Friday, March 24, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 92 (Identity Crisis)

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

I have a pretty good memory of most of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes.  I’ve been rewatching them mostly because I might have forgotten details.  Also, the show originally aired roughly 20 years ago.  My perspective changes.  A 37-year-old will pick up on things that a 15-year-old won’t.  Identity Crisis is case in point.

When the episode first aired, it was a pretty straight-forward story,  Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge was serving on the U.S.S. Victory.  He, Susanna Leijten and several others were part of an away team investigating the disappearance of the crew of an outpost on Tarchannen III.  It looks like everyone deserted said outpost.  Now, Leitjen has come onboard the Enterprise to help investigate three stolen shuttlecraft.  The other three people on that away mission all stole shuttlecraft and went back to the planet.  The third guy apparently forgot how to pilot; the shuttlecraft was destroyed in the atmosphere.

On the planet are the other two shuttlecraft and the uniforms of the missing people, just like the outpost’s crew.  Susanna immediately starts exhibiting strange behavior.  She wanders off and freaks out when Geordi tries to bring her back.  Back on the ship, she keeps insisting that she be allowed to go back to the surface.  Pretty soon, she starts turning into something.  Her fingers fuse together and her veins start showing.

After some major scanning, Dr. Crusher finds that she has these small parasites (actually, spores, but whatever)  inside of Susanna that are converting her DNA into its own.  This is apparently what happened to everyone else…and Geordi’s next.  Not content to wait around, he’s allowed to continue the investigation alone.  He discovers a shadow that can’t be explained, but starts turning into whatever Susanna is turning into.  Of course, a cure is found and Geordi and Susanna are both saved.  As for the others, it’s too late.  To avoid conversion of anyone else, a probe is left and the Enterprise is off to its next mission.

When I first saw the episode, it was entertaining.  We have some suspense, even though we know that we’re not going to lose a major character.  Looking at it now, it’s a concept that’s rather poorly developed.  First, how would a species develop in such a way that it would have to use another species for new members?  It was never established that there wasn’t another humanoid species, but it was never said that there was.  (How hard would it have been to say that the outpost was there to study ruins?)  The species would have to either use this as a backup method or do it slowly enough that another humanoid species could survive alongside it.

Another thing that caught my attention was that three of the infected people managed to go back to the planet…after five years.  Why have a five year incubation period?  You’d think it would be easier to have the people not leave the planet rather than have to instruct them to come back.  For that matter, how and why did they come back at all?  It’s rather complicated to have the person come back to the planet of infection.  With that kind of waiting period, you’d think that the infected people would have stayed on their ships and infect everyone else.

This would be a very dangerous thing if it ever fell into the hands of an enemy like the Borg.  It could start the assimilation process, then direct them to a set of coordinates for the Borg to complete the process.  Or, it could be used by a race like the Romulans or Ferengi to compel people to pass along information or valuables.  It’s one of those things that has potential.  It’s a shame to waste it on an episode like this.

IMDb page

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