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Transfigurations

Review

Series : The Next Generation Rating : 1
Disc No : 3.6 Episode : 72
First Aired : 4 Jun 1990 Stardate : 43957.2
Director : Tom Benko Year : 2366
Writers : Rene Echevarria Season : 3
Guest Cast :
Carl David Burks as Russell
Charles Dennis as Commander Sunad
Colm Meaney as Miles Edward O'Brien
Guy Vardaman as Darien Wallace
Joyce Robinson as Ensign Gates
Julie Warner as Christy Henshaw
Mark LaMura as 'John Doe'
Patti Tippo as Nurse Temple
Moral :
Evolution : The only constant in the universe is change
YATI : When the away team beams down at the beginning of the episode, Data pulls out his tricorder and notes that the radiation levels are safe. Is it really wise to check on this kind of thing after you beam down?
Great Moment : None.
Body Count : Zero.
Factoid : This episode was the first to feature the medical tricorder.

This was the second episode written by René Echevarria.

This episode established that Chief O'Brien enjoyed kayaking on the holodeck and that as a result he tended to dislocate his shoulder, elements of his character which would be mentioned repeatedly on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.


Plotline

The Enterprise-D is on a mission to explore the Zeta Gelis Cluster, a routine mission allowing the crew some quiet time. Geordi is in Ten Forward trying - and failing - to woo Christy Henshaw, a woman he's attracted to. A call comes in from Riker, telling him they have found a small one-man ship crashed on a planet and are going down to investigate.

On the surface they find a badly injured man in the wreckage. Dr. Crusher hooks the survivor's nervous system to Geordi's via a tricorder, so Geordi's brain can regulate both systems in order to stabilise the man long enough to beam him up. However, the connection causes some kind of energy burst to hit Geordi. He appears unharmed by the experience, and they beam back to the ship.

Dr. Crusher works to save the injured man whilst Riker reports that the crashed ship appeared to be an escape pod, apparently from a larger vessel. Debris detected in orbit indicates that whatever ship launched the pod was destroyed. Worf detects the residual effects of phaser fire, indicating a battle. Riker has brought back a small blue module from the escape pod, apparently an intact piece of the control system, and Data sets to work trying to access it.

In sickbay, Picard checks on the injured man's progress and finds that he is healing rapidly due to his own remarkable recuprative powers. However, Crusher notes that his undamaged cells are mutating for reasons unknown.

In Ten Forward Worf, Data and Geordi are discussing how to access the alien computer module. Geordi spots Christy Henshaw and quickly convinces her to go tot he arboretum with him, displaying a confidence he usually lacks.

Meanwhile the mysterious patient recovers enough to be removed from life support, and wakes up. He has no memory of who he is or what happened to him. Crusher nicknames him John Doe. Over the following month he recovers fully, but his body continues to mutate. Glowing energy bursts in his body cause him pain, and nothing Beverly can do appears to stop or even slow it. Doe is as mystified as anybody by what is happening to him. Geordi has become romantically involved with Christy, continuing to display a newfound confidence with her. His attitude change is noticed by others.

Chief O'Brien arrives at sickbay with a dislocated shoulder. As Crusher prepares to treat him, Doe comes over and touches his shoulder. Another energy discharge occurs, healing O'Brien's shoulder completely. Beverly later tells Wesley that she feels a strange connection with Doe - not a romantic interest, but something more akin to a spiritual bond.

Data is able to access the alien computer module, discovering the coordinates of his planet of origin. Doe himself begins to remember fragments of his past, including the fact that he had been seeking to escape from his world along with others. He asks Picard not to take him back to his world, and Picard notes that they are several weeks away from that vicinity anyway, giving Doe plenty of time to think it over and remember more.Doe continues to glow with energy bursts at random intervals.

Finally released from Sickbay, Doe enjoys his time with the Enterprise crew, commenting that he is impressed by how all the different species are able to live and work together - not like his own people, he feels.
Worf announces to Picard that the Enterprise will soon joined by a ship heading to intercept the Enterprise at high warp. It refuses to answer hails and will intercept in ten hours.

Long range sensors detect an alien ship heading for the Enterprise-D at high warp, still ten hours out. Doe's body continues to mutate, making him worry that whatever is happening to him might injure the people around him. He tried to flee the ship, and when Worf tries to stop him an energy discharge catapults the security officer off a high catwalk, almost killing him. Doe is able to heal him with another energy burst, much to everyone's amazement. Picard orders Doe placed under constant surveillance.

