102 – Darmok

Grade: B+

Darmok (1991) on IMDb


The Enterprise encounters an alien race that has an unintelligible method of communication. Suddenly, Captain Picard is beamed off the Enterprise and finds himself on the planet’s surface with the captain of the other ship.


I really like the change of pace in this episode – it’s a very creative story. It certainly makes for one of the most memorable episodes in the entire franchise. It’s also one of the most intelligent and well-crafted episodes of the series.

The acting from the two leads (Patrick Stewart and Paul Winfield) really is top-notch, and there’s a nice cameo appearance with Ashley Judd. The rest of the actors on the Enterprise, though, have very little to do, and it’s not done as well. Personally, I would have preferred fewer scenes on the Enterprise, though we obviously couldn’t leave them completely.

I’d rate this slightly higher if it weren’t for a couple of things. First, the repetitive nature of the dialogue really became annoying. They kept saying the same two or three phrases over and over again. Once Picard figures out how this race communicates, I would think they could move on to other mythology. Picard wouldn’t understand much of the meanings behind the metaphors, but maybe they could have spent more time sharing myths.

The other issue I have with this episode is the really bad CGI creature. It looks totally fake and it’s distracting to the otherwise excellent story. But maybe they thought it was best this way instead of having the man in a rubber suit trick.

So, overall, it’s a great episode with a wonderfully creative story. And it’s about time this series had an intelligent story like this one.

Of Note

It’s interesting that this alien race sent out a message that is a “standard mathematical progression”. You could describe the message that Jodie Foster received in Contact the very same way.

This story seems very similar to the Enterprise episode called Dawn, but I don’t think that episode is half as good as this one.

Finally, as someone who is fluent in multiple languages, I thought it was very interesting to finally see the limitations of the Universal Translator. In theory, it worked perfectly – all the alien words were translated into English, but the phrases made no sense because the Enterprise crew had no frame of reference or shared culture to interpret and make sense of what was being translated. Some people seem to think that translation is simply a matter of replacing a word in one language with the equivalent word in another language. In reality, this isn’t the way it works – translation and interpretation are more like what we saw in this episode.