[TNG] Season 3, Episode 12: The High Ground
“High Ground” is about terrorism, and while it could’ve covered the subject more thoroughly, it was still interesting. It’s also a solid Crusher-centric episode, which is kind of rare.
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I was a little surprised to see how much some of the Star Trek writers hated this episode.
Ronald Moore called this episode “An abomination.” saying that “it’s our one terrorist show. We didn’t have anything interesting to say about terrorism except that it’s bad and Beverly gets kidnapped – ho hum. They take her down to the caves and we get to have nice, big preachy speeches about terrorism and freedom, fighting and security forces versus society. It’s a very unsatisfying episode and the staff wasn’t really happy with it.”
It’s not a great argument to oversimplify the description of an episode, adding “ho hum” at the end, making it seem stupid. This makes anything sound dumb. Best of Both Worlds: The Borg are bad and they capture Picard – ho hum. He makes a decent point about the big preachy speeches by the terrorist, but that’s how terrorists roll. They’re preachy. That’s one of the reasons we don’t like them.
Michael Piller said “We set out to do a show about terrorists. What was the statement we made about terrorism in the show? Was it the point where the boy puts down the gun and says, ‘Maybe the end of terrorism is when the first child puts down his gun?’ It was effective in the context of that show, but is certainly not a statement that provides any great revelation. You must be prepared to say something new about social issues.”
Moore seemed to believe they didn’t say anything interesting about terrorism and Piller doesn’t get what the statement was that they were making. I interpreted the statement to be, as Picard tells Data, that terrorism is complicated. This is a decent way to approach the subject. I have a problem with the direction they took the terrorists at the end of the episode, but for the most part they illustrated this well.
They created a situation where the group in power didn’t seem all that great, and hinted that they may have been in the wrong. They showed the odds against the terrorists, giving a better understanding of why they have to resort to terrorism. But rather than making the terrorists completely sympathetic, they portrayed them as people who may have a just cause, but are still in the business of killing innocent people in a desperate hope to get the other side to concede what they want. Moore might have preferred a story simply showing that terrorists can be good, but I don’t think that’s particularly interesting, or new.
I also think they make interesting statements about the Federation’s involvement with this situation, criticizing the notion that they aren’t taking sides. I like that the terrorist criticizes Crusher for frowning upon him, even though she only enjoys the type of society she lives in because of the sacrifices people like him have made, which is partly a statement about his self-image, but also has some merit.