Alien entities take over the minds of Data, Troi, and Miles O'Brien.
- "Captain's log, stardate 45571.2. We are going into orbit around an unexplored M class moon of Mab-Bu VI. Though the moon was reported to be uninhabited, we have picked up a weak distress call."
As the USS Enterprise-D attempts to identify the source of the distress call, they are confronted with extreme interference due to electromagnetic whirlwinds on the moon, which renders the sensors incapable of picking up life signs. However, Commander Data is able to identify the distress call to be consistent with that of Template:ShipClass starships, which, however, have not been in service for 172 years. Captain Picard asks Data to check if any starships have been reported missing in this area. Data determines that the USS Essex under the command of Captain Bryce Shumar disappeared in the vicinity, over 200 years ago. He also determines, that the signal from the moon is identical to the subspace signature from the Essex. The captain thinks that they have solved the mystery of the Essex, seeing no need to beam down to check a ghost ship, and orders Lt. Worf to notify Starfleet. However, in that moment, Counselor Deanna Troi tells the captain that they have not necessarily solved the mystery of the missing ship, since she senses life on the moon's surface.
- "First officer's log, supplemental. The electromagnetic interference on the surface has been judged too dangerous for anyone to transport down. So we've taken a shuttle to investigate."
William T. Riker, Data and Deanna Troi are on board the shuttle on their way down to the moon surface. However, the shuttle is continually being shaken by the winds, until some systems fail and the crew are forced to emergency land on the moon's surface. On the Enterprise, the crew are worried about the people on the shuttle, however, Ro Laren is able to determine the coordinates where the shuttle crashed.
The crew in the shuttle manage to release the exit door of the shuttle. However, they are unable to communicate with the Enterprise, and all equipment in the shuttle has been rendered inoperable. Riker's arm is broken. Troi notices an odd-looking storm front close to their own position. Data does not pick up any life signs in the front, but Troi is absolutely certain that there is life, and it is approaching along with the storm.
On the Enterprise, Geordi La Forge and Chief O'Brien are attempting to find a way to beam the away team from the surface. O'Brien suggests that he beam down with a set of pattern enhancers, which would allow safe transport. La Forge reminds the chief that the chances of him making it down to the surface are very bad, but O'Brien insists that he be allowed to try. As Worf informs Captain Picard that a storm front is moving towards their crew on the moon, he allows O'Brien to take the risk.
O'Brien manages to beam down to the away team and starts distributing the pattern enhancers. However, as he tries to activate the third enhancer, it is struck by a violent lightning, knocking the four crewmembers over on the ground. As they lie unconscious, the storm passes over them and glowing orbs enter the bodies of O'Brien, Data, and Troi. A fourth one passes over Riker, but will not enter and flies away instead. He gets up and activates the third pattern enhancer, and the crew are beamed up to the ship, with Data, Troi, and O'Brien still unconscious.
Now in sickbay, Troi's eyes move rapidly and she screams as she opens her eyes. Doctor Crusher comes to calm her down. The rest of the away team are also in sickbay and have all recovered consciousness. Captain Picard enters sickbay to check on his crew and finds them all in a fairly good condition. Troi, Data, O'Brien, Riker, and Picard then enter the turbolift to the bridge. In the turbolift, Data explains how they can continue with the investigation. However, there is a short audible buzz in his voice, which he dismisses as a fluctuation in his speech processors. He claims that he will have it corrected shortly.
On the bridge, Troi asks Picard to have a word with him in private and they proceed to his ready room. Riker orders the helm to take a synchronous orbit around the shuttle's crash site, but Data claims that due to the EM-patterns it would be best if they begin the search around the southern polar region. Riker is skeptical and maintains to begin the search at the crash site. There is a visible reluctance on Data's face as he hears that.
In the captain's ready room, Troi claims that the entities she sensed on the moon surface were calling her to the southern polar region. She recommends that they should look for the Essex there.
