Welcome back to Star Trek: The Next Generation. I am doing an episode-by-episode watch, recap, and reaction and blogging about it here. There will be no spoilers for the series beyond the current episode. You can find my prior recaps HERE.
For those of you that don’t want to read the long recap, I provide a quick episode summary here at the top. You can also just scroll down to the “REACTION” heading below.
THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:
The Enterprise docks at a starbase for repairs and upgrades. While there, Riker tries out the holodeck upgrade and Picard joins him inside. As the Captain and First Officer are inside the holodeck, the alien repair workers, the Bynar, fake a failure in the anti-matter magnetic field causing an evacuation of the ship. Everyone on board except Picard and Riker evacuate. The ship – which was put on auto-pilot to put it at distance from anything living – is then flown away.
When Picard and Riker emerge from the holodeck, they find the ship evacuated except for themselves and the Bynar. They learn that the Bynar are attempting to use the ship’s computer to repair the computer of their home world planet. Riker and Picard help them complete the repair. After, the Captain and Riker return to the star base and retrieve the crew of the Enterprise.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP AND REACTION:
Captain’s Log Stardate 41365.9
The Enterprise has been ordered to a star base for systems check, maintenance, and holodeck repair. Picard anticipates a glowing report because he believes the ship has performed well thus far.
The ship docks successfully. Picard tells everyone on the bridge “well done” and they depart the ship for the star base. The maintenance team from the star base meets Picard and Riker at air lock five and notes that the Enterprise is a week later than was expected. Two aliens, from a race called Bynars, will be working on the ship. One of them is named, 10 (one-zero) and the other is 01 (zero-one.) The human in charge tells Riker that the two are neither male nor female. They are a unified pair. Picard informs the two aliens, who complete each other’s sentences, that they have only forty-eight hours to complete the work. They state that they believed they were going to have more time but insist when pressed that two days will be enough time.
After the meeting, Picard and Riker discuss the Bynar. Picard tells Riker that the Bynar are interconnected with a master computer on their home planet. Picard tells Riker that he plans to read a novel in his time off. Riker, conversely, says that he is not good at organizing his time off.
Riker: Something will turn up. It always does.
On the bridge, Picard dismisses himself to his cabin. Riker notes that Wesley is studying the Bynar – of which there are two pairs rather than one. Riker addresses them saying that he had believed there would only be two of them, and he asks if there is a problem. They tell him that due to the time restrictions they needed others. They tell him there are no problems. Wesley is also on the bridge watching the Bynar. He tells Riker that it seems as though the Commander does not believe them. Riker admits to being suspicious. He tells Wesley to keep an eye on them while he strolls around the ship.
As he strolls through the ship, he runs into Yar, Worf, and a couple other members of the security team on their way to play a game against a team from maintenance on the star base. They appear to be dressed for a futuristic game of racquetball. Riker tells them to win and Worf assures Riker they will win regardless of the cost. Riker tries to dial back Worf’s sense of competition but to no avail.
Worf: If winning is not important, then Commander, why keep score?
Yar assures Riker privately that she believes Worf is pulling his leg and that Worf seems to be developing a sense of humor. Riker states that he hopes so. After the security team leaves for their game, power goes off in Riker’s hallway. He asks the ship’s computer for an explanation and is told that power is being reduced to facilitate the system upgrades.
Riker next finds Geordi and Data. Data is painting pursuant to an experiment to find out whether Data can be creative. As Riker leaves, he advises them to take notes because it might be of interest to future scholars.
Riker: Of course. Think about it. A blind man teaching an android how to paint… that’s got to be worth a couple of pages in somebody’s book.
Riker’s stroll through the ship next takes him to Dr. Crusher’s office. He tells her that it appears that she is packing to leave forever and she assures him that she is merely gathering her notes. She tells him that Profressor Terrance Epstein is at this star base. When Riker does not know who he is, she tells him that Epstein is the leading mind in cybernetics and that he lectured at her medical school. She is excited to speak with him because she believes she had developed a method to combine cybernetics with biological regeneration. She leaves.
Riker wanders on and he comes across two Bynar standing outside the doors of the holodeck. They tell him that they are almost done. He asks what they have done and they tell him enhancement and nothing more. They communicate with each other in their native language which sounds like electronic buzzing then ask Riker if he would like to try the enhancement. He says yes. Riker asks the holodeck computer to play jazz music from Bourbon Street, in New Orleans, such as might be played around 2 o’clock a.m., from the year 1958. A moment later the computer says the program is complete. The doors open and Riker enters. The Bynar follow him. Riker is pleased but notes he needs someone to play music with. He requests, piano, bass, and drums, with a bone for himself to play. Those things appear. Next Riker requests an audience and the computer again complies. RIker says that the crowd is too large and requests something more intimate. The computer replaces the larger crowd with a scantily clad blonde haired woman.
