“You don’t understand. We mean you no harm. We seek peaceful co-existence!”
The show is starting to take shape. The ship and crew are required to go under the microscope for an investigation instigated by Admiral (and old friend) Gregory Quinn, who is worried that a conspiracy is eating away at the fabric of the Federation. He engages Commander Remmick of the Inspector General’s office to conduct inquisitions into Picard’s maneuvers. This irritates Riker, and it should. Remmick is walking around like he owns the place when, based on the number of pips on his collar, he’s a mere lieutenant. Where does he come off? Based on what is later revealed about him, is this meant to be a MacGuffin or a red-herring? In other words, is Remmick being a jerk because he’s a jerk, or is it because of the events of “Conspiracy?”
Wesley Crusher is selected for a super-secret special Starfleet entrance exam along with three other candidates, who chide him for looking too young to be taking such a test. They all (with the exception of the Benzite Mordock) look 15-years-old, so I don’t understand their reactions. Wesley’s friend, Jake, upset that he didn’t make the cut, steals a shuttlecraft to run off and become a pirate or something.
Jake’s shuttle malfunctions. I don’t understand how that happens, but Remmick gets to see a quick-thinking Picard in action as he orders Jake to aim his nose for the planet’s atmosphere so he can bounce her back to safety. Exciting stuff! Watching the Starfleet testing sequences, it’s obvious Wesley is killing it (even in the dreaded Psych test portion), but ultimately he comes in second, behind Mordock, who he helped in a crucial moment. There’s no reason Wesley should fail to gain admission to Starfleet Academy other than the conceit that he is a lead character on a television series.
The cute young lady Wesley falls instantly in love with doesn’t get any answers right. The Vulcan girl is a solid third place. Based on these four kids, how does Starfleet go about selecting their candidates? The Psych test is bizarre with Starfleet instructors making broad assumptions about Wesley’s character and then placing him in a simulation (featuring Wyatt Knight from Porky’s!) designed to frighten him. This isn’t how Psych tests are usually conducted. A frustrated Remmick can’t find anything wrong with the ship or the crew, but he does tell Picard he would love to serve on the Enterprise. That’s sweet!
Oddly, one element of the story carries over into “Conspiracy,” the penultimate episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s first season. It isn’t quite a story-arc, but it is enough to bring a sense of legitimacy that shows the writers know we’re paying attention. Picard receives a message from old friend Walker Keel, Captain of the Horatio. He wants to meet with Picard at a secret location to discuss a threat to the Federation. Picard keeps this on the down-low, for the time being, arousing everyone’s curiosity. Walker is joined by Captains Rixx and Tryla Scott.
After quizzing Picard on old memories, Keel is satisfied enough to share his fears about people being changed, “irrational proposals” and friends bluffing their way through conversations. There is a great body snatchers feeling to all of this. Picard promises he’ll keep his eyes open. When the Horatio is destroyed in space a short time later, Picard brings his concerns to his crew. He asks Data to analyze Starfleet records for the past six months and sets course for Earth. Data finds a disturbing correlation: there has been a coordinated effort to control key sectors of Federation territory.
Upon arriving at Earth, Picard is greeted by an old friend, Gregory Quinn (as well as Remmick), and two other creepy Starfleet Admirals. I’ve always wondered why those who have been turned or changed exhibit such bizarre behavior. It basically telegraphs to everyone within ear-shot that you are not who you’re supposed to be. Regardless, Quinn beams up to get a tour of the ship. Picard beams down for supper with the Admirals. The meal consists of live worms. Eeeeewwwww! Also, ew. Riker and Worf are attacked by Quinn, who has apparently been taking vitamins. Not quite.
He has a creature inside him that is controlling him and causing him to have super-human powers. Riker beams down, and after a brief bit of subterfuge (He will not eat those worms!), he phasers the bad guys and Claymation creatures come crawling out of their mouths. They make their way to Remmick who, it turns out, was the leader of this operation, as his belly was filled with the “Queen” creature. Picard and Riker phaser him and his head explodes. This is a shockingly gory effect, but it is well-executed. “Conspiracy” is a great episode that breaks the mold of the show, but then successfully replaces that mold so we can continue our mission of peaceful exploration.
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