TNG Episode 1.7: Lonely Among Us

In which Data smokes a pipe and floats my boat.

Memory Alpha says: While transporting delegates, Picard and his crew are enveloped by a cloud that seizes control of their minds and alters their behavior.

My Review
And that’s why I don’t trust clouds. I have no real memory of this episode to go on, other than some blue lightning, and I think that at some point Riker comes off as a smug vegan. Since Riker looks like he lives on raw steak and ice-cream, I find this amusing. On with the show.

The Enterprise is doing a little diplomatic jaunt this week, carrying delegates from two alien races to negotiate with each other on a ‘neutral conference planet’ called Parliament. They come from two planets in the same solar system, and they simply hate each other’s guts, a bit like us and the Martians I suppose. Since they’ve developed warp drive, they’re eligible for Federation membership, but everybody’s got to play nice in the Federation (well, despite the fact that the founding races, Vulcans, humans, Tellarites and Andorians have never really liked each other, except in a few cases where, say, individual Vulcans and humans have liked each other very, very much) so the point of the negotiations is to see if they can find some way to refrain from tearing each other’s faces off long enough to be allowed in.

Picard, Yar and Riker meet one party of the delegates in the transporter room. Because this is diplomatic service, they’re wearing their dress uniforms, and Riker looks fly. The aliens all have cobra heads and hiss a lot. They immediately complain about being able to smell the other group, the Anticans, and are miffed that they were taken on board first, although as Picard explains, that’s just because it was on their way. It turns out that the cobras’ guest quarters are about a hundred metres from the Anticans’, and that will not do at all, so Riker politely says he’ll find them something else, no doubt feeling like a concierge rather than a badass space explorer, and leads them out. They add that they want to be upwind from the Anticans. They are on a spaceship. WIND?

Tasha, whose hair is looking nice this week, thinks they don’t seem like promising UFP candidates, and Tasha Yar knows from assholes. Picard agrees that Parliament has a tough job.

On the bridge, Picard and Riker (back in their usual rompers) have some anvilicious dialogue about how the hostility between the two races is bewildering, and Riker didn’t understand that sort of nonsense even when he studied Earth’s history. One of the biggest sources of awkwardness in early TNG is that Gene Roddenberry had been told by too many people that he was a science fiction messiah of a better human race, and so he wanted his TNG crew to be high-minded and noble to the point almost of not having human frailties. Because if people like Kirk were awesome in the 23rd Century, imagine how much more awesome they would be after another hundred years’ development! Practically perfect in every way!

But by the same token, it’s just been a century, and major conflicts with the Romulans and Klingons are in their own recent past. There are people still alive who fought in those, even if they have a lot of age makeup on. Although it’s retconny of me to bring it up here, they’ve got at least one person on board who fought in a recent war against the bloody Cardies. Have the Feds developed a mindset of ‘We only go to war for pure and noble reasons, and any other reason for fighting is just silly?’ If so, that seems to make them remarkably ill-equipped to deal with people who still see conflicts over religion and territory as a big deal. I’m not saying those people are right, but I am saying that chortlingly dismissing their enmities as nonsense does not help you to deal with them. At least it will give them something in common to bond over: they will both think you’re a patronising git.

I am not rejecting Gene’s message to humanity of ‘It Gets Better,’ either, because that’s a message that we need in order to see the potential in ourselves and to keep believing that we really have hope. Millions of people all over this world have been uplifted and encouraged by that idea, and some of them have built cool whizzy rockets. However, I think that for humanity’s progress in the Trek universe to be really meaningful, we need to be able to see that we are still capable of sucking as bad as ever, but more and more consistently choosing not to. If you can’t imagine wanting to do a bad thing, not doing it isn’t really that virtuous, is it? Fortunately, I think that Trek eventually ended up doing that, indeed, was freed up to do that by Roddenberry’s senescence and death.

Imagine how hard Gene Roddenberry would freak out if you showed him ‘In the Pale Moonlight.’

And on that cheery note, back into the episode. Data has picked up an unusual energy object, and it’s that naughty cloud. It’s travelling at warp speed, and it’s nothing like anything in their records. Data says ‘Intriguing’ because they were trying to make that his ‘Fascinating,’ but really, it was not going to happen. Picard directs him to do a ‘close centre pass’ so they can scan the cloud properly, and then speed up so they still reach Parliament on schedule. He will later wish he’d just told Data to go round it.

Geordi and Worf are doing some kind of nerd job on the sensor arrays – Worf doesn’t have to be there, after all, he’s one of the jocks, but Picard has a policy of junior officers learning about everything on the ship. (I decided the other day that sometimes, the Enterprise is high school in space. You have the jocks, Riker, Tasha and Worf, you have the nerds, Data, Geordi and Wesley, and you have the faculty, Picard, Beverly and Deanna. It’s just that, in future utopia, jocks no longer pick on nerds. Although as we saw with Riker and Data in ‘The Naked Now,’ they do sometimes make them do their homework for them.) Tasha calls through to check if there will be any problems with a closer sensor examination of the cloud, and nup. But the cloud, as they enter it, is changing shape. Spooky.

In the sensor maintenance room, Worf goes to check out an Okudagram panel, and while he’s got his hand on it, blue lightning shoots out and wraps around him! He makes an absolutely hilarious ‘wraaaa’ noise and falls over in a faint. Geordi rolls him over, checks his pulse and calls in a medical emergency. I bet Worf will never want to do nerd work again. (This is also an example of a tendency they had in early episodes to try to show how threatening a threat was by having it take down Worf, the idea being ‘He’s a big burly Klingon! If they can beat HIM they’re badass!’ However, it happened so often that it just created the impression that Worf was a bit of a pansy.)

Beverly scurries in to examine Worf, who suddenly springs up and tries to attack her assistant. Geordi has to throw himself on top of Worf until Bev can sedate him – and again, if having a little dude like Geordi on top of him is enough to restrain Worf, he doesn’t seem that tough. Bev and Geordi help him up, Geordi calling him ‘big guy.’ The assistant is okay, by the way.

