“It was a large meal, Lieutenant Yar. And a very interesting animal.”
I remember this being the first “fun” episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a story that could’ve been written during the run of the original series. Borrowing liberally from other episodes, the Enterprise is en route to a place called Parliament where two alien species are due to attend a peace conference. You have the Puppy People from Ken-L-Ration and the Snake Ladies of Slytherin. I’m just making up those proper names, but you don’t really need to know anything about either group other than the fact that they hate each other. The ship makes a close pass at a pretty cloud-like formation. Worf is hit with some strange lightning and is knocked unconscious.
The lightning passes to Crusher, and then into the ship’s computer, killing Assistant Chief Engineer Singh. Nobody sees the lightning, so suspicion points to the alien delegates, but not for long with Data on the job! After absorbing the collected works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Data eliminates the aliens and crew as suspects. “Lonely Among Us” begins to establish certain traits among the crew: Picard’s fascination with criminal detection, as well as Data’s infatuation with Sherlock Holmes. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do Yar’s character any good. She seems surprised that non-disclosure can reveal details to help to solve a case. She’s the friggin’ Chief of Security and she didn’t know that? I get that Data is supposed to make that connection for his own character evolution, but by including (and then marginalizing) Yar in the discussion, the writers have severely undermined her authority.
In fact, why is Data doing the detective work? We see Tuvok routinely solving mysteries on Star Trek: Voyager. With Data doing her job for her, Yar does nothing but stand around looking concerned. Troi hypnotizes Worf and Crusher and senses a duality in them as though there were two distinct personalities at play in their respective psyches. She comes to the conclusion that there is an entity moving from person to person. Eventually, the entity makes its way to Picard. Stewart gets props for his on-the-mark, not-too-creepy not-too-happy depiction of a man possessed. Funnily enough, the bridge crew knows almost automatically something isn’t right with our favorite Frenchman, which would not become the standard for investigation and perception on the Enterprise.
Six episodes later, the crew doesn’t figure out Data is not Data, and they ignore Wesley’s peculiar powers of observation. When Crusher orders a physical and psychological workup for Picard, he turns it around on her and suggests she’s the one who needs treatment. I don’t mind because I like seeing Picard go nuts and shoot lightning bolts all over the bridge. When he beams himself and the entity into the cloud as pure energy, it is riveting, but the solution to the problem presents the viewer with the conundrum of transporter science; that the transporter can destroy and re-create people (as in The Animated Series), but we’ll cross that bridge with Dr. Pulaski when we get to it.
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