Jul 20 2012 3:00pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Masterpiece Society”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on The Masterpiece Society“The Masterpiece Society”
Written by James Kahn and Adam Belanoff and Michael Piller
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Season 5, Episode 13
Production episode 40275-213
Original air date: February 10, 1992
Stardate: 45470.1

Captain’s Log: The Enterprise is tracking a stellar core fragment through the Moab system. Moab IV is in the path of the fragment—which was expected. What isn’t expected is that there are people on that world. There are artificial structures on the planet, with a defensive shield protecting them, but they’re not responding to hails. However, La Forge notices that they use low-band subspace frequencies of a type used in the past. Worf tries hailing them on the lower bands, and gets through—but their response to the hail is to increase power to their shield.

Picard goes ahead and warns them about the core fragment. To that, they respond. They turn out to be human, and the reason why the Enterprise didn’t know there was a human colony here is because they don’t wish to interact with outsiders.

There is some disagreement about how to proceed, as the colony refuses to evacuate. When the colony leader, Aaron Conor, says that he can’t leave the biosphere, as it’s a sealed environment, he is surprised to learn that the Enterprise has the ability to transport matter over distances. Picard offers to beam Conor up, but he isn’t comfortable with leaving the biosphere, but he allows a small delegation from the Enterprise to beam down.

A man has been pacing agitatedly behind Conor the whole time, and he practically busts a gasket when Conor allows them to beam down. This is Martin Benbeck, Conor’s security chief (he’s called an interpreter of the law, but it boils down to security chief). When Riker, Troi, and La Forge beam down, Conor is impressed, but Benbeck is apprehensive.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on The Masterpiece Society

Conor explains that the colony was genetically engineered. Each person is bred for a specific purpose. Conor’s job is what he was literally born for. They’re a part of their environment, they can’t separate themselves from it without catastrophic damage. But then there’s the catastrophic damage the core fragment will cause...

Troi promises to do what they can to preserve what they’ve built for two centuries.

Conor brings them to Hannah Bates, their best scientist. La Forge stays with her to work out scenarios for saving the planet. Troi also stays to see more of the world, so Riker beams back alone.

Bates and La Forge spitball ideas. Bates shows La Forge her schematics for a multiphase tractor beam. The colony can’t create one, they don’t have the power—but the Enterprise can. Over the extremely loud objections of Benbeck, Bates beams back to the ship with La Forge and Troi to implement the plan.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on The Masterpiece Society

Picard and Troi discuss the situation a couple of days later. Troi is not convinced that everyone will leave, that many would rather die than leave their home. Picard pisses and moans about genetic engineering, sneeringly calling it a bad idea whose time has passed. He also asks Troi to convince Conor that evacuation is the best course of action if La Forge and Bates can’t divert the fragment—if he believes it, and he’s as good a leader as he was designed to be, others should follow.

Meanwhile, Bates and La Forge have met with no luck. During a break, La Forge takes his VISOR off. He explains how it works—after snarking off at her over the fact that he’d never have been allowed to be born on her world—and then realizes that the same technology that keeps La Forge from experiencing sensory overload from all the inputs from his VISOR can be adapted to make the tractor beam work. (He also comments on the irony of the solution to the planet’s problems coming from technology that only exists because of something that’s been bred out of her world.)

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on The Masterpiece Society

On the planet, Troi joins Conor for a lovely piano recital, which is interrupted by a tremor: the first signs of the core fragment’s approach. Knowing it’s a simplistic question, Troi asks if there’s any way to re-engineer their society elsewhere. Conor comes back with “Humpty Dumpty,” an apt metaphor.

La Forge and Bates show off their idea to Picard and Riker. The increase in tractor beam power still won’t be enough to move the core fragment as far as they’d like, but if they combine that with a reinforcing of the biosphere’s defenses, they should weather it. They get Conor’s very reluctant permission to let fifty engineers down to install five new shield generators to reinforce the structure.

The Enterprise moves to divert the fragment. The tractor beam requires all the power the ship has to give, but they make it to a 1.2-degree course correction, which will just be enough, along with the shield reinforcements on the planet.

