TNG: S5E14: “Conundrum”

In which Worf takes point, Ro takes what she wants, and Riker takes the doghouse. 

"Sometimes, you just gotta waste a fool."

“Sometimes, you just gotta waste a fool.”

We’re investigating some signals in some new region while Data is either trying to teach Troi chess or is about to be destroyed. Apparently, Troi is a chessmistress, and Data owes her a drink. Beverly is doctoring at a sprained shoulder and torn , and Riker is screaming at Ensign Ro for not following procedure. You know, normal everyday stuff, until an alien ship shows , refuses hails, and scans the Enterprise and starts interfacing with the data core. Picard tried to be friendly, but what can you do.

"SHOT THROUGH THE HEART, AND YOU'RE TO... shh Beverly I'm singing!"

“SHOT THROUGH THE HEART, AND YOU’RE TO… shh Beverly I’m singing!”

The shields don’t seem to help, and a green beam of light sweeps across the ship, hitting everyone’s eyes, makes Data stutter, reveals that Riker’s heart is on the wrong side of his chest, and makes everyone else lose their memory. Of their coworkers, of themselves, and so on. Now, since they’re all wearing uniforms, it ought to be trivial to determine who’s in charge. Even if you don’t know what the rank structure actually is, the uniforms have colors and pips. The colors are approximately evenly distributed, but there are more reds on what is clearly the control deck. And there are hundreds of people with low number pips, and only one with four, so Picard will probably stay in charge. And Riker, at least, remembers what a starship is. And Ro retains piloting knowledge, as does Worf retain tactical knowledge.

Since they know how to operate the ship, it seems like step one would be reviewing the recent sensor logs to determine what happened. As soon as they figure out if they’re still in danger or not, step two ought to be reviewing their mission logs to figure out… well. their mission. In the meantime, be defensive when confronted with anything made of technology that doesn’t look like yours. Problem solved, end of episode.

"Look, yellow-shirt-guy, I know you're trying to be helpful but you're being a major clam-jammer right now."

“Look, yellow-shirt-guy, I know you’re trying to be helpful but you’re being a major clam-jammer right now.”

In fact, Geordi sees debris in front of them, but the main computer may be down except for the BIOS. In fact, Worf takes charge, because he’s also decorated and more of an Othello than Picard’s Hamlet. Captain Worf assumes that the Enterprise is a ship of war. Also, without their preconceived relationship, Riker is a lot friendlier with Ro, and I bet they’re going to end up locking faces. But not with Third Wheel Geordi along!

Happily, they send him off to regain critical ship functions and he gets engines, weapons, and comms up. Picard and Worf struggle for control, but they’re all consumate Starfleet officers. Frankly, I was hoping for some headbutting, but even when Picard slips into command mode, Worf refuses to cooperate with me.

So, Data was making that drink for Troi when the memory wave happened, and it’s interesting that whatever it was affected him to. He thinks he’s the bartender now. Also, there’s no Guinan to use her spooky intuitive powers to guide us back on track. The alien wave was able to rewrite the brains of everyone of every species on the ship, the ship databanks themselves, and Data. That’s a versatile beam that we’ll never see again. But they couldn’t erase the connection between Troi and Riker, and Ro looks a little jealous.

Obviously he can't be a very effective XO - he doesn't even have a beard.

Obviously he can’t be a very effective XO – he doesn’t even have a beard.

Geordi gets the crew manifest up and running, and it confirms that Picard is the captain and Kieran MacDuff is XO. Wait, what? Now that you mention it, there has been a weird guy with three pips on the bridge. The question, then is whether the aliens rewrote Riker’s entry or erased it so he’d be nailed as a spy. Nope, just demoted him to second officer.

So, have you started wondering why MacDuff was planted on the ship? It turns out that the United Federation of Planets is at war with the Lysian Alliance, a group that none of the viewers have ever heard of. Presumably, the ship that did the mindwipe will turn out to be either the aggressor or defender in a war of extermination with said Lysian Alliance, and will have pulled in the Enterprise and plated an agent in order to draw the Federation into an actual state of war to wipe the Lysians out.

Given that we’ve never heard of the Lysian Alliance before, however, it’s likely that the Enterprise is going to show up to the fight like Jack Lambert at a second-grade game of touch football. That’s right, I know a sports reference. Okay fine, I looked up “scariest linebackers” and picked the guy who looks like having all of his teeth was only slowing him down. Anyway, the Enterprise is going to show up, realize the big bad scary Lysians are armed with pea shooters and nerf guns and can’t possibly be a threat to a government that builds Galaxy-class hulls, and Picard will stop Worf just before destroying a ship. There will be exposition and everyone will go home.

