Warp Speed to Nonsense

Warp Speed to Nonsense

Monday, February 20, 2017

ST:TNG Season Two, Episode Seven "Unnatural Selection"

ST:TNG Season Two, Episode Seven "Unnatural Selection"
Production Order: 33
Air Order: 33
Stardate: 42494.8
Original Air Date: January 30, 1989

So ThinkGeek has a comm badge with Bluetooth now. Basically, you hit the thing and it connects you to Siri or Cortana or whatever kind of talking computer thingy you own, and you can call people.

Why should you get it?
It's kind of as close to the real thing as we're gonna get at this point.
Why should you skip it?
According to ThnkGeek, Siri or Cortana or whoever will answer, but not Majel Barrett. They mention that specifically, which makes me wonder if enough customers complained about not getting her to answer their comm badges. (It might not be too long before they do release Majel for Siri or something, though - back in September, Roddenberry Entertainment announced that Majel's voice had been recorded phonetically before her death, so they could keep her as the voice of the computer for the next show, and possibly for devices like Siri.)
The other let-down? Reviewers report that the mic sucks. They can hear others through the comm badge just fine, but the person on the other end can barely hear them at all. What good is a two-way communicator if one person isn't quite communicating?

Save your gold-pressed latinum his time, friends. 


Picard's Log 42494.8: "Gonna rendezvous or something with a medical courier. Deciding whether or not Pulaski is doing a good job."

Sooo, your new CMO has been onboard and working with your ship for almost exactly six months, and you're just now getting around to figuring out if she's a good fit? Geez, Picard. Get yo' shit together.

He asks Troi into the ready room to ask her what she thinks of Pulaski.
"Well, she's robophobic as hell, and is rude to Data at every chance she gets, for no reason at all."
...is what she should have said.
"She's passionate about her work," she says instead.
Charitably, I might add. 
So far, we've had just a few scenes where she's doing her job, and she looks competent. But in our very first episode that featured her, those scenes were also filled with her heaping shit on Data. And I don't know about you guys, but if I said racist/homophobic/sexist/ect shit about my coworkers for six months, I'd be let go. And not after six months. After like, the third incident. Which occurred pretty much in the first episode here.
Anyway, Picard is concerned that Pulaski is letting her "passion" cloud her judgement, but Troi says she doesn't think that's happening.

They're paged onto the bridge then, when Data picks up a distress signal from nearby.
When all appropriate parties are on the bridge, Data reveals that it's the USS Lantree. They open the channel, and Picard asks the Lantree if they need help.
A staticky voice replies that they are dying and that there are too many to help.
Picard tries to ask if they are under attack, but no one answers back.

Dramatic music! Opening credits break!

While trying to raise the Lantree again, Picard asks Data for more info on it: it's a little supply ship, still en route to its destination, captained by a dude named LI Talaka. Picard tells Data to meet up with it, post-haste.
Geordi enters the bridge and transfers his Engineering controls to that station.
When they finally catch up to the Lantree, there are no life signs. Troi says she senses nothing from the ship. Everyone reports in: there are no other ships in the area, no battle damage to the ship, and the ship is functioning perfectly.
"Let's go on board," says Worf immediately.
You know, for a dude who's supposed to be taking all threats into account at all times, Worf sure does throw caution to the wind a lot. He's very Kirk in that respect.
"I think we should do remote access to the ship so we can see the bridge," suggests Riker.

This is much more reasonable. There's no telling what's over there, and just beaming over to the Lantree might fuck up all the shit. Looking first eliminates that immediate threat. Of course, they may remote in over there and find nothing on the bridge, prompting them to go over anyway, but given that this sounds like a new thing they're suggesting (at least I don't recall them saying they could do remote access to someone else's bridge before), that means it probably will work, and give them the answers they want. Otherwise, the writers would not have suggested it.
They can't just do it, though. Fortunately, there's some level of security here, where Picard must request the action of the computer by himself in the ready room, and give a code.
(Imagine if it wasn't, though. "OMG, that's (ship)! My old buddy from the Academy is the captain! Let's remote-access his computer and fuck up some stuff! It'll be hilarious!" And that's how you end up on a future Reddit entitled "The dumb way I got court-martialed." Also in that thread: some hapless second officer is left in charge of the bridge on third shift, and with no one else on the bridge, he decides to watch some interspecies porn on the viewscreen. He is caught with his pants down around his ankles when another ship passes by and that second officer decided to prank him by remote-accessing him. Courts-martial for everyone!)
Wait, where was I? Oh yeah, legit remote-accessing the Lantree. Everyone is super-professional about it, a well-oiled machine of prep once Picard steps from the ready room. They halt the Lantree's progress in space.
So they get all set up, turn on the Lantree's forward-facing camera, and -

