TNG: S2E22: “Shades of Gray”

In which survey teams are inadequately equipped and nothing else important happens. 

Well, here it is, folks. According to IMDB, the lowest rated piece of Star Trek canon ever put to film. That includes the abominable movie even I couldn’t find something of value in. Well, enough chit-chat. This alcohol won’t drink itself.

Creepy string music as Geordi and Riker are chilling on an alien jungle. Riker seems to have gotten stabbed by something, and he tries to be manly about it but luckily Geordi is there to remind him that they have no idea what the local threats are. Seems like they should be wearing something more than a jumpsuit. If primary surveys are in the wheelhouse of the Enterprise, you’d think they’d be prepared with at least armored leggings so you don’t get space-lyme disease. They’re going to beam Riker up, but there are microbes in him that the biofilter can’t screen out.

"Because we already do that, duh!"

“Because we already do that, duh!”

I can see at least one way that could work. Due to the presence of all the gut bacteria that humans carry around, they can’t just lock on to ‘anything that’s not made of Riker cells’ and not transport the rest. That would also leave behind a disgusting mess of partially-digested food every time you transport, and leave you very hungry. It might make more sense to have a database of pathogens that the transporter can check for and not re-integrate. This, of course, begs the question of why there isn’t a small transporter pad in Sick Bay, so that if you’ve got a bit of a sniffle you can just transport yourself to the other side of the room and let the biofilters sort it out. Hopefully, the technology can be put in a less unwieldy package.

Instead of an override that could contaminate the ship, Pulaski braves her hatred of the transporter (that saved her life that one time) to beam down to Riker’s location… again without any kind of protection. It’s purely to do a first-hand analysis to confirm that he’s safe enough to beam directly to sick bay, but still, it seems reckless, even with bio-filters to confirm that Riker is the only one infected. Who knows what happens after the larval stage of whatever is now living in his numb leg. Whatever it is could become airborne. And shoot lasers.

Great idea, let’s have Picard visit him face-to-face in the sickbay! Remember from “Unnatural Selection” how the quarantine field is extremely visible? There isn’t one here. The infection is, according to Pulaski, ‘neither a bacteria or a virus but with elements of both.’ It’s invaded his nervous system. Somehow, human nerve tissue tastes good to a completely alien species. Although, with the seeding of life by the Preservers from “The Paradise Syndrome” I suppose it’s possible that there used to be a primitive human colony on this planet and this thing is either a plague that evolved from one they brought with them, or learned to eat them over generations. I’ll give this one a pass. In any case, it’s crawling up the nerves in Riker’s legs and when it reaches his brain, he’ll probably die, because having stuff in your brain is bad for you.

Although, to be fair to away team attire, those boots must be pretty solid because they don't even worry for a moment about getting their socks wet.

Although, to be fair to away team attire, those boots must be pretty solid because they don’t even worry for a moment about getting their socks wet.

Picard, in order to get a sample for Pulaski, orders Geordi and Data down to the planet. Data suggests that only he go, because he’s smarter than everyone else and doesn’t wish to risk anyone else to the plague. Although, to be fair, Geordi is the one who knows where Riker got infected. Gee, it’s too bad he doesn’t have some sort of technological vision device that can be rigged to transmit telemetry back to the ship  for analysis and uploading for just such an emergency. Damn shame, that.

The source of the infection appears to be a piece of plant that can strike out and attack humans and other animal life. Data manages to catch it before it stings Geordi and they cut a sample. Under analysis, Pulaski figures that she can kill it, but not without damaging the host nerves beyond repair. Still, Riker is in pretty good humor, at least in public, about his imminent demise. He’s even telling Chuck Norris jokes. Troi shows up to let him cop one last feel before they bug invades his spine and knocks him out and gives him about an hour to live.



The next plan is to strip him naked and stick a bunch of needles into his skull. This will keep the neurons stimulated to fight off the bug, apparently. If they didn’t need him naked to monitor the infection up until now, I’m not sure why the need it for this procedure. I can only surmise that he’s not awake enough to object. That’s not the same as consent, doctor.