When Conor thanks them, he tells Bates that he’s looking forward to lavishing praise and rewards upon her when she returns to the surface—which causes Bates to frown.

The Enterprise engineering crew help clean up the mess the tremors caused by the core fragment made. Riker and La Forge are still on the surface when an alarm rings: there’s damage to the biosphere, a microscopic crack in the wall. Bates isn’t sure she can fix it, and they may need to evacuate—but La Forge, once they’re alone, calls her bluff, as his VISOR didn’t pick up any damage.

Bates explains herself to La Forge: she’s supposed to be the finest scientific mind on her world, but the technology she’s seen on the Enterprise is almost beyond her comprehension. Why didn’t they invent any of that stuff? La Forge opines that maybe necessity really is the mother of invention.

Beaming back to the ship, La Forge brings Bates’s request for asylum to the senior staff, with Riker adding that she may not be the only one, as the engineering team got a lot of pointed questions about the universe outside the biosphere. They argue back and forth; Worf and La Forge both firmly on the side of granting asylum, Troi just as firmly against it, with Riker and Crusher both expressing concern for the future of the colony if anyone leaves.

Picard beams down with Troi to meet Conor. They find him with Benbeck, the latter berating Bates for wanting to leave. When Picard and Troi enter, Benbeck accuses Picard of causing all this and says they never should have answered the hail. Bates points out the fallacy of that logic, as if they’d done that, the colony would have been destroyed.

Conor and Picard talk alone. Conor tries to get Picard to just leave and deny the asylum requests, but Picard can’t just refuse people who want to leave. The pair of them urge Bates and the others who wish to leave not to make this decision rashly, to give them six months to see if the colony can adjust, but Bates is adamant. All six months will do is make everyone’s life miserable. She refuses to budge, and requests asylum. Conor sadly says that, if they decide to come back, they will be welcome.

Back on board, Riker tells Picard that twenty-three colonists came on board. Picard muses on how their presence was as destructive as the core fragment, and how this was a reminder of the importance of the Prime Directive. And yet, what else could they have done? They couldn’t just let the fragment destroy the colony, either.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on The Masterpiece Society

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: Bates and La Forge are able to adapt VISOR technology to make the former’s design for a multiphasic tractor beam work on the latter’s ship.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi starts out flirty with Conor, then it turns into a romance, which she breaks off the morning after. She confesses her indiscretion to Picard when she’s about to introduce them for the climactic discussion.

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf, ever the voice of blunt reason, sees no reason why they can’t grant asylum to the colonists.

In the Driver’s Seat: We see Ensign Gates briefly at conn at the beginning of the episode, but when the Enterprise has to divert the core fragment, it’s Ensign Felton back at the station.

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Troi and Conor wind up smooching, and it’s implied that they spend the night together. Troi worries that her presence and his feelings for her are interfering with his ability to make rational decisions.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on The Masterpiece Society

I Believe I Said that: “My VISOR’s positronic scan would have detected the leak. Its molecular-pattern enhancer would pick up even the smallest crack.”

“The damn thing doesn’t miss much does it?”

La Forge’s VISOR catching Bates in a lie, and Bates grumbling about it.

Welcome Aboard: John Snyder returns as Conor, having played Centurion Bok’ra in “The Enemy,” while Ron Canada and Dey Young make their Trek debuts as Benbeck and Bates, respectively—both will return, the former on Deep Space Nine’s “Rules of Engagement” and Voyager’s “Juggernaut,” the latter on DS9’s “A Simple Investigation” and Enterprise’s “Two Days and Two Nights.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on The Masterpiece Society

Trivial Matters: Surprisingly, the episode makes absolutely no reference to the Eugenics Wars or to Khan Noonien Singh, usually a go-to reference for any story about the evils of genetic engineering in the Star Trek universe.

The piece being played at the piano recital is Frédéric Chopin’s Prelude in E-minor (Op. 28 #4).

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on The Masterpiece Society

Make it So: “Genetic manipulation or not, nobody’s perfect.” Until this rewatch, I never realized that this is, basically, the exact same episode as “First Contact.” You’ve got a conflicted male leader trying to do what’s best for his people, a hard-liner of a male security chief who is permanently antagonistic, and a female scientist who thinks the Enterprise is awesome and doesn’t want to stay on the world, and leaves with the ship at the end.

