07. Unnatural Selection

Twenty Notes in Something Like Summary Order

  1. A chance to assess Dr. P – Picard says a trip to Star Station India to meet a

    medical courier is a chance to assess Dr. P, and it’s about time because she doesn’t seem to be at her post enough. She can be hard to find unless we need someone to insult Data.

  2. Remote access – Captain Picard uses an access code to gain control of the USS Lantree. It’s easy to imagine this technology now, but when I think about the fact it came out in the 80s,  this seems like a prescient idea.
  3. Transfer to the Bridge – During a crisis, all the heads of department can transfer to the bridge, activating stations so that they can supply information as needed. I’ve got nothing to add to that really. I just thought it was cool.
  4. Reactions – We spend the first few acts watching Picard piece together what’s happening while Riker and Deanna react to the events. It’s pretty passive.
  5. Riker’s Role? – Now that he’s bearded up, what is his job? He’s like the number two guy in the mafia, giving the orders Picard wants given, so Picard can maintain plausible deniability.
  6. Unscientific Scientists– Dr. Kingsley said, we believe it came from the USS Lantree. Picard said, yea they’re all dead. Kingsley said, that confirms our suspicion. That’s a huge leap of logic. (Not to mention Dr. P’s rush to get the children on the ship.)
  7. Illegal? – I mean the kind of genetic experiments Kingsley et al are engaged in? Kahn? Noonien? Singh? Not engineered created? What’s that mean?
  8. Transporter Chief – When pushy, pushy Dr. P gets permission to beam up one

    of the children, Chief O’Brien is careful to beam the protective casing up faster than the child. How cool is that? It’s great having a transporter chief.

  9. Mitigating Risk – Picard is acting the most rational. He insists on patience and mitigating risk. The crew shouldn’t come into contact with those infected by the disease or those exposed to it when they don’t even understand what causes it.
  10. Old People – This is what Deanna meant when she said that Dr. P and Picard are “well established personalities.” They are about the same age, and they’re both used to giving orders. Believe me as you get older, it’s hard to have to justify doing something when the people you have to justify it to lack experience, lack vision, are afraid of change, aren’t smart enough, and… Sorry.
  11. Seek help from others – Dr. P asks Geordi how to isolate the beamed up boy from the rest of the crew, and he says shuttlecraft. That’s how she comes up with the idea of exposing only herself and Data to prove there’s no risk to the rest of the crew.
  12. What about Data? – She makes him go with her, and we never know for sure that the captain permitted it. When Picard says good luck, he’s talking only to Dr P. She says as a machine Data’s safe, but wait a minute what about the Naked Now? He can catch stuff, but he just accepts this fate. Is this because of his low self-esteem? Because just as when he was willing to go planetside in We’ll Always Have Paris, he thinks he’s dispensable? What if he is safe? Won’t he be a carrier? She may be consigning him to a long life of solitude.
  13. 3:22 AM – This is twenty minutes into the experiment. When do they sleep?
  14. Props to Data – One of the best moments in the episode comes once Dr. P has

    been proven wrong and she’s sick and in the Darwin lab. She praises Data’s ability to use computers. He gives an understated smile. This coupled with Data’s concern for Dr. P gives one to feel camaraderie building between them.

  15. Dr. P’s assessment – She says the situation can be explained thus: an attempt to affect human evolution led to a new species that was lethal to its predecessor. Isn’t that why it’s illegal? Kahn?
  16. Data goes home – and it turns out there was concern he might be a carrier. Dr. P was consigning him to a bad end. If the Enterprise crew hadn’t come up with a way to use the transporter as a cure, he wouldn’t have been able to rejoin the crew. Now, I’m assuming they put Data’s pattern through the trace. I have to object to one of the transporter crew saying there were no lifeforms. Here are my objections:
        1. Data is a lifeform, just different from the others
        2. viruses and antibodies are not lifeforms
        3. also not too sure about the science of using Dr. P’s DNA to screen out the antibodies. wish I had more knowledge in this department.
  17. Picard cares – I liked when he stopped midsentence to say to Data, “It’s good to see you again.” That was good dialogue. The back and forth between Data and Picard shows great familiarity both between characters and between the actors. This scene is nice storytelling.
  18. Tough Calls – Picard is onboard to make them, and he’s willing to take over the controls of the transporter so the chief doesn’t have to live with the memory of killing Dr. P if things go wrong. I applaud the idea, but I think I’d rather the expert stay at the controls. I wish Chief O’Brien hadn’t happily jumped out of Picard’s way.
  19. Fountain of youth? – Is it me, or did we just discover a way to prevent aging?
  20. Quiet Dignity – this is the mood when the Enterprise returns to blow up the USS Lantree. It was understated, and as the others return to their duties, Picard lingers, considering perhaps what it would be like to lose the Enterprise in a similar way.

