Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 33 (Unnatural Selection)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Many fans of both Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation noticed that the latter seemed to ‘borrow’ a lot of ideas for episode from the former. This is one of those episodes. The Enterprise comes across a ship that can barely get out a distress signal. By the time the Enterprise gets there, all 26 people onboard are dead. The mysterious part is that the captain was a relatively young man, yet all 26 people have died from old age.

The Enterprise goes back to the other ship’s most recent stop, which is a genetic research center called Darwin Station. Most of the people there are suffering the same fate. The only ones not suffering that fate are genetically engineered children, the oldest of which is twelve. They have some sort of hyper immune system that aggressively protects them against anything. After some investigation, it turns out that the children are the cause. Something about their immune system created an antibody that causes rapid growth in others. It was too late for those on the ship, but those at Darwin Station still have time. It’s a race against the clock to save everyone.

Ok. Once again, I’m going to have to tear apart the writing in this episode. It’s a great concept, but is poorly constructed. The episode basically pits Captain Picard against Dr. Pulaski. Picard is an adamant voice of reason and responsibility while Pulaski wants noting more than to help people. Both come across as a bit of a caricature. Eventually, they find a way to compromise and the day is saved.

That wasn’t my main concern, though. I was really had problems with the technical problems. For instance, the antibody came from the children, but was caused by a disease that someone on the ship was carrying. That means that both groups of people should have been affected simultaneously. Yet, everyone on the ship died first while it doesn’t appear that anyone on the station had died. That would mean that either those on the station were of some race that was more long-lived, such as Vulcan or El-Aurian or that everyone on the station was much younger than those on the ship. I don’t recall either potential explanation being offered.

Also, how is it that the oldest child is 12, yet this is the first time that they’ve ever come in contact with such a problem? Granted, it’s possible that not many people would go to Darwin Station, but this is the first time in 12 years that anyone has brought any disease there? It seems like I can barely go a year without a cold or something.

Speaking of the children, isn’t genetic engineering supposed to be illegal, or at least frowned upon in the 24th century? According to Star Trek history, we had Khan Noonian Singh, who was the result of genetic manipulation of some sort. In Trek’s version of the 1990s, such manipulation was rampant and caused a lot of problems, so it was abandoned. Here, they seem to be doing quite well with it.

One more thing: isn’t Darwin Station a little direct? The main focus of the episode is that science may be pushing us to a point that we’re not ready for yet and that it’s dangerous to do too much at once. In other words, it’s possible to evolve too fast. I guess Darwin is rather ‘appropriate’ here.

I’d have to give the episode three stars. The aging makeup was well done, but that’s noting new. That’s been around since the original series. The acting was also all right. It looks like many of the actors are getting comfortable with their roles and with the new doctor, who is also getting used to her new surroundings. In the end, I can’t recommend it. There are so many other, more-worthy episodes. Unless you get the DVD set, skip it.

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