Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Lonely Among Us"

**

Air date: 11/2/1987
Teleplay by D.C. Fontana
Story by Michael Halperin
Directed by Cliff Bole

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Enterprise is assigned to take two enemy species, the Anticans and Selayans, to the negotiation table in the hopes that they can join the Federation. If the Bajorans couldn't, then these guys shouldn't. They should be called the Toolboxians and the Lamerons. Someone should lock the doors on their quarters so they can't get out and commit serious crimes like murdering each other and (more importantly) annoying members of the audience.

Really, what do the two alien races have to do with anything here, except as a needless backdrop to frame a story that has nothing to do with them? The real story is about a mysterious energy pattern that starts by zapping Worf before transferring to Crusher and then the Enterprise's computer system. Eventually it kills an engineer named Singh, who would be a red-shirt if not for the fact his uniform is technically gold. Finally, it ends up in the captain, taking control of his mind and body.

The episode, exceptionally nondescript, is a strong argument for making quick analyses of potential threats. To be fair, though, I sort of liked the notion of an investigation that is not pumped up into an overblown drama, and instead shows the workings of a starship and its officers, tackling the subject of what the officers might plan as a contingency if the captain is acting under an alien influence. What's hard to swallow, though, is that the captain could exist as pure energy and survive apart from his body in an energy cloud — but, hey, it's Star Trek. One of the episode's somewhat amusing conceits is Data reading up on Sherlock Holmes and adopting the persona (complete with pipe) in his effort to solve the case. But this case has no legs.

Previous episode: Where No One Has Gone Before
Next episode: Justice

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10 comments on this review

Percivale - Tue, Nov 22, 2011 - 10:28am (USA Central)
re: Lonely Among Us

Wow, what a shambles of an episode. I could go on forever. Nothing makes sense; nobody belongs anywhere or should be doing anything they're doing. Just a bunch of stuff thrown together.

Worf saying he doesn't remember having a memory block symbolizes the episode for me.

A big plot hole is why the alien blathers on about its cries for help not being understood by the crew, when it does everything secretly and makes no real effort to just freakin' tell the crew "Hey, I'm an energy being. Get me home." - when it obviously could. Why even bother merging with Picard, if you're only eager to go home? Ugh, too many questions like this.

I guess what angers me the most is something that got better with time but that TNG never really figured out: no one in Star Fleet or the Federation knows how to make responsible, professional decisions about anything. In later episodes, I think maybe the writers just didn't completely understand how to write professional-acting officers, but here it seems like they just don't care. A self-respecting, standards-holding Federation wouldn't consider these aliens for admission in a million years. Also, it seems there really is no protocol for relieving a Captain of duty on medical grounds - he can just shout you down and ignore procedure whenever he wants to. Way to ensure the safety of the crew.

The silver lining is the acting; Patrick and Stewart and Brent Spiner do a good job here - even if Data is acting in a way that I don't think Data should ever have acted (the writers hadn't decided on how to write his character yet).

1/2 Star
Rikko - Mon, Apr 16, 2012 - 2:13pm (USA Central)
I don't know what I was smoking when I first seen this ep, because I liked it.

...

A couple of days later I came back to my senses and realized how boring it is, in fact. The starter plot-B, with the two alien races, it's pointless and badly executed. The main plot(Lost energy-lifeform)moves at a snail pace, with no real logic to it(for many reasons as stated by Percivale above).

The only saving bits are those of intended and unintended comedy. Intended: Data as Sherlock Holmes (not his brightest moments, but much better than misterious energy shifting bodies. Unintended: "P For Picard?" -Said by Riker when Picard makes his physically impossible comeback moment; and Data's face when he finds out about the whole Sherlock Holmes mythos.
NCC-1701-Z - Sat, Apr 28, 2012 - 7:59pm (USA Central)
I have to disagree with the general consensus here, and say that I actually liked this ep, slightly better than the last ep. Not to say there weren't flaws- in fact, this ep just narrowly falls short of a recommendation in my book - but overall I found this to be a pretty well executed, not-too-shabby episode.

The Things I Didn't Like: Well, the plot was predictable almost to a fault. I didn't quite understand the ending when Picard was rescued - some mumbo jumbo involving physical patterns was all I got out of it. The music during that very same rescue scene was anemic to the point of nonexistence, like much of Season 1, and drained away all the dramatic tension. The actors could have used more emotion during that scene - during much of the episode in fact, but especially that scene - watch the transporter rescue scene from TOS's "Obsession" and you'll see that this scene pales in comparison. Guess I'm kind of spoiled with seeing Bill Shatner chewing the scenery a lot.

