Episode no. 125
Season 1
Entertainment rating: D-
Tergiversation meter: -5


CONSPIRACY



FEATURING: Patrick Stewart, with Henry Darrow as Admr. Savar, Ward Costello as Admr. Quinn, and Robert Schenkkan as Lt. Cmdr. Remmick. DIRECTOR: Cliff Bole. WRITERS: Tracy Torme (teleplay), Robert Sabaroff (story). STARDATE: 41775.5. EARTH DATE: 5-9-88.

OVERALL RATING: D-. WRITING: F. ACTING: B. DIRECTION: C. SPECIAL NOTE: One of the most ridiculous and disgusting endings Star Trek has ever presented.

THE SHOW: The Enterprise gets it revenge on Lt. Commander Dexter Remmick (played by Robert Schenkkan)--who explodes in this episode--for his nasty investigation of Picard's character a few months before, in "Coming of Age." The episode also tips its hat to the flesh-horror genre that is all the rage during the Reagan years (exploding bodies, bodies turning inside out, disgusting aliens inhabiting bodies)--with nods, also, to the current popularity of vampire stories (the telling neck wound), and to other conspiracy stories such as "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and "Three Days of the Condor," wherein heroes are beset with pervasive, far-reaching conspiracies. There may also be a bit of Watergate in this episode, not to mention Irangate. The scene with the dish of worms that Picard is supposed to eat, in the conclusion, is taken from an Indiana Jones movie. In fact, there is hardly an original idea in the entire episode.

By relying on all of these precedents, and by cannibalizing Star Trek's own favorite theme (Enterprise officers getting "taken over" by aliens) writers Torme and Sabaroff create a conventionally suspenseful story with ghoulish overtones. The intentions of the alien--a slimy sort of scorpion--are not made clear. When this creature enters humanoids (through the mouth), it makes the humanoids super-strong. It also involves the "taken-over" humanoid--including Starfleet admirals--in a conspiracy to get other humanoids to join in the fun. The humanoids tout the alien as "superior" and alternately persuade and force others to accept the scorpion into their bodies.

Why they try to persuade Picard to eat a dish of worms is not make clear (a right of passage?). It seems that, to some extent, humans must agree to be "taken over." On the other hand, Riker, for instance, is threatened with a forcible take-over. The writing is very unclear in this regard. What is the conspiracy?

It is assumed that, because we have seen all these other horror movies, and are familiar with the conventions of conspiracy stories like "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," we will automatically understand what's going on here. Evil creepy things are trying to enter the bodies of human beings, to control them in some way, for some purpose. The writers of "Conspiracy" do not feel obliged to explain what the point is.

It is a nightmare without borders; a "horror movie" without even a tenuous connection to rational thought. It is certainly not science fiction. Perhaps Star Trek was attempting a parody (as it sometimes does). But it is not an amusing episode--it is merely disgusting.

In the "Alien" movies, for instance, which also contain some truly disgusting images (bodies turning inside out, etc.)--wrought by the same new visual technology, no doubt--the stories are highly suspenseful, rivetting, in fact, well-written, and, ultimately, lucid. The 'alien' in the "Alien" movies always has a reason for what it is doing. The plots and characterizations are well-thought out. The movies are worth watching, if one can stomach the disgusting images. Here, however, the disgusting images serve little purpose. We don't know why the aliens are doing what they are doing. Why are they in an expansionist mode? Are they after our technology? Do they have some biological reason for needing to take over alien bodies? Why do they try to persuade Picard, but use force on Riker?

In the two "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" movies, the purpose of the aliens is also ill-defined, but in those stories, it is a crucial plot mechanism that the hero does not know the extent or purpose of the conspiracy. He is left raving-mad, with not knowing. We see the whole story through his eyes. In Star Trek's "Conspiracy," there is no such focused character, who is left with truly maddening questions. So, there is no plot or character reason to leave this "conspiracy" so vague. It is merely poor writing. In addition, the Star Trek mode is to rationalize and explain, wherever possible. To suddenly violate that mode with horrible images that have no explanation is a betrayal.

If you get a kick out of exploding bodies and human beings putting live scorpion-like creatures into their mouths and swallowing them, you might get a few laughs out of "Conspiracy." If not, then there isn't much reason to watch this episode.

TERGIVERSATION METER READING: -5.

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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