Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Conspiracy"

***1/2

Air date: 5/9/1988
Teleplay by Tracy Torme
Story by Robert Sabaroff
Directed by Cliff Bole

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Under Starfleet transmission code 47 — the utmost secrecy and urgency — Picard is called to the surface of a desolate, abandoned mining planet by his good friend, Captain Walker Keel (Jonathan Farwell) of the USS Horatio. Keel warns Picard of a conspiracy growing within Starfleet Command, and ominously tells him to trust no one. The Horatio is shortly afterward destroyed in a disastrous implosion. Coincidence? Yeah, right.

"Conspiracy" is the tensest and most unpredictable of TNG's first season, starting with Keel's wide-eyed "No!" when Picard asks if their meeting can be done with less cloak-and-dagger sneakiness, and proceeding through the slowly building realization that an alien threat has come from beyond and is now attacking by manipulating from within. Ironic that one of the most involving of TNG's first season is also essentially an anti-Trek storyline, in which a malevolent alien threat must be exposed and destroyed with brute force (not to mention visceral reactions of unmasked disgust, particularly from Picard), and an ominous ending that is not at all reassuring.

Admiral Quinn, who alluded to the conspiracy in "Coming of Age," turns out to be under the alien influence here, and throws around like rag dolls (in the following order) Riker, Geordi, and Worf, before being put down by a phaser blast from Dr. Crusher, who subsequently discovers the parasitic being attached to Quinn's upper spine. Meanwhile, Picard's meeting with the admirals at Starfleet Headquarters on Earth is a nicely played escalation of subdued horror — with idle conversation that then proceeds to a meal of live worms, and finally the revelation that Riker has been compromised — or has he?

The mother of all the aliens is hiding in Lt. Cmdr. Remmick (which is somehow amusingly appropriate), which makes for a rather creepy sequence: Somehow, when he says the aliens seek "peaceful coexistence" I'm less than convinced. Neither is Picard. "Conspiracy" is a brawny hour of X-Files-style Trek, and might be the only episode of Trek where a man's head so awesomely gets blowed up real good. The episode perfectly sets itself up for a sequel that, alas, would never come.

Previous episode: We'll Always Have Paris
Next episode: The Neutral Zone

Season Index

24 comments on this review

Jake - Sun, Apr 6, 2008 - 2:10pm (USA Central)
When you take into account great episodes like "11001001," "Heart of Glory," and "Conspiracy," is TNG's 1st year really any worse than the 1st seasons of Voyager and Andromeda?
Jhoh - Sat, Oct 11, 2008 - 10:34am (USA Central)
Maybe it's just me but I always thought Conspiracy was one of the worst TNG episodes ever. Way too cheesy and laughable to ever have any tension about the ridiculous plot, and seemed more like a gross out comedy with everyone eating mealworms. It doesn't help that it's in season 1 where everyone seems more stiff and wooden, and they're all wearing those horrible crotch hugging jumpsuits that look like they belong in the Studio 54.
Charlie - Wed, Jun 3, 2009 - 1:41pm (USA Central)
Just in case you're interested, they did pick up the brain leech guys from Conspiracy for a pretty good story in the Star Trek Deep Space 9 novels. Not the same as a true sequel, but it's something.
NIc - Mon, Oct 5, 2009 - 3:47pm (USA Central)
I would also like to add that regardless of whether you consider it good entertainment or not, I think "Conspiracy" is the prime example of the kind of episode Star Trek should NEVER do. The graphic violence, the zero respect for alien life (even though they were trying to invade Starfleet), the too-clean conclusion. Nope! I'm glad there was never a sequel.
Tex - Tue, Mar 2, 2010 - 1:43pm (USA Central)
"Conspiracy" kicked some serious ass, certainly the best of season 1, and the episode that got me hooked on TNG in the first place. It is surprising though, that this episode was released under Roddenberry, it seems much more suited for DS9. As for Nic's comment about the "zero respect for alien life", how would you have suggested they resolve the situation?
Bad Horse - Fri, Mar 26, 2010 - 11:49am (USA Central)
This is a real minor thing, but if The Neutral Zone and Conspiracy had been swapped in the running order, what a sendoff that would have been.
Nic - Fri, Jun 4, 2010 - 12:03pm (USA Central)
Allow me to clarify my previous post. I don't think "Conspiracy" is by any means the worst episode of the season, I simply consider it a strange anomaly in the Trek franchise because it contains all the things that Trek in general (Ds9 included) have been very careful to avoid.

I know that originally the conspiracy was just a military coup within Starfleet, that Gene Roddenberry objected, and thus the alien angle was introduced. I also know that the Borg were initially conceived as an insectoid race and that these "parasites" would have been the first wave of the invasion. Nevertheless, I fail to understand how this episode got made, and why Rick Berman, of all people, backed the gory ending despite the objections of Maurice Hurley.
Sloan - Wed, Aug 3, 2011 - 2:29pm (USA Central)
Regarding the episode "Conspiracy":

Warning: There be spoilers ahead!

