TNG: S5E15: “Power Play”

In which I should design Starfleet equipment, the crew get possessed, and the writers were obviously high. 

Man, space is awesome. Faster than Light travel can't get here fast enough.

Man, space is awesome. Faster than Light travel can’t get here fast enough.

You know what’s cool about space? Sometimes there’s a habitable planet orbiting a gas giant, and ionizing radiation from the gas giant doesn’t kill everyone. Wait, maybe that’s what’s cool about fiction. I always get those two things confused. Anyway, the Enterprise has found a weak distress call coming from the moon, coming from a Daedalus-class ship from at least 170 years ago, and more likely corresponding the the Essex, which went missing 200 years ago. Picard is about to give up on it as a lost cause, because veryone down there has to be dead, but Troi says different.

The EM interference on the surface is too dangerous to beam down, but they can take a shuttle instead. This seems like a terrible idea, there has to be some better method for getting to the surface than climbing into a three-person coffin that is guaranteed to crash on the way. Even if the intertial dampers mean that everyone can walk away from a five-meter box falling from outer space, now you’re stuck with a broken shuttle on the surface of a planet you can’t beam out of. So then what?

It is hard not to read a sense of ‘well, we’re going to die down here and it’s your fault’ when Riker assesses the situation at Troi, but fortunately, the storm looks super weird and unnatural, so they’ll probably find a way to shut it off. If not, snatches of dialogue suggest that the Enterprise itself might be able to weather the storm long enough to rescue them. Why didn’t they just land the ship in the first place, then? Because shut up, that’s why.

Geordi and O’Brien are going to jigger the transporters so that a single person might successfully beam down with transporter pattern enhancers – essentially a mobile transporter server that provides send power and does extra handshake checks. I would like to think that Riker, Troi, and Data brought some down in the shuttle and that they were wrecked in the crash, instead of believing that nobody thought to bring them in the first place. Actually, I would like to think that transporter pattern enhancers are part of the standard shuttle loadout since the things get used for rough weather anyway.

Or  Starfleet should have a torpedo which deploys them. Put them on the ends of tungsten-carbide rods and encase the machinery in inertial dampers. This might make that model no longer man-portable, but they wouldn’t need to be at that point.

Must be the Andorian Syph.

Must be the Andorian Syph.

Picard permits O’Brien to go despite the risk, but before they can beam out, a lightning bolt hits O’Brien, the entire team gets knocked on their backs, and little Tinkerbells (Tinkers-bell?) infest Troi, O’Brien, and Data. Apparently, nobody wants Riker. He regains consciousness long enough to activate the enhancers and beameveryone up to safety.

So you know how the storm knocked out the shuttle, and we were all wondering why Data wasn’t affected? No? Nobody on the ship was wondering that either? Well, if they had been then the screwiness with his speech processor could be explained away by that. And also his insistence on starting their search pattern with the southern pole of the moon. Also, Troi is insisting on a search of the southern pole, and Data, O’Brien, and Troi take control of the bridge just after Riker transfers command away. Apparently, Data is inhabited by the least patient tinkerbell, because he couldn’t wait a few hours to scan the crash site before Riker would have followed his suggestion.

O’Brien, Data, and Troi are now on the lam trying to take the ship. Rather than be sensible in any way, Worf stops the turbolift they’re in, I guess on the assumption that they’ll just quietly wait for capture. Hey, you know what would be better than that? Beaming them directly into the brig. Instead, they’re alerted to pursuit and take off their commbadges. Data apparently has the capacity to break open the wall panel and shut down the forcefield from inside. This is surprising, because a few scenes ago when he was pounding on his console in frustration, it did not break. Get your story straight, episode. This is a train wreck.

Our villains bust into Ten-Forward, where Keiko is sitting with her crying baby, and now it’s a hostage situation. To give security credit, they would have done a pretty good job if the tinkerbell squad wasn’t immune to phaser beams now. The security lockout they set up means that in order to nullify their protection, all computer function in the saucer section would have to be shut down.

Good thing you have a secondary bridge that’s not in the saucer section then. Gawd.

A dynamic is definitely emerging between the Tinkerbell trio. Troi is definitely inhabiting the brains, and Data the muscle. By the Superman II precedent, this would make O’Brien the ‘beauty’ archetype. Oh well, not every trope is perfect. Troi begins the negotiations by demanding the ship move to a southern Polar orbit. Picard does this as slowly as possible. Meanwhile, Crusher has figured out that Riker’s broken arm is what kept him from being posessed – the tinkerbells don’t like pain, so Geordi figures out a way to send a pain signal that will even hit Data, and Picard offers to take the place of the hostages who need medical attention.

"I remember how to override a transporter attempt but not what babies are."

“I remember how to override a transporter attempt but not what babies are.”

Keiko and the baby are there, so we get a moment where O’Brien’s humanity might reassert itself, but then it doesn’t. When Picard gets to Ten-Forward, Troi claims to be Bryce Shumar of the Essex, but of course even a 22nd-century crew would be a little more professional than they have been so far. A real starfleet officer would, for example, not have jumped the gun like Data did and forced the confrontation.

She does seem to know all of the pertinant information that Picard is using to verify her identity, and also claims that all they want is to stop being alive and stuck in a magnetic storm. Just to rest. While this conversation is going on, Ro and LaForge are crawling through the jeffries tubes, drilling a hole in the floor, and getting ready to do their rescue attempt. Of course, everone has to be standing in an arbitrarily small circle, which seems unlikely to occur by chance.

"Let's all stand in the paths of these bright red laser dots. That's a sign of good luck, right?"

“Let’s all stand in the paths of these bright red laser dots. That’s a sign of good luck, right?”

Troi/”Shumar” claims that all she wants to do is have their remains beamed up to the ship and transported to Earth for burial. When Picard digs his heels in, they get ready to start killing hostages. Fortunately, they also cluster at exactly that moment, but it takes just slightly too long and Data gets out of the circle. Well, at least we know the plan works, if they don’t screw it up again.

The Tinkerbells send up precise coordinates of the remains, but Riker is smart enough not to transport up stuff they can’t scan, and also you can’t transport up stuff you can’t scan. Imagine trying to receive a fax that can’t be read in the first place, is all I’m saying. Picard offers them safe passage to a transporter pad in the cargo bay, on the condition that they can’t take all the hostages along. Of course, it’s clearly a ruse, you big dumb idiots. In possibly the one bright spot of this episode, they go through a move/countermove very quickly where Ro thought of retaining shuttlecraft transporters and O’Brien noticed it because he’s an expert. It wasn’t even the main plan, just a wild shot. If you have multiple plans and any of them can succeed, it’s more believable than only having one elaborate plan that must succeed.

Bryce Shumar, headed for the Pacific. Those of us who knew him best talk about... wait, wrong story.

Bryce Shumar, headed for the Pacific. Those of us who knew him best talk about… wait, wrong story.

Turns out the Tinkerbells are five-hundred-year-old prisoners living in an electromagnetic stasis-gulag. They tried to steal the Essex two hundred years before, and now they’ve got the Enterprise. Fortunately, the stasis field works, and they return the tinkerbells to the planet to try again later. Hopefully they’ll put up a quarantine beacon at least?

Did we miss something awesome?