TNG Episode 2.07 – Unnatural Selection

In which we see the worst age make-up since ‘Too Short a Season.’ Possibly even the worst age make-up since ‘The Deadly Years,’ in which, for some reason, accelerated aging gave McCoy David Bowie hair from the Thin White Duke period.

Memory Alpha says: The Enterprise investigates the deaths of the crew of the USS Lantree, who all died of old age. (Please click the Memory Alpha link for detailed information.)

My Review

This is one of those episodes that sneaks something in that, according to later episodes, shouldn’t have happened at all: namely, in a Federation facility, the deliberate genetic engineering and augmentation of children. I think we have to file this together with things like Q’s reference to the Klingons having been conquered by the Federation, under ‘retconned because we totally didn’t realise it would ever matter,’ with a possible side order of ‘season two was a mess because of the writers’ strike; you are lucky it makes this much sense.’ You can only imagine how annoying Dr Bashir would find the whole thing if he knew.

Plus, O’BRIEN GETS HIS NAME. At least, his surname. ‘Miles Edward’ wasn’t unveiled until later. Still, it’s an important milestone (ha) for the Artist Formerly Known As Battle Bridge Conn.

With that, let’s get started.

  • Does Star Station India have an Indian decorative theme? That would be awesome/kitschy. STAR STATION BOLLYWOOD. WE WELCOME YOU WITH A BHANGRA NUMBER.
  • Deanna seems so worried, like she thinks Picard is calling her in to tell her off! He makes her sit down as if he has to give her scary news.
  • ‘Mm. Yes. Of course.’ What kind of unseemly display of passion on Pulaski’s part is Picard thinking of, anyway? The way that last week she was all ‘Idgaf how smart Graves is, I care because he’s sick’? The way that when she arrived on the ship the first place she went was the bar?
  • The near-unintelligible distress signal is such a fine old science fiction/horror standby. This one isn’t actually as unnerving as the one from ‘The Naked Now’ with the creepy laughter.
  • COLM MEANEY’S NAME IN OPENING CREDITS!
  • Riker Lean in effect.
  • I like the unnecessary but logical detail that Geordi logs in to a vacant workstation when he arrives on the bridge so he can still control engineering from there.
  • my GOD Data’s sideburns are pointy today. Really a knife edge.
  • Riker is still leaning all over the place as they discuss what to do. Headcanon: he’s massively hung over during this scene and it hurts to stand up straight.
  • ‘Daystar’ is part of Picard’s override code? How… vampiric.
  • DEAD OLD PEOPLE OVER THERE. Riker, Worf and Picard are all leaning now, on the big wooden horseshoe. Riker feels better about his hangover because he can pass unnoticed.
  • The dead captain looks like a skinny Herman Munster.
  • MYSTERIOUS OLD AGE IN SPACE.
  • oh good a conference table scene. Whose job do you think it is to buff the tabletop to that mirror shine and get all the greasy fingermarks off it after a meeting?
  • CAPTAIN TALAKA WAS MY AGE, SIR. I really cannot deal with this shit this morning.
  • Shout-out to Yuri Gagarin, nice.
  • I am not finding much to comment upon at the moment. Nobody’s being sufficiently weird.
  • Picard is filled with profound apprehension. Riker is filled with profound leaning. Is this an early effort by Jonathan Frakes to get his head down on a level with the other actors in a frame, before he hit on standing with his feet further apart than his shoulders? I remember reading an interview with Hugh Laurie in which he referred to his colleauge ‘the internationally tall Stephen Fry.’ Commander Riker is interstellarly tall.
  • OLD FOLKS IN SPAAAAAAACE. Aw, I like Pulaski being modest about her paper and Picard being like ‘huh, this doctor I’ve been doubting is, like, an authority.’
  • What, Picard, would you rather she broke down and blubbed, rather than concentrating on solving the problem?
  • Conference table, Deanna detects A HALF-TRUTH. She recommends caution. Picard likes caution.
  • VERY INTERESTING. When Pulaski says ‘until we start gathering data,’ she pronounces data like Data’s name. Now, I know I should just use Occam’s razor and take it that this is the way Diana Muldaur habitually pronounces the word, so her use of ‘Datta’ in ‘The Child’ was artificial and required by the script, but I guess nobody’s paying attention to that any more? Because why would she pronounce ‘Data’ differently from ‘data’ when she took the view that it was a word rather than a person’s name? As this stands, it looks as if she pronounced the name differently from the word to distinguish it from the word – which has the opposite implication in terms of recognising Data’s personhood.
