(written from a Production point of view)
An overzealous Starfleet admiral begins a witch-hunt aboard the Enterprise, determined to find a conspiracy, and eventually accuses Captain Picard of treason.
- "Captain's log, stardate 44769.2. For some weeks we have had a Klingon exobiologist on board as part of a scientific exchange program. Unfortunately, we suspect that he was involved in a security breach and in the possible sabotage of our warp drive."
On stardate 44765.2, a dilithium chamber hatch explodes aboard the USS Enterprise-D and sabotage is suspected. The explosion coincides with news that the Romulans have gained access to information about the Enterprise's dilithium articulation frame a week later, indicating that there is a spy on board. A quick investigation turns up one suspect – a Klingon exchange officer named J'Dan, but upon being interrogated by Riker and Troi, he denies any involvement. As Worf escorts him to his quarters, J'Dan asks for aid as a fellow Klingon. Worf angrily rebuffs him and tells him that once the Klingon High Council learns of the incident, J'Dan will be put to a slow death as a traitor.
- "Captain's log, supplemental. Retired Admiral Norah Satie, whose investigation exposed the alien conspiracy against Starfleet Command three years ago, is arriving to assist in our inquiry."
With little progress in the investigation, Starfleet Command sends retired Admiral Norah Satie and her assistants – including Sabin Genestra, who is a Betazoid – to expedite the proceedings. She gets right to work, and Picard escorts her to engineering, where Geordi La Forge and Data relate their findings on the explosion and play back the sensor log. It initially appears to be sabotage, as all logs indicated normal operations before the incident and the articulation frame was indeed the culprit. She sees there is something to investigate, and wants a full briefing.
Later, as Satie and Picard talk in his ready room, Worf arrives with his finding of J'Dan's hypospray in his room, modified to scan and resequence classified information into biological tags for transport on an injected body; J'Dan covers this by the fact that he has Ba'ltmasor Syndrome, which requires weekly injections and thus, would easily hide the transfer of information. With this evidence against him, J'Dan admits his crime, confessing that he believes the alliance with the Federation has made the Klingons weak, and that the Romulans would be better allies. Despite his confession, he adamantly maintains his innocence in the explosion. However, Satie is still unsatisfied, and Sabin says he believes J'Dan is now telling the truth; they are convinced that J'Dan could not have been working alone.
In the admiral's quarters, Satie and Picard discuss the current situation with J'Dan and his possible sabotage. Satie admits that when Starfleet ordered her to the Enterprise to participate in the investigation, it was expressly stated that she and the captain were to be equals. She was initially reluctant, as her father, Judge Aaron Satie, had always advised her to avoid partnerships. Picard expresses his admiration for Judge Satie's decisions, as those judgments were required reading when he attended the Academy. Satie states she and Picard will be quite a team.
In the observation lounge, Genestra and Worf look over the people J'Dan had contact with on the Enterprise but the Klingon apparently did not make many friends on board, narrowing their search of possible collaborators. Genestra compliments Worf on his thorough investigation. However, Genestra tells him that he and Satie initially suspected he could have possibly been a security risk due to his father Mogh having been declared a traitor for betraying his people to the Romulans. Worf strongly declares that what his father did or did not do is no one's business but his own. Genestra assures Worf that he has the admiral and his complete confidence. Worf assuredly states, "If there is a conspiracy on board, I promise you I will find it." With that, he begins arranging interviews.
Admiral Satie then begins an inquiry into all personnel and passengers on the Enterprise with whom J'Dan has come into contact during his stay. When she questions young crewman and medical technician Simon Tarses, Sabin senses great fear and guilt from Tarses, as if some sort of lie is consuming him, about which he refuses to come clean. He believes they found J'Dan's co-conspirator.
Picard refuses to restrict Tarses's movements based on Betazoid intuition. Before a consensus can be reached, he and Satie are called to engineering by La Forge and Data; the radiation levels preventing them from entering the chamber – caused by the explosion – have now dropped low enough for them to enter safely, and their examination shows no foul play had been involved. The explosion was caused by neutron fatigue along an undetectable defect in a hatch cover installed during the ship's last refit at Earth Station McKinley, making it an accident that just happened to coincide with the theft of the chamber's plans rather than sabotage.