The alien ship arrives, a Zalkonian craft under the command of Commander Sunad. They demand Doe be handed over, claiming that he is a dangerous criminal who was disturbing the society on their home planet of Zalkon. The state that they intend to kill him in accordance with their laws, but refuse to give Picard any details about the exact nature of Doe's crimes. Sunad gives them two hours to decide. The officers discuss what to do about the situation, and decide to seek more details.

Picard tries to talk to Sunad, asking about the nature of his alleged crimes. Sunad states that Doe has obviously "corrupted" the Enterprise-D crew, and activates some kind of weapon - one which causes everybody on the Enterprise-D to begin to suffocate.

Doe, however, is not affected by the weapon. He uses another energy discharge to cure Crusher of the effects of the weapon, and in the process finally gets his full memory back. He emits a massive energy discharge, curing everybody on the ship.

As John and Crusher arrive on the bridge, Commander Sunad orders his weapons to target the Enterprise-D. With a gesture, Doe transports Sunad from his ship onto the Enterprise-D's bridge. He reveals to Picard the truth about his situation; the Zalkonian species is on the verge of an evolutionary change which will transform their physical bodies. The leadership of the planet fear this change as they do not understand it, and worry that it will cause them to lose control of their people. They hace adopted a policy of systematically murdering anybody who shows signs of the change, which is why they were attacking Doe and his companions in the first place - they were fleeing their world so the change could run its course in peace.

Another energy burst hits John, this one converting his body into a luminous Humanoid form composed of Energy. He thanks the Enterprise crew for their help before a final burst causes him to lose his humanoid form, turning him into an energy being akin to the Organians in their natural state. John returns Sunad to his own ship and declares that he will return to Zalkon to spread the truth about the change and help others through it, stating that the Zalkonian leaders have no ability to hamper him now. He departs the Enterprise-D on his new mission.

Analysis

This episode just never really worked for me. The idea of finding a mysterious wounded man who has no memory of who he is works well enough as an interesting setup, but the twist about him being on the way to becoming an energy being is just a bit silly. Trek has a long history of abusing evolution, and this is a prime example. Absolutely inherent in the notion of evolution is that it is something that happens to populations, not to individuals. The mere fact that John as an individual underwent a transformation from one form to another demonstrates that whatever was happening to him, it was not an evolutionary change. Evolutionary changes are also inherently gradual. A radical comprehensive change like this could not be an evolutionary change even if it happened from one generation to the next - it would have to be something that happened over thousands of generations to count.

That aside, though, it's just a bit dull. It doesn't help that John himself is a pretty uninteresting character. He's meant to be somebody that everyone inherently likes and trusts, even feels a "spiritual bond" with, whatever that is supposed to mean. But there's just not a whole lot of this to be seen in the episode. John doesn't do a lot that makes him look likeable, or like the kind of person that people would flock to. He should have the kind of personal magnetism and charisma that somebody like a cult leader has, but instead he just comes across as flat and rather boring.

The Geordi and Christy subplot is also rather pointless. Geordi is terrible with women, okay, this has been established before. But it's just kind of weird that an energy charge from John would give him confidence. Why would it? We're given no explanation - it just does, and that's that. And for that matter, why does that even make him suddenly attractive to Christy? She's rejected him before, after all. Is it really supposed to be as simple as him being confident now, so suddenly she wants to jump on him? Meh.

The Zalkonians are potentially interesting. Apparently they are a rather repressive, tyrannical regime. And possessed of some pretty impressive technology. I can't help but think their suffocation weapon was a simple cheap way to make them threatening without having to spend the money on showing their ship firing some massive beam weapon or torpedoes or whatever to cripple the Enterprise-D. But being forced to do things on the cheap can lead to creative bursts that help the show - the classic example for Trek is that the transporter was originally created because they lacked the budget to land the ship on a regular basis. In this case it works well, giving the Zalkonians a weapon that the Enterprise-D crew really have no counter for, no way to even resist it other than possibly running away.

Of course, given this potential threat it's a shame that we would never see the Zalkonians again. Such is the nature of episodic television, I guess.

All in all, then, a couple of interesting ideas but it really never does much with them. Something of a dud.

Special Edition

The remastered version has the usual improved image quality.
Copyright Graham Kennedy Page views : 9,762 Last updated : 31 Aug 2016