Administrative note: There will be no TNG Rewatch on Thursday, due to the Thanksgiving holiday. We’ll be back with “The Enemy” a week from today.
Written by Michael Wagner & Ron Roman and Michael Piller & Richard Danus
Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont
Season 3, Episode 6
Production episode 40273-154
Original air date: October 30, 1989
Captain’s Log: We open on the holodeck, La Forge having taken a young woman named Christy Henshaw on a date on a beach. He even creates a violin player, but she’s just not into him (La Forge or the violin player).
We cut from a La Forge ready for a cold shower to Wes and Data playing three-dimensional chess in Ten-Forward, where they discuss the planetary wreckage they’re flying amongst. This is all that’s left of Orelious IX after the final battle between the Promellians and the Menthar. The bridge picks up a distress call from what turns out to be a thousand-year-old Promellian battle cruiser, still mostly intact. Picard insists on leading the away team over Riker’s objection.
Picard is like a kid in a candy shop — or, say, me in the American Museum of Natural History as a kid — as he checks out the thousand-year-old ship, and even finds the captain’s final log entry, praising his crew and accepting full responsibility for the ship’s destruction.
Unfortunately, since arriving at the ship, the Enterprise has been experiencing odd power drains — and after the away team beams back they start being bombarded with radiation. Another trip to the Promellian ship reveals that there are aceton assimilators that bleed energy from the ship and convert that to radiation that will eventually kill the inhabitants.
Meanwhile, La Forge finds himself re-creating one of the propulsion labs at Utopia Planitia where the Enterprise was built, and also re-creating one of the propulsion experts, Dr. Leah Brahms. They manage to find a way to slow the power drain, and then they have to come up with a way to get out of the trap. Since there is a very brief gap between the force and counterforce, they might be able to adjust for it and move. The problem is, the adjustments need to be made too fast. The only plan La Forge and the Brahms image can come up with is to turn the ship entirely over to the computer.
Then at the last second, La Forge approaches the problem from the other direction: turning everything off except for two thrusters. Picard takes the conn and skillfully flies the ship out of the debris field on minimal power, getting far enough away from the assimilators to get power back. Worf then blows up the battle cruiser, while La Forge goes on the holodeck and gets a kiss from the Brahms image before he ends the program. Not that that’s at all creepy.
Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: La Forge and Brahms toss a lot of nonsense back and forth involving magnetic fields and parallel processors and other technology that doesn’t actually exist before deciding to go down to nothing and just fly on thrusters and nothing else.
Meanwhile, La Forge and the fake Brahms bond over technobabble in a manner that the actors make look incredibly cute despite one of them not actually being a person. Not that that’s at all creepy.
The Boy!?: When it comes to the dangerous flying of the ship with only a couple of thrusters, Picard relieves Wes so he can fly the ship himself. Seriously, you don’t want the teenager flying the ship under those circumstances....
There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf’s response upon boarding the Promellian cruiser is: “Admirable — they died at their posts.”
If I Only Had a Brain…: Data is the one who is able to get the Enterprise to play the Promellian captain’s logs with his mad android skillz.
Syntheholics Anonymous: Guinan gives La Forge advice on how to flirt, which boils down to, “Don’t try so bloody hard.” She also mentions that she’s attracted to bald men because a bald man helped her once when she was hurting. (The likely origin of that will be shown in “Time’s Arrow Part 2.”)
No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: After a failed date — which La Forge’s long-suffering attitude indicates is the latest in a series — the chief engineer finds himself falling for a holographic image. Not that that’s at all creepy.
What Happens on the Holodeck Stays on the Holodeck: According to Wes, La Forge spent “days” putting together the perfect date program for his liaison with Christy. These days of effort resulted in — a beach, two drinks, and a violin player with a scarf on his head. This was the best he could come up with in “days”? No wonder she wasn’t interested.
Then, of course, the holodeck gives La Forge the perfect date without him asking for it. And the holodeck can apparently create a personality based on profiles and debates at engineering caucuses that flirts, offers to cook, and gives backrubs. Not that that’s at all creepy.
Welcome Aboard: Susan Gibney does an excellent turn as the image of Brahms, both as the monotone computer image and then charming with the personality the computer gives her. Albert Hall has tremendous gravitas as the Promellian captain.
I Believe I Said That: “Oh, good Lord, didn’t anybody here build ships in bottles when they were boys?”
“I did not play with toys.”
“I was never a boy.”
“I did, sir.”
“Thank you, Mr. O’Brien. Proceed.”
(After beam-down and Riker giving O’Brien a dubious expression) “I did! I really did! Ships in bottles — great fun!”
Picard bemoaning kids today, Worf and Data pointing out that they don’t fit the mold, O’Brien sucking up to the captain, and Picard appreciating it.
Trivial Matters: An early draft for the script had Picard be the one to work with Brahms and be interested, but Michael Piller rightly thought that an episode that was basically about a guy in love with this ’57 Chevy would be better suited to focus on the engineer.
Brahms was originally to be named Navid Daystrom and was supposed to be a descendant of Richard Daystrom from the original series’ “The Ultimate Computer,” but nobody told the casting department that they were supposed to cast an African-American woman, so they cast Dibney and renamed the character.
La Forge will take another shot at Christy Henshaw, with somewhat more success, in “Transfigurations.”
This is the first episode of a Star Trek series directed by a woman. Beaumont will go on to become a regular director of TNG, and also helm an episode each of Deep Space Nine and Voyager.
This episode markes the first mention of the Starfleet shipyards located on Mars at Utopia Planitia.
Finally, the real Leah Brahms will appear in “Galaxy’s Child,” where we will find out just how much margin for error there is in the computer’s calculations for creating a personality.
Make it So: “One propeller, sir?” Okay, this episode? Is totally creepy.
Seriously, La Forge creates a voice interface of Dr. Leah Brahms, and just keeps adding to it and adding to it until it becomes a photonic blow-up doll that spouts technobabble (which probably counts as foreplay to La Forge).
And then he kisses her and it’s just so totally oogy.
It was one thing when Riker fell in love on the holodeck in “11001001,” because that was planned by the Bynars, and Riker was aware that it was a little weird. But this isn’t a trap set by computer experts, it’s just La Forge being really really creepy.
It’s not like he needed her — La Forge has an entire engineering staff. At one point, Picard asks La Forge to pass on congratulations to his team, which raises the question of why La Forge wasn’t working with a team.
There’s a lot of good in this episode — Picard’s archaeological geekiness, the simplicity of both the trap and the ultimate solution, the nobility of the Promellian captain, the whole ships-in-bottles bit — but ultimately it’s impossible to rate it as a good one because it’s so gosh-darned creepy!
Warp factor rating: 4
Keith R.A. DeCandido has written many books and comics and you can get autographed copies of several of his novels and comic books directly from him. Autographed copies of the print editions of his fantastical police procedurals SCPD: The Case of the Claw and Dragon Precinct (the latter a trade reissue of the 2004 novel) are also available for preorder. Find out more about Keith at his web site, which is a portal to (among many other things) his Facebook page, his Twitter feed, his blog, and his podcasts, Dead Kitchen Radio, The Chronic Rift, and the Parsec Award-winning HG World.