Written by Ron Roman, Michael Piller, Richard Danus, and Michael Wagner
Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont
The Enterprise picks up distress code and immediately goes to source of code. The crew finds an ancient Promellian battle cruiser which initiated code over 1,000 years before.
Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart), demonstrates an interest in archaeology – something that will be built on later in the series – and beams over to check out ship with the android Data (Brent Spiner) and Klingon Security Chief, Worf (Michael Dorn).
Data manages to get the ship to power up. The Team finds a recording made by the Captain of the Promellian vessel taking responsibility and praising crew. Thinking they have seen all there is to see, they beams back over to the Enterprise.
Almost immediately upon their return, the Enterprise begins experiencing a mysterious energy loss and is bombarded with radiation. Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton) cannot get the engines to function. Captain Picard surmises that they have fallen into a 1,000 year old booby trap which is also responsible for the Promellian vessel being there in almost pristine condition. Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) takes away team back to the Promellian vessel to try to learn about source of radiation and what happened to them. Riker and Data find what they believe to be Captain’s logs, mostly decayed and unreadable. However, they do manage to read one section and get some information on the source of the radiation
Geordi tries to figure out why Enterprise engines won’t work and they can’t get to warp speed. To this end, he decides to go back to the original design and building of the ship. As he is doing this research, he comes across records of Leah Brahms (portrayed by Susan Gibney) in Starfleet’s engineering division. To better understand the schematics of the Enterprise, Geordi moves to the holodeck – a virtual-reality room which can recreate just about anything. The computer creates a simulation of Dr. Brahms to interact with him about the problem. Geordi has the computer integrate Dr. Brahms’ personality into the simulation.
This episode is good on many levels. It works well as suspense, even though we know the Enterprise will figure a way out of the situation. They’ve got more than four years and four movies to go, after all. I found myself thinking along with them as to how they would be able to get out of it; the answer was most definitely not obvious.
Add to that some wonderful character development with Geordi LaForge. His character was created with the irony of having a blind helmsman, and later on moved to engineering. However, during all that time we got to know fairly little about him. His personality has come across a bit brusque at times, especially when dealing with those underneath him in engineering. But during all that time, we haven’t seen much of his personal life.
At the beginning of this episode, we see Geordi on a date in holodeck, and failing miserably. It is painfully obvious he is just trying too hard, something Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) confirms later on when he laments his problems with females to her in the 10-Forward Lounge.
The computer-simulated Leah Brahms seems to be the perfect person for him, but is she really? I found myself wondering what the romance would be like in real time. One addition to the show which would have been nice would be Geordi contacting Dr. Brahms and being just as awkward and uneasy as he was on his date early in the episode.
The acting here is terrific. LeVar Burton handles Geordi with perfect personality changes; comfort and self-assuredness when he is dealing with engineering problems; and yet sadness and melancholy when discussing his personal life. Burton makes a believable distinction between the two different Geordi’s, and it’s one that Guinan builds on when she is talking with him.
As they are dealing with the problems arising, the remaining actors make it believable as well. Patrick Stewart takes Picard to a place where we see that he knows people are in peril from the invisible enemy of lethal radiation, and yet there is nothing he can do about it. When he takes over the helm later in the show, he does so in such a way that we know he wants the responsibility entirely on himself should the escape plan go wrong – yet without saying a word to that effect.
There is also a great bit of cinematography in this episode as the ship loses power and we see the Captain and his First Officer discussing the situation with just shadows playing off their faces.
This is a great episode to watch and enjoy. It stands on it’s own, even if you’ve never watched any Star Trek before this.
Previous episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Bonding
Next episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Enemy