(written from a Production point of view)
Doctor Crusher is captured by terrorists who want to involve the Federation in their struggle for freedom.
- "Captain's log, Stardate 43510.7. The Enterprise has put in at Rutia IV to deliver medical supplies following an outbreak of violent protests. Although non-aligned, the planet has enjoyed a long trading relationship with the Federation. Now, a generation of peace has ended with terrorist attacks by Ansata separatists who are demanding autonomy and self-determination for their homeland on the western continent. Recreational shore leave has been prohibited and all away teams have been instructed to beam down armed."
The USS Enterprise-D is in orbit above the non-affiliated planet Rutia IV on a routine mission dropping off medical supplies. Lt. Commander Data, Lt. Worf, and Dr. Beverly Crusher are on the surface having lunch in a plaza in the city. When she calls for the waiter, a bomb explodes injuring several bystanders.
Crusher rushes over to help the wounded while Worf tries to provide security for her, knowing that their position is vulnerable. The doctor orders him to get medical supplies for the wounded. Data reminds her that the Rutians have physicians; she snaps back that none are there right now while she is. Worf and a waiter return with the improvised medical supplies. Data informs the ship about the attack, and Captain Picard orders the team to beam up, under protests from Crusher. Commander Riker suggests that if they do beam her up, he does not want to meet her on the pad when she materializes. Out of nowhere, an Ansata terrorist appears, killing a police officer before abducting Crusher, unchallenged by the two Starfleet officers remaining, or the three other officers.
Discussing the abduction in the Enterprise's observation lounge, Data reports that he cannot find residual ionization traces at the abduction site—the sort of traces that would usually be left by a transporter beam. Data believes that Crusher's combadge may have been deactivated, or that she may have been brought to a shielded location that would make her signal untraceable. Picard wonders why Crusher, specifically, was abducted. Worf believes she was the terrorists' intended target. Riker points out that the conflict in question does not involve the Federation at all. "It does now," Worf responds.
Crusher is brought in shackles before a man who introduces himself as Kyril Finn. Finn asks if Crusher is hungry and offers her food. Crusher, defiant, refuses to eat or otherwise respond. Finn tells her that if she needs anything, she should ask after Finn by name with his comrades. Finn explains, "They know me."
Picard explains to Wesley Crusher that Doctor Crusher's abductors may be holding her as a bargaining chip in their fight for independence. Picard, though, doesn't care about the kidnappers' motives as long as he gets the doctor back to the ship. He explains that he and Riker will meet with the head of Rutian security, Alexana Devos, and seek more information on those who captured the doctor. Wesley wants to accompany the captain, but Picard responds that Wesley's job is on the Enterprise; he must join the team working to figure out the terrorists' movements and devise a counter-strategy for their ambush-enabling technology. Counselor Troi explains that Wesley needs Picard's strength, but Picard responds that history's lesson is that "strength may be useless when faced with terrorism."
Riker and Picard meet with Devos. She is at a loss to explain or advise concerning Crusher's abduction, as, Devos explains, her opponents are not known for taking hostages. Devos describes the Ansata separatists as "animals" and "[f]anatics" beyond her ability to predict. She grants the Enterprise crew permission to study the device the enemy left behind. Devos hints that advanced Federation weaponry might turn the tide against the separatists and aid in Crusher's recovery, but Picard flatly refuses. Devos tells Picard that she understands. Picard returns to the Enterprise, leaving Riker behind to coordinate the rescue operation with Devos. Devos tells Riker that her history with this enemy leaves her little room for optimism.
Finn returns to Crusher, asking again if she is hungry. He removes her shackles and restraints and says he is bothered by her refusal to eat. Finally, she eats. Finn introduces himself to her again, and Crusher breaks her silence by asking why he brought her here. Finn responds that his group is in need of a doctor. Finn then asks why the Federation is helping the Rutians. Crusher responds that the Federation does not involve itself beyond providing medical supplies.
Finn reveals himself to be the leader of the rebels, which horrifies Crusher. Finn takes Crusher's plate away and forces the doctor to her feet. Crusher tells Finn that she has a son, and Finn replies that she will be with her son soon, as Finn has no reason to kill her.