The problem is: this is warmed-over “First Contact.” The conflict in that episode revolved around the need to rescue Riker and the choices that needed to be made by the Malcorians. Here, there is no real conflict, because every action that is taken is necessary to save the colony.

To make matters worse, every casting choice in this episode is worse than the one made in the like episode from the previous season. Ron Canada, a fine character actor, has never been good with nuance, and so his Benbeck has none of the courage of his convictions that Michael Ensign gave to the equally two-dimensional role of Krola. Dey Young is perfectly fine as Bates, but she can’t hold a candle to Carolyn Seymour, whose sense of wonder as Yale is palpable, unlike Young’s. (Though there’s a story to be written about a scientific project that puts Bates and Yale together...)

But the real problem with the episode is the disastrous casting of John Snyder—who was already established as being mediocre in “The Enemy”—being brought back to completely fail at the role of Aaron Conor. If ever a role needed someone with the gravitas and depth that George Coe brought to Chancellor Durken, it’s this, and Snyder blows it on every possible level. He’s an empty shirt, coming across more as a bland politician than someone genetically engineered to lead a colony.

There are some good ideas here, but ultimately it all rings hollow because there’s no choice here. Without the Enterprise’s intervention, the colony would have been destroyed. Yes, twenty-three people leaving upsets the balance of the world, and will be problematic, but there’s at least a chance to recover from it. There’s no chance to recover from destruction. The episode sets up a dilemma that truly isn’t one, and manufactures a conflict mostly through Benbeck’s tiresome intransigence that is in no way convincing.

Picard’s lament at the end is, frankly, pathetic. Riker’s right, there’s no question that they did the right thing here. If ever an episode cried out for one of Data’s naïve-but-wise questions about the nature of humanity (hell, even a callback to “The Ensigns of Command,” where Data faced a similar situation), or for one of Worf’s blunt assessments (which we got a bit of in the observation lounge scene, but it was drowned out by Troi, Crusher, and Riker all worrying about the consequences to the colony), this is it.


Warp factor rating: 3

Keith R.A. DeCandido is just sittin’ here on the bench. Just sittin’ here on the Group W Bench...

Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
1. Lisamarie
I also caught the 'First Contact' paralells right away, although it's also kind of a lame prime directive episode that highlights the things I DON'T like about the prime dirctive. I understand the general intent, but all this angsting about how they 'destroyed' their society by interacting with them. Come ON. Societies evolve, they encounter new ideas, etc. and that's how they thrive and meet new challenges. Such as meteors that are about to destroy their entire colony.

Plus, it touches on that question as to whether or not the community or the individual is more important. And do the 'founders intentions' really have any bearing? Do these past founders have a right to dictate the actions and roles of the various lives on the colony NOW?

Some interesting stuff, so I'd probably give it more than a 3. To me a 3 would be something I disliked watching and I certainly did not dislike it or feel bored.
Nicole Lowery
2. hestia
At least TNG drew their characters consistently: Troi shows yet again her terrible taste in men.
3. Lsana
Picard's speech at the end always really rubbed me the wrong way, mostly for the reason that you describe. If he really believes that it would have been better if everyone on the colony had died rather than that 23 of them had realized how incredibly lame their society was and decided to leave, then he is either too stupid or too evil to be in command of a starship.

It's also rather hard to lament the loss of the colony's culture when frankly what we saw of it wasn't much to celebrate. It was about as interesting as a goldfish bowl. Bates was right that the Enterprise, one ship of a thousand people, could run rings around these people, allegedly genetically engineered to be perfect, in pretty much every area. I don't think I'd be upset about the colony falling apart even if they wouldn't have all died in the other case.
4. Hammerlock
Yeah, it was warmed over First Contact, but at the same time it recasts the problem: in this case, intervention is required. You can't just throw up your arms and walk away, hands clean--you have to force yourselves on this world and make the best of it.
The personnel recasting, however, was pretty weak--I have to agree on that. That said, I find it as a possibly amusing tweak that the "specially-bred" colony leader was an unimpressive, bland politician--if that was the intention then they casted the role well! (it probably wasn't the intention)

