Written by Robert Sabaroff and Tracey Tormé
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 1, Episode 24
Production episode 40271-125
Original air date: May 9, 1988
Captain’s Log: While en route to Pacifica, the Enterprise receives a Code 47 message, which is a highest priority, captain’s eyes only, emergency communication that has no computer record and is not to be discussed with anyone.
Riker wakes Picard from a sound sleep to find his old friend Captain Walker Keel of the Horatio on the other line. Keel plays on that friendship to convince Picard to come to a meeting on Dytalix B about something that’s horribly horribly wrong with Starfleet.
Picard orders a course change and emphasizes that there is to be no record of the diversion, nor is Pacifica to be contacted. Three other ships are in orbit: Renegade, Thomas Paine, and Horatio. The captains of those ships meet with Picard on the surface of Dytalix B — an abandoned mining complex — at gunpoint. They don’t lower the weapons until Picard passes a memory test — including knowing that Keel introduced Jack Crusher to Beverly.
Keel has noticed strange movements, odd orders, weird exercises, unexplained deaths, and high-ranking officers bluffing their way through talk of old times. Picard is, to say the least skeptical, especially given the lack of specifics. Keel again plays on Picard’s friendship and asks him to keep in touch — and also asks him to give his best to Crusher.
Picard takes Troi into his confidence about what’s happening, but keeps it from the rest of the crew. He sets the Enterprise back on course for Pacifica and assigns Data to examine all Starfleet records over the previous six months in search of abnormal patterns.
Crusher comes on the bridge asking if Picard saw Keel, and Picard lies through his teeth and says no, after Keel specifically asked him to say hello for him. Bastard.
Worf detects a disturbance, and after investigating, the Enterprise discovers that it’s the wreckage of the Horatio, which has been destroyed with no survivors.
Now Picard takes Riker into his confidence, remembering what Admiral Quinn told him about his concerns several episodes ago. To add fuel to the fire, Data does detect a pattern of activity that appears to be designed to clandestinely take control of key Federation sectors.
Not wanting to screw around, Picard decides to head straight to Earth to talk to Starfleet Command directly. Three admirals respond: Savar, Aaron, and Quinn. Savar and Aaron invite Picard and Riker to dinner, while Quinn asks to beam up and see the ship, and — while carrying a briefcase filled with a strange alien creature — is beamed aboard by his adjutant, Dexter Remmick.
Thinking that Quinn beaming aboard means he’s on their side, the admiral makes it clear that he has no recollection of his previous conversation with Picard about his concerns about Starfleet Command. Now Picard is convinced that something horrible is going on.
He beams down to meet with Savar, Aaron, and Remmick for dinner. They toast the Horatio, proclaiming the cause of its destruction to be due to negligence by her captain.
Meanwhile, Riker offers Quinn a tour, and Quinn offers to show him a new lifeform that he claims is superior. When Riker tries to summon a science officer to look at it, Quinn grabs his arm and beats the holy crap out of him. Riker summons security. For reasons passing understanding, La Forge joins Worf even though he’s not part of security. Quinn throws La Forge through a door and then beats Worf up before Crusher is able to stop him with multiple phaser blasts set on kill. Crusher examines Quinn and discovers a parasite attached to his brain stem which stimulates the adrenal gland, explaining Quinn’s strength.
Picard goes into dinner, only to find that what’s on the menu are grubs — live grubs! Who doesn’t love live grubs??? Riker arrives, seeming to be compromised by the creatures — as does one of the captains Picard met with, revealing that the bad guys knew about the clandestine meeting.
Riker was faking being compromised — he fires on the bad guys, Picard joins him, and they discover that the mother creature is inside Remmick. Claiming they only want peaceful coexistence, Picard and Riker respond to this line by shooting Remmick in the head. A few moments later, Remmick has no head, and a moment after, his torso explodes, too. A mother creature emerges from his stomach, which should probably evoke Alien but really does more to evoke Spaceballs. Picard and Riker look really disgusted at the mother creature that is inside Remmick’s gullet and then they shoot her, too.
(Fun party game: If you start singing “Hello My Baby” when the creature appears, you get to the line, “Baby my heart’s on fire” right when Picard and Riker’s phaser fire hits the creature. Thanks to Peter David for figuring that.)
The parasites all disintegrate. Quinn is okay, and Remmick is toast, and it’s unclear what the final fate of Aaron, Savar, and the others are. Data also informs Picard that Remmick sent out a signal before he was blown to smithereenies: a homing beacon.
Thank You, Counselor Obvious: “Someone is hiding something but I can’t tell who or what.” Well, that’s helpful....
If I Only had a Brain...: Data overanalyzes a joke, thus draining all the humor from it, and even attempts to laugh, a rather pathetic exercise that makes him sound eerily like Ned from South Park. Later, he starts talking to himself, which he explains in sufficient depth to the computer that it snarks at him to shut the hell up.
There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf gets clobbered by a hyped-up-on-parasites Admiral Quinn, yet another case, as with Lore, where we see how tough the bad guy is by having him beat up on the Klingon.
Welcome Aboard: Ward Costello and Robert Schenkkan reprise their roles of Quinn and Remmick from “Coming of Age.” Jonathan Farwell and Michael Berryman are creepy as Captains Keel and Rixx (the latter the first Bolian we ever see, a species named after this episode’s director), while Ursaline Bryant, Henry Darrow, and Ray Reinhardt create absolutely no impression as the compromised command officers.
I Believe I Said That: “Swimming is too much like — bathing.”
The look of disgust on Worf’s face when he utters the final word of that line is just priceless.
Trivial Matters: While this episode was rife for a follow-up, it never happened on screen. However, the story of the alien parasites was picked up on in the Deep Space Nine novel series that took place after the show ended, establishing a link between these parasites and the Trill symbiotes. See in particular the novel Unity by S.D. Perry, though the storyline continued through several novels both before and after it.
This episode was censored in Great Britain and Canada, specifically the scene where Remmick has his head and torso blown open.
Make it So: “We only seek peaceful coexistence.” A rare Trek use of dark themes and horror, this is a nasty episode that doesn’t quite cohere into the level of nasty it could. The characters all talk about a threat to the very fabric of Starfleet and the Federation, but it never feels like a threat. The destruction of the Horatio comes close, as he’s someone close to both Picard and Crusher, but everything after that is more moving the plot along than being worried about the conspiracy.
The bland affect of the three head admirals doesn’t help, as they come across as either boring or comical rather than menacing.
Still, the unfolding of the conspiracy is fun to watch, it’s nice to see the crumbs dropped in “Coming of Age” are picked up on — if only the crumbs in this episode also were — and the solution refreshingly blunt. TNG doesn’t do horror/action all that often, and it serves as a good change of pace if nothing else.
Warp factor rating: 4.
Keith R.A. DeCandido has written a great deal of Star Trek fiction. His more recent novels are Unicorn Precinct, SCPD: The Case of the Claw, and the upcoming Guilt in Innocence, part of the Scattered Earth shared-world science fiction series. Go to Keith’s web site, which is a gateway to his blog, Facebook, and Twitter.