Star Trek: The Next Generation

Season 5 Episode 14

Conundrum

5
Aired Unknown Feb 17, 1992 on CBS
8.5
out of 10
User Rating
194 votes
6

EPISODE REVIEWS
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Episode Summary

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Stardate: 45494.2 An energy beam supresses the memories of everyone on board the Enterprise. While the crew attempts to figure out who they are, a new first officer is planted on board, and information is planted in the ship's computer that claims the Federation is at war with another species.moreless

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • Amnesia!

    7.0
    Sadly, the original concept for this episode was heavily scaled back for budget reasons, creating a simplistic and absurd premise (and a bottle show) that makes less sense the more you think about it. That said, this amnesia story is still a lot of fun, and the cast clearly has a ball reinventing the relationships between their characters.



    The most unfortunate aspect to doing this episode on a tight budget is that the original premise, which was to take place on a planet and have our amnesic crew slowly meet up and put the pieces together, would have made a great TNG motion picture had the idea not been first spoiled. (That said, Voyager did something similar to this idea and did it well with their seventh season two parter, "Workforce". And I suppose Star Trek The Motion Picture made it clear Star Trek movies could repeat stories already done for television!)

    moreless
  • The crew's memory is erased by an alien species in order to use the Enterprise to fight an enemy race on their behalf. In order facilitate this ruse, the aliens plant one of their own in the crew's midst.moreless

    8.3
    This episode is bears some similarity to the Matrix trilogy (2 and 3) with the placement of Cmdr. McDuff as a mole at least. The memory supression has been done before in ST TNG episode "Clues". Although here Data too is somehow affected - which concerns me. How was he affected in one senario and not in another - i feel as though there is no continuity there.

    I'm also wondering where is Guianan in all of this? She usually is the one to come to the captain as the voice of reason.



    The episode opens with Data as the bartender - funny stuff - why wasn't he bartender more often!?

    Then following the energy beam, there is an immediate rush for all the senior officers to assert leardership including mcduff and worf. Leading to Worf even apologizing to Captain Picard for trying to lead the crew.



    Why wasn't McDuff made captain of the ship, since they were able to manipulate computer data and records.



    Troi seemed to be the only reasonable party in all of this - not to mention her feelings toward Riker - as she mantained continued unease about the mission.



    I enjoyed seeing McDuff smile repeatedly as a cue to his success in derailing the crew.



    Also, why didn't everyone recognize the ease of battle the first time? If they had they would've figured out that there would've been no way this war could've gone on for years!



    -esomniacmoreless
  • A confused crew shows its true colours

    9.2
    Firstly the best bit about this episode is the way everyone feigns memory loss, especially Worf thinking hes captain. Hilarious! Those 5mins elevate this episode to a nine imo. Afterall who doesnt love Worf!



    The plot is a superior example of the franchise as the "mystery" of the cause of their condition is revealed very smartly piece by piece. In this way the intensity of the action rises in a logical manner. I thought hard and long trying to come up with some gripe for this but I couldnt. So its not one of the awesome battle episodes but it does stand out from the rest of the "situational" episodes that make up a ST:TNG season.



    The actor playing Patrick McDuff is also a good foil, planting his own devious plans into the crew, who give the impression that they are still onboard with the mission. Even though we know they will eventually come to their senses.



    I enjoyed this episode, you may too.moreless
  • The episode "Clues" should have been; more than just a mystery.

    8.5
    This a great example of writers taking a basic concept - Enterprise crew losing its memory - and just running with it. Yes, the story starts out as a mystery, but even after the writers give away the secret about halfway through, the episode loses none of its excitement. In fact, it remains exciting after repeated viewings, when you already know what's going to happen.



    We learn a lot about the crew here, and that's what makes this episode hold up even after the mystery is gone. Riker secretly lusting after his most troublesome subordinate, Ro. Picard, a leader who will trust his moral compass above all else. And Captain Worf...



    Well done.moreless
  • So, apparently there are gymnastics in the future.

