In which I get to start revisiting transhumanism as a theme, I pick a new crewmember to nitpick, and I get to say ‘space jellyfish sex’ in context.
Let’s talk medical technology for a moment. Crusher, whatever her lack of bedside manner for telling Geordi something he’s heard a thousand times before, is familair with his case, presumably because it’s on the cutting edge of medical technology that’s safe for humans. Born without pupils, Geordi La Forge has a visual prosthesis that allows him to visually interpret basically everything on the EM Spectrum. Unlike Doctor Jones of “Is There In Truth No Beauty” and her sensor web, the VISOR allows La Forge enhanced vision, rather than a paltry simulacrum of it. True he doesn’t experience, say, color that way everyone else does, but it seems like an extremely useful device to have around for someone who works on warp fields all day. It does cause him migranes, which seems a drawback, but one he’s grown accustomed to.
Data is escorting a 137-year-old McCoy (who still hates transporters and vulcans) for a cute little moment that serves very little purpose but is very feel-good. What’s not feel-good is how, when Q shows up on the viewscreen, Worf leaps to his feet and points his goddamn phaser at the main screen that separates the entire bridge crew from the vacuum of space. I think we’ve found our new McCoy, though at least with Worf I know he’ll grow out of it to become one of the most well-rounded characters in the franchise. Since, you know, he’s allowed to have feelings in a very calm, steadfast society. Q puts in a time limit on Picard solving the mystery.
As an aside, Riker’s stuck on this whole ‘mysterious force granting wishes’ thing but even with Picard having Q breathing down his neck, he’s only taking that marginally seriously. If Q hadn’t shown up and basically said “here’s the plot train, go get on it” who knows how things might have turned out. Picard introduces Troi and Riker in a very awkward exchange, because they used to boink. And mind-boink. Picard, Troi, and Riker beam down to talk to the administrator of the base that they’re all negotiating over when Troi senses a strong rush of emotion that puts the negotiations off and puts the administrator Zorn on the defensive. Pain, loneliness, despair. I’m surprised, because I thought I remembered Troi as being pretty useless with her abilities, but so far she’s picked up a couple of clutch clues and all Worf and Yar have done is get themselves yelled at for being combative in unhelpful circumstances.
In a scene that seems mostly designed to show off just how freakishly tall Jonathan Frakes is, we see a young ensign show off some of the functions of the Enterprise computer. Within about half a second of being given a request in colloquial English (rather than the overly stilted way you know you still talk to Siri) the Enterprise computer gives back the location of a member of the crew and a series of wall-mounted indicators on how to get there. Which may not seem like terribly much now, but again, think of the advancement from the original Enterprise, whose computer was basically a SQL database and a calculator without any networking capacities whatsoever.
Then there’s the holodeck, which must be very new, at least as far as starship facilities go, because Riker is looking around like he’s never seen one before. I will not, at this point, take too much time to discuss the Holodeck because more profitable discussions are to be had during “Elementary, My Dear Data” and “A Fistful of Datas,” and probably some other ones. Instead I will point out that Data can’t whistle. And that Riker is kind of predjudiced against Data, at first assuming that his rank is strictly honorary despite looking up his record. Also, I will point out for the record that it is established here and now that some matter can leave the holodeck. Wesley falls into the lake and is wet coming out.Data explains that a lot of what the holodeck makes is matter converted from energy by the transporters. While the implications of that are terrifying (mass-energy equivalence being what it is, the holodeck uses enough energy to create that idylic forest scene to blow up the Earth and quite possibly the sun, and the Enterprise spends that energy on recreation) it is going to solve some problems for us down the line.
Meanwhile, plot. Gerordi, Troi, and Yar are examining the underside of the city, it’s like nothing Geordi has ever seen before and when Troi opens her mind the pain knocks her off her feet. Riker is able to have the Enterprise beam him directly to their signal, which is another instance of technology being leaps and bounds over the original Constitution-class 23rd century standard.
After an awkward viewpoint-camera moment where Picard invites Wesley and, by extension from the cinematography, us the viewer, to sit in the captain’s chair, which is then awkwardly cut short when Wes begins gushing and poking things, an alien ship approaches and everyone is on edge again. It scans the Enterprise, somehow bathing the inside in pink light, before breaking off and leveling the old city that the local natives inhabit, and leaving the newly built Farpoint Station alone.
Picard makes the decision to help the locals by readying weapons against the newcomer, and Q shows up to taunt Picard about being savage enough to bring weapons to bear. Picard has some good rejoinders, mostly centering around his medical teams already getting ready to render humanitarian aid, but it’s still curious, if Q were really interested in watching humanity fail, why would he be giving all of these hints?
It’s a little cringeworthy, how bad Picard is at interpersonal relations. I’ll grant that his shakedown mission is something of a stressful one, but we shall not forget that this is what made Kirk come alive. He was at his best when backed into a wall like this. Kirk also would’ve shot Q by now, but hey, you win some, you lose some. The new alien ship is constructed the same way the underside of Farpoint station, and now Troi senses anger. Man, I wish I could go back and watch this episode for the first time – I really wonder if it’s actually as obvious as it is now in hindsight. The alien ship is torturing the local administrator.
Endgame is reached. Q demands that they fire, apparently hoping to get Picard to fail but again, being pretty obvious about giving precisely the wrong advice. The alien ship turns out to be a space jellyfish, and the Enterprise delivers energy to Farpoint station, feeding the captured space jellyfish so that it can go back to jellyfishing in space. Picard is super angry at Zorn for enslaving one of the space jellyfish, but all’s well that ends well as the two space jellyfish have space jellyfish tentacle sex and humanity gets a reprieve from the attentions of Q.