Geordi reports the incident to Picard, saying that Worf just spazzed while touching the console, and he saw a momentary ‘glow’ when it happened. Picard asks if that could have been a visor malfunction, but he’s pretty sure it was real.

Oh! The teleplay for this episode was done by the lovely DC Fontana! My friend lostsailors, who wrote the giant Lost do-over I linked to once, studied screenwriting under her at AFI. She didn’t quite realise what a huge deal to nerds she was until I was wildly impressed to hear about her – she just thought she was a really cool older woman writer.

In the quarters of the Antican delegation, who look sort of like doggies, Tasha has summoned Riker for backup. There’s a problem about the Anticans’ diet. Their livestock has been beamed aboard and the Enterprise was going to ‘preserve’ the meat for them, but they want it brought to them alive. Riker says ‘Then do so,’ and undermines her in front of the dog alien by saying ‘Lieutenant Yar was… confused.’ (The pause really implies ‘stupid,’ doesn’t it. Tasha makes a face, and I sympathise.) Then his Smug Vegan Line of the Evening, ‘We no longer enslave animals for food purposes.’ They still enjoy meat, but it’s replicated – no animals need to be killed. Riker calls it ‘as fresh and tasty as meat,’ but later on we’ll hear that quite a few people think replicator food isn’t quite as tasty or nutritious, and some still insist on cooking and eating real food (O’Brien’s mum, for example – no wonder he grew up to be such a big strong boy). The Antican calls their fake meat sickening and barbaric, which is as clunky as Daimon Dar going on about how ugly humans look (a gag that’s repeated through the Duras sisters in Generations, by which time it was GETTING OLD). I would enjoy it more if his response was something like ‘Where’s the fun in that?’

Incidentally, under all that doggy makeup is the lovely Marc Alaimo, who will one day both delight and appall me as Gul Dukat.

In sickbay, Beverly has Worf on a bed and is putting on an unimaginably dorky headpiece-eyepiece thing which I can only hope has some diagnostic use. And, well, this happens.

I hope you didn’t think I was joking about her headgear. I don’t remember ever seeing that again, and I presume they decided that there is no earthly use in making a pretty lady like Gates McFadden look like a tragic poindexter. Bev doesn’t react very much to the shock, just looks wobbly for a moment. Deanna comes in and, because she understands medical readouts? comments ‘He’s reading normal now. How did you manage that?’ They seriously need to hire some nurses for sickbay; it always looks like Bev is the only one who works there in these early episodes, and Deanna is always hanging around for no reason except I suppose nosiness. Actually, I like the idea that Deanna is just a very nosy person, so we’ll go with that.

Beverly says ‘Yes… normal…’ in such a weird voice that Deanna asks if she’s okay. ‘Yes, perfectly. Both of us. Quite normal now.’ She walks over to the display wall. And Deanna, who is so psychic, doesn’t notice that there’s something foreign in her friend’s head. She’s distracted just then, though, by Worf waking up and being belligerently confused. Deanna reminds him of what happened, but he can’t remember the zap or his outburst. He asks ‘What am I doing here?’ (presumably he doesn’t feel sick or hurt) and Deanna says the doctor will tell him, but Beverly just blanks both of them and walks off.

They’re still flying through the cloud, and on the bridge Picard and Data are talking about how mysteeeerious it is. Data wants to keep investigating, and Picard says he loves a mystery, but this one has to wait until after they’ve made the Parliament run. ‘Time and tide, Lieutenant LaForge!’ he says, and Geordi takes them out of there at Warp 8.

In the Crushers’ apartment (I’m just rejecting the word ‘quarters’ for some reason), Wesley is nerding on a little computer (dimensions of a netbook, but fastened to the table on a swivel) when Bev comes in, looking vague. He greets her, saying she’s back early, and she says ‘Yes,’ then sits down and turns his computer around so she can read the screen. He explains that it’s his physical sciences homework about dilithium crystals – starting to swivel it back towards himself – and she swivels it back, saying ‘Tell me.’ Wes is chuffed that his mother wants to hear about nerd stuff, because she isn’t usually interested. Some dude thinks there’s a way to make dilithium crystals more awesome. Bev asks ‘Would that affect navigation?’ and Wes says this is engineering stuff, not helm control. Beverly mutters to herself ‘Of course, the helm is on the bridge,’ gets up and leaves without another word, leaving Wesley very confused.

Beverly enters the bridge and walks around looking spooky – she’s holding up her hands in an odd way. She creeps ‘This is the helm,’ and sort of draws her hands away from Geordi’s as he works the controls. She’s wringing her hands like Lady Macbeth as she walks up to the ramp to tell Picard, in a stiff, artificial tone, that Worf is okay, and the problem was ‘a temporary mental aberration.’ Picard wants a better explanation than that, since Worf is one of his bridge officers and somewhat important, and she says she’ll have to do some research because Klingons are unusual in their reactions. She goes towards one of the panels at the back and Picard redirects her to ‘science station two,’ next to Data.

Data, being a bright little button, notices that she’s looking up helm control, not medical information, and asks her what they have to do with each other. (They’re still trying to make ‘Intriguing’ happen, and here it doesn’t even make sense; what she’s doing is merely curious.) Bev ignores him, and he sort of face-shrugs and looks away. Just then the blue lightning travels from Beverly’s arm into the control panel, and she wakes up. She’s not sure what she’s doing there, but tells the others she’s all right, and she’ll go and do the work in her office. Beverly, you dork, if you just found yourself on the bridge with no memory of how you got there, tell someone, because you are having blackouts.

Beverly’ means ‘beaver meadow,’ by the way.

