Mar 12 2013 3:00pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Genesis”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Genesis“Genesis”
Written by Brannon Braga
Directed by Gates McFadden
Season 7, Episode 19
Production episode 40276-271
Original air date: March 21, 1994
Stardate: 47653.2

Captain’s Log: We open in sickbay. Ogawa is removing cactus needles from Riker’s back (a date in the arboretum gone horribly wrong) while Barclay is being the world’s worst patient. (At one point, Crusher tartly reminds Barclay that he promised not to look up things on WebMD, er, that is, Starfleet’s medical database before seeing her.) Barclay has a flu that his immune system’s having trouble with due to a dormant T-cell, so Crusher gives him an artificial T-cell to help fight it off. Data comes in with Spot, who is very pregnant—and Ogawa announces to Crusher and Data that she is also with child. (She already told Powell, the father.)

The Enterprise recently upgraded their tactical systems, and Worf is running tests on them. One of the new torpedoes misses its target and veers off into a dense asteroid field. They can’t go in after it with the big, glunky Enterprise, so Picard and Data take a shuttle to retrieve it. Since this might take a few days, Data leaves Spot with Barclay in case the cat gives birth. Barclay is the only person on the ship besides Data whom Spot likes.

Worf starts behaving irritably and crudely, even more so than usual, while Troi, who joins him for lunch, is very thirsty and in the mood for salty food. Worf tries to get some rest, but he can only sleep on the floor on the ripped-out stuffing of his bed.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Genesis

In engineering, Barclay is moving and talking a mile a minute while Riker is getting forgetful and La Forge is getting tired very quickly. On the bridge, Troi is freezing cold and raises the temperature and humidity both. She runs to her quarters to run a bath, and doesn’t even bother to undress before climbing in. Worf—whose hair is coming out of its ponytail—comes after her and declares that he must be near her, going so far as to bite her. They both report to sickbay, where Troi just gets colder and colder (and thirstier), and Worf has gone nonverbal—but when he does open his mouth, he sprays acid onto Crusher’s face. Ogawa has to put the doctor in stasis before the venom paralyzes her. Worf escapes, and they can’t find him, but he’s spewing acid all over the ship, which is damaging several systems. Riker’s attempt to alert Starfleet Command fails due to his inability to remember his access code.

A couple of days later, Picard and Data return with the errant torpedo. The Enterprise is two light-years away from their intended position and adrift. Life signs are indeterminate. They dock the shuttle manually and discover that main power is offline. As they travel the darkened corridors of the ship, they hear animal noises. They find reptilian skin that has been shedded during molting—but it’s human shaped. They investigate Troi’s quarters, which are hot and humid, and they find her face down in her bath. Data’s scan determines that she’s turning into an amphibian—and she’s also been bitten by a Klingon.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Genesis

When they reach the bridge, they find only the body of Ensign Dern at conn, who has been ripped apart by something with claws. Data finds 1011 life forms on board, all exhibiting the same DNA flux as Troi. They also find a Neanderthal Riker in the ready room, whom Data is forced to stun. Data’s examination of Riker’s DNA shows a synthetic T-cell that is rewriting the crew’s DNA—and Picard has been infected as well.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Genesis

Since the ship’s computer is damaged, they go to Data’s quarters, where he has a computer with an independent power source. They find Spot, transformed into a lizard—but she has also given birth to perfectly normal kittens. It’s possible that amniotic fluid or something else in the placenta that provides immunity to a fetus also holds the key to stopping the virus. So they need to find a pregnant crew member, which they happen to have one of in Ogawa.

Before they can locate her, though, they need to fix the ship—a warp nacelle has malfunctioned. They go to engineering, where Barclay has transformed into an arachnid and covered engineering in webbing. Once that’s done, they locate Ogawa, who has turned into a simian, but whose embryo is unaffected. Data thinks he can use her amniotic fluid to synthesize a retrovirus. However, Worf—who is a massive proto-Klingon with an exoskeleton—is trying to break into sickbay to get at Troi. Picard distracts him by spraying amplified Troi-funk in the air to lure Worf away while Data works on the retrovirus. (I was going to add that you can’t make this up, but somebody actually did....)

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Genesis

Picard—who is transforming into a marmoset or lemur or some other itty bitty primate and who is therefore scared of pretty much everything—leads Worf on a merry chase through corridors and Jefferies tubes while Data works on the retrovirus.

Once everyone’s restored (except for poor Ensign Dern, whose death has been completely forgotten once Picard and Data leave the bridge), Crusher explains that Barclay has an anomalous genetic something-or-other that mutated the artificial T-cell into this virus. I just hate when that happens....

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Genesis

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: Apparently, introns contain the DNA sequence of life forms that are utterly unrelated genetically to humans. Go fig’.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi is transformed into an amphibian, which can possibly be explained by her Betazoid heritage (which goes strangely unmentioned, with Data going so far as to say she’s no longer human, when she was never entirely human anyhow).

