30 September 2012

The Neutral Zone

Episode: s1, ep 26


What Happens
While waiting for Picard to return from a conference* the Enterprise finds some centuries-old space transport from Earth. Data wants to look, and though no one else cares they let him go over with Worf (who probably doesn’t care either). They find cryogenic capsules, Data beams the three undamaged ones to sickbay. Picard returns and announces that they’re going to the neutral zone. Starbases in the area have been destroyed and the Federation fears the Romulans are involved. The Enterprise is being sent to investigate and re-establish relations.
Beverly tells Picard about the frozen people, who she has revived. Each had died from what is now a minor medical complaint. Picard does not appreciate Data bringing strays aboard. Worf is called in for when they wake up (because he and Data are simply the best crew members to be present when people from the 20th Century wake up). One was a housewife who died suddenly, one a country music star who badly damaged his body through excess, and the third a businessman who had a heart problem. It has been 370 years since these people died, so there’s a lot to explain and get used to.
Troi info dumps about the Romulans who are distantly related to Vulcans, they’re arrogant,** curious and aggressive. They’re fascinated by humans, despite having no contact with them for 50 years. Worf can’t contact any Federation bases, they may have been destroyed. Riker thinks the Romulans did it to provoke confrontation. Later the bases turn out not to be destroyed, but have entirely vanished.
The businessman uses the comms to bother Picard and unfavourably compares the Enterprise to the QE2. He’s ignorant yet arrogant, but eventually apologises as not knowing what’s going on is hard for him. Picard sends Troi to comfort the distraught woman and tells them not to get in the way of the ship’s business. The woman misses her family and didn’t ask for this. The country music guy is laid back and content to drink and see what happens next. The businessman can tell the crew are tense and wants to find out what’s going on. The ship goes to yellow alert as he wanders the corridors.
Our ship is bigger than yours.
The Romulans have improved their cloaking device and seems to test the Enterprise. The Romulan ship de-cloaks, it’s massive. The businessman gets to the bridge and Riker orders security to remove him, but the Romulans respond to hails and everyone besides Picard freezes. Romulan outposts have also been attacked, but they see that the Federation doesn’t have the necessary capabilities. The businessman points out that the Romulans don’t know what’s going on; they’re hoping the Federation knows. Picard suggests a one-time collaboration to find out what’s happening. The Romulans warn that they don’t like the Federation’s expansion, but they’re back now. The 20th Century people start to see how they might live now and are sent back to Earth on another ship.


Picard likes old stuff
Instead of being fascinated to learn about history from people who were there, Picard is mostly irritated by Data’s strays. The businessman makes himself unpopular by acting like he’s very important and bothering Picard while he’s doing vital work.

Does Not Compute
Data’s curiosity leads to these people being brought onboard and resurrected, otherwise they would have burned up in a star. Data seems to develop a relationship with the country singer. Each finds the other confusing, but their scenes are good ones with Data’s formality contrasted against the singer’s folksy familiarity. Plus the country singer seems wiser than the other two, he's happy to be alive and take advantage of what opportunities the situation brings, but is content to see what happens next and doesn't try to get involved in ship's business.


Counsellor Pointless
Troi helps the 20th Century woman to deal with loss, she never signed up for cryogenics and it’s a great shock to her. Using the computer Troi finds her descendants (who survived nuclear horror and various other Bad Things of the intervening centuries, as did their records).
The clueless, presumptuous 20th Century businessman manages to do Troi’s job in her absence by realising that the Romulans are bluffing to Picard. That’s right, the first time this guy has ever seen Romulans (and only the 2nd time he’s seen aliens) he’s able to tell what their motivation is better than any of the 24th Century natives on the Bridge. It’s not that the guy is empathic (in fact he seems fairly dismissive of feelings), but he is good at reading people. This suggests that emotional awareness is better in the 20th Century, which actually makes a lot of sense considering how restrained the characters seem to be. It also suggests that Troi's empathic, um, powers (I guess) aren't much to write home about.


Continuity
There’s been barely a whisper of Romulans for over 50 years. Everything the Federation knows is based on rumour and Troi has to research what they’re like.
Except that there was this in Angel One:
  DATA: The border outpost reports a contingent of seven Romulan battlecruisers within sensor range. The USS Berlin has answered the distress call. However, should hostilities erupt, both the outpost and the starship will be out-gunned. It is felt that the Enterprise's presence in the area will be a vital show of force.
This isn’t part of the onscreen action and just seemed like a way od increasing the tension and putting a time limit on the action in the episode. Still I’m not sure that’s barely a whisper. 

