Friday, July 16, 2021

Star Trek: The Drumhead

Episode: "The Drumhead"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 4, Episode 21
Original Air Date: April 29, 1991

There's been an explosion aboard the Enterprise and in the course of the investigation, a Klingon sabateur is exposed.  Starfleet Command suspects a broader conspiracy and they send Admiral Norah Satie (Jean Simmons) to investigate.  Unfortunately, she's a McCarthyesque character, suspicious of everyone including, eventually, Captain Picard himself.

"The Drumhead" is generally regarded as one of Star Trek's best episodes.  Simmons is amazing and as usual, so is Patrick Stewart.  Sadly, the witch hunt scenario is timeless as is the not so subtle racism.  Deep mistrust is the driving force on the American political landscape these days and much of the rhetoric in the episode still cuts close to the quick.

Acting Notes

Jonathan Frakes, who directed the episode, considers Jean Simmons to be the classiest actor they ever had on the show.  The resume speaks for itself and apparently she was genuinely a devoted Trekkie.

Simmons was born in London, January 31, 1929.  During the War, her family evacuated to Somerset.  When they returned to London, Jean enrolled at the Aida Foster School of Dance.  She got her first film role at age 15 in Give Us the Moon.  Stardom, at least in Britain, came when she was cast in Great Expectations in 1946.

She married fellow actor Stewart Granger, then went with him to Hollywood.  She signed with RKO Pictures, then owned by Howard Hughes.  She spurned Hughes's sexual advances and he, in turn, did everything he could to ruin both her career and Granger's.  She was supposed to get Audrey Hepburn's part in Roman Holiday but Hughes wouldn't allow it.  Fortunately, she survived the abusive treatment and eventually signed with MGM where things got a lot better.  

Simmons was twice nominated for Academy Awards: once for Hamlet in 1948 and once for The Happy Ending in 1969.  These days, she's probably recognized most as Sarah in Guys and Dolls.  In that case, she got the last laugh.  Grace Kelly had turned down the part.  The film was a hit and Simmons won a Golden Globe to boot.  Simmons also starred in such classics as The Robe, Elmer Gantry and Spartacus.  In 1983, she won an Emmy for her role in The Thorn Birds.

In 2002, she received the Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth II.  She passed away in 2010 from lung cancer.


  1. fantastico post como siempre, que lastima el cancer, que pases un feliz dia

  2. That was an excellent episode.

  3. Son is watching Star Trek now I must tell him about this one.

  4. “Simon Tarses” remains the obscure character name in the franchise I remember best. Poor guy! Also, just imagine a character like that as part of a regular cast.

    1. It is a great name.

      There are clear homages to "Balance of Terror" in this story and Tarses is an important part of that.

  5. Watched the first season of Picard last month. Given the animosity towards Romulans shown by the Federation during that period I'm surprised Simon Tarses wasn't mentioned.

    1. I could see the franchise bringing the character back sometime, even if only for an episode.

  6. She was so excellent as this deeply, troubled person whose mindset is just too dangerous to be in Power. Picard, is his most useful way....his mind and how to use words, to show up this woman. It is a brilliant episode. I always considered her one of the most beautiful women to grace the screen. She was good as the naughty little nymph in Black Narcissus. I love her in The Big Country and Elmer Gantry. She is a great actress.