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Contagion

Series : The Next Generation Rating : 4
Disc No : 2.3 Episode : 36
First Aired : 20 Mar 1989 Stardate : 42609.1
Director : Joseph L. Scanlan Year : 2365
Writers : Beth Woods, Steve Gerber Season : 2
Guest Cast :
Carolyn Seymour as Subcommander Taris
Colm Meaney as Miles Edward O'Brien
Dana Sparks as Ensign Williams
Diana Muldaur as Dr. Katherine Pulaski
Folkert Schmidt as Doctor
Guy Vardaman as Darien Wallace
Thalmus Rasulala as Captain Donald Varley
Moral :
Viruses : Computer viruses can be as deadly as the biological ones
Guest Reviews :
Rating : 3.0000 for 2 reviewsView existing reviewsAdd your own review
YATI : The Yamato's entire complement was killed in the warp core breach - why didn't Varley separate its saucer section before going into the Neutral Zone so he could leave the civilians behind? Isn't this kind of thing exactly what the separation capability is for?
Great Moment : The death of the Yamato is staggeringly well done considering the relatively poor special effects of the time.
Body Count : The entire crew of the Yamato, presumably some 1,000 individuals.
Factoid : The Yamato is the second (real) Galaxy class starship we've seen.
Quote : "Fate. Protects fools, little children, and ships named Enterprise." - Riker to bridge crew.

Plotline

The Enterprise responds to an urgent request for assistance from Captain Donald Varley, a old friend of Captain Picard. Captain Varley's ship, the USS Yamato, has been crippled by a series of systems failures which have left it stranded inside the Romulan Neutral zone. As the Enterprise arrives and makes contact with the Yamato, Varley claims to have located the homeworld of the mythical Iconians within the Zone. The communications channel abruptly fails and the Yamato suddenly explodes; a Romulan Warbird approaches moments later. Picard challenges the craft but it cloaks. The crew are left uncertain as to whether the Yamato suffered some incredibly unlikely accident, or was destroyed by a new Romulan weapon.

Picard researches Varley's logs, which were transmitted to the Enterprise, for clues whilst Geordi and Data investigate the Yamato's loss. It is determined that the ship lost antimatter containment, with systems designed to vent the antimatter starting up but then being shut down. The worrying possibility of a design flaw in the Galaxy class is raised, but cannot be confirmed. Meanwhile Varley's logs reveal that he discovered some Iconian artifacts and was able to calculate the location of their home world with markings on them. The logs show his ship arriving at the planet and being approached and scanned by some form of automated probe. The system failures began shortly afterwards. Trying to leave his ready room, Picard notices that the doors initially fail to function...

The Enterprise proceeds to Iconia, slowly beginning to suffer from their own systems malfunctions. On arrival they find the planet largely destroyed, but at least one building survives - and launches a probe towards the ship. Geordi frantically warns Picard to destroy the probe, which he does. Geordi explains that the probe's scan transmits a computer program into a ship's computer system, causing the systems failures. The Enterprise is already infected, having picked up the program from the Yamato's logs when they were transmitted, but a direct scan would have created a far worse infection. As Geordi works on trying to clear the program, Picard beams down to Iconia with Data and Worf in search of something that may help. They discover a fully functioning Iconian base, complete with a technology which allows a person to step across light years to other worlds without use of a ship.

As they investigate, the Romulan Warbird reappears in orbit - apparently to attack, but it soon becomes evident that the ship is likewise crippled, having intercepted Varley's transmission of the Yamato logs. On the surface Data becomes infected himself, collapsing on the floor. Worf uses the Iconian technology to return to the Enterprise bridge with Data, but the android's systems shut down shortly afterwards. Picard, meanwhile, initiates the launch of an Iconian probe after sealing the launch bay doors to initiate an explosion and destroy the base. He steps through the same portal, finding himself on the Romulan Warbird's bridge.

Data comes back online, restored to normal function having wiped the Iconian program in the shutdown. Geordi does the same to the Enterprise, shutting down the ship's systems completely to purge them. The process works and the ship is restored to function. Riker beams Picard off the Warbird and transmits them the solution to restoring their systems, and the ship flees the Neutral Zone as the Iconian base explodes.

Analysis

A pretty good episode, this one, all told. I liked the use of the Yamato here; by having Varley call for help and transmit the needed information to Picard, the episode avoids having to use up time showing the Enterprise crew discovering all this for themselves. The loss of the Yamato is a gorgeous sequence. It would have been nice to see two Galaxy class ships working together, but I can appreciate why they needed to get it out the way once its role in setting things going is over. Dangling the possibility that the Warbird destroyed the ship is a nice little threat, too.

Once we get to Iconia things get a little more improbable. One facility left functional on an entire planet? And remaining functional for 200,000 years? Then there's the gateway, which is apparently drifting between random places on distant planets - and yet just happens to choose the Enterprise-D and Warbird's bridges to offer, as well. Still, the story flows well and everything makes sense and works as it should.

One nit here is that the big reveal to solve the problem is... shutting down the ships systems and restarting. So the way to defeat the ultimate computer virus is a reboot? It's just about the most obvious thing anybody does when any computer goes wrong, but it's presented here as some blinding clever idea that nobody ever thought of.

Still and all, a great episode all around.


Copyright Graham Kennedy Page views : 2,500 Last updated : 3 Dec 2010