Security Breach
Again we see that anyone can wander about the ship. Apparently the comms panels are so simple someone from nearly 400 years ago can use them and they aren’t locked. Picard claims this is because crew know not to use them for frivolous purposes, does this include the kids? It seems like comms should be restricted or secured after Wesley’s little trick simulating Picard’s voice in the Naked Now
He's not gonna manhandle himself.
When the businessman gets onto the bridge, with ease, and Riker orders security to take him away the 2 security guys don't do that. They grab hold of him, but then the Romulan ship comes onscreen and they stop what they're supposed to be doing to watch. I appreciate it's very interesting, but they were just given a direct order and both of them are ignoring it and letting a stranger stand on the Bridge during a crisis. He's allowed to stay on the Bridge making comments and interrupting a vital communication until Picard has a moment to repeat Riker's earlier order. Now maybe these guys don't like Riker, but they shouldn't let it affect their work like this.

Staff Meetings: 1
Picard briefs the key staff about the destroyed starbases and the mission to contact the Roumlans. 

Won’t Somebody Think of the Children?
The Enterprise is specifically sent to meet Romulans in what is hoped to be a diplomatic, but could be a military mission. Apparently Starfleet Command are fine with all the kids on board being put at risk on this dangerous mission. So perhaps Picard’s lack of concern is just following the party line. 


The End
It felt as though the episode should have ended when the Romulan ship de-cloaked. Or after the talk with the Romulans, when there’s a mystery to be investigated with untrustworthy allies. Instead the drama is sucked out of the ending because the episode doesn’t seem to know which storyline is B-plot and carefully concludes all the stuff with the 20th Century people after the exciting bit. It's not as though they don't know how to do this, the previous episode had an ending that worked well.
The last scene is a discussion about how the 20th Century people will get back to Earth, which deflates all the tension previously built up. Picard has to try and make it sound exciting by saying something about going forward, but he isn’t given much to work with.



* Is it anything to do with brainlice or shooting Admirals?
 ** So just like Vulcans then.

29 September 2012

Conspiracy

Episode: s1, ep 25


What Happens
The Enterprise is going to Pacifica* on a science mission, though it sounds like it’ll be fun too. An emergency Captain-only message comes through and Picard takes it in his quarters whilst wearing his dressing gown. It’s from his friend Walker, who says there’s danger he’s unwilling to talk about, even on a secure channel. He requests they meet covertly in person (or as covertly as people can meet when they have to take 1000s of people with them). Picard takes the ship to an abandoned mining planet, there are to be no logs or messages about it. Picard meets with the Captains of the 3 other Federation ships. They believe there’s a threat to the Federation, Starfleet Command has been acting strangely. There are personnel movements and unexplained accidents. Top commanders are different now, and Walker is convinced his First Officer isn’t the same man anymore. He asks Picard to be vigilant and stay in touch discreetly.
Back on the Enterprise Picard talks to Troi and tells Data to monitor all the communications and orders issued by Starfleet in the last six months. There's a disturbance, which turns out to be spaceship debris from Walker’s ship. Now Picard is suspicious he tells Riker about Walker and the concerns previously raised by Admiral Quinn. Riker is sceptical, but Data finds unusual activity, hidden in the communications. Personnel are reshuffled and the new staff are in covert communication with the highest ranks. Data believes key areas of Federation territory are being held. It could be an invasion, but there’s no clue as to who’s doing it. Picard decides to go to Earth and ask questions, because that’s not suicidal.
What every businessman needs.
On Earth some Admirals are confused by the arrival of the Enterprise. Riker and Picard are invited to dine with them and Admiral Quinn says he wants a tour of the ship. Quinn arrives with a giant, purple woodlouse hidden in his briefcase. He doesn’t seem to remember what he said to Picard last time, so Picard tells Riker to keep an eye on him and see if Beverly can examine him. Quinn says something about a new lifeform, Riker questions this and Quinn fights him with great strength. Geordi and Worf arrive and the Admiral attacks, throwing Geordi through a door, then viciously defeating Worf. Beverly shoots him multiple times. In sickbay she says it’s definitely Quinn, but his strength is greatly increased. She finds something odd sticking out of his neck and discovers a purple brainlouse attached to his spine.
At Starfleet Command it’s strangely quiet and Picard goes to dinner with the Admirals and Remmick. Beverly contacts him and tells him about the parasite in Quinn and the neck spike. She advises shooting to kill but Picard points out he didn’t bring a weapon to dinner. Picard is served live maggots, which are eaten with relish by everyone else. He tries to leave but Riker arrives and pushes him back into the dining room. Riker has a spike in his neck and takes his seat at the table, along with the Admirals and one of the Captains Picard met with earlier. Before eating his maggots Riker pulls a phaser and starts shooting. 
In the fuss Picard grabs a weapon; him and Riker shoot and run. A purple brainlouse leaves the mouth of its host and they follow it down the corridor to Remmick. It crawls up into his mouth, he claims they only want peaceful coexistence and his neck bulges as the critters crawl around inside him. Picard and Riker take their sweet time before shooting but eventually his head explodes. Then a hole appears in his chest and a creature is in living in there. They shoot it until his torso explodes and a load of dead purple brainlice fall out. Quinn’s parasite is gone and he doesn’t die, which is hopefully the fate of all the other hosts. It’s lucky that the brainlice cannot survive without the mother-creature, hunting them all down would’ve taken ages.



