Monday 24 March 2014


2.7) Unnatural Selection
An Old-Age Tale

The Mission: Investigate the deaths of the crew of the USS Langtree, who all died of old age.

Planets visited: Gagarin 4, location of the Darwin Genetic Research Centre. Nice job – memorialising both Yuri Gagarin and Charles Darwin in one fell swoop.

The Picard Manoeuvre: He doesn't like being interrupted, although he admits he's being a bit of a hypocrite. He butts heads with Pulaski a good deal, thinking she's too obsessed with her work (and she thinks exactly the same of him). He makes getting Data and Pulaski back the ship's top priority. When it's revealed that the transport rescue of the doctor is kill-or-cure, Picard volunteers to operate the transporter himself.

Lady Bones: She's incredibly confident in her diagnosis. She believes that beaming a potentially infected child onto the Enterprise, albeit with major safeguards, is worth it if it can solve the mystery of the illness that killed the Langtree crew. (This, on a ship of over a thousand people, bear in mind.) She's willing to risk her own health by treating the children. She's famous among medical circles for her early viral papers. She's introducing herself as Kate now, rather than Katherine.

Elementary, Dear Data: He's the perfect choice to pilot a shuttlecraft with the doctor and her patient aboard, since he is naturally unaffected by diseases, although he does say that this is “by now means certain. (He did catch the virus in “The Naked Now,” so he's right to be concerned.)

GM People: The children engineered by the Darwin Station scientists are highly advanced, designed to be the future of humanity. They mature rapidly, have powerful minds are telepathic and telekinetic. They are designed to be disease resistant, but their aggressive immune system was stimulated by a Langtree officer's flu virus. It created an infectious airborne antibody that attacks the genetic material and causes accelerated ageing.

Future History: Later episodes, particularly in Deep Space Nine, would suggest that this kind of genetic research is illegal in the Federation.

Future Treknology: The Enterprise can patch into the Langtree's security systems, displaying the bridge on the display screen and zooming in on details, which is pretty swish. Styrolite is a plasticky substance that keeps a human being in stasis.

With a sample of unadulterated DNA, the transporters (with some special modifications by O'Brien) can remove an genetic infection and restore a patient to health. It even sorts her hair out.

The Verdict: Pulaski is brilliant throughout this episode, as is Picard. The moment when Picard learns that she has been following his career is cute – but not as cute as when they hug. She's saved by a hair follicle and a spot of genius from O'Brien (it's good to see the chief getting a bigger piece of the action for once, and finally getting named). You have to wonder why, now that they've discovered this method, they don't use it to cure pretty much everything. It's pretty harsh that the kids have to live forever in isolation. The final log entry by Dr. Pulaski sounds like the sign-off to an episode of The Outer Limits.

2.8) A Matter of Honor
The Annual Klingon Exchange Programme

The Mission: Take part in an officer exchange programme with the Klingon ship, the Pagh.

Planets visited: The Enterprise collects new crewmembers from Starbase 179.

The Picard Manoeuvre: Likes to chat with Riker during phaser practice.

Number One: Jumps at the chance to serve aboard a Klingon vessel, as no human has ever done it before. He throws himself in, trying their food and asking Worf how their rank structure works. He's a little out of sorts to begin with in his new assignment, but soon wins respect by giving the second officer Klag a good slapping. He dutifully flirts with the quite terrifying Klingon women. He refuses to betray details of the Enterprise's defences to the Klingons, but is willing to die alongside them in battle. In the event, he makes his own style of mutiny – beaming the Captain Kargon onto the Enterprise where Worf can deal with him.

Son of Mogh: This episode gives some idea how tough it must be for Worf as the only Klingon on a mostly human-crewed ship, although he's grown up with human culture, so it's not exactly the same thing. Worf has little time for Mendon, the Benzite officer; he looks about ready to throttle him on several occasions.

Alien life forms:

Klingons: Picard ponders that humans still know very little about Klingons, and it's true that at this stage in the series, one of the most famous alien races are still very sketched in. This episode goes some way to correcting that. The Klingon military progresses by assassination, and this has apparently worked nicely for centuries. Klingons eat such delights as Rokeg blood pie, heart of targ, and gagh, or serpent worms – preferably live. Klingons view death from old age as a dishonour (Klag also says that “a Klingon is his work, not his family,” which goes against what we later learn of their honour system.)

Benzites: Ensign Mendon, an exchange officer now assigned to the Enterprise, is played by the same guy who played Mordock, the guy who got into the Academy ahead of Wesley. Wes initially mistakes him for his friend, but it turns out that all Benzites from the same “geostructure” (something like a country, maybe?) all look alike. Picard later says that Mendon's desire to please is a Benzite trait. There's something interesting to say about latent racism here.

Space bacteria: A subatomic organism that attacks the hulls of both the Enterprise and the Pagh. They are vulnerable to neutrinos. (None of this makes any sort of scientific sense.)

Starships: The IKS Pagh is the first Klingon Bird-of-Prey to appear in TNG, but far from the last. It looks like a submarine on the inside.

Trek Stars: Brian Thompson makes his first Trek appearance as Klag, and the old bruiser will turn up several times throughout the franchise. He's also well-known as both Luke and the Judge in Buffy, and as the shapeshifting alien agent in The X-Files.

The Verdict: There's some nice material here – both Riker and the Klingons being surprised that the other displays a sense of humour, for example. It's about time the Klingons were properly fleshed out. We get the first hints about Riker's problems with his father, which will be returned to in a few episodes' time. You've got to wonder about the briefing process on the Enterprise though; they let Mendon onboard with no idea of how to function in their command system. The Klingon captain is a paranoid maniac, and deserves to get screwed over – but Klag should've killed him.

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