Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 175 (Emergence)

It seems that there are two times when things go wrong on The Enterprise: during a routine mission and during some critical state of an important mission. In this episode, The Enterprise is on a routine mission. Picard and Data are in the holodeck when the nearly get run over by the orient express. That, alone, is troubling since the holodeck is supposed to have safety protocols to prevent injury and also Picard had called for the program to end several times. What’s puzzling, though, is that they’re running a Shakespearean program. They shut the holodecks down while repairs can be made.

Later, The Enterprise jumps to warp and comes out of warp a minute later. No one can offer an explanation except to say that had The Enterprise not jumped to warp, it might have been destroyed. Coincidence? It must have been. There isn’t anything about the ship that would make it do that on its own.

This leads to the discovery of several strange nodes throughout the ship. Also strange is the fact that the holodeck is still running. Data, Troi, and Worf enter and investigate to find the Orient Express still running. Onboard is a strange set of characters. There’s the conductor and engineer, who both belong, but there’s also a knight and a Chicago-style gangster. (If you look closely, many of the characters resemble characters from previous episodes. The knight and gangster may be references to the original series.)

The Orient Express is on its way to a place called Vertiform City. (It’s later realized that the ship needs a particle with a similar name.) There seems to be a direct relation between the holodeck program and the Enterprise. When the train stops, the ship stops. When the program experiences an earthquake, the ship also shakes.

Eventually, the crew realizes that the ship is trying to create a new life form. Should they try to stop it? Should they let it go on? They decide to let it develop. At the end of the episode, Data is worried about unleashing an unknown life form on the universe. Picard tells Data that the life form was created out of the ship’s programs, the crew’s logs and so on. How bad could such a life form be?

Parts of the episode seemed contrived. At the very least, the writers could have come up with a better name for Vertiform City. The concept of the Orient Express is explained, at least in part, by Dr. Crusher who notes that all sorts of people could meet there. There’s also a reference to Prospero, who could sense his career winding down and wanting to go out with a bang. (This is the third-to-last episode of the series.)

The episode starts to make sense when you look at many of the parts. I was going to bash the episode in this review, but I started to realize things as I was writing it. In a way, that’s the fun of a lot of the episodes. You could go back and watch this episode several times and start to pick things up. I’d definitely recommend that you buy this episode if you’re looking to buy them on tape. 

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