Star Trek: The Next Generation (1990): S03E23 – Sarek


Introduction

“Sarek” is the 23rd episode of the third season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the 71st episode overall. It was originally released on 14 May 1990, in broadcast syndication.

The story for the episode was created by Marc Cushman and Jake Jacobs, with the teleplay written by Peter S. Beagle. “Sarek” was directed by Les Landau.

Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, Sarek (Mark Lenard), the father of Spock and a highly regarded but elderly ambassador, is ferried by the Enterprise on his final mission for the Federation. While he is aboard the ship, the crew experiences an outbreak of irrational anger amongst themselves. It is revealed that Sarek has Bendii syndrome, which is telepathically causing the problems among the crew. It is only resolved after the Vulcan mind melds with Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart).

The appearance of Lenard was originally suggested by Gene Roddenberry as an alternative to an appearance by Leonard Nimoy, as it was suspected that it would be too expensive to have the latter actor reprise the role of Spock on television. Roddenberry had previously barred references to Star Trek: The Original Series in The Next Generation although he did pursue having DeForest Kelley as Leonard McCoy in the TNG launch feature Encounter at Farpoint. The inclusion of Sarek in his namesake episode, along with a mention of Spock, was seen by the crew of The Next Generation as a breakthrough, allowing them to reference The Original Series more freely in the future. Sarek’s failing health was intended to be a reference to the declining health of Roddenberry. “Sarek” received Nielsen ratings of 10.6 percent; it was praised by critics, who lauded the performances of both Lenard and Stewart.

Outline

Federation Ambassador Sarek (Mark Lenard) of Vulcan has arrived on board the Enterprise with his human wife, Perrin (Joanna Miles). His mission is to attend a conference to lay the foundation for trade relations between the Federation and an alien race called the Legarans, after which time he will retire due to old age. Though Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his crew attempt to provide for Sarek and have arranged for a chamber music concert for him, the ambassador expresses apprehension and annoyance. Picard is surprised when Sarek starts crying in the middle of the performance, an emotional trait Vulcans normally suppress.

Across the ship, the crew members start to act with uncharacteristic hostility towards one another, leading to a large brawl in the Ten Forward lounge. The onset of the events is tied to Sarek’s arrival. Ship’s Counsellor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) believe Sarek may be suffering from Bendii syndrome, a degenerative neurological disease that only affects aged Vulcans. This condition causes individuals to lose control of their emotions and emit “broadcast empathy”, destabilising the emotions of others around them. Picard attempts to approach Sarek about this, but Sarek’s aides deny that there are any problems. Picard asks Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) to speak with Sakkath (Rocco Sisto), Sarek’s second assistant, who has mutual respect with Data; Data confirms that Sakkath has been attempting to channel his emotional strength into Sarek, but has been overwhelmed by the pressures of the conference. Picard directly confronts Sarek on the matter, who attempts to deny the problem. When Sarek breaks down emotionally in front of Picard, Picard realises they may need to cancel the conference.

As Picard prepares to cancel with the Legarans, Perrin arrives and suggests an alternative option: Sarek could mind meld with another, allowing him to temporarily transfer his emotions onto someone else. This would leave Sarek able to successfully complete the conference and maintain his dignity, reputation and honour. Sarek, however, warns of the possible dangers to the receiver’s mind from Sarek’s strong emotions. Picard willingly agrees to be the host. Sarek performs the mind meld with Picard, and is able to retain full control of his emotions for the duration of the conference. However, Picard, monitored closely by Dr. Crusher, suffers through the numerous emotions that Sarek has pent-up for years, including his regrets of not being able to show his love for his wife Amanda, their son Spock, or his current wife Perrin. With the conference successfully completed, Sarek prepares to take his leave. Picard lets Perrin know of Sarek’s love for her, and Perrin says she has always known it. Sarek thanks Picard for his kindness, and with deep respect states: “We will always retain the best part of the other, inside us.”

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Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Les Landau.
  • Writer(s): Marc Cushman and Jake Jacobs.
  • Release Date: 14 May 1990.
  • Running Time: 45 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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