May 26 2011 1:00pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Lonely Among Us”

Worf is zapped“Lonely Among Us”
Written by Michael Halperin and D.C. Fontana
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 1, Episode 6
Production episode 40271-108
Original air date: November 2, 1987
Stardate: 41249.3


Captain’s log. While wearing what we all, in our naïveté, thought were the ugliest dress uniforms in all creation (only to be proven wrong a decade later…), Picard, Riker, and Yar welcome aboard a Selay delegation. The Enterprise is ferrying them, along with the Anticans, to a negotiation on Parliament. The Selay do not wish to be near the Anticans, nor even upwind of them.

Crusher examines WorfEn route, the ship encounters an energy cloud. During a close sensor pass, Worf is hit with an energy surge and rendered unconscious. He’s brought to sickbay, where Crusher treats him while wearing a doofy medical helmet that we, thankfully, never see again. During treatment, the energy surge moves from Worf to Crusher, who then starts wandering the ship acting strange. Upon reaching the bridge, the surge moves into a science station, after which consoles start malfunctioning, and eventually the warp drive goes out.

While trying to determine the cause of the malfunctions, the energy surge hits the assistant chief engineer, killing him—but the warp engines are now working.

Crusher discovers that she has suffered a memory loss—which Worf suffered also. Troi hypnotizes the two of them, and they recall their lost time, during which they both felt another presence in their mind.

Helm control goes down again, and while Picard is touching the conn, the energy moves into him. At that point, Picard starts acting in the same weird manner as Crusher earlier and orders the ship back to the energy cloud.

Riker and much of the senior staff discuss Picard’s odd behavior, but don’t have enough to justify relieving him of duty—not even when Picard admits to, in essence, being possessed to Crusher. He then explains to the bridge what happened: it’s an energy-based life form that was accidentally brought on board. Eventually settling in Picard, it claims to have come to an arrangement with the captain to beam back into the energy field, where Picard will be free to explore the galaxy unfettered.

After incapacitating the crew, Picard beams himself off—only to become lost and helpless within the cloud. The Enterprise moves into the cloud, hoping that he’ll come aboard the same way as the other life form. He does, Data is able to integrate Picard’s physical transporter pattern with the energy he became to restore him.

Thank you, Counsellor Obvious. Troi uses the world’s most unconvincing hypnosis—which is very much like a 1950s TV version of hypnotism, only less realistic—to unlock Worf and Crusher’s memories. Later on, her empathic abilities are mostly used to move the plot along, particularly when she senses Picard’s presence in the energy cloud.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The transporter is able to magically restore Picard. Data doesn’t even try to explain how he does it, and given what we’ve seen transporters do in the past (e.g., “The Enemy Within”), what the hay, right?

The boy!? Wesley insists that the engines couldn’t have been repaired by Singh before his death, that they just fixed themselves, but nobody believes him.

If I only had a brain… Data first learns of Sherlock Holmes and starts emulating him—or, rather, emulating popular conception of Holmes since, at one point, he says, “it’s elementary, my dear Riker,” a turn of phrase that Holmes never actually used. Since Data is the most literal-minded person imaginable, he would never use this phrase based on his comprehensive study of Holmes. However, Data’s Holmes fetish becomes an entertaining recurring theme.

There is no honor in being pummeled. Worf is felled by the energy creature before the credits roll. However, he is also established as fourth-in-command, as he’s in charge of the bridge while Picard, Riker, and Data are in the ready room.

Welcome aboard. Marc Alaimo and John Durbin play the Antican and Selay leaders. Both would go on to play Cardassians—the former both Gul Macet in “The Wounded” and Gul Dukat on Deep Space Nine, the latter Gul Lemec in “Chain of Command.” Colm Meaney also returns as a crewmember, though unlike in “Encounter at Farpoint,” he is wearing the familiar operations gold that he would continue to wear throughout the show and on DS9. Kavi Raz plays Singh, the assistant chief engineer, who’s brighter than the last one (Shimoda in “The Naked Now”), but suffers an unfortunate fate.

I believe I said that. “Sorry—wrong species.” The Selay delegate after accidentally snagging Riker with a silly-looking lasso thingie that was intended for an Antican.

Trivial matters: This is the first time we’ve seen a crewmember die on screen. Singh is the assistant chief engineer, and Chief Engineer Argyle (from “Where No One Has Gone Before”) is name-checked, though not seen. Cliff Bole, another one of the show’s regular directors, has his debut here.

Make it so. Not the most exciting or interesting episode ever, sadly. There’s an interesting idea in here regarding an energy being trapped on board the Enterprise, but we don’t find out about this until a lengthy infodump by Picard late in the episode. Prior to that, it’s a weak-beer mystery that’s mostly an excuse for Gates McFadden and Sir Patrick Stewart to act weird and for Brent Spiner to be a silly Sherlock.

The Antican and Selay subplot serves no obvious function, except to give the crew a chance to moralize about those silly primitive people with their going to war over economic differences (“strangely enough”) and their eating raw meat. Intended as comic relief, it’s mostly just silly. As, unfortunately, is this episode.


Warp factor rating: 3

Keith R.A. DeCandido’s most recent Star Trek work includes the Captain’s Log comic featuring Edward Jellico, the novel A Singular Destiny, and stories in Seven Deadly Sins and Mirror Universe: Shards and Shadows. Follow him online at his blog or on Facebook or Twitter under the username KRADeC.

