TNG: S4E18: “Identity Crisis”

In which Geordi fronts about his success with the ladies, focuses on a mystery, and goes to a rave. 

It may seem trivial, but records like this help us pinpoint the exact stardate when being a 'redshirt' ceased to be a death sentence.

It may seem trivial, but records like this help us pinpoint the exact stardate when being a ‘redshirt’ ceased to be a death sentence.

We open on a sensor log of the USS Victory, and know right away that this is going to be trouble. No good ever comes from having to review the sensor logs of a ship that’s not the Enterprise. Just look at what happened to the Brattain. Actually, this seems to be from back when Geordi was but a lad who thought he was on the command track. He knows his place now. That place being ‘in charge of the engine room on the pride of the Starfleet’.

They are investigating the abandonment of a colony – no sign of foul play, except that all the uniforms are shredded and soggy. And the reason we’re looking at that is because all of the people in that sensor log except Geordi and LtC Leijtan have just recently vanished for no known reason. Just like the 49 people on the planet disappeared for no known reason.

They try to put their worries out of their mind in Ten-Forward, with Geordi trying to pretend he has any success with women whatsoever. Unsurprisingly, they don’t have that much success, and quickly revert to false hope and melancholy. Fortunately, they’re itnerrupted by the Enterprise intercepting the stolen shuttle that one of the missing has stolen, nor does that shuttle appear to be responding to interdiction. Or physics, as Hickman rams the shuttle into the atmosphere of the planet at full speed and becomes the late Hickman. However, they do find two more shuttlecraft, presumable of the other members of that away team.

Incidentally, note that by this point shuttlecraft clearly have warp again. They did in “The Menagerie,” then they didn’t in “Time Squared,” and now they seem capable of interstellar travel again. Dunno what’s up with that. Must be different models. It does make you wonder how they’re capable of shrinking down a warp core small enough to fit in that form factor.

Seriously, is that the best flashlight design they could come up with?

Seriously, is that the best flashlight design they could come up with?

In doing a walk-through of the scene, Leijtan finds some odd footprints. Odd in that they’re not booted, and also odd in that they’re not human. Everyone (with the possible exception of Data) is at least mildly unnerved. So unnerved that they use these terrible flashlight designs instead of replicating something that leaves their hands free. Despite Data detecting no life signs, Worf insists they’re being watched, and also now they’ve misplaced Leijtan. Geordi finds her eventually, but she’s acting weird and he has to restrain her and bring her to sick bay.

Seems she’s had a strong histamine reaction, and is now confined to the ship pending a full medical workup, but she can still join in the investigation. No mention is made of similarly restricting Geordi, until he and Leijtan leave. His medical reports are still perfect, just like the other away team members. Leijtan is fixated on going back to the planet, and in a delightful inversion of horror tropes, even she recognizes that the Awful Thing is about to happen to her. The uniforms show traces of alien skin cells, the footprints are not native to that planet, and also those footprints weren’t there the first time.

"I'm no doctor, but I don't think you're supposed to look like that."

“I’m no doctor, but I don’t think you’re supposed to look like that.”

Geordi’s next plan is to go back to the log and look for commonalities, which is always a good idea. As data confesses to being ‘strongly motivated’ to solve this problem in a way that he normally may not be, LaForge and Leijtan pore over the logs and she keeps insisting that the correct answer is to go to the planet, and starts getting a cluster headache and claustrophobia, follwoed by the shakes, a blue-veined rash on her neck, and webbed fingers.

Later in sick bay, they keep her in a low-light environment because of the photosensitivity. Also, her eyes are glowing yellow, and Geordi’s fingernails are starting to glow blue. (That last may simply be a side effect of the UV stage lighting, though.) Crusher manages to figure out the obvious – that Leijtan, the rest of the away team, and everyone on the planet five years ago, have all turned into these weird aliens.

With all the concerns about Geordi being next on the list, they’re reluctant to let Geordi out of sick bay. He suggests having the computer constantly monitoring his position – a solid plan. He goes back to examining the logs and systematically examining every method of detection the Starfleet video cameras can pick up.

Back in sick bay, Leijtan is now mimicking light that falls on her skin and beginning to block out sensor readings. Crusher and Nurse Ogawa start to do more science on her.

