After the failed attempt to take command, Pressman stands down and Riker suggests using the Phase Cloak to escape. Data and Geordi install the device they escape the asteroid. Despite the protests of Admiral Pressman, Picard decloaks in front of the Romulan ship and arrests Pressman for violating the Federation Treaty of algernon. Pressman and Riker are arrested, Riker’s under his own accord.
Later Picard comes to Riker in the brig to discuss the issue. Picard is proud of his First Officer for telling the truth in a difficult situation. He is sure that Riker’s actions will be forgiven although he will have a black mark on his record.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
This is a great classic episode that shows, no matter how much we think we know someone, there are always secrets to be uncovered.
We have known Commander Riker for six years at this point and have a pretty good understanding as to who he is. He is one of the most trustworthy, upstanding officers on the Enterprise and, while he may have some personal issues when it comes to his personal nature, he always tries to do the right thing in the face of adversity. No, he is not perfect but he is someone that you could trust to save your life and the lives of your family when it came down to it. So, when it comes to light that he may have been a part of something dark and illegal at an earlier time in his life, it comes as a shock.
To say ‘This isn’t the Riker we have come to know and love!’ would be absolutely right. The Riker that was aboard the Pegasus was one that had not had the experience that shaped him into the man who was serving on the USS Enterprise. He was young, inexperienced and unsure of his place in Starfleet. In his own words to Pressman ‘\I was wrong to support you, but I was too young and too stupid to realize it! You were the captain; I was the ensign. I was just following orders.’
There is a long standing comment about that last line, ‘I was Just Following Orders’. This phrase has been used by so many to commit atrocities throughout history. The argument against this thought process is that ‘just following orders’ doesn’t make you any less guilty of a crime, in fact it makes you complacent in the crime. The difference here with Riker is that he fully admits that he was wrong and, while he was just following orders, he wants to make amends for his past indiscretions.
On a historical note, this episode appears to be highly influenced by the event known as The Philadelphia Experiment. It is believed that the US Navy had experimented on a ship in the 1940’s with the intent to render it invisible or ‘cloaked’ while in the water. The results of the experiment were reportedly disastrous, teleporting the ship some 250 miles and leaving crew-members trapped in the bulkheads of the ship. Whether this is true or not it has become one of the most investigated ‘black book’ programs that conspiracy theorists and paranormal experts the world wide. For more info on the tale I recommend the article on How Stuff Works. Fascinating stuff!
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
Picard is given permission to exceed Warp Speed Limit for the mission. It seems they’re keeping their end of the deal…
We learn the reasons why Picard chose Riker as his first officer. It seems he particularly liked a moment in Riker’s career when Riker stood up to his Commanding Officer in order to protect the ship and crew of the USS Hood. Picard saw this as a sign of a good officer and wanted someone who would stand up to him.
We experience the first Picard Day aboard the Enterprise. Apparently there will be a Commander Riker day if the Captain has something to do with is.
There is a terrific appearance by actor Michael Mack as the Romulan Commander Sirol. If I am not mistaken, this marks the first Black Actor to play a Romulan.
Fans will recognize the character actor Terry O’Quinn as Admiral Pressman. O’Quinn is no stranger to sci-fi and is best known for his work in the tv series Millennium and Lost.
The episode itself was directed by none other than Levar Burton.
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Late To The Game 9/12/2020 (Originally published 1/14/2018)
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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