Star Trek: The Next Generation

Season 3 Episode 4

Who Watches The Watchers

Aired Unknown Oct 16, 1989 on CBS
out of 10
User Rating
265 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Stardate: 43173.5

An away team inadvertently breaks the Prime Directive and reveals themselves to a primitive culture on Mintaka III, leading the inhabitants to believe that Captain Picard is a god.

Who was the Episode MVP ?

  • All worship The Picard!

    It's a "Prime Directive" episode, which, of course, consists of (accidently) breaking the Federation's most valued law and putting the pieces back together again. After mixed results with some previous attempts ("Justice", "Pen Pals") the writers discard the heavy-handed preachyness and tell a nice sci fi story with a good mix of comedy and drama – using Troi and Riker particularly well.. The episode even touches on the developments of religion, a theme the Trek tv shows generally avoid. The result is a good episode, although surprisingly Voyager would top it with a similar but more ambitious idea in their sixth season episode "Blink of an Eye".moreless
  • This story should be shared with the world.

    Possiably the best line of any Episode comes from Jean Luc Picard: Horrifying. (pause) Dr. Barron, your report describes how rational these people are. Millennia ago, they abandoned their belief in the supernatural. Now you are asking me to sabotage that achievement, to send them back into the Dark Ages of superstition and ignorance and fear. No! We will find some way to undo the damage we've caused. I like how he compares the belief in false gods and the supernatural as being in the "Dark Ages" If only we as a society today had someone to pull us from our "Dark Ages" and throw us into the reality that you don't need to believe in an all powerful supernatural entity to strive and succeed as a society.moreless
  • Awesome episode showing the difficulty of maintain the prime directive

    *** Spoilers ahead ***

    One of my alltime favourite episodes. Well with Sam Wise in it, could it have been anything else?

    The basic premise of the plot centers around the Prime Directive and the harm interference can cause if it is not adhered to accidently or otherwise. It also draws upon a first contact situation between two races with vastly differing techological advances. This leads to a a clash of cultures between one that has recently rejected the notion of dieties and one that is advanced enough to view religion with skeptism.

    A scientific expedition, is observing a pre-warp civilisation from a clandestine base. From the off, we are drawn into the story as an explosion causes the camouflaging shield of the outpost to fail. Inevitably this draws a number of the natives towards the outpost to investigate the gleaming reflection the base causes against the bright sun.

    Then a sequence of predictable events where the natives witness the power of the Enterprise crew and their "magic" leads to a scene where Ray Wise's character is beamed onto the Enterprise to save his life, but sees the "all powerful" being The Picard before having his memory wiped.

    His daughter having seen the effects of 24th century technology returns to warn her village. Her father then returns and communicates his vision that he was saved by a God-like entity, thus generating the sort of hysteria one could expect from such a first contact.

    More potentially-catastrophic events occur throughout the episode which increase the stakes by leaps and bounds as one of the scientists is found by the natives and held to appease The Picard. Troi and Riker descend incognito to attempt a rescue and assess the damage that has been caused by the revelation of the scientific outpout.

    Once the situation is serious enough when Troi gets accosed and a proposal to sacrifice her is made, the village elder is brought onboard to attempt to show her that they are not gods. Picard predictably fails until one of the research party dies.

    This leads to a life threatening situation for Picard as he fails to convince even the most vehrmently fanatical of followers (Wise) that he is not one of their spirit gods.

    An execellent well paced episode, that provides an excellent distraction from the usual conflict/ resolution/ mystery solving episodes that make up the bulk of ST plot devices. Wise is great, but in truth all the supporting actors make this a very special episode. In my eyes a classic story.moreless
  • One of the best "Prime Directive" shows on TNG and a very clever story.

    This wasn't the first episode in TNG to center around the routinely-defied Prime Directive, but it was definitely the first one to actually be enjoyable. It was also arguably the best episode from the beginning of season 3 (though you could make a case for "The Survivors").

    It's a testament to the improvement of the show that two ideas that had repeatedly tripped up the writers in earlier seasons - the moral dilemmas generated by the Prime Directive and the supposed moral superiority of 24th century humans - actually turn out to be strengths here.

    While the anti-religious theme of this episode is somewhat strident, it actually makes the episode a lot more interesting because of the role into which Picard is thrust. The interactions between him and Nuria - particularly the scene in the observation lounge - is probably the highlight of the episode.