Well, fuck.
They zoom in on Captain Talaka.

Pulaski's medical computer on the bridge is doing remote scans, and she says they all died of natural causes... old age.
In the observation lounge, Riker plays back Talaka's last log entry, in which the captain speaks of watching friends grow old and die in a matter of hours. They were attempting to get to the nearest starbase, as they could not figure out what was happening.
"Talaka was my age," says Riker, disquieted.
Pulaski says that all of the crew members had check-ups two months earlier, and everyone was in perfect health. The first officer had Thelusian flu five days ago, but it's harmless.
Riker says that the Lantree's last stop had been Darwin Research Station three days ago, so this new thing may have come from there. Anyway, they should check it out, even if it's just to warn the people at Darwin.
They all agree to quarantine the Lantree for now, and Worf is instructed to place homing beacons on the Lantree so they can find it again later, and also quarantine warnings.

On the bridge, they set the quarantine warning, which announces over the PA of any approaching ship that the Lantree is quarantined. Then they take off for Darwin Station.

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Picard's Log, supplemental: "Kinda creeped out. Darwin Station is a genetic research facility. A possible connection between the Lantree and the station seems guaranteed."

They arrive at Darwin and hail the station. A woman, Dr Kingsley, answers the call.
"Hey, we've just declared a medical emergency here, and could use your help."
"What's your emergency?" asks Pulaski.
Dr Kingsley asks who is asking, and when Pulaski answers, she fangirls a bit. Seems Pulaski wrote some medical book with a long, complicated titled, and this woman is kind of excited, despite the circumstances.

Pulaski looks mildly embarrassed. Not flattered, or glad of the attention, or humble-braggy, just kind of "it's inappropriate to receive kudos in light of an emergency."
"That was a long time ago," she replies.
Picard looks slightly impressed.
"It's still the standard," Kingsley insists. "I can't think of anyone else I'd rather have helping us now."
She then goes on to say that people at the station are aging rapidly. She says that she herself is 35. They think they were infected by something from the Lantree.
"Ooh, about that," says Picard. "We just saw the Lantree. They're all dead."
"Sucks to be them," replies Kingsley. "Did you find out why?"
Picard is a little put-off. "Um, hello? Everybody dead? How about some empathy?"
"Not worried about that," insists Kinsley. "You have to evacuate our kids. They've been in isolation this whole time."
Pulaski frowns. "Not a chance. I put a quarantine on the Lantree, and you'll get the same."
They sign off to chat about their options.

In the observation lounge, Worf and Riker suggest not letting anyone on board the ship, and Picard agrees. Pulaski says she wants to beam up a kid in a force field to study him. Troi reports that Kingsley totally thinks the kids are safe, but is hiding info from them.
Weighing everything else, Picard agrees to beam up a kid in suspended animation, encased in styrolite, because they can't begin to study this thing until they can actually get some answers as to what it might be. There's a risk, but Pulaski thinks it's worth it.

So Geordi sets up this sweet-ass force field in sick bay.

Picard calls the transporter chief to make sure that he's almost ready.
"O'Brien here," says O'Brien.
I mean, good God, he's only been guest-starring on this freaking show since the first episode.
Anyway, O'Brien says he's taking some extra time because he needs to make sure that the styrolite beams into the force field like two micro-seconds after the kid does.

Then Pulaski calls Darwin Station.
"Sending up a twelve-year-old boy," says Kingsley.
Are you sure, Kingsley?

