Monday, March 13, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 73 (Transfigurations)

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

I’m sure many of us had to write a ten-page paper for school.  One of the advantages of using a computer is that you could play with margins so that I could make the report seem longer than it was.  I never actually used this in the final draft, at least that I’ll admit to.  Occasionally, though, I would make the margins so big that you’d get maybe a few words to a page just to see what it would look like.  With the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Transfigurations, I think maybe the writers tried to do something like that.

The Enterprise finds a wrecked escape pod with one former occupant, barely clinging to life.  They’re able to beam him back to the Enterprise by hooking his nervous system up to Chief Engineer La Forge’s brain.  He gets a momentary surge, but there’s no apparent effect.  Both are beamed back to the Enterprise safely.

Since they don’t know this man’s name, he’s dubbed John Doe.  They’ve never seen him or his race before, but they do find some sort of container that they can’t make heads or tails of.  John Doe makes an astounding recovery, but can’t remember who he is or where he came from.  In time, though, it’s discovered that the container is a star map and Doe’s home planet isn’t too far off the Enterprise’s course.  Doe is less than thrilled, but he can’t explain why.

Everyone gets to know Doe better.  Dr. Crusher even seems to develop a thing for him, but admits that it’s probably because she’s been working so closely with him.  Also, La Forge seems to be more confident.  You may remember that woman he asked out (and failed miserably with) a few episodes back.  La Forge asks her out again and it seems to go pretty well.

Well, the Enterprise meets up with Doe’s race.  Doe is some sort of threat to his people.  He and several others escaped from a prison transport.  They were sentenced to death for being such a terrible threat.  It turns out that John’s people, the Zalkonians, are about to go through this major change.  John is one of the first.

Usually, those affected by the changes are killed before the changes are completed.  Since John is outside of Zalkonian influence, he’s able to develop amazing powers, like teleportation and the ability to heal and even resurrect people.  John tells the captain of the Zalkonian ship that the government can no longer keep the people in the dark.  He says goodbye to the crew of the Enterprise and presumably goes back to his home world to teach his people the truth.

The reason that it feels like someone was playing with the margins was that the first 85% of the episode is John’s recovery.  It isn’t until the last 5 or 10 minutes that we get to find out about all of this political subterfuge stuff.  Ok.  I get the whole “don’t fear change” angle, but it seems like it’s all buildup with a quick letdown.  I think we could have done this in fifteen minutes max.  It’s almost like the writers were in desperate need of a script.  Instead of writing a good episode, they pulled this off a pile of ideas that weren’t going anywhere and added as much filler as they could.

I definitely think the episode could have been done better.  We could have seen more of the two sides.  Instead, we have just one guy that can’t remember why he doesn’t want to go home.  We don’t even get the sense that he is or isn’t a threat.  Yes, he kills Worf and brings him back, but what little evidence we have either way is brief.  Mostly, we get the impression that the government is repressive.  We don’t even find out what happened to John or his race.  I’m not saying we need another episode.  It’s just that it would have been nice to have a mention.  “Oh, I heard from John Doe the other day…”

This comes across as filler.  Most of it is a waste and it gets kind of convenient at times.  (Notice how easily Doe is able to help everyone, especially at the end.)  If you’re just getting around to watching the series, this is one of the episodes you can skip. 

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