Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Unicorner. Her continuing mission to recap every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. To seek out new lulz and new fun times. To boldly go where many have recapped before but nobody as cool as she.
The Rules, you know the drill:
- For every heartfelt and affecting moment in Data’s quest to be human, there’s way too many painfully awkward/unfunny ones.
- The competence of the Enterprise crew varies greatly depending on plot requirements.
- For a scifi show, some of this tech is dated as fuck.
- Wesley is the Gary-est Stu to ever Stu.
- Pop culture ended in 1987.
- Though TNG is a feminist show in many ways, it has some hella sexist moments.
- As progressive as Star Trek usually is, there’s some racist ass shit up in here.
- TNG writers should never, ever attempt humor. Ever.
- When it comes to distancing this utopian future from present day, holy overcompensation, Batman!
- Star Trek is kind of a mess when it comes to LGBT representation or lack thereof.
- Dramatic music always informs us when we’ve hit a Plot Point.
- This shit don’t make a damn lick of sense.
- Wesley Crusher sees all, knows all.
One more thing: if you’ve decided to watch TNG and follow along with my recaps, a) congrats on this excellent life decision b) beware potential spoilers, as I may occasionally comment on developments later in the series.
Captain’s log, stardate 1324214324123. The Enterprise has brought on board delegates from the two main worlds in the Beta Renna system. These alien peoples, the Anticans and the Selay, are bitter enemies. However, they’ve also both applied for admission into the Federation, and therefore the Enterprise must transport their delegates to this sector’s neutral planet called Parliament. A+ original naming, there!
Picard, Riker, and Yar arrive at the transporter room where they greet a group of aliens from Benedict Cummerbund’s home world. They’re the Selay. They complain that they can “already smell the Anticans” and ask if the latter have already been taken aboard. Picard says they have, but only because their planet was the first on the way to Parliament. The Selay are dismayed to find out their and the Anticans’ quarters are only about 100 meters apart. So what genius planned this? “Yeah, these guys are mortal enemies, so let’s put their accommodations really close to each other!” Riker says he can rearrange their accommodationa and leads the delegation out. In the transporter room, Yar remarks to Picard that she doesn’t think either people are promising Federation candidates. Picard agrees that the peacemakers on Parliament have their work cut out for them.
Picard and Riker enter the bridge while discussing the enmity between the Anticans and the Selay. Riker cannot understand this kind of animosity, even when he was studying Earth history. Picard marvels at the “passionate hatred” between these two life forms over such issues as custom, God concepts, and even economic systems. He says it all dramatic like they’re squabbling over Harry Potter ship wars or something (character relationships, not the star or sailing kind). #9 This discussion is interrupted when the Enterprise’s sensors detect an unusual phenomenon moving toward them at warp speed. It appears to be some kind of energy cloud, and Data can find nothing similar in the ship’s records. Picard orders a “close sensor pass” to investigate. If the Enterprise increases warp speed afterward, they can still reach Parliament on schedule.
Cut to Worf and LaForge, who are in a claustrophobic little room doing what LaForge refers to as “routine maintenance on the sensor assemblies.” LaForge asks Worf why the sudden interest in this task, to which Worf replies, “The captain wants his junior officers to learn, learn, learn.” So are these kinds of tasks a rotation thing, like medical school? This seems like the kind of job you’d delegate to peons and not high-ranking officers with other important jobs, but I guess since the captain figured the trip to Parliament would be uneventful they ain’t got nothing better to do. And hey, it beats running interference between squabbling aliens.
Yar checks in with these two to inform them of the sensor pass and check if they’re experiencing any problems. LaForge says no. Data announces no life form readings in the cloud, but it begins changing shape as the ship makes its pass. Data does not read any matter in the cloud, only energy. Back in the little room, Worf starts tinkering with one of the computer consoles when a bolt of blue lightning shoots out of the console and overtakes him. The force of it throws him backwards and knocks him unconscious. In what feels like a really delayed reaction, LaForge rushes up to Worf while paging sickbay with a medical emergency. Cue credits.
When we return, Dr. Crusher and a nurse are inspecting Worf. Worf comes to and an altercation breaks out. LaForge tackles Worf, stuggling to hold him off while Dr. Crusher sedates him. The group haul Worf to sickbay and I have to wonder why nobody thought to bring a stretcher. I mean Worf was unconscious when LaForge called sickbay. Have I been watching too much Chicago Fire? Isn’t bringing a stretcher like, standard medical procedure? And wouldn’t 24th-century medics have some like, idk holographic stretcher emulator or some—oh, fuck it.
