Plot Synopsis: When the Enterprise visits an outpost in the process of terraforming a dead planet, they find the science team threatened by what may be a mysterious new form of life.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser here doesn’t seem particularly interesting: they are visiting a planet that’s being terraformed and the director of the team at first doesn’t answer, then becomes rather inhospitable at the prospect of them beaming down. It’s a good precursor to the plot, which is not particularly good. Plot A involves the terraformers and what they find, there is no plot B. The crew is given a little tour of terraforming, which is only slightly interesting. Things pick up soon though when an engineer is killed while drilling. Data tries to replicate the circumstances in his death and this leads to maybe the only interesting scene in the episode, where he gets attacked by a laser. Luckily, instead of showing us anything we cut away from the action and watch Geordi yelling after him (note liberal use of irony here). They beam up one of the crystals from the planet, and after this the episode degenerates to a lot of talking, more meetings, and a plot that the audience is barely interested in. In an attempt to keep our interest the little crystal proceeds to virtually cripple the Enterprise. By the time this one ends, you’re just glad it’s all over.
Favorite Scenes: I really don’t think there are any good scenes in this episode. Maybe the part where Data is being shot at?
Use of Cast/Characters: Doctor Crusher does have some usefulness in this episode: she fails to save the engineer and later tries to define life for us. Patrick Stewart does what he can here–in fact if you analyze the scenes, you can see that sometimes the only reason there is any interest in them at all is because he takes them and puts them on his back, carrying the whole load by himself. Troi does get some use, providing some information at different points in this episode. We get to see Data in action toward the beginning here, and provides just about the only actual entertainment, but most of it has to be intuited since we don’t get to see it. Riker, Wes, Tasha, Worf and Geordi have a grand total of practically nothing to do. Worf has the only line that’s even slightly funny here. The guest stars in this episode are pretty terrible. I’m not sure if it’s because the direction isn’t good (which is usually what I tend to blame) or if the actors just don’t have much talent. Watch their facial expressions and delivery of the lines—they’re usually incongruent within the context of what they’re actually saying.
Blu Ray Version: A pretty pink planet is in this episode, far better done than the original. Pause at about 1:39-1:40 into the episode. Look on the very left and you’ll see some kind of red piece of equipment that’s not supposed to be in the shot. You’d think they would’ve digitally erased it for the Blu Ray version, like they did for the exact same shot in Heart of Glory. Pause again at 13:28. There’s a close-up of the side of Geordi’s face and VISOR. Look closely and you’ll see a thin piece of transparent string. This is how they held his VISOR on, instead of the gray putty we’ve see previously.
Nitpicks: Doctor Crusher’s basic criteria for all life doesn’t really hold up if you actually think about it for a couple of minutes. Data then wastes our time by asking a computer to re-check if something it just scanned has carbon in it. Nope, still no carbon! Later on, why is the person who’s in charge of engineering an ensign? Guess all the lieutenants down there have already been killed! And ugh, when the crystal starts talking things get even worse, it’s like the worst of the original series. The dialogue overall is just bad. Data just says the universal translator goes off-line, so of course Picard takes the opportunity to immediately ask if the life form can hear them. Later he tries to evacuate the air from the lab…why, to try to asphyxiate a fricking crystal?? In the 42nd minute we get the black cards again, too.
Overall Impression: Talk about a forgettable episode. Between the bad acting, the lifeless plot and the almost complete absence of anything interesting there really aren’t any reasons to watch this episode. This episode is also full of meetings (evidently because the plot wasn’t slow enough), maybe more here than in any episode since The Last Outpost. I don’t necessarily mind meetings, because some really nice scenes in future seasons happen in meetings, but when they happen every five minutes and are filled with guest stars who phone in their performances it just becomes painful to watch. I rate this episode 1 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: This was the 17th episode aired, but actually the 16the one made. Why they reversed the order they released these episodes, I have no idea. Otherwise not much this time. Maybe everyone else wanted to forget it too. Walter Gotell who plays the chief scientist that can’t act is famous for appearing as a villain in several of the James Bond films during the Roger Moore era.
Missable/Unmissable? Missable. There is absolutely nothing to see here, this is one of the low points of a season full of them. Thanks goodness the next episode is actually pretty good.