    8.0
    Seriously, what the hell was that? "Chess is a game of intuition" my ass. Data doesn't have emotions! She can't read what he's planning, and it's not like you can "feel" your way to victory playing against a computer. I'm all for Troi showing greater competence, but this is absurd. It would work if it wasn't Data; she made a bet that he'd have to make a drink for her if she won, but since Data would obviously make her a drink either way, it would've made just as much sense to show her sparring off against, I dunno, Worf. Once we're past that initial unpleasantness, however, "Conundrum" settles into my favorite kind of episode, the sci-fi puzzle: Something inexplicable happens, our heroes struggle to explic it, and a crisis arises that makes the explanation not just compelling but mandatory. Here, the problem is this: The Enterprise encounters a strange ship. It ignores attempts at communication, and then scans the Enterprise with a green light that first glitches out Data, then ultimately wipes out the memory of everyone on board. Not the complete memory: The crew still remember how to perform their jobs, even if they're not longer sure exactly what those jobs are. But all personal knowledge is gone, including names, friendships, and even the most fundamental understanding of their purpose onboard a starship. Everyone's so confused, in fact, that nobody realizes they have a special guest among their midst, a new bridge officer named MacDuff who Dawns his way aboard and acts like he belongs there. MacDuff's unremarked upon appearance is one of the best parts of "Conundrum," and while his presence here is significantly less impressive than what Buffy the Vampire Slayer did with Buffy's little sister, there's that same casual boldness that marked Dawn's debut. Actually, even Dawn was underlined a bit when she showed up. MacDuff is in the background, and even as someone who's watched every episode of the show this far, I still had a brief moment of doubt. I knew he wasn't a regular, but it was possible that he was one of the rotating helmsmen, and I'd just missed him before. Except, well, helmsman don't wear red uniforms on this show. Which means that whatever was going on, the reason for it was right there in front of us. Not only does MacDuff's integration go unremarked upon, but "Conundrum" does a great job of letting us know what he's trying to accomplish without ever having him come out and state it directly. We don't have a scene where he communicates with home base or where he tells Data his secrets before turning the android off, or any one of half a dozen clearer ways of making sure everyone in the audience realized what was going on. Yes, when he starts urging Worf to mutiny, it's hard to ignore what his true intentions are, but those scenes are still perfectly in character. There's no hand-holding here, and while the episode isn't the most complex piece of writing ever, it is worth noting just how much this slight gesture of faith in the audience helps to make the rest of the story work better. The "blank slate" plotline is a familiar one to genre fans; it's been used many, many times before and there's something fun about seeing it in action with a new group of characters, especially characters we know as well as we do the TNG ensemble. It's a chance to re-examine established relationships, to remind us why we like these people and what they mean together. It's also a great way to reinforce basic truths. One of the best subplots here is how Worf, stripped of his knowledge of his place on the ship, assumes the position of command. It makes a limited sort of sense, and it fits in with what we know about Worf and his people. This could've turned unpleasant if Picard and Worf had squared off, but Picard holds back, simply doing his best to influence the new "captain's" decisions in a way that indicates he's the one more fit for the big chair. When the bridge crew finally learn their real roles, Worf steps aside and apologizes for his presumption, and that's basically that. Sure, there's some tension when MacDuff tries to get Worf on his side, but there's no real conflict there; the Picard and Worf relationship makes too much sense to pretend otherwise. That low-key approach could destroy tension, but I actually found it to be one of the most entertaining aspects of "Conundrum." Plenty of times when a show uses this trope, it's a way to force characters in difficult circumstances to be friendly with each other again. A memory wipe clears away the drama, and it also offers an excuse for the writers to try and recapture their initial conceptions of each cast-member, before history and development took hold. Here, though, everybody acts roughly the same way they always act. Worf tries to take charge, and Riker and Ensign Ro hook up, but neither of these events are particularly shocking. Picard is reasonable and a good leader, Geordi is smart, Dr. Crusher is a doctor, and so on. It's not the most exciting way to handle the concept, but there's something to be said for not forcing conflict where there doesn't need to be any. There aren't any lingering issues built up between our heroes, apart from, apparently, Riker and Ro's simmering sexuality. Trying to pretend there were would've been embarrassing. Admittedly, sometimes, "Conundrum" is a little too laid-back for its own good. Once everyone realizes the basic scope of the problem, they get to work trying to get as much information out of their computer banks as they can. This leads to everybody finding out what their job is, and also learning that they are part of the United Federation of Planets, and that the Federation is currently at war with the Lysian Alliance and that the Lysians apparently have a weapon that can wipe memories. Which gives us the real crisis of the episode: Can Picard and the others realize they've been duped in time to avoid destroying a space station in the name of a made up war? The answer being, mostly, yeah. Sure, the Enterprise destroys one ship, but Picard comes to his senses before they take out the command center, and while it's a well done sequence, it's not a particularly surprising resolution. "Conundrum" generally works. It benefits from breaking outside the mold a bit, structurally, since much of the running time is given over character fumbling and trying to regain old patterns. But even that fumbling isn't that intense; the biggest change-up here is Worf, and his ascension to the throne lasts only a few scenes. The episode also benefits from subtly presenting us with a storyline beneath its main action, as we, the audience, are able to put together what's happening before the ensemble does; while they're debating over who sits where, we're wondering where MacDuff is leading. It also helps that MacDuff's plan isn't a terrible one. It requires an impressive amount of energy to put together, but the fundamentals are sound. It's too bad, though, that we never learn anything more about him. One-sided villains are fun and all, but this show often works best when it shows us a bunch of different sides at once. I would've liked to have gotten a sense of MacDuff, beyond our glimpse of his "real" self under phaser fire during the climax. More than that, though, I was a little bored by this one, despite my affection for the premise. It is possible, after all, to be too low-key, and once the basic parameters were set, the plot became a stalling mechanism until Picard finally made his decision not to fire on the command center. While it makes sense that MacDuff would leave the crew's technical expertise intact, that also meant doing away with one of the more entertaining parts of the blank slate episode: There wasn't much danger here for our heroes, and there wasn't much sense of discovery, either. A middle of the road episode like this one can be enjoyable for its character moments and for allowing us to spend more time in this world. But it still makes me wish they'd swing for the fences more often.moreless
Patrick Stewart

