the story: Riker and the crew investigate whether or not Picard is really dead.
what it all means: This is the start of an unlikely Star Trek classic: space pirates! In a way, this is like Harry Mudd taken to the next level, or "The Outrageous Okana" remastered. The best part? It convincingly gives Patrick Stewart something he'd desperately yearned for earlier ("Starship Mine") but wasn't quite able to get, which is a full-out Next Generation romp.
"Part 1" is like a clever rephrasing of "Chain of Command, Part 2," in which the crew tries to figure out what happened to Picard. The difference is huge! Investigation episodes always have the potential for great franchise material, and they're done sparingly enough so that they're always a pleasant surprise, and done differently each time so that they always leave you guessing. "Part 1" has a huge advantage in that it is, of course, the first of two episodes, and so gets to have a killer ending (Picard is working with the bad guys!).
Those paying attention will also be rewarded during "Part 2," because "Part 1" not only lays the groundwork for figuring out what's going on with the captain, but why this is happening in the first place. In short, it does everything necessary to be a true standout.
- franchise - Gene Roddenberry hated space pirates, but they always proved memorable.
- series - Plays fast and loose with series lore.
- character - Works for Riker and Picard.
- essential - It works well on all accounts!