Mark Watches ‘The Next Generation’: S01E07 – Lonely Among Us

In the seventh episode of the first season of The Next Generation, the Enterprise hosts delegates from two warring species, only to suspect that one of them might have sabotaged the ship. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek. 

Trigger Warning: For consent.

Well, that was an okay episode. This felt comforting and familiar in the sense that it fit perfectly within the existing Star Trek canon, but that also means that this didn’t seem to be anything other than a re-written version of a number of The Original Series episodes either. But there were some neat moments!

Antica and Selay

I do have to hand it to the show for giving me a red herring that I absolutely fell for. I kept expecting that this episode would reveal that someone was behind the energy cloud or the possession. I believed that it couldn’t be a coincidence because WHEN DOES THAT EVER HAPPEN? As these two species constantly toyed with the rules aboard the Enterprise, making poor Lt. Yar increasingly frustrated with both parties, it made sense to me that one group would benefit from a delay in the negotiations with the Federation.

Instead, this story does something far more fascinating to me: it demonstrates that the Enterprise crew deals with a lot of shit all at the same time. I love the idea that the possession of the energy cloud plot truly has nothing to do with the ongoing fighting. I imagine, then, that delegates like these two parties are often ferried by the Federation. Even if that isn’t the case – which I can admit because I don’t know that much about canon – this still feels like it does a lot to paint a picture of what every day life is like aboard a ship like this. There’s no destruction or epic battles with omniscient beings; they mostly just have to clean up after others.

Sherlock Holmes

I found the cheesy Sherlock Holmes joke to be completely charming. I DID! I mean, do you realize the potential here??? How many other fictional characters can he imitate poorly? THIS IS A DREAM COME TRUE! I say that because I don’t mind a little camp in my science fiction, and Data’s performance as Sherlock Holmes is so bad that it’s terribly good. I don’t expect Data to be a good actor; he hasn’t grasped the complexities of human behavior yet. That’s why his character is so amusing here. With an actual mystery unfolding onboard the Enterprise, he provides a necessary comic relief.

The Energy Cloud

I say that Data’s comic relief is necessary because it’s unfortunately the only part of most of the main plot that I found engaging. This is a fairly simplistic, on-the-nose use of this specific trope. An unknown entity latches on to a spaceship, then jumps from person to person to enact its mysterious end. It seemed pretty obvious that the energy cloud was responsible for the lightning/shocks/possession. Don’t get me wrong; I found Gates McFadden and Patrick Stewart to be entertaining here; the way both actors moved their bodies while possessed was unnerving. But I didn’t feel a palpable tension here; I didn’t feel like this wasn’t something I’d seen before. Hell, the only part of the “mystery” that shocked me was when the possessed Picard beamed himself out into space. HOW WAS HE NOT DEAD??? Well, it was just his own energy, intermingled with the unnamed being’s energy, so… I guess that works?

These new characters are exciting, y’all, but I don’t know that an episode like this sheds any light on who they are. I’ve been writing about a specific phenomenon over in my Supernatural reviews, and I think I see it here, too. This episode feels like a show going through the motions. There are a ton of extremely common sci-fi tropes in this episode, which obviously isn’t bad in and of itself. Tropes are not a negative thing. The use of them, however, can make a story feel sluggish, and that’s my issue with “Lonely Among Us.” That title seems to promise so much, but the only loneliness we get is in the expository monologue that Picard gives to the crew while possessed. This being just wanted to go home, which I understand. But then it wants to immediately go out and explore the universe? That seemed conflicting and confusing to me.

Anyway, this wasn’t a terrible episode at all. But I’d love if the shower dug a little deeper into this setting and these characters. I feel like there’s a lot of potential here the writers aren’t using.

The video for “Lonely Among Us” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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