Revisiting Star Trek TNG: Lonely Among Us

Review James Hunt 19 Oct 2012 - 07:17

In his weekly season one reappraisal, James comes to a TNG episode best avoided. Here's his review of Lonely Among Us...

This review contains spoilers.

1.7 Lonely Among Us

This episode combines two stock Star Trek plots: "humans mediate a conflict between two alien species" and "energy being loose on the ship". The problem is that it also combines those plots with the concept of completely awful television.

The episode opens with the crew welcoming aboard some comedy delegates in bad costumes, whom they're supposed to transport to the subtly-named planet of "Parliament". En route, they plough the ship into some kind of energy cloud which causes Worf to get zapped through one of Star Trek's famously unearthed touchscreens. (Two words: surge protector.)

The energy is some kind of alien life form, and it spends the bulk of the episode hopping from character to character and making them act completely irrationally towards everyone they know, derelict their duty, and generally cause havoc. Rather than flag up that something might be wrong, the entire bridge crew just sort of shrugs their shoulders and lets it happen until the alien gets into Picard's mind, at which point the situation is way out of control.

This is one of those episodes that requires literally everyone to turn into a complete idiot in order for the plot to work. At one point Crusher awakes from her possession to find herself on the bridge with a giant chunk of missing time. Rather than mention this to anyone, she just sort of looks confused then goes back to work. As you would, right? No? No.

When the problems come to light, Troi decides to help out with a little hypnosis. Because apparently, in the twenty-fourth century, mesmerism is back in fashion. They do learn that the entity is on board, but unfortunately it's too late. Mr Singh (introduced earlier this episode) has been accidentally killed, and Picard has been taken over. When the crew try to point this out to him he counters with a logically bulletproof catch twenty-two situation "You say I've been compromised? Maybe I say YOU have been compromised!" Yes, that's right, logically bulletproof.

Eventually, Picard announces his intention to beam back into the energy cloud with the energy being so that he can travel the universe as an immortal formless ball of electricity and everyone kind of shrugs and lets him do it. Oh, those pesky regulations!

And here's where it gets really stupid. After beaming himself into space without a body, Picard is freed from his possession. Now an energy being, he enters the Enterprise computer and draws a little "P" on every screen ("P! For Picard!" sez Riker.) They then restore his body from the transporter backups (what) and everything is fine and dandy. Oh, except the two alien delegates (who have literally been jumping out of hiding places in a "hilarious" manner throughout the entire episode. Seriously, these idiots are candidates for joining the Federation?) have finally succeeded in causing a fatality between their groups. Picard puts Riker in charge and goes for a lie down. End episode.

Okay, it's not quite as bad as that racist episode earlier this season, but that set the bar pretty low. Instead, this is an episode of Star Trek that doesn't work because it isn't actually about anything. It's just a bunch of stuff happening with no moral quandary underpinning it, or even a logical progression of events. Utterly, irredeemably dire.

TNG WTF: As if the write-up didn't tell you, this episode is full of WTF. We can forgive the horrendous costumes on the visiting delegates as reach exceeding grasp, but that doesn't excuse the rest of it.

For example, Mr Singh, a valued department head and beloved husband and father (probably) is discovered dead – possibly murdered - and yet whenever the subject comes up everyone spends their entire time smirking at Data's newfound Sherlock Holmes impression. Ho ho! A man is dead! Elementary, my dear Riker!

And sorry, you don't get to end an episode with the whimsical version of the theme when Picard "hilariously" goes for a nap instead of dealing with the recent murder of a Selay delegate on his ship. You just don't.

TNG LOL: Although massively inappropriate for the situation, Brent Spiner doing Data doing Sherlock Holmes is completely brilliant. And this episode contains probably one of the top 5 deadpan Worf moments in all Star Trek, when Doctor Crusher asks to speak to him about his memory blackout and he replies "I still don't remember having one."

Mistakes & Minutiae: You can't remotely tell, but under all that make-up, Badar N'D'D the Antican is Mark Alaimo, who would eventually go on to play Gul Dukat on DS9.

Time Until Meeting: 13:28, and it's a good'un. Not only does it begin with a zoom into the meeting room from outside the ship (nothing close to seamless, but a nice idea nonetheless), it's also full of people who aren't in the regular cast, getting speaking lines and everything.

Captain's Log: This is the first "bottle" episode of TNG, and it shares a lot (in structure and execution) with some of the Season 3 TOS episodes. By which I mean it looks cheap and appears to have been written by a child, in yellow crayon. Aside from establishing Data's interest in Sherlock Holmes, it contributes nothing to the series that anyone wanted to go near ever again. And who can blame them?

Watch or Skip? Ugh. Don't. Just don't.

Read James' look-back at the previous episode, Where No-One Has Gone Before, here.

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