Oh Captain, My Captain
Picard’s not good at politics, as he told Quinn when he refused to get involved in the conspiracy in Coming of Age, a decision that probably saved him. Picard’s instinct is to rashly rush right to Earth without a strategy, a plan Riker mentioned in mockery. He had no idea what he was up against, the only person he knows who did got his entire ship blown up. If they can arrange that in space, think what they should’ve been able to do on Earth.

Riker: lover, adventurer, middle-management
Riker is sceptical about the whole thing at first, but he’s very loyal and probably doesn’t like the idea of problems in Starfleet. It really takes guts for him to go disguised into the enemy lair with a weapon and a pretty sketchy plan.

Does Not Compute
Data is the best choice to analyse the records, he’s got a computer brain and he’s not going to jump to any conclusions. I’m surprised the brainlice didn’t try to take him out, he’s quite a threat.

Doctor Doctor
Beverly also knows Walker. Along with Picard he was one of Jack Crusher’s best friends and first introduced her to her husband.
When she repeatedly shoots the Admiral it’s kinda badass. By examining Quinn she learns what the parasites are, how to identify them and how they increase human strength. She’s the one who warns Picard and comes up with an infiltration plan for Riker. Though she does say if the creature dies the host will, which isn’t true later on.



Continuity
Here is the conclusion to events in Coming of Age, it’s a shame all this gets rather painfully squashed into one episode. Thinking of the Changeling crisis in Deep Space 9 I see how interesting it could have been, but Star Trek wasn’t there yet in the 80s. The Next Generation didn’t do intrigue and political stuff. Despite the homing beacon cliffhanger I’m told this was never revisited. I suppose the audience at the time didn’t want that kind of show.

Creature Feature
The brainlice when we see them are gross, but also a pretty colour, and almost cute at times. It think it has something to do with the now-quaint-looking stop-motion way they move. 

The mother-thing is definitely gross and looks like a chestburster had a baby with a small dragon. The whole exploding head and exploding torso thing is pretty disgusting, and more horror-like than I generally expect from Star Trek.



Security Breach
Federation: The Federation suffers from the naïve assumption that anyone in a Starfleet uniform is trustworthy, which is presumably how the brainlice get such a hold on command staff. I imagine a stranger in a Starfleet uniform could go up to most senior officers and ask to show them an exciting new lifeform and that’d be that.
Plus there seems to be very little suspicion among the mid-level officers, meaning that orders are simply followed and not examined or questioned. Lets face it, the spacefaring part of the organisation is not built for secrecy, if Captains want to meet they have to take entire ships with them. The fact that Captain Scott (the fasted-promoted Captain in Starfleet history) was able to infiltrate Walker’s circle for the brainlice shows that suspicion does not come naturally to these people. I imagine that’s what happens when one is raised in a utopia.

