Monday, July 24, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 131 (Schisms)

WARNING:  I’m going to give away major details about the episode.  If you don’t want spoilers, this isn’t the review for you.

Many episodes of Star Trek had a clear message. You could tell where the story was going and why.  Others, not so much.  Take Schisms.  The Enterprise is minding its own business mapping a very dense region of space.  Strange things start happening.  Commander Riker is having trouble sleeping.  He gets into bed and it’s suddenly time to get up.  Lieutenant Worf has a strange reaction to a pair of scissors.  Lieutenant Commander Data, an android, loses time.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Worf, Riker and a few others gather in a holodeck and are able to create the image of a table which seems familiar to all of them.  Add to that some strange clicking noises and they realize that’s something’s up.  It turns out that the crew is being abducted by aliens from subspace.  Things get real when one crewmember is returned with his blood congealing.

Riker volunteers to help close the rift.  He’s probably going to be taken again, so he offers to do what he can while he’s there.  The plan works, but a little patch of energy leaves the ship, never to be seen or heard from again.  The bridge crew discusses the matter, hoping that the subspace aliens were just curious.  Riker points out that they’re more than curious, as they killed one of the crewmembers.

This episode has all the markings of some sort of lost challenge or bet.  It has all the earmarks of an alien-abduction story.  How do you do an alien-abduction story in space?  There are two possibilities.  One is that you have the Enterprise or another Federation vessel abducting aliens and you explore the issue that way.  The other is that people from the Enterprise are being abducted.

If you go the second route, you have to up your game.  If you have another space-faring vessel, it just seems like ordinary abduction to the crew.  You don’t get that scary paranormal vibe.  Going outside our normal universe would be the way to go.  The problem is that it doesn’t seem that strange.  I think this is a story that looked good on paper, but didn’t translate that well to the screen.  Those taken have no memory.  Had it not been for Riker’s fatigue, it’s possible no one would have known.

I don’t think I got the full effect that was intended with the episode.  Even when I first saw it, I don’t recall it being particularly scary or suspenseful.  To those that are in the know and paying attention, the clues will be there.  (The aforementioned loss of time, for instance, should be a big clue.)

One thing that caught my attention was Riker having a hairline fracture of the humerus.  I didn’t think much of it the first time the episode aired, but I had an accident that resulted in that same fracture.  While it wasn’t painful, it was a constant problem.  I had to have surgery to have it fixed.  Riker wouldn’t have known unless someone in sickbay had noticed it.  It’s possible that the aliens had fixed it.  It was never stated that it hadn’t been repaired by the aliens.  However, it came from the aliens taking Riker’s arm off and reattaching it.  All things considered, that’s a pretty neat trick.

There’s little to no replay value.  The entire story is built around suspense that doesn’t really happen.  At least three main characters are being abducted; there’s little threat of any of them being permanently harmed.  We have several secondary characters being abducted only so that we can guess which of them might be sacrificed.  It’s not an episode to necessarily avoid.  If you can get it streaming, I’d say watch it once.  I just wouldn’t make plans to watch it again.

IMDb page

No comments :