22. Shades of Gray

Riker’s in serious trouble

though from the looks of it he’s just chillin’ in Dagobah. Geordi’s also part of this first survey team to step foot on Surata IV because he’s the chief engineer. Geordi asks what’s wrong, and Riker shows him a gaping wound. They try to beam back to the Enterprise, but Chief O’Brien says it’s a no go. Riker is infected, and the transporter can’t filter out the microbe. He calls Dr. P.

Dr. P. is all kinds of scared of the transporter, but she fights through that to get planetside and check out this infection. Riker’s trying to be cool and funny, but it just comes off as bad acting. Understandable. He’s feeling a little numb. Dr. P gives a medical override and they beam back to the Enterprise and hurry to sickbay, where Riker’s whole left leg goes numb.

Some New Type Microbes

are killing Riker, says Dr. P to Picard and Riker. Nice bedside manner. (Now press play on Barenaked Ladies song). It’s infecting his great sciatic nerve on a molecular level, impeding nervous function.

Picard wants to help, so Dr. P asks for a sample of whatever infected him. Picard sends Data and Geordi.

Data doesn’t want Geordi along because it’s too dangerous for humans. They find a vine, but Data doesn’t think it’s alive. Geordi thinks it is because he sees thermal readings. It won’t move until Geordi waves his hand in front of it. It attacks. Data saves him. So basically good thing Geordi went. Good thing Data went. Picard knows what he’s doing.

They extract a stinger thorn from the vine. It gets angry and wiggly, and false tension, blah blah blah, get us out of here. They beam back and in the calmest of manners thank Chief O’Brien for saving their lives. Geordi rushes stinger thorn off to Sickbay.

Picard asks for a Data hypothesis: there’s a vine that goes after warmblood animals. It shares a symbiotic relationship with the microbes. The vine’s a predator. Then Data says, let’s hope for Riker’s sake I’m wrong, and I’m like, Why Data? Your hypothesis being right or wrong won’t affect his condition.

But Picard says, your hypotheses are seldom wrong and he looks down and to the right for a long moment, eyes bouncing like he just plucked one of his own pubic hairs.

(OK that didn’t make a lot of sense, but it was supposed to be a Friends reference about soap opera acting…)

Those microbes aren’t going anywhere

Dr. P tells Picard when he arrives at sickbay. They’re too closely tied to the nerve and extracting them will damage it.

Riker’s hand is going numb, but he’s pretending it’s not. His tough act is making Picard feel even worse. Riker says, we explore the unknown. I’m surprised it doesn’t happen every week. (Obviously not in charge of yellow shirts or red shirts).

Picard, probably thinking of the Borg, says the unknown can be benign or malevolent. Riker is more philosophical. Most life just wants to survive. I can’t be angry at a vine for dropping a hammer on me. No wait, he’s the one with the hammer, and he dropped it on himself. Somehow.

Picard goes back to Dr. P, and she tells him to go away.

Riker is still joking around when Deanna gets there. She sees right through it. She tries to tell him all his emotions are normal, and he doesn’t have to act all tough. He says he does. He’s first officer and has to set an example. He might not want to die, but if he must, he wants to do it with pride.

And impudence, Deanna adds. She totally gets him. She holds his hand, which makes him happy and the microbes stronger. He lapses into a coma.

A quick medical log teaches us three things. (You know I wouldn’t leave without a numbered list.)

  1. Dr. P can’t stop the microbes from getting to Riker’s brain.
  2. They will kill him when they get there by dampening his neural impulses.
  3. She can slow them from getting to his brain by stimulating neurons in the brain.

They stick wires in his head, and we wait, and wait and wait

a little bit more

just a bit..

FB 1: Riker beaming down to Delphi Ardu IV, finding himself all alone in The Last Outpost.

Sickbay: the patterns in his brain activity and crazy erratic. This is trouble.

Deanna says hang on Bill. I mean Will because I haven’t called you Bill since the Naked Now.

The good times roll

in Riker’s brain. Well good times and benign times as he remembers things from past episodes while Dr. P is still struggling to get the erratic brain activity under control.

FB 2: The first time Riker met Data on the holodeck in Encounter at Farpoint. (Reminding me that Data used to talk a lot like Lore.)

FB 3: Riker chatting up Guinen for Wes’s edification on Ten Forward in the Dauphin.

FB 4: Riker saying goodbye to Deanna in the Icarus Factor.

Sickbay: Deanna says Riker is feeling relaxed with feelings of warmth and friendship. Dr. P says, yea the wires are making him have vivid dreams.