On the bridge, Ro Laren notices that she has been locked out from the helm, but Riker has no explanation for it. He asks Data what may have happened, but Data does not answer. As Riker walks up to Data's console, Data hits Riker and knocks him on the floor. As Worf tries to fire a phaser on Data, he is pulled away and knocked over the tactical station by O'Brien. Ro tries to stun O'Brien with a phaser of her own, but he takes cover and shoots her. Riker manages to transfer all bridge control to engineering, which completely locks out Data from his console. In his ready room, Picard gets knocked on his back by Troi. Data, O'Brien, and Troi enter the turbolift and proceed to engineering.
Riker restores bridge control and Worf walks up to tactical station. There he overrides the control for the turbolift and stops it at deck ten. However, O'Brien has sufficient technical skills to override the bridge command and can get the turbolift to move again. Picard orders Worf to engage emergency bulkheads in the turboshaft. The turbolift is stopped at deck 13 and Picard orders Worf to take a security team there. However, when the security team opens the door of the turbolift, it is empty except for Troi's, Data's, and O'Brien's communicators. On deck ten, the three walk through a corridor, as they get trapped by force fields. Data smashes a computer console on the wall and touches the exposed circuitry, thereby connecting with the computer and overriding the force field. Picard is informed of their break-free and orders a security team to Ten Forward.
In Ten Forward, Keiko O'Brien, Miles' wife, tries to calm her daughter, Molly, who is hungry and crying. In that moment, Troi, Data, and O'Brien enter Ten Forward and force everyone on the floor. A security team arrives, which results in a phaser shoot-out. However, none of the phasers seems to have any effect on any of the three and they successfully seize control over Ten Forward. When asked if Worf could be heard, Troi points a phaser at him and responds firmly, "Yes Bridge, he can hear you."
On the bridge, the crew try everything they can get the situation under control, but without any success. Data isolates Ten Forward with force fields and O'Brien collects all communicators from any of the crew in Ten Forward. Meanwhile, Picard asks Dr. Crusher to see if she can find any clue as to what happened to Troi, Data, and O'Brien. He then contacts Ten Forward and asks the captors to discuss the situation. After some delay, they respond and tell Picard to move the ship to the southern polar region. Picard orders the ensign to move the ship there, but as slowly as possible. Dr. Crusher then comes up with a possible explanation – she has determined that other life forms may have taken control over their people – Riker was not affected because his broken arm inflicted pain, which has prevented him from being taken over by the alien entity. Picard then suggest that inflicting pain on Troi, Data, and O'Brien may free them from their possessors. Ro and La Forge come up with the possibility to fire a plasma shock on their people, which would inflict pain on Troi and O'Brien and incapacitate Data. They suggest that they could place a micro-optic drill in the ceiling of Ten Forward from above, deactivate the force-field for a short moment and then fire the plasma shock through the drill. Picard then orders Dr. Crusher to work on a way to contain the alien entities once they have been forced out.
Picard then contacts Ten Forward about the injuries of the people there. Troi tells Worf to inform the bridge about the injuries. Picard then asks Troi to release the injured, in exchange for him as another hostage. Troi agrees, and Picard proceeds to Ten Forward. But he tells his first officer to watch for any opportunity Picard might give him. A medical team and Picard then enter Ten Forward. Troi tells Picard that she is Captain Shumar of the Essex.
Stunned, Picard is in disbelief, and Troi tells him that Data is Shumar's first officer, Commander Steven Mullen and that O'Brien is the security chief Lt. Morgan Kelly. She also says that she has no wish to harm Counselor Troi, who is still alive, or anybody else on the Enterprise. She tells Picard that they have commandeered the ship because they have been trapped on the moon for over two centuries and simply want to find rest. For that, they need the help of the Enterprise.
La Forge and Ro have reached a service crawlway above Ten Forward. On the bridge, Dr. Crusher has determined how she could trap the alien entities – by duplicating the magnetic flux density in the storms on the moon. However, La Forge tells the bridge that it would still take up to an hour for them to calibrate the device to fire the plasma shock.
In Ten Forward, Picard and Worf have a chance to discuss the situation. They find that there are many legends, both in human as in Klingon history, where the living become possessed by the dead. However they come to the conclusion that their captors are not the crew of the Essex, because as Starfleet officers they should be behaving much better. Data cuts them off and orders them to sit down apart from each other.
