Season Two - TNG

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Contagion

Written by Steve Gerber, Beth Woods, Leonard Mlodinow, Scott Rubenstein, and Melinda M. Snodgrass
Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan

Based on this episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, it is obvious that the one thing that never survived into the 24th century is the Microsoft Windows operating system.

The Enterprise receives a distress call from its sister ship, the U.S.S. Yamato. The problem is, the Yamato is in The Neutral Zone – an area of space between the Federation and the Romulan Empire into which neither party is supposed to venture.

Captain Varley of the Yamato (portrayed by Thalmus Rasulala) explains to Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) that he was looking for the homeland of the Iconians, a mysterious, legendary people with technology far greater than the Federation. The story is similar to that of our mysterious, lost continent of Atlantis.

Upon finding what he thought was the Iconian Homeworld, the Yamato began being plagued by mysterious malfunctions in the computer systems of the ship. While he is talking to Picard, the transmission suddenly ends and we witness the explosion of the ship.

Believing the answers to be at the Iconian Homeworld, Picard orders the Enterprise to jourey to the planet, deep in The Neutral Zone. The ship is being shadowed by a Romulan ship which has once ordered the Enterprise to leave.

Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton) deduces that the problem in the Yamato‘s computers were not a design flaw as Captain Varley asserted, but the result of the scan of the ship by an Iconian probe launched from the planet. He manages to get to the bridge – despite the Enterprise now experiencing malfunctions of its own – and tell Picard to destroy a probe about to scan the ship.

However, the damage is done. When the Enterprise downloaded the logs of the Yamato, they downloaded an Iconian computer program which is attempting to re-write all of the coding in the computers on the Enterprise.

This is where I sort of scratched my head. It would appear that the Enterprise is at the mercy of a computer virus. Interesting concept in 1989, maybe. Old hat now. This is what mars an otherwise terrific episode. The solution is so obvious to those of us who own computers now that it’s inconceivable that they couldn’t solve it so easily 300+ years from now.

However, the rest of the episode is stellar. There is good acting on the part of Patrick Stewart as he plays up Picard’s fascination with archaeology (something that gets addressed again in future episodes). Jonathan Frakes gets into character so well with Riker in a few instances; the first being when he is debating if Picard should be part of the Away Team which will beam down to the Iconian Homeworld, and the second as he becomes more and more exasperated at the Enterprise‘s malfunctions. We also see strong performances from LeVar Burton and Brent Spiner as Data in supporting – but pivotal – roles.

The tension is good – both because we know that the Romulans are watching the Enterprise while all of this is going on – and because of the malfunctions on the ship. The Iconian technology cannot fall into Romulan hands. Though we know the Enterrprise will not blow up (there are five full season to go yet in the series), the resolution of the technology is still at issue.

There is also a nice part in here with Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton). After the Yamato has been blown up, he questions how Picard can so seemingly nonchalantly go about his job. Picard gives him a nice reply stating that the time for grief will come later. It was a very well-done bit; very small in the whole story. Still, it is a memorable few minutes in the run of this series.

Not as good as some of the other Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes, it still shines. There are some great effects, a well-thought out race in the Iconians, and great performances. Keep the channel on if you happen to come across this one night – it’s worth watching.

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