Patrick Stewart

Captain Jean-Luc Picard

Jonathan Frakes

Jonathan Frakes

Cmdr. William T. Riker

Brent Spiner

Brent Spiner

Lt. Cmdr. Data

Gates McFadden

Gates McFadden

Dr. Beverly Crusher

Marina Sirtis

Marina Sirtis

Counsellor/Lt. Cmdr. Deanna Troi

LeVar Burton

LeVar Burton

Lt. Cmdr. Geordi LaForge

Erich Anderson

Erich Anderson

Cmdr. Kieran MacDuff

Guest Star

Liz Vassey

Liz Vassey

Kristin

Guest Star

Erick Weiss

Erick Weiss

Crewman

Guest Star

Michelle Forbes

Michelle Forbes

Ensign Ro Laren

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

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  • TRIVIA (5)

    • Trivia: The song that Riker plays in his quarters, as he is attempting to find out more about William T. Riker, is called "The Nearness of You" by Hoagy Carmichael and Ned Washington.

    • In trying to determine rank, and given there's only one captain aboard a ship, it would make sense to look for the person with a unique number of pips, but they never do.

    • Despite the fact MacDuff was so powerful to selectively erase people's memories and the ship's computer, he didn't plant himself as the Captain that gives all the orders.

    • When Worf is sitting in the Captain's ready room, he receives a communique from La Forge, but La Forge says, "Engineering to Bridge." Communiques to the bridge don't go to the ready room.

    • The scene where Data and Troi plays chess is not very believable. I can understand Spock being beat at chess, as he could be single mindedly logical. But Data? Surely he could extrapolate all possible permutations and anticipate Troi's gambit.

  • QUOTES (1)

    • Ro: You are trying to turn me into your idea of the model officer.
      Riker: The rules on this ship do not change just because Ro Laren decides they do.

  • NOTES (1)

  • ALLUSIONS (0)

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