TNG: S3E06: “Booby Trap”

In which Geordi sucks at dating on the holodeck, wins at dating the holodeck, and should never be allowed onto the holodeck.

Now you're just embarrassing yourself.

Now you’re just embarrassing yourself.

Geordi is mackin’ on some chick on the holodeck at the beatch. Do people still say “mackin’?” Sadly, not even with the dulcet tones of Brahms  Hungarian Dance #5 performed somewhat inexpertly on a pirate fiddle does Geordi have game. Let me rephrase that. When Geordi queues a pirate playing the fiddle, his date clearly loses the will to live. meanwhile, Data and Wes are playing 3d-Chess in Ten-forward as the ship cruises through an asteroid field that was the site of the final battle between two ancient people. Awesome, yet another ancient battle. I’m sure nothing will come back out of the mists of time to bite the Enterprise in the aft like in “The Arsenal of Freedom” or “The Bonding.” That was one episode ago, you’d hope they change it up a little.

No, wait. Of course they don't. What was I thinking?

No, wait. Of course they don’t. What was I thinking?

They pick up a signal which may indicate survivors, or at least interesting salvage, and in fact find an ancient battlecruiser that’s still powered after a thousand years of inactivity. Apparently, the two combattants were called Menthars and Promelians, and it beats me how they manage to come up with those. Star names, maybe? Anyway, Picard is demanding a position on the away team to check out this thousand-year-old disabled ship. Riker calls him insane, but since they’ll all of course be wearing environment suits and personal shields, there’s little risk of suffocation or infection.

As soon as they beam over, there’s a minor power fluctuation, and those look like the most unfomfortable flashlights ever. I cannot fathom the mind that decided that would be those most ergonomic way to keep a light. I hope that’s a secondary fuction of the tricorder, because that’s the only way having that device makes any sense to me.

Geordi is getting dating advice from Guinan, Wes is noticing problems on the sensors, and Data is powering up the battlecruiser and investigating some of the onboard memory. It’s a good thing that the captain of a ship making final explanatory log entries is a thing across time and species. When he returns to the ship, they start losing power nad being bombarded by radiation, and all of the things that make the Enterprise go are working fine but it doesn’t go. Their ship is broken, it does not go.

Yup, another holdover-from-a-forgotten-war episode. I’m trying to figure out what was going on at the time that we’ve got two in a row of these, but the Ottawa Treaty won’t be a thing for another ten years after this episode is written.

So, apaprently everything on the Enterprise is working but the ship won’t move. Geordi, as a top-notch technical engineer, immediately asks the question of whether there’s an opposing force and finds the logs that describe that force’s behavior. Let it be henceforth declared across the land – debug logs are king. Also, he’s looking up the original design specs on the warp engines used in the Enterprise and finds the original design notes. Since the voice log are from  Leah Brahms (hey, like that dance he played earlier. What a wacky coincidence) and he’s recently been disappointed romantically, there’s no way this is going to get creepy at all. Meanwhile, the time limit is set – after the shields go down, they’ll have 30 minutes before the radiation levels reach a fatal dose for humans.

Note the skeletal superstructure and how dead it looks when the nacelles aren't lit up. Eerie.

Note the skeletal superstructure and how dead it looks when the nacelles aren’t lit up. Eerie.

Also amusingly, Geordi is kind of fatalistically asking for documentation and modeling of the warp core, and his reaction at being told by the computer that it can do a holodeck simulation of the prototype is priceless. There’s never good documentation. Just me on this. He gets to go to the drafting room of the Mars station shipyards at Utopia Planetia and see the Enterprise mid-construction. It has the feel of being in space – there’s no scaffolding to hold up the saucer and it looks like there’s a roof with lights rather than natural daylight. Also, they said it was a station. Space construction would seem to be ideal – as long as your construction crew doesn’t fly off. Hopefully it can all be done with robots.