Riker: Great job, boys.
Riker asks the computer to replace the blonde with a brunette and deems the change to be truly exceptional. However, he wants the woman to be more sultry. The computer complies again.
Riker: Gentlemen, if this is what you call enhancement, you’ve got a gift for understatement.
Riker walks farther into the holodeck simulation and approaches the woman. He asks her name and she tells him Minuet. He asks if she loves jazz and she says that she loves all jazz except Dixieland.
Riker: Why not Dixieland?
Minuet: You can’t dance to it.
Riker: My girl.
He asks what a girl like her is doing in a computer generated gin joint like this oen and she says she is waiting for him. He tells her she cannot be serious and she replies that she has never been more serious in her life. The Bynar buzz in communication with each other and leave Riker alone on the holodeck.
Wesley is observing the two Bynar who have remained on the bridge. They are buzzing excitedly at one another. Wesley approaches their human supervisor to ask if he may ask a question about the Bynars. He tells Wesley to ask them. Wesley approaches them and asks them about the sound they are making. They tell him it is their primary language and then they explain how they process information at such a high rate of speed. Wesley notes that a society so intermixed with computers must have advantages and the Bynar offer that it has some disadvantages. Before we can learn what those disadvantages are, Picard returns to the bridge. Wesley informs him that things seem to be going well. Picard asks about the location of Riker and Wesley tells the Captain that Riker is in holodeck four. Picard tells Wesley he will go to the holodeck himself.
Back on the holodeck, Riker is playing trombone with his New Orleans jazz band for an audience of Minuet – the woman he created earlier. The bass player leans over to Riker and tells him “the chick digs you.” Riker thanks the band for letting him play with them and goes to talk with Minuet who is smiling up at him on the stage. He tells her that he needs to leave for a while to see to his work and she asks if he has time to dance with her before leaving. Riker agrees.
They dance for a while and chit chat about Riker’s work and how real she seems. Riker abruptly asks her how far the simulation relationship can go.
Riker: How real are you?
Minuet: I’m as real as you need me to be.
Picard enters the holodeck. Riker tells him that he is not interrupting so Picard approaches Riker and Minuet. Riker introduces him to her, emphasizing the French name, and Minuet starts speaking to Picard in French. He replies in French. After a brief conversation, they return to speaking English. Minuet states that she has been hoping to meet Picard. He asks if he has been the subject of conversation and she states “indirectly.” She invites Picard to join them. After they sit down, she begins flattering Picard by telling him how much Riker enjoys his assignment.
Minuet: For a ship and crew to function well, it always starts with the Captain. You set the tone.
Picard: At this moment, it is you who are setting the tone.
Picard and Minuet begin speaking about the holodeck program itself. Picard notes to her that unlike previous holodeck programs, she is able to adapt, such as by speaking French with him. She replies that when she heard his name, she merely accessed the foreign language bank.
Data and Geordi are still working on their painting. Data stops and walks away for a moment, closing his eyes. Geordi asks what he is doing and Data replies that he is waiting inspiration. Wesley interrupts Data with a comms call and tells him that he is reading a problem with the anti-matter containment field. Geordi and Data tell him that they will go to Main Engineering to investigate the issue.
In main engineering, Geordi calls the bridge and gets Wesley again. He asks if any tests are being run and Wesley replies not to his knowledge. Geordi tells him that they are getting strange readings. Data and La Forge quickly determine that the ship’s anti-matter containment field is failing and that it will fail entirely in four minutes.
Data decides that there is no time to inform the Captain and sets into motion an abandon ship sequence for the ship. The ship, per Data’s instructions, is slated to depart from the star base, without any passengers, to a location as far from inhabited space as possible. He issues the abandon ship message over the intercom throughout the ship.
We see a frantic evacuation of the ship and hundreds of its passengers. The frantic evacuation is noticed aboard the star base. Yar and Worf approach Dr. Crusher, ask what is going on, and then Yar commands Worf to put a security team together. Data from aboard the bridge, asks the computer where Picard and Riker are located and it tells them that all decks are empty. Data notes that this is unusual as the Captain is usually last to evacuate a ship. Geordi points out that they only have forty-one seconds to get off the ship before its automatic departure sequence begins so the two also leave.
Geordi: I think we’re the last.
Data: I hope we are.
[they transport inside the star base]
As the ship begins departing, the bridge officers in the star base realize that Picard and Riker must still be aboard the ship. Simultaneously, the star base begins reading that the anti-matter field is being repaired. They stare in wonder as the ship leaves the star base and warps away.