Finn shows Crusher to a medical room filled with weak, suffering Rebel agents. She requests medical supplies from the Enterprise, but Finn denies it. She reminds him that the Federation is not allied; they are on an errand of mercy. Finn understands that, but sends her medical supplies that bear Federation markings, meaning that they were stolen from the Rutian medical stations.
Meanwhile, when shown a list, Riker asks if all the names are actual Ansata members. Devos replies no, stating that the organization may consist of only 200 members, but there are over 5,000 sympathizers that supply them with weapons and information, participate in pro Ansata demonstrations, general strikes, or riots. When asked when it all started, it is stated that the government denied them independence seventy years ago which in turn gave them the cause needed for an armed conflict. Now they use it as an excuse for more violence. Riker sees the hatred in her eyes. She claims that she used to be less passionate about all this until a terrorist attack on a shuttle school bus which claimed the lives of 60 school children. That incident opened her eyes to the immense injustice she was seeing. The Ansata claimed it was a mistake and that they instead wanted to target a police transport, but that did not make the situation go away. After that day, she vowed to put an end to terrorism.
Crusher, assisted by a child, work together to try to cure the Ansata of their mysterious affliction. However all they can do is try and ease their suffering. She tells Finn they're dying and that there's nothing she can do. If she could find out the cause, she could prevent the suffering. Finn explains that the inverter is the culprit: while it gives them a powerful new weapon, it seriously damages their health. Crusher is surprised to hear that they use it for dimensional shifting. Finn doesn't care, and tells her that one dead martyr is worth ten posturing leaders.
In engineering, Data and Wesley are amazed at the design, but still don't know what it is used for. Lt. Commander La Forge picks up faint nuclear vibration that the Rutians picked up from the terrorists movements, which could possibly indicate subspace transmission rebound during transport according to Data. That gets Wesley's mind going, and he calls up the files of the Elway Theorem, and correctly matches the vibrations to the theorem, which gives their investigation a major break: the terrorists are using Inter-Dimensional travel, and using a modified subspace echo-gram may allow them to be tracked. Data notes that research was abandoned on this form of travel in the mid-23rd century. Wesley counters that the nuclear vibrations are the same and Elway had used a similar model. Data tells him that the use of inter-dimensional travel is highly fatal and to use it would be an irrational act. Picard walks up at that moment and mentions to Data that they may be dealing with irrational people. Data informs Picard that using this form of transport would cause irreparable damage that can be detected. Picard now fully understands why they needed the services of a medical doctor.
As the authorities round up the suspected terrorists, Riker shows remorse for both sides, when he watches small children being handcuffed and detained as suspects, indicating there is no way people can live like this. Devos explains that her method is much less harsh than her predecessors, who would round up suspected terrorists, and no one would hear from them again. She also tells Riker about how the bomb on the shuttle bus was carried by a child.
After watching him draw pictures, Finn and Crusher clash over their ideals. Finn tries to paint himself like George Washington on Earth, and tries to depict their struggle as similar to that of the American Revolution and its struggle for freedom and independence. Crusher tells him that Washington was a military general, not a terrorist, and blasts him by telling him that he is killing innocent people. She asks how he can not see the immorality of such acts and wonders if he has killed so much that he has become blind to it. Finn thinks that the difference between a terrorist and a General is only a matter of subjective interpretation.
He rebuts by asking how many innocent lives were lost for the cause of peace for the Federation; how many good and noble societies have bombed innocent civilians and wiped out whole cities in the name of their cause for freedom and unity. However, now people like Dr. Crusher, who are enjoying the comforts that come from these battles and killings, have the nerve to frown on Finn's morality and judge him? Finn states firmly that he is willing to die for his freedom and that in the finest tradition of Dr. Crusher's own great civilization, he is willing to kill for it too.