And Worf is all

Pulaski checks to make sure the styrolite is holding, and when she says it is, they drop the force field to check him out. Pulaski says that he is actually twelve, and Troi reports that she can tell, even in stasis, that he's telepathic and has a distinct personality.
"Genetic engineering," muses Pulaski. "Is this the future?"
"It's Dr Kingsley's version, anyway," answers Picard.

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

When we return, Pulaski and her med team are scanning the kid, David. (They never call him David onscreen, but Memory Alpha says he's David, so let's just go with that.) Pulaski says he's incredibly healthy. She wants to free him from the styrolite to do further studies, and asks Picard if she can do them with a force field up.
"No way," he replies. "Too big a risk."
She argues that if they don't find the cause of the disease or whatever, then the adults at Darwin Station will die, and the kids will be left to fend for themselves until they die as well.
"I know I'm right!" she interrupts.
"If you can figure out how to do it, then I'll get you all the help you need," snaps Picard, heading for the door. "Until then, let me finish my fucking sentences for once."

Some time later, Pulaski catches up with Troi in the corridor, and asks her for advice on how to deal with Picard. Basically, Pulaski wonders if Picard puts his passion for his ship and crew before his better judgement - the same thing he wondered about her in that first scene. Here, she thinks that Picard can't see the human side of things, which is a bit laughable, considering that the person that she constantly makes fun of for trying to be more human... is trying to be more human.
Troi says that she doesn't think Picard would be here if he couldn't see the human side.

Troi is a real trooper here, playing counselor and passing out Dear Abby advice to everyone and their dog on this ship. Girlfriend has office hours, you know.

There's a brief scene where Pulaski goes back to her office to talk to Kingsley via Skype about not being able to do further tests without putting the ship in harm's way. Kingsley still insists that the kids are harmless, and then she demands that Pulaski do something to save them. No joke, she uses the word "demand." Okay: if you're dying, you're really in no position to be demanding things from the people who could help save you. Try being nicer when you beg, Kingsley.

Out of ideas, Pulaski goes to Geordi. He tells her that, even with sick bay being on an separate system, there's no way to isolate it completely, because there's no way to make it totally fail-safe. He says the only area they have like that is a shuttlecraft.
"Oh!" she says. "That's a great idea!"

She rushes to the ready room and says she wants to study David on a shuttlecraft away from the ship.
"How?" he asks. "You'd be putting yourself at risk."
"I'm willing to take it," she replies.
They start another argument, and she tells him through gritted teeth that he doesn't have to quote regulation at her.
"Request approved," he mutters after a moment, and she's so certain that he said no that she starts arguing again before realizing that he actually said yes.
"You're trying to do what I asked," he shrugs. "Brownie points for that. Don't fuck it up."

Data meets up with Pulaski in the shuttlebay.
When she says she assumes he can pilot the shuttle, he starts to rattle off his qualifications. She gives him a "Thank you, Mr Data" that's clipped and efficient, but at least she isn't rude.
Data takes the craft out a little ways and "parks" it.
"What if the kid isn't harmless?" asks Data, once they're in position.
"I hate to keep reminding you, but you're a machine, and can't get sick."
RUDE. Here I was, all ready to maybe give her credit for not being a dick, and she has to fuck it all up. It's like she can't help herself. She has to be a jerk to Data. It's like she has a quota. "Oh, shit! I totally forgot to rag on Data today. Oh, well. I know it's late, but he'll be up. He doesn't need sleep, because he's an android."
"Bitch, I wasn't talking about me," says Data. "I was talking about you. I give a shit about your safety because I'm not a giant asshole."

"Oh... um, sometimes in medicine you have to take risks." She looks like she might be accepting his concern.
Don't be a dick, don't be a dick...
"It's all a part of being human."
Dude, fuck you. You just couldn't let it go, could you?
They call Chief O'Brien and have him transport David to the shuttle.
Once aboard, Pulaski gets rid of the styrolite, and David wakes up and touches her arm.
"Oh, yes, I understand you perfectly!" she smiles. "He's telepathic, just like Troi said!" she tells Data.

