Geordi works frantically to find a way to free the ship from an energy-draining radiation field before the shields collapse and the crew begins to die. He interacts with a hologram simulation of Dr. Leah Brahms, one of the Enterprise‘s designer to solve this problem. They come up with potential solutions even as Geordi becomes attracted to the simulation of Dr. Brahms. In the end, the Enterprise escapes by shutting down engines and allowing Picard to manually fly the ship out of danger with only thrusters.
Teleplay by Ron Roman and Michael Piller & Richard Danus. Story by Michael Wagner & Ron Roman. Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont
I had vague memories of this episode, that it was pretty decent, if a little silly. I think I may be remembering it better than it is in light of the sequel, where the Leah Brahms turns up, pointing out the silliness that is on display here. In any case, this original story is certainly satisfactory in its production, but the story leaves a lot to be desired. It’s nice to see an episode focusing on Geordi (and this is perhaps the first one that truly focuses primarily on Geordi, though there have been other episodes that he’s had good parts in.) LeVar Burton is certainly up to the task, but in the end the story is sort of lame, but lame in the perspective of the relatively strength of the third season that we’ve seen up to this point.
How is it lame? Well, let’s start with the whole conceit of having Geordi creating the simulation of Leah Brahms to help him solve an engineering problem. The computer can’t create that knows more about something than it does, right? If the computer is thus capable of creative problem solving, why don’t the crew members make use of this function more often? I mean, if the computer has access to the knowledge of every Starfleet official who has ever logged their findings, and then to anticipate what sort of innovations those people might have come up with in light of new circumstances, than that’s a pretty powerful resource to have at your disposal! Frankly, it’s a little ridiculous, and a bad line to cross just to facilitate this awkward Geordi romance plot.
That awkward romance is redeemed by the sequel (in my memory, anyway), when the “real” Leah calls out Geordi on the absurdity of the closing scene here. The idea of course is that it’s kind of a love story between Geordi and his ship, but what really comes across is just a tale of a guy who is unable to win over a real woman, but finds that he can connect with a fake one who like all the same things that he does. Is the best way to deal with this crisis really for Geordi to basically go off by himself and poke around the internet? It makes him look a good engineer, but a really poor Chief engineer. Where is his team? Aren’t there other talented engineers on board who can help? And he’s talking about realigning dilithium chambers and what not, so why doesn’t he go into a holographic warp engine? How is being in a holographic lab more helpful than being in his real engineering room?
And worst of all is the actual “solution” to the problem, which basically amounts to taking down their sales and rowing for a few minutes. Fortunately, it’s not a very big trap, I guess. I must have missed the moment where they re-establish control over the impulse engines (originally the trap makes their engines useless) to get them moving in the first place. It’s hard to imagine that this didn’t occur to anybody before. And dramatically, Geordi coming up with the idea is not justified – nothing happens in his work with fake Dr. Brahms to lead to this epiphany. After failing a bunch of times, he just seems to think of it. Frankly, it makes most of his work on the holodeck, and thus most of the episode, feel like a waste of time – like maybe he would have had a solution if he wasn’t distracted by the relationship dynamics with his idealized woman.
I’m not sure how to feel about Picard being the one to actually pilot the ship out. I guess he just feels responsible for the ship – sort of echoing how the captain of the ancient vessel took responsibility for his ship’s demise. Maybe it’s a moment of redemption after Picard’s tactical error of firing phasers at the radiation emitters. Ultimately, it just seems to be an opportunity for Picard to have a Crowning Moment of Awesome, just because he’s Picard! It’s a good thing those backwards religiously-susceptible Mintakans weren’t around to see that, or there might be a bit more All hail the Picard! going on around here.
• Susan Gibney will reappear as the real Leah Brahms in a couple of years. She also plays Erika Benteen in a couple of episodes of Deep Space Nine.
• Albert Hall (the actor, not to be confused with the famous concert hall in London) plays Galek Dar. He also appeared for a few episodes in a small but memorable role in Season Three of 24, as the old guy whose death Sherry Palmer contributes to by not allowing him access to his heart medication.
• Julie Warner plays Christy Henshaw in one more episode of Next Generation. I also recognize her from the cute ensemble drama-comedy-romance Indian Summer.
Setting Up the Future
Guinan’s comments about a bald man who once showed kindness to her anticipate revelations that will come much later in the series, in the Time’s Arrow two parter.
The revelation that O’Brien built model ships in bottles is commented upon, after a fashion, in the series finale, All Good Things….
• The opening date scene with Geordi and Christy Henshaw, including Geordi trying to put his arm around Christy – very awkward!
• More sage advice from Guinan, this time to Geordi.
• Pretty funny moment with Data at the start, where he imitate’s Wesley’s “Uh oh.”
• The smiles between Riker and Troi at Picard’s enthusiasm over the historical ship are cute.
• Riker has a good response to Picard’s comment of “We have examined every conceivable risk,” regarding going and visiting the derelict ship himself. He says, “The risks on a ship this old and fragile are inconceivable.” Of course, he is right. The idea of Riker being able to stop his Captain from going on dangerous Away Missions is getting less and less plausible.
• Part of Dr. Crusher’s emergency protocols are to move everyone to odd numbered decks. I’m not sure I get that. Maybe it’s just to limit the number of places that people are going to be needing treatment?
• Utopia Planitia is a real life place on Mars, and apparently where the shipyards are located where the Enterprise was built. I think this their first mention in the series?
• Leah Brahms, when she first appears, with her space-fashions, is an odd looking woman.
• Good comeback from Geordi, and contender for the episode’s best dialog: Leah says, “I’m not used to having people question my judgments,” to which Geordi responds, “And I’m not used to dying!”
• Geordi pointing out to holo-Leah that what she is proposing is “humanly impossible” is a bit obvious. Characters on TV shows only ever say things that way so that the being they are speaking to can respond with “But I am not human” or the like.
Dialogue High Point
The best moment is also one of the funniest, when Picard laments to his crew “Didn’t anyone build ships in bottles as boys?” He gets the following responses:
Worf: I did not play with toys.
Data: I was never a boy.