Suspected members of the terrorist movement are being interrogated by Devos, with Riker observing. When the waiter Katik Shaw sat down, he became very uncooperative. Riker had enough of his stalling and using his authority to speak on behalf of the Federation; gives a message: indicating that the Federation is willing to discuss terms for Crusher's release. Devos protests, but Riker points out she is a Starfleet officer and his responsibility. They want terms, they're willing to listen. Devos insists they should track him, but she'll play it Riker's way. She gets very irate at the fact that all she wants to do, is go back to her own country, without the fear and paranoia she has gotten from her stay here.
Back on the Enterprise, Data has the ability to track their movements, but is unsure how many jumps it would take to physically track them. He then talks to Picard regarding terrorism and wonders why they would go to extreme measures. He then takes examples such as Irish Unification of 2024, the independence of the Mexican state from Spain, and the Kenzie Rebellion of uses of successful terrorism tactics that have worked, and asks if terrorism is justified for change. Picard explains to Data that the question is something that mankind has been struggling for years to answer, and that his confusion is very 'Human.'
The messenger Shaw delivers Riker's message to Finn, but Finn is infuriated believing the Federation may have sided against them, which contradicts what Crusher has been saying. Crusher tells him that they only want her back, but Finn tells her she will not be released until they find a cure for the sickness. Crusher pleads with him that she has a life and a son who needs her. Finn shows remorse that her son is on the ship, which makes her fearful.
Finn calls out that they have shouted and no one has heard them for 70 years but one act would make them be heard across the galaxy: Destruction of the Federation flagship, and puts the blame of her son's eventual death on the Federation. Under duress, Crusher pleads with him not to attack the Enterprise. Finn reveals to her he had a son too, but died in detention when he was 13. Finn walks off, as Crusher is helpless to do anything more for Wesley.
Two crewman walk in Deck 12 of the Enterprise, as a terrorist shifts in and attacks them. Worf detects intruders, while Wesley discovers they're using dimensional shifts; Picard puts the ship on red alert; while in engineering La Forge is surprised by the klaxon, but notices something odd through his VISOR. Two terrorists appear and one engineer is shot by one of them, while another escapes. They then fire on La Forge who calls for security while taking cover in his office. Worf detects the terrorists in engineering, but neither the transporter or force fields can stop them as they are moving inter-dimensionally.
The terrorists toss a device and attach it to the main warp reactor. As soon as they shift, La Forge approaches it and realizes it is a bomb. Picard orders the bomb to be transported out, but it is scrambling the sensors, making it unable to be pinpointed. Picard orders an emergency saucer separation, while La Forge tries to remove it. Using a tool to remove it, he sets in on the ground, while ordering the transporter room to lock on to his signal. Troi doesn't know why his signal, but Picard gestures that he knows what he's doing. He attaches his combadge to the device and gets out of the way, as the bomb explodes harmlessly off the starboard nacelle seconds later.
Finn and another terrorist shift on to the bridge, shooting both the helmsman's console and Data's. Picard greets Finn with a vicious punch that sends him down and Picard leaps to tackle him. The other terrorist fires on Worf, and scores a hit, but Worf retaliates and scores a hit on her. Troi rushes to Worf, in a state of panic, calling security while Wesley and another crewman check on Worf. Both terrorists shift out, taking Picard with them before Data can help him.
Two terrorists take Picard to their base and shackle him. Picard sees Crusher for the first time, realizing that both of them are now in Finn's hands.
Riker and Devos return to the Enterprise. Troi reports that the attack has left three people dead and four others wounded, and Worf's wound was not severe. La Forge points out that another millisecond and the Enterprise would be a giant dust cloud orbiting the planet. Riker is dumbfounded as to why the Ansata attacked a Federation starship. All he asked was to talk. Devos balks at Riker's diplomatic stance. Riker then gets some good news from Wesley indicating that if the Ansata uses their device again, they should be able to track its source, which pleases Devos.
