"Darmok" is the 102nd episode of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, the second episode of the fifth season. The episode features Paul Winfield, who previously played Captain Terrell in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and Ashley Judd in her debut acting performance. It describes an incident in which the crew of the Enterprise is unable to establish meaningful communication with the crew of an alien vessel, which is resolved by the struggle of the ships' captains to defend each other from a vicious beast. It is often cited as one of the best episodes of the series.
|Star Trek: The Next Generation episode|
|Directed by||Winrich Kolbe|
|Teleplay by||Joe Menosky|
|Featured music||Jay Chattaway|
|Cinematography by||Marvin Rush|
|Original air date||September 30, 1991|
The senior crew discuss their latest mission: to make contact with the Tamarian race who have been transmitting signals toward Federation space for weeks. They mention that several prior contacts have occurred, but no meaningful interaction has ever been achieved because the way the Tamarians communicate could not be understood. The Enterprise makes contact with a Tamarian ship in orbit around the planet El-Adrel. Though the universal translator can translate their words, the Tamarians communicate only through allegory, which baffles the Enterprise crew because they do not understand this yet nor do they even know the stories to which the Tamarians are referring. Likewise, the Tamarians seem equally baffled by and unable to understand Picard's straightforward use of language.
Frustrated by their failure at communication, the Tamarian captain, Dathon, has himself and Captain Picard transported to the planet's surface. The Tamarians then create a scattering field in the planetary atmosphere to prevent transport functions from being used on either captain. On the surface, Dathon utters the phrase "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra" and tosses Picard a dagger. Picard is unsure if this is some kind of formal challenge to a duel and so tosses it back to Dathon. As night falls, Picard fails to make a fire and Captain Dathon shares his fire with the phrase "Temba, his arms wide." The next morning, Dathon comes running and then Picard realizes that there is also a hostile predator in the area that is stalking them both. Picard finally begins to understand the way that the other race communicates when he recites one of the allegories and sees the meaning underneath it is a direction on the tactic the other captain wants to use to fight the beast.
The two attempt to fight the beast together, but because of the Enterprise's ultimately unsuccessful transporter attempt to rescue Picard mid-battle prevents him from participating at a crucial moment, Dathon is severely wounded.
On the Enterprise, First Officer Riker and the crew struggle to understand the aliens' language and Riker has Commander Data work with ship's counselor Troi in hopes of translating it. Lt. Worf, in the meantime, thinks that the Captain is being tested as a warrior and advocates an aggressive stance, which Riker says he will take as a last option. Riker has Worf take a shuttlecraft to try to retrieve the Captain, which fails when the aliens precisely disable the craft and force it to return to the Enterprise. Chief Engineer La Forge and Worf work on a way to disable the Tamarians' scattering field to beam up Picard, while Troi and Data work on deciphering the Tamarian language. They deduce that it is entirely based on allegories from Tamarian folklore. They learn that Darmok was a hunter and Tanagra is an island but nothing else. Without the stories behind the allegories, the Tamarian language remains indecipherable.
While tending to Dathon's wounds, Picard keeps him talking and slowly deduces that Darmok and Jalad were two warriors who met on an island called Tanagra and had to cooperate to defeat a dangerous beast dwelling there, becoming friends in the process. Dathon tried to recreate this event between himself and Picard on El-Adrel, hoping that their shared adversity would forge a friendship where words had failed. Picard recounts for Dathon the Epic of Gilgamesh, a human story that parallels the allegory of Darmok and Jalad. Dathon seems to understand and appreciate the story but eventually succumbs to his wounds.
The Enterprise fires on the Tamarian ship, disabling the scattering field, and beams up Picard. He uses his newfound knowledge of Tamarian allegories to communicate a basic message to the Tamarians and end the battle; when Picard returns Dathon's personal journal to them, the Tamarians record announce the story as "Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel" and add a new phrase to their language. Picard mourns Dathon, who sacrificed his life to open relations between their two cultures.
Picard later reads the Homeric Hymns in his ready room, explaining to Riker that more familiarity with their own mythology may help them to relate to the Tamarians. Picard notes to Riker that Dathon sacrificed his life in hope of communication and wonders if he would have been willing to do the same.
After Riker leaves the ready room, Picard picks up the knife and looks out of the ready room window into space while he repeats the seemingly ritualistic gestures that he saw Dathon engage in. Picard thus pays silent tribute to his fallen comrade.
This episode had the longest gestation period of any episode of TNG during Michael Piller's tenure, taking around two years to make it to the screen. Rick Berman hated the premise, but Piller thought it was interesting and was determined to make it work. Piller gave it to Joe Menosky, who completed the script and focused the story on the idea of two leaders attempting to communicate, as well as using the Epic of Gilgamesh as a plot device.
Primary filming for "Darmok" occurred July 18−26, 1991, on Paramount Stages 8, 9, and 16, as well as on location at Bronson Canyon. An additional day was August 8 for the blue screen unit to film the creature scenes with stuntman Rex Pierson on Paramount Stage 9. Second unit for this episode filmed on August 26 on Paramount Stages 9 and 16. When production for the following episode, "Ensign Ro", returned to location at Bronson Canyon on August 5, another sequence was filmed for "Darmok" involving Rex Pierson and photo doubles Ron Large and Lanier Edwards. Photo double Dana Vitatoe filmed additional second unit shots on August 28 on Paramount Stage 9. The call sheet dated on July 18 featured an "uncast actress" in the role of Lt. Larson; in the final episode, this role became Robin Lefler, who was played by Ashley Judd.
- Koltnow, Barry (April 5, 2002). "Ashley Judd Has Beauty, Brains And A Down-To-Earth Attitude". Orange County Register. Santa Ana, CA – via Newspaper Source Plus.
- "Creative". The Official Website of Ashley Judd. Retrieved May 2, 2015.
- "One Trek Mind: Deciphering 'Darmok'". Retrieved August 27, 2016.
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