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I just rewatched the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Descent" and I'm somewhat baffled.

After Data goes missing, and Riker is already on the surface, this occurs:

PICARD: I'm going to start sending down other away teams. Set up a command post and begin mapping out a search plan.

RIKER [OC]: Understood, sir.

PICARD: Picard out. I want to use the shuttlecraft for low level reconnaissance. Have the designated pilots assemble at main shuttlebay.

LAFORGE: Aye, sir.

PICARD: And all available personnel, including you and me, will begin to put together four man away teams. We'll leave a skeleton crew on board the ship.

LAFORGE: Who'll be in command of the Enterprise?

(later) CRUSHER: Any last orders?

Much of the rest of the two-part episode occurs on the Enterprise with Crusher, Taitt, Barnaby and Salazar, who, I believe, never show up again.

So this all seems pretty strange. Picard knows there are Borg around and for some reason decides he needs every available boot on the ground, including himself. And he leaves Crusher in command of the ship with an inexperienced and skeleton crew in non-Federation space when there is a bogey about.

Is there some plot point I missed which explains the necessity? Alternatively, is there some out-of-universe story-telling explanation for why the writers made these strange choices?

  • Related comments: Yes, I know that 15 episodes later, in "Thine Own Self" it is established that Crusher took the Bridge Officer's Test eight years earlier and apparently occasionally take night shifts on the bridge. – ThePopMachine Aug 12 '15 at 14:38
  • Additionally, she uses the metaphasic shield, which she has intimate knowledge of. – ThePopMachine Aug 12 '15 at 14:39
  • Neither of those are necessary facts. I'm baffled at how Riker or Picard didn't remain on the ship. Furthermore, Crusher would make more sense on the ground because she has "medical" knowledge of Data. And also has a relationship with Hugh. As written, Riker and Worf run into Hugh even though they never really interacted with him much in "I, Borg" – ThePopMachine Aug 12 '15 at 14:41
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There was no direct explanation in the episodes in question.

The simple, non-canon answer: Because that was the way to set up the "Crusher in command of the Enterprise with a skeleton crew" storyline. Artistic license or creativity, and necessity for the plot and character development (specifically for Crusher), are the true answers as to why it happened. "Because the writers thought Crusher being in charge of a skeleton crew would make an interesting story".

If looking for a canon answer, or at least a canon "explanation", the only answer would be "Because Picard considered it justified" - it is never explained directly in the episode quite why recovering Data and the Borg is so important, nor why it necessitates the entire crew leaving the ship. The captain makes the decisions depending on the situation in hand, and the canon answer is that the commander on station (Picard, as highest ranking officer and captain of the Enterprise) felt it was necessary and justified.

Again, Picard never directly justifies or explains his decision.

We can speculate, however, that Picard considered the potential loss of the Enterprise to be relatively low risk, consider that the Borg ship had already retreated from the Enterprise once, and other than one instance of boarding (which was repelled) had not made any serious attempt to attack the Enterprise. By this stage, the Enterprise's crew had already worked out that these were not normal Borg acting in an expected manner.

The best canon answer we have, therefore, is that Picard felt that there was low risk of losing the Enterprise, that it was vitally important to find Data and the drone, and that the importance of the former justifies the latter.

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