Star Trek: The Next Generation: Identity Crisis   Rewatch 
February 15, 2021 9:37 AM - Season 4, Episode 18 - Subscribe

Something is luring a former away team back to the planet they once investigated five years ago – an away team that La Forge was a part of.

Well, if anybody's going to figure this out, it'll be the Metafilter and Memory Alpha Show, right?

Story and script
  • The original spec script submitted by Timothy DeHaas involved two non-regular crew members undergoing the transformation. Michael Piller recalled, "It was a very tough script to solve…It was very heavy on point of view and stylistic devices we didn't want to do." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 218)
  • Brannon Braga was assigned to rewrite the script after completing work with Ronald D. Moore on "Reunion". Braga noted that he had wanted to do a story for La Forge because he liked LeVar Burton as an actor, and felt that the character was not given enough screen time. (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 197)
  • Early versions of the script had a romantic relationship between La Forge and Leijten, but the writers felt that the engineer deserved "a break" from failed romances after "Booby Trap" and "Galaxy's Child". (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 159))
  • Braga's first draft was much more horrific, with many more aliens on the surface. In this version, La Forge was not transformed. However, to make the show work, Braga felt it was necessary to include La Forge in the change and reduce the terror to a "restrained and psychoanalytical" level. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 159))
  • The scene where La Forge uses the holodeck to investigate the away team recording was a homage by Braga to the film Blowup. He remembered, "Michael [Piller] and Jeri [Taylor] really liked that idea." (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 197)
Production
  • For a single frame (at approximately 17:08 on a Region 1 DVD and 16:27 on Region 2 DVD), a graphic displaying the Star Trek: The Next Generation logo can be seen on a computer readout in engineering.
  • Regarding the use of ultraviolet effects in the episode David Livingston recalled, "We were talking about how we're going to make these guys glow and Peter Lauritson says to me, 'Why don't we try ultraviolet?' I said because we had done a test the year before. I almost dismissed it, but then pulled out the tape and looked at it and said this stuff is great. [I] went to Michael Westmore and Bob Blackman and said we want to do this, and they designed these suits and we painted them with u/v and put these contact lenses into this woman's eyes that glowed. It was fabulous and we got Mark and Brian to walk around in these suits. LeVar looked fabulous.
  • "We used heavy blue light for the set lighting, and it's different lighting than you see elsewhere, because all of the source coming from behind the camera is blue light. That's a decision we made and it should look harsh, and unrealistic and not well lit because it's not lit from one single blue source. It's basically a beacon shining out. It looked different than anything else and that was intentional. What I was surprised at was how powerful the u/v reflected back, and MTV is using it a lot now. I liked our use because it was integrated into the story. We used it to make it work dramatically rather than doing it as an effect. To me, that was a major accomplishment. We didn't do it to just be glitzy, we did it because it tied in dramatically with the story." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 218)
  • It took four make-up artists six hours to apply the full Tarchannen III species make-up to LeVar Burton. According to Michael Westmore, it was the longest make-up ever done on The Next Generation. ("Departmental Briefing, Year Four: Make Up", TNG Season 4 DVD special feature)
Continuity
  • In the scenes set in the year 2362, crewmembers of the USS Victory are correctly seen wearing the old Season 1 and 2 Starfleet uniforms (La Forge wearing command red again) and using the early "dustbuster" type 2 phaser. La Forge additionally wears an older version of his VISOR.
  • Although the past scenes are set in 2362, the stardate given starts with "40", which would imply 2363.
  • The command of the USS Aries was previously offered to Riker upon the retirement of her captain, as seen in "The Icarus Factor".
  • When Crusher is ready to operate on Leijten, Martinez is seen to place a neural stimulator over her head, like the one prominently used on Riker in "Shades of Gray".
  • Other species that propagate by infusing other species with their DNA and transforming them include the Taresians, Kobali and Loque'eque.
Cast and characters
  • Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi) does not appear in this episode.
  • This episode features some rather unusual guest stars, with then-reigning Miss Universe Mona Grudt as Ensign Graham and LA disc jockeys Brian Phelps and Mark Thompson as two of the Tarchannen III aliens. Phelps and Thompson filmed their scenes on Wednesday 23 January 1991 on Paramount Stage 16 and interviewed cast members Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, and Michael Dorn for their radio talk show The Mark & Brian Show. The call sheet features the scheduled times for the interviews.
Poster's Log:
There are still little hints of the original "Leijten/La Forge romance" storyline in the early conversation in Ten-Forward. I'm glad they removed it, especially so soon after "Galaxy's Child".

When they're first on Tarchannen and Leijten wanders off, Riker taps his comm badge and says "Riker to Susanna". That seems overly-familiar for an away team, especially with an LCDR who's new to the ship.

The Tarchannen alien makeup garnered this episode a well-deserved. Emmy nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Makeup. The Sickbay moment when Leijten turns her head and her eyes glow yellow is gorgeous (and a subtle callback to TOS, "Where No Man Has Gone Before").

