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The Neutral Zone (episode)

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Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)
"The Neutral Zone"
TNG, Episode 1x26
Production number: 40271-126
First aired: 16 May 1988
25th of 176 produced in TNG
25th of 176 released in TNG
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 176 released in TNG Remastered  
130th of 728 released in all
Romulans on viewscreen
Teleplay By
Maurice Hurley

Story By
Deborah McIntyre & Mona Clee

Directed By
James L. Conway
41986.0 (2364)
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For information on the area of space, please see neutral zone.

After rescuing three ancient humans from cryogenic stasis, the Enterprise is ordered to the Romulan Neutral Zone on an important mission.

Summary Edit


Cryonics satellite

A far-traveled cryonics satellite

"First Officer's Log, Stardate 41986.0. We are awaiting the return of Captain Picard who was summoned to Starbase 718. Meanwhile, our sensors have been monitoring an ancient capsule floating in our vicinity, which appears to be from Earth."

The USS Enterprise-D encounters a ship carrying cryogenically-frozen Humans from the late 20th century during a critical mission into the Romulan Neutral Zone to solve a mystery concerning a string of destroyed Federation outposts.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard is attending an emergency conference on Starbase 718 while the bridge crew is observing an ancient space capsule, apparently from Earth. Data requests permission to board the vehicle while waiting for the captain's return.

Data and Worf beam aboard the capsule and examine the equipment. Worf is momentarily baffled by a door that must be manually opened. Upon entering the vessel's main chamber, the two discover a number of refrigeration pods. The seals on two of them have been broken, and the environment corrupted; these two contain decomposed Human remains. Three pods contain frozen Humans.

Act OneEdit

Ralph Offenhouse, frozen

Worf makes a discovery

When Data is ordered back to the Enterprise in preparation for Picard's return, he requests that the frozen people also be brought aboard, as the capsule is seriously damaged.

Upon Picard's return, he immediately orders Geordi La Forge to lay in a course that will take them into the Neutral Zone. He explains to the chief officers that several outposts have been destroyed, and the Enterprise is being sent as the only Federation vessel to investigate. It is assumed that Romulans are behind the problems, but since the Federation has had no contact with them in a number of years, the situation is very uncertain. Riker and Worf both advise the captain to be prepared to fight, but he is determined to wait and see what the situation truly is before deciding on a course of action.

Meanwhile, Dr. Crusher has thawed and revived the frozen Humans. All three had been cryogenically frozen in the late twentieth century. Dr. Crusher awakens the woman, who promptly faints at the sight of Worf.

Act TwoEdit

Riker briefs defrosted humans

"What year is it?"

The Humans are Clare Raymond, Ralph Offenhouse, and L.Q. "Sonny" Clemonds. As the ship continues toward the Neutral Zone, Riker explains to them what has happened, and they attempt to make sense of their new situation. Offenhouse is very concerned about his financial investments and repeatedly demands to speak to the captain so he can get in touch with his attorney or bank.

Act ThreeEdit

Offenhouse calls Picard, who is on the bridge, from his room's comm panel which he saw Riker use earlier. He later has a face-to-face talk with the captain, urging him to get contact with his bank. But the captain tells him that money has become obsolete in this century and his attorney has been dead for four hundred years. Offenhouse stands firm, stating that Humanity must still be as it once was: power-hungry and controlling. Picard retorts that Humans no longer seek such things; they have grown out of their infancy.

Act FourEdit

"Captain's Log, supplemental. We have arrived at the edge of the Neutral Zone where we will now have an opportunity to learn firsthand what happened to our distant outposts."

Offenhouse on bridge

"Get that man off of the bridge!"

When the Enterprise arrives at the edge of the Neutral Zone, they find that a number of outposts have been completely obliterated. There is no evidence of conventional weapons or attack. Meanwhile, Offenhouse notices the tension level on the ship has jumped up and decides that he must take matters into his own hands and heads out to look for the captain. Picard orders the ship to yellow alert, though Riker and Worf urge him to go to red alert and battle stations.

A Romulan vessel appears in front of the Enterprise, inside Federation territory, but Picard refuses to fire on it as it de-cloaks. Offenhouse appears on the bridge just at this moment and is ordered off by Riker, but the security officers are distracted by the Romulans and fail to remove him.

Act FiveEdit

File:D'deridex class faces Galaxy class, The Neutral Zone.jpg

The Romulan ship responds to the Enterprise hailing them, and the Romulans reveal that their outposts have been destroyed in the same manner as the Federation's. Picard asks who is responsible, and the Romulans fall silent. Offenhouse interjects, "They haven't got a clue! They're hoping you know, but they're too arrogant to ask." Picard proposes an agreement of cooperation as both sides investigate the disappearance of the outposts, and the Romulans agree before heading back toward their own territory. Offenhouse is finally removed from the bridge.

Deanna Troi helps Clare locate one of her living descendants, and Picard makes arrangements for the three Humans to be returned to Earth on the USS Charleston at the nearest starbase. At warp 8, they can make it there in five days. Riker says that it is a shame they can't take the three with them; it's like a visit from the past.

Log entries Edit

Memorable quotes Edit

"Welcome to the 24th century."

- Picard, after the newly-revived Clare Raymond fainted at the sight of Worf

"What is that?"
"An android."
"You mean a robot?"
"Actually, there is a distinct difference between an android and a robot..."
"And...and him, the one I saw before with the...head?"
"She means Worf..."
"He's a Klingon - that takes a little more...explanation."

- Clemonds, Riker, Data, Raymond and Dr. Crusher

"I wanna go to the, um ... the, um... Where would a captain be?"
"Captain Picard is on the main bridge."
"Well, then, take me to the main bridge!"

- Offenhouse and the computer

"The Yankee's right. Let's get the big boy in here!"