I'd give it a 4 for being entertaining and not terrible. Maybe a 3.5; I hate stories that use Federation Smug as a plotbat.
Pirmin Schanne
5. Torvald_Nom
I find the supposed conflict with the Prime Directive rather implausible, as well.
I mean, 23 people leaving the colony is severely disruptive - how do they ever deal with major accidents? Don't they have any redundancies?
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
6. Lisamarie
According to Conor, they don't have major accidents, because those kinds of things have been 'bred out' (sickness, infirmity, clumsiness...)...and I guess they control their environment to such an extent that they don't have natural disasters. I think they did say they had some redundancy since it's not completely perfect, but I guess not enough to deal with 23 people leaving.
Jay Hash
I never thought about the parallels before between this and First Contact, but they are readily apparent on second viewing. The only positive thing (I think) to come out of this episode is the fact that the Prime Directive doesn't only apply to species and worlds that the Federation has never met before: it applies to anyone that is, on a general basis, outside of Starfleet's jurisdiction. And it's good to have that kind of breadth in what is kind of the catchall rule made to generate conflict in these episodes.

I think the crew should also been a bit more gunshy about dealing with folks like this, especially considering their last run in with a geneticaly engineered society which harvested cells from the away team to try and expand their society. Though if they had enough of a gene pool to pull from on Moab IV, then that might not be a factor.

And I'll just add in here that Canada was exemplary playing the Klingon Counselor Ch'Pok, and this is not his finest moment.
8. Christopher L. Bennett
I remember finding Dey Young a high point in the episode, but otherwise it was pretty mediocre. The problem is that it's yet another straw-man society whose parameters are arbitrarily set in order, not only to show the "wisdom" of the Prime Directive, but in this case to show the "folly" of genetic engineering. Sure, it's certainly possible that a society believing in eugenics would want to achieve a state of rigid, immutable perfection rather than recognizing that diversity and adaptability are the keys to species vitality and robustness; after all, real-life eugenics movements in the past were just as misguided, though their ideology was racial purity rather than "perfect balance" or whatever. But holding up such a flawed interpretation of genetic engineering as the exemplar is stacking the deck.
9. Eugene R.
KRAD, have you re-habilitated yourself?
10. Electone
The 5th season has a LOT of clunkers and we're not even half way through yet. This one stinks, but wait until we get to "Imaginary Friend". The 6th season can't come quick enough...
11. Kdougless
This is one episode I purposely skipped. I am banking this one, one day I will watch it and to me it will be a "new" episode. I was such a huge Star Trek fan, and I looked forward every week to having a new episode. But by season 5, I assumed the party would end sooner rather than later, so I chose this episode to miss. I didn't read the summary for this article, but I am sad to see that it only got a Warp Factor 3. Oh well, they can't all be "Yesterday's Enterprise".
Joseph Newton
12. crzydroid
An interesting throw-away line in this episode was Troi saying she was still on Enterprise time. I just really liked the acknowledgement that the ship has its own time schedule that is independent of other worlds. Also the fact that "night" and "day" are artificial on the ship, so they can have meetings at "0300" because it's all arbitrary.
13. Seryddwr
Every time Snyder has a scene in this episode, I think of him hassling Paul Hogan on the streets of New York in Crocodile Dundee...

A pretty boring episode. I echo earlier comments that Moab IV seems - well, so boring. The piano recital says it all. (Not that I'm against piano recitals!) In part I think it's an example of 'aren't-we-cultured' syndrome, which happens on the Enterprise on a regular basis. Every time the makers need to show us the crew relaxing, the path of least resistance is either classical music, drama, or painting - ergo, out come Data's/O'Brien's instruments (or Crusher's drama classes, or...).