But this new development seems not to placate Satie or her assistants, who still believe Tarses was a co-conspirator with J'Dan. Another inquiry against Tarses is launched on stardate 44780, this time open to the public, and he is barraged with numerous accusations to try and establish his guilt, including a lie that the explosion was caused by corrosive chemicals to which he had had access, and the exposure of the lie Tarses himself tried to kept hidden: that he put false information about his parentage in his admission form, stating that his paternal grandfather was Vulcan when, in fact, he was Romulan. Overwhelmed, Tarses invokes the Seventh Guarantee of the Constitution of the United Federation of Planets to decline to answer further questions to avoid self-incrimination, on the counsel of Commander Riker.
The ruthlessness of the accusations convince Picard that Satie is engaging in a drumhead trial, going on a xenophobic witch-hunt for Romulans and other enemy conspirators. After talking with Tarses and establishing that his lying on his application was his only misdeed, Picard confronts Satie and demands that the hearings be put to rest, threatening to go over her head and complain to Starfleet Command if necessary. Satie rebuffs him and reveals she has been in full contact with Starfleet Command since the beginning, and they fully approve of her methods. In fact, Admiral Thomas Henry of Starfleet Security will arrive in time to witness the next and all subsequent hearings until the conspiracy is solved. In other words, the interrogations will not be stopped; they will be expanded. Unfortunately, because of his outspokenness against them, Picard receives a summons delivered by Nellen Tore, Satie's assistant, to appear the following morning at 0900 before the committee for questioning.
- "Captain's log, supplemental. Admiral Thomas Henry, who has worked closely with Norah Satie in the past, has arrived to observe the hearings."
At his interrogation, Picard attempts to appeal to Satie's sense of reason and convince her to end the hearings, but he is met with a thorough nitpicking of his competency and loyalty to Starfleet and the Federation. First, Satie brings up the events of Stardate 44390.1: when Picard delivered a supposed Vulcan ambassador named T'Pel to the Romulan Neutral Zone, and it turned out that she was actually a Romulan spy. Satie highlights the fact that Picard had willingly let T'Pel go, despite knowing that she had classified information from the Federation. Worf, who up until this point had sided with Satie, realizes where the hearing is going and attempts to defend his captain, stating that the Enterprise was outnumbered by many Romulan warbirds, and Picard did the only thing he could do. Worf is rebuffed with accusations of his father's supposed betrayal to the Romulans. Satie then taunts Picard with his past experience as a Borg, along with his role at Wolf 359. Picard finally responds to the accusations laid against him by quoting her famous father's words about the dangers of denying basic rights to one man in the name of protection.
Enraged, Satie interrupts him, accusing him of treason, conspiring with the Romulans, and violating the Prime Directive. She calls men like him a threat to the entire Federation whom it is her job to seek out and destroy, and warns him that she has "brought down bigger men than you!" At this point in her tirade, Admiral Henry gets up and wordlessly leaves the room, bringing an informal end to the interrogation. Embarrassed, Sabin declares a recess until the following day, and the room empties quickly, leaving Satie alone, shaken. By turning her father's words back on her, Picard has goaded her into revealing the depth of her fanaticism and paranoia in front of an audience, severely damaging her credibility, possibly permanently.
Later on, in the ship's conference lounge, Picard is informed by Worf that Admiral Henry has officially called off the hearings, and that Satie has departed the Enterprise. Though it is unlikely that she will ever be trusted with such authority again, Worf cannot help feeling guilty for having been deluded into aiding her cause without realizing what she was. Picard, however, sees it as a learning experience; such enemies who cloak their misdeeds with the pretense of serving a greater good are very difficult to spot, and continual vigilance against them is "the price that [they] must pay" to maintain their freedom.
"The blood of all Klingons has become water! Ever since the Federation Alliance, we have turned into a nation of mewling babies! The Romulans are strong; they are worthy allies! They do not turn Klingons into weaklings like you!" (hints at Worf)
- - J'Dan, admitting his guilt of the information smuggling to the Romulans
"Captain, I predict that officer will be extremely valuable in this investigation."
