This episode brings up an interesting point, which itself precludes me from a completely traditional analysis of the episode. It is a great episode of Star Trek. The drama is potent, the structure is satisfactory, and the performances enjoyable.
However, this episode heightens an aspect of Star Trek that has been detectable but not obvious in previous episodes. It is almost entirely dialogue based. This is not a complaint of any kind. Dialogue based storytelling is just as valid as any other, but my analysis thus far has been placing Star Trek up against every other form narrative storytelling. While I maintain that this approach is valid and fair, the analysis I offer is rendered fairly useless if the episode itself expounds upon its own thematic content.
While the dialogue of past episodes has touched upon theme, I've always felt enough was implied that could benefit from a dissection here on the blog. For the first time, I feel as if the episode sums itself up fairly well. Now, this does not preclude me from offering criticism of how I perceive the effectiveness of the episode, but I've always tried to keep this sort of commentary to a minimum. (And, really, my only question after watching the episode deals with the seemingly omnipotent race depicted in the episode. If they will not tolerate conflict, and have the power to stop it on a galaxy-wide scale ... how can the show continue?)
This line of thinking led me to a revelation regarding audience perception of the new Star Trek film. Always looking at Trek (the series and film) analytically, this difference alluded me. Trek fans seem to be used to perceiving the stories of Trek in a dialogue-based fashion. Their pallet has been taught, over decades of series, to derive thematic content through almost exclusively textual means. Clearly there are diversions, but on the whole, most Trek installments expound on the theme in some form of dialogue acknowledgment.
I finally understand why detractors of the new, 2009, Star Trek film claim that it doesn't deal with "issues." (The themes that are integral to Star Trek's success.) It simply doesn't deal with them in the way they are accustomed. There's very little (read: almost none) recap or blatant explanation of theme in the movie. It is a purely cinematic experience. It is visual storytelling. The character's arcs, while not mentioned outright, are implied through the actions of the characters in the face of the opposition depicted. It is the choices made by the filmmakers out of which a theme can be derived, not dialogue.
This fundamental storytelling difference is alienating certain viewers, and delighting others. It doesn't boil down to the presence of action, or the recasting of actors, because beyond all that, the "drama-and-character-that-converge-to-imply-theme" of Trek is still there.