Thu
Jun 23 2011 12:00pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “11001001”

unconscious Bynars“11001001”
Written by Maurice Hurley & Robert Lewin
Directed by Paul Lynch
Season 1, Episode 14
Production episode 40271-116
Original air date: February 1, 1988
Stardate: 41365.9
 

Captain’s log. The Enterprise arrives at Starbase 74 for maintenance. Part of the team includes a Bynar pair. The Bynars are the ultimate computer geeks, even speaking in binary code to each other. They all come in pairs, and when told that they only have 48 hours to complete the computer refit, they bring two others on board to assist.

The crew is preparing for a couple of days off. Picard plans to lose himself in a novel, Yar and Worf are playing Parrises Squares, Crusher is meeting with a cyberneticist on the starbase, La Forge is helping Data with creativity by advising him on how to paint, and Riker decides to try out the Bynar-enhanced holodeck.

Riker creates a jazz club on Bourbon Street in 1958 New Orleans, with an audience of one: a woman named Minuet. Because Jonathan Frakes plays the trombone, Riker sits in with the jazz band, then dances with Minuet, who captivates Riker.

While keeping an eye on the Bynars on the bridge, Wes discovers that something’s wrong with the magnetic containment unit. Data and La Forge verify that the antimatter will be released and destroy the ship inside of five minutes. Data orders the ship abandoned, and sets the Enterprise to fly away from the starbase. As it does so, the containment unit somehow regenerates, but by then the ship’s en route to Bynaus.

However, Riker and Picard, who joined Riker on the holodeck, are still being distracted by Minuet. They are kept from learning about the containment unit. When Picard tries to leave and Minuet is forceful in her desire for them to stay, they ask for the exit that much more anxiously. They quickly discover that the ship is at red alert, and the computer fills them in on what they missed, with some more filling in by Minuet, who was designed to keep Riker on board in case something went wrong.

Picard and Riker arm themselves and set the autodestruct, then beam to the bridge—only to find the Bynars unconscious. It takes some time, and some exposition from Minuet, but Picard and Riker figure out that Bynaus is being hit with an electromagnetic pulse, and they needed to core-dump their world computer into the largest mobile computer available: the Enterprise.

The captain and first officer manage to restore the Bynar computer by working in tandem. The Bynars explain that they didn’t just ask for help because Starfleet might have said no.

Minuet

What happens on the holodeck stays on the holodeck. Riker totally falls for Minuet, whom he describes as “too real.” (The bass player retorts, “Too real is too right.”)

Also, the Bynars specify that their maintenance will prevent malfunctions like the one in “The Big Goodbye.” Would that it were so… (Amusingly, the episode was intended to take place prior to “The Big Goodbye,” with the Bynar tampering being responsible for the holodeck malfunction in that episode.)

If I only had a brain… Data decides to try his hand at painting—which would continue to be a recurring theme throughout the series. La Forge provides advice, leading to Riker’s suggestion that they take notes for posterity. “A blind man teaching an android how to paint? That’s got to worth a couple of pages in somebody’s book.”

The boy!? Wes keeps an eye on the Bynars and is the first to notice that the containment unit is going blooey.

Parrisses SquaresThere is no honor in being pummeled. Worf goes with Yar to play Parrises Squares, and assures Riker that they will win at all costs. When Riker says that the point is to have fun, Worf pointedly asks, “If winning is not important, then Commander—why keep score?”

Welcome aboard. Carolyn McCormick is simply radiant as Minuet, which makes up for how dull Gene Dynarski is as Commander Quinteros. Katy Boyer, Alexandra Johnson, Iva Lane, and Kelli Ann McNally are all nicely alien as the Bynars.

I believe I said that. “Hey, man, the chick digs you.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Hey, look at her.”

“Maybe it’s my music.”

“Yeah, well, about that, don’t give up your day job.”

The jazz musicians and Riker discussing Minuet’s very obvious interest in him.

Trivial matters: The Bynars would return in the Starfleet Corps of Engineers eBook series; a single Bynar whose mate was killed is one of the regular characters. The S.C.E. eBook 10 is Better than 01 by Heather Jarman provided the full backstory on Bynaus, establishing that they were organics that were enslaved by an artificial intelligence that they eventually overthrew.

The footage of Starbase 74 was a reuse of footage of Spacedock from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

Make it so. One of the strongest first-season episodes, this one has it all: romance, jazz, adventure, suspense, a potential tragedy, and one of the finest alien species Trek has provided.