  • Either that or training herself to say the name ‘Data’ correctly has affected her habit when pronouncing ‘data.’
  • Either that or I have a distinctly Pavlovian reaction to the use of the word or name d/Data.
  • I shall require positive proof that these children are harmless – because let’s face it, children creep me out at the best of times.
  • O’BRIEN GOT HIS NAME. AND HE’S STRIVING FOR ACCURACY. WE LOVE YOU, O’BRIEN.
  • one twelve-year-old male encased in number six styrolite – $49.99
  • In case you wondered, styrolite is a plastic blister pack.
  • Why did Worf freak out and say A TRICK? Okay, now we get a better look it’s clear that the person is bigger than you’d expect a twelve-year-old to be, but you couldn’t really tell from the initial shot, which foreshortened the body.
  • You’d think Picard would be pleased by a technology that makes twelve-year-olds more like grown-ups.
  • Imagine the hell this would play with age of consent and majority laws.
  • those are some nice medical updos on Pulaski’s assistants.
  • These children can’t survive in the lab once their parents are dead – why not? I mean, this twelve-year-old looks a lot like a grown-up! I’m not saying it would be easy for them, and there would definitely be emotional trauma, but they could certainly do the practical stuff they need to take care of themselves and younger children, and with frequent communication from adults at a safe distance, they wouldn’t have to be too isolated, so it wouldn’t have to turn into Lord of the Genetically Engineered Flies.
  • Do you notice the awkward way Diana Muldaur is staring ahead while talking to Deanna as they’re walking along the corridor together? She’s reading her lines from a card. She had trouble memorising all her dialogue for this episode. I’d read that, but I didn’t realise it would be so obvious.
  • I do understand Picard’s extreme caution about infection here – he remembers all that ‘Naked Now’ tomfoolery. They were terrible about quarantine then.
  • ‘A shuttlecraft? Why didn’t you say so!’ And Kate takes off looking pleased, and Geordi goes back to playing with some LCARS on the wall, without any follow-up questions or further explanation! It’s a weird end to the scene. I don’t think they actually needed to show us her leaving – they could have cut on the end of her line and gone directly to the next scene, going to present the idea to Picard.
  • I like how Picard always looks irritated by whatever he’s reading on his computer screen.
  • I also like how Pulaski has gone from asking, of Data, ‘It does know how to do these things, doesn’t it?’ to specifically requesting that he help her with a tricky job because she’s sure he’s competent. So sure that she doesn’t even require him to tell her his grade!
  • Brent Spiner is doing some funny LCARS typing gestures today, with little concluding flourishes.
  • God O’Brien was thin back then. Well, they all were! Brent Spiner was a fuckin’ sylph!
  • I would love to have a device that dematerialises plastic packaging like that.
  • What must this boy think, waking up in a room alone with two strangers, one of whom is conspicuously stranger than most strangers? Of course it wasn’t until years later, in Enterprise, that we got Data’s family’s involvement in the Augment movement, but this is a spooky kind of synchronicity.
  • Evidently he takes it all in stride – and Data is immune to telepathy. GOOD. I can think of few things that would bother me more than someone reading my thoughts or projecting theirs into my mind.
  • Well he’s not going to learn a better bedside manner if he’s not allowed to practise.
  • Hello again, O’Brien! You had a busy day today!
  • I like how the guy who played Troy didn’t have to be paid for a speaking part. And the wardrobe people didn’t have to make him a costume.
  • In the line ‘Not exactly up to factory specs… I’m sorry. The pain is tolerable, thank you’ Pulaski’s ‘I’m sorry’ sounds genuine – she realises it is not just a barrier to communication to be sarcastic with Data, but unfair to him, because he really is concerned about her.
  • NOTICE DATA UNDERSTANDING THAT ‘WHAT DO WE HAVE TO LOSE?’ IS A RHETORICAL QUESTION NOT REQUIRING AN ANSWER FROM HIM.