Eduardo Gisbert
1. xgisbert
I find interesting the idea of a pure energy beign living in space. But I must sadly agree with Keith. The implementation of the concept was poorly handled. Maybe it was another attempt to have the crew play out of character. Still, it was a somewhat solid Sci Fi plot, without a misterious and malevolent monster trying to eat the crew alive, just a scared and strange living being trying to go back home.
Michael Poteet
2. MikePoteet
Your nitpick about Data's (mis)quotation of Sherlock Holmes totally blew my mind. :-) Of course he would be the first to correct anyone who used that line! Why, as a casual Sherlockian as well as a Trek fan, this never occurred to me, I don't know.

I had forgotten that Singh died (assistant chief engineer, no less -- poor guy didn't even get to be Chief Engineer of the Week! Wouldn't it've been a hoot if, every week, the Enterprise had a different Chief Engineer, a la Murphy Brown's secretaries?). But is this really the first time we've seen a crew member die (really die) on screen? Didn't the helmsman ("ops" officer or whatever the 24th century term is; I forget) get frozen by Q in the pilot? And never, so far as I know, unfrozen?

Thanks for an entertaining recap and review of an eminently forgettable episode!
rob mcCathy
3. roblewmac
if the transporter is that good at rebuilding people why does anybody get sick? Let alone die?
Keith DeCandido
4. krad
Nope, Torres survived being frozen by Q. Worf reported that he was fine right before he asked Picard if he could "clean up the bridge."

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Chris Hawks
5. SaltManZ
Perhaps Data's obsession with Holmes didn't simply stop with Doyle's stories, but also took into account his cultural legacy, of which that particular quote is a huge part.
laundry lady
6. laundry lady
I'm surprised you didn't touch on the corniest aspect of this episode. The P symbol on the transporter consol letting them know that Picard had entered the buffers to be reconstituted. Seriously, that would be his choice to communicate his presence? (Because nothing else begins with P). This incident also contains one of Riker's infamous stating the obvious one liners. "P for Picard?" I roll my eyes every time.
Michael Poteet
7. MikePoteet
@krad 4 -- Right you are. I stand corrected.
laundry lady
8. Christopher L. Bennett
For what it's worth, Holmes did often say "Elementary" and he did often say "My dear Watson." He never used them back-to-back in that order in any canonical story, but there's no reason he (or someone emulating his speech habits) couldn't have in theory.

I take it this is going in original airdate order rather than production/syndication order, since we haven't gotten to "Haven" yet.

There's some mildly interesting eerieness here, and the idea of Picard voluntarily choosing to embrace the incorporeal life offered by the entity meshes with the scholar/explorer persona he had in the first season. I also like the way it showed Picard as a teacher to his crew, insisting that his junior officers such as Worf "learn, learn, learn." That's something I kind of wish had been retained later on. But it is a rather unfocused, meandering episode. The Antican-Selay subplot serves little purpose and ends very strangely and inappropriately, with a reported act of cannibalism (or sophontophagy, rather) being treated as a matter for humor.
laundry lady
Hey now,

I liked the Insurrection Dress Uniforms. So much so, that I got married in them. ;-)

As for the ep, I hated how the Antican/Selay delegation was such a throwaway storyline, especially its ending of there being some mini-crisis that security goes off to resolve mere seconds before the credits roll. The energy being plot reminds me of a cartoon I once saw in a Starlog Magazine though, with the entire crew dumbfoundedly held at phaser point while a Posessed Picard (complete with devil horns and forked tounge) is jumping up and down behind the ops console taking control of the ship. Just really shows how absurd the whole premise is.
laundry lady
10. Sanagi
Just say something nice dept.: I like the ambiguity of this episode, especially the question of whether the energy being wanted to merge with Picard or was planning to ditch him all along.
laundry lady
11. NickM

I have to say, I loved the dress uniforms in Insurrection! They are like the dress whites we have in the Army (I don't have them, way too expensive!) and other services. They actually look like a real uniform. And also look good on my characters in Star Trek Online. :-)
Keith DeCandido
12. krad
Nick: you are entitled to your opinion. ;) Honestly, besides the fact that it added ten pounds to actors who could, at that stage in their careers, ill-afford it (yes, Jonathan Frakes and LeVar Burton, I'm looking at you), I think it makes them all look like they should be dispensing ice cream from a truck....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
laundry lady
13. Scavenger
This was just on Sighfie. One abusrdity not covered is they go from a scene where Picard and co discuss that Worf and Crusher were possessed, but then have no plan on what to do when Picard starts acting strange.
laundry lady
14. Ensign Jayburd
Here's one of many 1st/2nd season episodes that is good conceptually, but poorly executed.

The idea of the space-dwelling alien getting trapped by Enterprise is very compelling. The idea that it goes from person to person (kind of like Azazel from "Fallen") is even more compelling. But the resolution was utterly ridiculous. The computer-dwelling Picard forming the letter "P" on the console was completely inane and don't even get me started on the magical transporter resurrection of the "Picard pattern," as Troi put it.

But time was on their side (Fallen/Stones reference). It was still a solid idea for a story and the show would eventually get better.
laundry lady
15. crzydroid
I like the Insurrection dress uniforms.
laundry lady
16. Argumen
I remember this episode vaguely--what I remember best was the line by Riker: "We no longer enslave animals for food purposes." Pretty radical for late 80s tv. Thanks to that I decided to give up meat and dairy--been 25 years so far and now veganism gets a lot more attention. Star Trek really is forward thinking. I remember Spock was vegetarian too-but I dont recall them stating it so directly. Wish someone would As DC Fontana about this--why she chose "enslave" since it put a moral spin on it that would have annoyed fastfood advertisers I imagine.
laundry lady
17. JohnC
I was watching this episode on Netflix last night and the last thing I remember is Troi beginning the hypnotism sequence. So either Troi's really good, or the episode was really monotonous. I'm thinking the latter.....

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