Brainlice: The brainlice have a stupider issue, namely that they are the villains and therefore need to become less effective the closer the plot comes to resolution. These are creatures who have managed to place themselves within the upper echelons and rearrange large numbers of personnel without any outcry. They’re aware of their enemies and have successfully infiltrated the resistance, using it to deliver their enemies to them. Basically the brainlice are the new leaders, all hail the brainlice!
Except that the Enterprise comes to town, brimming plot-power, and from that point on the brainlice become idiots. It may be largely down to the Quinn-louse, who seems indiscreet and gets violent when faced with questions, even fairly innocuous ones. Since we know Quinn was compromised after Coming of Age, we could assume the Quinn-louse is a bit new to all this. Of course all the information uncovered by Crusher would still have come to nought if the brainlice had better security arrangements.
Like bees** it seems that once something is inside the hive the brainlice assume it’s harmless. They aren’t concerned about Picard and they think Riker is one of their own, even so there seems to be a distinct lack of guards or surveillance. Beverly is able to contact Picard while he's there and tell him all about what's going on and no one monitors the communication. Once the shooting starts, Picard and Riker are able to take out 4 of them a bit too quickly and easily. A louse leads them straight to Remmick, though it’s possible it can’t last long outside a host, so fair enough. Remmick makes sense as a host for the mother-thing, he’s less high-profile than the Admirals. However you’d think the mother-host would be kept out of the way, posted to a secure and guarded room, able to call many guards at the touch of a button. Apparently not. Though perhaps this was only meant to be a scouting party, a small detachment to soften the place up. Perhaps the homing beacon was the most important thing? It’d explain why the Remmick-thing didn’t seem worried about being cornered.


Staff Meetings: 4
1. Picard is told about conspiracy in Starfleet Command by Walker and 2 other Captains on the abandoned mining planet.***
2. Picard discusses what he was told with Troi, she thinks Walker was unreasonable.
3. Picard tells Riker about the conspiracy.
4. Data tells Picard and Riker what he has discovered.


Death by Space Misadventure
The entire crew of Walker’s ship, the Horatio, die in an explosion so bad there are no bodies. 
2 Admirals, 1 Captain, an unnamed yellowshirt and Remmick are shot by Picard and Riker.

The End
Riker explains the fake neck spike was Crusher’s idea, it had to fool everyone. They’re back on the Enterprise, so presumably aren’t being held over all the shooting. Data says he’s discovered what Remmick was sending. It was a homing beacon, sent from Earth to an unexplored sector. The episode ends on an ominous note.


* I’m sure you’ll be surprised to hear that Pacifica is an ocean world.
** I think it’s bees, I could be wrong.
*** Fred, Daphne, Velma, Scooby and Shaggy are due, but the Mystery Machine has issues travelling between star systems.
 

28 September 2012

We'll Always Have Paris

Episode: s1, ep 24

 
What Happens
The Enterprise is going for shore leave and Picard has started early with a spot of fencing. A time distortion means the ship experiences a repeat of a few seconds. Picard goes to the Bridge in his fencing gear to find out what’s happening. A distress call comes in from a Professor Manheim, Picard knows he researches non-linear time and decides it’s not a coincidence. Troi senses that Picard had a strong reaction to the Professor’s name and offers him a session on the way, as he tends to repress his emotions. Unsurprisingly he refuses. Instead he goes to the holodeck and recreates a restaurant in Paris, 22 years previously. He tells the holo-waiter he was meant to meet someone before, but didn’t show up.
Reports say that the time hiccup was experienced by many others. The coordinates in the distress signal lead to a beacon, which leads to a planet. Picard hails a facility on the planet, but conspicuously doesn’t use his name. The woman who answers says there are only 2 of them left, the man is unconscious. The couple are beamed to sickbay where the Professor’s wife, Jenice, recognises Picard. Jenice says that the rest of the research team were killed in an accident. She describes her husband’s research; he believes time holds people in one dimension. He was close to proving his hypotheses, but didn’t tell her it would be dangerous, though there were many precautions in place.
It's one of those days.
Another temporal distortion means that Data, Riker and Picard see themselves in the turbolift. The Professor’s lab is protected so the away team can’t beam down, they’re almost lost in the process. The Professor wakes and says he’s between two dimensions. He opened a crack to another dimension and the time distortions will only get worse. He tells them how to get into his lab. Data thinks they can stop the Mannheim effect, but only by timing precisely with the distortions. Jenice asks Picard about why he didn’t show up that day, he says he was scared.
The Professor asks Picard to take care of Jenice if needed. Picard sends Data to the lab alone where he finds the time crack is a wibbly-wobbly thing. Data must drop some antimatter into it at precisely the right moment. Another time distortion means there’s 3 Datas, they talk to each other to figure out the middle one is at the right point in time. The antimatter goes into the time-crack and Data saves reality. The Professor recovers and has vibrant, indescribable images of other dimension. Despite what happened he is keen to get back to the lab, Jenice agrees. Troi takes Jenice to the holodeck where Picard shows her the recreation of that day and they say goodbye in holo-Paris.