The next scene opens with LaForge in Picard’s ready room. He tells the captain that he saw a “glow” around Worf, and it was unlikely to be a VISOR malfunction. LaForge believes what he saw was real. Meanwhile, it’s time for comic relief (oh, no) with the alien delegates. Yar and Riker must deal with a conflict over the dietary customs of the Anticans, canine Chewbacca-looking creatures. Apparently, Yar took issue with the Anticans bringing in live animals for slaughter. Riker runs interference, appeasing the Anticans while explaining the context behind Yar’s reaction: humans no longer enslave animals for food and the meat they eat is created by the replicator. The Anticans dismiss this concept as “barbaric.” I gotta admit I’m Team Yar here as the US factory farming industry ain’t shit, but I’ma still have to call a #9.
In sickbay, Dr. Crusher is treating Worf while donning some bizarre helmet thing with a glowing lens over one eye. I’m not sure what the point of this doohickey is, other than THE FUTURE!
- Though most Trek tech is integrated into the world building, the series is not immune to unnecessary and seemingly extraneous technocrap because it’s THE FUTURE!
When Dr. Crusher touches Worf, the blue lighting of DOOM jumps into her. Immediately afterward, Troi enters sickbay presumably to check on Worf, and notices that Worf’s readings are now normal. Dr. Crusher, meanwhile, is acting weird and out of it, and Troi asks if she’s OK. She says she’s fine, and Troi turns her attention to Worf. He wakes up with a start and it soon becomes apparent that he remembers nothing since the lightning jumped into him. He asks Troi what happened, and she says the doctor will tell him. Dr. Crusher, however, just walks away without answering.
On the bridge, Picard and Data puzzle over the energy cloud for a bit before Picard instructs LaForge to warp off back on course to Parliament. Dr. Crusher wanders into her and Wesley’s quarters, as if still unsure how or why she’s there. She finds Wesley working on a school project and asks him to tell her about it, surprising Wesley. I can’t say I blame him; who would voluntarily talk to Wesley? He starts rambling on about warp theory, which leads to Dr. Crusher apparently just now realizing the ship’s helm is on the bridge. She immediately walks away without another word, which confuses Wesley. He shrugs it off and goes back to his project. Does his mother hit the medicinal marijuana on the regular or something? Is he just used to it? I find it hard to believe nobody is reacting to her extremely bizarre behavior with more concern. #2
Dr. Crusher enters the bridge where she walks over the the helm like, “Precioussssssss.” LaForge makes a snarky retort but seems otherwise unfazed. Picard beckons Crusher, who tells him that Worf is good as gold now and the diagnosis is “a temporary mental aberration.” Picard is like, “Sis, you’re gonna have to do better than that.” She tells Picard she has to “run some cross checks” on the computer. Data looks over at what she’s doing and asks, “What does helm control have to do with medical cross-checks?” She just ignores him and keeps doing what she’s doing, and Data just shrugs and goes back to his task. Seriously??? #2
The blue lightning thing jumps from Dr. Crusher into the computer, leaving her startled and disoriented. Picard and Data ask if she’s OK, and she gets flustered and quickly heads back to sickbay.
Before Data and Picard can discuss the incident further, Data notices a malfunction on that computer station. He can’t access any info on it, or the station next to it for that matter. Picard receives communiques from engineering and the transporter room informing him of more malfunctions, which perturbs him. He asks Data the chances of such a new ship malfunctioning on such a grand scale. Data says it’s virtually impossible. It’s a mystery! Because it’s not like this shit started happening immediately after y’all poked around some weird electrocloud or anything like that! #2
Picard summons several officers from various departments to a meeting in the observation room. No one has any satisfactory explanation for the malfunctions, though they’ve all been repaired by now. Singh from engineering throws out some theories, but Picard demands a real explanation by the time they reach Parliament.
As for the wacky delegate hijinks, which I know y’all are dying to see more of, Riker and Yar confront the Anticans regarding weapons confiscated from two of their people loitering around the Selay delegation’s quarters. The main Antican dude tries to write the weapons off as tools for slaughtering their animals, but Yar points out that their animals aren’t being kept anywhere near the Selay quarters. Riker tells the Anticans that all of their weapons will be confiscated as violence will not be tolerated on the Enterprise. Antican dude assures Riker the Anticans won’t start shit, but once Riker and Yar leave, ominously declares, “but we will finish it.” I’m not sure what the point of all this is. Is it supposed to be a red herring? Because red herrings kind of lose their effectiveness when the audience already knows what’s causing the mystery.
