Season Two - TNG

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Shades of Gray

Written by Maurice Hurley, Richard Manning, Hans Beimler, and Melinda M. Snodgrass
Directed by Rob Bowman

As the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation draws to a close, we find Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton) investigating a previously unexplored planet when suddenly Riker is bitten on the leg by something unknown.

Geordi calls for him to be beamed aboard the Enterprise, but the transporter’s bio-filters will not allow him to be beamed up. Dr. Pulaski (Diana Muldaur) beams down to analyze the situation and authorizes a medical override on the transporter.

Counselor Troi ( Marina Sirtis) because of her previous relationship with Riker joins Pulaski in sickbay to try to figure out what is wrong. Riker has been stunk by a vine from the planet which has injected a combination parasite/virus/bacteria into him. As his condition worsens, the two women desperately seek a solution.

Eventually thanks to Troi’s empathic capabilities, they realize that triggering certain memories affects the growth of the parasite. This is the excuse for a show that largely consists of short film clips from the last two seasons.

The problem lies in that there were few spectacular episodes in the last two seasons. Most were adequate with only a few truly excelling. That really doesn’t leave too much to choose from. Also, Star Trek: The Next Generation is not a show that contains a lot of spectacular, short bits. There is a lot of character development going on in between the spaceships exploding.

This is a wasted episode, especially for a season finale. It is not until the end of the third season that the Star Trek writers seem to catch on that the idea of a finale is to leave the fans eagerly awaiting the start of the next season, rather than thinking “Why did I ever watch this show in the first place?”

Had this episode been done later in the series as a retrospect, it might have had more impact. Instead of intense battles with The Borg we get a lot of clips of Armus from Skin of Evil. There is so much great stuff yet to come that a retrospect at this point is totally out of place.

The actors aren’t given much to do here, and that’s also part of the problem. Jonathan Frakes gets to lie down, twitch, and sweat a lot. Marina Sirtis looks concerned and pained. Diana Muldaur runs around looking harried – that’s about it. It’s a shame that this is her last episode – she did such a terrific job in the one before this that her final appearance as Dr. Pulaski in in Star Trek: The Next Generation is a let-down.

I’d like to say “What were the writers thinking?” but I don’t think they were at all. The episode has the feeling of something thrown together at the last minute to satisfy a requirement of a certain number of episodes without having to do much work.

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