By the standards of TNG's key stretch -- seasons 3 through 6 -- this is not an especially remarkable episode. The plot, while good, is not amazing, and the "concept" (in this case, another set of seemingly non-sentient things which turn out to be intelligent) wears a little thin near the end. Nevertheless, the whole thing is executed well enough that it's impossible not to have a good time watching it.
This is, at least to some degree, a Wesley episode, and easily the best one of the show up until this point. Again, the supergenius is gone and instead we have an intelligent teenager who is simply working too hard.
The return of Gates McFadden is very welcome. I'm certainly not a Pulaski-hater, and Diana Muldaur would have improved over time, but from this very episode it's clear that McFadden fit in incredibly well. This is also one of the few episodes to actually look at the Beverly-Wesley relationship, and it does so nicely.
In this episode we meet a Dr. Paul Stubs who is a scientist studying the explosion of a red giant star that occurs every 196 years. All of the sudden for no reason the "Enterprise" falls adrift into the stellar stream of star mass.
In this episode we meet a Dr. Paul Stubs who is a scientist studying the explosion of a red giant star that occurs every 196 years. All of the sudden for no reason the "Enterprise" falls adrift into the stellar stream of star mass. Wesley experiments seem to get away from him while he fell asleep. The experiment consist of nanonites The nanonites are now in the computer main frame. Dr Stubbs attempts to kill the nanonites. In response the nanonites poison the life support systems. Data saves the day again.
I rate this one a 9.1 for suspense.
Star Trek revisits a favorite theme here: the discovery and threat of a new life form that has been misunderstood by humans, and reinvents Wesley Crusher in the process. There might be better episodes of this sort ("The Devil in the Dark" comes to mind) but "Evolution" is a strong episode that helps us feel closer to Wesley by humanizing him and throws in a nice guest appearance by Ken Jenkins as Dr. Stubbs. The return of Dr. Crusher is also welcome, and the increasing stability behind the scenes is evident from the get go with this solid start to the third season.
Numerous ordinary storylines combine to offer the plot for this slightly above average episode. The main story is really more about encountering a new lifeform and our response to them w/o common ground. On this occasion the lifeform is very alien compared the normal humanoid form - Weser's nanites. Two of these modified microscopic organisms escape his experiment and evolve (tying in with the episode title) into lifeforms that can replicate themselves. Something of a precursor to SG-1's Replicators I guess.
The beginning of show is just basic plot setup. It involves a Dr. Stubbs who has long been preparing a for scientific experiment only doable every 190+ years or so. The nanites present the real only reall threat from the start by eating up the datacores of the main computer, commencing a series of mulfunctions that place the ship in jeopardy. This has the effect of threatening the execution of Dr. Paul Stubbs experiment. To prevent this Dr. Stubbs kills a huge cluster of the nanite population and commences the a much better middle and final acts as the crew and the Dr. are threatened with retaliation with threat to life.
Here begins a fairly (now) predictable series of scenes where the crew struggle to identify and then communicate with the alien lifeform. Will they do it and save the ship? Will they live in peaceful coexistence? Will the experiment be saved?
Well the start is slow, but the mission does pick up in the middle, but levels out during the finale. The ending is full of resonance, providing a satisfactory if anti-climatic ending as you probably expect if watching it now.
So the episode is basically a first contact scenario, with the twist that these lifeforms are created by Wesley who then has honesty and guilt issues to contend with. Dr. Stubbs then commits genocide akin to squashing a collective of ants and because neither race knows of the others existance, the plot focuses on communication issues, in which Data does a funny job of approximating a high pitched computer voice! :D
A good start to this season, but nothing spectacular!
Very interesting story because at the beginning you think it's going to be about the visiting scientist and his experiment but it turns out to be more of a Wesley story. Good conflict between the nanites and the scientist; intriguing use of the prime directive to protect the nanites even thought they were threatening the Enterprise. Other things we liked:
- Data's cool "nanite" voice.
- Whoopi episode!
- Glimpse of Wesley's girlfriend...whoo-hoo! (And she even looks human, not an alien.)
Flaw: isn't anyone gonna punish Wesley for nearly destroying the Enterprise?
It's hard to shake a feeling of deja vu upon watching this episode. It's a theme oft repeated throughout TNG's run: what happens when computers become intelligent and who will stand up for their rights? It's a virtual remake of season one's 'Home Soil' and the theme is trotted out again in the sixth season episode 'Quality of Life'.
The episode is still reasonably effective (and definitely more engaging than 'Home Soil'), and features some nice special effects and of course some cosmetic changes as the season begins: swanky new uniforms and the return of Beverly Crusher (although frankly I kind of wish Pulaski had stayed - although she was initially unlikable, she eventually mellowed and some spice and zest to the series, unlike the rather bland Beverly).
It was nice to see Scrubs star Ken Jenkins as obsessive scientist Paul Stubbs, although to be honest the character was rather annoying and almost completely unsympathetic. I was actually kind of rooting for his experiment to fail, just because he was such an irritating jerk!
Overall, a reasonable but unexceptional season premiere, dealing with some interesting (if unoriginal) themes. Thankfully, it marks the beginning of one of TNG's best seasons. Bring it on!
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