On the bridge, Worf reports that warp power is fading. Picard contacts engineering and is told by Singh that warpy no worky. Picard then tells Data to inform Parliament they’ll be delayed, but the latter reports that “subspace radio” is out. Yeah, no more shitty Klingon pop music for you, Worf! Picard confers with Riker and Data about this mystery, and this meeting of the minds concludes the ship can’t possibly be this much of a lemon so it’s gotta be sabotage. They suspect one of the delegations, perhaps bribed by the Ferengi. Riker jokes that Picard sounds like a private eye. Data’s like, “dafuq is a private eye?” Thus begins one of the most tedious and painful arcs of TNG—apparently, one or more people on the writing staff have a real boner for throwback detective series, particularly Sherlock Holmes, and keep shoehorning that shit into the scripts in the most awkward, unfunny, and contrived ways possible.
On the off-chance the audience wasn’t annoyed enough already, we cut to engineering where Wesley offers helpful hints to Singh, because the little shit apparently knows more about warp engines than a fucking trained officer. Singh is like, “run along, child” and after some initial protests, Wesley complies. He returns to his and his mother’s quarters, where Dr. Crusher greets him and inquires about his day. During their convo, Wesley learns that his mother remembers nothing of their earlier encounter, while she was under the influence of the blue lightning thing.
Meanwhile in engineering, Singh is about to receive the ultimate punishment for dismissing the Garyest Stu of Stus. The blue lighting thing jumps into him, he seems to have a seizure, then keels over. Right at that moment, Worf enters engineering and sees Singh lying on the floor. He runs over to check on him, then signals Picard to inform him that Singh’s dead. Cue dramatic music and shocked response from Picard in his ready room.
OK, Trek, I get it. You needed to up the stakes and offing redshirts is at this point a noble tradition (except Singh was a green shirt, but same diff). But did y’all really have to off one of the few PoCs up in here, even if his role is a one-episode one? Like I knew Singh was a dead man by virtue of being the only non-regular cast member with a significant role in this mystery, and as an isolated incident there’s nothing inherently racist here, but as one of many, many incidences of TV shows trying to collect diversity brownie points with supporting or minor characters who are first on the chopping block when plot convenience requires it, it’s troubling. #7
Picard makes a captain’s log and I’m not talking about this writing. He informs us that he’s launching a full investigation into Singh’s death. In engineering, LaForge finds that warp has apparently been restored, but Wesley points out that these aren’t the same readings that he saw when he left engineering earlier. Worf suggests that Singh repaired the engines before he died, but Wesley points out that the problems were inside the engines, so Singh couldn’t have possibly fixed them. I… don’t get it. Maybe it makes more sense if I gave enough of a shit about deciphering treknobabble, but I don’t, so let’s just move this bitch along. #12 LaForge is like, “Who else could’ve fixed it?” and orders Worf to inform the bridge of warp status. He does, and the Enterprise warps off.
Now we’re back to the Anticans, because these writers clearly hate our asses. Snoop doggy dogg is 200% over this shit but he’s putting up with it because the Enterprise is their Uber. Yar asks for the Anticans’ alibi during all the malfunctions, and the main dude replies, “Eating.”
YAR: We’re talking about hours here.
ANTICAN DUDE: It was a large meal, Lieutenant Yar, and a very interesting animal.
He snarls and growls this in a way like he’s about to add, “And you’re next, bitch!” Yar seems to sense this as well, and hightails it out of there.
Dr. Crusher summons Worf to sickbay, where Troi is also present. The latter suggests hypnosis to help them recall what happened. I wish Troi would hypnotize me into forgetting the next scene, because this one’s gonna hurt.
