Star Trek: The Next Generation: Lonely Among Us   Rewatch 
April 24, 2020 10:30 AM - Season 1, Episode 7 - Subscribe

MA: "While transporting delegates, an alien life form wreaks havoc on the Enterprise computer – and begins to take over the minds of her crew." Episode transcript from TNG’s first bottle show! It’s a real kitchen sink jamboree, with a full-fledged A/B plot, plenty of reheated TOS plot elements and some notable moments to boot.

The Enterprise picks up two parties of not-very-diplomatic alien diplomats, the cobra-headed Selay and the badgerish Anticans. On the way to their peace conference, an interesting space cloud is noted and Picard directs the ship to move in closer to take readings before continuing on. Suddenly - who could have predicted this development! - blue electricity leaps from a console into Worf, who falls, unconscious. In sickbay, the electricity apparently leaves Worf and enters Dr. Crusher, who immediately begins acting strangely. Eventually the electricity enters Captain Picard, but not before causing the first death among the crew of NCC-1701-D, Lieutenant Singh, leading to an investigation which introduces Data to the literature of Arthur Conan Doyle. He immediately begins smoking a Holmesian pipe. Possessed Picard smirkingly informs the bridge crew that he is a multiplex entity and, having defeated an attempt to place him into custody, beams out into the space cloud. Riker prepares to head to the peace conference after failing to locate Picard but Troi insists on a further search, whereupon some blinkenlights on bridge consoles display the letter "P." Correctly inferring that this means the crew should invoke transporter magic, Captain Picard is beamed back into existence and the ship continues forward.

The library computer’s structural analysis of sturdy reused plot girders reveals at least three:

Delegates to a diplomatic conference running amuck on the Enterprise? Check.
The Captain is possessed by an alien entity? Check.
The Captain is lost outside the hull of the ship? Check.

The leader of the Anticans under that unusual full head mask is none other than old lizard-breath himself, Marc Alaimo, in his first Star Trek role, here depicting a non-reptiloid being named Badar N’D’D, who has had it with these motherfucking snakes on this spaceship.

The rarely-seen engine-room elevator puts in an appearance as Worf rides it down seeking to aid the unfortunate Lieutenant SIngh.

The episode also features TNG’s second appearance by Colm Meany as Chief O’Brien, who will remain unnamed until season two. Additionally, I must note that Wesley’s orange sweater puts in a return appearance. MA also notes that this is the first episode in which the PADD is shown.

Finally, pursuant to a passionate discussion in our PIC threads concerning the shocking barbarity displayed by the Troi-Riker family in their wanton consumption of animal protein, I hereby declare the first-ever BUNNICORN ALERT! It would appear that as the mighty NCC-1701-D first ventured among the starlanes, no animals were harmed in the preparation of the crew’s diet! In conversation with the Antican leader regarding the party’s preference for living livestock as as provisions, we earn a little bit more about 24th Century foodways:

RIKER: Lieutenant Yar was confused. We no longer enslave animals for food purposes.
ANTICAN: But we have seen humans eat meat.
RIKER: You've seen something as fresh and tasty as meat, but inorganically materialised out of patterns used by our transporters.
ANTICAN: This is sickening. It's barbaric.

Who can disagree?
Poster’s Log:

This episode was kind of an hilarious mess, because there are so many unrelated things going on. Dress uniforms! Snakes versus Badgers in the corridors! Why are all the lights turned off? Wesley’s sweater! Aw, Lieutenant Singh, we hardly knew ye! Apparently Captain Picard likes detective fiction! Why is Data smoking all of a sudden? Why is there a TOS shuttle model in the conference room? A godlike non-corporeal entity AGAIN?

Despite the silliness and only-partially successful script, I found this pretty enjoyable and was not distracted or annoyed by the reuse of significant plot elements from prior TOS episodes.
posted by mwhybark (23 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Oops, forgot to note that I was sort of disappointed that Lt. Singh was killed off. He would have made a fine regular.
posted by mwhybark at 10:31 AM on April 24, 2020

Badger Badger Badger XXL.
posted by mwhybark at 10:36 AM on April 24, 2020

I remarked to Mrs. Cheeses, at about 3/4 of the way through, that this seemed to be the first episode apart from the pilot whose scripting showed some care. It seemed to contain more dialogue, more plot developments, more…just general effort than the last few, all of which shared a sort of stultifying blandness and superficiality. This could be my subjective sense of novelty because I remembered nothing about this episode except for the Anticans and Selay.

Now, that's not to say that stultification failed to set in at all. Specifically, right around the final transporter room scene, my Trek-tech background knowledge of transporters ran up against this script, went "Wait, but…", and quickly gave up. I mean, just one use of the word "synaptic" in reference to Picard's cloud-floaty-"energy" would have helped a lot. As it is, it almost seems like the episode is suggesting that it's Picard's soul that's out there. (In fairness, though, the Treknobbable that became an oft-parodied hallmark of the Berman era didn't evolve overnight, and didn't exist in the same form in TOS.)