Oh Captain, My Captain
The main focus of this episode is Picard encountering a woman he let down in the past, not the temporal stuff which feels oddly like background.
After he hears the Professor’s name Picard knows he may see Jenice and instead of talking to Troi about it he goes to the holodeck for what he characterises as self-indulgence. Though how the holodeck knows exactly what he needs in the situation is beyond me.
It’s clear that Jean-Luc and Jenice were once in love, but Picard shipped out instead of meeting her in Paris. This is never categorised as a choice between love and career (which seems to be what happened with Riker and Troi). Picard knows he was scared of where his future would go, of not knowing what the right choice was. Jenice points out that he was sacred of being ordinary, which he cannot deny.  

Does Not Compute 
Data is able to examine the Professor’s research and tells him he understands it. The Professor is sceptical and says he doesn’t understand his own research. It seems what happened has disproved his research. Data says something about energy and the Professor is immediately convinced the android does understand.
Picard sends Data to the lab alone because he’s best able to handle time distortions. When they saw themselves in the turbo lift both Datas said they felt no disorientation. Data suggests that this is because he doesn’t experience time subjectively the way humans do. He only just now understands the expression, time flies when you’re having fun.


Doctor Doctor
Beverly can’t do much to help the Professor, she’s probably not had to deal with someone whose mind is between two dimensions before. I found it a bit bad that Beverly waits until Jenice is out of the room then tells Picard, Riker and Data that the Professor is dying. Shouldn’t she tell his wife first?


Girl Talk
While Crusher is caring for the Professor Troi comes to talk to her. Crusher is initially frustrated she can’t wake the Professor, but Troi hasn’t come to talk about that. Beverly doesn’t want to talk about Picard and says that she can’t compete with a ghost from his past. Troi points out Jenice is real and Crusher says that Picard still sees the ghost, then gets back to work.
So Beverly does have feelings for Picard? I honestly wasn’t sure. It was strongly suggested in The Big Goodbye, but not mentioned at all since then. It would seem that Picard is oblivious and Beverly isn’t planning on making a move, meaning that this show is terrible at shipping its own characters.
It’s sad that Tasha never got to have any Girl Talk moments, not that this one passes the Bechdel test or anything.



Awkward Moment
On the holodeck Picard watches two holo-girls at a nearby table. One is waiting fruitlessly for a man, her friend chides her for it and leaves. The young women sees Picard watching her and talks to him.
GABRIELLE: Do we know each other?
PICARD: No.
GABRIELLE: The way you look at me, do I remind you of someone?
PICARD: No. Yes, you do, somewhat.

Picard then suggests reasons why ‘he’ hasn’t come. This artificial little exchange is clearly meant to give Picard some kind of emotional release, but how the hell does the holodeck know that he needs this? Picard only gave it setting information.


Staff Meetings: 1
Picard, Riker and Data discuss how to stop what Data calls the Manheim Effect.

Death by Space Misadventure
All the other scientists and researchers on the Professor’s team.

The End
Picard returns to the Bridge and suggests they get back to that shore leave. Riker’s only been there once and remembers a club with blue concoctions. Troi remembers that it’s opposite a mens dancing club. Picard says it’s called the Blue Parrpt Café and tells Troi she’s buying. All is jovial and light-hearted now.



27 September 2012

Skin of Evil


Episode: s1, ep 23
This is a darker, creepier episode than I expect from The Next Generation, but it's only fitting since it sees the death of a main character. I'm glad I didn't see this as a kid, because I was kinda sensitive and I think the visuals of the monster could've really scared me.