Data tells Picard that his workstation is borked, and when he moves over to the one Beverly was using, its lights go out too. A very Indian voice from Engineering reports something wrong with the warp drive circuitry, and then the transporter consoles are malfunctioning, and it’s all a bit suggestive of something wrong. This ship is less than a year old, it still smells like a new car, and as Data confirms for Picard, it’s almost impossible that so many things would suddenly break down. I am happy to report that Brent Spiner seems to have settled down into what I think of as Classic Data – he’s cut out the Mona Lisa smiles that were bothering me in ‘The Last Outpost.’ I’m very very fond of Data’s calm, mild, earnest demeanour, so it’s nice to see it coalescing. Picard wonders what the hell is going on here, and Data doesn’t try to answer him, because it’s that thing when a scene ends on a shot of the players just standing there letting the last line sink in, and over the last few days it’s been really striking me how much you get of that in Star Trek.

In the observation lounge, Picard is miffed that there is no explanation for what caused the malfunctions – they’ve all been repaired, but that doesn’t solve the mystery. Mr Singh thinks it was an electronic fault that travelled from one station to another, except that this doesn’t quite make sense – those systems don’t really interact in normal operations. The engineering staff are all puzzled by it (including Argyle, who gets name-checked despite being obviously not important). Picard wants a proper explanation before they reach Parliament. Data is sitting down at the end of the table next to a dead-looking potted camellia, and he raises one eyebrow thoughtfully, and I think ‘nice’ and then pull myself together.

Back in the Antican doggies’ quarters, Riker is informing their leader that a couple of his lads were caught lying in wait with weapons near the other delegation’s quarters. The leader (he never gets called by name, just Chief Delegate) explains that these are not weapons but tools, used to dispatch their food animals, but as Tasha points out, those animals are not even on the same deck as the other delegation. The delegate tries to sort of smarm his way out, but Riker tells him that all such tools and weapons will be confiscated from his people, because they don’t want trouble on the Enterprise. Well, honestly, the Enterprise crew make enough trouble for themselves without any doggies joining in. As Riker and Tasha are leaving, the delegate gives his word that if there is trouble, his people won’t start it. BUT, as he growls once they’re safely out the door, WE WILL FINISH IT.

Both the Anticans and the cobra guys have weird electronic filters on their voices, by the way, and the way their mask-faces move is not terribly convincing. It’s a praiseworthy attempt to make extremely alien-looking and sounding aliens, as opposed to the good old Star Trek standby of ‘basically humans with funny ears and/or foreheads,’ but the execution is a bit wonky.

On the bridge, Worf and his forehead report a problem: warp power is fading. Down in engineering, Geordi, Singh and Wesley (I thought Wesley was supposed to be learning on the bridge?) can’t explain it. Wesley is still wearing that disgusting orange pullover; I miss the much more restrained grey one from ‘The Naked Now.’ Picard is baffled at so many things going wrong with a state of the art vessel, and asks Data to signal Parliament that they’ll be late. But subspace radio is out!

In his ready room, Picard asks Data and Riker for their ideas. Data says that if the Enterprise were this fragile, she’d never have left spacedock (that’s my contraction, not his – so far he is being a good boy with those). The problem isn’t with the ship itself; ‘an unknown adversary’ is making these faults happen.

Riker: We have a saboteur aboard.
Data: I believe I said that.
(And because it’s Data, he sounds honestly puzzled, not snotty.)

Riker and Picard can’t believe it would be any of their own people (because they haven’t seen The Undiscovered Country), so they assume it’s someone in one of the two delegations. Riker reckons they must be in the pay of the Ferengi, because they still have to pretend to take the Ferengi seriously, and Data points out that both planets have had some Ferengi contact. Picard asks if there are any other suspects, and Riker says that he sounds like a private eye.

No he doesn’t. He sounds like a detective. I would say ‘shut up, Riker,’ but this leads to one of Data’s endearing obsessions and some really adorable cosplay, so I’ll let it stand.

Data asks what ‘private eye’ means, and Picard says it’s ‘a private consulting investigator who solves crimes.’ Data thinks that would be an interesting occupation. Picard says probably not in fact, but in fiction detection can be fascinating. (Yes. My favourite detective writers are Dorothy Sayers and Ruth Rendell.) He says ‘the immortal Sherlock Holmes’ would have an interesting view of their case, and Riker says yes, but they’ll have to solve it without ‘history’s greatest consulting detective,’ so they each give Data one completely inaccurate idea about Holmes – a) a historical figure, b) immortal, although I suppose that comeback from the Reichenbach Falls was a good trick. You can see fascination flower on Data’s face. (I love actors who can make thoughts appear on their faces so vividly.) He makes a little ‘w’ shape with his lips, as if about to ask a question, but then just tilts his head, and I want to know if this is because he is right now mentally Googling Sherlock Holmes and reading all the stories at once. Or does he have to look that stuff up at a computer terminal? It would make sense if Data had a wireless connection to the main computer.

Down in engineering, Wesley shows some technobabble to Singh, which he says is excellent. He dismisses Wesley, though, because he’s meant to be in class now. Wesley brown-noses that he learns a lot more here than in school. Singh agrees, but says it’s captain’s orders. Also, he does not want to look at that sweater any longer than he has to.

In the Crushers’ apartment, Beverly is wearing the first non-uniform outfit I’ve seen on her this season, a long soft-looking red dress (kind of a snuggie, honestly) and is sitting in a chair with her legs curled up, reading. She seems back to her normal self, and greets Wesley pleasantly, asking ‘Solve any new problems today?’ He thinks he was starting to, before he got sent off to class. Beverly says that he’s just an acting ensign, and has to let the commissioned officers do some of the work. Wesley sits down and tells her he’s learned ‘a lot more than they understand,’ and starts to give an example about dilithium crystals, but Beverly can’t remember that they were talking about those earlier.

Back in engineering, this happens.

(I am not sure how much time has elapsed during the previous paragraph. How long was Wesley at his class for? Is Data currently mainlining Conan Doyle?) So Singh is lying with his head hanging down into the warp core pit as Worf comes down in the lift. He scampers over and checks Singh’s pulse, then calls it through to Picard – as a security alert, not a medical one, because Singh is dead.

