ST:TNG 2.21 Peak Performance ~ Star Trek: The Next Generation Re-Watch

Images Source: TrekCore

Star Trek: The Next Generation Re-Watch continues with one of my favourite episodes that shifted my thinking on competition, winning and goal-setting...

Peak Performance
Season 2, Episode 21

  • With the threat of The Borg present, The Federation implements war games exercise and pits The Enterprise crew against each other with Picard on the ship and Riker set to lead the USS Hathaway with a skeleton.  The games are overseen but master strategist Kolrami who is a renowned player in the game Strategema.
Character Focus:
  • Kolrami is the guest star in the limelight, mostly as an antagonist not only because almost no one actually wants to participate in the war games, but also for beating Data in a game of Strategema which ends up making he believe something is 'faulty' with his programming.
  • Although Data's issue with self-confidence and Riker commanding the USS Hathaway bring them to the forefront, this is one episode where almost everyone in the crew has a major impact: Pulaski pushes Data to play against Kolrami and then feels badly about it, both Worf and Wesley comes up with the ingenious ways to turn their disadvantage against The Enterprise into an advantage, and Picard holds his own while taking Kolrami to task when things get rough as well as for badmouthing Riker at every turn.  It's a fabulous example of a true ensemble episode.
What I remembered about this episode:
  • I have very strong memories of this episode, specifically of Data's games of Stratagema with Kolrami, and how he comes to a go around solution of 'winning' by aiming for a goal other than 'winning' to continue the game over triumphing over his competitor.  That idea has really stuck with me over the years, and I think of it often in terms of goals and how not everyone even has the same goals, and different goals in the same game will lead us different places.  It really sticks with me way more often than I would have imagined.
  • I also remember it's the first time I heard the word 'guile', which is what Worf says as something they have even when outmanned and outgunned.  I had to ask what it meant!
What I noticed now, that I didn't notice then:
  • I didn't realize that both plots were centred on not only games, but how we play games very much shows who we are. From the strategies we take, to if we play or encourage others to do so, and the impact of victory, or defeat.  Very interesting.
  • It's odd that Riker gets to Captain the USS Hathaway, when just last episode Worf assumed command of The Enterprise in 2.20 The Emissary, and Wesley led a team in 2.15 Pen Pals.  Everyone is getting a turn in leadership in season 2! 
  • I think this is also the first time Wesley plays young and innocent to sneak back to the ship and get a 'project' which helps them on the USS Hathaway.  Pretty sneaky!
What feels different now, than then:
  • It's really refreshing to see that they aren't interested in the war games because The Federation isn't military, but rather set on exploration.  That so isn't the current trend in scifi and it's an element of The Next Generation that I'm really appreciating.
  • It's completely shocking that Kolrami recommends retreat when The Ferengi show up mid-war game exercise when The Enterprise is unable to defend itself.  Shocking.  They aren't at a time of war and he thinks the loss of 40 people is acceptable, I'm so glad Picard tells him to stuff it.
What remained the same:
  • I loved seeing Data's journey with being outsmarted and then confused with the games of Strategema, it's a fascinating journey to watch.
What I see differently:
  • I totally didn't notice on the first watch(es) that Pulaski actually feels really bad that Data gets stuck in a rut after losing to Kolrami. 
  • It's really funny how almost everyone wasn't keen on doing the war game simulation, but them moment they begin they are smiling and completely engaged.
  • It's also interesting to see the perspective on no-risk/no-reward mentality and the desire to compete are also strong themes, as well as the victory of winning and the (possible) sourness of defeat.
Great Quotes:
  • " It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life." - Picard about Geordi
  • "The weaker his position, the more aggressive will be his posture." - Data, as describing Riker
  • " Just remember, Enterprise - Captain Riker's never lost."- Riker
Left off at:
The ships finesse an amazing maneuver outwitting The Ferengi vessel that appears amid the simulation and Data outwits and frustrates Kolrami with the longest game of Strategema on record.

Images Source: TrekCore


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