OVERALL RATING: B. ACTING: Stewart, A-. Everyone else, B. WRITING: B-
THE SHOW: It's odd how often Enterprise officers get "taken over" by alien entities. One begins to suspect, after the fifth or sixth episode with this theme, that Starfleet officers are a singularly weak-minded group of people. This is the first of such "take-over" plots. It is also the first well-told tale among these early episodes. Another schtick of Star Trek writers is the idea of the captain "going bad," going mad, being "taken over," becoming unfit for command and issuing unreasonable orders, such that the seconds-in-command must do something about it--must, horror of horrors, challenge the Captain's authority and/or remove him from duty.
The dilemma is created by the brittle military character of starship life which invests the Captain with god-like authority, akin to the military character of Hollywood life (believe it or not) with its undemocratic, top-down organizational structure and such notions of the Director as god and the Paramount CEO as an even bigger god, with the bottom places on the totem pole occupied by "grips" and writers (that is, ensigns). If your CEO or your Director gets taken over by an alien entity, watch out! ("Heaven's Gate" or "Waterworld" may be the result.) The idea of authority figures becoming unreliable seems to make these Hollywood-types shudder with fear.
The notion comes up often enough, in Star Trek scripts, to deserve a bit of ridicule.
On its way to deliver two nasty, quarreling sets of ambassadors to a place called Parliament, where their dispute will be negotiated and their membership in the Federation adjudged, the Enterprise passes through an energy cloud and acquires an energy-being which crackles its way through the Enterprise computer system, and other systems, looking for a "host." It chooses Captain Picard, because it wants to gain control over the Enterprise, to return to the energy field.
Captain Picard obliges--or, rather, he doesn't have any choice. He is no longer himself. While the feuding ambassadors--who smell bad and have nasty eating habits--continue their dispute and have to be disarmed, Picard alters the course of the Enterprise and heads for the energy field. His officers are forced to consider whether or not he is in his right mind. They act too slowly. The Enterprise reaches the energy cloud and Picard--to everyone's great shock--transports himself out into space, into the heart of the energy field, home of the energy-being.
Luckily, some sort of quarrel takes place between Picard and the energy being (Troi senses incompatibility between the two, but we never know what she means), and Picard gets sort of hiccupped back into the Enterprise, but has meanwhile lost his material form. He enters through the Transporter system, finds his "pattern" (the computer configuration of Picard which was last imprinted on the Transporter). Picard writes his name in Data's console. They activate the Transporter. And Picard materializes, as he was nanoseconds before he had sent himself to oblivion.
He remembers nothing of his recent experience. Riker tells him to go rest. He says, nonsense--he's perfectly fine. But then, Security Chief Yar arrives with the news that one of the troublesome diplomats has eaten the other. Picard decides to take Riker's advice. He exits, to take a long rest--leaving Riker to sort out this wretched diplomatic incident
Although the feuding ambassadors elicit uncharacteristic discourtesy from Enterprise officers--rolled eyes, pinched noses, sarcastic remarks--and become the butts of jokes, rather like the Ferengi, the humor is good-natured and actually funny at times, and the tale of Picard and his "take-over" by the energy being is well done, with a nice, neat reunion of the two plots in the final seconds.
TERGIVERSATION METER READING: -1. A bit snobbish about cannibalism--a perfectly respectable religion, in some parts of the universe.
Tergiversate (tur-ji-ver-sat): 1. To use evasions or ambiguities; equivocate. 2. To change sides; to defect; apostatize. The Tergiversation Meter scale runs from -5 (very defective) through +5 (unambiguous, true blue philosophical humanism with no negative subliminal messages).
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