Friday, March 24, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 88 (Clues)

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

WARNING:  I’m going to give away major details including the ending.  This will probably ruin the episode if you haven’t seen it, but it wasn’t a particularly good episode to begin with.  Read at your own risk.

When you have a TV show that spans 7 seasons and 178 episodes, you’re going to have a few good episodes that stand up to the test of time.  Everything comes together to make something that’s memorable and can be watched over and over again.  Sadly, this isn’t one of those episodes.

The Enterprise is going about its business when it comes across a nice looking planet.  While the crew is investigating it, a wormhole appears and sucks the ship through, depositing it about a day’s journey in a few seconds.  Most of the crew is knocked out.  The only exception is Lt. Cmdr. Data, an android.  He tells the crew that they were out for thirty seconds.  At his insistence, a probe is launched.  (The original suggestion is to go back, but Data doesn’t seem to want that to happen.)

Over the course of the next day or two, people begin to notice strange things.  Lt. Worf’s arm is broken.  Dr. Crusher’s Dromedian scarlet moss has grown an entire day over those missing 30 seconds.  The probe sends back a totally different planet than the one initially observed.  Data tries to tell lie and fails miserably at it.  The more Data is pressed on the issue, the clearer it becomes that he’s holding something back and that he’s not going to tell.

Eventually, the ship goes back to investigate despite Data’s protests.  However, without any explanations, Capt. Picard has no alternative.  He needs answers which Data isn’t giving.  When they arrive, they find the planet that they initially came in contact as well as a race of aliens that are extremely xenophobic.  They call themselves the Paxans.

Usually, they stun any approaching crew and move the ship far enough off that no one returns.  Data presents a problem as his positronic brain wasn’t affected.  He revives the crew before the ship can be moved, necessitating the revelation of the aliens, who reluctantly agree to wipe the memories of the crew and continue with their plan, trusting that Data will take their secret to his eventual grave.  Picard tells the aliens that they made mistakes and that this should count as a practice run.  The aliens agree to try again, this time successfully.

The reason this episode has limited replay value is that once you know the secret, there’s little point in watching it again.  I only watched it to see if I didn’t remember anything.  I spent the entire 45 minutes knowing how it was going to end.  The first time around, there is some mystery as to why Data’s acting so peculiar.  Once you know, it’s just a matter of the story playing out.

There were a few things I wondered.  Part of the problem in passing off the cover story was 24 hours passing in 30 seconds.  I’d imagine that the imaginary wormhole was supposed to deposit the crew a day later, but this was never clearly explained.  There were a few lines about synching the ship’s clocks.  This problem would have been greater since the crew had to do it twice.  A day passed for the original encounter, a day or two for everyone to figure out what had happened and another day for them to do it all again.  This would mean that the crew lost three or four days.  Wouldn’t anyone find it odd that they lost so much time?

Also, I get the impression that this isn’t the first ship that the Paxans have encountered.  You can’t tell me that their little ruse has worked every single time they’ve encountered an alien race.  It should have taken them several tries to get it right.  Even then, there would probably be the occasional mishap or new brain pattern.  (“Oops.  Looks like we lobotomized that one.  Sorry.”)  It seems like the ruse always works, but they made enough mistakes this time that the crew came back.  Yes, it was because Data screwed everything up.  It’s possible that they have some alternative (like blowing the ship up) when they fail, but Picard mentions that destroying the Enterprise will bring other Federation ships.  I’m amazed that the Paxans have remained hidden for so long. 

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