- - Norah Satie, to Picard about Worf
"Admiral. I have to tell you, you must not expect me to permit any action against Mr. Tarses solely on the basis of Betazoid intuition."
"Sabin has uncanny instincts. I've learned to trust them."
"I'm not happy about this use of a Betazoid."
"But you have a Betazoid counselor. Surely you're aware of the advantages."
"There is a difference between a counselor and an investigator."
"Are you saying you never use your counselor during interrogations?"
"Yes, I do… but I would not act solely on the basis of her instinct."
"Nor do I."
"But you're asking… you're asking me to restrict Mr. Tarses' movements solely on the basis on Sabin's feeling."
"If Counselor Troi suggested to you that someone on the ship were dangerous, would you not act on that? Observe him? Curb his activity?"
"Yes, I admit I probably would, and perhaps I should re-evaluate that behavior.
- - Picard and Norah Satie, on the ethics of Betazoid intuition
"On the advice of my counsel… I refuse to answer that question in… in that the answer might… might serve to incriminate me."
- - Simon Tarses
"But we know there is a traitor here. J'Dan has admitted his guilt."
"That's true, and he will stand for his crime."
"Tarses has all but done the same."
"He refused to answer the question about his Romulan grandfather."
"That is not a crime, Worf! Nor can we infer his guilt because he didn't respond."
"Sir, if a man were not afraid of the truth, he would answer."
"Oh, no. We cannot allow ourselves to think that. The Seventh Guarantee is one of the most important rights granted by the Federation. We cannot take a fundamental principle of the Constitution and turn it against a citizen!"
- - Worf and Picard, on Tarses' "guilt"
"Sir, the Federation does have enemies! We must seek them out!"
"Oh, yes. That's how it starts. But the road from legitimate suspicion to rampant paranoia is very much shorter than we think. Something is wrong here, Mr. Worf; I don't like what we have become!"
- - Worf and Picard
"My father taught me from the time I was a little girl still clutching a blanket that the United Federation of Planets is the most remarkable institution ever conceived. And it is my cause to make sure that this extraordinary union be preserved."
- - Norah Satie, trying to explain to Picard her reasons for deepening her investigation
"Admiral, what you're doing here is unethical. It's immoral. I'll fight it."
"Do what you must, captain… and so will I."
- - Picard, on Norah Satie's paranoia-filled investigation
"I am deeply concerned about what is happening here. It began when we apprehended a spy, a man who has admitted his guilt and who will answer for his crime, but the hunt didn't end there. Another man, Mr. Simon Tarses, was brought to trial, and it was a trial, no matter what others may choose to call it. A trial based on insinuation and innuendo. Nothing substantive offered against Mr. Tarses, much less proven. Mr. Tarses' grandfather is Romulan… and for that reason, his career now stands in ruins. Have we become so… fearful, have we become so cowardly, that we must extinguish a man because he carries the blood of a current enemy? Admiral, let us not condemn Simon Tarses, or anyone else, because of their bloodlines, or investigate others for their innocent associations. I implore you, do not continue with this proceeding. End it now."
- - Picard, trying to appeal to Norah Satie's sense of morality
"You know, there are some words I've known since I was a schoolboy: 'With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censored… the first thought forbidden… the first freedom denied – chains us all irrevocably.' Those words were uttered by Judge Aaron Satie, as wisdom… and warning. The first time any man's freedom is trodden on, we're all damaged. I fear that today–"
"How dare you! You who consort with Romulans, invoke my father's name to support your traitorous arguments? It is an offense to everything I hold dear! And to hear those words used to subvert the United Federation of Planets! My father was a great man! His name stands for integrity and principle! You DIRTY his name when you speak it! He loved the Federation! But you, captain, corrupt it! You undermine our very way of life! I will expose you for what you are! I've brought down bigger men than you, Picard!!"
- - Picard, quoting Judge Aaron Satie, and Admiral Satie, angrily chastising him for it
"We think we've come so far. Torture of heretics, burning of witches, it's all ancient history. And then, before you can blink an eye, suddenly, it threatens to start all over again."