What Happens
The Enterprise is waiting for Counsellor Troi, who is returning from a conference. There’s a distress call from her shuttle, which has lost control and can’t see its location. Engineering is doing maintenance that means the Enterprise can’t warp to the rescue. The shuttle crashes on a planet and an away team is sent on a rescue mission. They beam down near the crashed vessel and encounter a large black tar-like puddle that moves and blocks their path. They cannot tell what it is or how it moves. It talks in a big, deep, scary voice and a big, dark, drippy thing rises out of it. From the ship Picard speculates that this is what caused the crash. It mocks them, asking why they should let it pass, Riker says something about the sanctity of life, it is not impressed. Tasha tries to walk past it, the monster knocks her flying. The others try shooting it, to no effect.
The away team beam to sickbay and Crusher tries to save Tasha, while Riker, Picard and Data huddle in the corner. Tasha doesn’t make it. The tar monster covers the shuttle where Troi wakes up after the crash. Troi says she felt Tasha die and knew that the monster killed her on purpose. It thought it would be funny, but Tasha died too fast. Troi senses that it needs to witness suffering. The monster blocks communications and transporters. Troi can tell that the monster is angry and has an emptiness, it was rejected.
A larger away team beam down whilst Worf and Wesley monitor from the ship. Riker offers to negotiate, the monster taunts them in a juvenile way, but allows them to contact Troi. Troi tries to sympathise with it, but her pity makes it angrier. It sucks Riker into itself and says it’ll kill him if they others try to help or leave. Worf monitors its energy levels and realises that they decrease when it talks to Troi. The monster asks her if she would give herself for Riker, she says yes, and for any of the others.
Picard beams down, refuses to deal with it anymore and threatens to leave. It disgorges a very sticky Riker, and the rest of the away team beam back to the ship. The monster says it wants to leave, but Picard won’t help until he can see the people in the shuttle. Picard is whisked inside and tells Troi about Tasha (I thought she felt her die?). Picard speeches at it, which it doesn’t like, it hates his compassion. Picard tries to convince it that it isn’t truly evil. It fears being alone and never finding those who abandoned it. Once its energy levels gets low enough Worf and Wesley beam Troi out. Picard declares the planet permanently quarantined.
The episode ends with Tasha’s memorial service. A pre-recorded (but weirdly faded) hologram of her gives a speech, praising each main character. Good thing no one else was invited to this service.


Oh Captain, My Captain
Picard deals with the monster like he deals with most things, he gets stern and speeches at it. It does not appreciate his oratory and is probably not impressed by him Shelley, I doubt it knows who that is.

Tasha says: “Captain Jean-Luc Picard. I wish I could say you've been like a father to me, but I've never had one, so I don't know what it feels like. But if there was someone in this universe I could choose to be like, someone who I would want to make proud of me, it's you. You who have the heart of an explorer and the soul of a poet.” 
So Tasha doesn’t know what having a father is like, then describes what it is like.

 
Riker: lover, adventurer, middle-management
Riker tries to talk to the monster at first. Later he offers to negotiate, but turns his back on it and is pulled into it. His silently screaming face is outlined in the goo, which is creepier than I expect from Star Trek.

Tasha says: “Will Riker, you are the best. You trusted me, you encouraged me, and most of all you made me laugh.” 
I don’t remember much laughing.

Does Not Compute
The monster initially calls Data ‘tin man’ (a reference Captain America would get, but I’m not sure the monster should know). Later Data refuses to help it taunt Geordi when it removes his visor. When the monster telekinetically controls Data and threatens to make him shoot Picard Data refuses to feel bad, because he knows his actions are not his own. It was foolish to try and make Data feel guilt or fear.

Tasha says: “My friend Data. You see things with the wonder of a child, and that makes you more human than any of us.” 
This is actually pretty creepy when you consider, y’know, Tasha and Data.


Counsellor Pointless
Troi’s empathy does seem to be useful in dealing with the monster and knowing what it’s doing to her friends. She realises that getting it to confront its anger weakens it.

Tasha says: “Deanna, you are capable of so much love. You taught me without ever having to say a word. I realised I could be feminine without losing anything.” 
I can really get on board with the spirit of this message. If you aren’t naturally girly you can have mixed feelings about your own femininity. However in the context of the show this rings sadly hollow, we all know why Troi is there really.

The Boy
Why is Wesley helping Worf? I can understand that he wants to know what’s going on while his mother is on the planet, but otherwise it seems too important –and potentially too traumatising- to have a kid involved with this.

