I’m going through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and reviewing every episode, complete with commentary and a grade from A-F. I’ve also included a score and comment from my wife, who has never seen the show before. There are SPOILERS for each episode below.
Geordi’s fellow members of a mission that he was on some time ago have suffered transformations into unknown entities. When a fellow member of that mission, Susanna Leijten, also goes ill during the investigation, the mystery deepens as La Forge and crew try to figure out what is happening. It turns out that some parasitic organism is reproducing by taking over people over a long period of time. Dr. Crusher finally figures out a treatment for Leijten and Leijten talks Geordi’s transformed self into coming back to get treatment.
“Identity Crisis” is another episode that relies upon an sense of mystery throughout, and it does pretty well. The writers and directors have clearly begun mastering this formula for keeping a mystery going without making it seem obviously forced. There is a real concern built up for Geordi throughout even though it felt as though he would inevitably get infected. How would he be saved?
The episode has some up and down moments, and one part that seemed really dragged out was the continued look at the same footage from the mission. It relied a bit too much upon that to try to sustain the episode length and would have been nice to see some other investigative tools. The hardest part to believe was pointed out by my wife: how could any species sustain itself through parasitic activity that takes years to kick in?
Despite these points, “Identity Crisis” is another solid mystery episode that manages to stay interesting throughout. That’s not easy to do!
Grade: B+ “A palpable sense of mystery sustained well throughout.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was fun to see Geordi and the others solve such a puzzling dilemma.”
“The Nth Degree”
Lieutenant Barclay is knocked out by an alien probe and begins to exhibit signs of extraordinary genius, insight, and strength of character that had not been manifest before. Soon, in his fervor to save the ship and extend its mission, he takes over the Enterprise and leads it to a distant place which turns out to be a race of people who explore by bringing others to them. After that, Barclay goes back to his normal, awkward self.
I admit I like Barclay but it seems like TNG still hasn’t quite figured out how to use the concept of a guy who doesn’t quite fit in. So far ever episode featuring him has seemingly been an attempt to “fix” him. It would be interesting to see an episode that allowed him to just be himself–a normal, awkward guy–and see how that integrated into the life of the crew.
Anyway, this latest “fix” was yet another episode sure to give Barclay nightmares for the rest of his life, as his personality is completely flipped and he takes over the ship due to his super genius and drive to succeed. It’s a fun concept that has been used perhaps a bit too many times. But anyway, having the endpoint be another race that is exploring with much the same mission as Starfleet was interesting and kind of a fun spin on the “godlike being” stereotype.
“The Nth Degree” is by no means bad. Indeed, there was a good amount of comedy therein and a real sense of foreboding that was cleverly turned about in the final scene. However, we still await a really worthy use of Barclay’s character.
Grade: B- “Barclay gets a moment to shine. It’s engaging, but gets more and more weird as time goes on.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “The Enterprise encounters another civilization with their same goal through an elaborate kidnapping scheme. It was very engaging and unexpected.”
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