Generally speaking, I feel that this is one aspect of the future that was executed pretty badly. Then again, it is a dilemma - I can't think of any series that does recreation in the future well. Babylon 5's attempts were woeful, and DS9's not much better. The issue becomes one of familiarity over innovation - show something people do today, and you leave yourself open to allegations of anachronism; create something futuristic, and you risk looking ridiculous (a game of Strategema, anyone?...).
14. Edgar Governo
I actually appreciated that Khan wasn't explicitly mentioned in this episode. I like that Federation culture is implicitly against genetic engineering (even if it isn't rational to have such an overwhelming bias) because of something in Earth's past, without having to tell us so every time the subject comes up.

When this episode originally aired in Winnipeg, there were technical difficulties at the local station showing TNG which filled it with static and cut it off completely midway. A week later, they made a special commercial for the reairing, with onscreen text blaming the outage on "Romulan attacks" on the station's "outposts in the Neutral Zone," and using clips from the episode to promote the new day/time when it would be on: "This is a date to note in our history books."

To this day, that's my main memory of "The Masterpiece Society."
Michael Burstein
15. mabfan
Wow. I may be the only one here who loved John Snyder's performance as Conor. I thought he was pitch-perfect. I also loved Ron Canada's performance as well.

-- Michael A. Burstein
Rob Rater
16. Quasarmodo
These last couple of episodes, I barely remember having seen them. And I just watched the entire series on dvd a couple of years ago, so I know I've seen them all.
Alyssa Tuma
17. AlyssaT
To me it wasn't that John Snyder was a bad actor, but just woefully miscast. He has a powerful smarm-face (just check out that still above). I think he'd be great as, say, a corrupt junior high vice principal in a Disney Channel movie. Plus -- and please forgive me for sounding like my grandfather when Clinton was elected -- doesn't he seem kind of young to be leading the colony? But who am I to second-guess a genetically engineered society of perfection??
18. Vitiosus
I actually really enjoyed this episode, and so am kinda sad it only got a 3. To me this is what Star Trek was really about, exploring scientific concepts, in this case the dowfall of creating a perfect society. There is no real antagonist or villian. Which is why Khan wasn't brought up I'm sure. In that story line Khan was the villian, whereas here the geneticially engineered people are the victims.

I believe it was intentially bland, as the point they were trying to come across is that perfection is boring. And so it comes as no surprise that a bunch of people wanted to leave at the end. That being said, they were reather heavy handed about it. And intentionally making the people bland doesn't necesarily make for the most exciting episode.

Nevertheless I always felt like this was a great episode of what Star Trek was about. No villians, just exploring the dangers of science. In this case the consequences of creating a "perfect society". It reminds me of the old post on about challenging the new Star Trek movie to not have a villian. That to me is Star Trek.
19. Tesh
I liked the Conor character. He *was* a bland politician, but I suspect that's precisely what he was supposed to be. Not sure why Troi fell in with him, but there's no accounting for taste. So... I thought the Conor character was well done for what he was supposed to be, though I'd really not like the guy much in person.

Benbeck was good, too; I appreciate the open antagonism and spunk in the guy, fighting for his world view. It was almost... Klingon. That's not to say I agree with him, but I'll take a guy who's open about his points of contention over a smarmy ingratiating politician any day.
20. NickM
"23 people leaving the colony is severely disruptive - how do they ever deal with major accidents? Don't they have any redundancies?"


"it's certainly possible that a society believing in eugenics would want to achieve a state of rigid, immutable perfection rather than recognizing that diversity and adaptability are the keys to species vitality and robustness"


From our current perspective it seems obvious that the colony's economic and social models were designed by a genetically engineered super-accountant and a super-management consultant. Maybe this rather lacklustre episode does have some lasting relevance after all...
21. General Vagueness
When I watched this episode before, I thought the blandness (for lack of a better word) of Aaron Conor was because he was bred and/or designed to be a politician and it was a subtle comment on the vocation as a whole, but your phrasing it as leader makes me think they would want to have something more than that, and if he's specifically supposed to be the leader then he's probably not much of a politician because he's probably not elected.
Justin Devlin
22. EnsignJayburd
I don't get the hubbub over the PD in this one. These are humans on a (lost) human colony. The minute they reconnected with the UFP they should have automatically been considered Federation Citizens. The question of asylum should never have even come up. It's their right to leave their world if they want. Besides, they buried the lead with the whole genetic engineering thing. It would have been more interesting having people re-integrate into a society that at best would look on them with distrust. Maybe then they'd want to stay on their world.