Honestly, I would still call Dr Crusher first. Look what she was able to do with Yareena; maybe he could be resuscitated. At least try CPR, you big lug. (Incidentally, reader, if you are ever in a situation where CPR is needed, please try to do it even if you are not quite sure how. If the person’s breathing and pulse have just stopped, they’re mostly dead. You can’t make that worse. Anything you can do to get oxygen into their blood and move it around is helpful. And you know how in TV and the movies, they’ll do CPR for a few reps and then say ‘It’s no good, s/he’s gone’? That is bullshit. Keep going until the professionals take over. And do the chest pumps to the beat of ‘Stayin’ Alive’ by the Bee Gees. Do not expect the person to come round – that almost never happens. Best of all? Take a course so you can feel more confident about doing it if you ever have to. PSA out.)

If Singh had let Wesley stay, either it might have been Wesley who got zapped instead of him, or there would have been someone right there to help him (engineering, like sickbay, seems to be mysteriously deserted, and I guess the extras budget this week went on alien masks instead). So that was a bad decision.

The Enterprise flies on, although rather slowly. Geordi and Worf are investigating Singh’s death and Wesley is hanging about, still in that orange jumper. The readings on Singh’s workstation indicate that they can return to warp, which bothers Wesley. The others suppose Singh had fixed the problem just before he was killed, but Wesley doesn’t think that’s possible. Who else could have corrected it, though?

Picard calls for Warp 6 and they haul ass.

In the doggy delegation’s room, Tasha is asking some questions. The alpha dog says he’s tolerating her questions because he needs to get to Parliament, but he’s not interested in their shipboard problems. The peace conference will wait for them. Tasha asks what he was doing between 1800 last night and 0700 this morning, and he smugly answers ‘Eating.’ She reminds him that’s several hours, and he responds that it was a large meal and ‘a very interesting animal.’ Tasha looks grossed out, possibly by his breath, and leaves. I am grossed out to think that Wesley is wearing that sweater for the second day in a row.

In Beverly’s office, where Deanna is still hanging around being nosy, Worf arrives. Beverly says she called him to talk about his memory blackout, and he says that he still doesn’t recall having one. Well, yeah. She now mentions her own blackout, finally, and Deanna says she’s going to try hypnotherapy to elicit those memories, so she does have a professional reason to be there, and I apologise.

In the observation lounge, Tasha tells Riker that she believes almost all the delegates answered their questions with lies. Down at the end of the table, Data is smoking a huge meerschaum pipe, and says ‘Imprecise, Lieutenant; they omitted certain truths, which in itself tells us something.’ He is smiling slightly as he says this, but it’s because he’s impersonating a character. The interesting thing here is that Data has to be basing his performance on film or TV versions of the Holmes stories, because in the books, Holmes does not smoke that kind of pipe. I even found out why:

A calabash pipe smokes more cool, dry and mellow than an ordinary briar pipe, because the smoke, passing from the air chamber inside the mahogany, loses most of the heat, moisture and strength. Most of the heat and the moisture of the burning tobacco, stay into the mahogany, before the smoke enters the stem. This low center of gravity allows for the user to easily hold the pipe by the mouth alone, leaving his hands free. This advantage was often used by actors who wanted to depict their character smoking while permitting them to do other business simultaneously. That is why the character Sherlock Holmes, who never used this kind of pipe in the stories, is stereotypically depicted as favoring it because early dramatic productions, especially those starring William Gillette, made this artistic decision. 

Thank you, meerschaumstore.com! This interests me because film and television are not usually acknowledged very much in TOS or TNG. Ironically for television productions, they seemed to be working on the assumption that humanity was going to advance beyond the enjoyment of on-screen entertainment, while live performances of drama and music seem to have remained popular – and of course interactive entertainment in holodecks becomes hugely popular in the TNG/DS9 period, to the extent that that muppet Harry Kim, in Voyager, couldn’t imagine enjoying a recorded entertainment that wasn’t interactive. (One of the few human touches in Enterprise that I found really effective was Movie Night.) The closest I can find to someone watching TV in TNG is this:

Can you even imagine something less like what you would expect Riker to watch for entertainment? Unless of course the little ladies are about to throw away their harps and perform ‘Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag.’

My point, if I have one, is that movies or TV evidently played a part in Data’s Holmes research, and he’s either using the meerschaum because, like most viewers, he just assumes it’s accurate, because why else bring in such a distinctive, even bizarre-looking prop that wasn’t in the source material, or of course because he wants to have his hands free, like Gillette. Except he spends most of this scene playing with the pipe in one hand and using it to point at things, so…

At any rate, he’s definitely absorbed the idea that Holmes needs to sound acutely smug. Tasha asks ‘We can learn something from non-disclosure?’ and he answers ‘Indubitably, my good woman!’ and sticks the pipe back in his mouth with a clack. I imagine Tasha’s thoughts are a three-way split between ‘I can’t believe I hit that,’ ‘I’m going to actually hit him’ and ‘Kind of want to hit it again.’ She gives Riker a little ‘can you believe this’ look, and he produces a fine early iteration of the Creepy Riker face.

You know how I said earlier that he was looking fly? He just lost all his points. That face is like an ice cube down my back. No, you know what it is, it’s like someone else’s warm, sweaty hand on my back, suddenly, when I thought I was alone. Blergh. Data, on the other hand, is preposterously hot in this scene, and I do want to emphasise the ‘preposterous.’ I’m not sure how it works, but it’s working for me.

Anyway, Riker explains what’s gotten into Data, and Data claims that he’s now studied every Holmes case. (My favourite Holmesian thing is Neil Gaiman’s story ‘A Study in Emerald,’ but you have to be familiar with HP Lovecraft too to get the full effect. Still, time spent reading Lovecraft is never wasted, so there you go.) He reckons that Holmes would say, during the previous night, something was afoot.