- Clemonds, when Offenhouse states he wishes to speak to Picard

"They are the most unusual Humans I have ever encountered."
"Well, from what I've seen of our guests, there's not much to redeem them. Makes one wonder how our species survived the 21st century."

- Data and Riker, discussing Clemonds, Raymond and Offenhouse

"This is the worst run ship I have ever been on. You should take lessons from the QE2. Now that's an efficient operation."

- Ralph Offenhouse, to Picard

"A lot has changed in the past 300 years. People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of things. We've eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions. We've grown out of our infancy."

- Picard to Ralph Offenhouse

"Captain, these are Romulans. They are without honor. They killed my parents in an attack on Khitomer when they were supposed to be our allies. They believe that Humans and Klingons are a waste of skin!"

- Worf

"Silence your dog, captain!"

- Tebok, insulting Worf

"They haven't got a clue! They're hoping you know, but they're too arrogant to ask!"

- Offenhouse, deducing that the Romulans don't know who attacked their outposts

"Your presence is not wanted. Do you understand my meaning, captain? We... are back."

- Tebok

"The challenge, Mr. Offenhouse, is to improve yourself... to enrich yourself. Enjoy it."

- Picard, describing life on 24th century Earth

"Come back later, you and me can find us a couple of low-mileage pit woffies and help them build a memory."

- Sonny, to Data

"Our mission is to go forward, and it's just begun. [...] There's still much to do. There's still so much to learn."

- Picard, aptly ending the first season and promising that the adventures will continue...

Background information Edit

Production history Edit

Story and script Edit

  • Maurice Hurley had something more in mind with this episode. The attacks the Romulans complain about in "The Neutral Zone" dangled as an unresolved plot device for quite some time, but there was a plan: Hurley had meant for this episode to comprise part of a trilogy in which the Borg would be formally introduced. The opening episode of the second season further explored matters, including a possible alliance between the Federation and the Romulan Empire to counter the new threat. Such plans, however, were ruined by the writer's guild strike of that year. As such, the Borg's introduction had to wait until "Q Who". (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)

Production Edit


Doctor Who actors displayed on a computer terminal

Continuity Edit

  • This episode marks the first time a specific year is mentioned in relation to the setting of a Star Trek series, when Data cites the current year as 2364. This year served as the fixed reference around which subsequent timeline data was placed. Prior to this, Star Trek: The Next Generation had generally been placed in the early 24th century, per Data's line in "Encounter at Farpoint", where he established that he was from the "class of '78."
D'deridex class

Introduction of the D'deridex-class

  • The episode also marked the first appearance of the D'deridex-class warbird, which is seen numerous times throughout the series as well as in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager.
  • Like "The Naked Now"'s reference to the USSR earlier in the season, this episode contained a historical prediction which would be proved inaccurate within a few years. While at the time that the episode was made, Sonny Clemonds' belief that his beloved Atlanta Braves are "probably still finding ways to lose" was an accurate reflection of their performance, by the time in the mid-1990s that the cryonics satellite would have been launched, the Braves were in the middle of a fifteen-year run in which they were consistently one of the premier teams in Major League Baseball, winning the World Series in 1995 (defeating the Cleveland Indians, who had been similarly misrepresented in "The Big Goodbye", where the Dixon Hill vendor thought Data was "nuts" when he mentioned that the Indians would stop Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak - they were as bad as the Braves in 1988, but had been one the better teams in the American League at the time the holonovel takes place). However, while the Braves had won eight straight divisions by 1999, they only won the series that one year, finding ways to lose the other seven years.
  • The first episode in which the Borg are mentioned, although they are at this point only an unknown entity which has been destroying bases.
  • This episode is the only one in Star Trek referencing the Borg attacking the Romulans. In VOY: "Unity", Commander Chakotay of the starship USS Voyager encounteres liberated Borg drones in the Delta Quadrant nearly a decade later. Among them was a former drone named Orum who identified himself as Romulan.
  • Worf mentions the Romulans having killed his parents during the attack on Khitomer "when they were supposed to be our allies", however, "Reunion" later indicates Klingons and Romulans having been blood enemies for decades before that.

Reception Edit

Video and DVD releases Edit

Natasha Yar's face is obscured by shadow on the video sleeve, reflecting her death in the previous volume.

Links and references Edit

Starring Edit

Also starring Edit

Guest stars Edit


Uncredited co-stars Edit

Stand-ins Edit

References Edit

1939; 1957; 1959; 1986; 1989; 1994; 2016; 2040; 2311; 2364; Atlantic Ocean; Arloff IX; brown-out; cloaking device; Birdseye, SS; Borg; Braves; cardiomyopathy; Charleston, USS; cryonics; cryonics satellite; D'deridex-class; Earth; embolism; emphysema; executive key; guitar; Geneva; Indianapolis; Kansas City; Kazis binary system; Khitomer; low-mileage pit woofie; martini; money; Mogh; New Jersey; olive; pattern replicaton; QE2; Raymond, Donald; Raymond, Edward; Raymond, Thomas; Raymond, Tommy; Romulan; Romulan Neutral Zone; Romulan philosophy; Romulan Star Empire; Science Station Delta-05; Secaucus; Sector 3-0; Sector 3-1; Starbase 39-Sierra; Starbase 718; Tarod IX; Tebok's Warbird; television; Tomed; Tomed Incident; tricorder; United Federation of Planets; United States of America; vitamin; Vulcans; Wall Street Journal; Yankees

Library Computer References Edit

External links Edit

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).

Previous episode:
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 1
Next episode:
"The Child"

cs:The Neutral Zone de:Die neutrale Zone es:The Neutral Zone fr:The Neutral Zone ja:TNG:突然の訪問者 nl:The Neutral Zone pl:The Neutral Zone

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