Friday, July 15, 2011

TNG Ep. 33: Unnatural Selection

Oh, Star Trek. You and your clever episode titles.

Summary: Following a distress call, the Enterprise finds that the entire crew of the USS Lantree have died of the rapid onset of... old age. Naturally, this concerns the Enterprise greatly, so they download relevant data from the ship, place the ship on quarantine and hurry to the Lantree's last known port to warn the inhabitants there of the danger. Unfortunately the Darwin Genetic Research station is already showing signs of this rapid aging disease. The Station is most concerned about their genetic experiments, human children that have been genetically engineered. The children don't appear to be ill and may not be able to care for themselves after all of the affected adults have died. Dr. Pulaski, determined to prove that the children are not infected, ends up getting infected herself and she and Data land on the research station to help in their race against time. Through collective the efforts of the researchers, Dr. Pulaski, Data, and the Enterprise crew etc., they not only discover the cause, but manage to return everyone to good health. It turns out that the children were not just carries of the disease, but the cause; they release antibodies that aggressively seek out airborne pathogens and, in the process, mess with the DNA of regular humans.

The thing that impressed me the most is how well thought out this episode is. Sure, it's a bit generic in that this kind of plot could happen in any far-future scifi (and many not-so-far...) but at least if you're going to do a common theme, do it right. Make the details of the problem and of the characters' reactions believable. And this episode did, for the most part.

In fact, the only part that made me mutter under my breath was the very beginning. First off, it became clear that the episode was going to feature the new doctor, and I still miss Dr. Crusher. But mostly, the dialogue about her felt stilted. It was like telling me that the episode was going to be about her by writing said message on the frying pan swung at my face. If I try to forget the actual impact, I can just read the imprint on my forehead.

But really, the rest was realistic. I liked that the scientists at the research lab were blind to the possibility that their experiments caused the trouble. If the kids aren't sick, it can't be them, right? I also like how they neglected to mention that their 12 year old boys look 21. Real people are obtuse like that, blind to information that doesn't fit into their paradigm. Scientists are no exception.

Most of all, I liked that the crew was smart enough not to board the Lantree when their scans showed that there were no life signs aboard. Instead, they remotely control the Lantree so that they can turn the viewscreen on and at least see inside first. It's that sort of touch that not only gives you faith in the characters, but lets you believe that Star Trek is happening in the 24th century. It's like they have technology and military-esque training or something!

And Dr. Pulaski? I guess she wasn't that bad. I liked learning that she has a stubborn streak, but I'm not sure what else we learned besides the predictable "I believe that human life is sacred!" At least in fiction, that's why main characters become doctors. The rest is gravy. Or, the rest is a chance to show that you can act. Sigh.

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