In the twenty-fifth and penultimate episode of the third season of The Next Generation, Dr. Crusher helps rehabilitate a mysterious person who is part of a larger conflict. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
This isn’t the best ending to an episode, but it’s actually one of the better uses of a common storytelling trope in fiction. I have written about it before, but I often bore of having to watch amnesia stories because writers often rely on the same twists and turns when telling a story. And it’s simply not all that interesting when a real phenomenon is used in such condescending or pointless ways.
I think what makes this feel so different is that John Doe’s amnesia isn’t just a plot point. He’s brought into the show with a grievous injury, one that he nearly dies from, and his amnesia is part of his physical disability, one that puts him in weeks worth of rehabilitation. There is a mystery attached to his identity, but it’s not invoked within that familiar trope of someone we already know losing their identity and then ~wacky capers~ happen or they get a chance for the writers to write them utterly out of character. It’s part of a genuine journey for himself, one that’s frustrating, scary, and uncomfortable. It doesn’t feel like an insubstantial part of who he is, and I think that’s a vital part of why this episode is such a genuine experience.
You know, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why this episode was so entertaining for me, and I realized after it ended that John Doe’s charm was part of everything here. This is a charming episode because it’s just so nice. From Dr. Crusher’s compassion and dedication to John’s behavior, this is a story about people believing in the best possible world and then making that happen. Despite knowing nothing about John Doe, the Enterprise crew take him in and use their resources him to nurse him back to health. Picard constantly checks in on him and is utterly gracious towards him. No one makes him feel odd or out of place, at least not until John begins to exhibit some dangerous side affects of his transformation. Even then? Picard and the others try to understand him, you know?
Despite that it’s uncomfortable at times, the writers even manage to develop a believable “romance” of sorts between John and Dr. Crusher. It’s hard for an episodic television show like The Next Generation to develop a romance that makes me feel anything. I mean, I’m still going to ship Dr. Crusher and Picard because THAT’S CLEARLY THE BEST SHIP HERE. But I understood why Dr. Crusher had such complicated feelings for John Doe. First of all, the script did a fine job of communicating just how much time they’d spent together. By the time Geordi realizes that John Doe may have done something to help his confidence (we still don’t know if he actually did), more than a month has passed. And Dr. Crusher has been with John Doe every day that whole time. Just in terms of logistics, it’s totally possible for someone to start to develop feelings in that amount of time.
It also helps that Mark La Mura plays John Doe so well, because he’s actually likable. We don’t doubt his kindness or his compassion. And when he fucks up and harms people around him in the midst of his transformation, he doesn’t try to duck away from his responsibility. After healing O’Brien earlier in the episode, he turns his ability on Worf, bringing the Klingon back to life after accidentally killing him. Hell, even at the end of the episode, he uses his powers to save THE ENTIRE SHIP AT ONCE. So why wouldn’t Dr. Crusher develop feelings for him? I think that the writers validated this turn by having Wesley offer his support to his mother, one of the downright sweetest scenes in the whole season. (I would totally love more scenes with just the two of them.)
So when we finally learned what was actually happening here, it was meaningful. We were sad about the lost potential for a friendship for Dr. Crusher and John Doe. It also made John’s transformation to his final form all the most impressive. I mean, y’all: WE GOT TO SEE A NEW SPECIES FORM BEFORE OUR EYES. How cool is that shit? Not only that, but there was a neat anti-oppression theme to John Doe’s escape. The culture he grew up in believed him to be evil because of that metamorphosis he was going through, so they criminalized him and demonized his “disease.” There’s a part of me that wishes I’d seen more of the Zalkonians because the end of “Transfigurations” is unfortunately abrupt, but I still think this was a damn strong episode. Oh gods, I’ve made it to the end of the third season??? How did this happen???
The video for “Transfigurations” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
– I am now on Patreon!!! MANY SURPRISES ARE IN STORE FOR YOU IF YOU SUPPORT ME.
– 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.Â My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be the remainder ofÂ The Legend of Korra, series 8 ofÂ Doctor Who, and Kings. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
-Â Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook!Â I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!