  • OH MY FLIPPING GOD O’BRIEN IS GETTING TO SIT AT THE SHINY CONFERENCE TABLE AND TALK WITH THE GROWN-UPS!
  • WHOSE ASS HAVE YOU BEEN KISSING O’BRIEN
  • BECAUSE LET ME JUST SAY
  • GOOD CHOICE OF ASS
  • O’BRIEN HAS A DAZZLING NEW IDEA BECAUSE HE IS CLEVER AND PRACTICAL AND YEAH MY O’BRIEN LOVE IS SHOWING
  • JUST A TAD
  • hahaha Pulaski served on the Repulse
  • how does even the crankiest person manage to serve on the Enterprise for months without using the transporter?
  • The first sign of accelerated aging: your lipstick and eyeshadow disappear.
  • Why would it be such a good thing to engineer human children to reach what looks like full physical maturity at twelve? Can you accelerate their psychological development to match? Because if not you are setting yourself up for a world of headaches and heartaches.
  • THIS IS SO ILLEGAL
  • SO OUTSTANDINGLY, OUTLANDISHLY ILLEGAL
  • LOOK AT PULASKI ACKNOWLEDGING THAT DATA IS SUPER GOOD AT BEING SMART
  • well this is an awkward way to find out someone has a crush on you
  • okay so an aggressive immune system rather than a defensive one is a pretty horrible idea
  • oh my lord Pulaski’s husky old-person voice sounds like she’s trying to do a McCoy impression
  • So if the children do have to live out their lives in isolation, who’s going to be responsible for monitoring them, communicating with them, making sure they don’t take it into their heads to build a starship of their own and bust out of this boring research station? You guys had better have a plan other than ‘leave them alone.’
  • One ad break later, Pulaski has aged about thirty years!
  • LOOK AT DATA VISIBLY UPSET AT WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO PULASKI ALL LOOKING AT HER POOR CRAPPY LATEX FACE WITH CONCERN AND COMPASSION
  • LOOK AT PICARD INTERRUPTING HIMSELF BEING ALL BUSINESS TO TELL DATA THAT IT’S GOOD TO SEE HIM AGAIN. The dynamics of that are just hilarious to me.
  • Look at you having such good ideas, Picard. I hope Data and O’Brien are going to have a nice long chat later about whatever Data would have said after ‘theoretically.’ HEADCANON: THIS IS HOW THEY BECAME FRIENDS. I mean they already bonded a bit over hating it when Mom and Dad fight in ‘Encounter at Farpoint.’ But I like to think that discussing this particular idea is what led them to spend more time together and really be pals.
  • I’ve just realised that I did see this episode when it first played in New Zealand, but the only two bits I remember from it are the shot of a GE kid telekinetically moving a 3D chess piece across the board, and this scene of Riker and Data tossing Pulaski’s quarters for something from which they can pull DNA. HAIRBRUSH! I remember it seeming like voodoo to me that they could do this with a hair pulled from her brush – I think partly because around the same time I’d read Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones, in which Charles puts an unintentionally dangerous spell on Simon using a few hairs from his comb. (If you haven’t read Witch Week, please find a copy and read the crap out of it. It was the first DWJ book I read, when I was sick with some winter bug and spending the days in bed at my grandmother’s before being taken home at night by my mum, and Witch Week was one of the library books she brought me. I love it so, so, so much. Nan Pilgrim is one of those characters who will always be in my head with me, as a good friend.)
  • not that you’d have to treat many geriatrics on the Enterprise.
  • Awwwwwwww, Picard wanting to spare O’Brien the responsibility if Pulaski is ‘consigned to oblivion.’
  • Awwwwwwwwww, Data looking all worried-birdy.
  • O’BRIEN SAVED THE DAY
  • AND SOMEHOW HAVING HER DNA RESET PUT PULASKI’S LIPSTICK AND EYESHADOW BACK ON
  • EVERYONE IS STOKED
  • YAY TEAM!
  • and so nobody ever really thought about a station full of telepathic, telekinetic Augments with dangerously aggressive immune systems ever again
  • you know why?
  • because it’s not there any more
  • Section 31 took care of it
  • nuked it from orbit; it was the only way to be sure
  • headcanon out
  • I like how the episode ends on a sombre note, giving weight to the fact that although they were able to save Dr Pulaski and the Darwin researchers, those twenty-six people on the Lantree died in pain and fear through no fault of their own.
  • I guess nobody was really in the mood for jolly bhangra dance numbers when they got to Star Station India, after all.

