OK, OK, we’ll cut to the chase. No-one is pretending “Power Play” is anything other than a rollicking action show. There’s really not a whole lot more under the surface here than that. But damn is it ever a good one. Michael Piller seemed to think this was a hollow, empty and effectively mediocre outing, but even if it’s not as openly provocative as Star Trek: The Next Generation can get on its best days, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a whole lot to love in “Power Play”.
The first obvious thing to say about it is that it’s plainly an actor showcase episode, and it’s very probably the best damn actor showcase episode this show ever does. It takes three of the best talents out of an already preternaturally talented cast, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner and Colm Meaney (and with the utmost respect to the other actors, all of whom I deeply adore, they are) and just lets them run completely wild for 45 minutes: Because of them (as well as the episode’s ample direction that works seamlessly with them), this never for one moment stops being positively gripping. Marina Sirtis is obviously the biggest draw here, and this is the moment she’s finally, at long, long last, allowed to come into her own and show us what she’s truly capable of. Now she finally has the chance to play the imperious hardass she’s always wanted to, and she absolutely owns and relishes every ounce and every second of it. As much as Marina Sirtis will say she appreciated and respected Deanna Troi’s empathy as a virtue and as an acting challenge, there’s just no way she’s not having a total blast here. We’re frankly sorry when it’s all over.
Colm Meaney gets to show off his range a little differently. His character starts off more of the muscle of the team and he’s perfectly capable of playing a hardened hired thug archetype, but the scripts give him these little moments where Miles’ personality starts to reassert itself a bit, possibly because it’s his technical know-how that’s crucial to the convicts’ plot. This I suppose makes him probably the most interesting of the three from a character development standpoint, and Meaney’s good at working his material so the little flashes of Miles come across as warped, twisted distortions rather than moments of actual sympathy: Even though he may superficially appear to have more dimensions than his co-conspirators, he’s still very much a hardened heel and we’re meant to never lose site of that. Brent Spiner, meanwhile, is just absolutely fucking terrifying: He’s back in his element playing a psychopath, but this is still a true challenge for him, as he has to make sure his character here isn’t too reminiscent of Lore (something Spiner often admits and comments on when talking about this episode). Of course, he succeeds well beyond the point of comfort.
As much as this is unquestionably Sirtis, Spiner and Meaney’s hour, the rest of the cast do get some important bits.…