If I Only Had a Brain...: Once again, the Enterprise would be doomed without an artificial life form on board, as Data is immune to the T-cell virus and is able to save the day by, basically, doing everything. (Okay, Picard gets to distract Worf, but aside from that...)

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf is the one we get to see transform in the most detailed manner, watching him bounce around his quarters like a crazed chimp, and then turning into a massive, nasty creature who may or may not have been responsible for killing poor Ensign Dern.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Genesis

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Troi and Worf have apparently started dating, since the transformed Worf’s mating instincts are directed at her, and nobody is particularly surprised by this. Also, they were planning to have lunch together in Ten-Forward, a date for which Troi dressed in civilian clothes.

Ogawa’s sex life with Powell is pretty healthy, given that she’s pregnant. The same can be said for Spot, though Data does not yet know which of the seventeen male cats on board is the father of her litter.

Riker also had a date in the arboretum that was turning quite romantic up until the part where he rolled over into a cactus. Oopsie.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Genesis

In the Driver’s Seat: Ensign Dern gets a couple lines of dialogue, and then gets to be the only crew member who doesn’t transform by virtue of being killed (by Riker? by Worf? by someone else?) before he can change.

I Believe I Said That: “He transformed into a spider, and now he’s had a disease named after him.”

“I think I’d better clear my calendar for the next few weeks.”

Crusher and Troi on Barclay.

Welcome Aboard: The only main guests are the recurring roles of Patti Yasutake as Ogawa and Dwight Schultz, making his final TNG appearance as Barclay, though he will show up in Star Trek: First Contact and half a dozen episodes of Voyager. Carlos Ferro gets to be an honest-to-goodness redshirt as Dern.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Genesis

Trivial Matters: Ogawa now has the pips of a junior-grade lieutenant, following Crusher recommending her for promotion in “Lower Decks.” It’s unclear if she and Powell have gotten married yet. Not that it matters, but TNG in particular has been almost embarrassingly traditional in its portrayal of familial relationships, so to even hint at having a child out of wedlock, as it were, is depressingly radical.

Crusher tells Barclay that it’s tradition to name a disease after the first person suffering from it, which is a tradition that obviously won’t start until some time in the next four hundred years, because medical tradition up until now has been to name diseases after the discoverer, not the victim.

Barclay is transformed into a spider in this episode; in “Realm of Fear,” he comments to O’Brien that he never minded spiders, which is probably a good thing, considering. That episode also introduced Barclay’s hypochondria, which is on display here in spades.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Genesis

With this episode, Gates McFadden became the first female cast member to go behind the camera in Trek history—though not the last. Most notably, Roxann Dawson (Voyager’s B’Elanna Torres) has become a top television director after helming a dozen episodes of Voyager and Enterprise. However, this is, to date, McFadden’s only directorial credit (which is too bad).

Make it So: “My capillaries are shrinking!” This episode is a lot like “Sub Rosa.” It tackles a subgenre that TNG didn’t really do that often (then it was Gothic, now it’s horror), it’s generally considered one of the show’s worst episodes, and what redeeming features it has are due entirely to Gates McFadden. In “Sub Rosa,” it was her performance; here, it’s her directing.

I’d love to see what she could’ve done with, y’know, a good script, but she does superlative work. This is a very well-directed little horror piece. She does an amazing job with lighting and camera work, as there are a lot of distinctive visuals here that add to the atmosphere: amphibious Troi in the bathtub, Neanderthal Riker peering over his left shoulder after chowing down on Picard’s fish, the jump-in-your-seat moment when spider-Barclay (does whatever a spider-Barclay can!) leaps against the glass scaring the crap out of both Picard and viewer, and the fact that we never really get a good look at proto-Klingon Worf, just shadowed hints that make him all the scarier.

Sadly, all of this fine work by McFadden is mostly lipstick on a pig. Calling this script dumber than a box of hammers is being horrendously unfair to encased construction tools everywhere. This is another example of Brannon Braga’s love-hate relationship with evolutionary biology that we saw in “Identity Crisis” and will see again in Voyager’s “Threshold.” Introns don’t do what the script says they do, evolution doesn’t work the way the script says it does, and there’s no way that a “de-evolving virus” could possibly turn a person into a spider or a marmoset. (If it was really a “de-evolving virus,” all the humans would look like Riker or Ogawa.) This is a story that definitely puts the “fiction” in “science fiction,” ’cause there sure as heck ain’t no science here.

(This episode also continues with TNG’s recurring theme of “don’t leave Riker in charge of the Enterprise,” since that leads to things like the chief engineer being kidnapped by doofuses, the ship being taken over by a handful of Ferengi in two clapped-out Birds of Prey, utterly failing to rescue Picard and leading to Paul Winfield’s cool character getting killed, and now this. Though we should give him credit for rescuing Picard from the Borg...)


Warp factor rating: 2

Keith R.A. DeCandido (who will be at Lunacon 56 this weekend) has two new books out, neither of which are actually SF/F: the novel Leverage: The Zoo Job, based on the TV series about criminals who help people, and the baseball book In the Dugout: Yankees 2013, which he co-edited with Cecilia M. Tan, all about New York’s American League baseball team.

