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Lonely Among Us

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at March 23, 2007 - 7:08 PM GMT

See Also: 'Lonely Among Us' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: The Enterprise is assigned the unpleasant task of transporting two adversarial alien species to the conference planet Parliament in the hope that they can work out their differences and become members of the Federation. During the journey, the ship passes through a spatial anomaly characterized by bursts of energy. While doing research with LaForge, Worf is struck by an energy beam from the ship's computer and knocked unconscious. When Dr. Crusher examines him, she, too, is struck by the energy patterns. Soon the two of them are behaving oddly, with Crusher asking her son about warp theory. The ship's power goes down and a member of the engineering crew dies mysteriously while investigating the problem. Yar believes the visiting aliens must be responsible, but Data points out that their attacks have been on one another, not the ship. When Troi puts Worf and Crusher under hypnosis, she discovers that they both feel as if they have been possessed by an alien. It soon becomes apparent that Picard, too, has been compromised, for he orders the ship back to the anomaly and beams himself into the anomaly to live as a pure energy being. But Troi discovers that his energy cannot exist as pure spirit with the anomaly's beings and when Picard's energy manages to infiltrate the ship's transporter relays, the crew is able to merge his body and spirit to beam him back.

Analysis: Sorry if that list bit of plot summary sounds like gobbledygook. I can only justify it by stating that it's just as nonsensical in "Lonely Among Us", which despite all that plot moves at a snail's pace to the la-la gibberish at the end. This being Star Trek, of course no one is going to say that it's Picard's soul or spirit or essence that ends up in the machinery, but because of that, we're expected to believe that his "energy" possesses his memories and personality, to such an extent that Troi can recognize them disembodied and they can be plopped back into his transporter pattern to make the captain himself again. If it weren't so ludicrous, it would open up all kinds of amazing avenues: at age 90, people could beam themselves into their transporter patterns at 20 and live their glory days again! But the concept isn't even taken that seriously. It's a stuck-on fantastical ending to an episode that seems to have dropped its original plot in favor of a shinier one.

The two groups of aliens, the Anticans and the Selay, appear to have been created to demonstrate that makeup, like special effects, have come a long way since the original Star Trek, but what promises to be a storyline about them resolving their differences gets sidetracked and we scarcely see their cool makeup, let alone their stealth combat taking place all over the ship right under the noses of security teams. We never learn anything about the nature of their ancient dispute, either...although Riker smugly announces that he has never understood this kind of hostility, Yar opines that neither group would make a good Federation candidate, and Picard shrugs that the silly feud is all about customs, economics and religion, the sort of things no one on Earth has fought over in several years. Oh good, one might be tempted to say at this point: Kirk used to meet aliens with disputes like that all the time, and have them cooperating within half an hour. This should be a cinch for the more diplomatic Picard.

What's more, it quickly becomes apparent that there's an external threat to everyone on the ship, including Anticans and Selay as well as Starfleet officers. It's kind of like the energy being from "Day of the Dove" that got stronger every time someone hated someone else. So this all starts to seem familiar, right? With a common enemy, surely the aliens will be brought in for advice - each demonstrating some knowledge heretofore unknown in the Federation - thus putting aside their differences, proving their ability to get along under duress, and demonstrating that the arrogant humans were wrong about both the Anticans and Selay, who will make fine if cranky Federation members, sort of like the Andorians and Tellarites. That would be a fairly predictable episode but at least it would have been in a fine Star Trek tradition.

What do we get instead? A peace conference ignored while senior crewmembers are possessed. A doctor and first officer too chicken to put the captain into custody, even when he's obviously not himself, so that by the time they take action, the conference has been abandoned and the captain has resigned from Starfleet with plans to beam himself into space. No one is watching the Anticans and Selay during all this, so they return to their usual favorite activity - trying to kill each other - and when the yeti dudes assassinate the snakey ambassador, which the crew finds out because they plan to cook and eat him, the whole thing is played for laughs! Ahahaha, those crazy aliens, turn your back and they go and prove they didn't deserve to be in the Federation anyway. Good thing humans aren't so nutty, right?

There are so many problems with this storyline that it's hard to know where to start. "When is mutiny necessary" can be a terrific storyline, just like "What if certain members of the crew got possessed and started doing crazy things" can be, but they both require familiarity with the characters and their quirks and foibles. We must know how people act under normal circumstances before we can point and say, "Crusher would never have had a conversation with her son about his warp research on a normal day!" But since we've scarcely seen Beverly and Wesley interact, it all looks like it could be an attempt at material interest, not something menacing. Similarly, Picard's slow smile and insistence on going back to the cloud could mean that he's just had a brilliant idea that he wants to check out without involving to crew to avoid making them culpable if something goes horribly wrong, like Kirk did in The Enterprise Incident when he crossed the Neutral Zone on his own...it's impossible to say at this early date that Picard has lost it until we actually hear him announce that he's in love with the alien living in his brain with him.

So when Riker, Troi and Crusher start talking about relieving him of duty, along with the inevitable "Should we even be talking about relieving him of duty?" angst, it's hard to tell whether 1) Crusher is still under the influence and therefore being extra-evil, 2) Riker's being logically cautious or insanely cavalier about the need to get the captain off the bridge, and 3) Troi's going to be the type to advocate relieving the captain of duty every time he has an angsty moment within her radar. Just like "The Naked Now" happened much too soon in the series for the audience to enjoy the sexual tension among the characters, "Lonely Among Us" happens much too soon for us to enjoy or really learn much from the crazy-captain scenario.

The episode does introduce one element that remains an arc throughout the series, becoming increasingly fun and interesting: Data's playing at being Sherlock Holmes, smoking his pipe, saying things like "It's elementary, my dear Riker" and insisting that when all logical avenues have been exhausted, one must look to see what's left. Curiously, he never once suggests the visiting aliens, even before he can prove that they were attacking one another and not the ship; instead he brings up such outlandish possibilities as a Ferengi saboteur. And at the moment when it might make sense for him to take a role in Engineering, it's boy wonder Wesley who seems to be leading the investigation. In a universe where it's logical for the ship's counselor to use hypnosis to figure out what's up with Worf and Crusher, wouldn't it make a certain amount of sense to have her also question the aliens and the engineers?

There's really no logic here at all. Right about now, I really miss Spock. And Kirk.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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