Thursday, August 20, 2009

Star Trek: The Next Generation--"Unnatural Selection"

A Pulaski centric episode? Dear God, how did we anger You so? “Unnatural Selection” is bad in so, so many ways beyond Pulaski serving as the focus of the plot. In fact, the idea she might die a horrible death in the only ray of hope in the Pulaski Circle of Hell in which Trekkies find themselves trapped for the second season.

There are three big problems with “Unnatural Selection.”

First, the plot is a copy of TOS’ “The Deadly Years’ in which a disease causing premature aging infects the main crew. So much for originality. I would give “Unnatural Selection” some kudos for not having the cure for the disease miraculously revert sufferers back to their normal age through a regular medical procedure like in the TOS episode, but I cannot since the solution that (unfortunately) saves Pulaski boggles the mind in its continuity bursting.

The crew decides to save her by beaming her out of quarantine and reforming her with a pattern of her body before she had the disease. Which begs the question--why do they not do that with everyone who has contracted a disease? Forget time and money wasted on medical research. Just send them through a transporter. They will be good as new and looking a few years younger, to boot.

Oh, wait. We learn in “Rascals” the trasporter can be a fountain of youth, too. Neither trick will be used again.

All that is needed to pull this miracle cure off is a DNA sample from a time before infection. Crewmembers frantically rummage through Pulaski’s quarters before finding a folicle on her hairbrush.. Look, if I had to go through the woman’s underwear drawer in order to save her, she is doomed.

Second, the space station infected with the aging disease in experimenting on the genetic engineering of children. Ignore for a moment there is a ban on genetic engineering in all of Trek which was established in “Space Seed”--arguably the most famous episode of TOS. Ignore because the writer obviously had no problem doing so. (the episode was heavily rewritten by Maurice Hurley, who got his job by being Gene Roddenberry’s drinking buddy and not hiswriting skills. Witness Baywatch Nights if you do not believe me. Think instead about the implications of what the scientists are doing.

The scientists are engineering a race of children, who seem a little off, by the way, with psychic powers such as telekinesis. Does that not strike anyone as even more dangerous than making supermen like Khan? The experiments are being done on a remote space station as though they are trying to keep the experiments a secret. Presumably, the air of illicitness is unintentional, but how could the powers that be miss it?

Before you answer that question, think about the following. the character of Dr. Kingslwey was originally to be named Dr. Mendel in honor of Dmitri Mendelev, the inventor of the periodic table of elements. The name Mendel was nixed because because it sounded too much like Mengele, the Nazi scientist interested in, among other things, genetically engineering a master race by experimenting on Jewish children.

The station was also named after Darwin, so the whole process is supposed to have a feel that it is all in the natural process of evolution. It amazes me how Trek can be so stupidly idealistic in one moment and then so draconian fascist in the next.

Finally, ’Unnatural Selection” is an episode about Pulaski, so it has to be bad just out of general principle. The beginning scenes involve Picard and Troi discussing whether Pulaski is the right choice for Chief Medical Officer because of her attitude. He was most certainly expressing exactly what fans were thinking. Diana Muldaur hated working in science fiction and it shows here. The agied make up job was the final straw for her. She decided this would be her only season. Weare all thrilled by her decision.

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to go douse my remaining eye with holy water to purge the evil.

Rating: * (out of 5)

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