Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Star Trek: The Next Generation - ''Unnatural Selection''

Spoiler Level: High

In trying to write about this episode, I've found it has a lot to nit-pick about.  The first and most obvious is that it's a heavy retread of the classic Trek episode "The Deadly Years."  It doesn't just have a similar premise, the whole first two acts follow the same pattern.  The second most obvious is that while many of the Enterprise crew show an obvious distaste for genetic manipulation, it's not the crime here that it's portrayed to be later in Deep Space Nine. Although you could argue that the second most obvious nit-pick is how much they go on about using the transporter to restore someone to their original condition has never been done before, when it was done twice in the animated series, one of which was even to restore the crew to their proper ages!  Then there's Pulaski having yet another parallel to McCoy in hating the transporter.  And finally, when we first see the shuttlecraft Sakharov in the landing bay it's a new design with a sharply angled nose and nacelles close to the body, and a moment later when it flies out of the landing bay it's now the first season egg-shaped design.

But when all that is said and done, what's left is really an enjoyable episode.  Pulaski is actually likable here; she's stubborn, but it comes across more as strong-willed and determined than as abrasive, and she actually comes across as warm to Data when they're in the shuttlecraft together.  While the plot is the same as "The Deadly Years," the fact that it's not an exact follow-up like "The Naked Now" and it's a new mystery to figure out why it's happening makes it more interesting.  And to be honest, I always found the concept that the Federation outlawed genetic engineering due to the Eugenics Wars too Earth-centric, and a bit cowardly when it came to exploring mankind's potential.  And now I can appreciate that part of having Pulaski hate the transporter was to provide more drama; if they had just said "oh okay, let's just use her pattern on record" it wouldn't have been as dramatic as having to scour her quarters for anything containing a piece of her DNA.  I still remember my then-girlfriend and I referring to it as "that damn hairbrush" from then on!  The first time this episode aired, we were actually hoping that they might kill her off since the character was proving to be unpopular, especially in our crowd.  But looking at it now, I think we were being unfair to her.  She did a good job in this episode, and if she had gotten more moments like this, she might have won us over.

And just for the fun of it, here's a comparison shot of those shuttlecraft scenes!  It's a lot more obvious when you click on it to see it full-size.

1 comment:

Semaj said...

The thing I really remember about this episode is when they patch into the USS Lantree's bridge and see these decaying gray bodies of the crew as they died in their stations. that was pretty grim, and it reminded me of those episodes of TOS where entire crews are dead on a starship.

Yeah, Trek was always vague as to how much of it was illegal in genetic testing. I had just watched the Argument stories and this episode came to mind.