The Enterprise is nearing the southern polar region of the moon and Picard asks Troi for further instructions. She demands that they beam up the skeletal remains of the Essex crew and bring them to Earth for a proper burial. Picard demands that all the hostages are released first, but Data threatens to kill some of the hostages if the Captain does not cooperate.
Meanwhile, La Forge and Ro attempt to fire the plasma charge on the three captors but they miss Data. The alien beings emerge from the bodies of Troi and O'Brien as they slump to the floor. Dr. Crusher establishes the field that traps the alien entities. An enraged Data, still possessed, grabs Picard's neck and lifts him from the floor. He threatens to kill everyone in Ten Forward starting with the Captain if he does not order the bridge to stop. Picard, under duress; gives in. The bridge deactivates the field and the glowing orbs again seize control of Troi and O'Brien.
- "First officer's log, supplemental. The Enterprise has moved into a synchronous orbit near the southern polar region. We await further instructions from Ten Forward."
The ship has arrived at the destination, but the electromagnetic storm activity renders the sensors useless again. The same distortion also makes the use of the transporters impossible and Picard reminds the captors that O'Brien is the only person on board who can get the transporters to work. Since there is no transporter pad in Ten Forward to conduct the transport, Picard proposes to give them safe passage to the transporter in Cargo Bay Four. After some debate, the captors agree, but they each take a hostage. Troi takes Picard, O'Brien takes Keiko, who gives Molly to the care of another woman, and Data takes Worf. They deactivate the force fields and leave Ten Forward.
After arriving in cargo bay four, Picard asks 'Shumar' when he will really tell him who he is, but gets no response. On the bridge, Riker explains that there is only one reason why Picard chose cargo bay four. The bridge crew can blow the cargo bay hatch if it becomes necessary. In the cargo bay, O'Brien is able to modify the transporter and beams up hundreds more of the alien beings. Then, Troi tells Picard that he was right, that it is escape, not rest, that they seek. She informs him that they and the other entities are all condemned prisoners from a system called Ux-Mal, who were brought to the moon 500 years ago and left to drift in the storms, and that the moon is, essentially, a penal colony. They tried to escape on the Essex, but the attempt failed because the ship was incapable of eluding the moon's electromagnetic storm. Now, they intend to use the Enterprise and the bodies of its crew to escape.
On the bridge, Riker gives Picard another opportunity to deceive their captors. He orders Dr. Crusher to release the same field that would confine the entities, which she has previously released in Ten Forward, in the cargo bay. Enraged, Troi threatens to kill Picard, but he calmly tells her that her threats have no value now. He reminds her that everyone will die if the cargo bay hatch is blown, including the entities O'Brien transported up from the moon. Picard tells them that he as the Captain is more than willing to give up his own life to save his ship. Worf tells them that dying in defense of his ship is what every Klingon hopes for. Keiko declares that she is prepared to die to save her child, and Picard reminds them that Troi, Data and O'Brien are Starfleet officers who would also give their lives in this situation. He proposes to them that if they free their host bodies, Picard will return all the entities to the moon's surface. After some thought, Troi gives in and warns Picard not to pass their way again.
The entities leave the bodies of O'Brien, Troi, and Data and join the others on the transporter pad. Using Troi's communicator, Picard informs the bridge that the siege was successfully ended and orders Worf to beam all the entities back to the moon.
- "Captain's log, stardate 45572.1. Dr. Crusher has examined Troi, Data, and O'Brien. There seem to be no residual effects from their experience."
O'Brien, Data, and Troi are returned to normal and they apologize for their ruthless behavior.
"A concussive charge would blow out the security fields. We could go in with phasers on wide beam, stun everybody. Sort it out later."
- - Riker, discussing a plan to end the hostage situation.
"I never want to see this part of the Enterprise again."
"I hear you. This is what starship designers call 'easy access'."
- - Ro and La Forge, carrying a bulky device through a narrow service crawlway.
"Everyone, get down on the floor!!"
- - Deanna Troi
"Silence that child!"
- - Data, to Keiko O'Brien, regarding Molly's crying
"I have no fear of death."
"And I have no fear of killing you!"
- - Worf and Data
"You have 30 seconds to change your course, or else additional members of your crew will require medical attention."
- - Deanna Troi, to Captain Picard
"Tell them to stop or I will kill everyone in this room, starting with you!"
