The Neutral Zone


First Officer‘s Log, Stardate 41986.0. We are awaiting the return of Captain Picard who was summoned to Starbase 718. Meanwhile, our sensors have been monitoring an ancient capsule floating in our vicinity, which appears to be from Earth.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard is attending an emergency conference on Starbase 718. While the USS Enterprise-D waits, it is observing an ancient space capsule, apparently of Earth origin. When Worf suggests he could alter its course to prevent it from being destroyed, Commander Riker refuses and qualifies the capsule of “space debris”. Data, however, requests permission to board the vehicle while waiting for the captain’s return, pointing out that an opportunity to study such a vehicle does not come around very oftern . Riker grants him permission but wants him back aboard the Enterprise-D before Picard returns.

Data and Worf beam aboard the capsule and examine the still-functioning old-style equipment. Worf is momentarily baffled by a door that must be manually opened. Upon entering the vessel’s main chamber, the two discover a number of refrigeration pods. The seals on two of them have been broken, and the environment corrupted; these two contain decomposed Human remains. One pod is empty, but the three remaining pods contain frozen Humans.

Act One

On board the capsule, Data comes to the conclusion that the capsules were built for refrigeration, and not for deep sleep on a very long journey. When Data is ordered back to the Enterprise-D in preparation for Picard’s return, he requests that the frozen people also be brought aboard, as the capsule is seriously damaged.

Upon Picard’s return, he immediately orders helmsman Geordi La Forge to lay in a course that will take them into the Neutral Zone. He explains to the senior officers in the observation lounge that two outposts have been destroyed in that sector, and one star-base has gone silent for a while. It is assumed that Romulans are behind the problems, but since the Federation has had no contact with them in a number of years since the Tomed Incident, the situation is very uncertain.

The Enterprise-D is being sent as the only Federation vessel to investigate, as it is the flagship of the organization. Riker and Worf both advise the captain to be prepared to fight, but he is determined to wait and see what the situation truly is before deciding on a aggressive course of action. The goal is, Picard says, to establish some kind of relation with the Romulans.

Meanwhile, Doctor Crusher has thawed and revived the frozen Humans. She informs the captain, who is surprised that he was not previously aware of the situation. Dr. Crusher explains that it was vital that she thawed them because the chambers these individuals were frozen in were falling apart.

Dr. Crusher saw to their medical needs and explained to Picard that Each one needed medical attention that, although minor now, were obviously terminal “back then”. One had a heart problem, another had an advanced case of emphysema with extensive liver damage.” She also notes that each one had been frozen after they died, which is unusual. All three had been cryogenically frozen in the late twentieth century on Earth, probably in the hope that some time in the future, they could be revived, healed, and resume their normal lives.

Picard calls Data to sickbay, and explains that even though he always encourages his crew to be curious, the timing is very unfortunate. Data tries to explain that the vessel was deteriorating, but Picard argues that they were already dead. Data only responds that it seemed the right thing to do.

Picard notes that now that they are alive, the crew will have to treat them as such. Before Dr. Crusher awakens her patients, Picard calls for security. When the woman wakes up, she looks at Picard, then Crusher, then faints at the sight of Worf. “Welcome to the 24th century,” Picard remarks to her, while she lies unconscious.

Act Two

Data was able to retrieve the visitors personal information from the module’s computer and revels that the Humans are Clare Raymond (35, homemaker), Ralph Offenhouse (55, financier), and L.Q. “Sonny” Clemonds (age unknown, musician). Dr. Crusher explains that Clare died of an embolism, Ralph died of advanced cardiomyopathy, and Sonny died from massive chemical abuse. She notes that these conditions “were inoperable at the time but easily correctable now.

As the ship continues toward the Neutral Zone, Picard puts Riker in charge of their guests, with one particular mission : to keep them out of his way.

Riker gathers the three guests and tries to explain to them what has happened, and they attempt to make sense of their new situation. Offenhouse, in particular, is shocked to learn from Data that the current year is 2364. Dr. Crusher assures them that they all are in excellent health, which is a big relief to them.

Sonny asks what Data is, comparing him to a robot, while Clare wonders about what Worf is. She has no recollection of her death, so she’s a little bit surprised. Data explains that they were found in a space capsule, and both Sonny and Offenhouse explain that cryogenics companies where sending their “clients” in orbit to keep them frozen without risk of power failure.

Offenhouse is very pleased, as he invested in the cryonics company, and he thinks his stocks have splited at least a dozen times. He becomes very concerned about his financial investments when Data explains that cryonics didn’t really continue after mid 21st century. He wants to call his bank to check on his portfolio, and demands a copy of the Wall Street Journal, which, as Riker says, is going to be a little difficult at the moment.

