Saturday, July 25, 2009

Star Trek: The Next Generation--"Lonely Among Us"

“Lonely Among Us” is the second dud in the uneven first season. It is slightly more entertaining than “Code of Honor,” but only because its bad elements are simply dumb rather than offensive. The key point to take away from it is the contradiction between the two stories of escorting alien delegates to a peace conference versus the ship constantly malfunctioning. The problem is the crew’s arrogant enlightenment in the former matter versus their complete idiocy in dealing with the latter.

This is the first time in the series the crew openly turns its nose up at alien cultures that do not measure up to their standards. At least in ’Code of Honor,’ there was a certain accommodation since the Federation needed a vaccine from the primitive culture. In this case, they are escorting two alien culture who hate each other so much, they cannot have their quarters on the same deck.

Some of their conflict is understandable. One species is reptilian and the other is mammal. At least in the audience’s mind, we can grasp why they would have animosity because we can relate their relationship to the animal world. But wait. Their conflict goes further than that. They have differences in food tastes and economic systems.

That, by the way , is the main conflict. The crew pays little mind to their bigotry towards one another. Picard verbally expresses bewilderment over the chauvinism over their differing economic systems. Any reasonable human is a socialist, after all. Meanwhile, Roker and Tasha Yar are having trouble with the fact one delegation eats actual meat rather than accept synthetic meat created by the replicators. Because we have developed well beyond the need to cook animals. What are we, barbarians? Sheesh.

It is the typical unreasoned liberalism of Trek. It takes contemporary issues, like capitalism v. socialism and animal rights v. how darn tasty cows are and reveals self-loathing about our culture. It is all fixed by the24th century when we abandon both cash and hamburgers, but, lord have mercy, what cavemen those 20th century brutes were, no?

Contrast this with the fact the crew cannot figure out the most obvious answer to the mystery of why the ship is malfunctioning. They pass through a strange cloud on their way to the peace conference. As they do, and energy surge injures Worf. The ship begins malfunctioning simultaneously. So they suspect the clouds is at fault, right? Nope. It is sabotage!

They immediately dismiss the idea there is a traitor on board because enlightened Starfleet personnel wuld never do such a thing. It must be those filthy aliens. Blasted meating capitalists. You just cannot trust them.

They still do no figure out they acquired a hitchhiker from the cloud until it inhabits Picard and explains it to them. The hilarious part of all this is that Data begins playing Sherlock Holmes during the mystery and even repeats the axiom that when all other possibilities have been exhausted, whatever is left, no matter how implausible, must be the answer. But they still never get around to thinking it is the cloud.

Picard gets dumped in to the cloud, but is recovered through some techno babble explanation regarding the transporter converting the energy he had become into the image of his old pattern still in the transporter record. It is a typical resolution. The episode ends on a laugh line when one of the mammal delegates wants to know if the cook can prepare reptile. This in spite of the fact we have already established fake meat meals are replicated fully made and there is no cook on board anyway.

Meh. Not a decent episode at all, but there is a peculiar homage to TOS. The alien energy being passes from regular characters safely, but kills the guest star once it passes into him. The assistant chief engineer, in his first and only appearance, suffers the first ’red shirt” death on TNG.

Rating: * (out of 5)

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