Margot Virzana
1. LuvURphleb
Im sorry to all who disagree but i LOVE this episode. Genesis is up there as my most watched Trek episodes. I cant really explain my devotion to this episode beyond pure enjoyment every time i watch it.

I dont care that the science is looney. It's great fun and to this day my mom and i joke about de evolving. Because it would really suck to de evolve as this episode lets us know.

Now perhaps i just tie this episode into my childhood- i grew up watching TNG on VHS in the late 90's but regardless as to why i just have to defend Genesis.
Alright Then
2. Alright Then
Ah, Genesis. Perhaps the greatest guilty pleasure from TNG. Sure, it is dumb like you said, but it's a very fun kind of dumb. And first seeing this as a 9-year-old horror fan, I can honestly tell you the creeptastic Worf Predator and Spidey Broccoli scared the living introns out of me--the only time Trek has managed to do that. Fond memories for sure.

I give it 5 grunts and a growl.
Alright Then
3. sypher
Oddly enough, I remember loving this episode when I first saw it. I mean, the genetic DNA drift thing never made any sense, but I had a great time watching it. I think that still holds true. Perhaps in a "popcorn movie" kind of way. Clearly not the best, but definitely fun. Then again, I put the "Drumhead" up there with the top 10 STTNG episodes ever, so some disagreement is allowed. I would have said a 5.
Mike Kelmachter
4. MikeKelm
I was all set to make the point about why does everyone de-evolve into some other lifeform- shouldn't all the members of the same species devolve into the same thing? Unfortunately Keith, you made it in your second to last paragraph. You get the impression though, that proto-Klingon's were pretty bad ass, although it would be a very interesting choice if they had turned out to be pretty sedate and only later evolved into Klingons.

This goes into the pile of season 7 half baked ideas. "What if Lore lead the Borg?" "What if we do an environmental episode?" "What if we do a ghost story?" "What if Data had a mother?" It seemed like season 7 was just throwing things at a wall and seeing what stuck rather than building up to some really awesome end of show. There's probably some way you could have done this episode (say an away team on a shuttle gets injected with different DNA which overwrites their own so its only a few people infected, not 1100) but this wasn't it. And to go with the Deus Ex Machina ending-- Data saves the ship again! was just redundant and lazy.
Jenny Thrash
5. Sihaya
It was dumb. it was fun. It was dumb fun, and I don't think it was ever meant to be anything else. Somebody hand me the popcorn.
6. decgem
I think everyone who saw this episode first between the ages of 6 and 12 must love it, in a creepy crawly oogie boogie way :-) I had extremely dim memories of seeing this in my childhood; many years later, engaging in a full TNG watch with an ex, I eagerly awaited this episode popping up. I almost gave up hope, not realizing how close to the end it was, but when it finally appeared, I was terrified and enthralled :-) Knowing that Gates McFadden directed it makes it all the better.
Alright Then
7. Jamsco
I'm in agreement with the other commenters in giving it a higher number. The science is bad, but after accepting the premise, the rest of the show is pretty good.

I experienced genuine dread when Ryker was standing there trying to remember the access codes and was pleased when Picard was showing real courage by fighting against his new instincts as he lured Worf away.
Alright Then
8. dragontrainer

Didn't they go to the away-team-gets-their-DNA-overwritten well in Indentity Crisis?

I would rather watch this episode dozens of times in a row over a single viewing of Sub Rosa.
Lee VanDyke
9. Cloric
I have to agree that this episode may have worked better for the younger audience of TNG. It certainly did for me at 19 or so. I remember loving the creep-out factor. It doesn't hold up so well now, true. The story isn't that bad as long as you don't scratch the surface too deeply. Who performed the reconstructive surgery that Crusher needed? Did the lizard Spot produce milk to keep those (in no way newborn) kittens alive? Is Deanna now completely human?

(I did have the stray thought that it would have been interesting to see what Dr. Selar turned into. We know of so few animals indigenous to Vulcan.)

Oh, and Keith, I believe Data identified Riker as Australopithecine, rather than Neanderthal. Nit-picky, I know, but... SCIENCE!
Alright Then
10. TBGH
Count me as one of those who thought this was one of the low points of the series. Partially because the science was beyond horendously wrong, but also because there was no tension. Data was going to figure it out and the only question was whether he was going to get to punch out Worf or just outmaneuver him.
Alright Then
11. Lalo
I didn't see this as a kid during the first airing--I remember seeing the preview for it and FREAKING THE FRELL OUT when I saw a glimpse of Spider-Barclay (who as a kid I liked a lot). Spiders are right up there centipedes in my book and deserve to be given their own land far far away from me.

