95 – The Drumhead

Grade: A

The Drumhead (1991) on IMDb


A Klingon exobiologist has been on board the Enterprise, but he suddenly comes under suspicion of sabotage in engineering. Admiral Norah Satie has come out of retirement to oversee the investigation.


This is one of my very favorite Star Trek episodes in any series. The storyline deals with giving up freedom in the hopes of increasing security – a very timely topic. In fact, it may even be more timely today than it was way back in 1991, ten years before the events of 9/11. We’re still dealing with this issue today.

The script is expertly-written by Jeri Taylor, who wrote several episodes and also worked as a producer on this series. There are a number of wonderfully-written scenes, such as when Picard and Worf debate security and freedom. Or when Admiral Satie speaks with Picard in his office, and he tells her he does not support her decisions – she then says she already has the support of Starfleet Command, and she doesn’t need his support. The later, when Picard is being interrogated, it was a great piece of writing when he quoted Admiral Satie’s own father and used it in his defense. And I love Picard’s closing remarks just before the episode ends, “She or someone like her will always be with us. Spreading fear in the name of righteousness.” I think we’ve seen recently how true this statement can be.

I also found the characterizations to be very consistent with the rest of the series, and there were some very powerful scenes that helped define the guest characters. In the middle of the episode, for example, LaForge and Data discover that the explosion was an accident. And yet, during the interrogation of Simon Tarses, Satie’s Betazed assistant named Sabin lies about the evidence they’ve discovered to try and force a confession from Tarses. Also, Sabin at one point tells Worf that he trusts him, despite what the Klingons believe about his father. And yet later, Sabin attacks Picard for having a security officer whose father is a traitor. There are several other instances that show how ruthless, immoral and unethical these investigators are. And the writing is much better than we usually get in these episodes.

Another part of the episode that I just loved was when the Enterprise staff proved there was no sabotage, but Admiral Satie didn’t want to stop there. So she just changed her focus to investigating a conspiracy. This sort of thing happens all the time in reality.

In my opinion, everyone should see this. The storyline and the writing surpass anything I’ve seen from this series up to this point, and it’s not just about Star Trek. I have to rate it a bit higher than the 2-part Best of Both Worlds because of that reason. Best of Both Worlds is an excellent Star Trek episode, The Drumhead is more than just an episode – it’s a warning.

Of Note

Oscar-nominated actress Jean Simmons was apparently a huge fan of the Next Generation series, and once that became known, Gene Roddenberry was quick to invite her to take on a starring role in this episode. The fact that she was willing to take such a villainous role in this episode only shows her greatness as an actress.