Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Lonely Among Us"

2 stars

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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22 comments on this review

Tue, Nov 22, 2011, 10:28am (UTC -6)
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
Mon, Apr 16, 2012, 2:13pm (UTC -6)
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.
Sat, Apr 28, 2012, 7:59pm (UTC -6)
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.
Sun, Aug 5, 2012, 7:30am (UTC -6)
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
Wed, Dec 12, 2012, 3:29pm (UTC -6)
Always got a goofy kick out of the notion of an entire planet named "Parliament".
William B
Sun, Mar 24, 2013, 8:06am (UTC -6)
"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 (UTC -6)
Oh, and Data-as-Holmes, of course, is a delight.
Sun, Jun 9, 2013, 7:41am (UTC -6)
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.
Fri, Jul 25, 2014, 6:49am (UTC -6)
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
Fri, Aug 15, 2014, 7:48pm (UTC -6)
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...
Tue, Nov 18, 2014, 11:33pm (UTC -6)
Terrible, but not completely without some interesting moments. The first 20 minutes or so aren't utterly unwatchable, and the bits with the senior staff discussing relieving Picard of command is interesting.

Other than that, the energy cloud, body snatching, and immature delegates are all elements that - on their own - would drive a terrible episode of Trek. Together, they ultimately have nothing going for them and even interfere with each other. What was the point of the two rival races? Comic relief? Good lord. It's not even the camp factor that sinks this one - it's the utter incompetence of the writing. There's no reason for this show to be THIS bad. 1-1/2 stars, and I'm probably being generous.

So, no, "Lonely" isn't utterly unwatchable. But that's only because it's surrounded by some absolute trash by comparison. "The Naked Now", "The Last Outpost", and "Code of Honor" come before it while "Justice" comes right after. All four are legit contenders for the worst episode of TNG and would rightfully be at the bottom of probably the whole franchise.
Mon, Dec 29, 2014, 10:54pm (UTC -6)
This isn't offensively bad such as "Code of Honor" was but it's still pretty bad. A few redeeming moments that are of note include the Data/Sherlock scenes and some of the crew's dialogue concerning the missing captain. The rest of it goes absolutely nowhere and says absolutely nothing while almost seemingly existing outside of it's own premise. As if this is a story about characters acting out a TNG episode with characters acting out same said story.

1 star.
Thu, Jul 30, 2015, 3:10pm (UTC -6)
I did like the dog and snake aliens in this one. Really some of the best aliens in the entire series where "alien" usually just meant spots, bumps, or just plain ordinary human. The "dog" alien is also reused in the episode "Tapestry" in the bar scene.
Diamond Dave
Sun, Aug 9, 2015, 1:39pm (UTC -6)
Bit of a shocker, this one. The main story moves glacially slowly with no sense of threat until about 5 mins from the end - and then, to be fair, an interesting element is thrown in that suggests Picard might actually want to explore with the energy being. That of course gets tossed straight into the trash bin.

The B-story with the warring factions serves no purpose but to provide an amusing denouement, and added to the overall slow pace of the episode makes it a bit of a grind to watch. The increasingly common left-field comic moment comes with Data's Sherlock Holmes impersonation - but again it feels out of place and contrived. 1 star.
Tue, Sep 22, 2015, 7:50pm (UTC -6)
Gotta love early TNG, where a diplomat that the Enterprise is ferrying can me murdered, and the person bringing the news is asked "This couldn't have waited?"
Tue, Feb 9, 2016, 10:44am (UTC -6)
Yeah, the reaction to the murder was pretty offensive.

I guess because they look like earth animals they are not to be taken seriously? Funny how Gene looked at things back then.
Nothingoriginal 55
Sun, Mar 27, 2016, 1:59pm (UTC -6)
Recwatching the original series and the first season of TNG I gotta wonder why Starfleet is in deep space at all. As long as the aliens look and act human its all good, otherwise they receive looks that don't seem to feel very starfleet.
Wed, Sep 7, 2016, 3:26pm (UTC -6)
After the last episode's promise we are right back down to sub optimal again.
It is only 3 minutes in and we are back to the ludicrous looking down your noses at aliens because they are so primitive they fight each other.
Jonathan ( I can't actually act for toffee) Frakes scoffs he never understood violence when studying earth history. For goodness sake not this 'wack-a-doodle' utopian drivel again .

