Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Conundrum"

***

Air date: 2/17/1992
Teleplay by Barry Schkolnick
Story by Paul Schiffer
Directed by Les Landau

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Where "The Masterpiece Society" was the sort of talky story that I think is fairly specific to Star Trek (albeit not a good one), "Conundrum" is more general popular sci-fi fare (though it's definitely a subgenre of Trek as well). The premise, let's face it, is completely implausible. The entire crew of the ship has their memories blocked, and all evidence of who they are and why they're on the ship has been erased from the computer. Meanwhile, a mysterious new crew member, Commander MacDuff (Erich Anderson), has been suddenly inserted into the crew with the agenda of waging war against his bitter enemies. Via falsified information, he manipulates the Enterprise crew into pursuing this agenda.

That MacDuff is capable of such an elaborate ruse (including selective memory erasure, and wiping clean all related records from the Enterprise computer) and yet still needs the Enterprise and its crew as a weapon against his enemies is pretty hard to swallow. But sometimes TNG must be viewed as a laboratory/playground for strange and logically dubious things, and "Conundrum" is entertaining enough for me to forgive its unlikelihood. As a mystery, it finds its fun in the what and the why, even though the who is provided to us from the very first scene. It's more about the crew, rather than us, figuring things out.

"Conundrum" is also in the long-standing tradition of Trek stories that allow the characters to step outside themselves and essentially become someone else (in this case, blank slates that retain their original personalities, which become magnified by the situation). This is good for some low-key humor, particularly Worf's presumption that he may be in command of the ship. He sits in the captain's chair and tests the phasers (firing them into the void of space like a kid with a new toy), and then takes over Picard's ready room. Picard takes this all in stride, which is also funny to watch; always so unflappable and understanding, this man.

Meanwhile, Ro aggressively puts the moves on Riker, who voices no objections. Riker is also receptive when Troi reveals that she has discovered they had a romantic past. Riker gamely plays the part of a cheerfully likable womanizer (who gets his comeuppance in an amusingly played final scene). Hey, it's not his fault he's so awesome!

The plot resolves itself because the crew, despite having their identities erased, pretty much act as level-headed as they always would, asking themselves questions rather than launching mindlessly into action. Also, MacDuff does a pretty good job of stupidly blowing his cover. For a guy able to pull off such a deception, he sure hasn't done his homework about what makes these people tick. Hey, this isn't a great episode of TNG, but it's a fun one.

Previous episode: The Masterpiece Society
Next episode: Power Play

◄ Season Index

56 comments on this review

Nic
Sat, Apr 2, 2011, 4:46pm (UTC -5)
I really liked the character bits in this one, but I just couldn't get into the swiss-cheese plot (Get it?). If MacDuff could add himself to the crew manifest, why not make himself Captain?
Excise
Sun, Apr 3, 2011, 3:38am (UTC -5)
I always wondered why the evil aliens didn't just make MacDuff the Captain instead of only second in command.

Seems like that would have made his mission a lot easier.
Grumpy
Sun, Apr 3, 2011, 8:45pm (UTC -5)
Between this episode and "The Game," Enterprise only got hijacked twice this season, compared to three times in Season 4 (though each time in "Brothers," "Clues," and "The Nth Degree," it was by themselves).
Sean C.
Mon, Apr 4, 2011, 10:58am (UTC -5)
This episode is a personal favourite of mine, for all the character interactions.
karatasiospa
Wed, Apr 6, 2011, 10:38am (UTC -5)
I agree with your 3 stars jammer. It was not a very good episode but it was a descent and rather smart science fiction story.
Ian Whitcombe
Thu, Apr 14, 2011, 9:21pm (UTC -5)
Grumpy, you can also count "Power Play" for this season.
Stef
Fri, Apr 15, 2011, 4:56am (UTC -5)
I love this episode.

I hadn't seen an episode of Trek since Best of Both Worlds part 2 (Possibly it was Family, I am not sure).

Then a few years later I saw this episode, knowing it was season 5 and therefore stuff might have changed. So to me, McDuff was (at first) plausible. Hell, Tasha died and Worf took her job, so why not?