That said--why did Worf spew acid? Is that like meant to be something proto-Klingons DID once upon a time? Is that sort of thing you outgrow as you evolve? Are we sure they didn't accidentally borrow an Alien from the Aliens set?
Alright Then
12. Zann
I always thought that Crusher purposefully lied about naming the disease just to yank Barclay's chain, purely out of frustration (both Crusher's and McFadden's). However, count me among those who can re-watch this one and thoroughly enjoy it.
Alright Then
13. RobinM
I agree this episode is dumber than a box of rocks but it is fun. I don't find it scary but I was in college by season 7 . I just followed along with the weirdness and didn't think about it too hard.
Shelly wb
14. shellywb
It always bothered me that one of the crew members died because of all of this, but they end the episode with chuckles about the incident.
Christopher Bennett
15. ChristopherLBennett
I tend to be philosophical about this episode. I figure the idea behind it was "Let's give Michael Westmore a chance to really show off." It was basically an exercise in makeup transformations, kinda like an episode of Face Off. Everything else about it was really just in service to that.

@9: You're right, he said Australopithecine, which has always annoyed me, because they were child-sized herbivores, not fierce, hulking brutes like Riker was portrayed. Maybe Gigantopithecus would've been a better choice.
Alright Then
16. Tesh
I can't stand the horror genre, and the science in this one is... atrocious. So yeah, this is one of the episodes I won't watch again.
Alright Then
17. Brian Mac
I'm not one of this episode's defenders -- I recall that my girlfriend at the time was a biology major, and she was scathing in her hatred of it. However, I think that "low point of the series" is going a bit far, and perhaps it suffers from being associated with "Threshhold," which really does set the bar for poor science episodes.

The one thing I really want to know, though -- why wasn't Spot spayed? I suppose it's possible that Data didn't quite understand the importance, since he didn't seem to know his cat's gender. Or there's the classic "Spot is a shapeshifter" argument that has plenty of evidence for it throughout the series. Those aside, it would seem to me that pet population control would be of major importance on a starship that allows pets, and Data really should have been more responsible.
Alright Then
18. Kubol
Stone me, I liked it. I always liked it, because Braga is my favorite script writer. To hell with Trek science, it is technobabble anyway. Great horror story and Barclay, Barclay, Braclay....
Alright Then
19. Mark Pontin
If there were an award for most deeply stupid TNG episode, this one would be the winner.

At least, as far as I can recall the competition from some 175 shows and some of the films at this remove. Though there is the one with the 'railroad workers' and the Enterprise becoming sentient somewhere in this season, isn't there?
Mahesh Banavar
20. maheshkb
From 15: ChristopherLBennett
"...kinda like an episode of Face Off."

So this is where reality TV started...
Another reason not to like this episode. :)
Rowan Blaze
21. rowanblaze
When he wrote Crusher's line about naming a disease after the first patient, Braga probably had in mind illnesses like Lou Gherig's Disease (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and Legionaires Diseease (Legionellosis), both of which have common names derived if not from patient zero, then the most widely known victims.

The story leaves a lot to be desired, but there were some good moments in the protrayals, as has been noted.
Joseph Newton
22. crzydroid
I'm also a little curious as to how Riker got all his memories back if his brain shrunk by 20%.
Alright Then
23. Lsana
On the "introns" point: to be fair, we've learned a lot about the non-coding regions of our DNA in the past twenty years (though we still have a long way to go) making this perhaps seem more absurd now than it did at the time. I think the idea that introns represented "leftover" DNA from our early ancestors was not too far fetched back when this episode was written. Barclay turning into a spider, though, there's no defense for that.


Yeah, I noticed that too. There were a number of Next Gen episodes that were pretty bad about remembering the Red Shirts killed along the way.
Alright Then
24. DRickard
Slightly off-topic, but: if we're listing Riker command disasters, we must include crashing the Enterprise D in Generations and getting the E shot up in Insurrection.
Katy Maziarz
25. ArtfulMagpie
Just have to say, when I watched this for the first time as a 13-year-old Trek fan, it was AWESOME. I know the science is completely looney...heck, I probably knew it even at the time...but I still have a soft spot in my heart for this ep. Nostalgia factor, if anything. :-D
Alright Then
26. Gilbetron
Apparently this episode is a lot like "The Royale," which is to say critically panned but secretly loved by most viewers. Count me among those who really like this episode despite the fact that it is, indeed, wildly dumb. For an episode with this much fun factor, and which is phenomenally well executed, I think it's unfair to attack it on the grounds that the science is all wrong. The science is often wrong on Trek (and in loads of other sci-fi). But the story is one of the most memorable in the whole Trek canon.
Alright Then
27. Kirshy
I always loved this episode. And it seems that the majority of the commentors feel the same way. If you were to judge all of TNG based on the "science" almost all of them would fail. This was just plain fun. And I always rewatch it hoping to get a better look at proto-Worf. I love me some proto-Klingons!
j p
28. sps49
Come on, forgetting redshirts has been a Trek tradition since at least "...And The Children Shall Lead".
Shelly wb
29. shellywb
@28- it's a joke in TOS, but I tend to hold TNG to a higher standard. And this death is different. Worf killed him, someone I'd think he knew pretty well since he was another bridge officer. Shouldn't this one have an effect on them? It just really rubbed me the wrong way.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
30. Lisamarie
First, I will say a few good things: they did a good job setting the tone. It's definitely scary and creepy. The costumes and makeup are also really good. Oh, and yay Spot!!! Barclay is pretty adorkable, too. When he's not a spider.

