Plot Synopsis: Geordi La Forge and a former shipmate are the only officers left from an away mission five years ago. The others have transformed into aliens and disappeared.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser is really short, and somewhat unique: we see footage of an away team (including Geordi) from five years ago, investigating the disappearance of a colony on Tarchannen III. Lieutenant Leijten, who led the away team is informing Picard, Riker and Geordi that the other three members of that team have recently all deserted their posts and disappeared. Only she and Geordi remain. Plot A is about Geordi and Leijten’s transformation, there is no plot B. The Enterprise catches up with Hickman in a shuttle craft, right before he burns up in the atmosphere of Tarchannen III. Riker and Co. investigate the other two shuttle pods on the surface, and Leijten flips out. Luckily Geordi is there to wrestle her down! Back on the ship her behavior is increasingly bizarre, and she starts transforming at a pretty ridiculous rate. She’s in sickbay for half the episode while Geordi continues to investigate before his predictable transformation too. Geordi is saved in the nick of time, but there’s not much tension to be felt in this episode.
Favorite Scenes: The only good scene in the episode is when Geordi goes to the holodeck at around the 28-minute mark. It’s a nice scene that shows Geordi’s deductive skills and is interesting to the audience as well.
Use of Cast/Characters: Marina Sirtis had this episode off. Picard, Riker and Worf don’t do much here. Data does a bit more, but the few scenes he has seem a bit contrived. Beverly Crusher is actively involved, solving the mystery of the alien transformation and we are given a few minutes in which we see her earning her keep. This is Geordi’s episode, and we do get some character development, learning about a mission he was on before he joined the Enterprise. His performance here is okay, nothing exceptional, and he is in the one good scene from the episode. Maryann Plunkett as Lieutenant Leijten does a serviceable job here, and is believable except for the badly executed way in which she collapses in engineering.
Blu Ray Version: The visual clarity is a bit uneven in this episode, which is a shame. The planet as seen from orbit looks fantastic. The effect of Leijten’s luminescent eyes at the 19th minute look terrific. Take a look at the female officer at around 29:25. If you watch closely you can see her continuing to blink even though she’s ‘paused.’ A previous blooper was also fixed digitally. Several little details are now apparent if you watch the footage of the original away mission: the uniforms are similar as those from the first two seasons, phasers are more old-fashioned and Geordi’s VISOR is also different.
Nitpicks: When Leijten starts losing it in engineering, do they expect us to believe her fingers go from being normal to fused together and alien in a matter of 10 seconds?? Same problem later with Geordi. Not to mention the faces she makes when she’s falls down in engineering look ridiculous. Also, why are the other two officers-turned-aliens still around the colony site 5 years later? There’s no good reason for it, especially since it seems the 49 colonists are elsewhere.
Overall Impression: There’s not really a lot to recommend this episode, although I will admit it’s not as completely awful as I remembered it. Special effects enthusiasts will have a good time with it, and the makeup job was really first rate, but otherwise there isn’t much here worth remembering. We spend the whole episode waiting for Geordi to turn into an alien, and then he does. We wait for him to be rescued, and he is. I don’t recall a teaser ever opening the way this episode does, which is nice, and the holodeck investigation of the old away team mission is good, but overall this episode is weak sauce. I rate this episode 2 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: According to the make-up artist, this was the longest makeup they ever did. It took 6 hours with four makeup artists gluing little veins all over his body, and the bicycle pants they had him wear. LeVar said it took 21 hours all told, between putting it on and taking it off. The other two lizards were Mark & Brian, Radio DJ’s at the time. Take a look at the blonde Ensign Graham on the bridge in this episode. She’s actually the 1990 Miss Universe winner, Mona Grudt from Norway.
Evidently the first version of the script had the whole area of the planet crawling with those aliens at the end, which would have been far creepier. Shame they changed it. This episode was nominated for another Emmy for outstanding achievement in Makeup.
Missable/Unmissable? Missable. There’s just not much here that’s good, unless you’re a huge Geordi fan. The next episode is much better.