The Enterprise encounters some sort of strange phenomenon that causes various parts of the ship to be slowly transformed into a copy of a long dead ancient civilization, while Data becomes possessed with multiple dead personalities from this civilization. Using his powers of super-archeology, Picard is able to deduce that if he wears a certain mask and spouts a bunch of nonsense at Data, he can make the whole problem go away. So he does.
Teleplay by Ronald D. Moore. Story by Christopher Hatton. Directed by Winrich Kolbe.
Sometimes it’s a bit hard to keep going with Next Generation reviews, because my impression is that other than the outstanding two hour finale, there just aren’t any more good episodes left. I could be wrong. I don’t remember them all very well. But my impression is that all I have to look forward to are the one with Ro, the one with Wesley, the one with Alexander, the one with DaiMon Bok, the one with Barclay, the one with Worf & Troi’s romance, and the one where the holodeck comes alive. And my impression that they all kind of stink.
But…at least Masks is behind me. Because that is what I watched this time around. I’m not entirely sure if I’ve ever seen the entire episode – I think I tuned in late, and for some reason I never felt compelled to watch this one again. All I recalled is that the whole thing felt like an excuse for Brent Spiner to play a whole bunch of characters, and then at the end Picard showed up spouting, “You are the sun, I am the moon, you are the words, I am the tune, play me,” and everything sorted itself out again. And it turns out, I was basically right.
There’s no real explanation for what is going on. There’s no sense of connection with make with this strange civilization that is causing all these problems. There certainly isn’t any sense behind why Picard’s “strategem,” if you can really call it that, would have any benefit. And there’s nothing interesting going on with any of our characters at all, including Data.
What this episode does have is Brent Spiner, who of course we all know is a good actor. Some of his characters work better than others. Ihat is okay (though a bit reminiscent of Lore), but I guess my favourite is Masaka’s father, whose personality is really nothing like we’ve seen Spiner do before on the show. Less interesting is Masaka herself, who seems to have no discernible personality except easily manipulated. Anyway, the guy had range, and that’s presumably all the producers were really going for here. Would have been nice to have had a story to go with it all, but you know, you can’t have it all.
So, yes, I hated Masks. I hated it when I first saw it, I hate it now. It’s up there with the worst episodes the show has ever produced: Shades of Gray, The Outrageous Okona, etc. It’s like the show is sticking its tongue out at us and saying “Ha! That’ll teach you to complain about Beverly getting ravaged by a space-ghost! You didn’t know how good you had it!
So no matter how uninteresting the rest of the season is, it’s got to be better than this, right?
• The only guest star listed is Ricky D’Shon Collins, who played young Eric in this story, for the second of three times.
Shout Out to the Past:
• Data makes a brief reference to his dreaming.
• This is the only episode I can remember that had no guest stars listed.
• It’s creepy when Data is first “taken” – although I’m not sure why the little symbols disappear off his face later on. I was falling asleep while watching this, though, so maybe I missed some sort of explanation?
• “Geordi, what does it feel like when a person is losing his mind?” asks Data, as the episode makes a half-hearted attempt to be interesting.
• The probe is causing the ship’s replicators to make things, but how is it causing those things to show up in the middle of rooms, etc.? I guess it’s effecting the transporters, too?
• Picard is concerned about people getting in the way when the transformation takes place, but he and the others don’t have a problem standing in the middle of it.
• Data is confined to quarters with guard standing outside – but it’s not locked? Or there’s no alarm?
• Brent Spiner plays six characters here: Data, Ihat, Masaka, a child, a Masaka-follower, and Masaka’s father. This ties his record from A Fistful of Datas.
• Picard is just so gosh-darn clever, getting everything right every single time.
• OK, that was kind of a nifty effect of everything going back to normal.
Dialogue High Point
The closest it gets to interesting is when Data as Ihat describes Masaka:
If she finds out, you can’t imagine her rage. She lets people die of thirst. A terrible death. Sometimes she burns them alive. She is glorious.