Picard explains the attack to Crusher. He did assure her that Wesley did take cover when they assaulted the bridge. Crusher explains the motive behind her abduction, which was exactly what Picard knew, and gave high praise to Wesley for putting them on the right track. He notes that he will become a very fine Starfleet officer. Then clashes occur when Crusher admits she should have returned to the ship, while Picard explains that he should have beamed her anyway, which crosses her to the core. It even gets on to a subject about Finn and his men, which even casts doubts on Crusher's views on the Federation's mission to the planet, which Picard shoots back indicating she is arguing for someone who almost could've killed her son.
Finn enters and explains that they didn't destroy the ship, and settled for her captain instead. An angry Picard points out that he made a miscalculation, by attacking a Federation starship and her crew, abducting two of her officers; and acts as if Starfleet is going to sit idly by and do nothing, which is incorrect, according to Finn. Picard asks if he really wants Federation involvement; Finn counters that in fact, the Federation is involved, but by not admitting it, the Federation is tainted with moral cowardice with non-aligned worlds, and doing business with the Rutians. He points out that he can now take on both the Rutians and the Federation because of Picard. He knows that the Federation will grow tired of his abduction and will want him back. It will go to a point where they will force the Rutian government to give in to Finn's demands. Picard states that he will not cooperate, but Finn points out he already has, just by being his captive.
Finn returns to the Enterprise to deliver his message to Troi. Using both Picard and Crusher as pawns, Finn demands that an embargo and trade sanctions are levied against Rutia, and that the Federation uses Starfleet to establish a blockade of the planet. No ships can enter or leave the planet. This will continue until both the Rutia government and the Ansata initiates talks that are mediated by a Federation Council. He then leaves before security can apprehend him.
Unknown to Finn, Wesley tracks the source to their base, located on the southern tip, thirty meters below in a cavern with no surface access. Riker notes that any light must be artificially generated. Devos points out if they are able to disable it, the confusion would buy time for them to get their people out. Worf emerges on the bridge, asks to be part of the rescue party, indicating he "owes it to the captain." Riker grants Worf's request and gives Data command. Wesley wishes them good luck, and Riker promises they will bring the captain and his mother back home.
Finn warns Crusher that he may have to kill Picard soon. Crusher pleads with him to reconsider, as she could make him listen. Finn then tries to get her in his shoes, but Crusher angrily rejects that her position would not be reversed. Picard, she notes, would never kidnap him or play games with his life. She's tells Finn that she has been terrified for this whole ordeal, and that he controls using fear. He states that fear is not his best weapon, but it is a good one. Crusher fears that he may win the fight and gain real power. Finn asks her not to fear him, and gives her a scrapbook containing drawings of her eyes, and a picture of her face.
The combined Federation/Rutian rescue team beams down to the base, and approach it cautiously, with phasers drawn. Worf and another police officer subdue two terrorists, and proceeds with caution, while Riker locates the generator. Their plan is in motion as Devos and her men take up positions, while Worf and Riker take up theirs.
Crusher sees Picard who is trying to think of an escape. Asking if she's gained Finn's confidence, she shows him the scrapbook. Picard agrees that she has, and even more, which could prove as an advantage. Crusher prepares to reveal some secrets in the event that neither of them make it out, when the lights go off, indicating that they may have been found.
In a scramble, the terrorists prepare for battle. Behind cover, Riker and Worf attack two guards who they were hiding from, using melee combat. After subduing them, they proceed to find their officers, while the police round up the terrorists from their base. Devos spots the two officers, and Finn as he prepares to kill Picard. Before he has a chance to, Devos shoots him from behind, killing him. Riker says that Devos did not have to kill him.
She points out that if he was a prisoner, he would be a focal point for violence as his followers would free him. This way, he is a martyr. The death toll may drop for a time, she says; and points out it is an imperfect solution to an imperfect world. From behind, a boy points a weapon at Devos preparing to kill her. Crusher intervenes and says "No more killing". In conflict with his beliefs, he agrees with Crusher and lowers his weapon, as he is taken into custody. Devos knows this all too often as another is ready to take Finn's place. Riker points out that he could've killed her, and that maybe the violence could end with a boy simply lowering his weapon.
Crusher steps on the bridge of the Enterprise with Picard, Riker, and Worf. She warmly reunites with Wesley and owes him her rescue. Wesley takes it in stride and indicates he was only "part of the team".
