In which Crusher gengineers a quick fix and proves that the Federation can’t be trusted with ANYTHING. Also, kittens!
We open in Sick Bay. Riker is getting treated for a puncture wound in the neck because he was having sex with the new tactical officer in the arboritum. Or something. Barclay is listing symptoms, and Crusher is exasperatedly reminding him that she ordered him not to use WebMD, which was created two years after this episode aired. I see what you did there, Jim Clark and Pavan Nigam. Instead of Space murder-necrosis, he has a slight imbalance that Crusher diagnoses as a mild space-flu. He’ll be dead in 80 years unless the Federation quits poncing around on that youth serum. And Spot is approaching term for her pregnancy.
Turns out most humans are immune to this particular alien flu, but Barclay has a dormant gene that Crusher is going to wake up, which means her delivery agent has to be a custom-tailored retrovirus that runs its course in a few days and which her tabletop hypospray lab designed in, like, a minute tops. It had to have custom-designed it, because Barclay’s little dormant gene can’t possibly have cropped up before. You’ll see why. That said, I am prepared to concede that they probably have a few stock ‘delivery’ retroviruses which they can just ‘load’ with the correct gene. Still, that’s a level of medical technology that’s utterly terrifying if you think about it for more than about ten seconds, and it’s not even the credits yet. We even get to hear Data want to be surprised about the sex of Spot’s kittens, and also Nurse Ogawa, whose boyfriend was cheating on her back when Ensign Sito was alive, is pregnant. Ah, here come the credits.
The Enterprise is currently performing tactical field tests of their upgraded weapons. Now we know why Worf has that standing console – to hide his… ‘ridges’… when he gets to fire torpedoes. Sadly, one of them had a guidance system malfunction and can’t be self-destructed. It’s out of phaser range, too, and Picard takes Data to go chase it down. Picard is so bored he wants to pilot the shuttle himself. Therefore, Data hands off his pregnant cat to Barclay, the only other crewmember that Spot tolerates. Also, we have no idea who the father of Spot’s kittens is, but a few other crew have cats, so it’s probably possibly not a God-like Energy Being.
Worf is showing more frustration and stress than usual, and Riker orders him to take a break, so he goes to Ten-Forward, stands Troi up, and eats something that looks like George R.R. Martin wrote a book about Shoggoths. Meanwhile, Troi is drinking lots of water, craving salt, and complaining about the low humidity levels. The stress is really, really getting to Worf, who takes a nap, then tears up his bed and makes a nest on the ground. In his pajamas. He would look feral and wild, except that he’s in pajamas.
Everyone’s behaving weird. Riker seems to be having trouble keeping up with the sciencey talk, which to be fair to Riker has never been much of a problem for him. Barclay is unusually animated. Troi and Worf are fighting over the thermostat. Geordi is being lethargic. Worf is sneaking into Troi’s bath and getting rapey and bitey. Everything is terrible and it’s all over the ship. Crusher, having evidently never been taught firearms safety, tells Worf to open his mouth so she can examine his brand new throat-mounted acid sack. Now Crusher doesn’t have a face anymore.
I will say, the acting in this episode is pretty good. If you know what’s about to happen, you can see the cast slowly shading into it. Barclay and Nurse Ogawa’s body language, in particular, is top notch.
Picard and Data have taken three days to find their torpedo, and when they come back the ship is not where it was supposed to be. It’s two light-years away and adrift. Thankfully, for once in for-god-damn-ever, they actually get Space marginally right and just spin the shuttle to match the Enterprise, and dock aboard the newly christened USS Horror Movie. Theres slime everywhere, and once again those stupid-looking flashlights can’t possibly be helping.
Data and Picard find a humanoid shed skin with lizard-DNA in the corridor, which matches no species on the ship. They find damage to Troi’s door, break in, and find her floating face-down in her bathtub. it’s okay, though, she’s not dead. She has gills now, because her DNA is in the middle of being resequenced into frog DNA. Somehow this hasn’t killed her and dissolved her body into soup, though, so that’s pretty cool.
On the bridge, at least one crewman is dead and his console demolished. But he was human when he died, so at least they can put that into the letter to his parents. Not everyone on this ship will be so lucky, I’m guessing. Oh, plus you can see his eyes starting to water as the shot leaves him, since he can’t blink.
n Picard’s Ready Room, a neanderthal’d Riker is trying to eat Picard’s fish. Problem being, he can’t figure out how to open the tank. Speaking of which, whose job is it to beam fish food into the tank and fish poop out of the tank? This episode raises the important questions. Clearly, Riker’s boldness is directly correlated with his beard. Which is why Ensign Babyface lacked the moral fortitude to stick to his morality, but neanderthal Riker can give Picard the finger right to his face.
Turns out Crusher’s mutated T-cell that was designed to reactivate Barclay’s dormant gene has spread and is activating everyone’s Junk DNA and rebuilding it. We will gloss over why that’s stupid because clearly evolution works differently in that universe. I mean, humans and Klingons can breed despite being from different planets. Humans and Vulcans can breed despite having different oxygen-retention mechanisms in their blood. This is the sound of me glossing over it. This is the sound of me pouring more whisky.
Now here’s the question – do any of the fully nonhuman members of the crew – oh no wait, they ask that and Data answers it based on The Chase as well. Picard has also been affected, and is apparently going to become a lemur. Spoiler alert – we don’t get to see that prosthetic and it’s a god damn tragedy. Since the main computer is down, they go to Data’s quarters where he has a backup computer. The kittens have been born, but Spot has become an iguana. Fully become an iguana, too. No prosthetic. Another tragedy. Fortunately, it seems the virus wasn’t passed on through the placental tissue, but whatever antibodies Spot had were, so the kittens are immune. Oh hey, remember Nurse Ogawa was pregnant? If she’s somehow far enough along in her pregnancy for those systems to be in place they can probably science a cure!
I have a quibble. Earlier, we saw how some parts of the ship can go without maintenance for seven years. Yet after three days, the ship is completely adrift? Then again, most of the time, Worf isn’t prowling through the ship, killing helmsmen and spitting acid at things. Also, Engineering is covered in spiderwebs. Don’t think about where those came from.
Ogawa is some form of great ape or early homonid, but her embryo is fully human. Unfortunately, Worf chooses that moment to try to break down the door. Lemur-Picard is really, really unhappy about being cornered. Fortunately, fully-human-Picard apparently ordered the doors shored up from how flimsy they used to be. Picard theorizes that because Worf is falling for Troi, de-evolved-Worf has imprinted on her, so they spray her hormones throughout the ship. Or rather, Picard takes the aerosol sprayer and manually starts laying the bait down. Once again, he finds himself trapped in a Turbolift. Turbolift problems are getting to be a habit with him. Fortunately, as a lemur, he can climb his way out fairly well. Unfortunately, Worf chases his down and spits acid on his arm, and in return he electocutes Worf with the live wire we saw in act two. This lasts long enough for Data to create, aerosolize, and distribute the cure.
In the Root Cause Analysis, Crusher discovers that Barclay has some sort of genetic anomaly that mutated her synthetic T-cell and cause the problem, so I guess it is therefore possible that they might have had that specific retrovirus on hand after all. Boo. I liked my earlier implication better. Oh well. At least Barclay’s Protomorphosis Syndrome sounds better than ‘the Reginald Spider-Flu.’ Still, seems like Troi is going to be putting in overtime before she even has a chance to help Crusher come to grips with having a synthetic face.