So next, a clip show happens. This looks like a scene from “The Last Outpost.” Then his first meeting with Data in “Encounter at Farpoint.” I may be spoiled, but it’s kind of tragic that I can’t actually think of what episodes they might have gone over budget on to require a clip show. I will give them credit, though, for waiting a whole 15 minutes and including as good an excuse as I’ve ever seen. Let’s seen I think the next clip is him giving Wes pickup advice in “The Dauphin.” Then his parting with Deanna from “The Icarus Factor” and oh god I’m doing these without looking them up. I may have a problem. Scratch that, I definitely have a problem.

Pulaski sees the readings change and starts doing science to see if changing the types of memories we’re forced to relive with Riker helps to cure the disease. Next is a scene from “Justice” where they first encounter all the mostly-naked people, then Riker meeting Minuet on the holodeck in “11001001.” Then that time he gets ridden like a pony in “Angel One,” and when he seduced the space Irish girl in “Up The Long Ladder.” Meanwhile, Deanna is sitting by his bedside listening in on all his emotions.

The lusty memories seem to be making the infection spread faster, so we’re probably now going to bop around to scenes of different tenors to get him to release the right neurotransmitters to kill the organism. Next up is… probably fear, rage, or grief. Yar’s death in “Skin of Evil,” Troi’s son’s death in “The Child.” Yeah, definitely grief. Next up, when Riker beats the crap out of the Klingon second officer in “A Matter of Honor.” Thing is, if that was done out of emotion rather than the rational assessment that he needed to do it to get the respect of the crew,  I actually lose a little respect for Riker. I had read it as him studying up on the Klingon culture and knowing that this was the right action. If he just loses his cook when people question him and decided to let it out for once, that makes him a terrible officer in a human fleet. Anyway, next up is when Quinn beats the crap out of him in “Conspiracy.” Interestingly, that was also a deadly infection disocvered by a survey team on an uncharted planet. Really a shame nobody uses environment suits in those situations, right? I mean, not to beat a dead horse or anything.

So, they seem to have found the best type of emotions to flood him with, but since it’s not strong enough they’re either going to turn the memory-maker up to 11 or just inject him full of the right endorphins and hope he survives the experience either way. It’s not like they’re going to make things worse. Next up is from “Symbiosis,” Riker getting hand-tasered by the poor guys who wanted the medicine. Then the Ferengi attack with their electro-whips from “The Last Outpost” again. Then “Skin of Evil” again, where he gets dragged into the tar. Of course, the fact that Riker is experiencing memories of what happened after he got dragged in, including a cut to Picard on the ship, indicates some interesting things about how Armus chose to screw with him. Next, when Riker and Picard set the autodestruct sequence, which I believe was the time from “11001001,” then when they rescued the Klingon mutineers in “Heart of Glory” just before the ship explodes. It’s a good thing they added a real transporter chief rather than relying on Tasha to do both tactical and transporters.

Pulaski has to up the dosage again, and since nothing else interesting his happening I’ll keep naming episodes. Remek full of alien bugs in “Conspiracy.” Another fight with the Ferengi in “The Last Outpost.” Getting shocked by the “Symbiosis” guy again. A phaser fight in Starfleet HQ in “Conspiracy.” The same autodestruct clip. Data fixing the chips in ‘The Naked Now.” The dragged-into-tar clip again. some more repeats, the flensing laser from “Loud as a Whisper.” Blowing up the contaminated ship in “Unnatural Selection.” The ship explosion from “Heart of Glory,” blowing up Remek again in “Conspiracy.” And after that terrible, repetitive, and pointless montage, Riker is cleared of the infection. Also, I’m not certain but it looked like there was an image from the Genesis Planet in there too, but I’m not sure if it was from Wrath of Khan or Search for Spock.

Anyway, that sucked, but at least after that ordeal at least they’re going to institute exo-suits for survey teams, right?



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