Because Melora sucks and we’re skipping her, the next DS9 episode will be ‘Rules of Acquisition.’ Some people think of Ferengi-centric episodes as frivolous and skippable, but think about it: this is the first episode in which we hear of ‘the Dominion.’ So that’s a lot more important.

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9 Responses to “TNG Episode 2.07 – Unnatural Selection”

  1. jakeish Says:

    YOU ARE JUST DOTING ON EVERYONE TONIGHT.

    UNDERSTANDABLE, THEY ARE ALL SO CUTE AND UNNATURALLY GOOD. FAVORITE PRETEND FAMILY.

  2. jakeish Says:

    I kind of love her! I was actually surprised by how much I liked her by the end of this season.

  3. Curuchamion Says:

    * STAR STATION BOLLYWOOD YES. Sadly, it’s probably just phonetic-alphabet for the star-station between H and J, but… that would be so fun. *is trying to think of themes for the other phonetic alphabet star stations now* *gets slightly stuck on Star Station Whiskey*

    * INTERSTELLARLY TALL RIKER ALSO YES. Sorry, I’m not having a lot of content today, am I? XD But really, Riker is indeed interstellarly tall. Isn’t he as tall as Q? I mean, he’s so tall he looks better the fatter he gets, because baby!Riker is just sooooo… spaghettified. 😉

    * Oh, good for skipping Melora. (Although the B-plot with Quark was fun, because B-plots where Odo is being detectively are always fun. *nods* Also Armin Shimerman was really on his game that week.) And yay for not skipping Rules of Acquisition! I like Ferengi episodes (well, all but The One That Does Not Exist, yes). And I like Pel. Have you seen Chesari’s in-progress rewrite of The One That Does Not Exist where Pel comes back and improves everything immensely?

    • picardigan Says:

      I would also very much like to see Star Stations Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel (actually I guess that place in ‘The Royale’ should be retroactively declared Star Station Hotel), Quebec (you have to speak French there, Picard fuckin’ loves it), Tango (in constant rivalry with Foxtrot over who has the best dance moves), and Uniform (paradoxically, everyone wears their civvies).
      I have not seen such a rewrite, no!

  4. Ohma Says:

    Been working my way through early TNG recently and stumbled on your reviews and LOVE THEM. Your takes on early TNG make the extra bad bits enjoyable.

    This is definitely one of those episodes where the writer(s) failed to fully think through the implications of the setup (another that got me to raise an eyebrow Spock style for like, the whole episode was Up the Long Ladder which I can’t wait to read your take on because damn, that episode is pretty bad).


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