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.
Picard and Data chase a photon torpedo that veered off course, only to return to find the crew of the Enterprise has been turned into a bunch of animals. Apparently some disease infected them, which led to them “de-evolving” into lower forms of life. Ultimately, Data manufactures a retro-virus and while Picard distracts an angry Worf with pheromone sprays from Troi [!?] the crew gets better.
Okay, this was a weird episode full of all kinds of problems. First off, devolve is a word… why did they have to keep using de-evolve? Is it because people might not get the concept? I don’t get it. Second, given that the whole crew has “de-evolved” into lower forms of life, how is it that pretty much no one except one crew member manages to end up dead? I’m pretty sure that the Worf-beast had some buddies of other sorts… how was this not a major incident involving the death of half the crew? That certainly seems much more likely than having everyone but one get better, naming a disease after Barclay, and high-fiving all around. Plus, why is everyone so cheerful given that one crew member, it seems, did die? They usually freak out when even one is in danger. Suddenly one crew member kills another in de-evolved state and no one cares? Come on.
Plausibility of this episode? Off the charts on the implausible side. What the heck? How could such a disease even happen? How could people just randomly turn into approximately human-sized animals? How could a cat turn into an iguana? What are Troi pheromones? It’s as silly as an old horror movie.
On the plus side, there was a serious sense of foreboding throughout the episode, enhanced by the weirdness of it all. The costumes and modification of various crew members was done well. It wasn’t a terrible episode… but it wasn’t great either.
Grade: C “They turned me into a newt. I got better.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “I thought it was an interesting premise but the short episode length left many questions unanswered.”
Mother-in-Law’s Grade and Comment: C “While I appreciated the premise, I would have liked them to have allowed actual engagement with the ‘de-evolved’ crew members to create obstacles along the way.”
Father-in-Law’s Grade and Comment: C- “Several things: the crew should have been able to recognize that something was happening and started some analysis or communicated with the missing Captain; then there’s the whole conservation of mass thing- where does all the extra hair and bone come from and where did it go?”
The Cardassians and the Federation have reached a way to ensure peace for some time, but it involves trading certain planets and colonies back and forth. One such colony has been inhabited by Native Americans–called “Indians” throughout the episode–and Picard is unwilling to remove them forcibly, as he is ordered to do if no other option presents itself. Meanwhile, Wesley is visiting and is super cranky, but he finds his answer to what he is supposed to do in the Traveler, who posed as a Native American in order to show him the next steps on his journey. Ultimately, the Native Americans decide to stay on the planet, basically staying in the Cardassian territory at their mercy, but working out some kind of deal with them to be allowed to stay.
Okay, it’s obvious too much is going on in this episode. Moreover, it seems this is some kind of attempt to show the wrongs that have been done to Native Americans at the hands of Europeans, but it fails. It fails first, because they keep referring to Native Americans as Indians, which seems strange. It fails also because the Traveler is the most “spiritual” of all the Native Americans, and turns out he’s not one at all–he’s just some super-powerful being co-opting a narrative that should have been about other people.
It is really tough to figure out how I feel about this episode. I enjoyed much of it, but there was too much going on for any one aspect of it to shine. The concept was good–what happens when the Cardassians and Federation make peace but have to compromise–but the execution was poor.
Grade: B- “I’m not really sure how to take this one.
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “It was a good idea… it would have been better if they left Wes and the Traveler out of it.”
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