12/2/12

Star Trek: Asterisk "Lonely Among Us"

Vital Information
Series: The Next Generation
Episode: S01E07
Air Date: November 2, 1987
Written by: D.C. Fontana, Michael Halperin
Directed by: Cliff Bole

Premise
While transporting hostile delegates, the crew of the Enterprise is taken over by an energy being who almost kills Picard.

Review
The episode opens up with the Enterprise picking up some snake-like beings that are to be transported along with some Wookiee-like beings to the planet Parliament. These two races consider each other mortal enemies mostly because the Wookiee-like beings regularly eat the snake-like beings. But none of that matters because we've got a nebula to scan.

On their way to Parliament, there's this space cloud. They slow down to take a look at it because science. Meanwhile, Worf is hanging out with Geordi trying to learn more about the ship. While he's looking at one of the screens, though, he's shocked by an electrical surge and and falls to the ground. Geordi calls for Dr. Crusher and the Klingon warrior wakes up for a moment, starts raging and then Geordi lays on top of him while Crusher administers a sedative. When Worf is unconscious, he is carried off to sick bay. Meanwhile, they ship continues on to Parliament instead of sticking around the cloud 'cause ain't nobody got time for that.
"Excuse me, I would like to share equal screen time
with this space cloud. No? Well, alright."
While looking over Worf in sick bay, whatever energy being had taken over Worf decides he's not doing any good inside the body of an unconscious animal, so he transfers to Beverly. Crusher immediately starts acting weird, and when Troi comes in to check on Worf, Beverly says that they're both fine. We're all fine here... now... how are you? In a daze, Beverly wonders off to talk to Wesley who's studying facts about the engines. From Wesley, the being in Beverly realizes that the navigation controls are on the bridge, so Beverly goes up to the bridge and wanders around some more.

After Picard presses her to give him an accurate diagnosis of Worf, Beverly wonders over to the science console next to Data and the blue lightning surges into the console. Beverly wakes up from her disorientation and then leaves. Meanwhile, Data is unable to access his console. Failures are reported all over the ship and the engines cut off, leaving the Enterprise, who is on the very important mission of delegate transport, dead in the water.
"Could I just get some meat to eat, please? Oh, you're all
vegans in the future? How unfortunate."
And then there's a meeting where they try to figure out what's going in. If there were so many system failures on the Enterprise, it would not have left space dock. There, therefore, must be a saboteur on board. This is the meeting in which Data learns about Sherlock Holmes and immediately becomes enamored with the character. And who can blame him? If he's done as much research on the man as he claims, then he's seen season three of BBC's Sherlock. He knows more about the character than we do. It's cute, but when he arrives at the next meeting with a smoking pipe, Picard shuts that whole thing down.

The case heightens when the latest in a long line of engineers is killed by the entity. This leads Troi to induce hypnosis on Crusher who reveals there was someone else in the room when she checked on Worf. Data deduces that if it wasn't any of the ship's crew that did it, and since they've logically ruled out the delegates, someone or something must have boarded the ship without anyone's knowledge. With this in mind, Picard exits the meeting and goes straight to the helm console to be taken over by the energy being.
Good thing he's blind or else Geordi might have seen that coming.
Picard starts acting very strangely (and, to Patrick Stewart's credit as an actor, completely differently) and commands the ship to be turned around to go back to the space cloud. Everyone picks up on the change, but has no solid evidence to say that he actually is under alien influence. The senior staff have a meeting without Picard to discuss mutiny options, but they fall short of a solution. All they can do is order a medical examination. But when they try, Picard just asks why and never goes along with it.

Eventually the entity gives up the act and admits that, yes, he is taking over Picard's body, but it's cool! He likes it this way! In fact, when they get to the cloud, they're going to go out to it and exist as pure energy for a while! It'll be fun! When they get there, Picard goes to the transporter and beams out without re-materializing. Existing as pure energy for a while, he just floats around until Troi picks up on him and senses that he's unable to stay out there. Picard makes his way back into the ship's systems the same way the alien did, and then Data figures that if he makes it to the transporter, they should be able to pick up his pattern from the memory buffer and beam him back.
"Hey! We're here, too, ya know!"
Well, after alerting the crew to his presence by forming the letter P on the navigation console, Picard does find his way to the transporter and beams back into the ship using a pattern the pattern that was created before he beamed out. He, therefore, has no memory of being out in the cloud. And he's back not a moment too soon, because Tasha runs in and reports that one of the delegates has murdered a member of the other species of delegates! Well, they all have a good laugh at that and Picard says he's going to take a break and Riker can handle the murder. THE END!

Overall Thoughts
I love how the delegates are really just hanging on this story by the edge of their teeth. Oh, did I say "love"? I meant hate. They really should have integrated them more into the story. Most of their part seemed to be an exploration of how violent they are, so I would have enhanced this episode by making the energy being get into one of them and go around killing people. But, whatever. It is what it is. This episode is two incongruous stories twist-tied into one and the delegates, as the B plot, are treated as second-class storylines. The other story went pretty well, though, I thought. It just could have been enhanced by the B plot instead of merely existing next to it.