There’s some information planted in the computer that the Lysians may have a weapon that wipes out computer cores and memory, and the orders are specific enough that the Enterprise can’t confirm back with Starfleet, but Troi is worried. And apparently can’t sense the deception radiating off of MacDuff. Then again, if they have the ability to wipe out memories, there’s no reason they couldn’t have made him actually believe he’s Commander MacDuff. I’ll let it slide – if someone doesn’t know they’re lying, it’s hard to tell.

"I get the funny feeling I spend most of my off hours here... but I looked through your dresser and you haven't given me my own drawer yet, jerkface."

“I get the funny feeling I spend most of my off hours here… but I looked through your dresser and you haven’t given me my own drawer yet, jerkface.”

Just back from being told by Troi that he’s the only familiar thing to her on the ship, Riker finds someone in his quarters. You know, I was half-joking earlier, but this is an exceedingly entertaining plot. She shows up in his room and feels like she belongs there. But we know she doesn’t stay there, so unless a) Riker maintains a stock of women’s clothing for his various one-night-stands or Robert DeNiro-esque sky-pirate escapades, or b) Nobody in the future bothers with closets and they just replicate new clothes every day, they’re going to find out really fast that Riker’s guess (that they hate each other) is a lot more on the money than hers (that she regularly uses him like a meat puppet).

I apologize for the run-on sentence but I think you’ll agree it was worth it.

The next morning, they encounter a Lysian ship, and MacDuff runs up to tactical and prepares to blow it out of the sky, and Picard orders a tactical analysis. As was foretold in the prophecy, the little attack freighter is like a six-year-old swinging its arms at Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson while he holds the kid back with one hand and reads Better Homes And Gardens with the other. Also, the Lysians are hailing the Enterprise. MacDuff warns against opening comms, and eventually they are committed to the attack and have to destroy the ship.

I wonder if Troi's empathy is detailed enough to sense Larren radiating the feeling of "'bout to get me some of that."

I wonder if Troi’s empathy is detailed enough to sense Larren radiating the feeling of “’bout to get me some of that.”

Everyone is doing some research on their origins… as much as is possible anyway. Data has been considering whether he’s a standard Starfleet construct, a representative of a race of androids, or alone. Riker found a book of poetry that Deanna gave him. One presumes he found this after spending the night with Larren. I’m now just hoping that there’s no catfight sequence. This isn’t Real Housewives of the Federation, after all.

What is somewhat disappointing is that immediately after learning of this and Troi leaving, Riker shrugs it off and engages in some heavy fraternization. There is an examination of identity to be made here – is that Just Who Riker Is? I mean, he is something of a ladies’ man, but we haven’t seen him be callous about it before. Is that meaningfully different from Who Riker Would Be in a tabula rasa situation? I mean, I’m also assuming monogamous social structures, but Ro seems to think she’s not the type to share, so I don’t think that’s too big a leap. Even if poly-amorous relationships are more of an accepted norm in the Star Trek future (one assumes so long as everyone involved is informed and okay with it) I also do not see Ro as the type to share her toys. And we know Riker is okay, at least in theory, with the idea of remaining faithful to a single partner. I mean, jeezy petes, he’s been fantasizing about Minuet so much that she became his fake wife that time that alien kid nabbed him.

Everyone is very suspicious about how selective the damage has been. MacDuff offers to be a guinea pig for the medical procedure intended to restore their memories, but of course it won’t work because he’s a plan and probably an alien. His negative reaction crosses off a potentially successful procedure.

Man, you know what would have solved this mission immediately? If the Enterprise kept hard-copy backups somewhere. Like, if Starfleet ships had a safe in the ready room where they kept backups of mission logs somewhere so that computer viruses like that Iconian thing can’t destroy them. The future that was written before the Internet became a widespread thing is really, really bad at infosec.

Stage direction: Picard angsts at the stars.

Stage direction: Picard angsts at the stars.

Sidebar, I really like that they got an actor who’s almost as tall as Jonathan Frakes to play the agent. Other sidebar: what do these nubs on the hull do? I assume they must be part of the sensor array.

After their little chat about the righteousness of the cause, MacDuff starts recruiting Worf for a mutiny, in case Picard fails to murder all the people he’s supposed to murder. He takes the ship straight through and they destroy some unmanned drones armed with flashlights. Then they encounter the same space station that was god to the Edo people, only fully lit this time instead of greenscreened out.

Sure enough, MacDuff tries to relieve Picard when he refuses to murder fifteen thousand civilians, turns out to be an exoskeleton-monster, and gets phasered down. Everyone gets their memories back, and Riker has to confront Ro Larren and Deanna Troi, who look like they’re about to eliminate him from a game show. The end.


One thought on “TNG: S5E14: “Conundrum”

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