Regardless, this ep is a stinker.
23. NullNix
My problem with this episode is that whenever Martin Benbeck speaks I expect him to try to extradite Worf. His role in this episode, his memorably mellifluous voice, and his superb performance in DS9's _Rules of Engagement_, have typecast him for me in the space of that single episode.
24. Ashcom
As soon as I saw it was John Snyder in this episode it put me right off. Unfairly as it happens, but because I always see him as Orin Zento in Babylon 5, the supposedly "brilliant" labour negotiator sent from Earth to settle a dispute who arrives, bombasts wildly through the episode putting everyone's back up and refusing to listen to any kind of actual compromise, and basically shows himself to be the absolute worst labour negotiation in the history of labour negotiation. Which may have more to do with how the character was written than his performance, but it still colours my opinion against him.
Brickhouse MacLarge
25. Midnightair
This is my 2nd post here! (my 1st was on Violations). I did not enjoy this episode at all. I am able to sit through all the "BAD" episodes that have preceded this one, for eg off the top of my head, Code of Honor, but this episode, I could not stand. The actor was irritating. Troi was at her worst irritating. The relationship was irritating. Everything was irritating. The premise of the show was a rehash. It was boring as dead mud. So far, this is the only episode I deliberately avoid at all costs. To copy and paste Memory Alpha: ***Ronald D. Moore remarked, "This is another example of a show that doesn't really work too well. We sort of show up at a genetically perfect colony – which in and of itself is starting to bore me – and when we get there, it's 'Gee, Troi falls in love with one of the people.' You can't wait to get up and get a beer."***

I don't drink, but after this episode, I NEEDED a beer. Gah!
Dante Hopkins
26. DanteHopkins
Nah. I liked this episode, and didn't find it at all to be a callback to "First Contact." "First Contact" is in the category of "Episodes I watch to get to the next one." I always look forward to "The Masterpiece Society", especially when LaForge tells Hannah of the irony of the solution in a VISOR created for a man who would never have been born on their "perfect" world. That alone tells the whole story of the episode IMO.

Ron Canada's Benbeck made a nice contrast to the smooth and polished Conor. I found no fault at all with John Snyder's Conor (though I will concede he did much better here than Boc'Ra in "The Enemy"). Watching these "perfect" people contemplate their possible doom made for interesting viewing.

Finally, I agreed with Picard at the beginning about the fallacy of their genetic manipulation taking the thrill out of finding who you are in life, but I agree his lament at the end fell flat, as there was nothing else the Enterprise could have done. This episode rates a solid 5.
27. Scott M
I view this episode as more of a study than an actual story, akin to sketch comedy rather than a sticom. That bumps my rating of it up a bit, but for the most part I agree.

With all the talk about the Founders' wishes, this seemed to me to be an obvious reflection of the Great American Experiment. After all, the vision and wishes of the Founding Fathers is often brought up in political debates. But ultimately that's where the reflection ends. The reason politicians debate is that there are no clear answers about the issues facing our nation (as much as they may want us to believe are). But in this episode, as mentioned in the review, there is really no choice: Contamination (and potential slow destruction) by outside influences, or immediate destruction by outside influences. Those are much more clear-cut consequences than a debate about, for example, gun control.

So in the end I view this as another example of a wanna-be Trek story that simply falls apart when faced with the realities of human existence.

It also didn't help that the script was so by-the-numbers and the direction so heavy handed that what little potential there was for suspense completely dissipated by the halfway point.
28. trjm
I actually quite enjoyed this one. I liked the fact that what would be climactic in some shows - moving the stellar core fragment - is dealt with half-way through. I enjoy Bates faking the sphere breach, rather than feeling able to ask for asylum; I like LeVar Burton's performance, with its tight-lipped anger.