All that said, this episode (if we choose to take its presentation of transporter functions at all seriously) does seem to support the interpretation that they don't so much transport you as kill you & clone you.

One of those things I forgot about was that Picard gives Data the idea for his whole Holmes thing. I wonder if they ever considered a "Dixon Hill Vs. Sherlock Holmes Holodeck Crossover" episode. Wouldn't be the weirdest thing that post-Doyle works have had Holmes do.*

When you watch Marc Alaimo here, knowing that it's Marc Alaimo, you go, "Oh, of course it's Marc Alaimo." The eyes, the way he shifts his attention to people… they even gave him the phrase "I assure you," which is the sine qua non of the Marc Alaimo Drinking Game.

* = Slightly off-topic aside: I finally read Nicholas Meyer's first Holmes book, The Seven Per Cent Solution; this thread, and Covid-related time to kill, inspired me to go ahead and do a FF post on it.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 11:22 AM on April 24, 2020 [6 favorites]

P? For Picard?
posted by Servo5678 at 12:04 PM on April 24, 2020

posted by mwhybark at 12:10 PM on April 24, 2020

A few random thoughts on this one.

Picard to Riker: "These life forms feel such passionate hatred matters of custom, God concepts, even, strangely enough, economic systems."

Wink wink.

When Worf gets zapped, they sort of haul him to his feet and drag him out. Shouldn't the Enterprise at least have a soccer-field stretcher handy? (This seems to be a convention on the show – people can be sort of got to their feet and made to walk, even while unconscious. It's like how you can always knock someone out by judo-chopping them on the shoulder. Nonsense, but we buy it so the plot can proceed.)

Beverley does a good possessed-person, but luckily we never saw that gray medical headgear again.
posted by zadcat at 12:31 PM on April 24, 2020 [5 favorites]

The corresponding episode of the Greatest Generation Podcast has a good jokey recap:
When Worf gets shocked working on an electrical panel, he learns a hard lesson about what happens when you try to do a union guy’s job. Meanwhile, a bunch of Cantina Aliens are exploiting the “no door locks” policy on the Enterprise. Later, Data takes up smoking a pipe, and Picard demonstrates the advantages of backing up his information into the cloud. Endings don’t get more abrupt, especially for Engineer Singh.
This is also the start of the running joke of "Worf Lightning".
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:32 PM on April 24, 2020 [6 favorites]

stray thought:

“inorganically materialised out of patterns used by our transporters.”

Doesn’t this imply something about the transportorially reconstituent Captain?
posted by mwhybark at 3:30 PM on April 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

The B plot about the warring aliens would have been the only plot in TOS, and Kirk would have slapped them silly.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:01 PM on April 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

Picard called Lt. Singh "assistant chief engineer" and his insignia showed Lt. JG? Wasn't Geordie a Lt. Commander when he takes on Chief Engineer?

I know Picard has an accent, but having Singh with a neutral accent would have endeared me more. A lot of humans didn't grow up on Earth (qv. Tasha Yar) - why do they all have American accents?

inorganically materialised out of patterns

Writer technobabble. The apology for this could be that the CHON+ rearranged as flesh was done so chemically/ physically without biological intervention.

Also note, Riker made a point of qualifying keeping animals for food as "enslaved" doesn't exempt hunting free-/ unfettered-range animals.

Data smoking a Sherlock Holmes pipe - I wonder if he indulged in some synthacocaine, too? Tasha Yar making the "yuk smoke" thing is weird, since I'd imagine that tobacco would be prohibited in synthesizers - or would be syntha-swag with syntha-nicotine. Data doesn't even have any acetylcholine receptors.

I do have a soft spot for Data developing an affinity for Holmes, though. As a means to exploring becoming more "human," using the fictional Holmes as a template. So, learning how to be an asshole (and I love the Holodeck Holmes [and Dixons Hill] episodes).

Rather interesting that the energy being got better and better at pretending to be whomever they take over.

Speaking of assholes, I liked Patrick Stewart's take on being possessed - it's still totally Picard's behavioural ticks but if he was unempathetic/ an asshole.

There was never a tv/ film mirror Picard, was there?

That you could replicate something in the transport buffer - think of all the crazy pranks one could pull if you could make real live corpses of someone at will. Instead of filling their cubicle with styrofoam peanuts, why not a pile of dead thems?