‘A foot?’ repeats Tasha, who evidently is not enjoying this anything like as much as I am. Riker giggles, so maybe he is. Data explains that although the delegates claimed they stayed in their rooms all night, the crew locator sensors show them moving here and here. (I think he’s pointing to times when they moved, otherwise Tasha’s following line doesn’t make sense.) He emphasises his ‘here’s by tapping the stem of his pipe on the screen of a little swivelly computer, swivels it round for them to see, back to himself with a smirky flourish, and puts the pipe back in his mouth, clack! Never have I been so allured by a sequence of actions involving a little swivelly computer.

Tasha objects that that shows only that they moved, not what they were doing. Data deepens his voice a bit to say ‘On the contrary, my dear colleague,’ and I realise I’m labouring a point, but it’s ridiculously sexy. (Ridiculously sexy is the only kind of sexy Data can be.) He gets up and walks towards her, expositing that on their return, both parties drew medical supplies consistent with treating minor wounds and abrasions. As he passes Tasha, she makes a little ‘yuk’ face and fans the air, so I guess the aroma of tobacco smoke doesn’t do much for her. (I quite like the smell of tobacco itself, before it’s lit. It’s the smoke that smells so bad, especially when it gets stale.) He concludes that the delegates were too busy to have harmed the ship or killed the engineer, and are more interested in killing each other than any of the Feds. ‘It’s elementary, my dear Riker,’ he concludes, puts the pipe back in his mouth – clack! – and adds a muffled ‘sir,’ realising that perhaps he got too far into character to be quite polite.

That was flipping fantastic. I had forgotten that the Sherlock Holmes stuff started in this episode until I did the rewatch. I can only applaud. In fact, I watched that scene two or three times because I enjoyed it so much.

Incidentally, what ‘Elementary, my dear Watson’ and ‘Beam me up, Scotty’ have in common is that they are never spoken in quite that form in their source texts. For some reason, though, they’re so much more memorable than the actual similar lines that they’ve entered the folk lexicon, alongside ‘Play it again, Sam.’

In sickbay, Deanna is hypnotising Beverly with a little blinkenlights device, and regresses her to the point where her memory loss began. Bev narrates what happened, concluding that she felt there was someone else there, and fretfully tells them to get out of her mind. Deanna tells the watching Worf that that’s almost exactly what he described (although I imagine he said it a bit more vehemently and gutturally, and I’m actually quite sad we didn’t get to see Hypnotised Worf). It’s nice to see Deanna display competence again, but she goes on to ruin it in her next scene, reporting to Picard, saying that this confirms the sense of duality that she got earlier from both of them. Picard, like me but less crossly, asks why she didn’t report it, and she says that she thought at first it was the kind of duality she often notices in others, because of our inner dialogues with ourselves. Good butt-covering, Deanna. Anyway, something invaded their minds.

Data clacks his pipe again, and Picard gently asks him to proceed without it. Data complies, looking quite disappointed, and Beverly and Deanna exchange ‘isn’t he precious’ looks. Data presents it as ‘incontrovertible’ that it cannot be a family member, or any of their crew. Picard says that that’s very unlikely (which is not exactly agreeing with Data). This means that they’ve eliminated both the delegations and the ship’s regular complement as suspects. Picard asks what Data is suggesting, and he reaches for the pipe before remembering himself. (Deanna twinkles at Beverly again, so at least some of the Enterprise ladies are enjoying him.) He quotes Holmes’ principle that when all other contingencies fail, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. (And I had remembered that as ‘when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever etc,’ but I’m not going to go looking for exact quotes now to win an argument with an android in 1988.)

Everyone looks confused, I suppose because Data has not stated what remains. There’s a ‘blop’ noise from Picard’s aquarium, and Data turns to look at it with a magnifying glass. He’s just going to keep producing props, isn’t he? I think they should let him keep the pipe. It would make an interesting impression on aliens during viewscreen negotiations, and could actually serve to undermine their concentration, as their eyes keep wandering away from Picard towards the lower right corner of the screen, thinking ‘Is… is that an android smoking a pipe?’ Always have something on your bridge just weird enough to be slightly unnerving, and never acknowledge or explain it, that’s my motto.

On the bridge, there is something weird and unnerving, Wesley’s sweater. He’d just better have changed the teeshirt under it, that’s all. He’s sitting in Data’s chair while Geordi stands beside him, saying that the computer in engineering wasn’t repaired, it just ‘suddenly became all right.’ That’s a weird thing to say, and Geordi says that sometimes it’s just the result that matters. Just then the helm and conn consoles go wrong, and Worf, who was sitting in the big chair, calls Picard onto the bridge. Geordi reports that they’ve just dropped to impulse power, and as Picard leans over his shoulder to look at the console, he puts his fingers on its surface and the blue lightning goes up his arm. Geordi notices the glow again, looks up and asks Picard if he’s all right. Picard says that he’s fine – ‘everything is fine now.’

Sitting comfortably in his chair, Picard asks Geordi why he’s dropped to impulse power. Geordi repeats that the helm control is messed up, and Picard jovially tells him ‘You’re wrong, look again.’ And when Geordi looks again, it indeed appears to be fine. Picard gives him a new heading, 9-2-5-mark-3… 7 (he says the 7 as if it’s an afterthought). Geordi questions whether he really wants to go back the way they came, and Picard turns to Riker, saying ‘Isn’t that what I ordered?’ I said kiddle-ys, diddle I? Riker gives a little nod that I don’t think Geordi can see from where he’s sitting, but he murmurs ‘Sir…’ and follows the order. There is a really funny (to me) shot of the Enterprise pulling a sharp U-turn.

