The Drumhead

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"The Drumhead"
Star Trek: The Next Generation episode
ST-TNG The Drumhead.jpg
Picard, before Satie's Inquisition.
Episode no. Season 4
Episode 21
Directed by Jonathan Frakes
Written by Jeri Taylor
Featured music Ron Jones
Cinematography by Marvin Rush
Production code 195
Original air date April 29, 1991 (1991-04-29)
Guest actors
Episode chronology
← Previous
"Qpid"
Next →
"Half a Life"
List of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes

"The Drumhead" is the 95th episode of the syndicated American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation and the 21st episode of the program's fourth season. It was directed by cast member Jonathan Frakes,[1] who also regularly acted out Commander William T. Riker on the show. Story-wise, it takes the form of a courtroom drama.

An explosion aboard the Enterprise leads to a high-level investigation headed by Admiral Norah Satie, a retired officer renowned for her skill at exposing conspiracies. Satie quickly determines that a visiting Klingon officer was attempting to smuggle diagrams off the ship, but the Klingon denies any involvement in the explosion. Satie refuses to give up on her investigation, even after the explosion is proven to be an accident, and she accuses Captain Jean-Luc Picard of treason when he challenges her charges against an innocent crewman.

Plot[edit]

When an explosion within the dilithium chamber of the Federation starship Enterprise's warp engine room appears to be the work of sabotage, Star Fleet Command dispatches a retired rear admiral from the Legal Division of its Support Services Section, Norah Satie, to lead an investigation to uncover the cause.

Satie discovers that J'Dan(Henry Woronicz), a Klingon exchange officer, had been using modified hypospray syringes to encode information into amino acid sequences for secret transport. J'Dan admits his collaboration with the Romulans but attests that he did not sabotage the chamber. Satie and Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) interview crew members who associated with J'Dan. One interviewee is medical technician Simon Tarses(Spencer Garrett), who claims that his only relationship with J'Dan was to administer injections necessary to treat a rare disease. But Satie's Betazoid aide (Bruce French) senses that Tarses is concealing something. Meanwhile, Chief Engineer La Forge (LeVar Burton) and Commander Data (Brent Spiner) determine that the hatch had failed due to simple fatigue, not sabotage.[2]

Picard considers the matter closed, but Satie pushes to complete her investigation of Tarses. During a second interview with Tarses, held in front of a room full of people and Commander Riker acting as counsel to the crewman, Satie's aide falsely accuses Tarses of using a compound found in Sickbay to sabotage the hatch. He then accuses Tarses of falsifying his academy entrance application and that he is in fact one quarter Romulan, not one quarter Vulcan as he had claimed. Tarses invokes his rights under the Seventh Guarantee of the Federation Constitution and refuses to answer the accusation on the grounds that his answer may incriminate him.

Satie uses this discovery as a pretext to expand her investigations. Picard objects, but Satie reveals that she has been in constant contact with Star Fleet Command's Headquarters, that all future hearings will be open, and that Admiral Thomas Henry (Earl Billings, who had no lines in the story) of the Security Division of the Star Fleet Support Services Section will attend. Picard begins to compare the tribunal to a drumhead, a kind of battle-field court-martial of the 18th and 19th Centuries on Earth that became infamous for its short duration, its lack of fairness to the accused, and its numerous miscarriages of military justice. Even though he resolves to prevent her from conducting a witch-hunt, he is summoned to be interviewed before the tribunal.

Satie uses the hearing to accuse Picard of numerous transgressions of the Prime Directive and other Starfleet orders. When Lt. Worf (Michael Dorn) stands to defend Picard's actions, Satie turns on him, pointing out Picard's poor judgment in having a Chief of Security who is the son of a traitor. Picard recalls a quote from Satie's own father Aaron, whose judgments are required reading at the Starfleet Academy: "With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably."[3] Satie is enraged. She accuses Picard of being a Romulan collaborator who plans to destroy the Federation from within.

Satie's fanaticism proves to be her undoing, as the disgusted Admiral Henry calls a halt to any additional investigation. Worf and Picard reflect on Satie's disgrace. Worf expresses regret for his assistance in her investigation: "I believed her. I--I HELPED her! I did not see what she was!" Picard points out: "Villains who twirl their mustaches are EASY to spot. Those who cloak themselves in good deeds are well camouflaged." This means that Satie was able to get as far as she did because her goals were much less obvious. Picard notes that vigilance is the price humanity must constantly pay in exchange for freedom.

Notes[edit]

  • Guest star Jean Simmons, a noted longtime Trekkie,[4] portrays retired Rear Admiral Norah Satie, a special investigator who visits the Federation starship Enterprise.
  • "The Drumhead" was the last Star Trek episode to have its music scored by Ron Jones, whom producers Rick Berman and Peter Lauritson dismissed, shortly after he had completed his work on it, as "Ron's stuff was getting big and somewhat flamboyant" and the producers "decided to move on and try other composers."[6]

DVD[edit]

This episode is featured on the Star Trek: The Next Generation - Jean-Luc Picard Collection DVD set for Region 1 only. It is the fourth of seven episodes featured on disc 1 of the two-disc set.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Drumhead". IMDB. Retrieved December 28, 2012. 
  2. ^ Zack Handlen (January 20, 2011). "Qpid/The Drumhead". AV Club. Retrieved December 28, 2012. 
  3. ^ "The Greatest Star Trek Quotes". John Petrie. Retrieved December 28, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Simmons, Jean". StarTrek.com. Retrieved December 28, 2012. 
  5. ^ "ST:TNG: Final Unity: Michael Dorn Interview". TrekCore.com. Retrieved March 12, 2008. 
  6. ^ "Rick Berman Answers Your Questions - Part 1". StarTrek.com. March 1, 2011. Retrieved April 6, 2011. 

External links[edit]