3/3/13

Star Trek: Asterisk "Contagion"

Vital Information
Series: The Next Generation
Episode: S02E11
Air Date: March 20, 1989
Written by: Steve Gerber and Beth Woods
Directed by: Joseph L Scanlan

Premise
The Enterprise infected with an ancient space virus, no one thinks to ask "did you try turning it off and on again?" until Data is infected.

Review
The Neutral Zone is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence. But the Enterprise has to go there again to help out its sister ship, the USS Yomato. Captain Varley says they were out there investigating the Iconians, an ancient race of highly technological beings who were said to have traveled the stars without the aid of starships. While they were there, however, their ship started acting weird and glitchy. They couldn't finish their job until the Enterprise came along to help... but when they do come along, the Yomato succumbs to their computer virus and explodes. And this is why we always update our antivirus.

Not a minute after the destruction of the Yomato, a Romulan ship decloaks. Naturally, Picard asks them if they're responsible for the destruction of the Yomato, but they deny it and say that if they were here to destroy ships, they wouldn't have stopped at just one. After exchanging a few accusations, the Romulans cloak and the Enterprise begins investigating the Yomato's destruction. During this investigation, Picard goes through Captain Varley's personal record. In it, Varley mentions being scanned by an ancient Iconian probe, and it was only after this incident that they started experiencing systems failures. Picard knows exactly what to do.
Stare at the door for a while.
Picard announces that they're going to continue the Yomato's mission and investigate Iconia. On their way to Iconia, Wesley talks to Picard about the Iconians. Apparently Picard is a hobby archaeologist and took quite an interest in the Iconians during his academy days. There are planets in the area who's similar cultures can only be explained by a single unifying influence, and that would be the Iconians who probably conquered these worlds, but didn't use starships. Wesley says it sounds like magic, but Picard assures him that the Enterprise would seem like magic to cavemen. Picard then goes to order an Earl Grey Tea from the replicator, but it gives him a potted plant instead... that wasn't supposed to happen.

Meanwhile, they reach Iconia and a strange, big, blue ball approaches them and starts scanning. They're about to bring it on board, but Geordi notices something wrong. Before he can tell anyone, his communications glitch out and he runs out to the turbolift which also glitches out and tosses him around like a rag doll. He's tossed out onto the bridge and tells Picard to destroy it just in time. After the probe explodes from a torpedo blast, Geordi explains that if it had scanned the Enterprise successfully, there would be no hope of saving the ship.
Me on the way to ur bridge to destroy ur probe.
So then Picard, Worf and Data beam down to Iconia. Picard and Data use their combined knowledge (and Data's advanced processing skills) to translate some of the tech they find. After fiddling around, they open what appears to be holographic images of different places, but they're actually portals. Picard postulates that this is how the Iconians got places without starships. One of the places it can go is actually the Enterprise. Then Data gets hit by a surge that jumps out of the computer core and he's down for the count. He can feel the virus spreading through him. He can't see and he can't move on his own. So he describes to Picard what to do and then Picard orders Worf to carry data through the portal once it comes back around the Enterprise.

Meanwhile, back on the Enterprise, that Romulan ship comes back in the middle of them experiencing technical difficulties. It decloaks and starts to fire torpedoes, but stops short of actually firing them. So, basically, they're having technical difficulties, too. Looks like everyone got the partial virus when they downloaded the Yomato's logs. When Data and Worf get back on the ship using the Iconian gateway, Geordi studies Data. It looks like Data dies because of the virus, but, in fact, he boots back up seconds later and starts restoring himself perfectly. He booted from a restore point, wiping the virus from his system, which Geordi then realizes that's exactly what they should do to the Enterprise.
"Have you tried turning it off and on again?"
Back on Iconia, Picard sets the tech to explode and then waits for the gateway to go back to the Enterprise. There's no time for that, though, so, instead, he jumps through it when it's in the Romulan ship. O'Brien was trying to get a lock on Picard at that moment, but then lost him, finding him again on the Romulan ship. The Romulan commander is glad to see Picard and says that if they're going down, at least they'll be taking a Starfleet captain with them. "I think not today," says Picard as he's beamed out just in time. Riker gives the command to give the Romulans the instructions on how to fix their ship and then everyone flies away happy as Iconia burns.

Overall Thoughts
When Roddenberry was first introduced to this story, he wasn't a big fan of it because he had written in the Star Trek bible that Starfleet's technology is so advanced that nothing could ever go wrong with it. It wasn't until the nature of viruses was explained to him that he finally agreed to produce the episode. And I'm glad he did. It introduces some rich history in the Star Trek universe that can be and will be referred to in later episodes. The Iconian gateways are great device. And there was some pretty great storytelling in this episode around them. A+