Geordi keeps trying to talk to the official documentation annotations and it’s awkward, until he accidentally calls for the holodeck to create a visual interface. Geordi has now accidentally created at least two things on the Holodeck, and one of them was sentient and a literal supervillain with control of the ship. HR needs to put him through some training on the proper use of ships resources. That said, when the holographic Leah Brahms ‘shows’ him, all she does is tell him the designations. So far, there’s no reason for that to have happened.

Also, thus far he’s increased engine efficiency by 14%, and takes a break by loading Brahms’ personality files, within 90.3%, into the simulation. Plus we get a good reason why the engines don’t have that boost built in, which is frankly more than I expected.

While combing through the ancient logs, Picard, Data and Riker find a reference to a device which can drain power from one source to power other devices – so power is being drained from the Enterprise to power the field keeping it in place and irradiating it. This may be savage 21st-century thinking, but I’d imagine the easiest thing to do would be to fire some torpedoes (minimal power used in the launch as compared to phasers) to pulverize likely debris and break enough of the devices so that the field strength would fall behind the ship’s motive force.

"Are you as turned on by engine schematics as I am?"

“Are you as turned on by engine schematics as I am?”

Geordi is being himself per Guinan’s advice, which leads to a screaming nose-to-nose row with Brahms, and if this scene were fifteen minutes later into the episode they’d finish it by playing tonsil hockey for a good three minutes. As it stands, however, it’s just a battlefield of theory over experience. He gets called to the bridge and awkwardly saves the program.

Okay, so my solution is impractical – there are several hundred thousand of the trap devices generating the field – hard to put a dent in that with any reasonable estimate for explosives the ship is carrying. I feel like we’ve done this before…. Their first thought is phasers, though, which I feel good about having skipped over – directed coherent energy bursts have to be a lot less useful than explosive energy bound up in matter. The sudden loss of energy shuts down Geordi’s pillow talk session with the engineer smarter than he is, and Geordi has to get special permission to recreate the simulation.

Yeah, I was right, they’ve done this before, but the same class of solution appears not to be practicable this time, unless something linked in directly to the comptuer can make all the adjustments. Fortunately, they have an avatar of a propulsion expert directly linked to the computer. The way Geordi presents this option to Picard, though, is in tones that might as well be “well, we can save your life, but you have to bathe in raw sewage.” It feels like there’s some deep cultural taboo against more automation than is strictly necessary. I’m going to go with this, because it helps explain how Pulaski was so amazingly bigoted and not kicked off the ship.

The deflectors go down before the simulation runs complete, and they have to make a decision. Geordi figures out the solution – create inertia and then use minimum power rather than maximum to reduce the amount of radiation they’ll receive in flight. Apaprently, the odds are exactly the same as using the computer, but the ‘human factor’ is more important. Apparently, the ‘will to stay alive’ counts in these circumstances, and as such, Picard is going to take the helm rather than Geordi, who ran the simulations, or Wesley, who’s had more practice on the helm lately. And although we know this is going to work because it’s that late in the episode, this is very, very dumb. This could have been a lesson about overcoming the fear of computers, of letting the right person do critical jobs, or any number of things. Instead, it’s a lesson about how the Captain is better at any job than anyone. Since I know this is going to get play by the time we get to Voyager, I’m starting a new counter.

Also, the helm controls are not at all intuitive by 21st century standards. Picard presses the left button, the port thrusters fire, and the ship moves starboard. I’m sure it’s intuitive when you train in that mode, but it makes me wonder when they stopped laying out consoles such that you press the button for the direction you want to go.

Rather than doing an outside-in phaser sweep to disable the devices and tow the ancient ship back to spacedock, or deploy a warning beacon until dedicated sappers can deal with the trap more safely, they just blow up the ship. Geordi gets his kiss, and nobody learns anything useful.

 

The Captain is Better At Your Job Than You Are counter: 1

 

One thought on “TNG: S3E06: “Booby Trap”

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