Picard and Riker are still inside the holodeck speaking with the computer generated woman, Minuet. They marvel at her ability to intuit what they are thinking. Picard notes that this is understandable progression but still finds it to be marvelous.
Riker: It’s uncanny. I could develop feelings for Minuet exactly as I would for any woman.
Picard: Doesn’t love always begin that way? With the illusion more real than the woman?
Picard makes as if to go and she again insists that he not leave. He declines the invitations to stay and her insistence becomes noticeably aggressive.
Minuet: You can’t. Not yet.
Riker: Why? Why can’t we leave?
Picard and Riker leave the holodeck to find the Enterprise abandoned with an emergency alarm sounding. Contact with the ship’s computer, just inside the holodeck doors, fills them in on what has happened. They further learn that the ship is heading toward the Planet Bynaus in the Beta Magellan system. Picard asks the computer if the Bynars have stolen the Enterprise and the computer replies that the information is not available. Picard and Riker slowly turn toward Minuet who is still present in the holodeck simulation. They return to speak with her.
Minuet admits that she is part of the Bynar plans. They programmed her to distract Riker in order to keep him in the holodeck. Picard’s presence in the holodeck, according to Minuet, was a fortunate happenstance. Riker asks Minuet what the Bynar want with him and she replies that she is not programmed to give him that information. Picard and Riker leaves to regain control over the ship.
On the star base, everyone realizses that the Bynar are also still aboard the Enterprise. Data suggests that Starfleet should send a Starship to intercept the Enterprise at Bynaus. They do not know for certain that this is where the Enterprise is going but Data believes it to be the best place to begin looking.
Picard and Riker go to the ship’s Weapons Room. Picard makes a log entry noting that they know the Bynar have taken the ship, that they cannot access the bridge, and that both he and Riker are about to attempt re-taking the ship. Picard’s first move aboard the ship is to initiate an auto-destruct sequence on the ship from Engineering.
Picard: We’re here alone. We must assume the worst. If we cannot regain control then no one else must have it either.
Picard is adamant the the vessel must not fall into hostile hands. The auto-destruct sequence is for five minutes. They hope to regain the ship and turn the sequence off within that five minutes span of time. The only place to turn the sequence off is on the bridge.
The next step for Picard and Riker is re-entering the bridge. With access through the main door denied, they decide to beam into the bridge, into two different locations, with a hope that one of them might distract the Bynar long enough for the other to overpower them.
On the star base, Data asks Yar, Worf, and Geordi if this is his fault. La Forge tells him that he cannot be on the bridge every second and Data disagrees. Data reminds him that he requires no rest or diversion and therefore not being on the bridge was negligence. None of the other star ships at the star base are ready to leave. They are all being repaired.
Riker and Picard set phasers on stun and beam onto the bridge. On the bridge, Riker and Picard find the four Bynar huddled together and unconscious. One pair of teh Bynar wake enough to ask Picard to please try to help them.
Riker and Picard turn off the auto-destruct sequence. Picard tells Riker that the Bynar on the bridge appear to be dead. However, they are now in orbit around Bynaus. The planet appears to be inert, too. Picard and Riker see that every bit of free space on the ship’s computer is now filled. They do not know what to do with the information, though. Riker says that he wishes the Bynar had left a note and Picard suggests that maybe they did.
The two return to Minuet. She tells them that a neighboring star to their home world went supernova at an unexpected time. This damaged the Bynaus planetary computer – and thus all of the individual Bynar connected to it. The Bynar plan was to input the data from their home world onto the Enterprise computer and then reload it onto their home world. The Enterprise was the only Federation starship with a computer later enough to serve their needs. Its late arrival to the star base made their situation even more dire.
Picard asks Minuet why they did not simply ask for help. She does not know. They tell her that they do not know how to load the information from the ship onto the planet’s home world and Minuet does not know how to do this, either. On the bridge, Picard contacts the star base and speaks with Data. He asks Data for suggestions as to how the Bynar might have named their file. Data suggests 1s and 0s in groups of eight or sixteen.
Riker and Picard, working as a pair, enter a binary number and access the file. They load the file onto the planet’s computer. As they do so, the Bynar aboard the ship begin to wake.
Picard: Why didn’t you just ask for our help?
Bynar: [buzzing with each other] You might have said no.
They go on to say that their need was too great to risk rejection. Riker states that this form of reasoning reflects the Bynar way of thinking. Picard states that their planet is restored and control of the ship has been returned. He flies the ship back to the star base himself, noting that it has been sometime since he has manned the ship’s controllers directly. We see though that the ship makes it back to the base safely.
From inside the star base, all of the bridge officers stare in wonder as they watch the massive ship dock.
