In which Geordi drives dunk, has his brains scrambled, and is never completely whole again.
For those following along on Netflix, the intro pic to this is hella uncomfortable. But enough spoilers: Geordi is going to an artificial intelligence seminar on Risa, because if you’re the Federation why wouldn’t you have every conference on Risa? Actually, they do have a lot of conferences, and I bet the Bacteriological Flow Rate conferences are still stuck in whatever the Federation equivalent of the flyover states is.
Anyway, Geordi is relaxing in his shuttlecraft with a replicated Mai Tai, because Picard has ordered him to get there early and take some of his accumulated vacation days. It is also worth noting that the shuttlecraft is still not going at Warp. Geordi is also trying to play a game with the computer and it quizzes him on quantum states. Geordi also does not know the alphabet. It’s okay, he’s an engineer, he doesn’t need it. As he does his quiz show, a Romulan warbird decloaks and kidnaps him.
Point of order – given that he was three hours from Risa at sublight speeds, how important was kidnapping Geordi that they decloaked in one of the most heavily-populated non-security-council Federation systems out there? This has to be like putting someone in a headlock and dragging them down the street outside the airport at Disneyworld. Someone’s gonna notice.
Meanwhile, the Enterprise is trundling along carrying an old Klingon dignitary to a colony to negotiate. He laments the lack of brutally crushing a rebelling province, almost compliments Picard, and is remarkably tactful about having to work with Worf.
Meanwhile, Geordi is being strapped into an interrogation chair while a Romulan surgically altered to resemble him goes to Risa in his place. Meanwhile, their chair clamps on to his temple implants and starts force-feeding him horrible images while a shadowy female Romulan whose face is entirely hidden in shadows looks on. She better turn out to be important, because otherwise this scene is just Awkward Exposition Fairy desperately needing to be housebroken. It’s really hard to imagine that this shadowy observer that sounds suspiciously like Denise Crosby didn’t read up on the operant conditioning technique that they flew deep into Federation space for.
Back on the Enterprise, the Klingon ambassador is managing to work with Worf with only minor needling. There’s also the matter of Worf crushing Duras’ skull and stabbing him in the heart winning him back some measure of respect with the Klingon council, even as it distances him from his place in Starfleet. Poor Worf, caught between two worlds and never quite belonging to one or the other.
The Romulans are feeding Geordi an image of Ten-Forward and apparently they’ve broken him enough that he’s almost willing to kill O’Brien without hesitation. The conditioning is almost complete, and Geordi is clearly being prepared as an assassin. He’s returned to the Enterprise in plenty of time and still relaying telemetry to the Romulans. They are very good at their jobs, even Troi picks up his mental state as ‘relaxed’ rather than ‘a tightly wound spring ready to snap and laser someone through the chest.’ We should be very extremely worried.
That said, Data picks up on a mysterious transmission on an unusual frequency. Much as I enjoy railing against Starfleet security practices, they’re right on the mark when it comes to mysterious energy phenomena. Honestly the Romulans might have had more success disguising their transmissions if they just had a Romulan in a gold uniform and a ‘Definitely not a Romulan Spy’ sandwichboard following Geordi around.
The rebels have access to Federation medical supplies, but of course the Federation doesn’t cut off access to humanitarian aid. The rebels also have Federation-make phaser rifles, though, which is harder to explain. The Klingon colonial governor accuses Picard of lying and Picard responds with either a Klingon swear or by gargling lava rocks. Since this is a fictional plot and coincidences don’t exist, one could suspect that the conflict has been ginned up by the Romulans to force the Enterprise onto the scene so that Geordi can blow up the ship and take a couple of Klingon dignitaries with it, destabilizing the alliance and getting rid of a ship that Tomalak has a rage boner for.
The conditioning has some side effects – in Ten-Forward, Geordi deliberately spills a drink on O’Brien, and then a scene later is working with Data to verify the Federation origin of the phaser. As it turns out there’s an inconsistency – one of its specs is well above Federation standards. The conditioning does not, however, leak into his diagnostic ability, and he successfully pins the forgery on the Romulans.
Data detects another energy spike and they begin to narrow it down, but Geordi is in the cargo bay doing something with long basso string backing, so you know it’s sinister. He beams down a crate of weapons, which is intecepted by the local Klingon leadership, and things begin to get dire. In fact, Geordi is being super helpful by actually tracking down the source of the transport he initiated. He either doesn’t remember he did it, or is so confident in his skills that he can literally put himself on the list of suspects and not worry about it. I lean towards the former, and the realization that the Romulans are so good at sleeper agent programming that they come back around to being bad at it.
That said, in the Post CSI era, Geordi insisting on a scan of the isolinear chips that he touched with his bare hands is kind of hilarious. Get Crusher in there with a DNA scanner and enhance, enhance, enhance. The good news is that they are tracing everyone who was in that cargo bay that day, the bad news is they don’t have communicator location logs that can be accessed in discrete time boxes. Come on I have worked for companies with less technical savvy who could give a list of building accesses down to the minute. Why don’t they track this, again?
The Ambassador, after having all this explained to him, is sitting in his quarters having calimari and red wine. Which is interesting because the Klingon empire has always been an allegory for the USSR, the culture is a heavily modified Japanese knockoff, but nobody ever thinks of them as Italians. Geordi comes in, but as it turns out Geordi is receiving orders from the Klingon ambassador, and all he’s supposed to do is kill the planetary governor, not blow up the whole ship. Oh, and claim that it’s a sanctioned Starfleet action. I would have thought he was going to kill the Ambassador. Oh well.
The conditioning is starting to have stronger side effects – he can’t sleep and goes to the doctor, after calling O’Brien to make sure the Chief is okay.
Actually, let me back track. Let’s remember that a very short time ago, a Klingon in the Officer Exchange program was a Romulan spy using a modified space-insulin hypospray to smuggle data out through amino acids. Shortly before that, a Vulcan ambassador turned out to be a deep-cover Romulan agent. The Klingons have engaged in this because they feel like they’re ready to take on the Federation after having recovered from the Praxis disaster, while the Romulans apparently feel that if they can get the Klingons and the Federation fighting each other, they can sweep in and pick up the pieces. They have something Big planned.
Data scans the exotic wave and determines that it most closely matches human neural signals, and apparently the Computer can infer that it is a remote control signal for humans, and then figures out that Geordi is probably the target, scans the shuttle for confirmation, and finally finds deformations consistent with a tractor beam in the hull – everything else has been successfully doctored.
It comes down to the wire as Geordi gets ready to assassinate his target, but is interrupted by O’Brien, who is the last person who should be getting in his way today. He figures out that Geordi is trouble and orders Worf to take care of it. This doesn’t work because Worf is cursed by the Great Bird of the Galaxy, but it does alert Picard in time to divert the kill shot.
Data, the great detective, gets a parlor scene in the cargo bey where he explains the plot we all just watched. Picard and the Klingon ambassador were the only people who could have been sending the signals, and the Ambassador tries to do the last minute weasel. It does not work. Sadly, it’s not all fun and games – Geordi is still a mess and may have to deal with the aftereffects for the rest of his life. Sad strings.