Published Jun 23, 2023
A Look Back at 'Descent'
What happens when the sons of Soong reunite?
By StarTrek.com Staff
The sixth season finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Descent, Part I," first made its way on television screens on June 21, 1993, with its conclusion, "Descent, Part II," airing on September 20, 1993.
The first installment of the two-parter, the teleplay written by Ronald D. Moore with story by Jeri Taylor, features the return of the Borg, who are ready to do battle with the Federation. However, this new Collective boast a new individuality, which they use to tempt Data as they help him experience his first emotion.
The conclusion to the sixth season shocker, "Descent, Part II," written by René Echevarria, reveals Picard, Deanna, and Geordi are held prisoner by Data, who has left the Enterprise to join his evil brother Lore as leaders of the Borg.
On its 30th anniversary, we're revisiting the episode that provided a milestone for Data in his quest to become more human.
The Sons of Soong
"Descent" provided additional arcs for Data's brother Lore as well as Hugh, the altered Borg the Enterprise encountered in "I, Borg," with this installment from Jeri Taylor likened to Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness, as the crew discover Lore's responsibility in Data's troubling and erratic behavior and the Borg's change. Taylor saw this story as the opportunity to continue the Borg's trajectory from "I, Borg," while Ronald D. Moore relished in the opportunity to take Data to a dark place as he joins forces with Lore and the Borg.
Dr. Stephen Hawking
"Wrong again, Albert." — Hawking
The legendary scientist Dr. Stephen Hawking plays a holographic version of himself in the episode opener where history's greatest minds, including Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, join Data in a game of poker. Orchestrating the setting, the android was curious to see how they would interact as he viewed the nature of the forum as an insightful look into one of the many facets of humanity.
A longtime Star Trek fan, Dr. Hawking was the only actor to play himself in the franchise. The opportunity arose following his visit to the Paramount lot to shoot a promotion for A Brief History on Time. Among the tour of sets, including the bridge on Star Trek: The Next Generation, he asked to be taken from his wheelchair — a rare request — in order to sit in the captain's chair. He would relay to his host Leonard Nimoy, "It is rather more comfortable and a lot more powerful than my wheelchair," before wondering if he could appear on the show.
The writers of the series began plotting a "profound" scene for him when executive producer Michael Piller suggested the innocent premise of a poker game. On appearing alongside Hawking, Brent Spiner recalled the moment as "perhaps my favorite moment in the entire experience of doing Star Trek."
Beverly Crusher Takes Command
A momentous opportunity arises for Dr. Beverly Crusher as she assumes control over the Enterprise-D when Picard and the majority of the crew beam down to a planet's surface in search of Data.
Crusher proved her mettle when she executed a risky strategy that saw her outmaneuvering a Borg vessel while successfully orchestrating an emergency extraction.