Riker says he’s puzzled by this reversal, and Picard says he thinks they need to have another look at that energy cloud. To Riker’s objection that they’re running late for Parliament, he says he thinks an important scientific discovery awaits them there. Deanna, who I sincerely hope has noticed something is up, asks him to share his reasoning, and Data gets up from his seat, saying they obtained only minimal information from their earlier pass. Ri-ight, Picard says, so they need to go back for more.

He asks Deanna whether she thinks a captain should have to explain every order. She looks uncomfortable and says ‘Of course not, sir,’ and Picard smirks like Data playing Sherlock Holmes.

In a corridor somewhere, the big dog delegate is striding along angrily, demanding to see the captain, and HEY IT’S O’BRIEN! HI O’BRIEN! I SEE YOU GOT A GOLD UNIFORM! O’Brien is scurrying along behind, ordering him to return to his quarters. A cobra guy pops out of a door and they growl and hiss at each other over poor O’Brien’s protests.

I love O’Brien, you guys. In case, you know, that doesn’t come across.

Riker, Data, Deanna and Beverly are talking behind Picard’s back in someone’s apartment (I expect the Crushers’, since that was already dressed for this episode). Data says a mere change of direction doesn’t justify mutiny. Bev asks Deanna exactly what she’s feeling, and she says it’s just a sense that Picard has closed part of his mind to her. Awesomely, there is a model of an NCC-1701 shuttle on a shelf behind her. That has to be Wesley’s. Deanna thinks Picard may be dangerous. And that, Geordi says (I couldn’t even see he was in the room before this shot), means he could be relieved of command. That’s Beverly’s call as the doctor. Data points out that so far, Picard has done nothing to put the ship in danger. Bev needs more medical evidence to justify taking Picard down, and says Riker could do it as a judgement call, but he says he can only do that if all the senior officers believe it’s really necessary. He still hasn’t done anything really weird, but Deanna believes sooner or later he will. Beverly says she’s going to order medical and psychiatric exams, and tells Will he’ll have to back her up somehow.

Beverly and Will go to see Picard in his ready room, where he’s staring out the window. Carefully, Beverly says she’d like him to come to sickbay for some examinations, and he lightly says, still watching the stars, that he’ll be glad to when he’s free. She says she’d like to do them now, and he turns and asks, quite mildly, ‘Why?’ Bev doesn’t answer, so he asks Will what he’s here for. Riker tells him Counselor Troi has recommended the exams too, and Picard asks, again, why?

Riker repeats what I suspect is a standardised speech for these situations, common as they are in Starfleet: ‘It is my duty to inform the captain we believe he may be under some kind of alien influence which may constitute a danger to this ship.’ He and Crusher are very stiff and formal and visibly uncomfortable about this. Quizzically, Picard says he considers it equally possible that all three of them are overworked and suffering hallucinations. He tells Beverly that all of them are to be tested, and asks her, slightly too close to her face, ‘Doctor, are you aware everyone is behaving strangely?’ (Yes, Captain, most weeks.) She says she’s concerned about his sudden course change, and he snaps ‘What’s happened to your mind, doctor?’ More softly he says ‘The search for knowledge is always our primary objective.’ Then he plumps down in his chair, puts his feet up on the desk jauntily, and says dismissively that he’s really too busy for this kind of nonsense. Does he have to call security to take them to sickbay? No, sir, Beverly says very softly, and they leave. Picard returns to staring avidly out his window. Ve-ry busy.

I really liked how, throughout that scene, Patrick Stewart was just slightly off Picard in multiple ways, while still retaining a recognisable thread of Picarditude. He’s a clever man.

Riker walks along a ridiculously dark corridor and gets snaffled with a glowstick noose around his neck. ‘What the hell?’ he asks, trying to free himself, and gets a ‘Sorry. Wrong speciesss’ from a cobra dude. Riker calls Tasha and asks for guards on the engineering deck, because the delegates are playing ‘hide and seek’ down here. What have they done with my dear O’Brien?

Picard is looking at his computer screen, with his chin in his hand, looking quite contented, when Beverly comes in. He’s smiling faintly when he asks her what she wants, and she’s very nervous as she hands him the results of the tests he ordered. (I am interested. Who does a psychiatric exam on Deanna? Who does a medical exam on Beverly? So far we haven’t seen anyone else working in their departments. And if Beverly and Deanna are both required to undergo these exams, can they perform them on each other or on Will? And did they actually do new exams or just copy-paste the results from their last ones into a new form?) He takes the chip from her and drops it on his desk. ‘You don’t care to inspect them?’ she asks, and he leans back and looks at her.

‘Please, are you Jean-Luc?’ she asks, leaning in towards him.
‘He is here.’ Creepy answer!
‘The Jean-Luc I know?’
‘And more.’
‘The “more” frightens me.’
‘And elates us. We wish you could understand the glorious adventure ahead.’
‘You, and…?’
‘Soon we’ll both be home,’ Picard says happily. Beverly straightens up, looking considerably wigged.

The Enterprise is nearly back to the cloud, and Riker voiceovers that he’s convinced something from it is in the captain’s head, but there seems to be nothing they can do within regulations. Why not? You’re all sure something’s wrong and he’s directly acknowledged to Beverly that he’s possessed by more than one entity. Pop a bag over his head. Have Worf sock him. Borrow that glowy noose from the jerks downstairs.

Picard comes out onto the bridge, and Riker asks him if they should begin the scientific tests he ordered. Picard smiles that they’re already underway. He walks in front of the viewscreen and makes an announcement to the bridge: as they already suspected, when they passed through the edge of (vague gesture) ‘this,’ they accidentally carried away a sentient being made of energy patterns. It was terrified, feeling as if it had been abducted when it was drawn into the energy circuits of the ship. It moved from person to person, seeking help, but in ways they were unable to understand. (Well, actually it sneaked around.) Then it discovered the ‘computer intelligence’ in Enterprise’s memory, enough to enable it to slow down the ship. ‘It very much regrets the accidental death of Engineer Singh.’ Accidental my foot. That was pure dickery. He’s pacing all around the bridge as he villain-monologues this.

