Believing the Cardassians are preparing for war, the Federation relieves Captain Picard of his command of the Enterprise and sends him, Medical Officer Beverly Crusher, and Worf on a secret mission. Federation Intelligence believes the Cardassians are developing "metagenic" weapons on Celtris III, where Picard and crew must go to investigate and destroy said weapons if they exist. These weapons are genocidal weapons that destroy all life on a planet while leaving structures like buildings and equipment intact. The Cardassians may have found a way of delivering metagenics without endangering themselves, making the prospect of war with them truly horrific.
Captain Jellico (Ronny Cox) takes command of the Enterprise, with qualifications including Cardassian negotiations. Though his harsh demands on the crew irk everybody, it is clear he has no time to be popular, and his tactical skills in negotiating with the enemy are wonderful to watch. Cox turns in a terrific performance, at once severe and sympathetic. Picard's mission on Celtris III turns sour when it becomes clear it's a trap, and a trap specifically for Picard, he learns from his captor, Gul Madred (David Warner). It seems rather convenient that Picard is chosen for this mission, with the flimsy explanation that he studied a particular carrier wave the Cardassians seem to be using in their transmissions. Surely there are better candidates for such a dangerous mission. But with veteran actors like Ronny Cox and David Warner, this two-part episode is a pleasure. --Jim Gay
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