In which Geordi learns how to flirt, we see which divisions get all the budget, and the Enterprise picks up a passenger who probably isn’t all that important.
The Enterprise is charting an unexplored star system and everything has been nice and boring, except for Geordi pining after girls he’s too nervous to ask out. Worf’s advice is to waft pheromones at her. It’s pretty tragic. Worf has much to teach him about women, which is kind of odd considering that Worf has been stated half a season ago to have no dating life whatsoever because he’s afraid of breaking people. That said, I’m sure he’s an honorable wingman or, as they say on Quo’noS, cha’DIch.
Geordi and Crusher are called to an away team to investigate a crashed alien ship sending out a distress call. It appears to have a survivor, but one who isn’t stable enough for transport. So this is interesting. Apparently, transport is perfectly fine for healthy people, but a damaged nervous system could lead to autonomic shutdown during transport as bits of the brain are no longer directly connected to the organs they’re supposed to regulate. Crusher’s solution is to basically tether the survivor’s autonomic functions to Geordi. While this is no more far-fetched than the transporter in the first place, it is a bit surprising that this functionality comes as standard options in a first-aid kit. In a world where autonomic functions can shut down as a result of the fastest way to get someone to the hospital, it’s a great idea to have that function, and Starfleet Medical is every inch the competent outfit that Starfleet Security never was, but you have to wonder about the first person to try that procedure. Ten will get you twenty they served on an Enterprise.
That said, when Crusher activates the connection, a little yellow energy burst shoots across the bluetooth connection and enters Geordi’s brain. That won’t cause any problems, surely. Then again, what’s a little inconveneince to help save a guy whose brain is hanging out of his skull. Seriously, the prosthesis aren’t Hollywood, but they try harder.
The craft was an escape pod of some sort, and scans indicate it was deliberately destroyed. Also, Starfleet Medical is full of wizardry. In order to keep the survivor’s body from shutting down, they hold him in stasis long enough to design a custom virus to inject into his body to boost ATP production and keep his cells from shutting down. This is the kind of thing they can reasonably expect to do, for an unknown species, on the fly. How does anyone ever die in the 24th century?
Despite how utterly strapped this trauma center is, Crusher refuses to take credit for the expected recovery. The patient is not only self-healing at a phenomenal rate, he is also apparently healing cells that weren’t even damaged. Meanwhile, Geordi and Data are nerding out over the escape pod’s Black Box, which appears to be a chemical data storage matrix somehow, while Worf gets super, super bored, and demands they drink harder. Geordi sees his crush and actually manages to ask her out this time. We are expected to attribute this to the energy jolt, although Worf is willing to step up and take credit.
36 hours after being found with, again, his brain hanging out of his skull, patient John Doe is functional, except for his memory. Awkward. Too bad Geordi is too busy maintaining a work-life balance to work on that Black Box. John Doe seems genial enough as Crusher straps him up with motor-assistance bands that do quite a bit of PT for him. He’s doing very well, but he appears to be suffering minor seizures due to his regeneration.
When Riker catches Geordi snogging in the turbolift, he certainly seems pleased with Geordi’s newfound confidence. At the same time, O’Brien comes into sick bay with a dislocated shoulder from holo-kayaking. John Doe lays on hands and the shoulder is perfectly healed. Hey guys, we found Space Jesus. Humble, kind, healing-with-a-touch, and refuses to stay dead. At dinner later, Wesley suggests his mother lay some pipe with her star patient. In the context of the last episode, this is a trend I do not like make it go away.
The latest manifestation of Geordi’s newfound awesomeness leads him to finding a star chart encoded in RNA patterns in the Black Box capsule, and they work backwards to figure out the flight path that leads back to John Doe’s home, and make minor adjustments to their mission parameters to pass by, because it’s on the way. John seems less than thrilled by this – his memory is still incomplete, but he knows he and some others were trying to escape their home. This is the first time he’s actually raised his voice.
We get to glean a little of John’s culture by what surprises him – all of the diversity aboard the Enterprise surprises him, for instance. What he’s pieced together is that he’s on some sort of journey, literal or metaphysical or both. As if sensing the progress he’s making, a ship approaches at Warp 9.72, which is damn close to the Enterprise maximum short-term warp speed, and John is having an even worse seizure than previous, and starts glowing and sprinting for some way off the ship. Looks like he’s going to try to steal a shuttle, which apparently the glowing helps him hotwire the controls for.
Okay, brief aside. In the shuttlebay, there’s a sign over the door. It’s over the exit bulkhead into the rest of the ship, which makes it particularly useless, but hopefully it’s elsewhere as well. It reads: “CAUTION: VARIABLE GRAVIY AREA.” We haven’t seen it as a problem before, but we now have confirmation that the Enterprise artificial gravity is under some form of actual control, as opposed to, I suppose, the decks being plated with Neutronium, except that they also have antigravity pallets too so I guess we already knew that so nevermind.
Anyway, he’s about to hijack a shuttle when Worf threatens him with a phaser. Therefore John and his terrible jumpsuit and his uncontrollable power throw Worf off a one-story-high balcony and his neck breaks. He’s clinically dead for a few seconds before John Doe revives him, which is why Picard is willing to let him not be in the Brig.
The approaching alien ship is commanded by Sunad of Zalkon, who John feels is incredibly dangerous. Sunad designates John a criminal, accused of spreading dissent and disrupting the natural order, but refuses to explain. Troi gives us the insight that not only are the Zalkonians hostile to John, but they also fear him. And the ship, which is tiny by comparison to the Enterprise, is basically equally matched.
While Picard moralizes over whether to allow John to turn himself over to save the ship (an act we’ve seen before), I realize something – when there are only a few officers in the conference room, there are exactly enough chairs. That other door is a supply closet and some enlisted is probably always on duty to move the chairs around to make sure the numbers are right.
Look, they can’t all be universe-shattering revelations.
In trying to get to the bottom of why Sunad wants to kill John, Picard reveals that John is manifesting cool powers, and Sunad unleashes an attack that causes shipwide asphyxia. Fast-acting nerve gas, perhaps? This is the kind of civilization that the Federation should put up warning buoys around and never go near again. John is able to heal the entire ship just by putting his hand on a bulkhead, and then teleport Sunad over to the bridge.
This episode may be one of the most unique in all of star trek. It’s the first time we see a main guest with superpowers, in all of Star Trek so far, who isn’t a jerk. There’s a little leeway for Kevin Uxbridge – his seems to have been a crime of passion he truly regrets, but everyone else – the Metrons, Apollo, Charlie X, Gary Mitchell, the Talosians, the Triskelion brains-in-jars, and even the Organians (who I have come to loathe and detest more and more since seeing that episode and which maybe I’ll expound upon sometime if you’re interested) are arrogant and varying degrees of thuggish.
Star Trek has a fairly constant philosophy when it comes to energy beings. Great powers don’t automatically imply great moral fortitude. Everyone – humans, aliens, and godlike beings, ought to be judged on their actions. Riker turned down the power of the Q, in part because being able to accomplish any discrete task easily and without effort could lead him to all sorts of pitfalls of character. But the corollary is that great powers don’t automatically make you evil, either. John Doe has been kind, humble, concerned for others, and pacifistic, and when he turns into a glowy sun-person he doesn’t disassemble Sunad into his component atoms and leave him as a pile of dust on the carpet. He simply says, “I’m going to teach others who will listen how to transcend their physicalities, and you can’t stop me, so I don’t need to stop you.” This is one of the closest points I can remember that Star Trek gets to real transhumanism, and it’s kind of nice to see.