In the observation room, Yar informs Riker and Data of her findings. She says all the delegates lied when questioned. Data does a hammy Sherlock Holmes impression complete with pipe. Yar’s like “the fuck?” to Riker, and Denise Crosby is getting real mileage out of her stankface abilities in this episode. Riker seems amused by Data’s antics, and that makes one of us. Data’s painful Sherlock Holmes act does yield one piece of useful info—each delegation was documented picking up medical supplies for cuts and abrasions, suggesting they were too busy fighting with each other to sabotage the Enterprise. Um, no shit? What reason would either of this lot have to sabotage the Enterprise? Literally one of the first things investigators look for when finding suspects is motive. I mean, yeah, the Anticans are fucking weird, but thus far they’ve only been weird about their food customs and the Selay. This is officially the lamest red herring ever. #1 #2 #12
In sickbay, Troi performs the hypnosis with some little flashing doohickey which I suppose is the futuristic version of swinging a pendulum while chanting “you are getting sleeeepy….” #14 The hypnosis reveals that both Dr. Crusher and Worf felt another presence invading their minds. Troi joins a powwow in Picard’s ready room that includes Dr. Crusher, Riker, Yar, and Data, who’s in Sherlock Holmes mode. Fuck my life. Troi relates this info to Picard, adding that she had sensed a duality in both Dr. Crusher and Worf earlier. Picard asks why she didn’t report it, but Troi says she’d assumed the duality was the same as she sensed in all humans. Yeah, nice job retconning, writers. It’s always nice when plot holes are so transparent you can’t even bullshit them in a timely manner. Picard asks Data’s input (oh please, no) but tells him to lose the fucking pipe. Data long-windedly confirms that the delegates and crew have been eliminated as suspects. I suppose this is the one time “No shit, Sherlock” is both metaphorical and literal. Everyone else sans Picard seems amused by Data’s antics. Fuck all y’all enabling motherfuckers. #1
Wesley’s back on the bridge again, reiterating to LaForge that Singh didn’t fix the warp engines; they just kind of fixed themselves. LaForge is like, “It’s the result that counts.” Except this whole mystery revolves around finding the why behind the circumstances leading to this result, asshole. LaForge loses helm control, prompting Worf to summon Picard to the bridge. Picard shows up with the cavalry, and when he goes to LaForge’s station to investigate, the lightning thing jumps into him. LaForge thinks he saw something, but drops the subject when Picard assures him he’s fine. So if I tell y’all I’m actually part of the 1% jet-setting around the world and not some broke asshole with nothing better to do than type out Star Trek recaps, you’d believe me, right? #2
Picard starts acting weird and goofy like he’s high or something, and suddenly helm control is working again. Picard orders LaForge to double back toward the electrocloud. Riker clearly suspects shenanigans and exchanges a troubled look with Troi, and because Riker’s the only one with enough balls to call Picard on his shit, he asks why they’ve turned back when they’re already behind schedule for Parliament. Picard believes “an important scientific discovery” awaits them at the electrocloud. Troi and Data jump in asking him to explain more, and Picard’s like “Bruh I’m the captain, I don’t gotta explain shit!”
Meanwhile, O’Brien is chasing after one of the Anticans who’s demanding to see the captain. They pass by the Selay quarters, and then O’Brien’s forced to run interference between those two. Why were they passing the Selay quarters, anyway? Was the Antican on his way to the bridge? How does he know where the bridge is and why would he conveniently have to pass by the—oh, fuck it. #12 The bridge officers sans Picard gather in the observation deck to talk about his weird behavior, but ultimately feel there isn’t enough evidence to justify relieving him of command.
Riker and Dr. Crusher confront Picard. It goes about as well as you’d imagine. Dr. Crusher wants Picard to come to sickbay for medical exams, and Riker backs her up, saying he believes Picard to be under an alien influence. Picard’s like, “Bitch, y’all don’t come in my ready room telling me I’m possessed by an alien, medical exams for you two!” Dr. Crusher haggles with him a bit about the course change before he kicks their asses out.
On the way to engineering, Riker suddenly gets lassoed by some bizarre contraption that looks like a butterfly net with one of those glowing rave necklaces attached. Riker’s like, “the fuck?” Turns out the Selay delegates had mistaken him for an Antican. He contacts Yar about sending a security team down here to escort the Selay back to their quarters.
Dr. Crusher goes to Picard’s ready room with the results of the exams he ordered, and basically gets Picard to confess he’s possessed by an alien. The alien or whatever seems eager for a “glorious adventure” that lies ahead, leaving Dr. Crusher deeply concerned.
The Enterprise arrives back at the electrocloud. Riker informs us via VO that he’s certain that the alien possessing Picard originates in this cloud. He adds that there’s nothing they can do, “at least within regulations.” What, Starfleet has no provisions for alien possession? You can’t like, hold a possessed officer in the brig till you can get an alien exorcist or something? I could buy the earlier bit about lack of sufficient evidence of possession but Picard totally told Crusher that he’s possessed! Isn’t that enough evidence for you? Why are they still following his orders? #2 #12
Picard walks out onto the bridge and starts telling everyone what we already knew or could easily peace together unless we were comatose through most of the episode. When the Enterprise passed by the electrocloud the first time, it accidentally carried away a sentient noncorporeal being. Unable to communicate in any other way, it jumped from person to person and then into the computer, trying to slow the ship as it moved away from the cloud. The alien “deeply regrets” the accidental death of engineer Singh. It says that the entity speaking to them now is a combination of itself and of Picard. It also reveals its plans to beam itself and Picard, as a combined noncorporeal being, into the energy cloud.
