Revisiting Star Trek TNG: Transfigurations

Review James Hunt 5 Sep 2014 - 07:15

The Enterprise rescues a mysterious patient in this week's Star Trek: TNG look-back. Here's James' take on Transfigurations...

This review contains spoilers.

3.25 Transfigurations

The Enterprise is enjoying some quiet time (Picard's phrase, not mine) so Geordie and Worf are hanging out in Ten Forward. Geordi is trying to catch the attention of Christy Henshaw, but is too shy to go and talk to her. When La Forge tries to stop Worf staring, Worf advises him that "you must let her see the fire in your eyes" - apparently oblivious to Geordi's lack of visible eyes.

This awkwardness is interrupted when Riker calls Geordi away, and the two head to a planet to investigate a crashed vessel. It's an escape pod with one badly injured survivor. They need to transport him to the ship, but his brain is too damaged and can't take the strain. Crusher rigs up the tricorder to link Geordi's brain to the patient's (wow, those things are powerful!) and despite a weird moment of feedback, it all goes fine.

In sickbay, Crusher is attempting to save the patient while Riker reports that the crashed ship appears to have been an escape pod. Luckily they salvaged some kind of disco lamp which is probably the ship's black box, so once they find out whether it runs Windows or OS X, they can figure out what it was and who attacked it.

The patient, who they call John Doe, survives his injuries and it's soon clear he's healing fast. Indeed, his cells aren't just regenerating, they appear to be spontaneously mutating as well. John does wake up, but unfortunately he's lost his memory completely. (Although… mutant cells, a healing factor, no memory of his past… is this guy Wolverine?)

In ten-forward, Data and La Forge are talking about decoding the computer module so much that Worf starts to get annoyed that all of his friends are giant nerds (except Riker, but he plays the trumpet). Taking the hint, Geordi decides to go and chat up Christy, while making subtle remarks like "I've never felt this confident!" or "boy, that brain zap sure did something to my mind!"

Soon, a month has passed. As John is rehabilitated, Crusher starts to get way too involved with her patient, but luckily Starfleet has a policy of not caring about this sort of thing. As the saying goes: what happens in the Zeta Gelis Cluster stays in the Zeta Gelis Cluster.

But John isn't just charming, kind and medically improbable. He also starts getting weird glows and energy pulses bursting from his chest. "It's probably fine," everyone says unconvincingly. Then he heals Chief O'Brien's dislocated shoulder with a touch. "Well, if anything that's good news!" everyone says, even less convincingly. Then he freaks out and tries to steal a shuttle, accidentally kills Worf, and subsequently raises him from the dead. "Ah, this is probably a bit more serious." everyone says.

As John's memory returns, Geordi continues to strut around talking about how confident he has become. He and Data finally decode the computer module and learn the escape pod's flight path, but he begs them not to take him home. Then a ship from his race, the Zalkonians, turns up demanding he be turned over to them for a swift and brutal execution. Picard isn't keen on this idea for obvious reasons.

As Picard and the Zalkonian argue about who gets to keep John Doe, he suddenly appears on the bridge exhibiting a variety of god-like powers and displaying the kind of peaceful serenity that makes you want to punch him. When Picard refuses to hand him over without a decent explanation of his crimes, The Zalkonians use their magic suffocate-o-matic to stop the Enterprise crew breathing. It almost works, but John Doe is able to use his new abilities to protect them and restore breathing to the Enterprise.

With his memories now returned, John explains that he and his fallen crewmates were killed for being honest and open about the genetic mutations which give them crazy superpowers, spreading social unrest as a result. The Zalkonian Captain wanted them all dead so that they could prevent the mutation of their species, but it's too late. How do you stop a man who can restart people's breathing with the wave of his hand? As if to underscore his point, he turns into a glowing mass of light, which is the second time someone has done that at the end of an episode.

Once the Zalkonians have left, defeated. John Doe gives Crusher the "it's not you, it's me" speech, Geordi thanks him for his free confidence boost, and then John turns into a ball of energy and flies away. And let us never speak of this again.

TNG WTF: Not that it particularly bothers me, but you can't help but be surprised at the oddly graphic close-up of John Doe's body when they find him crash-landed on the planet. YOU CAN SEE HIS BRAINS.

TNG LOL: Worf gets some great stuff in this episode, believing that he's teaching Geordi about women when he's mostly just offering hugely impractical advice and taking credit for stuff he had nothing to do with.

Who's That Face?: Julie Warner who plays Christy Henshaw was the co-star of Doc Hollywood and appeared in films like Flatliners and Tommy Boy. Those are some stone-cold early 90s credentials.

Time Until Meeting: 35:54. Picard, Riker, Troi and Crusher have a meeting with John to decide what they should do.

Captain's Log: There are plenty of things about this episode's premise which are quite good, but in general it all falls a little flat. The investigation into Doe's past or powers is slow and uninteresting, and the Zalkonians, when they arrive, are one-note and so unreasonable you're in no doubt what Picard will do with John.

Furthermore, the sub-plot about John and Beverly being attracted to each other lacks a lot of chemistry, and the plot about Geordi's improved confidence just… ends. There's no "the confidence was inside you all along!" revelation. John just suggests that maybe he awake something that was already in Geordi and that's supposed to be the satisfying conclusion to that story. Still, given that we never see Christy again, we can probably assume it didn't work out long-term.

Watch or Skip? Skip. 

Read James' look-back at the previous episode, Menage A Troi, here.

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