Star Trek: The Next Generation (1992) – The Masterpiece Society, and Conundrum

Captain’s log: stardate 45470.1

Michael Piller and Adam Belanoff pen the teleplay from a story by Belanoff and James Kahn. It first debuted on 10 February, 1992.

This story deals with the themes of genetic manipulation, and the treatment of those with ‘disabilities’ including breeding them out.

The Enterprise discovers a remote human colony when they are tracking a stellar core fragment. The fragment will cause massive destruction to the planet, but the colony is reticent to evacuate or even welcome the starship, as they fear any interaction may damage their purified gene pool.

Picard (Patrick Stewart) sends an away team to the surface, and the colony, led by Aaron Conor (John Snyder) is willing to welcome their assistance, eventually. Geordi (LeVar Burton) works with a scientist, Hannah Bates (Dey Young) to solve the problem… and it’s Geordi’s own VISOR, which enables the blind man to see, a bland man who wouldn’t exist on the planet due to their selective breeding, that has the technology to save the day.

Aaron begins to fall for Troi (Marina Sirtis), who though charmed, points out that the colony would not like her combined genetic structure in their gene pool, she is, after all half-Betazed.

The episode shows that necessity is the mother of invention, and it is our diversity on all levels that help to define us, and allow us to excel.

But what happens when Hannah wants to leave the colony, can Picard offer him asylum, or would it completely destroy their perfectly structured colony where everyone has a specific purpose?

It’s not a subtle theme, but it still makes for a good episode.

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Captain’s log: stardate 45494.2

Airing on 17 February, 1992 this episode, written by Barry M. Schkolnick from a story by Paul Schiffer.

This is a great episode, but imagine if they had planted the seeds for this one earlier in the season by adding Commander Keiran MacDuff (Erich Anderson) a number of episodes back, and letting him grow into the show.

Instead, it’s obvious from the start that he is the cause, and you want him revealed, but it’s still a great tale.

The Enterprise crew has their memory wiped by an alien ship, and when they rouse themselves they have no recall of who they are, what they are doing, or how they work together. To ensure that things go according to the alien’s plans, even Data’s (Brent Spiner) memory banks are altered, with mission updates.

It allows for some interesting character moments as they are explored in new ways. Worf (Micheal Dorn) believes himself to be captain, and Data thinks he’s a bartender in Ten Forward. And the ship has a new first officer, MacDuff. He reminds them that their orders involve an ongoing conflict with an alien species known as the Lysians, and he pretends to remember everything after he undergoes some ‘memory recall’ under Crusher’s (Gates McFadden) guidance.

Characters fall out of their normal patterns, but are still essentially themselves. And in some interesting beats, Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Ro Laren (Michelle Forbes) have a relationship.

And even as they try to figure out who they are, the crew still end up sorting out what is going on, and stopping MacDuff before it is too late – and the pretend officer meets a grisly demise, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Conspiracy.

The Human Adventure continues Thursday…

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