Ok, that's messed up. Troi is saying that the reconstituted Picard is whatever was in the buffer, but they were hoping that the energy Picard needs to know to move into the transporter RAM/ buffer? This both supposes purely physical quantum state for every atom in a brain determines consciousness/ memory yet the same energy is required in a soul-like capacity. Sorry, I'm a transporter humbug.
posted by porpoise at 7:51 PM on April 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

“Sorry, wrong species” has been a catchphrase with me ever since.
posted by channaher at 8:06 PM on April 24, 2020 [6 favorites]

One of the things that amuses me most about Alaimo's appearance is that, even though he doesn't get an onscreen credit (nor is his character named; the interesting name Badar N'D'D is from the script), it led to his most famous role, as makeup supervisor and chief alien creator for the TNG-era shows Michael Westmore did a full-head cast of Alaimo for this role; he'd later use the cast for designing the Cardassians, of which Alaimo was the first named (Macet, also the only Cardassian with facial hair). Badar also has a brief scene with O'Brien; Alaimo and Meaney would later appear together in "The Wounded", IMO the unofficial DS9 pilot (first apearance of the Cardassians, and probably more character development for O'Brien than he'd had in all his previous appearances combined).

Anyway, yeah, this was a better episode, and also one that, while maybe not leaning too heavily on any particular TOS episode, had the alien species at loggerheads while the crew played peacemaker/referee/just trying to keep them from killing each other; also, the energy being that possessed members of the crew, and even went into the ship ("Wolf in the Fold"). Picard being beamed out into nowhere and then rescued? "The Tholian Web." But still an improvement. Too bad about Singh, though. I wonder how nervous Geordi was by the time he got the job?
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:21 PM on April 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

Am I the only person who liked the Doctor’s medi-hat? STNG should have embraced the “made for Playmobil” aesthetic.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:02 AM on April 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

Speaking of assholes, I liked Patrick Stewart's take on being possessed - it's still totally Picard's behavioural ticks but if he was unempathetic/ an asshole.

Those eager to see more of Patrick Stewart being an unempathetic, smirking asshole must do whatever is necessary to watch I, Claudius. Whatever is necessary.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:01 AM on April 25, 2020 [4 favorites]

I wonder if they ever considered a "Dixon Hill Vs. Sherlock Holmes Holodeck Crossover" episode.

No, but now I am!
posted by meese at 8:41 AM on April 25, 2020

At the end of the episode it's implied that one of the members of one of the delegations was EATEN by the other and it's just a ha ha end of episode jape. WTF?
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 11:40 AM on April 25, 2020 [8 favorites]

Yeah, that was a super weird choice.

It’s crazy that they put so much effort into the alien makeup when they have absolutely nothing to do with the main plot. The snake heads actually look pretty good, and I don’t think that they ever do anything that elaborate again. I guess we’re still in the world-building or ‘shouting our thesis repeatedly’ phase of newtrek.

It’s also weird that, though referenced by name, the chief engineer doesn’t appear. You’d think the captain would want to speak with him and not an assistant when the engines have no go. But it gives the entity a chance to murder a guy who won’t be re-occurring (then again, does chief engineer #2 Argyle ever come back? I guess we’ll find out). RIP mister Singh.
posted by rodlymight at 2:11 PM on April 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

At the end of the episode it's implied that one of the members of one of the delegations was EATEN by the other and it's just a ha ha end of episode jape. WTF?

See also: the crack about the Ferengi in the first episode.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:01 PM on April 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

Do we ever hear about "Parliament" again after this?
posted by zadcat at 1:45 PM on June 6, 2020


I feel like the "Parliament" planet concept is a TOS/Roddenberry/mid-20th-century-sci-fi holdover—the Colony Planet for a Single Purpose. See also Memory Alpha, the Federation's library planet. Or Rura Penthe, the Klingon prison planet. Or Pacifica, the beach resort planet. Or Risa, the hedonism planet. Or Wrigley's pleasure planet, the…pleasure planet.

Oh and, why look, there's a TV Trope.

I'm sure somewhere there's a Museum Planet, a Golf Planet, and a Buffet-Style-Dining Planet. Hope there's no DMV Planet. Unless…it was Earth all along <8o
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:26 AM on June 7, 2020

Another one I liked! Possessed Picard is fabulously creepy, and I loved the reveal that the entity wasn't evil, just trapped far from home - immediately followed by "but I'm stealing your captain anyway because I have no understanding of how fucked up that is."

At the end of the episode it's implied that one of the members of one of the delegations was EATEN by the other and it's just a ha ha end of episode jape. WTF?

I laughed myself stupid at the way this episode ends. It's completely hilarious. These guys are really being built up as critically important to something in the narrative, and then by the end you've almost forgotten they exist, and then it's revealed that one of them ATE another one and Picard just says, "never mind, I'm walking out of this narrative thread forever." I unironically loved it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:27 PM on December 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

A really solid, creepy episode. I loved the way that the B plot is their actual mission, so in some ways it felt like an episode about normal ship operations. Worf, doing some cross-training. Wesley, doing his homework. Meeting with staff to discuss recent computer glitches and what to do about them. Just normal, everyday stuff for some totally normal people :)
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:34 PM on July 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

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