That being said, I have been waiting a long time for this.

I HAAAAAAAATE this episode! Even more than Q-Pid! THIS is my Sub-Rosa. Way back when I started the re-watch and was watching people make comments about Sub Rosa, all I could think was, 'It can't be worse than Genesis'. Genesis was actually one of the first Star Trek episodes I ever saw too, and I think my first Barclay episode. Before I was very familiar with Star Trek I always thought it was closer to the hard side of the hard/soft sci fi scale - now, I know that really isn't the case, even with their astrophysics but THIS is the episode that roughly disabused me of that notion! I know it is a little hypocritical of me to get so up in arms about it because Star Trek seems to play fast and loose with a lot of kinds of science. But before I left grad school and got my current job, I was on a PhD track in microbiology, specifically focusing on genomics. So this kind of thing was my life.

I mean, as soon as I heard the dreaded phrase 'the T-cells in your DNA' I just...lost it ;) Anyway, I will save you all the rant on the true nature of introns, evolution, the phylogenetic history of humans, the differences between phenotypes/genotypes and gene expression. UGH UGH UGH. And where did the rest of Riker's brain go, and how does his reverting back to 'human' bring back the changes wrought by experience? Almost every part of this episode grates on me like fingernails on a chalkboard, making it pretty impossible for me to enjoy it objectively.

Also, moment of silence for Ensign Dern :(

Ahh, that felt good, I've been waiting for a long time for that :)

Edited to add - I will say that, on rewatch, I did enjoy it quite a bit more, simply because I knew to just ignore the science and just focus on the creepy horror aspects. But I still feel obligated to say I hate it! My inner biologist just won't let it pass!
Christopher Bennett
31. ChristopherLBennett
@23: I believe you're right about introns -- I think the idea that they were leftover bits of DNA from earlier in our evolution was a leading hypothesis at the time. According to the TNG Companion, in fact, Braga had the "devolving" idea as far back as season 4, but Berman wouldn't go for it until they figured out a "plausible" scientific explanation for it!
Alan Courchene
32. Majicou
One of the ultimate "X DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY" episodes, but I still love the atmosphere, the staging, and the makeup effects. "Guilty pleasure" is pretty apt for this one.
Alright Then
33. Kilo
This one seems like an episode where TNG finally had a decent budget for effects, but had run out of ideas for scripts. It was memorable, though. When I read recently about the newer theories on what they used to call "junk DNA," my first thought was "maybe Barclay won't turn into a spider after all."
Christopher Hatton
34. Xopher
This is the episode that puts the 'oo' in 'stoopid'. Greatest contribution to scientific ignorance made by a TNG episode.

Btw, you know the ep where the guy can only talk in literary allusions? That is to linguistics what this is to evolutionary biology.
Joseph Newton
35. crzydroid
I forgot to mention that my favorite part is when Riker turns around and drags his finger across the glass, so it looks like he's flicking off the captain.
Alright Then
36. tortillarat
"it’s generally considered one of the show’s worst episodes"

According to you maybe. It's one of my favorites.
Kit Case
37. wiredog
It may be awful, but it did lead to a reviewer saying
Calling this script dumber than a box of hammers is being horrendously unfair to encased construction tools everywhere.
which I am totally going to steal.
Christopher Bennett
38. ChristopherLBennett
@33: "Finally had a decent budget for effects?" On the contrary -- from the start, TNG had a very high budget for television and employed state-of-the-art visual and makeup effects by the standards of its day. Paramount recognized that Star Trek was their most profitable franchise -- they called it their "crown jewel" -- and thus made TNG as classy and prestigious a production as they could. If its earlier effects look crude compared to later seasons, that's only because the state of the art for television VFX advanced so much during its run. Other TV shows from the same era have considerably less sophisticated effects. (I recently rewatched season 1 of War of the Worlds: The Series, which premiered a year after TNG, was part of the same Paramount syndication package, and was produced by veterans of TNG's first season, and it was astonishing how cheap and inept its visual effects looked compared to TNG's.)