Things I Liked - Well, the acting was weak, but much stronger than in previous episodes. I liked the Data does Sherlock scene, even if a bit out of place. The debate between the officers whether or not to relieve Picard was pretty good either, even if not fully up to potential. And I was ok with the subplot - "Sorry, wrong species" got a bit of a laugh out of me. But you'd think the Enterprise would have assigned better security... (Repeat after me: It's only TV. ) speaking of security, first redshirt dies in this ep too.

2.5 Stars is what I'd give it.
Van_Patten - Sun, Aug 5, 2012 - 7:30am (USA Central)
A somewhat strange episode, 'Lonely Among Us' is somewhat typical First season fare - Not execrable exactly but with serious flaws. In the middle of transporting two mutually loathing races to a Neutral planet for peace negotiations, the Ship takes on a nonCorporeal entity which begins affecting the crew and it's operations. It's the premise of 'The Naked Now' only this time the Offender is an energy cloud rather than a virus.

The twin Alien Species, although badly written at least looked genuinely alien, rather than merely humans with facial prosthetics, but the idea that races this backward (even without hindsight of watching later episodes) would have been considered as membership candidates is absurd.

The scenes with Crusher being possessed drag on interminably and again the acting of Sirtis and Crosby are arguably the 'weak links' in the cast. As Jammer points out, the idea the Captain can be transferred into an energy field and survive seems highly unlikely but then I guess, this is Star Trek -perhaps the writers were trying to go for another high concept?

Spiner's scenes in the holodeck as Sherlock Holmes (foreshadowing later, much more worthy outings ) are probably the highlight, but that isn't enough to sustain what is a fairly undistinguished hour. This is no 'Code of Honour' but it isn't much cop either, 1.5 stars for me
Jay - Wed, Dec 12, 2012 - 3:29pm (USA Central)
Always got a goofy kick out of the notion of an entire planet named "Parliament".
William B - Sun, Mar 24, 2013 - 8:06am (USA Central)
"Toolboxians and Lamerons" -- classic, Jammer.

I think the closest this episode gets to interesting is when it seems for a brief time as if Picard may genuinely have merged with the cloud life form thing and want to explore the galaxy. This would be dereliction of duty, of course -- but I could imagine a Picard/energy-cloud hybrid being making the choice to go on the ultimate adventure, especially in the way Picard is characterized in early season one, with lots of wanderlust. I don't know that this really works, but it's an idea that has potential. When Picard (improbably) is beamed back aboard the ship, he's lost his memory though -- and it seems likely that that was only that energy cloud thing talking through Picard.

The other interesting element is watching the crew try to figure out how they can relieve the captain of duty through official channels, which is fairly effective. This happens for a very brief time.

Otherwise, the episode is mostly devoid of interest. 1.5 stars.
William B - Sun, Mar 24, 2013 - 8:07am (USA Central)
Oh, and Data-as-Holmes, of course, is a delight.
Tornado - Sun, Jun 9, 2013 - 7:41am (USA Central)
After coming back to the show after awhile watching the first six episodes, this is the weakest of that bunch. Both "Farpoint" and "Where No One..." had great moments, and at least "Naked," "Code," and "Outpost" have amusing camp... but this one falls terribly flat. There's no connecting thread--the delegate storyline goes nowhere, Data as Holmes is amusing but comes out of nowhere, the episode explains the entity's motivations nowhere, and it stretches credibility to believe that energy-pattern Picard could be beamed back out of nowhere. Truly an episode that deserves to be forgotten.
Entilzha - Fri, Jul 25, 2014 - 6:49am (USA Central)
2 reasons:
1) It created Data's fascination with Sherlock Holmes.
2) It gave us Colm Meaney's 2nd Trek appearance which would later lead to Chief O'Brien.

The rest is boring.

So, historically we need this episode in the tapestry of Star Trek making, but we don't really have to watch it. :p
eastwest101 - Fri, Aug 15, 2014 - 7:48pm (USA Central)
After seeing a lot of DS9 I caught this random episode recently (had not seen it earlier) and have to agree with Percivale that this episode is a complete shambles without any redeeming features at all.

A 45min cringefest. Its like watching all the worst bits of Sci-Fi all edited up and presented in one compendium of amateurish incompetence. Having seen this - its a miracle that TNG survived to improve and become quite a decent TV show in my opinion, there is certainly nothing in this episode that hints that any writing, directing or acting talent is at work here...

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