Tasha says: “Wesley, I'm sorry I won't be able to see you grow into the exceptional man you'll be. But your kindness and innocence are ageless.” 
Groan.

Klingon Warrior
Worf and Tasha have nice moment at start of the episode discussing her upcoming martial arts tournament. Later Worf wants to stay on the bridge to monitor the situation, rather than go down to planet. This makes sense from a security point of view, plus he probably realises that his instincts would doom him too if he was down there in front of the enemy.

Tasha says: “Ah, Worf. We are so much alike, you and I. Both warriors, orphans who found ourselves this family. I hope I met death with my eyes wide open.” 
Tasha and Worf were probably too similar. As a Klingon Worf’s more interesting, and more can be done with his backstory. It’s a shame that as Tasha was a combative character who didn’t have a Y-chromosome, she had to have a traumatic background. 25 years on it’d be nice if we could’ve moved past that.

Doctor Doctor
Beverly frantically tries to save Tasha with technobabble, but it turns out (in this instance anyway) that technobabble is not magic.

Tasha says: “Beverly. Your fierce devotion comes from within. It can't be diminished. From you, I have learned to strive for excellence, no matter what the personal cost.” 
I can get on board with this. 

Blind Engineering
Geordi beams down after Tasha’s death to examine the creature. It telekinetically knocks his visor off and Geordi has to feel around on the floor (like when Velma drops her glasses in Scooby Doo). When Data tries to help Geordi the monster moves the visor away again.

Tasha says: “Geordi, in those moments I felt the most despair, you took my hand and helped me to see things differently. You taught me to look beyond the moment.” 
I don’t remember seeing any of this. Also the pun-like use of ‘look’ and ‘see’ is, um, weird.


Continuity
The monster was created by a race “whose beauty now dazzles all who see them.” It was created when they removed all that was negative and destructive about themselves and left it behind. I wonder if we ever find out which race it was?


Space Trumpets
The music in the sickbay while they work on Tasha ups the tension and makes it feel like a scene from a hospitable drama.
 

No Magic Here
The monster has a wide range of powers: shape-shifting, telekinesis, possibly a weird kind of pocket dimension within itself.


Staff Meetings: 1
In the observation lounge the key staff discuss Tasha’s death and how to defeat the monster. Picard asks them to put their feelings aside for now.

Death by Space Misadventure
Tasha


The End
After the service Data and Picard hang back. Data says he doesn’t understand the ritual; he’s not thinking of Tasa, but of how much he’ll miss her. He assumes he’s misunderstood, but Picard tells him he’s got it.



26 September 2012

Symbiosis



Episode: s1, ep 22 
Last episode it was arms dealers, now drug dealers are the villains of the piece. Although the situation and resulting moral dilemma is far more nuanced than most previous episodes and is not simply resolved.


What Happens
The Enterprise is studying a star with an intense magnetic field, which may cause system problems. The bridge watches the changes in the sun with awe. There’s a distress call, a freighter is going to burn up in the atmosphere. It’s an old ship with 6 lifeforms onboard and only minutes left. The people on the endangered ship don’t know what they’re doing, causing much annoyance and confusion to the Bridge crew as they try to help. Eventually Tasha has to talk them through beaming off the doomed freighter, and instead of the crew they send over cargo. At the last minute only 4 beam away and they are more concerned about the safety of the cargo than the two who died.
The rescued people are from 2 neighbouring planets and are in heated dispute over the ownership of the cargo. They have zappy, electric hands, which mean they’re permanently armed. Picard feels he has to resolve the issue. The aliens are impressed by Starfleet’s technical knowledge and ask if they can have parts for their own ships. The cargo is medicine that is desperately needed by the Buyer’s plague-ridden planet. The Sellers maintain that their people work very hard to create the medicine and cannot just give it away.
Crusher realises that it’s not medicine but a narcotic; the plague doesn’t exist, the symptoms are withdrawal. The entire Buyer planet has been addicted for 200 years. Crusher wants to help with a synthetic drug that will wean them off the addiction. Picard says they can’t do anything, the planets are symbiotic and the change would destabilise both. The Sellers offer this one batch for free and Picard realises that they know precisely what they’re selling. It’s not symbiosis, it’s exploitation. Picard still can’t get involved, which means that the Enterprise won’t help fix the failing freighters. The Addicts will have to figure it out. The Prime Directive means they can’t change the status quo, but it also means they don’t have to help maintain it. The Addicts are aghast and point out that Picard is dooming their entire planet by cutting off their supply of medicine, Picard says he knows exactly what he’s doing and casts a grim look at the crestfallen Dealers. Beverly points out the whole planet will suffer painful withdrawal and Picard speeches about Prime Directive, though it’s clear the decision weighs on him.