OK, let’s get something straight. So this being got pulled away from the cloud, presumably by the Enterprise’s sensors, which pulled it into the computer before it jumped into Worf. We know from Dr. Crusher’s possession that the alien was able to speak through her and communicate. So why did the alien have to fuck with the computers and kill Singh? Why couldn’t it just possess Worf and be all, “Hey assholes, I’m an alien from the electrocloud y’all pulled into this ship by accident, I’ve possessed your officer because I don’t know how else to communicate. I can jump my ass into someone else if you don’t believe me. So can y’all do me a solid and take me back home?” I mean this is basically what it communicated while it was in Picard, except for the whole, you know, “I’m gonna abduct your captain and turn him into energy” bit. #12
Riker and Crusher try to stop the alien!Picard thing, but the latter puts his hands on the computer console and sends blue lighting through everyone on the bridge, effectively incapacitating them.
Riker is still able to call a red alert, for all the good it does them. The alien!Picard thing leaves the bridge and enters the transporter room, where the officer manning the place has been knocked unconscious via blue lighting. Unopposed, the alien!Picard thing beams out.
Presumably, the blue lightning went away as soon as the alien!Picard thing left the ship and had no lasting effects of the crew, because everyone’s normal again when the next scene begins. Riker’s VO tells us an hour has passed since the alien!Picard thing beamed out. He says “every effort has been made” to locate the captain, to no avail. The transporter chief has no idea what the coordinates it beamed out to were, while the ship’s sensors yield no readings (of what, I’m not sure. Does electroPicard have a transporter signature or something?). Riker finally concludes there’s nothing more they can do and orders LaForge to set a course for Parliament. Before he can, however, Troi suddenly senses the captain. He’s alone, she says. Out in the energy cloud, the combined state he and the entity had formed was no longer possible to retain. Troi says he’s in trouble.
Riker can’t figure out how to beam back Picard, as he’s nothing but energy now. Data points out that the entity got into the Enterprise via the circuitry, so maybe Picard can do the same. Riker has LaForge take the ship into the cloud. He asks Troi if she can get a telepathic message to Picard, but it’s beyond her abilities. She does, however sense his presence on the ship. LaForge’s computer panel starts freaking out, and the graphic display on it forms the letter “P.” Data concludes that Picard is in the ship’s circuitry, and he might know a way to get the captain back.
Data, Riker, and Troi hurry to the transporter room, where Data tinkers with the computer console. He informs Riker and Troi that the captain’s physical pattern is still in the transporter database, and if energy!Picard has moved into the transporter relays, he might recognize his physical pattern. All Data has to do is re-integrate Picard again. Unfortunately, they have no way of knowing if Picard is in the transporter relays, but they’ve got no choice but to chance it. So Data fires up the transporter, and after several seconds Picard finally materializes. He has no idea what he’s doing here and seems confused. Troi points out that this pattern was formed before alien!Picard beamed out into the cloud, so Picard wouldn’t remember what happened to him. After a brief conversation, it becomes clear to everyone that Picard is back to his old self.
Riker says that Dr. Crusher asked him to bring Picard to sickbay, as he’s been looking tired lately. Well, no shit. I imagine alien possession and being beamed into some weird energy cloud will take it out of you. Before Picard can answer, Yar runs in to report that security found a puddle of blood outside the Selay quarters. Apparently, one of the ship’s cooks was asked to prepare meat for the Anticans from something that looks like the Selay delegate. Honestly, after the disaster that was this mission, I wonder how the Enterprise are trusted by Starfleet to deal with diplomacy in any capacity. Picard takes this opportunity to heed Dr. Crusher’s advice, leaving the delegate situation in Riker’s hands. The latter looks less than pleased, and Troi smirks at him like, “See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya!” Aaaaaaand that’s a wrap.
I actually didn’t think this episode was that bad the first time I saw it, but upon recapping in detail, it really falls apart. The first mistake was making the solution to the episode’s central mystery obvious to the audience. Of course, this is not to say that you can’t still make a good episode when the audience is in on the mystery, but the suspense must be shifted to other aspects of the plot while not requiring the characters to be idiots. This episode fails on both counts. The alien delegates were never a viable suspect in this mystery so that was a waste of time, and don’t even get me started on the deep hurting that was the Sherlock Holmes bit (which, I say with great sadness, we haven’t seen the last of). Yet somehow, it’s still not as bad as “The Naked Now,” “Code of Honor,” or our next episode, “Justice.” In fact, I dare say “Justice” is so bad that after watching that you’ll be yearning for the intelligence and sophistication of “Lonely Among Us.” Bet y’all can’t wait!