The nascent relationship between Riker and a hologram is disturbing if you think about it for too long, but while you watch the episode you’re too busy being totally charmed by Minuet. McCormick’s chemistry with Frakes is letter-perfect, and you have no trouble believing that Riker falls for her. It’s also fun to see Frakes play trombone with the jazz band….

Brent Spiner and LeVar Burton provide an intensity that makes the evacuation of the Enterprise tense, a nice modulation from the whimsy of the painting scenes. (“I am awaiting—inspiration!”)

Most impressive is director Paul Lynch’s maintaining of the binary theme. We see people in groups of two—not just the Bynars, but Yar and Worf, Data and La Forge, Picard and Riker. Of particular note is the way Picard and Riker move in near-perfect unison when they try to take the ship back.

In a series that all too often resorts to slapping latex on a forehead to create an alien species, the Bynars are truly alien aliens. Best of all, this lives up to one of Trek’s finest ideals: what appears to be a threat turns out to be a tragedy, and Picard and Riker show compassion rather than anger when they learn the truth.

One thing that has always bugged me about this episode: Quinteros is very obstructionist to the Enterprise crew when they try to go back to the ship once they realize it’s been stolen. He’s very sympathetic to the Bynars, and one wonders if he was covertly helping them with their plight. Food for thought, anyhow….

Oh, and it’s a joy to see an episode in which the autodestruct is turned off, not with five or fewer seconds left, but with a full two minutes left. Nice avoiding of cliché there.

 

Warp factor rating: 7.


Keith R.A. DeCandido has a new novel out: the Dungeons & Dragons tome Dark Sun: Under the Crimson Sun. You should buy it. Really. You can follow Keith online at his blog or on Facebook or Twitter under the username KRADeC.

16 comments
Paul Weimer
1. PrinceJvstin
I recall an episode a few seasons after this, one of those "convince Riker of a false reality episode" where a picture of Minuet, presumably Riker's "wife" was prominently seen.
ChrisG
2. ChrisG
It's been a looong time since I've seen this, but I remember hating this episode. While there were good ideas here, they were overwhelmed for me by what I found to be stilted and overdramatic acting and dialogue. I particularly found the Bynars -- let's call it the implementation of the Bynars rather than the idea -- absurd and Riker's lech act offputting. The honey trap idea was interesting but seemed unrealistic, and throughout I thought the dramatic tension was off key. Perhaps if we had more history of the Bynar's persecution the idea that they would not consider making a request might have been better motivated. At the time, I saw this episode as consistent with the general first season badness.

But your nice review has prompted me to take a fresh look at this one. I especially like your observation about people appearing in pairs, which I hadn't remembered, and the commander's potential complicity.
Keith DeCandido
3. krad
Jvstin: Yes, that was "Future Imperfect" in the fourth season.

ChrisG: Thanks! :)
Michael Burstein
4. mabfan
Keith, when you get to "Future Imperfect," note that it was more than just Minuet appearing in a picture. I believe they rehired the actress to film some "home movies" with Riker and his "son," and they even have another character express astonishment that Minuet was not real because she was so real in Riker's mind.
ChrisG
5. Christopher L. Bennett
One of the first season's strongest, though that's faint praise. Imperfect, but effective. Carolyn McCormick deserves a lot of the credit for its success, even when Minuet's dialogue is less than convincing.

But the title always annoyed me. Saying it out loud requires twelve syllables, which I think is tied with "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky" for most syllables in a Trek episode title, and it's hard to remember (or it was until I finally memorized it ages ago). I used to like to think of it by an alternate title, "Binary" (or maybe "Bynary"). For what it's worth, the binary number 11001001 equals 201 in decimal, so technically you could pronounce it "Two Hundred and One," though only math geeks would have a clue what you were talking about. And of course it represents the "names" of the four Bynar characters, 11, 00, 10, and 01 (or the numbers three, zero, two, and one). Which is odd in itself -- are we supposed to believe that these four aboard the Enterprise are actually the first four Bynars in numerical order, out of the entire planet? Maybe those are just aliases, or their assigned numbers within a foursome that has a longer designation.