Alas, they screwed it up all too soon when the camera focused on McDuff's face when another character left the room. A clear 1980's/1990's sign that he was the bad guy. (A technique this isn't used as much these days, but still rears its ugly head from time to time).


But, yes, why didn't he just make himself captain?

The only reason I can guess is that he new the morality of the crew would force them to go against him as captain, whereas as the XO he can manipulate those around him with more ease.

Perhaps I am just digging too deeply, something I accuse other of when it comes to Trek.
Don
Sat, Apr 16, 2011, 6:01pm (UTC -5)
I believe the title of the episode, Conundrum, was created knowing that people would view this as a fun episode at the same time asking themselves why an episode with such huge plot holes was fun.

Why did I like that episode? - Because it was fun!

But if the bad guy was able to do ALL THAT then why did he need the Enterprise? - but, Riker slept with Ro & Troi! Then they caught him!

Yeah, but MacDuff should have been placed in command so he could just get the job done. - true, but did you see Worf in the captain's chair?

With all that power couldn't MacDuff just kill everyone on the ship by causing brain hemorrhages rather than erasing their memories? Then just take the ship and fight off his obviously inferior enemy! - but Worf was in command! Riker was an awesome manwhore! The Enterprise fired phasers from its phaser banks again and not the photon launcher! Fun!
Stallion
Mon, Apr 18, 2011, 10:22pm (UTC -5)
Worf was so devastated when he found out he wasn't the captain.
Latex Zebra
Wed, May 11, 2011, 11:08am (UTC -5)
This was really memorable for me when I first saw it. So much so that it practically haunted me and it was about 7 years before I saw it again. I had to find out the name of it after reading every page of the Nitpickers Guide!

Second viewing, saw through many of the plot holes and was a little jaded. I think it is still good fun, if totally ridiculous. Why does all TV (especially Sci Fi) need to stand up to reason though, it's supposed to be escapism.
Elliott
Fri, May 13, 2011, 7:23pm (UTC -5)
Honestly, this season seriously makes me question how much I love TNG...this episode is memorable for some real goofiness, but really it's all pretty stupid. The premise of exploring peoples' core natures and how they are affected when robbed of knowledge or memory is a very good one (See VOY's "Workforce"), but this ep. is so tecky and insignificant, not to mention littered with excess, it's impossible to take seriously. People who accuse VOY of plagiarising TNG forget that many of TNG's plots failed to make good use of its ideas.
GregT
Sat, May 14, 2011, 2:19pm (UTC -5)
Just thought I would comment to address the whole "why didn't they make MacDuff the Captain" issue... I figure it was because they knew the crew would find a way to reverse the effect. They had to put MacDuff in a position to volunteer for the procedure and debunk it - he couldn't volunteer as Captain, he'd be expected to delegate. Which is of course how it played out. (So maybe it's hindsight is 20/20?)
chris
Fri, May 20, 2011, 7:52am (UTC -5)
I don't know if this is really three star material, simply because the characters slip back into their archetypes so quickly and smoothly. I suppose that is the point of this episode, but the crew should have stayed slightly off-character and distrustful for much longer to effectively sell the (ludicrous) memory loss.
tony
Tue, May 24, 2011, 11:46am (UTC -5)
"People who accuse VOY of plagiarising TNG forget that many of TNG's plots failed to make good use of its ideas."
Elliot,
By that logic, what about DS9's "Dramatis Personae"? Everyone slipped back into their old selves after that episode despite the fact that they came within inches of killing each other.
DS9 was also initially supposed to be about Bajor entering the Federation. It was only when the ratings weren't as high as Paramount thought they should be that Ira & co. introduced the Dominion, which were really the Borg with the fries supersized.
TNG had no more missed opportunities than the other series.
Elliott
Tue, May 24, 2011, 4:51pm (UTC -5)
@tony

I don't disagree with you; my point was that many of the plots in VOY which people casually dismiss as "recycled" make use of those missed opportunities from TNG especially. I think the Dominion were a good invention. For a few seasons, they managed to be interesting, complex and compelling. In the end, they turned into 2D badguys, but that doesn't make their initial nature unworthy.