La Forge asks the computer to assume the object causing the shadow is "about the same size" as he is, estimated at "one point seven meters" tall. To us modern-day Americans, that's five feet seven inches, actor Levar Burton's actual height.

Worf pronounces "kilometers" as "KILL-o-mee-ters" instead of the generally accepted "kill-AH-meh-ters" when they're on the planet's surface looking for La Forge. Oddly, he had just pronounced it correctly a short time earlier when he and Riker were discussing the search on the Enterprise while Data was prepping the beacon for UV light.

It would have been nice to have Crusher mention that the rest of the Enterprise away teams were clear of any parasitic infection around the time Picard was recommending a warning beacon.
posted by hanov3r (18 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
When they're first on Tarchannen and Leijten wanders off, Riker taps his comm badge and says "Riker to Susanna". That seems overly-familiar for an away team, especially with an LCDR who's new to the ship.

I caught this too. It is a weird thing, yeah.

This episode is decent. It has interest elements. It kept me involved from start to finish. It is a typical TNG episode from the middle seasons, a quality outing for all involved.

But like most every episode, there is always that one thing that stands out for me. This one is Geordi going down to the planet. They make a big deal of Geordi assuring Picard and Crusher that if he starts to feel ill, he will come to Sick Bay. He promises to program the computer to follow his movements. And then yeah, he gets sick, is overcome by his instinct to to the planet, and Picard has to query the computer himself on Geordi's location like they normally do when asking about someone being onboard the ship. This is one of those instances where I think they acted a little stupid for the plot. If I had been Picard, I would have had Data watching Geordi like a hawk.
posted by Fukiyama at 10:17 AM on February 15


"Identity Crisis" is an excellent example of TNG's "dump on Geordie" episodes. Why was it always Geordie when the writers needed one of the crew to suffer in a non-specific plot point? "Samaritan Snare:" Geordie gets phasered repeatedly by the Pakleds! "Galaxy's Child:" Geordie is humiliated when his feelings are revealed! And only two episodes later, "Identity Crisis:" Geordie turns into an alien!
posted by Stuka at 10:43 AM on February 15 [1 favorite]


So, this is another theme week, that theme being Transformations, and this is also an ep that I'd been looking forward to because I'd seen screencaps of Geordi in alien mode before and had wondered for a while when that would happen. And this is a pretty decent edition of the Crew Does an Investigation episode, subdivision Racing Against Time. Specifically, there's a couple of places where the ep averts a couple of tropes/cliches:

- In the scene that hanov3r mentions, when we first see Leijten's transformed eyes, they don't do the thing where they're closed and then she opens them in a close-up--dunh dunh DUNH! That's kind of how it happens in "Where No Man Has Gone Before", and I swear that if I've seen it once more, I've seen it a dozen times. (It's even a recurring thing in Mass Effect, when the asari "embrace eternity", i.e. have mind-meld sex; they always close their eyes, then reopen them to show their eyes gone completely black.)

- When Geordi is recreating the original away mission where the Ares team got infected, he can't magically reveal the appearance of the transformed person with the old "focus-enhance" trick. The shadow gets turned into a 3-D shadow, that's it, and he even has to sort of wheedle the holodeck computer to get it to do that.

The rest of it is fine. The aspect of the transformation being both physical and psychological, and being so subtle that they don't immediately pick up on it--the trembling in Leijten's hands seeming to just be part of her gestures until it's pretty obvious, and La Forge later noticing it in himself--was good, and ditto LeVar Burton's voiceless acting when he's fully transformed and Leijten is talking him back. And how cool is it that Miss Universe got to be in a space opera? Well, mildly cool, anyway.

Why was it always Geordie when the writers needed one of the crew to suffer in a non-specific plot point?

Miles O'Brien, Harry Kim, Trip Tucker, and Brad Boimler have a support group that he can join.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:49 AM on February 15 [5 favorites]


He promises to program the computer to follow his movements.

Engineers, man. You know he programmed it to alert if, like, he was detected moving from one place to another, and completely ignored the "the computer can suddenly no longer detect you" scenario.

It's like setting up Nagios to alert you when a service returns a weird value but completely forgetting to monitor whether the service is actually running or not.
posted by hanov3r at 11:17 AM on February 15 [2 favorites]


Another personal favorite. I remember getting absolute chills the first time I saw the holodeck scene. It's all just a cool concept realized with that unique brand of TNG creepiness. In fact, all those times in the past when I referenced how TNG is the best Trek in terms of scares? This one was probably the one I was thinking of. Either this or the Nagilum one.

And the scariest moment? One line of dialogue: "Commander La Forge is on holodeck two." GEORDI NO

IIRC this general story was rehashed on either VOY or ENT (and maybe both), to underwhelming effect. Maybe somebody else remembers the specific ep title.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:39 PM on February 15 [7 favorites]


IIRC this general story was rehashed on either VOY or ENT (and maybe both), to underwhelming effect. Maybe somebody else remembers the specific ep title.

