A medical accident prompted by what should have been a routine sickness contracted by Mr. Barclay releases a disease in the Enterprise that causes everyone to genetically alter into different life forms: Troi into an amphibian, Worf into a monster, Riker into a caveman-type humanoid, and so on. Only Data and Picard, who were not on board, are unaffected. They discover a cure utilizing genetic material from Nurse Ogawa’s unborn baby, and are able to cure everyone, even as the monstrous Worf is attempting to kill them.
Written by Brannon Braga. Directed by Gates McFadden.
A show like Star Trek: The Next Generation walks a tricky line with its audience. We watch the show ready even desiring for an episode to transport us to some place unusual in terms of the whole science fiction arena. We want to surprised and to be challenged about the way we think about life. At the same, however, the production needs to convince us of its ideas. We need to be made to accept them and welcome them, even if we come into the room ready to suspend or disbelief over a lot. The script, cast and the production values need to work together to get us to say something like, “Yeah, I get this, this makes sense, no problem.” The main problem with Genesis as an episode is that ultimately fails to do this.
I blame the script. Though not all of it. Actually, most of the episode works pretty well. There’s not really anything wrong with the acting–and Patrick Stewart of course is particularly good as a scared lemur-like human. And the directing (by Gates McFadden, directing her first and only episode of Next Generation) is perfectly fine and has got some genuinely creepy moments in it. And the effects and production values are all as good as you’d want them to be.
No, the problem is that the story is all just so ridiculous. Even if you accept the idea that activating dormant genetic information in people would turn them into various primitive species (something that I have a hard time swallowing – though I’ve read in one place that it makes scientific sense and in another place that it makes sense, but that in actuality such a thing would just kill the people), it’s just mind-bending to suggest that this has happened because of a fairly routine medical procedure! Really, if you are going to turn Spot into iguana and Barclay into a spider, than you’ve got to give me a bit more to hold onto than that. Honestly, I think if the whole thing had been about some malevolent alien technology that caused the same effect on the crew, maybe I could have accepted it all–although of course that would have required a different sort of climax. But the story’s attempts to keep the science “grounded” paradoxically make it just seem like unbelievable gibberish. And it makes people in the future look a bit like fools. I mean, it’s lucky Barclay joined Starfleet and was out in space when all this happened, otherwise his loopy genetic anomaly could have caused all life on earth to de-evolve!
The tone at the end of the story is also wrong. A lot of bad stuff has happened. Probably everyone has been traumatized. Worf tried to rape Counselor Troi and kill Picard. Somebody actually did kill poor Ensign Dern. And yet the conclusion just makes a joke out of it all, simply to try to keep Barclay in the middle of things: “I think I should clear my calendar for the next few weeks,” says Troi. It’s a funny line but it makes the conclusion, when you find out what’s actually gone on, even more awkward than it already was.
Anyway, in spite of some tense moments, you can’t really call Genesis a good story, although I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as its general reputation suggests.
• The only non recurring cast member to be credited this episode is Carlos Ferro as Ensign Dern. Most of his work (according to IMDB) has been voice work in cartoons and video games, including the voice of Michael Corleone in two Godfather II video games!
• Dwight Schultz, best known as Murdock on The A Team, makes his last of five Next Generation appearances as Lt. Barclay. But don’t worry, fans, he also shows up in the movie Star Trek First Contact and about half a dozen episodes of Star Trek Voyager.
Shout Out to the Past:
• We learn about Nurse Ogawa’s pregnancy, which hearkens back to what we’ve heard before about Alyssa’s relationship with nearly never-seen Andrew.
• This episode continues, to a degree, the whole Worf-Troi romantic relationship thing.
• Troi commands the Bridge, referencing back to her promotion in Thy Own Self.
• Dr. Selar is mentioned.
Setting Up the Future:
• Same as above, we’ll hear about Alyssa’s pregnancy again, as well as the Worf-Troi relationship.
• OK, Riker rolled into a cactus on a date
• Barclay has a few funny lines in sickbay: “It’s Terrelian Death Syndrome, isn’t it?” And “Doctor! My capillaries are shrinking!”
• Spot’s pregnant! Ogawa is pregnant! Two recurring characters are pregnant, in the same episode.
• Funny line from Data: “I have spent the past nine weeks as an expectant parent. I would be happy to share my insights with your husband. If my experience is any indication, he will need all the help he can get.” It’s all part of a very light-hearted teaser to what is going to be quite a creepy episode.
• I like Worf’s pride at his work with the weapons systems. And the torpedo has a spread pattern called “Delta 9-4” (sounds like they have a lot of spread patterns to choose from.)
• I also enjoy Data’s disapproving response to Barclay asking about Spot’s mate: “Spot has escaped from my quarters on several occasions and there are twelve male felines on board. I intend to run a full DNA analysis on the kittens once they–“ They don’t spay and neuter their pets?
• Worf is wolfing down some hideous Klingon food. I guess Worf and Troi are on a date of sorts, though Worf seems to stare at that waitress in a very awkward way.
• I remember from the beginning of the series I assumed we’d eventually see a story where Worf reverts to a more savage form, but I didn’t imagine it would be like this.
• It’s very strange how slow everyone is to notice how strange everyone is behaving–either others or themselves–even though pretty much the entire crew is having serious issues.
• Troi commands the bridge for the first time since being promoted. “I need a bath. You have the bridge.”
• No, Dr. Crusher, don’t stare into Worf’s mouth when he’s acting so strangely and has a newly grown venom sac! As questionable as Beverly’s wisdom is there, the scene where she is injured in shocking and scary and well directed. I read somewhere that this was added to actually reduce the amount of acting Gates McFadden had to do in an episode she was directing, but I can’t imagine it took her out of too much. Maybe just the meeting scene later with Riker that Ogawa attended (and not one of the other doctors on board, for some reason).
• Oh dear, Deanna has been turned into a fish. Oops, I mean an amphibian.
• Picard may turn into a lemur–“I like to move it move it!” Or a pygmy marmoset – those things are cute. Data telling Picard this feels silly, but it’s treated seriously, as it should be.
• Yes, Spot has turned into a lizard
• OK, Barclay is a spider…I definitely jumped.
• Nice line from scared and nervous Picard, after defeating Worf: “Well, Mr. Worf, let’s hope that when you wake up, you’re a new man.”
Dialogue High Point
There are a few good ones but probably the best is when Picard and Data are hearing mysterious growling. “What was that?” asks Picard. Data, scanning, answers
It is large.