Star Trek The Next Generation: Lonely Among Us

Worf is attacked by a sneaky sentient energy pattern.
Picard: "Even Parliament's peacemakers may find this case a little difficult."

Two races, the Selay and the Anticans, board the Enterprise; their hate becomes the background for an investigation of the crew when a mysterious alien is accidentally picked up by the Enterprise.

It would be tough to beat the last episode in terms of external exploration: what can top going to the ends of the Universe? So, perhaps wisely, the TNG writers have switched to an episode which gives us more internal exploration, and some new aspects to our characters appear for the very first time. When the ship, carrying two potential new members of the Federation, starts experiencing equipment failures, suspicion and confusion reign–and these are great for showing character, and character flaws.

Let's start with Tasha Yar. She's pretty snobbish to the less-sophisticated Selay and Anticans… but in the previous episode we saw flashbacks revealing the poor, crime-filled background Yar herself came from. And how about Data, kindling the connection to Picard over mysteries and a clear interest in LARPing, complete with props–but as usual, never knowing when he's taken things too far? But there's another character who also deserves some notice here. I often think Deanna Troi and Marina Sirtis don't get enough respect.

Troi interrogates.
In the first season, Troi shows us many different roles as ship's counselor. Yes, she has a habit of stating the obvious, yes, this, yes, that. But she is also usually the first person to identify sabotage and mind possession, which happens to the crew of the Enterprise with startling regularity. In this episode there's two detectives: Data, who looks at hard facts, and Troi, who looks at memories. And when it comes to identifying the impossible, Data is helpless; it's Troi who figures out it's an alien consciousness occupying crew minds. Yeah, she has a "softer" costume… but she wouldn't be the first to take advantage of others' impressions of softness. Come on, let's have some love for Troi! When the alien finally takes over the Captain, in many ways it's her evidence and senses which save him, so he doesn't wind up like poor Engineer Singh.

Worf discovers the body. Does he realize this coulda been him?

I also liked some of the revelations about how she "feels" people. Right, human consciousness is multiple and confusing by itself, and it's nice to see the show notice this.

Throughout the episode the aliens are played for laughs. They eat giant, living animals. They hunt each other with lassos and non-weapons. Riker is accidentally captured. I suspect they found two races of teenagers, but it actually does provide some moments of relief from the tension.

At the end I was left wondering how much control that alien had. From the experiences of Crusher and Worf, total control, but is it possible the alien learned enough to let Picard have some say? That the alien wasn't lying, and Picard wanted to go? From the previous episode, we know how much of a temptation exploration is. Or did he sacrifice himself for the ship? We'll never know: he was restored to an "earlier Picard pattern" and doesn't have those memories anyway. It was a relief when Picard got back on board. I had a horrible vision of his consciousness left wandering in purple nebulae for eternity. Not fun.

Bits and pieces

--You can remove a Captain through the actions of the First Officer or the Chief Medical Officer.

--Wesley still has the same weird orange anorak that he had last episode. Did Wil Wheaton anger a costumer somewhere?

--The dress uniforms are marginally better, but look kind of like... spandex. Hopefully they improve. 

--Can the Federation track consciousness separately from bodies? Does that explain some of the transporter dialogue here?

--I'm a Sherlock Holmes lover. The precise quote uttered by Data comes from "His Last Bow," a collection of short stories.

--Death is not serious in Trek. Did they have a service for Singh? How about some love for the dead peace delegate? But I guess when your consciousness has just been rescued from dispersal in interstellar space, you get some slack. 

Quotes

Tasha: "One thing is clear. Almost all of the peace delegates answered our questions with lies."
Data: (smoking pipe with what looks like actual tobacco) "Imprecise, Lieutenant. They omitted certain truths, which in itself tells us something."
Tasha: "We can learn something from non-disclosure?"
Data: "Indubitably, my good woman."

(during a staff meeting, the crew turn to Data, who is still smoking the pipe.)
Picard: "Data, let's proceed without the pipe."


Picard: "What the devil am I doing here?"
Riker: "Sounds like our Captain."

Overall

Three out of four sentient energy patterns. A solid episode - doesn't quite reach the dramatic heights we know TNG can get to, but great plotting, reasonable character development, and Riker with a lasso around his neck isn't a bad visual.

2 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I'm like Dr. McCoy when it comes to the transporter. It feels like they just recreated a simulated Picard out of a left over pattern and that if ST:TNG were real life, it wouldn't really be him. But I guess that does apply to everyone who has gone through the transporter, too.

Data is just wonderful. His Sherlock imitation was the best thing about this episode. That, and one of the delegates preparing the other delegate for dinner.

I like Troi, too. I'm not sure why fans dislike her so much.

That shirt of Wesley's is appalling. It might as well be pink.

drnanamom said...

Great review and I agree that there was quite a bit of character development. I believe that in an altered state that Picard could have decided to go exploring - at least I like that explanation because it gives us a more reckless, adventurous side to Picard. Very "kirk-like".