"In a world where children blow up children, everyone's a threat."
- - Alexana
"This is a war for independence, and I am no better or different than your own George Washington."
"Washington was a military general, not a terrorist."
"The difference between generals and terrorists is only the difference between winners and losers. If you win you are called a general. If you lose…"
"You are killing innocent people!!"
- - Finn and Dr. Crusher
"How much innocent blood has been spilled for the cause of freedom in the history of your Federation, Doctor? How many good and noble societies have bombed civilians in war? Wiped out whole cities. And now that you enjoy the comfort that has come from their battles, their killing, you frown on my immorality? I am willing to die for my freedom. And, in the finest tradition of your own great civilization, I'm willing to kill for it, too."
- - Finn
"I have a son."
"You'll be with him again, doctor. I see no reason to kill you."
- - Crusher and Finn
"History has shown us that strength may be useless when faced with terrorism."
- - Jean-Luc Picard
"But if that is so, Captain, why are their methods so often successful? I have been reviewing the history of armed rebellion, and it appears that terrorism is an effective way to promote political change."
"Yes, it can be. But I have never subscribed to the idea that political power flows from the barrel of a gun."
- - Data and Jean-Luc Picard, about the actions of the terrorists, which they both feel are unacceptable
"Yet there are numerous examples when it was successful: the independence of the Mexican state from Spain, the Irish Unification of 2024, and the Kenzie Rebellion."
"Yes, I am aware of them."
"Then would it be accurate to say that terrorism is acceptable, when all options for peaceful settlement have been foreclosed?"
"Data, these are questions that mankind has been struggling with throughout history. Your confusion is… only Human."
- - Data and Jean-Luc Picard
"Beverly, you are arguing for a man who may have just murdered your son!"
- - Picard to Crusher
"If you want, I could become more persuasive…"
- - Alexana Devos, arguing with Riker about her interrogation methods
"Captain, there's a lot to admire in the Federation, but there's a hint of moral cowardice in your dealings with non-aligned planets. You do business with a government that's crushing us. And then you say you aren't involved? You're very much involved. You just don't want to get dirty."
- - Finn
"Your son's on that ship?"
"I'm sorry he's on that ship."
- - Finn and Crusher
"Please, Finn, don't do this! I will do anything you ask."
"I had a son, too. He was thirteen when he died in detention."
- - Crusher and Finn
"I am fighting the only war I can against an intractable enemy. Now I'm fighting a bigger war against a much more powerful adversary. Can't you see how that helps me?"
"I'm afraid I can't."
"He's added another chair to the negotiating table."
"You added the chair, captain. I am merely forcing you to sit in it."
- - Finn, Crusher, and Picard
"Beverly, it is our obligation to think of escape."
"He's prepared to kill you."
"An excellent reason to escape."
- - Picard and Crusher
"As a prisoner, he would have been a focus for violence as his followers tried to free him. Now he's a martyr. But the death toll might go down, at least in the short term. It's an imperfect solution for an imperfect world."
- - Alexana, after killing Finn
"No more killing."
- - Crusher, to a young Rutian boy preparing to kill Alexana Devos
- Two-page memo pitching story idea (titled "Strength And Justice") to Michael Piller: 11 September 1989
- First draft script: 25 October 1989
- Final draft script: 3 November 1989 
- Premiere airdate: 29 January 1990
Story and production
- The episode was conceived in response to the producers' request for more action-adventure scripts. Dimensional shifting technology was created to meet Gene Roddenberry's concern that the terrorists would need a logical method to defeat the Enterprise-D's technology. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 113))
- Originally, the plot was intended to have parallels to the American Revolution, but writer Melinda Snodgrass was told to change the analogy to Northern Ireland, a change she was very unhappy about. "I wanted it with Picard as Cornwallis and the Romulans would have been the French, who were in our revolution, trying to break this planet away. Suddenly Picard realized he's one of the oppressors. Instead, we do 'Breakfast in Belfast,' where our people decide they're going to go off to Northern Ireland." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 191)
- The episode was filmed in mid-November 1989. The scenes on the Rutian plaza were filmed on Paramount Stage 9, using the extensively redressed shuttlebay set.