Riker and Troi step up and ask him if he’s combined with this entity, if it controls him. Picard not-exactly answers that they’ve learned a lot about each other, particularly their shared love of discovery and exploration (and mystery, I suppose), and the entity offered him a chance to pursue this as no other human could. Riker demands to speak to the captain privately. Data, though, says he understands – that as an energy being, the entity could go anywhere at any velocity. Riker tries again to get Picard alone, and Data says that he sees no way for Picard to travel with the entity. Deanna, whether because she sensed it or did some actual deductive reasoning, says Picard is planning to beam himself and the entity out into the cloud.

Picard’s transporter pattern, energy but no mass, will join the other energy pattern beings out in the cloud. He’s already recorded his resignation to Starfleet. Riker says he refuses to accept this, and Picard asks how his resignation endangers the ship. Beverly jumps up and says she’s relieving him of command because he has gone cuckoo. In response, Picard puts his hands on Geordi and Data’s consoles and blue lightnings them. Blue lightning goes all over the bridge. Riker calls a red alert, and shouts ‘Restrain the captain!’ Data is trying, but can’t move properly. Tasha, up the back, cries ‘Where is he?’ and Deanna says ‘This is blinding me!’

You know, if Tasha were any cop (ha) as a security officer, I would think she’d have been sticking close to Picard, ready to make a move if necessary. There are all sorts of reasons why putting Tactical up at the back of the bridge is a silly idea, but it’s particularly silly if the chief of security just stays parked behind it when a potential threat is actually walking around the room.

All the blue light seems to be especially bothering Geordi. Worf shouts out ‘Captain! I’ll help you if you let me!’ That is so sweet of him! Riker bellows again for someone to restrain the captain, as Picard gets into a lift and leaves.

He lets himself into a transporter room, where the operator is lying on the floor groaning, puts the controls on timer like a camera and beams out!

More than an hour later, they still have no idea where Picard is. The transporter chief can’t find the co-ordinates he used. (I bet O’Brien could, but that’s not his job yet.) Geordi asks how they can settle for just leaving him floating around, and Riker grumps ‘Give me a choice, then.’ Data reports that he still has no sign of anything Picardy. Riker gazes out at the purple clouds for a long moment, then instructs Geordi to set a course to Parliament at warp 8.

Geordi asks if they’re really leaving him, and just then Deanna jumps in with an urgent update. She can feel the captain, but only the captain, out there alone. Riker asks if the entity abandoned him, but Deanna says no, the combination just wasn’t possible out there. (Energy entity: I’m sorry, it’s not you, it’s me. I hope in time we can be friends. OkayIgottagobye.) Picard is in trouble and needs to be beamed back. Riker objects that he is just energy now, and Data points out that he might be able to get back into the ship through its energy circuits, the same way the jerk entity got in. (I am not sure how this solves the problem of Picard’s lack of mass, but then I’m not a physicist.) With no clear idea of where they should look for Picard, they approach the cloud.

Riker asks Deanna if she can get a psychic message to Picard, but she’s no help. Geordi detects nothing new, and Riker tells him to go right up to the edge. Worf reports things are happening to his sensor controls, and then Deanna says something is here, she can feel it, so a Klingon using electronics detected the disembodied soul of Captain Picard before a Betazoid using psychic empathy. Geordi’s control panel goes weird, and then, gloriously, lights up with a big blue P for Picard. I’m reaching for a ‘mind your Ps and Qs’ joke, but I can’t quite get there. Data comes over authoritative (I love when he does this, incidentally, because it’s a wonderful contrast with the cuteness and innocence that can make you forget he’s, well, a grown-up) and calls them all to the transporter room where he thinks they may have a chance. In fact, he says ‘Come to the transporter room, please,’ because however urgent the situation, Data will always have lovely manners. They scamper.

In the transporter room, Riker calls Data’s idea a ‘wild theory.’ Now, because I believe in evolution and sometimes have to justify my position to creationists who say godawful things like ‘It’s only a theory,’ I am prickly about the inaccurate use of ‘theory.’ In a scientific context, it doesn’t mean conjecture or perhapsing about. It’s a generally accepted explanation for the known facts, which has long since passed through the stage of ‘I think this is how it works’ to ‘loads of reputable scientists all over the world have checked and double checked this and agreed it makes sense, and we have simply oodles of evidence to support it.’ Gravity is only a theory, put it that way. Firstly, what Data’s got is a hypothesis that he’s going to test. Secondly, it’s Data; how wild is it likely to be? He’s not given to making stuff up.

Anyway, Data explains that Picard’s physical pattern must still be in the transporter’s memory, since he was the last one to beam out from this room. He hopes Picard realises this too, because if he does, his energy pattern will have moved into the transporter relays. Riker wishes they had some sign he was in here, but guesses they’ll just have to ‘risk it.’ Well, like performing CPR a bit ineptly, there is no way they can make this situation worse. If it doesn’t work, Picard just remains lost to them. The feeling that it is risky to try is an illusion created by natural anxiety (so Data is unencumbered by it). I am so stoked that I managed to tie this back to my CPR rant earlier, because I didn’t plan that at all.

A faint shimmery pattern appears over the transporter pad and they all gaze at it expectantly. It takes a while, but the shimmer resolves into a proper, solid Captain Picard. Both Troi and Data smile in relief and satisfaction – and despite my usual objections to Smiley Data, it’s hard to think of two nicer faces to find smiling at you when you arrive home. Picard murmurs ‘What the devil am I doing here?’ Isn’t it interesting how, long after a culture moves on from a particular set of beliefs, traces of them stick around in its language? Most of the days of our week are named after Norse gods, for example. ‘Goodbye’ is a garbled and smoothed out version of ‘God be with you.’ Picard is definitely atheist or agnostic, based on later events, but he uses ‘hell’ and ‘the devil’ for emphasis.