    And it's nice to see how the Enterprise, confronted with a violation of the Directive, is forced to come up with ever more elaborate plans to correct that mistake - each of which fails and compounds the problem. Life doesn't always work out too neatly.

    Two other observations - while Dr. Crusher's role in the episode is quite small, the tension between her Hippocratic Oath and Picard's obsession with playing the book sets up the rest of the episode nicely. And the actors who played the Mintakans - particularly Nuria - did a good job, certainly much better than the flunkies who appeared in "The Ensigns of Command".moreless
  • Picard mistaken as a god.

    Dad's view:

    - Fascinating story about a civilization's progression out of blind faith/theism and into an age of reason.

    - Surprisingly strong anti-religious perspective for such a mainstream show. Picard REALLY objected to the idea of playing a god.

    - Terrific story full of ideas, discussion starters. This is a great example of what science fiction is all about. Very meaty material!

    Kid's view: - When the Mintakans continued to make the incorrect deductions and kept on inventing more reasons for why Picard WAS a god . . . this was funny and drew me more into the story.

    - we got to see troi & riker as vulcans and in funny old-fashioned clothes.

    - i never pictured picard with a "the" before his name. it was funny. :)

    - i thought picard should have worn a greek god costume down to the planet (complete with robe and those leafy things on his head)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

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (5)

    • When Nuria and Picard are standing near the window, just after Nuria says, "Your powers are truly boundless", you can clearly see the boom mike dropping into view at the top of the windows.

    • The continent mentioned earlier is also used several times in the episode "Ménage à Troi" (3-24), but in that episode it is shown while the Enterprise is in orbit around planet Betazed.

    • Supposedly the model in Picard's ready room is of the Stargazer, NCC-2893. But in a closeup when he is talking to Nuria, the model number shown is NCC-7100.

    • Watch Mintaka III when Nuria is looking at it through an observation window. You can see a continent on the planet below. Then it rotates out of her sight and the camera cuts away. Then it cuts back to the window and the exact same continent rotates into view again, in the same position vertically. At the end of the episode you see the same continent(s) yet again in the same location vertically, but this time the continent is a mirror image of the one(s) we saw earlier.

    • The Mintakans are said to be at a Bronze Age level of technology, but they use modern molded compound bows.

  • QUOTES (5)

    • Troi: Mintakan emotions are interesting. Like Vulcans, they have highly-ordered minds. A very sensible people. For example, Mintakan women precede their mates. It's a signal to other women.
      Riker: "He's taken, get your own"?
      Troi: Not precisely. More like, "If you want his services, I'm the one you negotiate with."
      Riker: What kind of services?
      Troi: All kinds.
      Riker: They are a sensible race.

    • Picard: Someone invented a hut, someone invented a bow, who taught others, who taught their children, who built a stronger hut, who built a better bow, who taught their children. Now Nuria, suppose one of your cave-dwelling ancestors were to see you as you are today. What would she think?
      Nuria: I don't know.
      Picard: Put yourself in her place. You see, she cannot kill a hornbuck at a great distance. You can. You have a power she lacks.
      Nuria: Only because I have a bow.
      Picard: She has never seen a bow, it doesn't exist in her world. To you, it's a simple tool. To her, it's magic.

    • Picard: Dr. Barron, I cannot, I will not impose a set of commandments on these people. To do so violates the very essence of the Prime Directive.
      Barron: Like it or not, we have rekindled the Mintakans' belief in the Overseer.
      Riker: And are you saying that this belief will eventually become a a religion?
      Barron: It's inevitable. And without guidance, that religion could degenerate into inquisitions, holy wars, chaos.
      Picard: Horrifying. (pause) Dr. Barron, your report describes how rational these people are. Millennia ago, they abandoned their belief in the supernatural. Now you are asking me to sabotage that achievement, to send them back into the Dark Ages of superstition and ignorance and fear. No! We will find some way to undo the damage we've caused.

    • Picard: Look at me. Look at me. Feel the warmth of my hand, the rhythm of my pulse. I am not a supreme being. I am flesh and blood, like you.
      Nuria: Not like me...
      Picard: Like you! Different in appearance, yes. But we are both living beings. We are born, we grow, we live, and we die. In all the ways that matter we are alike.
      Nuria: But you are the Picard!

    • Troi: That's the problem with believing in a supernatural being... trying to determine what he wants.

  • NOTES (0)