I didn't mean to imply TNG had more missed opportunities than the other series at all, just that this one had a lot of fertile soil which it didn't make use of (incidentally, "Dramatis Personæ" was a complete failure of an episode).
pviateur
Mon, Aug 15, 2011, 12:57pm (UTC -5)
Although this episode was amusing overall, I was disgusted with Riker's treatment of Troi in particular. Okay, he can't resist Ro's charms (such as they are) but right after he finds out that he and Troi likely have a serious relationship (engaged, wedded? in love at least), no sooner does Troi leave the room than he once again succumbs to Ro! Pretty disgusting, I say, not funny!
TH
Thu, Sep 8, 2011, 9:14pm (UTC -5)
@Stef: I don't think the director cared about 'blowing' MacDuff's cover; though you hadn't seen Trek in 3 years, the episode was created for an audience that ought to have known as soon as MacDuff showed up that he wasn't part of the (main) crew as he was acting. I suspect they never intended to hide him has the culprit.

That said, I saw this episode probably when it first aired in 1992 (when I was 9) or shortly thereafter. I too saw it early in my Trek-watching, so I also did not actually know that MacDuff was not a normal crew member. I have always wondered what my reaction would have been had I known he should not have been there.

But that said, I can’t get over the complete ridiculous premise of the episode. They erased the memories of EVERYONE onboard (of all species) INCLUDING Data?! AND they reprogrammed the computer to include MacDuff and a war with a whole other species? I wonder if they included enough to fool even Data had he done any research (including mission logs of any “battles” with this false enemy, archived communications with Starfleet about the war, etc.)

Considering in Clues the mere presence of Data screwed everything up for the memory-wipers in that episode, I find it so hard to believe that these people would need any help from the Federation.

Keep in mind that ONE photon torpedo would destroy the enemy base; which was guarded by a handful of completely overmatched ships. Why wouldn’t MacDuff’s people just brainwipe their enemy?! Then just destroy the ship while everyone is trying to figure out who the heck they are. A species with this kind of power would, I believe, be a much bigger factor in the universe than they seem to be (along the same lines as the aliens from The Game who could seemingly brainwash anyone they wanted to).

I can only give this one two stars on the high side.
Jay
Sun, Sep 25, 2011, 6:59pm (UTC -5)
Not sure if it's because I find Michelle Forbes very unpleasant to look at generally, but Ro's behavior here was so over the top it made my flesh crawl.
Tim
Tue, Jun 5, 2012, 5:06am (UTC -5)
First episode in a while that I've really enjoyed from this series, the stories had been a bit plodding to me before this. I enjoyed the intrigue, and thought it was a good hour of TV. I'm normally quite cynical, but for some reason I didn't think 'why wasn't he captain' etc, I just went along with it, and would therefore go along with 3 stars, maybe even 3.5!
John
Thu, Jun 14, 2012, 9:45am (UTC -5)
Shockingly bad. Plot holes/contrivances and corniness. Riker's whoring is painful. I remember it being half decent having first watched it as a teen. How time has ravaged it. 1 star is pretty generous.
Rosario
Wed, Nov 7, 2012, 7:07pm (UTC -5)
I knew MacDuff shouldn't be there but my mind just kinda went, hey another extra who's gonna die by the end!
Corey
Wed, Feb 6, 2013, 2:17pm (UTC -5)
I just wanted to say I definitely liked this episode. Seeing Picard working a workstation like he was just another crewman was a lot of fun. Having Riker get his "desserts" at the final scene of the show was fun too. Having Data as a bartender wasn't too bad too. This episode is one of my favorite of this season.
Shak
Sat, Apr 13, 2013, 10:01pm (UTC -5)
Am i the only one who noticed the the starbase/ship that they were going to attack looked A LOT like the ship in episode where Ensign Crusher is sentenced to death for breaking some rules on a primitive planet in season 1?
Cal
Sun, Apr 14, 2013, 8:08pm (UTC -5)
@Shak: Yeah, they reused the same studio model:

en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Conundrum_(episode)

