the story: The crew finds a wormhole that allows them to contact the Alpha Quadrant, but it's a Romulan on the other side...
what it's all about: "Eye of the Needle" is an incredibly clever way to introduce the difficulties of finding shortcuts home (three episodes later, "Prime Factors" hits the mark more squarely), but it's almost more about the Romulan played by Vaughn Armstrong than the crew he has the unexpected opportunity to encounter.
The story is almost too clever by half. On the one hand it explains why the seventh hour of the series doesn't present the opportunity it seems to, revealing how the Romulan is actually decades in the past (Deep Space Nine's "The Sound of Her Voice" uses a similar plot device more artfully), but the reasoning behind why this isn't as helpful as it seems is shoddy at best, one I don't believe for a minute anyone in that crew would've taken seriously (again, "Prime Factors" proves how even a slim chance will cause considerable divisions among them).
So it's necessary to take the proceedings at face value, and on that level "Eye" is just about clever enough, and as a Romulan episode is one of the best in the franchise, following in the fine tradition of the classic "Balance of Terror." The big reveal at the end hits like a gut punch regardless of how well it holds up to scrutiny, and the whole experience is an exercise in proving just how committed the series was at the beginning in exploring the full potential of its premise.
- franchise - Casual fans will want to take note, thanks to the clever appearance of a Romulan.
- series - The first look at possible shortcuts to the long journey home.
character- This would've been a great place to preview the later schisms of "Prime Factors."
- essential - It's a clever experience all around that suggests the true dramatic potential of the series.