Written by John Mason, Mike Gray, Leonard Mlodinow, and Scott Rubenstein
Directed by Paul Lynch
All of the controversy surrounding cloning, embryo research, and the like gives this episode more impact now than it did when it first aired.
The Enterprise receives a distress call from a Federation supply ship, the U.S.S. Lantree. The entire crew apparently died of natural causes – old-age. This is very alarming, especially since the Captain of the ship was around the same age as Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes).
The Enterprise quarantines the vessel and proceeds to its last port of call – a research station known as Darwin Station. As soon as they arrive, they realize the inhabitants of Darwin Station are exhibiting the same rapid-aging symptoms as those on the Lantree. The genetically-engineered children which have been created at the station seem to be exhibiting no symptoms and the researchers are desperate to get them out of the contaminated environment.
Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) is very reluctant to bring the children aboard the ship. Dr. Pulaski (Diana Muldaur) tries every argument she knows. Finally Picard agrees to allow one child to transport aboard in stasis and a protected state. The “child” is supposedly only 12 years old but appears much older.
After every test imaginable, Pulaski states that the child is free from disease. Picard will not allow him to be resuscitated. Pulaski then proposes to take the child off the Enterprise in a shuttlecraft piloted by the android Data (Brent Spiner). A short time after bringing him out of stasis, Pulaski begins to exhibit symptoms of the onset of the disease.
These children at Darwin Station are “designer children”. Not only have they been genetically engineered to be resistant to disease, but their bodies will go on the offensive against germs, bacteria and viruses in their immediate area. They are also telekinetic and telepathic.
Picard’s commentary during this episode that “an attempt to control evolution results in a new species lethal to its predecessor…” seemed futuristic at the time this episode aired in 1989. Now, however, as we deal with the moral and ethical questions surrounding the cloning and genetic engineering issues, it becomes more prophetic. Can we actually do damage to the human race while trying to fix all of the problems out there? It asks a good question and the answers are not easily found.
Diana Muldaur, whom I never really cared for as the doctor on the Enterprise, performs very well in this episode. We can believe in her putting herself on the line for these people and resigned to her fate as well. Brent Spiner is her equal as Data and she seems to accept his role much better here than she has in the past. I don’t like the friction that is normally portrayed between the two characters, and there is none of that present during the episode.
The solution to the problem is muddied in techno-speak that I found hard to follow. I could understand the principal behind what they were going to do, but the babble went way beyond my head and I thought could have been simplified. A new viewer to Star Trek: The Next Generation would be intimidated listening to all of this dialogue thinking that is typical for the series.
There is one spectacular effect in the show when the Lantree is blown up. The aging makeup I found to be unremarkable – I have seen better.
A few years ago I would not have recommended this show. Because of the changes in our own scientific community, I think it is worth a viewing at least once.
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