"I believed her. I-I HELPED her! I did not see what she was."
"Mr. Worf, villains who twirl their mustaches are easy to spot. Those who clothe themselves in good deeds are well-camouflaged."
"I think, after yesterday, people will not be so ready to trust her."
"Maybe. But she or someone like her will always be with us, waiting for the right climate in which to flourish – spreading fear in the name of righteousness. Vigilance, Mr. Worf. That is the price we have to continually pay."
- - Picard and Worf, discussing both the investigations and the misguidedness of Admiral Satie
- Final draft script: 7 February 1991 
- Filmed: 19 February 1991 – 27 February 1991
- Premiere airdate: 29 April 1991
- First UK airdate: 9 November 1994
Story and script
- "The Drumhead" was conceived as a money-saving installment for the series. The studio suggested a clip show. Michael Piller and Rick Berman, however, both despised the idea, as neither wanted a repetition of the "Shades of Gray" approach. Piller commented on clip shows, "We think they're insulting to the audience. They tune in and then you create this false jeopardy and then flashback as their memory goes back to the wonderful time they had before they got trapped in the elevator and all that bullshit." They persuaded the studio to avoid a clip show while still producing an episode that was under budget – a bottle show. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, pp. 219-220)
- Jeri Taylor wrote the script based on a story idea Ronald D. Moore had proposed called "It Can't Happen Here." Taylor's aim was to show that witch-hunts, along the lines of US Senator Joseph McCarthy's Communist hearings and the Salem witch trials, could happen even in the enlightened 24th century if individual liberties and freedoms were breached, even if only slightly, in the name of preserving the Federation. She remarked, "It's a very provocative story and one which is a little darker than some of the others." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, pp. 219-220)
- "The Drumhead" was filmed between Tuesday 19 February 1991 and Wednesday 27 February 1991 on Paramount Stage 8 and 9.
- The episode finished US$250,000 under budget. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2nd ed., p. 163)
- According to director Jonathan Frakes, several shots from the episode were "stolen" from courtroom films including Judgment at Nuremberg, the 1961 Stanley Kramer film starring William Shatner, and The Caine Mutiny. (Departmental Briefing, Year Four: Production, TNG Season 4 DVD special features)
- Jonathan Frakes had previously appeared with Jean Simmons on North and South. He described being able to cast her in this episode as a dream come true. To Frakes' surprise, he learned that Simmons was a "monstrous Trekkie". (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 204)
- This was the final episode to have music composed by Ron Jones. Jones was fired shortly afterward for repeatedly arguing with Rick Berman and Peter Lauritson over what type of music was thought to be appropriate for the series. Berman subsequently asked Dennis McCarthy if he would be willing to act as the sole music composer for the series, but McCarthy turned the offer down, citing that the resulting workload (including his non-Trek projects) would be too much for him, and so Berman brought Jay Chattaway on-board as Jones' replacement. (Cinefantastique October 1993)
- A scene which was filmed on Friday 22 February 1991 was deleted from the final episode. According to the call sheet, the scene would be 12-14 in sickbay and feature Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn, Spencer Garrett, and regular background performers Michael Braveheart and Bowman.
- The release of this episode on Star Trek: The Next Generation (Blu-ray) features 2 seconds of standard definition footage upconverted to high definition.
- The events of "Conspiracy", "Sins of the Father", "The Best of Both Worlds", "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II", "Family", and "Data's Day" are referenced in this episode. It reveals that thirty-nine Federation starships were annihilated and eleven thousand personnel were lost at the Battle of Wolf 359.
- As "All Good Things..." later establishes, it was Norah Satie who initially "requested and required" Jean-Luc Picard to take command of the Enterprise when he first received that assignment. This fact is not mentioned in this episode.
- Neither the Excelsior-class starship nor the Oberth-class starship seen in this episode are named in either the episode or the script. The identification of the Oberth-class ship as the USS Cochrane is derived from the Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 163).
