Written by D.C. Fontana, John D.F. Black, Johnny Dawkins, and Tracy Torme
Directed by Paul Lynch
Star Trek fans will definitely feel that this plot has been trotted out before – and it has. The Original Series episode The Naked Time (first aired in September 29, 1966) is referred to here by Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes).
The Enterprise D is sent to aid the crew of the Tsiolkovsky, a ship which was sent to observe a collapsing star. There have been reports of “strange occurances”. The Enterprise arrives to find the crew of 80 all dead – either blown out of the hatch or frozen when the life support was turned off.
Commander Riker recalls something familiar about the description of a woman showering in her clothes, and he begins to backtrack through history to find reference to it aboard the Enterprise under Captain Kirk.
Unfortunately, Lt. Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton) has brought the contaminent back to the Enterprise. One by one, the crew all begin to act strange – mimicking the effects of intoxication.
I was surprised by the quality of this episode. The writing was very good and seemed more even than the first episode. There didn’t seem to be the overkill of trying to tell us too much about the characters, but rather letting the information flow in a more natural way. Kudos go to the writing team of J. Michael Bingham and John D.F. Black. They did not go on to become a familiar name associated with Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they did a good job with this episode. The faults with the script are few and far between. What could’ve ended up being a rather bad copy of The Original Series episode, ended up being a treat.
The actors also seem to have a better grasp on their characters and how they act. Whether that is a result of becoming more comfortable in their roles or as a result of the Direction by Paul Lynch is up to debate.
Patrick Stewart’s Captain Picard demonstrates his usual stern commander, but is also at a loss and totally exasperated when he is trying to reason with a somewhat intoxicated Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton). The teenager has taken over the Engineering Deck of the ship, as well as most of the controls. Watching him try to deal with the young man and straining to keep from barking orders at the young man, Stewart conveys his frustration and utter helplessness at the situation aboard the ship. Only toward the end of the episode do we get to see Picard let down as he is infected as well. These scenes also come across as very natural for the Captain, and give us a hint that there is more to the Captain beneath the gruff exterior.
The most hysterical interaction during this episode comes between Security Chief Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) and the android, Commander Data (Brent Spiner). We learn that Data is “fully functional” and “programmed in multiple techniques” as he gets it on with Tasha. At the end, the antidote having been administered, she sternly advises him that “it never happened”.
Levar Burton’s Geordi LaForge is given a prominent role in this early episode. Watching him struggle as he talks about wanting to see for real – the “imperfect” way we humans see – he conveys tremendous emotion. Though his VISOR allows him to see way more than we can see, he longs for the simple vision that humans have. This is a sentiment we don’t see him express during times when he has control of his thoughts.
Captain Picard and Commander Riker struggle to get control of the ship before the star completely collapses. Wesley redeems himself at this time by helping to give the Enterprise a few extra minutes to get away.
This episode was a fine use of the cast. Just about everyone seemed to be used decently. The only one I found to be under-utilized was Worf, and that can easily be overlooked. Ship’s Counselor Deanna Troi’s (Marina Sirtis) uniform is much better here than it was in the first episode, though there are still others seen walking around in the background in the ridiculous mini-skirt.
I also did not understand the references to “maximum decontamination” with regard to the Transporter. Why wouldn’t the highest setting be used at all times? It also struck me that it was way too easy for Wesley to get control of the ship in Engineering. A foe would only have to take out two people here to gain control of the entire ship.
However, the few nit-picks aside, this is a most enjoyable episode.
Previous Episode (link): Star Trek The Next Generation: Encounter at Farpoint
Next Episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Code of Honor