And the show's makeup effects were always top-notch, except for some early growing pains with old-age makeup in "Encounter at Farpoint" and "Too Short a Season." I'm not sure why you'd think Westmore's department was budgetarily shortchanged before this. If it's because we rarely saw such elaborate creature makeups, that was more a function of the producers' preference for alien characters to have identifiably humanlike attributes for the most part.
Alright Then
39. ChrisC
Ah the Riker left-in-command record. Don't forget: Getting kidnapped on an away mission Gambit pt.1] after spending three seasons lecturing Picard on where the Captain's responsibility lies; Getting bushwacked on a rescue mission Timescape] and let's not start on the: Show a clean pair of nacelles to the enemy whilst retreating & intermittently firing tactic, brilliantly executed in Generations.
He gets a pass for an act of outright treason (well one not also endorsed by Picard), as that was his alternative reality self Parallels]. And along with the Borg rescue he did have the solution, on his lonesome, to saving the ship in Cause and Effect, although it took everyone else 17 groundhog days to catch up - which seems fair enough as I'd take Data's advice anyday over Will's record! :)
Joseph Newton
40. crzydroid
@39: What's the act of treason in "Parallels"?
Alright Then
41. ChrisC
@40 The alternative Captain Riker in command of the Enterprise from the successful borg invasion reality, opened fire on Worf's shuttle to avoid being sent back, when they attempted to restore the leaking realities. Opening fire on a fellow fleet asset, conducting a legal mission is treasonous; although as I said he gets a pass as I'm sure even Starfleet JAG doesn't have charge for prosecuting across alternative realities!
Jack Flynn
42. JackofMidworld
When I saw this episode for the first time (which was only a couple of years ago), the first thing I thought of when they were talking about T-cells was "Oh my god, it's the Umbrella Corporation!!!!" With that bouncing around in my head, the rest of the episode was much more believable.
Joseph Newton
43. crzydroid
@41: Oh...THAT Riker! I was trying to rack my brain over all the non-crazy Rikers. Well, that's a weird case anyways...the JAG doesn't even exist in his own reality so I doubt anything would happen to him back in his universe.
jeff hendrix
44. templarsteel
Spider-barclay scared me the first time i saw it when i was 7.i wish they had showed a few crewmembers cocooned in engineering it would been cool
Alright Then
45. johnnylump
It was sort of stunning that more of the crew didn't kill and eat each other. Ugh, and think of having to live with that after reverting back to normal.
Alright Then
46. TheFrog
“He transformed into a spider, and now he’s had a disease named after him.”
“I think I’d better clear my calendar for the next few weeks.”
Crusher and Troi on Barclay.

I would think the entire ship's complement of 1011 would need some serious therapy after this incident, not just Barcley...
Alright Then
47. Gerry__Quinn
As I understand it, a good fraction of introns is thought to be leftover bits of retroviruses that infected our ancestors.

Maybe there were viruses at one time that infected many species and carried bits of DNA with them that got written into the germ line. Every human might have genes from many species, and it might have been down to chance which got activated in a particular individual.

There, not very plausible, but it probably brings it up to the rigour of many a Star Trek episode...
Alright Then
48. Nor'easter
Besides the bad evolutionary biology, did anyone else why wonder why it's the CAPTAIN and SECOND OFFICER who are flying off to retrieve a stray torpedo?
Keith DeCandido
49. krad
Nor'easter: That was actually addressed in the episode. Picard invoked captain's privilege to go flying in a shuttle for a couple of days rather than stay and supervise tactical upgrades. Although the episode did not explain why Data was going along, since it would take several days in a shuttle chasing a torpedo through asteroids, having someone along who doesn't require sleep would be handy.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
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50. Nor'easter
krad, I haven't seen the episode in a while, so I must have forgotten that explanation. Thanks.
Christopher Hatton
51. Xopher
Gerry__Quinn, it's at least as likely as the ridiculous retcons used to justify the crap in "Darmok." But every dumbass thinks they know all about how language works.
Philippe D. Andrecheck
52. pda
I have to also disagree KRAD, this is one of my favourite episodes.
I didn't notice Gates directed it though so thank you for pointing that out!
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53. Edgar Governo
I dated someone who was living overseas when this episode first aired, and literally did not believe me when I described its premise. I had to play my VHS tape of "Genesis" just to prove it was real.

Having said that, I think the multiple references to "Darmok" in previous comments are a good example of how strict plausibility is less important than a well-told story.
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54. Eric T Reynolds
This is a horrible episode I will never watch again (and have only watched it once, way back when). I can understand enjoying an episode even if the science is horrible, but this one violates every aspect of how evolution works, including the "everything eventually evolves into humanoids" nonsense as if our form is some preferred "design" or something. (OMG, did I use the word "design"? Cringe.)
Christopher Bennett
55. ChristopherLBennett
@54: At least "The Chase" gave a reason why humanoids are so common. Whatever the plausibility problems of the idea from a genetic and evolutionary standpoint, at least it made it clear that the humanoid form is not automatically preferred by evolution, but is favored in the Trek universe due to artificial intervention.
Alright Then
56. Lsana

