by Billie Doux
A well written and well executed tribute to The Manchurian Candidate, something every show seems to do at some point or another.
The details were what made it work: the use of the VISOR to pipe images directly into Geordi's brain, the green and magenta Geordi-vision with the Romulan subtitles, the fact that the Romulans would absolutely love to turn the Klingons against the Federation. Making Geordi the victim worked, too. Even though he's brilliant and professional, Geordi tends to come off as earnest, cuddly and adorable (which is probably why LeVar Burton spent many years successfully hosting a kids show, Reading Rainbow). Watching the Romulans torture Geordi was unsettling. So was watching him matter-of-factly attempt to carry out an assassination.
It made sense that Data would be the one to figure it all out because of the anomalous blips in the E-band, although it wasn't as much fun without the pipe and the deerstalker hat. The tense build-up to the scene where Geordi started to carry out his hidden directive to assassinate Governor Vagh as Data was resolutely on his way to prevent it was tense, even though it was obvious how it would end. I particularly enjoyed how Ambassador Kell suddenly looked like the coward he was by asking for asylum, and the way Picard said yes while actually saying no.
In fact, Larry Dobkin did a great job as Ambassador Kell, didn't he? Kell started out seeming to be the typical high-ranking hardline Klingon, but then showed that he could be likable when he sort of thanked Worf for killing Duras. Loved Kell sitting down to that huge, gluttonous meal, too. Having him turn out to be the spy wasn't a shock, although the reveal was well-timed. Kell was also the perfect vehicle for reminding us of Worf's bond with Picard, with Picard standing up for Worf by refusing to accommodate Kell's request to work with another security officer, and later when Worf lit into Kell when defending Picard.
The odd bits with Chief O'Brien were interesting, too. When Taibak, who did the actual brainwashing, needed to test Geordi, he had him enter a holodecked Ten Forward and kill O'Brien. When Geordi hesitated to carry out the directive, Taibak sent Geordi back for more conditioning. Later, in the real Ten Forward, Kell instructed Geordi to go spill a very red drink on O'Brien as a test. I liked the little bit of spilled blood symbolism there.
There were also some good scenes with Deanna. Upon Geordi's arrival back at the ship, she noticed that he was more relaxed than she'd ever seen him before after his working vacation slash fun time that included a holiday fling. (Maybe that should have made her suspect something, but clearly it was all about the ship's counselor caring that Geordi got some rest and down time.) At the end of the episode, Deanna was treating Geordi's amnesia and conditioning by cleverly distracting him with "and when you saw the Romulan ship..." On a show that was often criticized for its reset button, we were told this time that Geordi wouldn't be instantly fixed. Good.
While Geordi was being conditioned and tortured, there was a female Romulan commander in the shadows who had a familiar voice. If you don't know who that is, I'm not going to spoil you.
Bits and quotes:
-- Stardate 44885.5, where Geordi took the shuttlecraft Onizuka to an artificial intelligence seminar on Risa. Later, the Enterprise took Klingon ambassador Kell to the Kriosian system.
-- Come on. Geordi clearly doesn't know what a computer game should be. Or maybe that was the computer's fault.
-- Geordi sleeps in red shorty PJs.
-- I wonder if the weapons thing was supposed to remind us of Reagan's Iranian arms deal?
-- I've always loved the Romulan wardrobe of tunics with Joan Crawford shoulder pads. They always make me think of polyester quilts.
-- Kell: "You swear well, Picard. You must have Klingon blood in your veins."
-- Data: "I have surmised that Commander La Forge was conditioned by Romulans, a process referred to historically, and somewhat inaccurately, as 'brainwashing'."
All in all, this is a good episode, even though I tend not to like this sort of spy stuff in my science fiction shows. Three out of four glasses of very red booze,
Billie Doux loves good television, especially science fiction, and spends way too much time writing about it.