Star Trek 221: Conundrum

221. Conundrum

FORMULA: Clues + Data's Day (where Selok = MacDuff) + Yesterday's Enterprise (where Guinan = Troi)

WHY WE LIKE IT: A cool dilemma. Riker and Ro get it on.

WHY WE DON'T: An absurd premise.

REVIEW: Ok, let's talk about the premise for a moment. The Satarrans have the technology to selectively inhibit the memories of everyone on the Enterprise (of all species and including Data) AND to erase exactly the right files from its computers as well as add false mission plans. All this with a simple probe ray thingie in a single pass. One of them also transports himself aboard and infiltrates the crew with what seems to be some kind of cloaking disguise that can fool Beverly's medical equipment. But these same aliens can't seem to win a war against opponents who are 100 years behind the Federation in weapons technology. Even if they can't use their tech on the Lysians for some reason, can't they just mindwipe a Ferengi trader and steal some photon torpedos? The plan is incredibly complicated, and as ridiculous as Troi winning a chess game against Data, using "intuition". MacDuff seems to know a lot about Starfleet operations for a guy from a species the crew has never heard from. There. I wanted to get it out of the way because this is not at all what this episode is about.

It's really about the characters. Take away their baggage, their back stories, their functions, and see how their personalities play out. And it works admirably. Conundrum reveals Worf's ambition, but also that he's learned his lesson since The Drumhead and not as receptive to secret whispers and conspiracy mongering. His honor is part of his core being, even if he doesn't remember the particulars of his culture. The same is true of Picard's reason and love of peace. His leadership style has never been more obvious. Geordi and Beverly get the short end of the stick as usual, but Data thinking about his origins remains a constant.

The best part of the episode, however, is Riker's love triangle with Troi and Ro. Riker is appropriately rakish, but it's Ro Laren who shines as the aggressor. This will all be built into the female Bajoran psyche exemplified in DS9, but here, it's all about Ro and her behaving on her own terms. If she ever regrets bedding Riker, she certainly doesn't show it. Possibly, she sees it as a bargaining chip to get the first officer off her back. The final scene is a hoot, as he gets his comeuppance from both his ladies. A nice touch: The episode immediately ends with a horn riff on the original series theme, which beautifully ties into Riker's similarity with Kirk and the way the original episodes ended on comedic notes.

A few words on the guest actors is in order: Erich Anderson delivers his usual smarmy performance as MacDuff, the appearance of which takes much of the air out of the balloon, but then this isn't a proper mystery. More interesting is Liz Vassey as Kristin, the "girl in the bathing suit". She gets a lot of dialogue for a no-name, so seemed primed to show up again later (à la Robin Lefler), but alas no. It's too bad too. She's now enjoying a lot of airtime on CSI and is super-hot. Oh, and the Edo vessel from Justice shows up as Lysian Central Command. It's an okay performance.

LESSON: Once a playa, always a playa.

REWATCHABILITY - High: A great character piece with both drama and comedy, which reminded me, for some reason, of the Riverworld series (well, To Your Scattered Bodies Go, at any rate), with its "characters we know but who don't know each other plunged into a mysterious situation" vibe. Who cares if the plot device is nonsense?

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