Sunday, August 9, 2009

Star Trek: The Next Generation--"Symbiosis"

It would not be the ‘80’s television show without a morality tale about narcotics. There odd twist is the story is less Miami Vice in space than a Psa against tobacco products. The “bad guys” here are not drug dealers, but merchants selling an addictive, but legal, product to a weaker race in order to keep them on the hook and under control. So it is more a matter of R. J. Reynolds as villains pushing nicotine than Colombian cartels pushing cocaine.

Not that the above situation provides the major conflict. The ethical problem is how the Enterprise crew can help the addicted race, who believe the drug is a cure for a deadly plague, without violating the Prime Directive. This is the first TNG episode in which the crew honestly chews over how best to go about solving a problem without violating the Prime Directive.

In the previous two instances where there was an question of what to do under the Prime directive, “Justice” and ’Angel One,” it was decided to violate the prime directive in order to save lives. I appreciate the more logical, less brash solution here of not allowing the cargo ship to be repaired so the addicted race will face withdrawal symptoms and hopefully kick the addiction.

“Symbiosis” is not the best example of the crew dealing with a moral quandary provided by the Prime Directive, but it is the first TNG example of the conflict resolution not involving a violation with the rationale crew knows better than those filthy aliens values causing the problem.

Two familiar faces appear in ’Symbiosis,” both from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Merritt Buttrick, who played Kirk’s son, David Marcus, played T’Jon here and Judson Scott, Khan’s right-hand man Joachin, played sobi. Sadly, Butrick died two years later of complications due to AIDS. There is some controversy about his death, but many believe he contracted AIDs through the sharing of heroin needles. Bitterly ironic, considering this episode.

“Symboisis” was filmed after “Skin of evil,” so it is technically Denise Crosby’s final episode. If you look closely, you can see her waving goodbye in the background of the final scene.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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