The officers enter the bridge. Picard orders a complete check of the ship. Yar asks about the Bynar and Picard tells her to take them to the star base where there will be a hearing. The Bynar state that they understood ahead of time that there would be a hearing after.
Riker asks Picard for permission to leave the bridge while everything is being check. Picard grants it. Riker returns to the holodeck eager to speak with Minuet.
Riker: What is a knockout like you doing in a computer generated gin joint like this?
The woman turns her head and she is not Minuet. A moment later a sad and dejected Riker returns to the bridge. He informs Picard that Minuet is gone and that he could not bring her back by a attempting variations of the program. Picard suggests that it was part of the Bynar’s programming and tells Riker that some relationships just cannot work.
Riker: Yes, that’s probably true. But she’ll be difficult to forget.
The Enterprise leaves the space dock.
This is one of the best episodes of Season 1 thus far.
The Bynars are the first aliens we have met who seem legitimately alien. They are not god-like. They are not humans in makeup. They are weird but in a plausible way. My only issue with the Bynars is their name. It’s awfully coincidental that binary aliens are named Bynar.
Did Wesley Save the Day? Kind of. Maybe. He was the first to alert Data that the magnetic field around the anti-matter was failing. This led to an evacuation of the ship. However, the discovery of the field failure and the evacuation were part of the Bynar plans. If Wesley had not discovered it, someone else would have.
There are several things about this episode that I liked. In keeping with the binary theme, most of the cast ends up paired up at some point: Picard & Riker; Yar & Worf; Geordi & Data. The biggest letdown of these pairings is that we did not get to see Worf play a “win at all costs” game next to Yar. What we did get to see was good, though.
Geordi helping Data to paint is fascinating. What are the limits of android intelligence? How much like a human can an android become? Is creativity a key distinguishing factor? It is fun to see these two cast members continuing to pair up for that exploration in the series, too.
Riker may have had the best line in the episode when he came across this while it was happening.
Riker: A blind man teaching an android how to paint… that’s got to be worth a couple of pages in somebody’s book.
Brent Spiner had an AWESOME moment as Data in this episode. He was an absolute boss when he unleashed full Alpha Android mode and evacuated with ship. His subsequent doubts, after, were also great. The question of his moral obligations, as an android, when compared to humans is interesting to consider. Should he be held to a higher standard because he is capable? Or should he get to leave the bridge every now and then because he wants to?
Let’s talk some more about Riker in this episode.
- He was 100% planning to sleep with Minuet. Before he had an audience of Picard, he essentially asked her “how real” she was and advanced their physical “relationship” rapidly when she gave him assent to do so. There was no subtlety in what he meant with that question. After he and Minuet had a third wheel audience of Picard, Riker was still so taken with her that he was willing to admit to his boss that he feels he could fall for her romantically.
- Jonathan Frakes plays the trombone! He plays it well, too. I would be okay (in an alternative universe I suppose) if Star Trek had given us a spinoff series where Riker is permanently trapped in 1958’s New Orleans via holodeck mishap.
- Frakes has terrific chemistry with Carolyn McCormick – who played Minuet.
- When the episode ends, the audience has a much better understanding of Riker as a deeply lonely man. He seems genuinely distraught that she is gone and unrecoverable as the episode ends. It fits with who we have seen so far on the show, also. He has shown romantic interest in a harp playing pair of hologram women in an earlier episode. He has slept around with various alien women so far. He became just about unhinged when Troi was slated to get married. Riker wants more than anything to be a starfleet captain but it is coming at a terrible cost to his happiness.
Riker choosing a 20th century jazz club is akin to me choosing to visit Barcelona circa 1600 or so. I wonder if any of these holodeck adventures will ever take the cast to the 2200s?
Speaking of Troi… no Troi in this episode. Maybe we can start laying the groundwork for a relationship with her and Riker? Riker’s use of computer simulations for romance is becoming a bit disturbing.
Picard… manages to have his ship stolen while he and his first officer flirt with a hologram that his first officer *clearly* wanted to have sex with. The list of Picard captaincy failures is growing relatively long here in season 1. But as Picard failures go, staying too long to converse with a hologram is a relatively small one. He also manages to fly the ship back to the space doc successfully on his own.
What makes this episode so great? Star Trek at its best usually involves stories where diplomacy and understanding overcome the perception of differences or a threat. It is a bit Utopian in that respect. We see that here. The Bynar come across as a threat. I mean, they stole a star ship. But their reasons for doing so are good and Picard recognizes that. In this way, the show makes an optimistic appeal to humanity’s better angels. Picard and Riker did not have to save the Bynar or remain friendly with them after saving them – and yet they did. Undergirding a story like this is a notion that if we only stood each other better, we would see that we all mean well, and all conflicts might end this way.
This is a solid episode.