Riker smiles and says that sounds like their captain, and Deanna adds ‘But confused. This Picard pattern was formed before he went out there.’ So it lacks the memory of being out there – I suppose in the same sort of way that the programming and memories downloaded into B4 do not include the subsequent memories of Data going to his death, and motherjumper, I just acknowledged Nemesis. To put it another way, they’ve recovered Picard at the last point when he saved his game. The point is, can you consider what you get back really ‘Picard’ or ‘Data’? Is a person just the sum of their thoughts and memories, so it doesn’t matter if their physical form is destroyed and replaced? I jolly well hope so, because I love both Picard and Data like I love cats and cardigans. One day, these questions will torment poor Reg Barclay.

Picard remembers preparing to beam out somewhere, and people talking about an ‘entity,’ but it’s all very vague and confusing. Data says it’s not surprising that part of Picard’s memory is gone, and he asks ‘What are you talking about, Data? Is this still Sherlock Holmes?’ Data pauses a moment, then says kindly ‘Indubitably, sir. Indubitably.’

‘Mm. At least you got rid of the damn pipe!’ Picard says. Riker gently asks him to come to sickbay, where Beverly wants to give him a check-up because he’s been looking tired. Tasha rushes in to say that there’s a puddle of blood outside the cobra guys’ quarters, and they can’t find one of the delegates. Riker asks if this couldn’t have waited, and she pauses to tell Picard that it’s good to see him – the problem is that one of the ship’s cooks has just been asked to cook reptile meat for the Anticans. Picard concludes that he does need a rest and walks off with a jaunty ‘Take charge, Number One.’

To sum up:

  • O’Brien’s changed his name as well as his uniform, from ‘Battle Bridge Crew’ to ‘First Security Guard.’ (I know you were wondering.)
  • Data!
  • That was quite possibly the least successful diplomatic mission I’ve ever seen.
  • I reckon this is the best episode of the first season so far.
  • Next time we skip back over to DS9, I must confess without much enthusiasm, because you don’t really remember how dull S1 DS9 could be until you’re in the thick, or rather thin of it. But anyway, we’ve got ‘Captive Pursuit’ and ‘Q-Less’ coming up, so at least you have some much better reptile makeup and a badass boxer moustache to look forward to.

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    4 Responses to “TNG Episode 1.7: Lonely Among Us”

    1. Lea Says:

      >One question I always had about this episode was, knowing the two parties hatred for one another is the reason for these talks and with the size of the Enterprise, wouldn't it have been prudent as someone was planning this to place the two parties on separate decks? I mean I assume they probably have a section of the ship reversed for guests visiting but one would think in an instance like this it would be good for ship security and for diplomatic feelings to keep the two factions away from one another outside of talks?Jocks versus nerds…. you basically just described the relationship between the security division and the engineering corps *laughs* Like in the episode "Empok Nor" where the one engineer of O'Brien's is excited because he gets to wear a phaser and the two security personal are all like (laughs….noob). I do really like the fact that the two sides in Trek can get a long without having to demean one another and that they both see the value in what they can go. HOLY CRAP THAT WAS MARC ALAIMO!! MY MIND IS BLOWN!!!It's odd they wouldn't call Beverly when Singh died. I am assuming this was an oversight they corrected later as when people die on DS9 they call Julian and Odo and we have seen Julian do CSI type stuff. It just seems like a medical professional would have to pronounce someone dead. Kind of like how cops can't move a dead body until the coroner gets there. Is now picturing Data sitting on the bridge smoking the pipe and various alien's reactions to him doing so and it is rather priceless. *laughs*Maybe Wesley though that sweater was so fashion forward he replicated himself like 6 of them?? I hope?? Hopefully he gets his acting ensign uniform soon!THIS episode displays my annoyance for Crusher at times. When she confronts Picard about the way he is acting. Can you see McCoy or Julian acting so wishy washy about it? Hell no! I remember an episode of TOS were they have to relieve Kirk of duty and Spock and McCoy feel bad, but they pretty much just say to Kirk, we have having a hearing you can deal cause it's what we need to do. Crusher acts so uncertain and comes across as kind of scared to me. Grow a back bone woman! You are the CMO of the flagship!Man I forgot how annoying I find the whole end of this episode and the way everyone reacts. As for tactical in the back, at least it works when Worf is in charge cause he just jumps over everything when there is danger.Data really is the only one at the end of this episode that DOESN'T act like an idiot.

    2. Picardigan Says:

      >One question I always had about this episode was, knowing the two parties hatred for one another is the reason for these talks and with the size of the Enterprise, wouldn't it have been prudent as someone was planning this to place the two parties on separate decks? Perhaps, because they're so 'ha ha war is silly!' clueless, they just didn't anticipate this much trouble. I was thinking 'why were those guys even going to Parliament to negotiate when they hated each other that much?' but then I realised that both sides must have been hoping the Federation would say 'We will accept you but not those other guys, who clearly suck,' so they'd never have to come to an accord at all.Can you see McCoy or Julian acting so wishy washy about it? Hell no!No, but McCoy and Julian's relationships with their captains were different from Beverly's with Jean-Luc. I think she is scared, not just that possessed Picard may do something harmful to the ship, but that a person she loves may be lost to her. Personal is getting in the way of professional, but understandably so in a scene where it's just the two of them.

    3. IHeartData Says:

      So… I am supposed to be studying for boards when I came across your blog… and I can’t stop reading it! Your comments are brilliant! I find myself rewatching the episodes and trying to anticipate what you will say and it highly enjoyable. I just have to say THANK YOU about the CPR comment. NOBODY on this fricking show does CPR and it makes me CRAZY! (I never write in full caps, so you know this makes me really crazy). I will contain myself and not go on a rant here about CPR. Can’t wait to read more.

      • picardigan Says:

        Thank you very much! I’m delighted to have satisfied a fellow CPR nit-picker. (I’m not even that good at it but I can recognise when people on TV are doing it wrong.)


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