Star Trek: The Next Generation

Season 6 Episode 26

Descent (1)

Aired Unknown Jun 21, 1993 on CBS
out of 10
User Rating
186 votes

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Episode Summary

Stardate: 46982.1 The Borg return to threaten the Federation. However, they are now exhibiting all indications that they function as individuals and not as a collective mind. Also, Data experiences a disturbing facet of human emotions, including anger at being attacked by a Borg drone and feeling pleasure after killing it.moreless

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  • Data realizes it's ok to kill Geordi... maybe even fun.

    This is an unusual episode, even aside from the fact that it's the only Trek episode ever to have the credits appear in the opening teaser (and, with Stephen Hawking's cameo, the only Trek episode to include somebody playing himself.) The first act, which only takes about three minutes (shorter than the teaser that precedes it), might lead the viewer to believe this another Borg battle show, like "Best of Both Worlds", but this action is only used as a catalyst to get into the true, more character driven, plot. In the A story, Data attempts to explore his emotions that is, if "explore" can be used to describe him getting a fix and then doing whatever nightmarish things it takes to recapture the magic of that high. This dark road is paved with four stellar scenes, each featuring Brent Spiner teamed up with one other actor. With just dialogue, Spiner ratchets up the tension minute by minute.

    The B story is a sequel to "I, Borg" and features Captain Picard struggling with the fallout of that fifth season episode. Picard's leadership has traditionally been built on two attributes. Firstly, he's not afraid to give someone a tongue lashing to set them straight (whether it's to Riker in "Legacy," Worf in "Reunion," Wesley in "The First Duty," Troi in "The Chase," or Beverly in "Suspicions.") Secondly, once he commits to a decision, he doesn't second guess himself. This episode turns these characteristics on their head; Picard, in his own ready room, gets dressed down by his superior, and as the scenes progress he begins to wonder if he indeed made a bad decision. Stewart handles this role reversal brilliantly, and Picard's own "descent" serves as a wonderful counterpoint to Data's.

    As the episode works its way to its surprising conclusion, it raises many questions but gives us few answers. As it closes, we're left wondering: "How are they going to get out of this one?"

  • An attempt to invent a new reason for the Borg's continued existence fails. And did we really need two Lores?

    In my opinion this is the weakest of TNG's season-ending cliffhangers, though obviously I'm in the minority here.

    The first problem, which other have noted, is that the Borg became nearly untouchable after "Best of Both Worlds". Once you've beaten an unbeatable foe, what is left to do? "I Borg" took a clever dodge; "Descent" does not.

    Turning the Borg from soulless invincible foes into evil sadists is not a clever twist, nor is putting them under the tutelage of Lore (who, I suppose, is the #1 evil sadist in the galaxy). Making Data's first encounter with emotions a bad one is an intriguing concept, one that could have been good on its own (it generates some creepy scenes) but doesn't get its due here.

    Not a total waste, but you get the feeling TNG was getting a little stale by this point - a feeling confirmed by the lackluster seventh season.moreless
  • Holodeck simulations of Professor Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, & Sir Isaac Newton play cards with Data in the holodeck. The ”Enterprise” respond to a distress call from the Ohniaka III outpost. When the ”Enterprise” shows up the Borg beam aboarmoreless

    Holodeck simulations of Professor Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, & Sir Isaac Newton play cards with Data in the holodeck. The ”Enterprise” respond to a distress call from the Ohniaka III outpost. When the ”Enterprise” shows up the Borg beam aboard. While fighting with the Borg, Data becomes angry. How is this possible? Could Data be becoming more human? He describes what he felt to Geordi. A captive Borg convinces Data what he felt can happen more. A shuttle departs the “Enterprise”, Picard wonders who is aboard. It is Commander Data and the lone Borg. I rate this one a 9.8.moreless
Patrick Stewart

Patrick Stewart

Captain Jean-Luc Picard

Jonathan Frakes

Jonathan Frakes

Cmdr. William T. Riker

Brent Spiner

Brent Spiner

Lt. Cmdr. Data

Gates McFadden

Gates McFadden

Dr. Beverly Crusher

Marina Sirtis

Marina Sirtis

Counsellor/Lt. Cmdr. Deanna Troi

LeVar Burton

LeVar Burton

Lt. Cmdr. Geordi LaForge

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking

Hologram of Himself

Guest Star

John Neville

John Neville

Sir Isaac Newton

Guest Star

Jim Norton (I)

Jim Norton (I)

Albert Einstein

Guest Star

Brent Spiner

Brent Spiner


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • When Data was in the Holodeck trying to duplicate the incident that caused his fit of anger, he tosses the Borg drone in frustration. If you listen, you can hear the Borg grunt when he hits the wall. When do Borg grunt?

    • Dialogue in this episode indicates that New Berlin colony is in a nearby system to the one the Borg attacked. However, the writers must have forgotten this fact as in the movie Star Trek: First Contact and the subsequent prequel series, Star Trek: Enterprise, New Berlin colony is situated on Earth's moon, Luna.

  • QUOTES (5)

    • Troi: I'm curious. Why are you ignoring the one emotion you have already experienced? Why aren't you trying to make yourself angry again?
      Data: Anger is a negative emotion. I wanted to concentrate on something more positive.
      Troi: Data, feelings aren't positive and negative. They simply exist. It's what we do with those feelings that becomes good or bad.

    • Crosis of Borg: We do not assimilate inferior biological organisms... we destroy them.

    • Sir Isaac Newton: Don't patronize me, I invented physics.

    • Picard: Well, it may turn out that the moral thing to do...was not the right thing to do.

    • Data: The sons of Soong have joined together, and together we will destroy the Federation.

  • NOTES (9)

    • The exterior shot of the Enterprise in the transwarp conduit is recycled footage from the ship flying in the subspace vortex from the episode "Time Squared."

    • The Borg ship seen in this episode is given the name of Assimilator in the video game Star Trek: Armada (2000).

    • Dr. Stephen Hawking wanted to appear on Star Trek so much that the poker scene in the holodeck was written specifically so he could.

    • The exterior shot of the outpost is recycled from "Starship Mine."

    • Matte painting for station is recycled - it was last used in "Starship Mine."

    • Stephen Hawking is the only person to appear as himself in the series

    • This is the show's only episode to feature the episode's title and non-main actor credits during the teaser, before the opening credits sequence. Also, like "The Best of Both Worlds", the title for the first episode does not hint at the fact that it is the first part of a two-part episode storyline.

    • The season finale was originally planned as a major crossover with Deep Space Nine and involve an entirely new alien race. However Paramount advised the producers against the idea in order to avoid alienating any of the stations which carried one series but not the other. This may explain why the ship used by the Borg in this episode and the one after appears different from any of the others seen before or since.

    • The U.S.S. Gorkon is named after the Klingon Chancellor from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.