The reuse of the ST III Spacedock footage always bugged me a bit. The Enterprise-D is so much bigger than the original that it could never fit through the Earth Spacedock doors, so taken literally, this would have to be a station of the same design but scaled up to a greater size. Not entirely out of the question, I guess, but contrived, especially in combination with an Earthlike planet and a Luna-like moon in the same shot. Still, the necessity of reusing stock FX footage from the movies at this point in the series, before they'd created a large library of their own footage, is certainly understandable. And they did a good job of match-moving the E-D with the film elements from ST III.
ChrisG
6. The Chronic Rift
It's funny you point up how everyone is paired up with someone in this episode. (Riker/Picard, Yar/Worf, Data/LaForge), but Wesley stands alone, which is symbollic of his entire run as a character on TNG. We see him with his mother late in the episode, after the evacuation, but they are not working together the way the other three groups do.
rob mcCathy
7. roblewmac
If Ryker's gonna fall in love I REALLY don't wanna clean the holodeck!
Phoenix Falls
8. PhoenixFalls
>2: I interpreted the Bynars' decision not to ask StarFleet for help as a layman's interpretation of what it might be like to think in binary -- only yes/no answers are possible, and the ramifications of a no answer are too grave to be risked, so better to beg forgiveness than ask permission, right? Made as much sense to me as any other justifications they give the alien species on the show. . .
ChrisG
9. Chessara
I hadn't seen this episode in a very long time and I was pleasantly surprised by how good it is! I agree that it's one of the better Season 1 episodes. :)
A few thoughts:
- Isn't it funny that Minuet has a better French accent than Picard? :P
- I don't mind the re-use of the ST III footage, and I actually think it's a beautiful scene
- The nitpicker in me can't help but wonder how did the Bynars manage to get to the bridge before Picard and Riker? We leave them apparently setting up shop in Engineering, follow Picard and Riker as they head directly to the bridge....where we find not two but four Bynars already working there???? Oh well....pretty minor stuff considering we've just come from Angel 1...
-I loved all the performances of the main characters, and the little tidbits we learn in regards to their backgrounds, interests, etc, for example I really loved seeing Dr. Crusher's passion and energy when telling Riker about her meeting with the cyberneticist.

I'm really enjoying this rewatch! So much so in fact, that two eps a week not being enough, I'm now doing the TOS rewatch as well. (I missed it the first time around).

Thanks!! :D
john mullen
10. johntheirishmongol
Finally, an episode not to bitch about. I loved Minuet, thought she made the episode. The episode had some nice character moments. I thought most everyone finally seemed comfortable in their characters. I still think that the whole series could have done with fewer stars and worked as well.
ChrisG
11. Mike S.
I really enjoyed this one (second only to "Conspiracy" as far as the first season goes, IMO). Minuet was a great character. As much as Picard and Riker comment on her uniqueness, I like the fact that we, as an audience, can see it. She calls Riker by his first name, knows she's a hologram, speaks French to Picard, etc. Also, this episode is really the first time that Data and LaForge work together in engineering (they would do it many more times in the future). There's the obligatory technobabble, but you could always forgive it, even here, because Brent Spiner and Levar Burton are so great together (nice touch in your review, noticing all the crewmembers working in pairs, BTW).

One GLARING plot hole though: It's explained a few times that Riker was needed to be distracted, and stay on board, so that he could help if anything went wrong, while Picard's presence was mere luck. Good thing, because without Picard and Riker working together, the Bynars all die (remember, both were needed to access that computer program on the bridge). So, the Bynars plan was highly flawed. Maybe it was made to show that, while the Bynars are computer geniuses, they handle people, and other species, so poorly. Even so, I would have liked to have seen that point at least be mentioned.

Great episode, though.
Christopher Davis
12. ckd
Christopher (#5): try hexadecimal, instead; that translates it to C9, for only two syllables. (Too bad it isn't B5, eh?)
ChrisG
13. Ensign Jayburd
Love this episode! Love the true alien-ness of the Bynars as Keith put it, love Minuet, and Riker playing the trombone (don't give up your day job? Please! He's got chops!). I also love the Enterprise D docking at a starbase. Even if it was stock footage, it was still a beautiful thing to see.
ChrisG
14. Electone
A toss-up with Conspiracy for my favourite Season 1 episode. This one has tremendous atmosphere and character development for Riker and Picard. We finally get to see them in a relaxed environment with the scenes in the jazz club. Kudos to Ron Jones who crafted a truly sensational soundtrack for this episode.
ChrisG
15. Big Joe S.
This is a cogent analysis. The episode is indeed tight. Ron Jones also shines with a good soundtrack and with the Jazz numbers. And Carolyn McCormick shines, between her dress, character, and unique role as holodeck beauty and Bynar distraction-liason.
I don't think I can very add much beyond that to your bottom line.
ChrisG
16. ellisk
Concur with the analysis in toto. Very good episode. This is where this Star Trek incarnation begins to show it's potential. The auto-destruct sequence is a little overboard, but it is redeemed by the fact that they knew they were leaving plenty of time to turn it off. The moments of whimsy worked. "Why didn't you ask for our help?" "You might have said no." Thumbs up.

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