WARNING: The following article contains essential information to this week's TNG episode, "Identity Crisis". Stay away if you don't want to be spoiled. One-line thoughts: Not bad, in fact pretty good, but somehow lacking something. Okay, so it ran two lines. :-) Anyway, I'm not really sure how the numbers for this one are going to come out. I suppose we'll all find out at the end. Anyway, here's a synopsis. (I love being on break in Ithaca...a chance to see the show early for a change!)
A friend and former shipmate of Geordi's, Lt. Comm. Susanna Leijten, has come on board the Enterprise...and she's got a problem. About five years earlier, she led a team down to Tartiannen 3 to investigate a lost colony, and found no traces of any abductions, or anything wrong at all beyond the fact that the colony had vanished. But now, three of the five members of the team have just independently stolen shuttles and headed back to Tartiannen 3 for no apparent reason. The only two left are Susanna...and Geordi.
The Enterprise catches up to one of the shuttles, but Lt. Hickman, the occupant, doesn't answer any hails and ends up being incinerated in a faulty atmospheric entry. Riker takes down a team (consisting of Worf, Data, Geordi, and Susanna), and they find one of the other missing shuttles (the Cousteau, from the USS Aries). Nobody finds anything concrete, but Susanna sees footprints being made by nothing she can see, and when Geordi catches up to her, she goes a little crazy, prompting an emergency beam-up.
A little later, she's fine again, although Beverly says her blood chemistry is way off. Since she's not allowed at the moment to go back to the surface, and a preliminary report already exists, she and Geordi (who's tested out as fine) go to hear it. Data's report shows traces of alien skin cells on the uniform they found, and the footprints Susanna saw are from nothing native to Tartiannen. Geordi and Susanna decide to try looking for a link common to all five members of the original investigation--something they all touched, ate, breathed, etc. Before long, though, Susanna, who's been getting more and more edgy, decides it's all a waste of time and insists that she and Geordi simply go down to the planet and find the answers there. When Geordi tells her that they can't, she ends up going into convulsions and collapsing--and when Geordi gets to her, he finds bright blue veinlike structures on the back of her neck, and that her first three fingers on each hand have fused together somehow.
Bev's subsequent investigation would seem to indicate that Susanna's somehow being transformed into a completely different species, and that Geordi is very likely to be next, with little or no warning. After managing to persuade Picard and Bev to let him continue working until symptoms start appearing, Geordi goes back to work, and initially gets nowhere. As Susanna's condition accelerates (causing Bev to decide that there must be something INSIDE her causing the changes), however, Geordi notices an anomaly in the original recording (to wit, an extra shadow), and orders a simulation in holodeck 3. He eventually manages to get an approximation of the "invisible" creature's form, but it's too late, as he succumbs to the same condition. Bev, meanwhile, manages to isolate and remove the parasite in Susanna's body, but by now Geordi has mutated to the point where he is undetectable by sensors, and he manages to overpower a transporter technician and beam down.
With time running out for Geordi, a much recovered Susanna joins the away team to search for him. Using UV light, they manage to find Geordi (along with several other similar creatures), and Susanna manages to break through the pure instinct of the "creature" to find Geordi's remaining scrap of humanity and bring him back. With Geordi returned and recovering, Picard orders warning beacons on and around the planet, both to protect the Federation and the planet's creatures, and the ship continues on.
Yeah, that ought to do it. Now for some commentary.
Well, as I said at the beginning, this was a good story. With the exception of a little bit of murkiness in Geordi's holodeck investigations (more on that later), everything hung together quite well. Nobody was forced to miss the incredibly obvious to make the plot work. It was a solid piece of work.
Something seemed missing. I don't know what it was.
Maybe it was the direction. Winrich Kolbe is improving, but he's still not one of TNG's better directors. He had some very good "weird" shots this time around (such as Susanna's initial collapse, which was good, and the subsequent opening of act 2, where we see just a closeup of her slowly opening eyes), which is certainly a good sign. Now, if he could just get the NORMAL scenes looking less stiff, we might get somewhere. As it is, that probably added to it. He's also not very good at breaking up or presenting long speeches--both Geordi's appeal to Picard in sickbay and Susanna's final appeal to Geordi seemed to drag on very, VERY long.
