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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Unnatural Selection

July 26, 2013

Originally aired January 30, 1989. Stardate 42494.8. The Enterprise is on its way to meet with a medical ship. Picard talks to Troi about Pulaski, and Data announces they’ve picked up a distress signal from a supply ship. The message cuts off.

After the credits, they catch up with the ship. There’s no life signs. Riker suggests accessing the ship’s systems to view through the bridge screen. The Bridge is full of dead old people. They have a meeting where they review some of the ship’s logs. The ship had stopped at a research station a few days earlier. Pulaski says they need to go there, and possibly quarantine it. They set a quarantine on the supply ship.

After a break, the Enterprise reaches the research facility. The head of the facility, Dr. Kingsley, says they just declared a medical emergency. They’re aging. Kingsley wants their children evacuated, but Pulaski says they’re under a full quarantine. In a meeting, Pulaski says she wants to bring up one child for examination. Chief O’Brien – named for the first time – handles the beam-up. The child looks older than 12, and Troi says he’s telepathic.

Another break. Pulaski wants to take the kid out of stasis. Picard is reluctant to go along with it, and also doesn’t much approve of Pulaski cutting him off. Pulaski goes to talk to Troi about Picard, then talks to Geordi about finding a way to take the kid somewhere he can be taken out of stasis. He suggests a shuttlecraft. She argues with Picard for a few moments, and he approves it, much to her surprise. She gets Data to pilot the craft. The kid is beamed aboard, and Pulaski removes the stasis, then confirms that the kid is telepathic. After 18 minutes, she gets a stabbing arthritic pain in her arm.

Break. The children are carriers of the disease, and need to be isolated. Pulaski has no choice but to add herself to the quarantine. In a meeting, they discuss options. O’Brien suggests using the trace kept in the transporter. Pulaski and Data head to the research lab, and are shown the kids. Telepathic, telekinetic, and totally immune to disease. Pulaski realizes that the flu one of the supply ship’s had was exposed to the kids, whose immune system attacked it, and kept going. She tells Picard they’re going to die. Picard also contacts her previous captain, who says she admired Picard.

Break. Data beams back. Picard asks O’Brien if they can use a sample of her DNA to do it. They have no blood samples on record, so they try her quarters, and find a hair on her brush. O’Brien tells Picard that it’s a one-way transport – if it doesn’t work, they can’t beam her back to the planet. Picard handles the transporter himself. It works. They return to the supply ship, and blow it up.

This isn’t bad. It’s more Pulaski-heavy than I usually like, but she does a good job. The story’s not too bad. It’s not great, either, but it’s not bad. It’s a perfectly serviceable Star Trek story. An OK medical mystery, and then an acceptable techno-babble solution to it. It’s a decent exploration of the dangers of scientific research. It’s not saying that research is bad, only that it can carry risks. Of course, it’s weighed down a bit by the fact that it’s essentially just a remake of an original series episode, “The Deadly Years.” It’s basically the exact same episode, but with a weaker resolution.

There’s a lot of OK performances. And a great performance from Colm Meaney, now named as O’Brien. He’s on his way up! Pulaski being revealed as having a fear of transporters was a bit lame. It’s another similarity to McCoy. At this point,, they may as well have just had nicknamed Bones. By making her simply a female version of McCoy, it makes her less interesting as a character. Because she’s not her own character any more, she’s a cheap knock-off of a much better character.

Overall, I’d give it 2/5. It’s a largely forgettable episode that owes far, far too much to the original series, rather than continuing to forge its own identity.

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