Sunday, May 14, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 113 (The Masterpiece Society)

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

Every so often, I see a Star Trek episode that leaves me wondering. Sometimes, this is a good thing. Other times, it is not a good thing. With “The Masterpiece Society”, it’s not a good thing.

The Enterprise is studying a stellar core fragment when they find a planet that has life on it. Apparently, a group of humans has settled there. They’re the descendants of humans that left earth 200 years ago. Through selective breeding, they’ve created a perfectly balanced society where everyone knows what they’re meant to do. Unfortunately, the stellar core fragment poses a threat to the colony. If it passes by unaffected, it will kill all of the colonists. The Enterprise must work to change the course of the fragment.

It would be possible to evacuate everyone, but the colonists don’t want to leave their perfect society. It would be nearly impossible to recreate it somewhere else, since all of the people live in harmony with their environment. Change one element or remove one person and everything collapses.

Hannah Bates is one of the leading scientists on the planet. She and Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge work together to modify the tractor beam so that it will have enough of an effect on the fragment. In working together, they discuss La Forge’s blindness. Had he been conceived on her planet, he would have been aborted since La Forge was born with his blindness. Ironically, it’s the visual prosthesis that he uses that gives him the idea that saves the day.

The real trouble begins when Bates and a few others from the colony want to leave. To have even one person leave would cause supposedly catastrophic results. To have over twenty people leave would be unthinkable. After much debate, it’s decided that Picard would grant a request to leave, but those that leave are welcome back to the colony at any time.

I have to wonder why a society would be built so delicately. You’d think that the loss of a few people wouldn’t be that bad unless there was a really small gene pool. To have a better society, why not have two or three people that perform certain key functions?

The story seems too contrived. It’s like the writers are trying to make it obvious that even a ‘perfect’ society has imperfections. The kind of perfection that the colonists had came with a very delicate equilibrium. Many colonists feared that the slightest little thing would throw it off.

The acting was very good. The only character I took exception with was the leader of the colony, but it wasn’t because of the acting. He seemed just a little too slick, like a caricature of one of those infomercial salesmen. I know that he’s supposed to be the perfect leader, but it seemed unnatural.

I suppose that all things considered, it would have been difficult to come up with a better story. Perhaps if those leaving weren’t seen as vital, it wouldn’t have been so bad. Then again, that’s where the problem was. Taking those colonists was just as destructive as a natural disaster. How do you weigh the needs of a few people against the needs of a society? Picard couldn’t have simply ignored the fragment. Once introduced to the colony, it was inevitable that a few would want to take the opportunity to leave. Once the request to leave was made, Picard couldn’t just walk away from it.

It was a good episode, but not a great one. You could very easily skip this episode without missing anything. I can’t see giving it more than three stars. 

No comments :