Another bit of it might have been Susanna herself. I'm not sure what, but something about Maryann Plunkett's acting really didn't wow me at all in places. In some places, typically her most upset, she did fine--the breakdown in Engineering and the events leading right up to it were quite nice indeed. But again, something was missing. Somehow, I had a lot of difficulty believing that she and Geordi went way back. Yes--THAT'S it! I didn't find any connection between the two, despite what I considered a good job by LeVar Burton, and that lack of connection gave me a lot of trouble hooking into the problem, I think.
As for the holodeck investigation...this was pretty good, and the attention to detail was impressive. In fact, I'd say the whole third and fourth acts were definitely the showpiece of the whole episode. The "extra shadow" was in fact there in every time we saw that particular sequence in the Victory logs (yes, the Victory...remember, that ship Geordi said he'd served on? nice bit o'continuity there), and is certainly something that he might have missed the first few times through, as it wasn't very prominent. Geordi's investigations on the holodeck itself worked fine, with one exception. The exception is this: how did the computer manage to give him a complete shadow for the creature, rather than simply those bits not taken up by someone else's shadow? This, unlike the Brittain bit in "Night Terrors", doesn't lose points by not being explained, but if nobody can come up with an explanation (certainly, I couldn't come up with one in several attempts), it'll hurt. But the rest of it was nice--and I particularly liked the fact that the computer COULDN'T give him a form of the creature from solely the shadow until he'd told it to assume a size. That's just elementary optics, and that part at least they got completely RIGHT, which should satisfy everyone, I hope.
Burton's performance was pretty good, if not as stunning as several of the ones in "Night Terrors". I particularly enjoyed his extreme annoyance and snappishness during the final bits of the investigation in Engineering, when Data comes to see how he's doing, and his half of the conversation in 10-Forward with Susanna was fine, even if I couldn't quite get anything from her.
I don't really know. In some ways, this is the opposite of "Night Terrors". NT had some plot problems, but was very well directed and had absolutely stellar acting jobs from almost everyone. Here, it's the reverse: the plot was solid enough, but it seemed a little lifeless, and nobody's performance was particularly overwhelming, even Burton's, which was fairly nice. Maybe the disruption of my "routine" (i.e. having flown cross-country a few days ago, and being jet-lagged, and seeing TNG at a time I'm no longer accustomed to, etc.) has something to do with it, but this time it's me, not Mike Shappe, who's the one saying, "um...yeah, and?" (I don't know if Mike's doing a review this week, but having watched it with him, he liked it considerably more than I did.)
Anyway, I do think it's worth seeing. It's a good, solid story, and it's entirely possible that my own lethargy was/is influencing my opinion of it. But anyway, here go the numbers:
Plot: 10. Very solid. The minor scientific problem in the holodeck is a minor detail that wouldn't have affected the outcome. Plot Handling/Direction: 5. Y'know, I'd have loved to see what Rob Bowman (of "Q Who" and "Brothers" fame) might have done with this one. Kolbe wasn't a good choice, I think. Characterization/Acting: 6. They were all WRITTEN fine, but nobody's heart seemed to be in it except LeVar (and occasionally Ms. Plunkett). Technical: 8, but might rise if I can figure out a way the computer could've figured out the whole shadow. Certainly, Susanna's creepy eyes in the early stages of her transformation were unnerving.
TOTAL: 29/4 ---> 7. That sounds about right, yeah.
NEXT WEEK: Well, we've got trouble. Right here in the computer. Trouble with a capital T, that rhymes with B, that stands for Barclay. :-) [And I'll certainly say that the previews here are the best I've seen in many a week--I hope the episode lives up.]
Ta-ta for now..
Tim Lynch (Cornell's first Astronomy B.A.; one of many Caltech grad students) BITNET: tlynch@citjuliet INTERNET: firstname.lastname@example.org UUCP: ...!email@example.com "Eliminate LaForge." --G. LaForge (great out of context, isn't it?) Copyright 1991, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask... This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the author*. Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.
Hans-Wolfgang Loidl <firstname.lastname@example.org> Last modified: Sat Aug 19 17:15:44 1995 Stardate: [-31]6158.38