Episode #37: Contagion

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Episode #37: Contagion

Post  BoG on Sun Mar 14, 2010 2:52 pm


CONTAGION - episode #11 of 2nd season / Air Date: 3/20/89
written by Steve Gerber, Beth Woods; Directed by Joseph L. Scanlon

A lot of diverse concepts are thrown into the mix in this one; usually, this would mean it's unfocused, but it works out pretty well this time. This grabs our attention in the pre-titles sequence with the destruction of another Galaxy-class starship, The Yamato. Then, a Romulan ship appears, commanded by a female (Carolyn Seymour). The Yamato had been plagued by malfunctions before it blew up and now the Enterprise is also beginning to experience malfunctions (almost like it's been infected by the other ship).
The search for answers leads Picard and his crew to one of those extinct civilizations and the uncovering of technology similar to the Stargate premise: people are able to literally walk from the surface of a planet to the bridge of a ship or onto another planet in another star system. Obviously, if the Romulans get their hands on this technology... this leads to Picard's eventual decision to destruct such technology, which is a curious thing. It's marvelous technology - a step up from warp drive & transporters; but, too soon for the 24th? Perhaps, in the 25th...?
The story takes some unexpected directions and there's a surprising amount of action and tension in this one. Picard and crew have to deal with their computer being taken over - a 24th century version of a computer virus - and with the Romulans. But, it's not simply a headache of a computer problem: malfunctions in locations such as the turbolift can lead to broken bones. A landing party gets stuck on the planet with the ancient technology while things steadily go crazy on the ship. It adds to the tension because the crew already know what happened to the Yamato.
This is one of those episodes with interesting plot turns every few minutes - a very well paced episode - and one in which the actors worked well together, smoothly, as if everyone finally found their footing. Even Wesley gets a good scene in this one: he spells out the misgivings viewers like me often have with the crew of this 24th century Enterprise when he questions their seeming non-reaction to such a traumatic event as all the people on the Yamato getting killed right in front of them. Picard makes it clear that he and the crew are not without human feeling.
BoG's Score: 8 out of 10


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TNG Trivia: this episode first reveals Picard's early interests in archaeology, which would be followed up on in The Chase; actress Seymour would return as another Romulan commander in Face of the Enemy (why not the same commander? dunno). Writer Gerber was well known as a satiric Marvel Comics writer, co-creating Howard the Duck.
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