Sets and props
- On the video surveillance monitors in Alexana's office, several slightly modified images of Earth cities can be made out. One of them is an image of a building looking similar to the World Trade Center's twin towers in New York.
- This episode marks the first appearance of the darker blue carpeting seen on the main bridge until the end of the show.
- Artist Elaine Sokoloff provided background artwork to this episode. 
- Many other writers of the show were extremely unhappy with this episode. Ronald D. Moore described it as "an abomination. It's our one terrorist show. We didn't have anything interesting to say about terrorism except that it's bad and Beverly gets kidnapped – ho hum. They take her down to the caves and we get to have nice, big preachy speeches about terrorism and freedom, fighting and security forces versus society. It's a very unsatisfying episode and the staff wasn't really happy with it." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 191)
- Likewise, Michael Piller commented, "Another show that I wasn't particularly happy with. We set out to do a show about terrorists. What was the statement we made about terrorism in the show? Was it the point where the boy puts down the gun and says, 'Maybe the end of terrorism is when the first child puts down his gun?' It was effective in the context of that show, but is certainly not a statement that provides any great revelation. You must be prepared to say something new about social issues." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 191)
- Brannon Braga observed that there was a problem with the process by which the story was created. "Very rarely do we start thinking about an episode in terms of an issue. Let's do a show about AIDS, let's do a show about terrorism. We rarely think in those terms. We usually think in terms of neat science-fiction twists and that's what sends us in the direction of what's this story about and who's in it?" (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 191)
- This episode was cut from first-run transmission in the UK and the Republic of Ireland due to references to the reunification of Ireland being achieved through terrorism (when the episode aired in early 1990, the idea that a peace treaty would exist by decade's end was almost as inconceivable as the breakup of the Soviet Union had been when it was referenced in "The Naked Now"). To date, it has not aired on RTÉ, and only aired on the BBC for the first time on 29 September 2007 (with the Ireland reference intact), fifteen years after it was first intended to go out. It has, however, been aired several times on satellite and cable television (occasionally edited to remove the reference) and was released uncut on video and DVD in the UK and Ireland.
- The episode was shown as part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival in Belfast in May 2007. 
- A mission report for this episode by Patrick Daniel O'Neill was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 12, pp. 57-60.
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 30, November 1991
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 3.4, 5 June 2000
- As part of the TNG Season 3 DVD collection
- As part of the TNG Season 3 Blu-ray 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
- Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher
- Arratia as Alfonse Pacelli
- Rachen Assapiomonwait as Nelson
- Tony Cecere as wounded Rutian man
- B.J. Davis as Rutian police officer
- Chris Doyle as command division officer
- Fraser as Rutian police officer
- Michele Gerren as science division officer
- Ken Lesco as Ansata terrorist
- Dennis Madalone as Ansata terrorist
- Debbie Marsh as command division officer
- Kevin Pentalow as Rutian police officer
- Denise Lynne Roberts as Ansata terrorist
- Lynn Salvatori as wounded Rutian woman
- Brandi Sherwood as command division officer (deleted scene)
- Lincoln Simonds as operations division officer
- Spencer as Rutian police officer
- Cherie Tash as Ansata terrorist
- Nick Testa as Rutian police officer
- Wyatt Weed as Rutian police officer
- Natalie Wood as Bailey
- Unknown performers as
- Chris Doyle as stunt double for Richard Cox
- Rusty McClennon as stunt double for Michael Dorn
- John Nowak as stunt double for Patrick Stewart
- James G. Becker – stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Jeffrey Deacon – stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- Nora Leonhardt – stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Tim McCormack – stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Lorine Mendell – stand-in for Gates McFadden
- Guy Vardaman – stand-in for Wil Wheaton
- James Washington – stand-in for Michael Dorn
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- "The High Ground" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "The High Ground" at Wikipedia
- "The High Ground" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "The High Ground" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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