FB 5: Sexy people frolicking in Justice. (Hello buttcheeks)

FB 6: Minuet from 11001001 (man I missed Minuet) (and jazzy Riker for that matter.)

Sickbay: Deanna’s getting a little embarrassed because Riker’s feeling erotic passions.

FB 7: Continuation of Minuet and boy she smells good.

FB 8: Riker getting it on with Mistress Beata on Angel 1. (Great: we get to hear that sexist joke that makes fun of women by trivializing discrimination in sexuality between men and women in our own society)

FB 9: Riker getting it on with Brenna Odell from Up the Long Ladder.

Sickbay: All this erotic dreaming is exciting the microbes and making everything worse.

Turn these dreams into nightmares

is the plan Dr. P comes up with when she and Deanna figure out that the microbes are responding to the endorphins Riker’s emotions are releasing. Positive emotions and their endorphins help the microbes, so it maybe, just maybe, negative emotions will hurt them.

Set the wires to nightmare mode.

FB 10: Tasha’s death in Skin of Evil. (Poor Tasha. I miss her. She never had a chance.)

FB 11: The death of Deanna’s son in the Child.

Sickbay: Deanna can feel Riker feeling sad, and Dr. P says it’s working. There’s a correlation between a slower growth rate in the microbes and negative emotions. But it might be too late because Riker’s weak and blah, blah, blah, false tension, they make the nightmares worse.

FB 12: Riker fights Klang on the Klingon ship in A Matter of Honor.

FB 13: Riker gets his butt kicked by Admiral Quinn in Conspiracy. (Or at least the worst stunt double ever gets his butt kicked.)

Sickbay: The number of microbes have been reduced. These emotions are killing them. Deanna says they’re survival emotions (which is strange that these would be the emotions that kills them since one would expect them to be the first emotions one felt when attacked by a vine).

Dr. P decides to amp up the nightmares even though Riker’s getting weaker. If she doesn’t, he’ll be dead in half an hour.

Upping the Nightmares

is Dr. P’s only option, but will Will survive? Here goes.

FB 14: Riker getting hand shocked in Symbiosis.

FB 15: Back to the Last Outpost for a Ferengi fight.

FB 16: Skin of Evil, “Data something’s got me.” (We get to see the phaser falling in the tar. Interesting tidbit about that. It was the worst mistakes we’d ever seen in an episode until this one when Riker opens his eyes before he was supposed to, but I’m getting ahead of myself.) (Oh and we get to see Riker do Han Solo face.)

Sickbay: Deanna and Dr. P see that the growth rate is down to 7%, but it isn’t enough. Dr. P administers some more tricordrazine.

FB 17: Riker and Picard setting the Enterprises autodestruct in 11001001.

FB 18: Riker, Data, Geordi and Klingon crew trying to get off the doomed cargo ship in Heart of Glory.

Sickbay: These flashbacks are really working. The growth rate is almost zero, but it’s not good enough. Dr. P turns the nightmare machine up to montage level.

The montage (You knew I wasn’t going to finish up without a table)

FB 19: The aliens crawling around in Remmick’s neck Conspiracy
FB 20: Fighting Ferengi Last Outpost
FB 21: Getting hand shocked Symbiosis
FB 22: Being shot at in the corridor at Starfleet HQ Conspiracy
FB 23: Setting the Auto destruct 11001001
FB 24: Data replacing chips Naked Now
FB 25: “Data something’s got me” Skin of Evil
FB 26: Fighting Klang A Matter of Honor
FB 27: One faction member on Solais V killing another faction member Loud as a Whisper(Beard)
FB 28: Fighting Klang A Matter of Honor
FB 29: Blowing up USS Lantree Unnatural Selection
FB 30: Setting the auto destruct 11001001
FB 31: The cargo ship blowing up Heart of Glory
FB 32: Melting Remmick’s face Conspiracy
FB 33: Setting the auto destruct 11001001
FB 34: The USS Tsiolkovsky blowing up Naked Now

Sickbay: “Data something’s got me!” A total voiceover. The nightmares are that bad. I mean look at what they’re doing to poor Deanna, who’s had the worst time. Then Riker opens his eyes, and Deanna looks nervous. Is he in frame? Isn’t he? Guess what guys. He is.

Dr. P is too busy to notice. She does a few quick scans but says nothing until she’s got Picard on the horn. The microbe infection is gone. Picard’s on his way down. Dr. P pulls the wires out of Ricker’s head. He wakes up (again) and says, you wouldn’t believe the nightmares I was having.

Dr. P says, there might be some memory damage. Do you remember who you are?

Data and Picard come in. Riker smiles and says he’s Picard.