As to the plot of this one-it is a hotch potch of Journey to Babel,several episodes of Space 1999 and Mutiny on the Bounty.
It is a wonder this show wasn't cancelled
Mon, Jan 16, 2017, 6:16pm (UTC -6)
Things I liked:
-The Selayan design. There not humans in funny clothing or with stuff glued to their head. Apparently their one of the few Aliens Roddenberry allowed to have face covering makeup.
-Worfs face when the thing zapped him.

Things I didn't like
-The Anticans design, and their annoying amount of screentime.
-Wesley's sweater
-Picard is pretty much beamed into space but survives because he fused with an energy being. I think
-Ultimately the Ambassador plot is useless and only used for padding.
5 out of 10
Sat, Mar 4, 2017, 1:12am (UTC -6)
Hated this ep when I saw it. If you hold to what happened here the real Picard apparently died in this episode and the one that carried through the rest of the series is just a clone created by the replicator. That's not the kind of thing you want your viewers to be wondering about, especially so early into the series.
Sat, Aug 19, 2017, 8:41am (UTC -6)

Y'all know how we often bemoan the fact that Troi really has no purpose? That most of the things she observes are things that are perfectly obvious to any half-awake person?

Well, I point you to this episode. Picard has beamed off the ship as an energy thingie, and Riker says he's lost and "We need to get to Parliament," then orders the ship to leave. He is eager to abandon the Captain in the energy cloud! But then Deanna senses the Captain and suggests they may be able to get him back!

Riker responds, "As WHAT? He's just energy now!" (I'm paraphrasing.)

So now we know why Riker stays as first officer all those years, and why Deanna has a purpose. Without her, Picard would have been a cloud critter for the rest of the series. And Riker never accepts a promotion because he is wracked with guilt over almost having condemned his captain to a permanent existence as a lightbulb.

That was fun. lol


"A self-respecting, standards-holding Federation wouldn't consider these aliens for admission in a million years."

I was thinking the same, but in relation to the "Justice" aliens and the "Code of Honor" ones. Why would the Federation ever consider intercourse with aliens who think it's fine to execute someone for a trivial offense, or aliens who think kidnapping is fine and dandy?

You know, I'm all for respecting the beliefs of others, but not when those beliefs are stupid.

@William B
"When Picard (improbably) is beamed back aboard the ship, he's lost his memory though"

The way they talk in the transporter room, I thought they rematerialized Picard from the pattern left on his first beam-out, so the Picard that rematerialized was simply a copy of the pre-energy Picard. We know they use a similar function of the transporter in later episodes and series, but maybe they hadn't quite figured out how to phrase it yet?


"I did like the dog and snake aliens in this one."

Me too! They made me laugh! I wish we'd seen more of them. Especially the doggy-faces. Did anyone notice that the doggies were very similar to the castle guards from King's Quest VI? That came out in 1992, so maybe they copied Star Trek?
Wed, Sep 27, 2017, 1:39am (UTC -6)
Yeah, I didn't mind it, the crew deliberating over the Captain's mental state was interesting (although they waited way too long to take the obvious point of action, the Captain asking literally everyone but him to take a medical exam should have been the clincher), and the idea of an alien taking over Picard to get back home was interesting, even though there' really no motivation for most of what the alien actually does.

The thing that most annoyed me was that ending. They went for a lighthearted moment at the end, but for some reason it had to involve the murder of a peace delegate. I mean, what? "Oh, someone got murdered, but I just feel tired. I'll let you handle it Number One." And there's Yar yucking it up to Riker. It's just a completely bizarre note to end on.

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