Plot Synopsis: While transporting delegates, an alien life form wreaks havoc on the Enterprise computer – and begins to take over the minds of her crew.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser moves at a sedate pace, not great but not terrible: some funky looking aliens and an energy cloud set up the two plots of this episode, and Worf get zapped. Plot A involves the life form they pick up from the space cloud, plot B is the escalating hostility of the Antican and Selay delegates. Unfortunately neither one of these plots are any good. We come back to see Worf being looked after by Doctor Crusher in the one and only time we see that goofy-looking helmet she wears, thank goodness. The alien starts moving from crew member to crew member, each person acting more bizarre than the last, and yet nobody really seems to make any connection between any of this and the cloud they passed through. Picard is at least smart enough to know something’s wrong but of course they suspect the ship, the delegates and even the Ferengi!? At least we finally get to see a crew member killed in this episode! He’s not a red-shirt, but you can’t have everything. Maybe the unintentionally funniest lines in the show happen in sick bay between Dr. Crusher and Worf:
Worf: You wanted me, doctor?
Dr. Crusher: Yes, concerning your memory blackout.
Worf: I still don’t remember having one.
Thanks genius. After this scene though, comes the one redeeming element in this episode: Data as Sherlock Holmes. Every scene which has Brent doing Data doing Sherlock is just funny as he hams it up, and it’s enjoyable to watch. He’s so good in fact, that they would revisit this part of Data’s exploration of humanity in a few other episodes in the series. Frakes even starts to show his own personality for maybe the first time, giving us a glimpse of what he would be like in subsequent seasons. Picard gets invaded by the life form and within moments starts acting like a lunatic. The resulting discussion of mutiny gets stranger because in spite of the whole context of this show, nobody seems sure if anything is actually wrong with him! “He hasn’t been showing any overt unusual behavior.” Oh really? The audience has got to be getting frustrated by this point. The scenes where they confront Picard is just silly, especially as one of them is supposed to be the climax. From here on the episode resolves itself in a kind of petering-out fashion that only intermittently retains your interest.
Favorite Scenes: The only scenes I thought were good were the ones involving Data in his Sherlock Holmes role. And they were good scenes, even after all these years.
Use of Cast/Characters: Most of the cast does have something of a role to play in this episode, which is good. Patrick Stewart is one of the two people who actually give good performances in this episode, Brent Spiner being the other. In fact this is the episode where I consider the persona of Data to begin to be really grasped by him and the writers. Troi and Crusher are useful and fairly prominent in this episode. Troi actually uses some of her therapist skills, including hypnosis. Tasha doesn’t have much to do but she does have some lines, Geordi, Wes and Worf are about the same. This is the second episode featuring Colm Meaney, but here he plays a nameless security officer. Singh was another in a line of engineers who generally suck.
Blu Ray Version: The first thing you see in this episode is a beautiful, detailed green planet which is a pleasure to look at. The special effects look vibrant in this episode, but other than that I couldn’t tell much of a difference. I guess that’s a good thing. The guys did, however, add a new graphic toward the end of the episode when they showed a digital “P” just to the left of where Worf is standing–nice touch. The energy ripples that invade Picard when he’s is touching the Conn are new and vibrant also.
Nitpicks: Eh, I don’t think I really needed a whole scene involving sensor maintenance so I knew the sensors were “ready” for a sensor sweep? Ah, the joys of the first season! The lighting in this episode is outright dark. This’ll continue to be the case until season 3 when they finally get a lighting guy who doesn’t act like he’s trying to light a horror show. Just watch, and you’ll see the corridors are mostly unlit. Doctor Crusher gets the life form and when it leaves her, she finds herself on the bridge in front of someone asking her what’s wrong, yet she doesn’t seem to be able to communicate that she just had a total blackout? This is also one episode of many in season one where the word “intriguing” is used so many times one wonders if the writers simply didn’t have a thesaurus handy–even as a kid I found it repetitive. It is kind of funny how the entity paralyzes the entire crew but leaves them the ability to speak, and I can’t help but laugh at how Riker decides to give up looking for Picard after a total of one hour!
Overall Impression: Ugh. This is just a bad episode, maybe made worse by the fact that after watching the previous one you’ve gotten your hopes up. It’s about as bad as TNG gets. This episode isn’t offensive and it isn’t a clip show but that’s about all it’s got going for it. It’s slow, filled with some pretty dumb Starfleet officers and two uninteresting plots. The number of meetings alone in this episode is bordering on ridiculous, it makes you think being on a starship is one big boring bureaucracy. The only enjoyable thing to see is Data as Holmes, and that’s not enough to rescue this episode. I rate this episode 1 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: This is the 6th episode aired, but it was actually the 7th one made. If you look at the scene where we see the observation lounge from the outside, with Picard and Data in the right window, you can see the ceiling of the set itself. This is the first episode where we see the dress uniforms of Starfleet officers, and they do look pretty good. Still not sure how I feel about the skirt though. This is also the first “bottle” episode, where everything takes place inside the ship. It’s also the first time you see a PADD being used, for what that’s worth. The chief Antican delegate is Marc Alaimo. He’ll go on to play a couple of Cardassians in future episodes as well as Gul Dukat throughout Deep Space 9. Here he’s unrecognizable behind the monster mask that hardly moved at all. This episode shows us the final iteration of Troi’s uniform. It’s subtle, but take a look at the photo up top, you’ll see that this is more V-shaped to show off the boobage. Here is a link that shows what Marina had to wear for six seasons before she got an actual uniform again. This episode is the first one to highlight Sherlock Holmes’s saying that “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” This was used not long after in Star Trek V, and in many places in Trek ever since. You can again see those black cards in front of some of the back panels toward the end of the 41st minute. The juiciest story comes from Wil Wheaton. I’ll quote him telling the story here:
The main story is that there was a convention in Los Angeles in 1987, right when Star Trek first got started, and they had a panel called “Solving the Wesley Problem”. The idea was to talk about how Wesley was being written and ways to improve the character, but it quickly and rapidly degenerated into a bashing of the character and a bashing of myself. Patrick Stewart was at that convention and he phoned me, knowing I lived close, and said, “You really ought to come down here and speak on your own behalf,” and I did. Stood in the back of the room for about 15 minutes listening to people raging against me personally, which is really stupid. I mean, think about the logic of that. What kind of stupid moron blames a fourteen year old for a character written by and for adults? It’s unbelievably stupid. It’s one thing if there’s an actor that’s rich and powerful and has the ability to influence the writing and they do selfish things that violate the truth of the scene or the truth of the character, but… hello?! Fourteen-year-old kid? They wouldn’t even listen to me about where I wanted to stand on the set, much less input into the character.
So I finally go up front at this panel and as I’m walking up, there were some people actually booing me. By the time I got to say my side, people were applauding.
The other side to that.. was one I wasn’t at, Marina and Jonathan were at a panel where someone was really bashing me, and Marina got really pissed off and told this person off.
Missable/Unmissable? Definitely missable. The only possible reason to catch this episode is if you want to watch where the Sherlock Holmes interest of Data’s had its start. The next episode is better.