Star Trek 220: The Masterpiece Society

220. The Masterpiece Society

FORMULA: Up the Long Ladder + The Naked Now + Half a Life

WHY WE LIKE IT: People actually reacting realistically to matter transport.

WHY WE DON'T: Another dull Troi romance. Technobabble aplenty. Prime Directive, broken.

REVIEW: By-the-numbers Trek featuring a colony of genetically engineered humans and a big piece of stellar matter heading for their world. So of course, you need a technobabble solution up in the sky, and some ethical dilemmas down below. The former is your usual forgettable talking and aiming tractor beams; the latter unfortunately makes the cast act out of character.

The stuff with the stellar core fragment is of course dull, with the tension supposedly coming from life support having to be shut down to power the tractor emitters. The way it's done, you could just try again and again and eventually get the fragment really off course, so whatever. Further, the solution is found in how the VISOR keeps Geordi's brain from overloading from the extra sensory input. It's all jargon to us anyway, but it manufactures a forced irony that these perfect peoples' problems can be fixed with technology created for someone who's handicapped. Spare me.

But what about the human drama? Well, you have Troi falling in love with the colony's leader. She has the worst taste in men, or maybe she's incapable of any onscreen chemistry. We're TOLD that sparks fly, but it's hard to believe. This leads her to have a talk with Picard that's more than a little awkward. Reducing the captain to an arbiter of high school romances is not paying service to the character. I do like the looks Deanna gets from Riker, but otherwise, this is a totally bogus subplot. She actually talks like she would leave the Enterprise for Aron? And he's ready to contaminate the gene pool that way? Come on now.

The whole "genetically integrated" concept of Genome Colony is equally dubious. Just having someone from the ship walk around is dangerous to the balance? And yet the gene pool is sturdy enough to take a random death or two. There's the ridiculous dilemma about whether to let the Enterprise help, thus risking social contamination but not be destroyed. And in the end, Picard makes the absolute worst decision and only afterwards cries over his spilt milk.

There are some good bits, such as the matte painting and the colonists reacting with wonder at people beaming in. Geordi's relationship with Hannah Bates is good, and it's one of his better moments when he calls her on her bull. How does this episode match up to later claims that genetic engineering is illegal in the Federation (which in fact means that the colonists who want to rejoin the world at large will NOT get the opportunities they seek)? Picard at least shows distaste at the idea, but maybe there's a difference between special breeding and actual genetic manipulation (well, there probably would).

LESSON: Deanna is a sucker for effetism.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium-Low: Yet another episode that's okay to watch, but totally skippable. This was the TNG episode I always missed (like The Tholian Web for TOS and Think Tank for Voyager), and when I finally did years later, it confirmed my suspicion that I hadn't miss a lot.


Alain Degrace said...

Same pattern for me. The only thing I remembered from my first viewing was the bit about the visor. The rest was blank and I believe this is only the second time I watch it.


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