The idea that introns represent DNA leftover from viruses was a common theory, but I don't think it's accepted as much anymore. From what I've heard, the idea of "junk DNA" has pretty much fallen by the wayside, and modern biology believes that much if not all of our non-coding DNA serves a function. But like I said earlier, it's not really fair to blame Brannon Braga for not being up on the cutting edge science 20 years after the episode.
Alright Then
57. Eric T Reynolds
@55 That was also alluded to in "Return to Tomorrow" in the original series. I did enjoy "The Chase" but somehow it was more about the mystery of solving the puzzle and I was glad to see that "science" was the question that was being answered (and the Klingons' reaction to it) even if the idea was absurd). It could be that I thought The Chase was just better done while Genesis just appeared hokey throughout.
Christopher Bennett
58. ChristopherLBennett
@57: No, what was mentioned in "Return to Tomorrow" was completely different. That episode claimed that a humanoid race living 600,000-500,000 years ago may have colonized various worlds and been the direct ancestors of various humanoids -- not humans, but possibly Vulcans. "The Chase" established that a humanoid race living 4 billion years ago -- thousands of times further in the past -- seeded the primordial soup of uninhabited worlds with DNA nanotechnology (essentially) programmed to promote the eventual evolution of humanoid forms. They were both attempts to explain the preponderance of humanoids in Trek -- along with the Preservers in "The Paradise Syndrome" -- but all three explanations are completely incompatible in their specifics and it's a mistake, though sadly a common one, to conflate them with one another. (The Preservers operated no more than a few centuries ago and merely relocated existing endangered populations to other planets. Personally I suspect they're really the Vians from "The Empath," since they were doing the same thing.)

As I see it, the "Chase" humanoids explain all humanoid aliens, even the more exotic ones like Cardassians, Ferengi, and Hirogen; Sargon's people from "Return to Tomorrow" are the source of Vulcanoids and perhaps more humanlike aliens such as Argelians, Elasians, Deltans, Betazoids, and Bajorans; and the Preservers just explain Earth-duplicate cultures that can't be explained another way, like Miramanee's people and maybe the "Bread and Circuses" Roman planet (because "Hodgkins's Law of Parallel Planet Development" is a load of twaddle).
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59. TribblesandBits
I agree the folks who suggested that the younger the age at which the viewer first watches this episode the more likely they are to enjoy it. I was in high school when it first aired and liked it. Since catching it on BBC America few weeks ago I better understand the criticism, but it is still a guilty pleasure for me.

What I am dreading is that 'Emergence' will soon be upon us. I truly can't stand that one; it is my TNG 'El Guapo'.
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60. Tesh
@54, I find it most interesting that in your closing parenthetical, you'd express discomfort in invoking "design", presumably due to a dislike of a Creator... yet you use an acronym that most commonly refers to said Creator. I'm not trying to be snarky, I just find the linguistic usage very curious. It harkens back to Darmok, in a way, and what we're seeing in this episode. Certain terms and ideas have mutating meanings.
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61. NullNix
The lighting and makeup for this episode was fabulous (though I think the unjustly maligned DS9 _Distant Voices_ is better on both fronts), and it's clear that the science is so far past rubber that you need scientific notation to denote its elastic limit. That wasn't what had me yelling and throwing foam balls at the screen. It's the sheer anatomical implausibility problems that got me. Lizard Spot gave birth. How? From where? Lizards don't *have* a birth canal! Barclay has devolved into a spider, which is a neat trick given that he's managed to devolve into an organism that never existed, a giant spider which could not possibly support its own weight nor breathe. They also leave a huge question-mark over the question of just how the flaming heck anyone can 'un-devolve' a devolved brain. Where do the memories come back from? I can't believe they have mind-state backups, not without a hint of on-screen evidence. (I also can't resist wondering what would happen if a member of the crew who kept stick insects turned into a stick insect, and then they turned the wrong one back.)

It's also most convenient that all these humans are turned into animals that can live in the environment of the Enterprise. Three billion years we spent in the oceans, but we see only one amphibian and not a single marine mammal, let alone a fish. No bacteria (not photogenic enough, and they'd probably try to make a giant one). No fungi (too Quatermass), no oak trees, no Vulcan or Betazoid organisms. With the exception of the bizarre acid-spewing Worf (an unlikely defence unless his skin was acid-resistant: perhaps he was just having really bad digestive problems?), I'm not sure we see a single alien organism, unless one could define giant spiders as alien on the grounds that none have ever existed nor ever could exist.

This is a superb episode to poke fun at. It's like shooting a devolved Enterprise crewman in a barrel. (Maybe that explains the absence of fish). It's hard to believe that the same guy who wrote _Cause and Effect_ wrote this.
Christopher Bennett
62. ChristopherLBennett
@61: I don't think the idea was that they literally could turn into any organism including plants and bacteria, but that the intron fragments from other species would activate and combine with their human attributes to create hybrid forms, part human(oid) and part something else. So nobody would turn into a stick insect; at most they'd turn into a human with stick-insect attributes.

As for how the restoration (or for that matter the original transformation) is even possible, this is one of those episodes that makes me think the Trek universe would make more sense if we assume that nanotechnology is far more ubiquitous than it's been portrayed to be -- that everyone's body is pervaded with advanced, DNA-based nanotech which is capable of restructuring their bodies on a cellular level. That could account for the massive, rapid physical transformations and restorations seen throughout the series, and could explain where the memories in the devolved brains were stored (distributed throughout the collective data network of the organic nanites). It could also explain how a medical device could emit a beam of light and cause an injury to heal almost instantly -- the beam is broadcast power to kick the nanites into high gear so they can reassemble damaged tissue much faster than they otherwise could.

