Mark Watches ‘The Next Generation’: S03E06 – Booby Trap

In the sixth episode of the third season of The Next Generation, Picard’s curiosity and excitement gets the crew trapped. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Damn, this was a solid episode that veered into the awkward, but I liked it. Honestly, I didn’t expect so much of it to focus on Geordi, and I think that made “Booby Trap” a whole lot better than it could have been. And it was a damn fine premise to begin with! LET US DISCUSS.

Picard is a giant nerd.

IT’S TRUE, YOU NOW CANNOT DENY IT. The impetus for the disaster that unfolds here is entirely because of Picard, who is so utterly thrilled by the existence of a Promellian ship that he acts reckless. I did not find this to be a mischaracterization, though, and Deanna’s later line acknowledging this new “side” of Picard was all I needed to explain all of this. The man has always been interested by history and the classics, so it makes perfect sense to me that he’d be so excited about this ship.

That is how I was able to delight in seeing the show portray Picard in a negative light, one that was exceedingly rare in The Original Series when it came to Captain Kirk. Picard fucks up, PLAIN AND SIMPLE. We can see it on his face once the trap is activated, and that look remains there for the whole episode. Even at the end of “Bobby Trap,” he asks Wesley to step aside, all so he can be the one to lead the Enterprise out of danger. He knew he was responsible for this! And he knew that he ignored Riker and Worf in the process, too. I appreciated that, especially since it demonstrated exactly what the first episode of this season needed. Picard is held accountable by the narrative, and that’s all I could ask for from a good story.

The Trap

Just in terms of the logistics of suspense in “Booby Trap,” I thought that the Menthar energy drain was pretty damn clever. For the suspense to work (and it did, even knowing that this show always resolves plots in a single episode), I had to understand the urgency of the situation. That was achieved by the time limitations placed on the Enterprise‘s shields, and later with the countdown to fatal radiation exposure. On top of that, though, was a massive conflict that had no obvious solution. The trap itself feeds off any use of energy, thereby making any escape attempt virtually impossible because… well, every attempt known to the crew involves the use of energy, which the trap would devour.

I found this script clever because so much of it was tied to the idea of twisting expectations and perception. When Geordi finally figures out how to escape, he’s forced to re-think what an escape actually is. How does he use no energy to move? How can he trick a machine that’s thoughtlessly brutal and efficient?

Machines and Computers

So it’s not lost on me that in order to fool a machine, Geordi merely consults another one. Obviously, it’s a lot more complicated than that, because by “consult,” I actually mean, “kind of falls in love with a computer.” Which… is that inaccurate? Maybe I should say that he falls for the composite version of a woman as created by the ship’s computer. That sounds a bit better.

It also helps convey just how awkward some of this is, which is a shame because Dr. Brahms and Geordi actually have an incredible chemistry. Which is… real? Artificial? I don’t actually know how to talk about this because Dr. Brahms is like 90% of who she might have been, and that complicates matters, you know? While I was watching this episode, I realized that the writers might have been trying to say that Dr. Brahms was the personification of the Enterprise‘s engine. Which I get! That’s what Geordi is good at. That’s not a surprise at all, since we’ve seen his dedication and expertise of the last two seasons.

Here’s the thing: I felt incredibly awkward thinking about this, and I can’t quite put my finger on why. Again, I can’t deny that Geordi and Dr. Brahms had great chemistry together. But like… this is so bizarre. It’s also undeniable that the Dr. Brahms onscreen is the best possible version of her based entirely from a set of debates. So is it her? And what does that imply about Geordi? About his affection for her? Is he actually in love with the engine? Is that the conclusion I’m supposed to draw here?

Honestly, it’s not that I don’t relate to Geordi’s story, because as a massive nerd who is good at a lot of things but historically horrible at romance, this plot line speaks to me. DEEPLY. And I imagine for a lot of people who are nerdy, this storyline was pretty familiar. But I don’t know that I want the thing I love to come alive and hit on me. I think that’s the unspoken implication here in “Booby Trap” that makes me shudder. Like, I love Legos, but I don’t want to fuck them. (You’re welcome for that sentence, christ.)

I do want Geordi to experience love and affection and romance. I do! I think the show would have to become more serialized for that to happen, but still. Even here, I wanted him to feel better after he tried so hard to impress someone else. I don’t know if this provided any solution, though. It does for the main conflict, since the computer (through Dr. Brahms) guides Geordi in the right direction. But by the end of this episode, Geordi has made out with a computer simulation and he’s still ultimately all alone. SORRY, DIDN’T MEAN TO MAKE THIS SO SAD. But I didn’t feel elated or overjoyed by the conclusion of Geordi’s journey. I knew that nothing had really been solved for his character, and I wish something more had happened.

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

Mark Links Stuff

– The Mark Does Stuff Tour 2015 is now live and includes dates across the U.S. this summer and fall Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be the remainder of The Legend of Korra, series 8 of Doctor Who, and Kings. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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