2 March 2013

Unnatural Selection

Episode: s2, ep7

What Happens
Following a fuzzy distress signal the Enterprise  finds the Langtree, a ship without life signs. Picard remotely accesses the Langtree and looks at the bridge, the crew are dead at their positions. Pulaski says they died of old age and the dead Captain's log says that everyone was infected by an accelerated ageing illness. The ship's last stop was the unoriginally-named genetics lab, Darwin Station. The Langtree is quarantined and a beacon left as a warning to shipping.
Darwin Station has declared a quarantine. Kingsley, the woman in charge, has clearly aged beyond her years, and it turns out she's a fan of Pulaski's work. She begs the Enterprise to evacuate the children. They've shown no sign of illness and are kept isolated because they're genetic experiments. After discussion, it's agreed that one child will be beamed aboard for medical testing, using increased precautions. A 12 year-old boy is beamed over, except that he looks about 19. (Hmmm, could this be related to the problem? You know, I think it just might be.) Even in stasis Troi senses that he's telepathic and scans say he's in peak physical condition, due to being genetically modified. Pulaski wants to evacuate the children, but Picard is sceptical so they argue (which is Just Not On).
Pulaski delivers the bad news to Kingsley, who pleads for the 'children'. Pulaski asks permission to put the 'child' in a shuttle for testing, and Picard unexpectedly agrees. The doctor takes Data to pilot the shuttle, she says he'll be fine and shows no concern for her own safety. In the shuttle the 'kid' is taken out of his plastic casing and talks telepathically to Pulaski. She experiences painful, high-speed arthritis; the children aren't ill, but they are carriers. The silent, muscular GM lad is beamed back to the station, Pulaski and Data follow in the quarantined shuttle.
On the station Kingsley shows Pulaski the 'children', they all look much longer. They have telekinetic abilities and perfect immune systems, in fact their antibodies are airborne, and genetically adapt viruses. (Ah, that's it!*) Pulaski gets Data to check the lab's computer. Meanwhile the Enterprise crew discuss ways to help Pulaski. The transporter logs could save her, but she's never used the Enterprise transporters.
After high-speed computer browsing Data figures it out. A Langtree crewman with a minor illness visited the station, which triggered the children's immune systems to mutate the virus. Anyone infected ages rapidly and becomes a carrier. A much-aged Pulaski reports this to the Enterprise. Picard wants to bring her back, but she won't hear of it, the station and the children must be kept in perpetual quarantine. Data returns to the Enterprise after thorough transporter scanning.
It turns out the transporters could be used to cure the irreversible illness, using DNA. Data and Riker find a hair follicle in Pulaski's quarters. If this works they could cure everyone at the lab. Pulaski reluctantly uses the transporter, despite her reservations. O'Brien says it's a one way transport (for reasons) and Picard says he'll operate the transporter (for some other reasons). Pulaski glowies in and out for a bit, getting younger each time until she's cured.

Oh Captain, My Captain
Picard wants to assess Dr Pulaski, and asks Troi for her impression. Troi says Pulaski is the "most dedicated physician" she's ever worked with (poor Crusher). Picard seems concerned that dedication isn't enough.
Picard and Pulaski argue intensely over the best course of action, both are determined to do their duty. Later Picard allows Pulaski to try the dangerous shuttle experiment, much to her surprise as she's still trying to convince him after he agrees.
Picard is determined to help Pulask after she's infected and talks to Pulaski's previous Captain, who was obviously deeply impressed by her. He didn't want to lose her, but she was determined to work on the Enterprise when the job opened up.

Does Not Compute
Pulaski assures Data that there's no chance of him catching anything, despite the events of the Naked Now (though she wasn't there when it happened). Clearly Data only catches the amusing ailments.
When saying goodbye Pulaski says Data's in a class of his own when it comes to androids. Well yes, he would be, he's practically the only one. I don't understand how much general awareness there is of androids. Still, at least the Doctor seems to be changing her tune towards him.

Doctor Doctor
This episode emphasises Pulaski's compassion as a medic and her determination to help.
She asks the counsellor about why she and Picard keep arguing. Troi suggests they argue so much because they're similar, both are determined to do their duty and this makes them impassioned when they don't see eye to eye.
It turns out that Pulaski has never used the Enterprise's transporters, and barely used them on her previous ship because she's deeply mistrustful of them. This is presumably because she's the female Bones, I don't really know much about Bones, so I can't comment on other similarities. I don't know why they need a character based on a previous one, I guess at this point the show is still in the shadow of the Original Series.

Poor O'Brien
O'Brien really earns his money (which I don't think anyone actually gets) in this episode. He's clearly the transporter maestro and does all the vital adjustments to ensure safety when the 'kid' is beamed over.
He's invited to a staff meeting to try and help Pulaski. He points out the feasibility of various suggestions and is so keen to impress that he techno-babbles as hard as he can. It's clear O'Brien is the one who's going to do all the legwork on this. 

Security Breach
Worf is right to be suspicious and cry "A trick!" when a fully grown 12 year old is beamed over. Once they agreed to send the kid I don't understand why the lab didn't explain about the accelerated ageing. Yes, it's suspicious (and, as it turned out, the cause) but once they saw him it was obvious, there was no reason not to be upfront. In fact I'm surprised it took so long to realise the 'children' were the cause.

Staff Meetings: 4
1. Picard asks Troi for her assessment of Pulaski. Troi says she's the "most dedicated physician" she's worked with (poor Crusher). Picard fears that dedication is not the same as good judgement.
2. The dead Captain's log reveals the ageing illness spread rapidly. Pulaski explains that the Langtree medical records were all clean besides one crewmember who had a very minor, treatable illness.
3. The crew discuss the lab's request to evacuate the children. Most believe they should refuse. Pulaski wants to know more and suggests examining the child, with precautions.
4.Troi, Geordi, Riker, Picard and O'Brien meet to discuss what to do about Pulaski. Troi suggests transporter filters, but O'Brien points out that those already haven't worked. Geordi suggests altering the bio filter, but they don't know enough about the illness to tell the transporter what  to filter out. O'Brien says that a trace using existing logs could help, though it would take a lot of work, but Pulaski's never used the Enterprise transporters.

Missed Opportunity
Transporters are ridiculously powerful and frankly could lead to transhumanism in a different sort of setting. As far as I can tell they could be used to make replicas of people people (oh wait, that'll happen to Riker) or resurrect those lost in space (oh wait, that happened to Picard already). I wonder what would happen if doubles just walked out of transporters wherever people's logs were still on file? That'd be interesting.

Won't Somebody Think of the Children?
This is exactly what Kingsley is doing, with her lab's genetically engineered 'children' (who are surprising given the Federation's stance on eugenics), though it could endanger all the non-GM kids on the Enterprise.

Death by Space Misadventure
26 people on the Langtree died of the accelerated ageing illness. The

The End
Pulaski's log narrates the ending. The Enterprise uses its weapons to destroy the Langtree. It's a solemn moment, with an big space explosion.

* As soon as they mentioned the GM kids' immune systems I realised how this was gonna go (though obviously much of it is the bollocks you'd expect). Then again I knew what antibodies were at the age of 6.

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