Unfortunately, there are too many episodes where this would have to be mentioned if it were true, so it doesn't really work. But it would certainly help make sense of episodes like this one.
Mike S2
63. MikeS2

But thanks for writing out the "don't leave Riker in charge of the Enterprise" list.
Joseph Newton
64. crzydroid
@62: I agree with you about the hybrid interpretation, but it still begs the question as to why the introns seemed to superscede the active DNA in every case...from watching the episode, it seems that we can presume that not a single entity onboard retained humanoid-level intelligence.
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I LOVE this episode. I am with that devoted minority. So what the science is stupid? I forgot that Star Trek is a paragon of scientific truth. Seriously, the ONLY critisicms of this episode is the science. Even Keith praises everything else.

I wonder what your critisicm of Spock dying, than growing really fast to the exact same age , and Sarek just happens to remember an Ancient ritual that every vulcan does, yet is at the same time never done "Since time of old"? I mean, if "science" is really the reason this episode is bad, I really think you all should stop watching Star Trek.
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66. philllll
Just got to say. This episodes script was embarrasing and it really showed how little the writer knew about evolution. I mean, it was CRAP. De-evolving... wtf? I looked up de-evolving in wikipedia and the only people who use this term today are creationists. Is the writer a creationist?? This kind if episode just makes the public dumber and gives fuel to creationists. The writer should have his arse fired for his stupidity. I'm now worried what other stuff hes done.
Christopher Bennett
67. ChristopherLBennett
@66: No, of course Braga wasn't a creationist, or he wouldn't have written about evolution at all. He was a writer of fiction using an imaginary concept to tell an imaginary story. At no point was he trying to deceive anyone into believing his premise was true; he was just using it as the basis for a work of entertainment.

Beyond Star Trek, Braga has had executive producer gigs on Threshold, 24, FlashForward, and Terra Nova. That last one was a show set 85 million years in the past, in the age of dinosaurs. Obviously not the work of a creationist. He's currently an executive producer on the upcoming new version of Cosmos that Neil deGrasse Tyson is hosting. I'm sure Tyson would not work with anyone who had any desire to actively mislead people into false scientific beliefs; therefore it's safe to assume that Braga knows the difference between fiction, where unreal, made-up science is allowable if it serves the story, and nonfiction, where it isn't.
Rob Rater
68. Quasarmodo
They should've done an episode where Picard gives Riker command, followed immediately by audible gasps and groans by all crewmembers within earshot. Even Data could pipe in with one of his put-on silly accents "Let's hope there aren't any Ferengi in the vicinity!"
Dante Hopkins
69. DanteHopkins
Count me in with those who enjoyed this one. Yes the script is bad and the science doofy, but as someone who keeps horror movies at arms length, I really enjoyed the scary mystery, and all the nice touches Gates McFadden threw in like the animal growls add nicely to the atmosphere. It may not be among TNG's best, but I can enjoy this one again and again. Seeing Barclay is always a nice bonus, and he got to be Spider-Barclay! What's not to love? 
70. Ryamano
Late commenter: considering that Brannon Braga also wrote the Voyager script "Threshold", where crew members evolve millions of years in a day (spoilers: to become lizards), I think I can see that Braga has some kind of obsession with the concept of de-evolution. In the comments on that Voyager episode, he said he toyed with the idea of showing that evolution sometimes doesn't always lead to better life forms, that it could regress. That episode is waaaaay dumber than this one (since the crew member becomes unable to breathe in the current ship's atmosphere, a clear sign of not adapting to the environment), but it shows that Braga simply doesn't know how evolution works. He has a neat concept in his head that makes for nice horror story (humans becoming animals and stuff that's even more scary than that), but he doesn't know how to put a scientific reason behind it. He should've (both in here and in Threshold) forgotten about the evolution / de-evolution side of it and just made a horror story with far advanced alien technology being behind it (in other words, magic).
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71. JohnC
I'm surprised that Crusher is carrying on with Barclay at the end of the episode all smiles, when she admits the error was hers, and she's pretty much responsible for a crewmember's violent death. Not surprising, though. As I recall, in a previous episode she willfully disobeyed Picard's orders on an away mission, allowing herself to be captured by a terrorist and causing more deaths in that episode too - no remorse at all in that heartless woman. (Only half-joking. Honestly, I think Crusher is a self-centered menace most of the time.)
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72. The Real Scott M
My biggest complaint is the uber-Reset button we get. Crusher is going to need reconstructive surgery (which Ogawa is heartbroken about), but no biggie. Riker's brain has shrunk to the point that he can no longer understand language, but no biggie. Everything will be completely back to normal at the end.

Picard: "Can we reverse the process?"

Data: "If you're asking if the whole ordeal is pointless because no matter what happens we will be able to simply wave a magic wand and fix everything (except the dead ensign), then the answer is yes."

I was honestly rooting for some sort of time travel copout in order for it to at least be remotely plausible.

I agree about the directing, though.

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