For longtime fans, it's always fun rewatching Star Trek to see if you'll catch anything new. BBC America broadcasts Next Generation on a routine basis, and so of course I've been availing myself. And wouldn't you know it? I made a discovery about a seemingly trivial episode: "Allegiance."
Near the end of the third season, "Allegiance" tells the story of aliens who seek to study methods of leadership by capturing various individuals and replacing them with duplicates who behave in atypical ways. The relevant individual in this case is Picard, whose replacement behaves oddly enough to provoke mutiny in the crew.
And how exactly does he behave? In a lot of ways that are relevant later in the series finale, "All Good Things...," actually.
Don't believe me? Consider this: 1) he asks the crew to go along with questionable orders without explaining them, 2) he romances Crusher, 3) he joins the poker party, and 4) he is unusually concerned with how the crew feels about him.
So let's go over these beat by beat.
1) He asks the crew to go along with questionable orders without explaining them. In "All Good Things..." this would be in the "Encounter at Farpoint" era sequence where he can't adequately explain why he's doing what he's doing in part because everyone is still new to each other.
2) He romances Crusher. This one isn't totally unusual, because multiple episodes tease this. The difference is that in "Allegiance" they turn a decidedly romantic leaf in their otherwise platonic relationship. In "All Good Things..." they've been married and divorced by the time of the future era, the only other time they can talk about such a situation frankly.
3) He joins the poker party. Pointedly, for the duration of the series he's otherwise absent from these games. In "All Good Things..." the big emotional climax is Picard finally joining them as Troi says, "You were always welcome." In "Allegiance," it's Data who says, "You are always welcome." If you're at all skeptical about my analysis, I think this one similarity is the most telling.
4) He is unusually concerned with how the crew feels about him. This stands for all three eras represented in "All Good Things..." In the past, that one is pretty obvious, as is the future. In the present, his new diagnosis of impending dementia causes him to begin questioning his standing. Otherwise in the series, he's about as confident as you can get, unafraid to express his mind or to appear aloof (the latter especially in the early seasons, which was the big change in the later ones that helped make the whole thing work so well). To witness a version of Picard who does care, who is concerned that he might be coming off wrong (as expressed to Troi, at least) is one of the big tipoffs that he's not really Picard.
Pretty weird, huh? Otherwise, "Allegiance" is a pretty minor episode. But as a precursor to the final episode, it becomes pretty significant. In my original analysis (here), I thought it was best seen as a minor Picard character study. Now it seems something a bit more.
What do you think?