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Lonely Among Us
It's a comedy of errors when an energy form drops by and murder, manslaughter, and mayhem ensue
An alien energy form escapes from a cloud of interstellar egg drop soup. Not content with being the first of many, many aliens to kick Worf's ass without breaking a sweat (Worf 0, Aliens 1), it works its way around the ship, possessing senior officers, committing manslaughter, and eventually possessing - and kidnapping - the captain.
Fortunately for the intruder, the worst Security Chief in Starfleet history is around to ensure total negligence. Besides, she is too busy chasing around after the silly but entertaining B plot about two alien species so full of hate and distrust that even Tasha Yar is able to correctly deduce that they aren't going to make it as Federation members.
'Energy' does a fair amount of work in this script: 'energy pattern', 'energy cloud', 'energy form'.... Star Trek has always liked to pretend that it makes sense to talk about 'energy beings', as if such a radical a change of context wouldn’t completely change everything that we tend to think about in terms of biological life and consciousness. But it's a fun conceit, and it works well for the scriptwriters no matter how dodgy it might be in its practicalities. Goodness knows this isn’t the last time we’re going to meet a being of pure energy in Star Trek: The Next Generation!
Say hello to Kavi Raz as Assistant Chief Engineer Singh...
…and goodbye, because he's dead now.
He got eight speaking lines, which is quite a lot for a bit player. Most Classic Trek red shirts were not so lucky. But honestly, it is a wonder that LaForge is so keen to take on the role of Chief Engineer in season two after a year of watching them being treated so unbelievably shoddily in his first year on the Enterprise! I guess we’re done with the Scottish-themed Chief Engineers now, although to be fair, there’s no reason Chief Engineer Singh couldn’t be Scottish as there’s plenty of Singhs in Scotland.
Colm Meaney’s still-unnamed character has been roped into security duty this week. Bet that was Lieutenant Yar's idea - she's clearly out of her depth. Picard at one points says: "Do I have to call security to force you to report to the sickbay...?" Even without a surname, you do suspect that Meaney's character has a better chance of success on that mission than Denise Crosby's.
Case in point: what would you do if you were Security Chief on the Federation flagship and you had to transport two alien races that hate each other and perpetually threaten violence? Put them on different decks…? Ferry them about at separate times like the fox-chicken-grain puzzle…? Nope. Store them on the same deck with complete freedom to move everywhere. She even gets one of the delegates killed and eaten, which is supposed to be the punch line of the B story - ho ho ho, epic diplomacy fail, we killed an envoy (!). Court marshal Lieutenant Yar would be my suggestion, and while we're at it please execute Wesley's turtleneck cardigan for crimes against haberdashery. I mean, look at this - it’s by far the scariest thing we’ve seen in the entire show so far:
Patrick Stewart's acting is not so great this time... probably because the premise of a cosmic energy alien borrowing his body and persuading him to beam himself out into space is so preposterous that there's no way to take it at all seriously.
On the plus side, thanks to a judiciously chosen offhand remark, Data gets to play at Sherlock Holmes for the first time - complete with a Basil Rathbone pipe - and we also foreshadow Picard's Dixon Hill holodeck hobby. Brent Spiner hams it up as Holmes, but has a lot of fun with it, and this sets up one of the few great episodes in season two, so let's chalk this one up as an investment for the future.
Models, Make-up, and Mattes
We kick off with a green version of the same excellent planetary matte painting that we saw two episodes back, when it was blue. However, I do have a complaint: I was perfectly happy with how the Selay homeworld looked in the original show, and although I freely admit the remastered version looks awesome, it doesn’t belong in this episode.
I don’t need my classic sci-fi Jabba’d up. Of course, your warp factor may vary. Regardless, reusing the planetary matte is good production planning: get as much value out of your expenses as you can. That is something I do appreciate.
Speaking of which: I rather like the Selay make-up... but given the expense of making these prosthetics, it is rather surprising that we don't see the Selay again until season six, where they pop up in the background playing the role of 'arbitrary aliens padding out the back of the shot in the manner of the Star Wars cantina'. Of course, it's not that surprising they don’t get a call-back given the poor quality of this episode, but usually the production team tries to get better value from their more extravagant expenses.
As for the Antican makeup, it’s... rather less impressive. Didn’t we see you in Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs…? (That was also made in 1987.)
But don't you just love Dr Crusher's silly medical beanie! It was designed by Rick Sternbach and custom-made by a milliner, yet it seems nobody on the production crew liked it and we never see it ever again. Anyway, the hat is certainly more entertaining than the floating cloud of energy. It's odd that close up the nebulous space-cloud looks like cream in coffee, but in long shot it looks more like egg drop soup. Spot the difference:
It's almost as if the special effects team has no greater grasp of the 'energy nonsense' plot than writer D.C. Fontana. At least a giant cobra alien gives you something tangible to do with your latex.
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