ENT: "Extinction", where Archer, Hoshi, Reed, and T'Pol are exposed to something that mutates them into a long-dead race.
posted by hanov3r at 3:10 PM on February 15


The directing/camera choices in this one are pretty sharp, always been a fan.

Two cards from the episode in the Star Trek CCG:
The prosaically titled Tarchannen Study was created as a mission requiring an Away Team AND a ship crew in orbit. This makes the rules more fiddly but kinda represents the episode. Take some engineers, some equipment, and a holodeck, and figure things out for 40 points.

The premium Fajo Collection 18 card set included DNA Metamorphosis, which can randomly take out one of your crew for good if you don't have the cure like, right now. There may be more effective dilemmas, but, being a Fajo Collection card, this one included a gimmick you can only see in person: glow-in-the-dark ink on th veins. I just checked my sample and after 24 years, the neon green glow still works.

Tarchannen Geordi was the subject of not one, but two action figures from Playmates. They always saw any bridge crew members + alien combo a winner, hence Paris in PJs.
posted by StarkRoads at 3:58 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]


StarkRoads, it wasn't until looking at the Tarchannen Geordi links that I realized that transformed Geordi was nude. Um... phwoar?
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:43 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


The acting, directing, creature effects and camerawork in this episode were noticeably better than almost any I've seen on TNG before. I wonder why they chose this one to lean in to?

I'm so glad they dropped the romantic angle and really wish it hadn't come on the heels of Galaxy's Child, because Burton and Plunkett do such a good job of building out the structure of their relationship right off the bat, and that's what the whole episode really hangs on. Without it, most of the story falls apart, because let's face it, for all their analysis and theorizing, Geordi and Leijten don't actually accomplish anything. (I mean, the core mystery of the episode is entirely handled from start to finish by Dr. Crusher, who basically just orders more labs.)

Was the flat-shaded 3d "shadow" in the holodeck just... a guy in a zentai suit?
posted by phooky at 7:22 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]


StarkRoads, it wasn't until looking at the Tarchannen Geordi links that I realized that transformed Geordi was nude. Um... phwoar?

I like my men like I like my coffee, vascular and blue
posted by StarkRoads at 7:52 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]


When they're first on Tarchannen and Leijten wanders off, Riker taps his comm badge and says "Riker to Susanna". That seems overly-familiar for an away team, especially with an LCDR who's new to the ship.

Maybe Riker is like me and saw her name on a crew list before he heard it aloud and had no idea how to pronounce "Leijten".
posted by Servo5678 at 4:22 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Maybe Riker is like me and saw her name on a crew list before he heard it aloud and had no idea how to pronounce "Leijten".

I mean, I get that this is a joke, but he'd said it aloud just minutes before when ordering her and Geordi to examine the shuttlecraft (not to mention saying it over the intercom when Leijten and La Forge are chatting in Ten Forward).

I understand Geordi yelling the name "Susanna" a few seconds later - shouting a first name for attention is pretty standard. But even he calls her "Commander Leijten" when he activates his comm badge.
posted by hanov3r at 7:33 AM on February 16


You know, I figured the transformed crew were nude because they kept finding their empty uniforms, but for some reason it wasn't until I saw Riker holding Geordi's VISOR that I was like "OMG YOU GUYS GEORDI IS SUPER NAKED"
posted by phooky at 9:55 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Although honestly a completely camouflaged alien rocking a very obvious VISOR would have been such a hilarious way for them to finally find Geordi. "There he is!" "Are you sure it's-- oh. Yeah, that's Geordi all right."
posted by phooky at 9:57 AM on February 16 [9 favorites]


The main reason I like this episode is the actress playing Cmdr. Leijtan. She's just so real, and does vulnerability really well. I was grateful to not see this be a romance plot, as well, and it's disappointing to hear that's what they wanted to start out with. Ugh. But I liked their friendship here.

I had forgotten just enough that I was convinced they would kill her off before they saved Geordi, because guest star women are expendable, so it was a pleasant surprise upon watching again that they didn't, and it was her friendship with Geordi that saved the day.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 12:18 PM on February 16 [5 favorites]


Another really good one. TNG never got enough credit for its creepy side. It always struck me that as an alien, Geordi can apparently see. Like, he finally got this thing he always wanted, but it was at the cost of becoming a glowy lizard person.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:23 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


The holodeck detective scene was so cool, but...

If the creature was casting a big dark shadow, then how did the crew not see something there? A clear glass bottle casts a pretty weak shadow, and that one time we see alien Geordi burst into the transporter room, there's less to see than a clear glass bottle. He didn't seem to be blocking any significant light.

Oh well. Still a cool scene.
posted by polecat at 2:42 PM on February 19


The shuttle on the surface was named the Cousteau, which I was sure must have been a shuttle we've seen before, but I guess I must have been thinking of the Enterprise E's Captain's yacht. (There was also an Enterprise shuttle, but it only appeared as a name on a panel)
posted by ckape at 5:20 PM on February 25


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