While the Captain is away, Riker and Data investigate a derelict space capsule and discover three cryogenically frozen humans. There were others, but the rest have died. Under pressure to get back to the Enterprise when Picard returns, Data and Riker decide to transport the frozen humans to the Enterprise with them. From there, Dr. Crusher decides to unfreeze them because of the unpredictable state of their ancient cryogenics chambers. Picard is quite annoyed, not wanting the distraction while he takes the Enterprise to investigate the destruction of outposts in the neutral zone. He assigns the the newcomers to Riker, who manages not to get anyone killed. Eventually someone thinks to call in Troi as the ship's counselor to talk to the dislocated passengers. Meanwhile, the Enterprise discovers that the outposts are indeed destroyed, but the destruction resembles less of a battle or explosion and more that they have been scooped off of their respective planets. The Enterprise encounters a Romulan ship and almost fires upon them. Picard speaks to the Romulan captain and they agree to work together to find out what's happening to the outposts. However, their arrangement to work together is very limited, and the Romulans make it clear that they are not the Federation's allies.
Wait, there be Romulans in this series? The last time we caught wind of them we didn't even get to see any, and also the time before that, and then holy moly, there's a whole armed ship of them! Hot dang. Guess we gotta take them seriously, now.
This being the last episode of the season, I'm guessing that it's a promise that there will be more Romulans in the second season. My only contention with this is that the Romulans aren't the Ferengi, and I feel that the series can't have us caring about both at the same time. Not unless the two baddies team up. It's possible that I feel that way because the Romulans are almost an after-thought in this episode. What the story really focuses on are the humans that Riker and Data save from the deteriorating space capsule.
As far as the rescued humans go, what I find most interesting is how the writers attempted to cover a wide range of personalities in just three people. Secondly, their presence harps on the theme of powerlessness due to dislocation. The personalities show up in how each person handles their new position. First, you have the super anal retentive person who's used to having money and power and knowledge, and now has none of these things. Second, you have the laid-back artist who recognizes the value of not getting in other people's way, and sees his awakening as a new lease on life. Third, you have the person who didn't even chose to be cryogenically frozen, and finds the loss of personal connections such as family connections to be the most devastating. The AR dude has to be confronted by Picard in order to get him to shut up and start accepting his loss of power. The laid back artist fascinates Data. The woman who's lost her family is helped by Troi when Troi discovers that some of her distant relatives still remain on Earth.
Meanwhile, there's something about Romulans going on. The end of the episode even includes Romulans talking. Something about how they don't like how much the Federation has expanded while they were away taking care of "other business." Uh, ok?
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