No, seriously. You have the technology to put a video camera on a head mount, but not a flashlight? What is wrong with you, Starfleet?

No, seriously. You have the technology to put a video camera on a head mount, but not a flashlight? What is wrong with you, Starfleet?

LaForge has noticed an anomaly in the logs – a shadow he can’t identify the source of. In order to get more information, he uses the information in the logs in order to create a holodeck simulation. Despite all the problems using the holodeck for duty-related purposes got him in last time. He moves over to holodeck three just as the hand tremors start. Because he’s on to something, I understand why he might not call Crusher (she’ll just order him to sick bay and off the case) but why not call Data to come keep an eye on him? He knows what comes next – an irrational desire to go to the planet.

The forensic possibilities implied by this scene would be amazing, like its applications for trials in “A Matter of Perspective,” or at least they would be if crimes happened all that frequently anymore. I wonder if on CSI: Federation holodramas you can go into a holodeck inside the holodeck to create a simulation of the simulated crime?

In an effort to figure out what’s causing the shadow, Geordi starts removing characters from the simulation, and what’s left behind is a vaguely humanoid shadow that the computer somehow reconstructed even though most of it was behind Mendez’ shadow. The computer also does not recognize the source. And when given an approximate size (humanoid) it can even create a blob in roughly the right position. It is, however, at that point that Geordi starts turning into a frog.

Crusher has at last figured out that there’s a parasite living in the Thymus and sending out retroviral instructions. Most of Leijtan is already overwritten, but luckily there exists a piece of technology that has proven in the past capable of overwriting damaged genes with healthy ones. I will give Crusher half a pass on this, because, in all fairness, she wasn’t actually present for that incident. She has to do it the hard way. After relaxing from a successful surgery, she calls up LaForge, only to find that he’s not aboard the ship. Because, you see, the transformation causes its subjects to generate a field that hides them from sensors, and the computer, which was set to track Geordi’s movements was not also set to report if he vanished from its tracking capabilities. Because that makes sense.

Yes, this. If I were designing a holodeck program to unnerve people who saw it I couldn't do it better than this.

Yes, this. If I were designing a holodeck program to unnerve people who saw it I couldn’t do it better than this.

No transporter activity has occurred and all the shuttles are still aboard (and apparently no one bothered to set an alarm in case either of those things happened because, once again, Starfleet security procedures are laughable) so they go to Geordi’s last known location and are confronted by this. Worf reverts to a perimeter search rather than saving the program and deactivating it. He’s lucky he’s good in a fight, because otherwise he wouldn’t have a job.

At roughly the same moment, Naked InvisiGeordi barges into the transporter room and beams down, overriding a security lockout that at least someone did think to put in place, even though it was ultimately useless. Now they have an hour to find him on the surface before he’s irretrievable. Data tinkers with one of the flashlights and turns it into a UV flashlight. He says “replace the emitter module and reconnect it to the power supply” as if ‘changing the bulb and putting the batteries back in’ is an operation that we should be impressed by. Come on, Data. We’ve all had a Maglite before. (This blog would be proud to accept sponsorship by Maglite for this post.) The good news is they’ve figured out his beamdown location, which is conveniently the exact same place they’re already familiar with.

Leijtan is lucid again, and seems to have some special insight into what happened. Apparently the parasite was how the aliens reproduce, which seems… terrible, actually. Like digger wasps only isntead of dozens of larvae feasting on a carcass, there’s just one offspring. It seems somewhat unsustainable, is what I’m getting at. Fortunately, that expertise also extends to being able to sense or intuit that the creatures are nearby, and not to scare them away with visual-spectrum light.

Well, the good news is Geordi doesn't need his VISOR any more...

Well, the good news is Geordi doesn’t need his VISOR any more…

Leijtan talks GlowGeordi off the ledge, literally, and back to the Enterprise. For a rave, probably. One also has to hope that they’re going to scan the thymus of everyone who beamed down, just in case. Also, Picard orders warning beacons put in place, so that nobody else will fall prey to this species reproductive cycle. I’ll just assume that there’s a sufficient ecosystem that they won’t experience a demographic bust and die out, because that would be kind of sad.

Did we miss something awesome?