"Picard to Riker! Abort immediately!"
- - Data and Picard
"I would die to save the life of my child."
"To die defending one's ship is the hope of every Klingon."
"If you each know the officers you inhabit, then you know they're equally ready to give their lives for this ship."
- - Keiko O'Brien, Worf, and Picard
"I warn you, Picard, not to pass our way again."
- - Deanna Troi, to Captain Picard
"Lieutenant, I must apologize for my inadvertent misconduct toward you."
"No apology necessary."
"Your restraint was most remarkable."
"You have no idea."
- - Data and Worf
Story and production
- The basic story went though several treatments by freelancers before being assigned to Brannon Braga and Herbert J. Wright. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- Braga recalled "The first time I wrote it, I thought, bottle show: Ten-Forward, Picard and Troi talk. Mike Piller said don't be afraid to write seven or eight page scenes with Picard and Troi. I said, 'Okay, Mike, I won't.' Jesus! Seven or eight pages? I had a tough time writing that and when I turned it in, Piller said he felt that we'd taken it as far as it could go and we shouldn't produce it. If it had been produced as I had written it, the episode would have been a little too familiar as a hostage show. So what happened was Herb Wright had just come in and Mike said we need some new blood, and gave it to Herb. Together we came up with the twist of them claiming to be the ghosts and that's what I think brought the show level up and gave it a dimension of mystery and twists that it really needed." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Director David Livingston recalled that the most enjoyable part of the episode "was taking three of our continuing characters and having them play something entirely different. It was a chance to work with them and create totally new characters, and that was a lot of fun. We came up with names for them on the set. Marina was Slash, Data was Buzz, and Colm was Slugger." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Brent Spiner commented, "I always love to play another type of character. The challenge here was to make sure my character didn't sound or act like Lore, and I don't think he did. It's really fun to get those curves, because so much of Data is already defined. When you get to play someone else and let loose like Leonard Nimoy occasionally got to do in the old show, it's really rewarding." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Livingston noted that difficulties the crew had filming on the "Planet Hell" set on Paramount Stage 16. "It was tough because we had atmosphere and wind and lightning. One of those elements is hard enough. Just being on Stage 16 is enough. But we had all of those elements and eventually all the actors had to lie down in them. The stage floor had a sandy surface, so when you have the wind blowing, the sand starts blowing around and I was real concerned about it getting into people's eyes. In fact, Marina's make-up became so messed up that she had to have a complete redo before we could continue shooting that day. We had to go over to Stage 9 and wait for her make-up to be done. Not through any fault of hers, just the fact that she wasn't presentable on screen, because the sand had sandblasted her and she looked like a house after the guys come through with their hoses." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- In the scene where the crew is thrown backward by the force of the storm, Marina Sirtis (doing her own stunt) "flung [herself] back, onto [her] coccyx," breaking it. She was the only cast member in the scene to do the stunt herself, despite her face being barely visible in the finished shot. Marina later claimed, "It could have been Worf in Troi's costume and we wouldn't have known the difference." (Journey's End: The Saga of Star Trek: The Next Generation)
- The shuttle Campbell was named after science fiction author John W. Campbell. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- According to the script, working titles included "The Invaders", "Terror in Ten-Forward" and "Feeling Poorly". 
- "Power Play" was filmed on 27 November 1991, 2 December 1991 - 6 December 1991, and 9 December 1991 - 11 December 1991. Some 2nd Unit insert shots were filmed on 23 January 1992.
- The episode was filmed on Paramount Stage 8 (Bridge, Ten Forward, Corridor deck 10, Captain's ready room, and turbolift), 9 (Sickbay, transporter room, turbolift, corridor deck 13, cargo bay, and shuttlecraft Campbell interior), and 16 (Jeffries tube and Mab-Bu VI moon surface).
- We learn that in 2196 Starfleet retired the last Template:ShipClass starship.
- Something rarely seen in Star Trek appears in this episode: seatbelts, in the type 15 shuttlepod Campbell.
- Pattern enhancers make their first appearance in this episode. Here, they are carried in a set of three in a practical carry-bag.