Don't get me wrong, Conspiracy is one of the handful of season one eps that I find is actually half decent, but I'm making a list of episodes for my friend (who has never seen ST:TNG) to watch, and I think I'm gonna put this one on the "skip it" pile. Not for the reasons that the majority of episodes such as "Angel One" and "Code of Honor" make that list (ie: they suck and are too painful to sit through), but because I think the Star Trek universe as a whole stands up better without it. Here's my rationale -- without this episode, the conspiracy that Picard is warned about in "Coming of Age" becomes a possible reference to Section 31 (the clandestine group from later episodes of DS9). Add the fact that the ending of "Conspiracy" implies we will hear from these aliens again, and yet we never do... well, it's a bit unsatisfying. (and the claymation bugs... Holy cheesy effects, Batman!)

Is there any reason to have her watch this other than to see Picard and Riker viciously blow up a man's head? (Seems like in any other episode of TNG they would've at least explored if there was a way to extract the alien without killing Remmick, but I guess Riker's still holding a grudge from "Coming of Age." Heheh "Eat Phaser, Remmick!")
Rachel - Wed, Aug 22, 2012 - 6:22am (USA Central)
I suppose Remmick had it coming. He was seen as a rather combative and unpleasant character when first introduced to the series. Riker and Picard exacting revenge? No - more like they knew Remmick could not be saved..after all the mother alien bursts through his chest!

I agree it would have been a better send-off than The Neutral Zone, but that is to sensationalise it, which I think GR would have been against.

The episode may have B-Movie type moments (the meal of maggots and worms for example) but I was completely thrown by Riker - I thought he had been taken over.

The series was still a series or two away from finding itself...Deanna was still in her 'I'm not sure what they are hiding, or who is hiding what' phase - some help to the Captain. They finally starting using her properly from s6 onwards, but I think the episode as a whole was great, and stand up with anything that came later.

I think it is all too easy to dismiss season 1 - it does have some really good episodes. I suppose Angel One, Justice, and the Naked Now are basement episodes - but maybe you have to sit through them just once, to get a balance on how good TNG really is.
Masamune - Wed, Sep 12, 2012 - 1:39am (USA Central)
This episode by far IMO, should have been a 2-3 part series. When I think back on season 1 this is one of those hidden gems, that made me enjoy TNG as a kid.

Hopefully a future trek will pick up on this show.
Rikko - Sat, Oct 27, 2012 - 8:40am (USA Central)
How cool I'm reading this now closer to Halloween's time, because this ep always felt like those The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror specials.

You guys totally nailed it when you say this is the Anti-Trek TNG episode. It was so violent, so creepy and so negative that I really thought they'd play the "It was all a dream" card by the end of the episode (particularly when Riker's loyalty was in doubt). The fact that it was all "real" made it better, imo.

But if this would have been the new direction for the series from then on, I wouldn't care for TNG. Now, as a standalone adventure, it's actually one of the better offerings of S1.

And don't forget this is a direct sequel of "Coming of Age". I like continuity and sequel eps every now and then.


xaaos - Tue, Nov 6, 2012 - 3:56pm (USA Central)
Omg, what the hell have I just watched?

That wasn't Star Trek, that was... Aliens!

There are plenty of episodes where Picard avoids using violence, even if the ship might be in danger, choosing the diplomacy way. But here, he and Riker just shoot Remmick and blow his head away. And what a gory vision, I was about to hear a cruel voice yelling "fatality"!

And btw, why did Geordi was running along with Worf heading to Quinn's quarters? Is Geordi in security team?
Nate Kryptonite - Thu, Dec 20, 2012 - 2:34am (USA Central)
Just watching this on Netflix and in the opening scene Riker tells Geordie to increase speed to Warp 6 and Geordie replies "Aye, sir, full impulse." Lol
DG - Fri, Dec 21, 2012 - 3:33am (USA Central)
The first time I saw them eating 'dinner', I was like "ew, worms".

Now my first thought was "Ooh! Mealworms! Come on Picard, they're not *that* gross..." (Says the guy with a lizard that eats them as treats.)
Nick P. - Sat, Mar 9, 2013 - 12:56am (USA Central)
Well, this is the ONE. The FIRST episode of Star Trek I ever watched. This started everything for me. It is so odd how this is so different from all the other TNG episodes, yet 7 year old me loved every second of it. From the very first scene where the cool bald guy met the weirdo captains on the bizarre planet, and the ending that gave me nightmares for days. But whatever, i LOVED it. My parents let me stay up late for the first time ever (as long as I turned the TV off when I went to bed), and I sometimes wonder if I had turned on the TV to a basketball game or something if my life would have turned out different.