Picard laughs and says Data is an admiral.

Data says you can’t promote me.

Freeze frame. Laughter.

Fade out.

Slowly we realize Picard just called Data a dick.

Morals, Messages, and Meanings

  1. Leaders shouldn’t give into their fears, but should set a good example
  2. Dying with pride is important
  3. Adding impudence to that is kind of funny
  4. Risks are sometimes necessary (thinking of Data not wanting Geordi to go back to the planet, but Geordi being just as important to discovering the thorn stinger)
  5. Even bad memories are important to us

Does it hold up?

No.

I knew going into this Shades of Gray is considered one of the worst episodes, and many say the worst. That’s just ridiculous considering there are episodes like Code of Honor, Angel I, and  Heart of Glory. (OK, OK, the first fifteen minutes of Heart of Glory). Because this is a clip show, and several of those clips came from those bad episodes, which doomed it from the start, I think no one gives it a chance.

I think they should.

And after they give it a chance, they should dislike it for the acting, plot, music, and production.

acting-some uninspired stuff from everyone. I don’t know if they were rushed, or just unhappy with the script, or poorly directed. But most of them come off flat.

plot-I say plot here because it’s flat as well. Riker gets bitten, AND a microbe infects him, AND he goes into a coma, AND they use memories to kill the microbes, AND he’s OK. If one of those “AND” could’ve been a “THEREFORE” I would’ve been happier. Every moment of tension feels like it came through editing the dialogue. Never a good sign for a plot.

music-something is off with the music. I can’t put my finger on it because the music isn’t bad. It’s heavy in the foreground in the beginning, and then fades in and out. I wonder if new music was put over the old scenes and the music didn’t fit or my brain subconsciously registered the change. Anyway, it didn’t sit right. I look forward to the trivia section on the next Mission Log episode.

production-man that was low production value. The sets. The lighting. Those look like they belong in season one. ouch! Plus the fast camera motion.

Still, I think we would be remiss if we didn’t compliment the editing. The memories and the montage are well done, and the way they fit the story and build in momentum is quite good. I don’t know if the clips were chosen and the story written around it, or vice versa, but well done.

I guess I was lucky because I had such low expectations going in that I was surprised it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Still it wasn’t good. It just wasn’t THAT hard to watch a second time.

Also, it was fun to see the clips and try to name the episodes. It felt like great closure as I finish up this blog.

I sure am going to miss Dr. P, though. She and Data became friends.

At the end of Season One, I put together a table of my answers to whether or not it holds up. I’d like to add Season Two to that.

Season One Does it hold up? Season Two Does it hold up?
Encounter at Farpoint Yes. The Child No.
The Naked Now Yes. Where Silence Has Lease Yes.
Code of Honor No. Elementary, Dear Data YES.
The Last Outpost NO. The Outrageous Okona I guess.
Where No One Has Gone Before Yeah, sure. Loud as a Whisper No.
Lonely Among Us I’m going to go with “No.” The Schizoid Man I guess not.
Justice Oh yea. Unnatural Selection Yes.
The Battle Patrick Stewart’s acting, yes. Everything else, I say no. A Matter of Honor Yes.
Hide and Q Yes. The Measure of a Man Yes.
Haven Yes. The Dauphin I guess not.
The Big Goodbye No. Contagion No.
Datalore From a production standpoint: no.From a story standpoint: no.From an idea standpoint: Oh yea. The Royale Yes.
Angel One NO! Time Squared Yes.
11001001 Yes. The Icarus Factor No.
Too Short a Season I guess. Pen Pals No. Just no. OK?
When the Bough Breaks Yes. Q Who? Yes.
Home Soil Yes. Samaritan Snare Yes.
Coming of Age Yes. Up the Long Ladder No.
Heart of Glory No. Manhunt No.
The Arsenal of Freedom It’s not horrible. The Emissary Yes.
Symbiosis Yes. Peak Performance Yes.
Skin of Evil No. Shades of Gray No.
We’ll Always Have Paris Not a terrible episode.
Conspiracy No.
The Neutral Zone Yes.

Well that’s all. Thank you everyone for reading my notes on the first two seasons. Star Trek fans are awesome.

I started out thinking I would do only the first season, but my memories of how great the show was didn’t mesh with what I found. So I did the second season as well. I can’t say that it was that much better, but I did learn a lot. More than notes on episodes can convey, so there might be an essay in the future. But I won’t be add more notes here.

I will continue to watch episodes and listen to Mission Log. Thank you to John and Ken for letting me tag along with them.

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01. Encounter at Farpoint>>