Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Episode Review - Conspiracy (Next Generation, Season 1)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here.

As I promised in my post "Celebrating 30 Years of the Next Generation", here is the first of ten TNG episode reviews. I will publish one a week in addition to other reviews and posts. Enjoy!

Overview – Picard is invited to a secret meeting of Starfleet captains by his old friend, Walker Keel. At the meeting, Captain Keel informs those gathered of a conspiracy that has infiltrated the highest ranks of Starfleet. Shortly after their meeting, and continuing on their route to the planet Pacifica, the Enterprise detects a debris field, which is revealed to be the remains of Keel’s ship, the Horatio. Picard confides in Riker about Keel’s suspicions, and after reviewing some of Data’s research on uncustomary personnel shuffling in Starfleet, Picard orders the Enterprise to head to Earth. Upon arriving at Earth, he is greeted by three admirals, including Admiral Quinn. Before long the crew find themselves battling fellow Starfleet officers who have been taken over by a race of parasitic-like aliens.

Dinner is served

Score: 8/10 – This episode bears the distinction of being (thus far) the only episode to be given a “viewer’s discretion advised” warning. This is due to the amount of violence. The events of this episode where set up in an episode earlier in the season, “Coming of Age”, in which Remmick and Quinn investigate Picard, attempting to see if he had been corrupted by the conspiracy. Things come to a head in this episode and we see that the conspiracy is due to a group of parasitic aliens that upon entering a humanoid can take control of the new host. It’s an interesting twist on the story, and action rules the day. We see lots of shooting, people getting thrown around, and the infamous exploding head. In fact, there is so much packed into this episode it almost seems to be too much. I think they could have strengthened this episode by making it a two-parter, but it is still a fun episode to watch.

The alien parasite

Relevance – 2 points. Definitely scores a point for picking up where “Coming of Age” left off. This is the first time that we see a direct follow up to a previous episode. We also score a point for “Drumhead”, where it was revealed that Admiral Norah Satie was instrumental in the uncovering of the conspiracy.

Riker disabled by Quinn

Continuity – 2 points. Story continuity is working here. As I researched this episode, I did come across a few thoughts that suggested that there were some inconsistencies, but as I thought about it myself, there was nothing that was glaringly obvious. An example of this is that when Worf and Geordi arrive at the admiral’s quarters after Riker calls for security, Quinn tells them that Riker slipped. Some people took issue with the fact that it is hard to slip on carpet, but the way I see it is that Quinn just wanted to get their attention somewhere else so he could surprise them. Well, he accomplished it. Universe continuity also works. Some have said that when the Vulcan admiral used the neck pinch on Riker, it should have immediately disabled him, but the admiral was under the control of the parasite, and it makes sense that he would not have mastered the neck pinch. Where I am going to take a point off is for character continuity. In the previously mentioned scene from Admiral Quinn’s quarters, Riker calls for security. Sprinting down the hallway come Worf (security chief) and…Geordi? In all fairness to La Forge, he was not a security officer, and all that ended up happening was that he was thrown through the door. That really could have been any security officer, but what is really bothersome to me is that Worf, the security chief who knows there is something afoot, responds to an emergency by arriving UNARMED! I am sorry, but I don’t care how much of a hurry Worf was in, he would have had the sense to have grabbed a phaser. I always found this part a bit off. Still, we get some great action out of it. We also, sadly, get to see Worf lose another fight. Oh well.

Remmec as the host of the mother creature

Character Development – 1 point. While the focus on this episode is Picard, that is about all there is. We learn that to Picard, when it comes to friendship, he will not always play by the rules. He shows that he trusts not only his gut instincts, but those of his closest friends. Aside from that, there is very little that moves along any character development.

Picard is not impressed with the main entree

Social Commentary – 0 points. As much as I enjoyed this episode, here is where I struggle to find anything to check off this segment. The old “Don’t trust the establishment” just seems a bit too nutbar-paranoia for my liking. I really don’t mind that this episode doesn’t give us a lot to think about with respect to our own society. A good, fun episode does not have to be a poignant one. It just won’t score you anything here.

During the fight with Quinn, Doctor Crusher is the only one smart enough to bring a phaser

Cool Stuff – 3 points. One point scored for the parasitic invaders. I liked the fact that you could detect them by the presence of a gill on the back of the neck. A clever way of identifying who your enemies are. I am also scoring a point for exploding head. Never has there been such a gruesome effect in Star Trek, and it still is noteworthy. I am scoring a third point for a quick “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” picture that Data comes across when he is researching Starfleet activity. There is a picture of a bird with a human head that looks a bit like Gene Roddenberry’s. Below it is written “The Great Bird of the Galaxy”, which is one of the nicknames of the beloved Star Trek creator. It happens at about the 16-minute mark if you want to see it. I neat little Easter egg.

The Great Bird of the Galaxy

Rank – Captain (16 points). Personally, I think this is one of those episodes everybody should see at least once. I have always enjoyed how this episode deviated from the typical Star Trek flavor. While I am glad that Trek is generally not like this, a little variety spices things up nicely.

Likely the most gruesome scene in Star Trek

If you would like to read other reviews from the Next Generation, click this link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do. 

Star Trek's first Bolian

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