Twenty minutes later, Data is scanning her to check for problems, and reports that everything is in good working order. She tells him that his bedside manner needs work.
She returns to scanning David, then doubles over in pain. She has acute arthritic inflammation, which Kingsley reported as being one of the initial symptoms.

Dramatic Music! Commercial break!

Pulaski Skypes Picard to tell him that she has the disease now, and that it came on without warning.
"The children don't have the disease, but they're carriers," she tells him. "He needs to be beamed back down to their isolation chambers."
She tells a sad-looking David that it wasn't his fault shortly before he beams back down.
"What should we do?" asks Picard.
"I have to quarantine myself at Darwin Station," she says. "Otherwise, I'll give it to someone else."

She signs out, and Data, whose bedside manner is apparently shitty, asks her how she's doing.
"Not up to factory specs," she replies.
He gives her a look, and she actually apologizes!
"Doing okay for now," she adds, hypo'ing her arthritis.
Data sets course for Darwin Station.

Back at the ranch, Picard has called the senior officers (and O'Brien!) into a meeting in the observation lounge. He says that the old objective was to figure out what illness was making everyone die of old age, but the new objective is to rescue Data and Pulaski, if possible.
A suggestion is made to utilize the transporter's bio-filter, but O'Brien points out that whatever David is carrying wasn't filtered out by the transporter, even though they transported him several times.
He suggests using the transporter trace instead, using Pulaski's "signature" (which should be stored in the mainframe for security purposes) to tell the transporter how to reassemble her when she reappears on the pad.
"Okay," points out Riker, "but she's never used our transporter. We don't have her trace on file. Transporters weird her out, so she goes everywhere by shuttle."
"Um, okay. Let's contact her last ship, the Repulse, and see if they have her trace," says Picard.
O'Brien runs off to alter the transporter, because this has supposedly never been done, even though this exact situation has totally been done before in The Lorelei Signal, but that's TAS, and they're going to pretend that it doesn't count because TAS is Schrodinger's canon.

Data and Pulaski go down to Darwin Station.
Mmm, sexy matte painting.

They meet Kingsley in the lab. She apologizes for their current condition, and Pulaski tells her that, as an android, Data is not affected. She then says that she chose this path because she was so sure that the kids were healthy.
I should like to point out that she really only believed that based on Kingsley's insistence that the kids were alright. It was backed up by the fact that they appeared unaffected, but there was no evidence that they weren't carriers, or that they didn't have a strain that wasn't slower-acting.
Kingsley is still shocked that the kids are carriers, because their immune systems are so awesome. She shows Pulaski and Data the isolation chamber where the kids live.
David is the oldest, and they're telepathic, and telekinetic.

"Genetically engineered," mutters Pulaski.
"Naw, genetically created," corrects Kingsley. "They're perfect in every way. They have a really aggressive immune system. Their immune systems don't wait for a disease to approach them. It seeks out the disease and destroys it before it gets close to the kids."
"But you guys were only exposed to the Lantree crew, including that guy who had a light case of the flu?"

"How would it destroy the disease?"
"The antibodies would attack it, and change the genetic code of the disease to wipe it out." Kingsley is super proud of her little project.
"Data," says Pulaski, "could you do an analysis of what those antibodies would do to the Thelusian flu on a molecular level?"
"Totes," replies Data.
"We don't have that kind of time," argues Kingsley. "That would take months."
"Data... has a way with computers," Pulaski replies.
Holy shit, a compliment.

Upstairs, Picard has returned to the ready room and is now chatting with the captain of the Repulse.
"No, sorry," he says. "We erased her trace when she left the ship. Also, she didn't take the transporter very often. Mostly shuttles."
The Repulse's captain was sorry to see her go because he thought she was a really good doctor.
Then he reveals that Pulaski had jumped at the chance to join the E's crew when she heard there was an opening. Apparently, Pulaski was a Picard fangirl.
"Extraordinary," says Picard dryly.

Down at Darwin, Data has answers.
The first mate's Thelusian flu was the trigger. The kids had never been exposed to this virus, so their crazy-aggressive immune systems went on the warpath, altering the DNA of not only the virus, but the human carrying the virus. DNA is self-replicating, and this particular altered gene sped up the aging process. And it turned out to be contagious, so everyone is a carrier. You can see the moment where Kingsley realizes that she's made a huge mistake.