Picard’s Captaining

It’s been a long time since we considered Picard’s decision making process, and this episode

provides several great examples. It presents the Enterprise as an institution where all information is funneled one direction, where it is used to make the final decision.

Here’s how it goes:

(1) First of all, channels of communication are open (2) as they gather information. (3) Then Picard chooses from options (4) or makes his own decision. (5) Once the decision is made, the crew enacts it.

  1. Open – Information can be asked for or it can just be offered. For example, Picard asks Riker for his opinion about what they should do when they get the distress call from the Lantree. On the other hand when they find the Lantree, Worf just shouts out that they should board it, and Geordi doesn’t have to be asked before he says it has no battle damage. This is important to Picard. That’s why he says to Dr. P that it’s acceptable for her to state her opinion but she has to let him finish his sentences.
  2. Gather information and opinions– Picard asks for or simply gets information, suggestions, and opinions from the crew.
  3. Choose – After listening, he chooses one. He chose Riker’s idea to access the Lantree’s computers and take control of the ship to investigate it. He did took Dr. P’s advice and quarantined the Lantree and Darwin Station.
  4. Own decision – Sometimes he makes his own decision, but when he does he explains why. He went against Dr. P’s wishes to bring the children aboard the Enterprise, but he was clear about the reason: it put his crew at risk.
  5. Enactment – This is the crew’s responsibility even if they disagree. When Dr. P tells Dr. Kingsley the children can’t come aboard because it is too risky, she is stating the captain’s opinion. Not her own.

Taking Risks

The episode is set up as an opportunity to assess Dr. P, and the conversation between Picard and Deanna present her as single minded and dedicated. The question is whether or not that consuming dedication would interfere with her judgement.

The answer is yes. She is driven to help people, but when she believes she’s found the best way to do it, she can’t see other options. As a result, she puts many other people at risk. She insists on bringing the boy onboard so she can examine him. Picard allows it but does everything he can to mitigate the risk.

She insists the children are too healthy to even get sick. She wants to bring them all onboard. But Picard reminds her that if they don’t know how the disease started and how it spreads, they don’t know enough to say the kids aren’t dangerous.

As a doctor, she should be looking at the disease, but instead she’s focused on the people. When she should be thinking of the diseased, she is thinking about those she thinks are not sick. She wants to help the few rather than the many.

Picard tries to keep her on track, but I expect she’s going to get a negative personnel evaluation after this.

Preemptive Action

I suspect there’s an allegory here about the dangers of taking preemptive action. The problem is cause by the children’s immune systems aggressively leaving their bodies and destroying the bodies of those who might be a risk. Maybe it’s not as fleshed out as something like the movie Minority Report, but it’s there. Isn’t it?

Morals, messages, and meanings

  1. Don’t be single minded
  2. Seek help from others
  3. Don’t rush when you think you’re right
  4. Preemptive action is bad.
  5. Don’t fear technology – Dr. P’s fear of the transporter almost meant that the transporter couldn’t be used to save her.
  6. Leave your genes around

Does it hold up?

Yes.

There’s good storytelling in the scenes. Nice dialogue. Nice interplay between characters. And seeing Dr. P make a fool of herself is a first step towards my liking her. Finally she did something I can relate to.

I like to watch Picard’s decision making process and we get a lot of that here.

The genetic modification experiments the scientists are doing in Darwin Station are implausible in the Star Trek universe because it should be illegal, and the unscientific ways in which Dr. Kingsley and Dr. P act, are off-putting. But these are easily overlooked.

All in all, an OK episode.

 

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