Mark Watches ‘The Next Generation’: S01E15 – 11001001

In the fifteenth episode of the first season of The Next Generation, Riker and Picard get swept up by a simulation in a Holodeck, only to discover that something has happened to the rest of the ship in the meantime. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

One thing that I’ve enjoyed about The Next Generation – and which is represented here in “11001001” – is the willingness to take some of these stories to really bizarre, unexpected places. There’s a riskiness to the plot in this episode. Halfway through it, we don’t even really have a major conflict; it’s more of an exploration of the Holodeck and it’s capabilities. Well, and a bit of a story about love and computers and whether or not Riker is gonna fuck said computer, BUT WE’LL GET THERE.

So, let’s start things off with an acknowledgement of how hilarious it is that I made some big pronouncement about the rigid gender roles in space (which I’m still sticking to), and then this episode introduces the Bynars, a species that pairs themselves with another (for life?) and HAS NO GENDER AT ALL. Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re perfect representation for actual nonbinary or agender folks, and often, what little representation there is, comes in the form of alien races. So I don’t want to be disingenuous about what this species means to other people, but I did appreciate that we finally got something from the show that didn’t stick to such a rigid binary.

On top of that, there’s a lot I liked about the Bynars. I loved the way they spoke; I loved that their native language was not subtitled; I loved the idea of a culture that had evolved to depend on integration with computer technology. All of these little details contributed to some of the tension in “11001001,” of course. I found it easy to read a specific narrative into that, since the crew was quick to distrust the Bynars or suspect that they were doing something wrong. (Well, they were, but that’s a separate issue.) They were “alien” characters in a figurative sense, too!

At the same time, I couldn’t quite figure out what they were doing to the Holodeck or the ship’s computer, and even my own suspicion was piqued when they were watching Riker enter the Holodeck for the first time. Were they just observing him so that they could adjust the programming, eager to please the Enterprise crew? Or was there an ulterior motive here? The thing is, I honestly didn’t suspect anything was wrong until the whole anti-matter disaster, and part of that was because this episode spent so much time in the Holodeck. Like Riker (and then Picard), I was distracted by the spectacle.

Now, I want to preface this part by stating that I don’t hate Riker or anything, but I’m getting a little tired of him being Captain Kirk 2.0. I’m referring to the fact largely, his presence in this show is to be – more or less – aggressively straight. Perhaps it’s because I’m coming off “Angel One,” but I wasn’t exactly sympathetic to Riker’s confusion over falling for Minuet. It’s not interesting to me. I think I was also a tad confused about the placement of this episode in season one, given that we just had a Holodeck episode that demonstrated a lot of the capabilities that Picard marvels at here. (I suspect that can easily be explained by the production order.) Still, what drew me into “11001001” was the sense of wonder. If you take out the sexualization, you get Picard and Riker being absolutely amazed by the technology that surrounds them. That’s a billion times more satisfying to see, you know?

There’s a manipulative edge to what we’re watching, though, and I didn’t figure it out until the LITERAL LAST MINUTE. Minuet wasn’t just a demonstration of the Holodeck’s capabilities. Certainly that was an aspect of her characterization. But the Bynars programmed her to specifically distract Riker and Picard, all so that they’d have a backup in place in case they died. That twist came together a little sloppily, but I enjoyed the outcome of it. Picard and Riker had to work together as a pair – like the Bynars work – in order to help save their entire race. While the show doesn’t shy away from portraying the kidnapping and manipulation as a negative thing, there’s also a sympathetic tone to how this all unfolds. At the end of the day, Picard and Riker knew that the Bynars meant no harm and were only doing what they saw as necessary to save their entire race. Plus, the Bynars submit themselves for the required punishment at the end of “11001001,” fully aware that they broke the law to do what they thought was right. I admire that! It reminded me of Riker’s willingness to do the same thing in “Angel One.”

This was an intriguing episode, one that I think is indicative of the kind of leaps and risks that The Next Generation can take. And I want the show to do that! I like weird, I like strange, and I am happy that I’m getting a sense for how this show truly is different than The Original Series. 

The video for “11001001” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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