- This episode shares a common theme, the danger of sacrificing freedom for security, with the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine two-parter "Homefront"/"Paradise Lost".
- This is the second appearance of the interrogation room set after "The Defector". It is a modification of the bridge of the original USS Enterprise as seen in the first three movies.
- A long time extra, Ensign Kellogg, played by Cameron, is finally named in this episode during Worf's briefing with his security officers.
- This is the only time in the run of the series that the inner isolation door in main engineering is seen; normally the outer door is seen after a warp core breach.
- This episode establishes the technology of genetically encoding secret information in order to be carried discreetly inside a carrier's body. A similar technology is seen to be used by the Suliban Cabal to Klaang in ENT: "Broken Bow".
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 163), Jeri Taylor names this episode's script as the one of which she was proudest.
- This is one of Michael Dorn's two favorite TNG episodes, the other being "The Offspring". 
- Jonathan Frakes has also named this episode as one of his favorites, in part for the chance to work with Jean Simmons. (Departmental Briefing, Year Four: Production, TNG Season 4 DVD special features.) He commented, "I've always thought she was arguably the classiest, most significant actor we had on the series. She was wonderful in the scenes with Patrick [Stewart]. And she was still so gorgeous." (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 204)
- In contrast, author Keith R.A. DeCandido is not fond of the episode. In an online review, he gave the episode a "warp factor" rating of 3 out of 10. He criticized the script for "stacking the deck" against the character of Satie and called the climax of the episode "awful". He stated, "[I]n the end, we get this strong-willed, powerful, respected woman who is bound and determined to save the Federation at all costs – that is, until Picard quotes her father, at which point she turns into a crazed, blubbering mess. And then, all of a sudden, it's over." Fellow author Christopher L. Bennett disagreed, remarking, "[T]his has always been an episode I've admired. It is a valuable message story, and a nice touch of imperfection in the often too-perfect Federation of TNG." He added, "It may seem heavy-handed, but that's because that's how it really works. What Senator McCarthy and HUAC did was so heavy-handed and irrationally excessive that nobody would believe it in a story if it hadn't really happened." 
- A mission report for this episode by John Sayers was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 17, pp. 17-20.
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 48, June 1992
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 4.7, 3 September 2001
- As part of the TNG Season 4 DVD collection
- As part of the TNG Season 4 Blu-ray collection
- As part of the Region 1 edition of the Star Trek: The Next Generation - Jean-Luc Picard Collection
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Worf
- Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
- Bruce French as Sabin Genestra
- Spencer Garrett as Simon Tarses
- Henry Woronicz as J'Dan
- Earl Billings as Thomas Henry
- Arratia as Alfonse Pacelli
- Rachen Assapiomonwait as Nelson
- Joe Bauman as Garvey
- Karin Baxter as operations division ensign
- Michael Braveheart as Martinez
- Carl David Burks as Russell
- Cameron as Kellogg
- Cooper as Reel
- Denise Deuschle as science division officer
- Elliot Durant III as operations division ensign
- Michele Gerren as science division officer
- Kai as science division officer
- Kast as command division officer
- Mark Lentry as civilian
- Marin as command division officer
- Tim McCormack as Bennett
- Michael Moorehead as science division ensign
- Randy Pflug as Jones
- Keith Rayve as command division ensign
- Richard Sarstedt as command division ensign
- Noriko Suzuki as operations division ensign
- Guy Vardaman as Darien Wallace
- Natalie Wood as Bailey
- Unknown performers as
- Brett — stand-in for LeVar Burton
- Nora Leonhardt — stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Tim McCormack — stand-in for Brent Spiner and Bruce French
- Lorine Mendell — stand-in for Gates McFadden and Ann Shea
- Josephine Parra — stand-in for Jean Simmons
- Richard Sarstedt — stand-in for Jonathan Frakes and Earl Billings
- Dennis Tracy — stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- Guy Vardaman — stand-in for Henry Woronicz and Spencer Garrett
- James Washington — stand-in for Michael Dorn
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Unused production references
- "The Drumhead" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "The Drumhead" at Wikipedia
- "The Drumhead" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "The Drumhead" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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"Half a Life"