6/2/14

Star Trek: Asterisk "Identity Crisis"

Vital Information
Series: The Next Generation
Episode: S04E18
Air Date: March 25, 1991
Written by: Brannon Braga and Timothy de Haas
Directed by: Winrich Kolbe

Premise
People are mysteriously migrating to Tarchannen III and Geordi can't figure out why until he turns into one of those people himself.

Recap
After reviewing footage of a mission to Tarchannen III that Geordi was on with Susanna Leijten from a previous starship, Leijten informs the crew of the Enterprise that she and Geordi are the only two people left from the mission that hasn't dropped everything to go back there and completely disappear. So, what's the best course of action to figure out why they're doing this? Drop everything and go back there. But this time, follow the last crew member to do so. He hasn't reached the planet yet, but he's on a stolen shuttlecraft to get there. In fact, he's so dead set on getting to the planet, that he pilots the shuttlecraft straight into Tarchannen's atmosphere, causing it to blow up. This is a rookie mistake, really. He probably didn't pass driver's ed.

After beaming down, Geordi, Leijten and a team look around for clues to the crew's disappearances. They find a couple of in-tact shuttlecrafts from people who actually knew how to land. They also find some uniforms ripped to shreds. No bodies, though. What's really weird, though, is Leijten's insistence that she stay down on the planet. So much so that when Geordi tells her they have to go back, she yells at him to stay away from her. She thrashes around until Geordi grabs her tightly and has the both of them beamed directly to sick bay.
She's fine as long as she continues to not date Geordi.
After Crusher stabilizes her, she really wants to get back down to the planet to do some more investigating, but Crusher insists she stays on the Enterprise until she's confident that nothing's wrong with her. Picard insures her that there was plenty of data to go over from the away mission, so that should keep her busy. Unfortunately, her hand starts shaking while she's walking down the hallway with Geordi. She thinks whatever happened to the runaway crew was now happening to her, and would soon happen to Geordi. This isn't too much of a concern, until she starts feeling confined in engineering, freaks out, then exhibits dark blotches on her neck and finds that her fingers are fused together. Geordi's not too excited about this happening to him.

Based on Leijten's apparent transformation, Crusher deduces that the people on Tarchannen didn't disappear, but were transformed into alien creatures. While she looks for the cause of the transformation, Geordi suggests having the computer track his moves to make sure he doesn't leave the ship. With that in place, Geordi pours over the data, especially the video that Leijten brought. After the millionth look at it, he finds a shadow for which he can't find a source. To get a better look at it, he tells the computer to replicate the scene on the holodeck. When he goes to the holodeck to check it out, he finds his hand start shaking just like Leijten's.
He'll be fine as long as he continues to never date anyone.
Inside the holodeck, he finds the shadow he was looking for, but even the computer can't account for its source. Assuming that the source of the shadow is as tall as Geordi, the computer creates a model creature in the place where shadow source should be. Back in sick bay, Leijten has almost completely transformed. Crusher and her nurse discovers that her new skin is like a chameleon and can transform based on the light. So these creatures, including the one who was the source of the shadow, can be invisible. This is a good thing to know, because when suddenly no one can find Geordi (including the computer assigned to track him), an invisible being shows up in the transporter room and knocks out the transporter operator. When the being beams down, we get a brief glimpse of him, and he looks like a twisted version of Geordi.

Luckily, Crusher has discovered that there was some kind of parasite in Leijten causing the transformation, but when Leijten wakes up and recovers, she says it's not a parasite, it's the way these creatures procreate. They stick that thing into a living host and then instinct takes over, leading the new creature back to Tarchannen III. Armed with this new information, and knowledge that ultraviolet light will make the creatures visible, Leijten joins an away team back to the planet's surface to find Geordi.
He'll be fine. No one will ever date him like this.
When they shine ultraviolet light around the site, they find the colony of aliens with Geordi among them. Glowing bright blue, they look like they're wearing rejected Tron outfits. Leijten reaches out to the frightened creature that was once Geordi and appeals to his instincts, the only thing he has left. Somewhere deep inside himself, Geordi recognizes Leijten and reaches back to her. They embrace and are transported back to sick bay where Geordi undergoes surgery and reclaims his human identity. Unfortunately for the members of Starfleet who had come before, it was too late for them. They'll have to wander Tarchannen III as invisible alien creatures while their families believe they're dead.

Review
This one was pretty good, though I found it interesting that it seemed to establish that Geordi's no longer looking for a relationship after being only one episode separated from the episode where everything falls apart with Dr. Brahms. I feel like there could have been some symbolism in there like "I might as well live the rest of my days as an invisible space monster for all that women care about me!" But then he realizes that he plays a vital role on the Enterprise and is cured. Had this series been made in another era, perhaps that would have been the case, but there really wasn't any trace of this to be found here. So full of potential, and it's not like it was a bad episode at all, just... not as good as it could have been.