Sunday, May 14, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 106 (The Game)

Drugs, like many things, occupy a spectrum.  You have hard stuff, like opiates.  Then, you have softer stuff like caffeine.  We’ve all been lectured on it by parents, teachers or some other role model.  I remember in 7th grade, my homeroom teacher once telling us how some drugs were so addictive, users would kill someone without hesitating for their next fix.  There are some drugs you definitely want to stay away from.  You might wonder if they even have drugs in the 24th century.  They have the medicinal stuff, I’m sure.  But how do you get the entire crew of a starship addicted so that they’ll do your bidding?

Commander Riker, ever the playboy, is on Risa at the start of this episode.  He’s with the beautiful and playful Etana Jol.  She even throws Riker’s combadge out of a window.  That’s ok.  She has this game that he’ll just love.  You have to get a little disc into a moving cone.  You just relax, let it happen and get rewarded with a jolt of energy.  Meanwhile, Wesley Crusher has come back from Starfleet.  He even hits it off with a member of the Engineering team, Ensign Robin Lefler.

When Riker gets back to the ship, Riker shares it with a few of the other bridge officers.  Soon, nearly the entire adult population of the Enterprise is having little orgasms after beating each level.  It seems that only Robin and Welsey have yet to try it.  Oh, and Lieutenant Commander Data.   Being an android, he’d be the only one immune to the psychotropic effects of the game.  Thus, Dr. Crusher lures him to sickbay to deactivate him.  She then lies about what happened and has Chief Engineer La Forge look at Date, even though La Forge hasn’t been given a game to try yet.

It doesn’t take long for Wesley to figure out what’s going on and what really happened to Data.  He fixes Data so that he can quickly find a cure for the addiction and save the crew just before Etana Jol jas the crew spread the game to the rest of Starfleet.

Ok.  The most obvious thing about the episode is the anti-drug message.  The episode focuses entirely on the addiction and how quickly everyone became to Etana.  It was never really explained in detail specifically what made everyone fall in line so quickly.  I’m assuming that she indoctrinated Riker, who then told everyone else to follow their new leader.  Still, the message I got from this is that that if you try drugs, you’ll be at the mercy of your dealer.  So, just say no kids, because peer pressure is bad.

It’s also odd that it was so versatile in the number of people it affected.  Most of the crew are human.  Even Counselor Troi is half human.  Why would it work the same way on Worf?  This is to say nothing of any Vulcan officers, who would probably be more resistant to trying the game.  I have to wonder how it was adapted to work with La Forge, who is blind.  I’m assuming that they found some way around that, since they didn’t lure him to sickbay and hit him over the head.

For that matter, since they were able to get Geordi hooked on the thing, why not wait a little while before turning Data off?  The crew seemed to be able to carry out normal duty functions while not playing.  In fact, the only clue that the crew was addicted was the near-constant use of the game.  It would have made sense to turn Data off and just leave him once they knew no one would turn him back on.  The only reason to damage his neural net is to make Wesley have to buy Data time.

I didn’t really pick up on the sexual nature of the game at first.  I did find it odd that Dr. Crusher was so eager to get her son addicted to the game.  She seemed very pushy about it.  That alone, even not considering the orgasmic aspect of the game, seemed a bit much.

The one big question I have is why Etana would start with the Enterprise.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to do a test run with a smaller ship and work up to a starbase or something?  I could totally see the ship being docked at a starbase to pick Wesley up.  The ship is picking up several scientific teams as it is, so why not have one of them introduce the game?  I guess in this regard, the game could be seen as an STD.  (Riker finally picked something up and passed it on to the crew.)

This was definitely one of the stranger episodes of The Next Generation.  It comes across as one of those awkward talks your parents might have with you about not doing drugs or not having sex.  All of the horrible things that might happen to you are just too horrible, so be careful.  In that regard, I would have liked to have seen a one-off character that had been used and left to rot in a similar scheme.  There were so many other angles that were left off of this.

I have to say that it was a pretty bold plan.  Had it worked, Etana would have had all of Starfleet at her beck and call.  Had she pulled it off, it would have been pretty impressive.

IMDb page

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