Pulaski calls the E to report back in: they're screwed. There's no lifting the quarantine, because there isn't a cure for "altered DNA." So everyone, including herself, will die on Darwin Station, with the exception of the kids, who are the cause of the illness to begin with. Pulaski says she aged faster than everyone else because she was in that tiny, enclosed shuttlecraft with David, who infected her.
Picard offers to beam her up in suspended animation, giving them more time to find a cure, but she thanks him and says the risk is too great. She then makes a final CMO log to the bridge.

Pulaski's Log: "Changes in evolution are sometimes caused by environment, but it can also be the other way around. The people here fucked with genetics, so now they made a new kind of human that's lethal to them. So everybody will die, because the quarantine cannot ever be dropped."

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Data and Pulaski say goodbye before he beams back up to the ship. He apologizes for not being able to do more, and she actually pays him another compliment!
"As androids go, you're in a class by yourself."
Shit, dude. I will take it.

Data beams back up after his pattern is checked for weird life-forms. Picard, who is unable to believe that nothing else could be done, rushes to the transporter room to talk to Data. He still likes the idea of using the trace to restore her DNA to before she was infected, but wants to know now if they could use DNA from something else, like a blood test.
"Sure," says O'Brien. "But I'd have to alter the transporter in these ways..." and he lists off a bunch of science-y sounding tech words that I'm not sure are actual things, or if they were just made up by Star Trek.
"Interesting," chimes in Data, and he starts rattling off tech words as well.
"Thank you, Data," interrupts Picard.

Data and Riker quickly search the computer database, but they haven't got anything, because apparently, Starfleet shipped her medical records via fucking Pony Express or some shit. Are you kidding me, Starfleet? Six freaking months, and you don't have her records?
They rush to her quarters and begin rifling through Pulaski's stuff, looking for her DNA, which isn't creepy at all.
"A fingernail, a hair, anything," laments Riker.
"Ooh, hairbrush!" says Data.
Then they go through her clothing drawers and suss out her brush, picking a single strand out.

That got weird quick.

Picard calls Pulaski to tell her that they can restore her using her original non-altered DNA as run through the transporters. 
"If it works, we can do the same for the others," she suggests.
"Sure," he agrees. "But you should know that we believe that this has never been done before, even though this is pretty much the exact same fucking thing that happened in The Lorelei Signal. Like, crew members were dying of premature old age, and Lt Uhura took over the ship like a bad-ass and then restored those crew members to health using their original DNA by running it through the transporter. But I guess that doesn't count, sooo..."
"Let's do it," she says.

Down in the transporter room, O'Brien tells Picard that this is a one-way deal. If they beam her up, and it doesn't work, they can't keep her because she's infected... but they can't beam her back down again.
",,,how about I run the transporter, so if we have to consign her to oblivion, it'll be my fault? Cool?" asks Picard.
"Cool," says O'Brien. "Thanks."

They switch it on, and the transporter takes its sweet-ass time thinking about whether or not it wants to cooperate, but then it does its thing, and Pulaski steps off as her regular age.
Everyone is glad to see her, and she, them.
"So hey," says Picard casually. "If this hadn't worked, we would have had to just beam your atoms out into space."
"Lol, that sucks," she laughs. "I'm afraid that very same thing will happen each time I use the transporter."

Pulaski's Log, supplemental: "So we fixed the adults on Darwin Station using the transporter, but they're gonna have to probably spend years or more looking for a way that they can hang out with their kids again."

The last scene is played out around Pulaski's voice-over, talking about genetics, and how sometimes progress comes with a price. The E approaches the Lantree, Worf arms the torpedoes, and they all stand at attention.

Damn, dude. That was a rough ending.

