Series: Star Trek: TNG
Episode: 4.21 The Drumhead (04/29/1991)
Redshirt Status: 0/1/34
Notable Guest Stars:
Jean Simmons (Norah Satie) – Jean Simmons is a classic film actress and has quite a respectiable list of credits. She also worked with Jonathan Frakes in North and South which he was filming before and during the first couple seasons of TNG. They enjoyed working together and apparently, she was also a Trekkie so this was a good episode for both of them.
Bruce French (Sabin Genestra) – He is known for his role as Father Lonigan on Passions.
Spencer Garrett (Simon Tarses)– Garrett appears on Trek several times and will appear again on Voyager. He has also been in projects involving Star Wars, MCU (Iron Man 3), and Avatar. He is also the son of actor Kathleen Nolan.
Earl Billings (Thomas Henry)– Billings is a character actor who has appeared in several television shows over the years, including Cold Case and How I met Your Mother
Ann Shea (Nellen Tore)- This was Shea’s first credited role according ti IMDB. She would also star as Valarie on ER for several episodes as Valarie, a caretaker in the hospital day care.
Henry Woronicz (J’Dan)– Woronicz will appear on Trek again in Voyager.
I love Jean Simmons. She’s an amazing actress. And she puts on a good performance in this episode as Admiral Norah Satie, a woman who is very dedicated to protecting what she sees as the Federation. At first she and Picard are on the same side, but as the episode progresses, Satie’s fervor for routing out spys makes her go further then Picard is comfortable with.
This episode was inspired in part by McCarthyism. During the post-WWII era, communism (in particular Russia) brought a lot of fear to Americans. Relations between the US and Russia were tense and it has sense been called the cold war since no actual military actions were taken. There were many close calls though (including the Cuban Missile Crisis).
Joseph McCarthy was a US Senator from Wisconsin, and held the seat for 10 years (1947-1957). He made a concerted effort to route out any spys from the US, and many people were were called Communist and punished when there was not entirely enough evidence to say they were.
One particular field McCarthy targeted was the film industry. Many actors got blacklisted from working in the industry because they may have met or passed by someone accused of being communist. Others were forced to call someone else out as communist to prevent themselves being labeled as such. Several protested, some fell victim to the charges. It probably still had a large legacy overseeing the film industry of the 1980s and 90s.
McCarthy’s stout desire to find and eliminate all communists from the US led to his name being used as a term for bigotry and sensationalism. McCarthy rarely gave sufficient evidence, and occasionally tilted the facts in his favor by reading reports and changing words. He targeted the film industry, he targeted LGBT+ communities (Which came easy, as the government had already fired many of them thinking they were not suitable for government work.), and he also created false evidence to prove his accusations.
You can see how Norah Satie is similar. In her case, the federation is worried about the Romulans. We haven’t really seen them much in the last 70 years since a few interactions with them and Kirk’s Enterprise. They keep to themselves…up to now. Satie is worried that they are getting information from within the federation and seeks to push them out. And if a ensign happened to have Romulan blood, why not persecute him. To her, he logically has to be a spy.
This also might remind people of the WWII American response to Japanese people in the US. Many were forced into camps, including Star Trek actor George Takei. It was not a proud moment in our history (Nor was the McCarthy era)
Picard, repeating the words of Satie’s own father, reminds the court that a person’s freedom should not be taken away without due cause, and that Satie’s devotion to the cause was outweighing her competence as a investigator, and as a judge.
It’s a fairly good episode, and I recommend it even if it is not over all important to the arc of the show.
- Written by Jeri Taylor
- Directed by Jonathan Frakes
- This episode was designed to help the show reduce their budget. It used already made sets and no location filming.
- Picard’s idea of freedom
- We start to see Worf’s interactions with other Klingons more often
- Nothing completely stands out.
Screencap via CygnusX1.net