On the bridge, concelor Troy advises the captain about the romulans : creature of extremes, violent one moment, tender the next. Related to vulcains, but very different, intensely curious, and very arogant. Their fasination for the human race, more than anything else, has kept the peace all those years. They will also wait for Picard to initiate the dialog.

In the guest quarters, Data explains how to use the food replicator. Sonny orders a martini, and finds it’s the best he ever had. He is disapointed, though, to learn that TV stopped around year 2040. Picard then calls Riker on the intercom, asking him and Data to the bridge. Offenhouse wants to speak with the Captain as soon as conviniently possible, and Clare wonders what is going to happen to them. They all want the captain to join them, and Riker assures he’ll pass the message.

Act Three

In the ready room, Riker, Worf, Data and La Forge are all in belief that, if the Romulans are inviting confrontation to see how far the Federation has advanced, the Enterprise should be ready for combat. Picard does not like the option, but, suddenly, Offenhouse calls Picard, obviously having observed Riker use the room’s comm panel. He demands to see the captain and to have access to a mean of communication.

This forces Picard to visit the survivors, and Offenhouse seizes the opportunity for a face-to-face talk with the captain. Picard states that the com panels are for official ship business only, to which Offenhouse responds that they should need an executive key.

Offenhouse, thinking his situation is far more critical than whatever the Enterprise is doing, demands to contact with his attorney. But the captain tells him that people are not consumed with owning possessions in this century and his attorney has been dead for four hundred years. Offenhouse believes his lawyer‘s firm is still operating and that he has a lot of money coming to him. He stands firm, stating that Humanity must still be as it once was: power-hungry and controlling. Picard retorts that Humans no longer seek such material things; they have grown out of their infancy.

Clare becomes very upset thinking about her sons and family, so Picard has Counselor Deanna Troi come down to talk to her. She shows her the computer library‘s recorded family tree for her. It turns out there are ten generations there.

Sonny goes to Dr. Crusher to find something to relax him, though he has no medical need. He is having trouble waiting around without “something to do.” He asks if Data can come visit him, then leaves sickbay telling Dr. Crusher she’s the prettiest doctor he’s ever seen.

When Data arrives in Sonny’s quarters, he suggests throwing a party to help pass the time. Data says he will suggest it to the captain. However, the Enterprise now reaches the neutral zone and Data leaves, but not before confirming the Romulans will not be coming to the party.

Act Four

Captain’s Log, supplemental. We have arrived at the edge of the Neutral Zone where we will now have an opportunity to learn first-hand what happened to our distant outposts.

When the Enterprise-D arrives at the edge of the Neutral Zone, they find that a number of outposts have been completely obliterated. There is no evidence of conventional weapons or attack ; it’s just though as if the outpost has been scooped off the face of the planet. Picard orders LaForge to set course for the next closest station.

Meanwhile, Offenhouse notices the tension level on the ship has jumped up and decides that he must take matters into his own hands. Sonny thinks they should stay out of the crew’s way, and show the guitar Data replicated for him. Offenhouse heads out to look for the captain.

The Enterprise approaches Tarod 9, but the condition is identical, everyone and everything is gone. Picard orders the ship to yellow alert, though Riker and Worf urge him to go to red alert and battle stations.

Offenhouse eventually finds a turbolift, and reaches the bridge. He arrives while the bridge crew wait for a Romulan D’deridex-class vessel to appear. Picard has decided not to fire as it de-cloaks, but the romulan ship remains cloaked : they were trying to determine the Enterprise’s intent.

Riker sees Offenhouse and immediately orders him off the bridge, but just then the Romulan ship de-cloaks.

Act Five

The Romulan ship responds to the Enterprise-D hailing them, and the Romulans reveal that their outposts have been destroyed in the same manner as the Federation’s. Picard asks who is responsible, and the Romulans fall silent. Offenhouse interjects that the romulans haven’t got a clue, that they hope Picard knows, but are too arrogant to ask. Picard proposes an agreement of cooperation as both sides investigate the disappearance of the outposts, and the Romulans agree, but just on this one issue, and only if it is convenient, and appropriate at the time.

Before heading back toward their own territory, Tebok states to Picard that Federation “expansion” will not be tolerated any more, that the Romulans “are back.” Offenhouse is finally removed from the bridge.

Deanna Troi helps Clare locate one of her living descendants, and Picard makes arrangements for the three Humans to be returned to Earth on the USS Charleston. However, she is scheduled of an extensive stop at Arlof Nine. LaForge suggest the Enterprise takes the guests to the nearest starbase. At warp 8, they could be there in five days, saving them month on their journey back. Picard says they will benefit from the extended time, to acclimate before going back to Earth.

Riker says that it is a shame they can’t take the three with them; it’s like a visit from the past. Picard tells him that would be a step backward, when they still have so much to do and to learn. The Enterprise-D continues onward.