A life form begins to spontaneously develop aboard the Enterprise through a network of semi-intelligent circuit nodes. The ship’s systems begin to malfunction as this emergent life form attempts to create a body for itself. The crew discover that mish-mash of holodeck programs all running at once represent the life forms subconscious, and by interpreting the strange imagery in this “daydream” are able to help the life form and save their own lives.
Teleplay by Joe Menosky. Story by Brannon Braga. Directed by Cliff Bole.
Emergence has the sort of high-minded story concept that Star Trek prides itself on, with the creation of a unique and brand new life form coming from as unlikely a location as the ship itself. It is also, however, insufferable television viewing coming as it does in a where we’ve already had confusing dream imagery coming to life on the holodeck (Phantasms) and the ship being transformed through uncontrolled operation of the transporters and replicators (Masks)–as well as another episode about having to decipher dreams (Dark Page). I’m pretty confident in my feelings that nobody but nobody was wanting to watch another 45 minutes of these characters puzzling through yet another mish-mash of absurd imagery to solve the problem of the week.
Maybe if this had been something from the first or second season of the series, it would have been heralded as an example of the diversity of stories that could be told in the Star Trek format. As it is, it’s more likely to induce thoughts like, “Oh no, not another holodeck story,” and, “The ship is having a daydream? Wha–?” Actually, the series hasn’t had nearly as many malfunctioning holodeck stories as I remembered, but it’s this one as much as any other that leaves that bad taste in our mouths when we think of Next Generation.
As to the episode itself, well, we’ve certainly seen worse this season. The production is fine, the acting is okay–it’s the script that is lacking. By definition the guest characters are all one-note and provide no engaging interaction with our regulars. There’s nothing particularly happening with any of the leads unless you count the forced Shakespearean material at the beginning. And the outlandish premise of the episode–that the ship is spontaneously creating a new life form–is treated kind of casually. Instead, it’s all just an excuse to play on the holodeck, to dress up as gangsters and cowboys and farmers and knights in shining armor, and to hang out on a train. And for me, that does not add up to a good story.
• David Huddleston plays the Conductor. He was Grandpa Arnold in a few episodes of The Wonder Years, and played the title character in The Big Lebowski.
• Thomas Kopache plays the Engineer. He’s had parts in Voyager, Enterprise, and Deep Space Nine (as Major Kira’s father). He had previously appeared in The Next Phase on Next Generation. He’s also had parts in Stargate SG-1, Babylon 5, and recently, Jessica Jones. He also played a Com Officer in Star Trek: Generations and Assistant Secretary of State Bob Slattery in The West Wing.
• Arlee Reed plays the Hayseed. He had a small part in The Rocketeer, and previously appeared in Next Generation in Starship Mine.
Shout Out to the Past:
• Nothing in particular, aside from the fact that Data and Picard are getting into Shakespeare again.
• Data plays Prospero in The Tempest. It’s funny how he stops his soliloquy in the middle of it to point out that Picard is not paying attention.
• Patrick Stewart gets to deliver a little lecture on Shakespeare and The Tempest.
• It’s a little ridiculous that Data has to push Picard out of the way, even if Picard was expecting the computer to end the program. You’d think Picard would be quicker on his feet than that.
• Picard mentions in passing in the Captain’s Log a “magnascopic storm” that the ship encountered. I’m betting that that’s going to be significant later on.
• The conversation between Picard and Crusher about the Orient Express has vague romantic overtones, but it’s not as played up as it could have been.
• Dataflux distortions? What does that mean? Why aren’t the sensored calibrated to detect such a thing, if they can destroy the ship so easily?!
• What is that strange thing in the circuitry? It looks like it’s made of my daughters’ glow sticks.
• “It is possible that the magnascopic storm we recently experienced had an unexpected effect on the ship’s systems.” I knew it!
• Nice physical joke with Data and the car that’s trying to run him over1
• Star Trek has definitely got a bit too casual with itself: “Unlikely as it may sound, I believe the Enterprise may be forming an intelligence.” What?!
• They seem to regularly be breaking the warp speed limits in this episode. Foolishly environmentally destructive emergent lifeform!
Dialogue High Point
There really isn’t anything, but because I’ve got this section here, I’ll pick part of Picard’s final speech about why the life form that the ship created is not a threat. It’s incredibly flawed logic, but reasonably poetic.
Now, if our experiences with the Enterprise have been honorable, cant we trust that the sum of those experiences will the same?