- The broken off nacelle of the Campbell later turns up in DS9: "Battle Lines", oddly enough as a runabout warp nacelle of the doomed USS Yangtzee Kiang.
- Five years later, in DS9: "The Assignment", Keiko O'Brien was possessed by an alien consciousness in a similar way to her husband Miles in this episode.
- Braga remarked, "In the end it turned into a really great action show. To me, it was a breath of fresh air. It had no pretensions. Instead of exploring some theme or idea, it was just action and phaser blasts. What are you going to do, deny that and say it's not fun?" (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Piller was not as pleased with the final result. "Power Play had the distinction of being one of the best directed episodes of the season, but only made me angry because it was empty. We need to do bottle shows on this series in order to pay the piper...It was meant to be a show that was dark and brooding, and the shows I've always used as prototypes were Key Largo and The Petrified Forest. Very contained situations. We had a hard time making that work and making it interesting for five acts. It's not a difficult premise, it's been done on a lot of shows, a lot of times and television has found a way to make those premises kind of work...Ultimately it became a major action show and instead of helping us get even, knocked us into the stratosphere. I wasn't very fond of that show, but very fond of David's direction. If that show had any merit at all, it was because he directed it with an extraordinary sense of style. The three actors who were given the job of being the aliens carried it with wonderful performances...Brent, Marina and Colm really put together interesting performances, but I was not happy with the script." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Sound Editing for a Series.
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 58, 11 January 1993.
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 5.5, 7 October 2002.
- As part of the TNG Season 5 DVD collection.
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Worf
- Gates McFadden as Doctor Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lieutenant Commander Data
- Joe Bauman as Crewman Garvey
- Christine Baur as a hostage
- Michael Braveheart as Martinez
- Cameron as Kellogg
- Elliot Durant III as a operations division ensign
- Rosine "Ace" Hatem as a hostage
- Mark Lentry as a science division lieutenant
- Melba as a hostage
- Lorine Mendell as Diana Giddings
- Michael Moorhead as a science divsion ensign
- Joyce Robinson as Gates
- Lincoln Simonds as a security officer
- Patricia Tallman as a security officer
- Tadeski twins as Molly O'Brien (infant)
- Guy Vardaman as Darien Wallace
- Christina Wegler Miles as a command division ensign
- Christopher Doyle as stunt double for Brent Spiner
- Maria R. Kelly as stunt double for Michelle Forbes
- Ken Lesco as stunt double for Colm Meaney
- Rusty McClennon as stunt double for Michael Dorn
- Tom Morga as stunt double for Jonathan Frakes
- John Nowak as stunt double for Patrick Stewart
- David Keith Anderson as stand-in for LeVar Burton
- Margaret Flores as stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Randy James as stand-in for Colm Meaney
- Joe as stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Kathy as stand-in for Michelle Forbes
- Tim McCormack as stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Melba as stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Lorine Mendell as
- Keith Rayve as stand-in for Colm Meaney
- Richard Sarstedt as stand-in/ photo double for Jonathan Frakes
- Sissy as stand-in for Rosalind Chao
- Terri as stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Dennis Tracy as stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- James Washington as stand-in for Michael Dorn
anesthizine; anionic energy; anti-grav lift; authorization code; biofilter; Campbell; cargo bay 4; cargo transporter; communicator; concussive charge; conduit; confinement beam; Template:ShipClass; diagnostic mode; distress call; Earth; electromagnetic storm; emergency bulkhead; Essex, USS; Federation; force field; ghost; impulse generator; ionic cyclone; ionogenic particles; jat'yIn; Jefferies tube; Kelly, Morgan; laser scanner; Mab-Bu VI; magnetic flux; McKinley Park; M-class; micro-optic drill; moon; Mullen, Steven; Narsu, Uttan; neural net; neural pattern; neutrino field; O'Brien, Keiko; O'Brien, Molly; pain receptor; pattern enhancer; penal colony; plasma inverter; plasma shock; primary speech processor; seatbelt; sector; security alert; security lockout; skeletal system; Shumar, Bryce; Starbase 12; Starfleet; Starfleet Academy; subspace transponder; synaptic activity; thruster; transporter; transporter array; transporter pad; tree; turboshaft; type 15 shuttlepod; Ux-Mal
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