Written by Rene Echevarria and Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Tom Benko
This particular episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation strikes me as one where the writers started off the story with one particular intention, then chickened out near the end and changed the story.
Can you imagine Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) put in the position of Pontius Pilate? I can’t. For quite a bit of this episode, it feels like he is.
Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) and Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton) rescue a humanoid alien life-form critically injured in the crash of an escape pod. To allow him to be transported up to the Enterprise, Geordi stabilizes him by connecting their nervous systems.
The transport is successful and Dr. Crusher manages to save the humanoid (portrayed by Mark LaMura). Upon awakening, however, he has no recollection of who he is, where he is from, or what happened to him. Dr. Crusher dubs him “John Doe” and remarks on the amazing progress he makes in healing himself. His body is regenerating the damaged tissues at a very speedy rate.
Meanwhile, Geordi also exhibits some differences as well. Previously shy and inept around women, he manages to score a date with Christ Henshaw (portrayed by Julie Warner).
Captain Picard tells “John” that they have figured out the coordinates of the planet he originated from. John exhibits fear but doesn’t know why. He thinks he was attempting to escape the planet but does not know the reason behind it.
John seems to bring a calmness and comfort to people he encounters. He then exhibits healing powers when he heals O’Brien’s (Colm Meaney) dislocated shoulder.
All this feels like John is being set up as a Christ figure on the world he came from, now being hunted down and persecuted. In fact, since I could not remember having seen this episode before, that was exactly how I expected the story to play out. Keeping him dressed in a white outfit throughout the episode probably helped as well.
My feelings were reinforced even more when the Enterprise made contact with a ship from John’s world whose Captain says that John is a condemned prisoner who was sentenced to die because of his corruptive influence.
This all puts Picard in the Pontius Pilate-like position. Could he turn this man over to those who wish to kill him?
It would have been interesting to see that play out, but at this moment the writers seem to take a turn with the plot and have John be someone who is mutating into a different life-form. Had the X-Men movie come out before this episode, I would have sworn the last 15-20 minutes were directly ripped off from that.
The acting in this episode is great. Gates McFadden and Mark LaMura play off of each other very well. There seems to be a naturally friendly bond between them that makes their closeness believable. Geordi gets to see his self-confidence with the opposite sex grow a little bit, and it’s a credit to Burton that we can believe the inept Geordi in the beginning, as well as the more confident Geordi later on.
One other thing I didn’t like besides this is that we see the Klingon Worf (Michael Dorn) become injured and John heals him. This would be fine by itself, but the issue of Worf being injured is revisited again in a later episode, Ethics and I immediately thought of that episode when he was severely hurt. On first viewing, it probably wouldn’t matter, but if you’ve seen Ethics, it will seem like the same story is about to be brought up.
It’s a shame the writers couldn’t follow through with what I believe was their original intent because the storyline with John being Christ-like was going along very well. I thought it was interesting and it kept my attention all along. The ending was so disappointing, that it took away from my enjoyment of the entire episode. Though I recommend it, it’s mainly for the questions and feelings it raises through the first two-thirds of the episode.
Previous episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Menage a Troi
Next episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Best of Both Worlds Part I