|Star Trek: The Next Generation episode|
|Episode no.||Season 4|
|Directed by||Jonathan Frakes|
|Written by||Jeri Taylor|
|Featured music||Ron Jones|
|Cinematography by||Marvin Rush|
|Original air date||April 29, 1991|
"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, who played Commander William Riker on the show. It takes the form of a courtroom drama.
Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, 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 Picard of treason when he challenges her charges against an innocent crewman.
When an explosion within the dilithium chamber of the Federation starship Enterprise's main engineering appears to be the work of sabotage, Starfleet Command dispatches a retired rear admiral from the Legal Division of its Support Services Section, Norah Satie (Jean Simmons), to lead an investigation to uncover the cause.
Worf (Michael Dorn) 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. Among them are Dr. (Cmdr.) Beverly Crusher and 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. Satie's Betazoid aide (Bruce French) senses that Tarses is concealing something. Meanwhile, Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) and Commander Data (Brent Spiner) determine that the hatch had failed due to simple fatigue, not sabotage.
Picard considers the matter closed, but Satie pushes to complete her investigation of Tarses under the pretext of proving his innocence. She conducts a second interview with Tarses, held in front of a room full of people. Captain Picard assigns Commander Riker to act 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. Commander Riker quickly whispers to Tarses, who invokes his right to not 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 Starfleet Command's Headquarters, that all future hearings will be open, and that Admiral Thomas Henry (Earl Billings) of Starfleet Security will attend. Picard begins to compare the tribunal to a drumhead, resembling a battle-field court-martial of the 18th and 19th centuries on Earth that became infamous for its numerous miscarriages of 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, actions which were, in fact, later vetted and approved by Starfleet Command. 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.
Satie then proceeds to question Picard about his encounter with the Borg and whether he has fully recovered, implying that Picard should have trouble sleeping from the guilt he should feel, because the knowledge of Starfleet obtained by the Borg when Picard was transformed into Locutus had caused the loss of 11,000 lives and the destruction of 39 ships.
Picard recalls a quote from Satie's own father Aaron Satie, whose judgments are required reading at 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." Satie is enraged at him invoking her father, and launches into a fanatical tirade, condemning Picard as a traitor seeking to undermine the very fabric of the Federation. Satie's fanaticism proves to be her undoing, as a visibly disgusted Admiral Henry, who was previously one of Satie's closest allies at Starfleet command, walks out of the hearing without so much as uttering a word to her, and later calls a halt to any additional investigation.
Worf and Picard reflect on Satie's disgrace. Worf expresses regret for his assistance in her investigation, not seeing her for what she really was. Picard notes that such enemies are well-disguised through apparent good words and deeds, and that vigilance against such subtle threats is the price humanity must continually pay in exchange for freedom.
References to other episodes
- Satie comments on Worf's father being a Romulan collaborator, referring to events in the third season episode "Sins of the Father".
- Satie questions Picard's actions regarding the Romulan spy T'Pel, referring to events in the fourth season episode "Data's Day".
- Satie refers to Picard's abduction by the Borg, as shown in "The Best of Both Worlds".
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.
HD Remaster & Blu-ray
CBS announced on September 28, 2011, in celebration of the series' twenty-fifth anniversary, that Star Trek: The Next Generation would be completely re-mastered in 1080p high definition from the original 35mm film negatives. For the remaster almost 25,000 reels of original film stock were rescanned and reedited, and all visual effects were digitally recomposed from original large-format negatives and newly created CGI shots. The release was accompanied by 7.1 DTS Master Audio. On July 30, 2013 "The Drumhead" was released on 1080p high definition as part of the Season 4 Blu-ray box set in the United States. The set was released on July 29, 2013 in the United Kingdom.
"The Drumhead" was rated the 15th best episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in 2016 by The Hollywood Reporter.[irrelevant citation] Actor Michael Dorn, who played the character Worf on the show, has stated this was his favorite episode of the series, and in particular liked Worf and Picard's scene at the end of the episode.
In 2014, "The Drumhead" was rated as the 34th best episode of Star Trek by io9, when reviewing the top 100 episodes of all series up to that time (including animated and live-action television series). In 2018, Tom's Guide rated "The Drumhead" one of the 15 best episodes featuring Picard. In 2017, Den of Geek ranked Jean Simmons' role as one of the top ten guest stars on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
In 2018, Entertainment Weekly ranked "The Drumhead" as one of the top ten moments of Jean-Luc Picard. In 2018, Popular Mechanics highlighted "The Drumhead" as one of the best Picard episodes, and as recommended viewing for audiences to prepare for a new television series based on that character, Star Trek: Picard.
In 2019, The Hollywood Reporter ranked it among the top 25 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, noting the acting performance by guest star Jean Simmons and its narrative warning about those who spread fear, of fanatical biases, and McCarthyism.
In 2020, Space.com listed this as of the ten greatest moments with the character Captain Picard, when he says, "With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censored. The first thought forbidden. The first freedom denied — chains us all irrevocably." during a trial for a spy aboard the spaceship.
In 2020, ScreenRant ranked "The Drumhead" the number one best episode of all Star Trek franchise television episodes up to that time. That same year the rated as the most important TNG episode with a morality message.
- "Balance of Terror" (Star Trek, aired December 15, 1966, S1E14, first episode with Romulans)
- Guest star Jean Simmons, a noted longtime Trekkie, portrays retired Rear Admiral Norah Satie, a special investigator who visits the Federation starship Enterprise.
- Michael Dorn said this was one of his two favorite episodes, the other being "The Offspring", which Jonathan Frakes also directed.
- "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."
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- "The 15 Best Episodes In Star Trek TV History, Ranked". ScreenRant. May 28, 2020. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
- "Star Trek: The Next Generation: 10 Most Important Episodes With A Moral Message". ScreenRant. February 28, 2020. Retrieved February 15, 2021.
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- Star Trek The Next Generation DVD set, volume 4, disc 6, selection 1.
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