Written by Maurice Hurley, Robert Lewin, and Tracy Torme
Directed by Paul Lynch
The Enterprise checks into Starbase 74 for a routine maintenance and system upgrade at the hands of the Bynars. The Bynars are a species that acts the same was as the binary computer language. They work in pairs as a “1” and a “0”. This allows them to interface with the computer at great speeds. Their language when they talk to each other is also incomprehensible.
For some reason, Wesley Crusher (portrayed by Wil Wheaton), the son of the ship’s Doctor, and First Officer Will Riker (portrayed by Jonathan Frakes) are immediately suspicious of the Bynars. They write it off to just being the way another species behaves.
The upgrades the Bynars are loading into the computer also include the holo-deck, a place that is essentially a virtual-reality room. It is like nothing we have seen yet here, but the technological advances make everything in that room seem all too real. Commander Riker heads down there to check on that upgrade and while recreating a New Orleans Jazz Club manages to create what he sees as the perfect woman named Minuet. Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) joins them briefly and is also captivated by this “enhancement” to the holo-deck.
Meanwhile, the android Data (Brent Spiner), determines that there is a problem with the anti-matter containment field and evacuates the ship. It must be sent out as far away from people as it can get before it is destroyed. However, Captain Picard and Commander Riker cannot be found.
When Picard and Riker make it out of the holo-deck they discover the Enterprise has been abandoned and is orbiting the Bynars home planet. All of the Bynars on the ship are dead, and there are no life-signs from the planet. A nearby super-nova caused the Bynar computer to malfunction. Since the Bynars are essentially co-dependent on their main computer, they too died. Once Picard and Riker begin reloading the information into the Bynar computer, they live again.
Though sympathetic, Picard and Riker must take the Bynars back to Starbase 74 for a hearing. When questioned as to why they didn’t just ask for help, the Bynars reply that they were afraid of being told “no”. In their world, everything is black or white – a “1” or a “0”. There is no in-between for them.
The main intrigue in the episode is the Bynar species. They are written in a way that is very interesting. Watching them work and “chatter” is also played well by the actors. The other good point is the use of the holo-deck. Riker begins to fall in love with the computer-generated character of Minuet. Her personality is such a perfect match to his ideal woman that he has trouble remembering that she is not a real woman. However, she will play an important part in a future episode of the series, Future Imperfect. Kudos to the writers in later seasons for consistency.
I thought the one little comment about “the way another species behaves” was interesting. What would it be like to try to interpret another species by human standards? Would our standards of behavior – our suspicions, our hunches, our interpretations of “body language” – apply to an alien species? It is something that is only glossed over, but that one little comment raised a whole host of questions for me. I wish that had been delved into more. It was also interesting to wonder if part of the crew’s reaction to the Bynars had to do with their height. At about half the size of Jonathan Frakes, it seemed like at times they were being looked at as children. Was it because they were a race unfamiliar to the crew – or was it their prejudices? More could have been done here, but the writers missed the boat.
A big disappointment I have is that such a well-developed species as the Bynars is never again seen in Star Trek. It seems a shame to have developed them so thoroughly and then to completely drop them from the canvas. Otherwise, this is a pretty decent episode in what was an uneven first-season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.