The perfect society which is unable to deal with chance or accident is too much of a straw man to provide the kind of philosophical grist that the best episodes have, however. You don't have to be mad to live, there, but it helps. What the episode needed, I think, was something that demonstrated the importance of every citizen to the environment they have made. We're told on more than one occasion that everyone is linked to the biosphere's environment, but this is too abstract to be left as it is. I think that's why the decision of some colonists to leave makes us think, 'What's the big deal? You'll get over it, you clowns!' If there was something in the backstory, or better yet, some way of demonstrating in-story how catastrophic even the loss of one colonist would be ... well, it ceases to be abstract, and you have a moral dilemma that might actually be the genesis of a good episode.

Troi's gender determined her plotline for the second week running.
29. Sam0
I have to agree with those who mentioned that the numbers don't make sense. This is a society supposedly designed by very intelligent people, who presumably should anticipate the need for enough genetic diversity, people with certain skills, etc. The absence of fewer than a couple dozen people shouldn't be a concern, let alone all of the hubbub when it's initially one scientist threatening to leave.

As someone else pointed out, accidents inevitably will occur, even in the best planned scenarios. If nothing else, these people clearly have children, and young people make stupid errors. The unexpected death of a single person shouldn't be enough to destroy a well-planned society, so the absence of one scientist shouldn't have even been a question of causing some sort of irreparable harm.

And later, we get a hint that there are "hundreds" of possible genetically-compatible mates for the leader available, so this is obviously a big group of people... big enough to allow choices at least for some in choosing a mate. In a society truly on the brink of disaster when a few people would leave due to genetic ramifications, etc., you'd expect that every mate would have to be pre-determined to ensure genetic diversity. Clearly that isn't the case here.

It would have been more believable if we didn't get the moral discussions about harm to the society until after we started seeing large numbers of people wanting to leave, rather than just one scientist. And those numbers should have been a lot more -- even 75-100 would have been more believable. It's entirely conceivable that a major accident could kill a dozen or more people in a society, and if the founders of this society weren't complete idiots, they'd plan for at least a few such events potentially occurring periodically. But if you raise that number a few times higher, it becomes slightly more fathomable that they might not have planned adequately.

Also, why no mention of "Up the Long Ladder"? There Picard was happy to find a solution to genetic diversity and long-time survival of cultures by throwing two incompatible societies together. Few angsty moral dilemmas there.

And from that perspective, why is there no discussion of the possibility of just getting more people from outside in this episode? I know the society leaders would object, but at least getting that idea out there would have made it all seem like the Enterprise crew actually gave a crap about ensuring the future of this society, rather than just having stupid angsty discussions about an inapplicable Prime Directive.

They could have discussed plans to give them a shuttle or ship or something, for example, so they could travel to nearby inhabited planets and look for compatible people to join their society. They may not quite fit the genetic standards, but surely this group of engineered super-people can figure out some sort of screening -- and presumably there are people even in this century somewhere who still would find the bizarreness of this society intriguing enough to want to move there. People who think they are superior and smarter tend to want to hang out with others who think they are too (regardless of whether that superiority is justified) -- the fact that Mensa meetings exist proves this.
30. David Sim
Seeing the colony behind the biosphere got me thinking about Under the Dome. Maybe the episode should have thrown out the whole genetically engineered society bit (TNG hasn't had much luck with them, has it?) , and told a story about a society of shut-ins and how they live in isolation.
31. AlRoper
In my series rewatch , and since the season two,ep one, "The Child", where Troi has the immaculate conception, I have been noticing the cool disapproving look Riker gives Troi, everytime it is even hinted that she might have some sort of romantic attachment to a guest star. In this episode, just look at Rikers' face, when Troi asks to remain behind, with the colony leader. He holds that look, until he transports away. She, on the other hand, is generally happy for him, when he finds joy in someone else's arms. Riker always comes off as a bit immature, and Troi has to be the adult of the two(ignore it), so they can continue to remain friends, and work well together.
32. APNelson
A factor they didn't mention that could explain how so few people leaving having such a big impact is what fields the people who decided to leave were in.

The leaders of the colony would have tried to limit contact with the Enterprise crew. Since they were there to reinforce the colony's structure and shields, most of the people they would have had contact with would have been the engineers responsible for maintaining the biosphere. If a high percentage of those people left, that could have been problematic for them.

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