TNG: S5E06: “The Game”

In which Riker is a vector, Troi is indecent, and Wesley’s new girlfriend isn’t a shapeshifting wookie. 

"You can't put your finger there!"

“You can’t put your finger there!”

We open on Riker tangled in a net while an alien steals his communicator. To be fair, he’s wearing a bathrobe, she’s wearing lingerie, they’re on Risa, and I’m pretty certain even the mosquieto netting is just for show. No, what disturbs me about this scene is that in the 24th century they still rely on electric fans with blades. After their wrestling, she shows him a little AR game headset and puts it on him. And when Riker passes the first level we get to see his O-face.

‘Get to.’ That’s right. You know know what Jonathan Frakes thinks he looks like during a dopamine rush. Good look forgetting that. I’m fine, I have scotch for this.

Riker’s back from Risa and the Enterprise is en route to go chart a region of space and coordinate several science teams. Plus, Wesley Crusher is making an appearance as he’s on vacation and going back home to live with his mom for a few months.

"You got that this conversation wasn't about ice cream, right Will?"

“You got that this conversation wasn’t about ice cream, right Will?”

Geordi makes a special point of introducing us to Robin Leffler, who tells us about reconfiguring the sensors so that everyone can use them at once. She goes off to do her thing, and Riker drops a hint about this game he brought back from Risa, then goes to watch Troi be indecent with her ice cream in public. Riker introduces her to the game as “better than chocolate” because this episode is about addiction, and is therefore worrying territory for me as I drink my way through the future.

Wesley arrives and everyone does the surprise party thing in the conference lounge with some cake that Worf made and some shipboard duties that he might even get course credit for. Apparently, pranking is alive and well in the 24th century, and you can do things like reconfiguring showers to cover people in mud. The potential is almost literally limitless when you have replicators to work with and everyone is taking engineering courses. Also, Starfleet holds Sadie Hawkins dances, which seems an odd thing to make a point of dropping into the script.

So, Wesley starts struggling with calibrating a thing, and Robin Leffler takes him down a couple of pegs. One year at the Academy has apparently destroyed him. At least he’s smitten instead of upset about his bruised ego.

Meanwhile, Crusher calls Data down to sickbay for some help reprogramming a tricorder. Only it’s a ruse to distract him so she can hit his off switch and either reprogram him or use a laser scalpel to mess up his wiring. Sinister!



Wes and Picard have a chat about the Academy, and Boothby, and that time Picard was caught vandalizing Starfleet property over a girl that he failed a class over. However, their reminiscences are cut short when Crusher calls Picard (and Geordi) down to let him know Data is out of commission. Soon, Riker spreads the game to Geordi (somehow, since it goes in through the eyes it’s not clear how that’s going to work).

Wes and Robin are spraying hormones at each other, and everyone who’s played the game is doing their best to spread it around. Wes is too infatuated with Robin to want to try it, and Beverly pushes at it just hard enough that it’s creepy. Later in Ten-Forward, Wes and Robin bond over being highly traveled children of driven experts with maladjusted childhoods, and then the subject turns to the game. Rather than go find some empty quarters to bone in, they make a copy of the game and go to sick bay to do some SCIENCE! together.

On the plus side, it doesn't seem to be triggering Borg flashbacks.

On the plus side, it doesn’t seem to be triggering Borg flashbacks.

Point – the medical labs have the ability to emulate human neural responses. That must be really useful, but it also implies a level of understanding of the human brain, evolutionary neurology, and intelligence that… oh right. Data exists. They’ve cracked human-sized AI. Nevermind. Turns out, the game triggers all sorts of pleasure reactions and reprograms higher reasoning functions. Wes goes to tell Picard, who definitely wasn’t alone with Beverly earlier on made-up pretenses and is now sitting alone in his ready room with the lights dimmed. I wouldn’t worry about that, though.

The Game has reached critical mass and everyone on board is bothering Wesley and Robin to try it, so they go to the only person who couldn’t be addicted to try to repair him. It doesn’t take them long to find the laser scalpel damage and infer a grand conspiracy. Just in time to be on the alery for when the entire bridge crew goes hunting for them to make them play the Game. He and Robin figure it out in time to mock up some non-functional headsets as decoys. Then immediately take them off for some reason, even though it’s established that people walk around wearing the Game.

I think this species is hostile to the Federation because of the racial slur 'butt-head.'

I think this species is hostile to the Federation because of the racial slur ‘butt-head.’

Riker’s redheaded alien girlfriend looks a lot different in her uniform than she did in the nightie. The entire demeanor is different, too. Imperious and cold. Of course, remembering back to his fling with a planetary governess and Commendant Shoulderpads we can presume that this will not put him off in the least. Anyway, Picard more-or-less surrenders to her, and she starts giving orders to distribute the Game throughout the Federation on behalf of the Katarian Empire.

Seriously, why isn’t Wesley wearing the headset. He’s getting weird looks from everyone as he wanders around the ship to go to report to Robin, who’s been taken. He barely even had time to spout a line of exposition about his site-to-site transporter routine, which isn’t even that. It’s just an automated transport to one of the pads. A game of measures and countermeasures begins, and it’s interesting to compare his technique to Data’s in “Brothers.” Data thought of everything in advance and locked the entire ship. Wesley is just improvising, which gets him cornered by Worf and Riker and his eyes lasered. He even tries to resist playing the game once it’s on his face, but the game plays itself for you to make sure you’re hooked.

Just when all hope seems lost, in comes Data, the one-android rave machine. The strobe lights seem to deprogram everyone, and they thwart the wicked plot in the nick of time. Hopefully, Robin won’t get killed on a typical USS Enterprise Tuesday before Wes graduates so they can suck face some more.


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  1. Pingback: Worlds in a Blender | DS9: S2E14: “Whispers”

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