Written by Brannon Braga, Rene Echevarria, and Naren Shankar
Directed by Gates McFadden
This is just one of those episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation that sticks in my head. When I’ve thought of it in the past, it’s usually in the frame of mind of “hideously bad episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. After viewing Genesis for the first time in a long time, my opinion has been mollified a bit. While there are certainly some huge problems, it’s not nearly as bad as I remember.
It’s just another day on board the Enterprise. Commander Riker (portrayed by Jonathan Frakes) injures himself during a rendezvous with another officer on the holo-deck. Perennial hypochondriac Lt. Barclay (portrayed by Dwight Schultz) is being his usual self and the ship’s doctor, Beverly Crusher (portrayed by Gates McFadden), gives him an injection to give a boost to a dormant gene to fight a flu virus in his system.
Meanwhile, in more important matters, the Klingon, Worf (portrayed by Michael Dorn), has designed a new torpedo guidance system. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. Captain Picard and the android Data (portrayed by Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner) must go after it.
While they are gone, things start to get weird. Ship’s Counselor, Deanna Troi (portrayed by Marina Sirtis) craves salt and then can’t get enough water. Worf becomes even more primal and develops a venom sac which he sprays Dr. Crusher with when she attempts to examine him. Barclay develops more energy than ever before and Riker seems to be unable to think.
When Data and Picard return, they find the Enterprise adrift and all aboard have been affected. Data concludes that the crew is de-evolving. Troi is some sort of reptilian creature, Barclay is an arachnid, Worf has become a huge brute, complete with bony head and arch on his back. Data informs Captain Picard that he is already infected with the virus as the two battle to find a solution. Apparently, the boost to the immune systems that Dr. Crusher gave Barclay has uncovered and activated the dormant genes each one of us has from eons of evolution
I have to say that I was really impressed with the makeup and special effects in Genesis. I had always paid attention to the plot and never given credit where it is due in that regard. The prosthetics are excellent as the crew we’ve grown to know so well after seven years transform into something very different. In particular, seeing Riker as a cro-mag or ape-like creature was pretty cool.
Credit must also be given the actors who make what’s happening almost believable. Watching Troi and Worf dining together as their newfound appetites overcome them it seems like something happening quite naturally. All of the actors rise to the occasion, and I have to believe that a lot of their giving their all to this episode had to do with who was directing, fellow castmate Gates McFadden. That she could get such performances out of a script I just know they were scratching their heads at speaks volumes.
Everything boils down to believability and even with having to do the usual suspending of my disbelief, this episode falls way short in that area. It’s no surprise that it was written by Brannon Braga who’s been known for a pretty contemptuous attitude towards fans who challenge him on the quality of his scripts.
There are two humans from the planet Earth in Riker and Barclay. Why would one de-evolve into a spider like creature and another into an early primate? While the whole effect of what the crew ended up looking like was a cool thing to see, the thought behind it was pretty poor. Data gives something of an explanation, but it really didn’t make sense as on the evolutionary scale, humanoids from the same planet should have arrived back at the same point they broke off from other species.
The other problem is at the end, everything is once again “back to normal” with the exception of who was slain and that Barclay now has a disease named after him. I know they aren’t about to kill off any of the main cast and that’s the problem. There’s no real suspense of “what will happen?” It’s a given that somehow a solutions will be found in the long run, the only mystery is how they will get there.
While there are the plusses of some great makeup and effects and good performances, the story just falls far short of the quality script I would expect from Star Trek: The Next Generation. There’s some mild entertainment here and Genesis stands on it’s own quite well, but there are too many ridiculous plot points for me to recommend it.