Riker: lover, adventurer, middle-management
While watching the sun Riker uses the word awesome in its original meaning, giving it an impact it has mostly lost.
In order to get hold of the cure the desperate Buyers/Addicts try to hold Riker hostage with their zappy hands. Picard won’t be coerced and since they aren’t bad people they let Riker go and are very sorry about it. His expression is hilarious.

 
Doctor Doctor
At the mention of plague all the aliens are sent to sickbay, since the badly functioning transporter may not have successfully run its usual med scan. Crusher examines the aliens (and the crew who have been in contact with them) and cannot find any sign of an illness, even in the suffering the Buyers. When the cure relieves their suffering immediately Crusher realises what’s going on.
As a Doctor she’s disgusted by the situation, urges Picard to end the exploitation, and is understandably frustrated that he can’t. She even offers to synthesise a non-addictive alternative to wean the Addicts off their dependency, a very sensible and humane option that nevertheless is not allowed.


Dark Past
Wesley incredulously asks Data about why people let themselves become addicts, because Data will know about that? It's Tasha who provides a nuanced and realistic answer. Her colony (the one with the raping and violence and poverty) was full of addiction, as people sought any way to feel good for a while. She points out that no one means to get addicted, but by the time the drugs feel artificial you have to take them, not to feel good but to keep from feeling bad. Wesley -a child of privilege- doesn't understand.
I thought this was good scene, especially as I'd been expecting a heavy-handed 'drugs are bad' speech.


Space Trumpets
I like that when Picard makes a ship-wide announcement it is preceded by a naval whistle. I like to imagine an Ensign somewhere blowing a whistle into the comms system. In discussion with friends we decided that a holiday camp/supermarket-style announcement with a xylophone intro would also be a nice touch. Hidey-Hi! 

The Prime Directive is a Harsh Mistress 
Despite the shameful exploitation of one species by another the Prime Directive means that Picard must ignore his moral outrage and refuse to offer aid, since it will certainly change the way of life of both species. However it’s clear the situation wasn’t sustainable anyway, and since Picard isn’t allowed to interfere he withdraws the offer of technical help (which presumably he shouldn’t really have given in the first place). It means that events will take the course they were going to anyway, the exploitation will eventually end, but there will be much suffering because of it.
This is the sort of clever but morally uncomfortable solution that Justice simply didn’t have.

 
Something Is Very Wrong
How come the Buyers/Addicts don’t seem to understand their own tech? They don’t know how their freighters work, which is kind of stupid. Their civilisation’s wellness depends on ferrying medicine, resources and tech between worlds, so surely those freighters are their number one priority. I suppose the implication is that the addiction stops them from functioning well, but that seems a bit lame, since there’s little indication that the drug impairs any abilities. I appreciate this is meant to be like the story of the grasshoppers and the ants, but with narcotics; however it doesn’t work if the ants have forgotten how to gather food.
 
Future Fashion
The costume design very neatly sums up the situation. The Sellers/Dealers look more affluent than the Buyers/Addicts, clearly indicating that they receive all the luxuries that their neighbours make. Also the Dealers have an appropriately 70s look.


Death by Space Misadventure
The other 2 unnamed people on the doomed freighter die, their own people don’t care.

Won’t Somebody Think of the Children?
At the start Picard warns the entire ship that studying the star will cause disruption to systems, despite the shields. Engineering is prepared, but even so there’s probably no way of knowing what will go wrong. As the Bridge crew watch the shiny dance of magnetic fields Picard sends the ship closer, even though it will ‘push the shields to their limits’. Gosh I hope that lightshow is worth almost overwhelming the systems that keep everyone onboard safe, and that life support continues to function as it should.

The End
Picard is sickened by the whole sorry situation and is no longer interested in looking at the sun (lets hope none of the science officers were relying on this trip for their work). He tells Geordi to decide where they go next, he just wants to get away. The episode ends on a bit of a low note.