Ironically, I watched it first run, and being a little kid, I didn't understand the repeats that started coming on the next few weeks. I loved the blond security lady, I cried when she died.

Looking back now, I realize how silly and horrible the 1st season is, but I just don't care, this was my version of howdy doody!!!! To this day most of these terrible 1st season episodes are 4 star, I don't care how bad they are, they remind me of an innocent place, a good place, before my parents got divorced and grandparent started dying. I think everyone has that comfort thing, some may be football, some old video games, for me, it is 1st season TNG.

Love ya, Conspiracy!
Eddie - Mon, Mar 18, 2013 - 5:48pm (USA Central)
They really are to come up the ideas of make a several of creepy special makeup effects horror, sci-fi movies of this episode... 'CONSPIRACY' about the those little alien bugs gets inside the human bodies, necks or throats, and bellies than humans will start to mutate into body swelling bug-alien beings. Hope the moviemaker guys will soon make 'THE CONSPIRACIES' movies 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
Eddie - Mon, Mar 18, 2013 - 6:07pm (USA Central)
I like this episode of STAR TREK: TNG about 'Conspiracy' where a evil guy swallows this alien-like bug and than his throat begins to swells like if he was mutating into body swelling alien creature. They should think about make dozens or more of 'CONSPIRACY' horror movies with a lot of makeup Air-Bladders FX and monster alien FX. I really do hope someday or sooner the horror alien, sci-fi moviemakers will make hundreds of new NECK SWELLING Mutant Alien Movies.
Eddie - Tue, Mar 19, 2013 - 8:51pm (USA Central)
Moviemakers should come up the creepy ideas of making maybe thousands upcoming Alien Science Fiction Films; they will have to hire hundreds of special makeup effects artists to do a lot of Human Body-Inflation Alien Mutations, hire hundreds of good actors, and come up a great horrifying storylines. That's the reason why I like this episode "Star Trek: TNG" 'Conspiracy' so much.

And I hope they will do billions more Throat and Neck Inflation Mutation Horror Movies and whole lot other new creepy sci-fi alien-monster movies that are as good as this "Star Trek: TNG" 'Conspiracy' episode.
William B - Tue, Mar 26, 2013 - 9:06pm (USA Central)
It's moody, atmospheric, and fast-paced. It is action-packed. The twist with Riker is *very* well done -- from the quick cut of a waking Riker surprising Pulaski forward, they play Riker both ways so that he could very well, up until the moment he takes the phaser out, either be possessed or not. It is entertaining and blood-pumping.

It's also kind of dumb. Alien!Quinn just gives up his plan to infect the doctor when he sees Riker because he feels like it? And starts beating up Worf because it's always fun to beat up Worf. The idea that Picard & Riker are enough to take down an entire alien conspiracy mostly *holding command* of Starfleet Command strains credulity.

I don't really hold the action-movie dumbness against it that much, especially since aspects of it were smartly done (the Riker thing, as I mentioned). So I'd say 3 stars.
William B - Tue, Mar 26, 2013 - 9:12pm (USA Central)
I hasten to add that Jammer's review is actually really close to just a listing of events in this episode. I think this captures the spirit of this episode -- it is viscerally exciting and a LOT of stuff, most of it exciting or awesome or creepy, happens. But not much of it really lends itself to thinking or discussion. That's okay every once in a while, and it's certainly an improvement on most of s1 in which the primary discussion worth doing is to discuss why the episode failed to explore its ideas in any effective way.

There is something to this episode about the way conspiracies enthrall the imagination -- I like the scene of Data going through all the information and finding patterns, which is what conspiracy theorists do; it's a fantasy, if an attractive one, that if only we had enough information and the processing power to go through it, we'd be able to know who They are and what They are doing. Most of the episode is kind of undirected paranoia. Which again, is fun to go through every now and then.
T'Paul - Thu, May 23, 2013 - 1:28pm (USA Central)
Enjoyed it when the computer basically told Data to shut up... Also, Troi "someone's hiding something but I'm not sure who or what"... don't leave home without your handy part-Betazoid! Ah, and wish I could have heard the rest of Geordi's joke... sounded like quite a spicy one...
Chris - Sun, Aug 18, 2013 - 9:50am (USA Central)
This is one of my favourites! As people have said it is very different, which is why I like it. I especially like the way this episode finishes, very creepy and ambiguous.
Luke - Sun, Sep 15, 2013 - 11:50pm (USA Central)
Never mind that Roddenberry vetoed this story, the episode is poorly written and produced. The effects for the "bugs" was laughable as was the whole exploding head bit. Exploding head?! You can't get more un-Star Trek than that.
Eddie - Wed, Feb 19, 2014 - 5:41pm (USA Central)
Hope that a lot of short horror filmmakers will make hundreds of neck or throat bulging, parasite makeup special effects horror shorts and will make new parasitic body inflation special makeup effects films real soon like hopefully this year or next year.

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