Okay so, this one was kind of middle of the road. The thing with this episode that strikes me is its similarity to TOS' "Charlie X". The stories aren't anything close to the same, but both featured characters that I hate (Rand, Pulaski), falling into situations that I sympathize with, and it makes me look at that character a little differently. I don't necessarily like them better after that episode ends, but I feel like I like them more during that episode. Here, Pulaski pisses me off and continues to do so at points during the plot, but it's tempered by the fact that she is willing to sacrifice herself in order to help others. And at one point, she gives up on being a giant asshole to Data, and actually pays him two nice compliments. We'll see if it lasts, or if she falls back into old habits next week.
While the science isn't terrible, I just can't move past the fact that this is almost the same ending as The Lorelei Signal. The first part is different, the part where dabbling in genetic engineering results in illness, and that's actually pretty good. But it's irksome that they pretty much ripped off of themselves to get that ending.
This episode is also similar to TOS' "The Deadly Years," where the crew began aging prematurely, and the older, grouchy, brilliant doctor finds a risky cure in the nick of time. I mean, I know there are a finite number of stories in the world, but... Star Trek likes to retell its own stories a lot.

Red deaths: 0  I can't really count the Lantree deaths, because there were 26 of them, and I have no idea which colors they were
To date: 1
Gold deaths: 0
Blue deaths: 0
Obnoxious Wes moments: 0
Legitimate Wes moments when he should have told someone to go fuck themselves: 0
To date: 1
Sassy Geordi moments: 0
To date: 2
Sassy Wes Moments: 0
Sassy Worf Moment: 0
Sassy Riker Moments: 0
To date: 4
Sassy Picard Moments: 0
To date: 7
Sassy NPC Moments: 0
Sassy Data Moments: 0
To date: 3
Number of times that it is mentioned that Data is an android: 3
To date: 16
Number of times that Troi reacts to someone else's feelings: 1
To date: 9
Number of times that Geordi "looks at something" with his VISOR: 0
To date: 1
Number of times when Data gives too much info and has to be told to shut up: 2
To date: 11

Episodes Left Until We Get Rid of Pulaski:

Fun Facts:

- The shuttlecraft Sakharov was most likely named after nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov, an activist for peace and human rights who won the Nobel Peace Prize. Sakharov would die about a year after this episode aired.
- A slightly different version of the script featured scenes on the Lantree, and the destruction of the ship happened in the middle of the story. In this finished version, the Enterprise's battle bridge was used for the Lantree's bridge.
- Another early script featured a crew member named Rina, who was supposed to assist LaForge, and whose attractiveness caused some love triangles. O'Brien was slotted to help LaForge instead.
- The Darwin children were supposed to appear naked, but transparent furniture in the lab nixed that idea.
- There's an odd continuity problem with this episode, in that, by the chronological time this episode takes place, genetic engineering has been banned by the Federation. However, the episodes that discuss and deal with this ban are from Enterprise, DS9, and the fifth season of TNG, so I suppose we can forgive them this gaffe.
- As well as getting a name and a title, this is the first episode that Colm Meany is listed in the opening credits as a guest star, and not in the closing credits.
- That sexy matte painting will appear again in later episodes, though modified.
- This is the first time that Pulaski's hatred of the transporter is mentioned.
- The Miranda-class ship used for the Lantree was used in the Star Trek movies, but appears in TNG here for the first time.
- This episode was nominated for an Emmy for Hairstyling.

Michael Westmore applying Diana Muldaur's geriatric make-up

Bueller is a cozy dude.


  1. Cats, Star Trek recaps, and now product reviews. It's a full-service blog!

    1. I would actually consider getting a smart phone if I could get that app where I could talk to Majel Barrett. But being totally honest, I'd much rather talk to Lwaxana than the computer.
      "Lwaxana, what's the weather like today?"
      "Oh, it's awful, just awful. You should skip work, and take a bath instead. You have ice cream in the freezer, darling."

  2. My guess is that the Federation was allowing some genetic engineering as a pilot project, maybe as part of a review of their old anti-augment law, and this episode's events just led to a renewed crackdown.

    1. You could probably get away with that explanation. Star Trek seems to be pretty good at offering up explanations for snafus and making them canon (ie, Klingon head ridges, Universal Seeding). Picard actually seemed put off by the idea of genetic engineering, as did Pulaski.