Scroll to 'Sets and Props'
mephyve
Tue, Jul 23, 2013, 11:31pm (UTC -5)
One day the TNG writers sat around asking,"How can we get a rocking romance between Riker and Ro?" After all Riker has to have a romp with every prominent female on the ship. The 'host body' thing was already done with the doctor.
Wrier 1, "Hey, let's have some alien race be so technologically advanced that they can override the Enterprise shields and computer, wipe every memory, including a positronic brain. We'll say they need the ships weaponry to destroy their enemy."
Wrier 2, "You mean they can come up with this super memory wiping technology; it won't work on their enemy but it will work on someone more advanced than their enemy; and yet they can't make a photon torpedo."
Wrier 1, "Lets not lose focus now, we are talking Riker and Ro here."
Shawn Davis
Sat, Oct 12, 2013, 8:11pm (UTC -5)
I just got through watching this episode. I agree with Jammer that 3 stars is an approprite rating for this episode. I agree that this episode got off to a rocky start with the alien disguised a MacDuffin wiping the memory of the crew but still need them to help him fight his enemies. In fact, the MacDuffin alien and the aliens like him probably could wipe out Starfleet, the Romulans, the Klingons, and the other alpha quadrant species in about 10 minutes using that mind wiping device that they used.

The rest of the episode is plausible to me. I especially liked how the crew acted after they had their memory wiped. Including Worf taking command and Picard acting like a regular crewman, and Riker being with Troi and Ro in doing their business. I also like how the crew at least think about their decision too before acting as Jammer said.
Spencer
Fri, Oct 25, 2013, 11:53am (UTC -5)
How cool were the FX shots of the Enterprise zapping the fleet of fighter craft?
Moegreen
Tue, Dec 10, 2013, 6:26pm (UTC -5)
The most unbelievable aspect to me, was the idea that Troi, with every aspect of her character presented to date, was capable of besting anyone at
chess, let alone Data.
JJ
Sun, Feb 9, 2014, 1:06pm (UTC -5)
A lot of the problems with this episode have been well covered, but I have to agree with Moegreen. That chess scene was very poorly written. I know this is "space chess", but are we to believe that Troi counters a classic well known chess move by moving 1 piece once and Data and apparently the entire "space chess" world were unable to come up with this? And this somehow demonstrates the superiority of human intuition? Two words for this scene - clumsy and awful.
Latex Zebra
Mon, Feb 10, 2014, 3:36am (UTC -5)
Agree that the chess scene is dumb. So Troi can spank Data at chess but Data can hold a grand master at strategema to a draw.

As for the rest I do love this episiode. I can suspend belief regarding the power MacDuff has because certain species have better advancements in some than others.
As for not making himself captain. Well this makes perfect sense. He would have to know the ins and outs of everything and if he buckled under question the ruse would have failed... I mean it did but much sooner.

3/4 is still a fair mark though.
Adara
Sun, Mar 23, 2014, 4:01pm (UTC -5)
How much I can suspend my disbelief depends on the entertainment value of what I'm watching. In episodes like this one and The Next Phase, I'm enjoying myself enough that I can merrily skip along plot holes big enough to fall through without a second thought. When I don't like the characters and the episode, on the other hand, everything bothers me. I mind that Tasha's half-Romulan daughter is identical to her, but I don't mind that the transporter can turn people into children. It bugs me that the holodeck goes on forever, but I only think about it in certain episodes. It's the same with the ridiculous idea of having children on board. I can't say I stopped to think about it once during The Best of Both Worlds. On Voyager, every little technobabble inconsistency bothers me because it's a terrible, terrible show. (as far as I'm concerned, TOS, TNG, and DS9 are the only ones that even count as Star Trek)
DLPB
Sat, Mar 29, 2014, 9:14pm (UTC -5)
Entertaining but thoroughly ridiculous and badly written in large part. Not 3 stars unless you don't care about good writing.
msw188
Mon, Aug 18, 2014, 3:41pm (UTC -5)
Just finished watching this one.

Regarding the chess scene, I think it would have worked a lot better with anyone other than Data. It would actually be kinda cool to somehow get across that Troi can cheat at chess just by reading the emotions of the other player. Anyone here remember that jerk kid from the X-Files who beat chess masters by reading their minds?

This is one of those episodes that gives me enough fun with the characters that I don't mind the ridiculous plot that much. The first big hole that I thought of was how could Crusher not realize the dude wasn't human when he went in for the treatment. Regardless of the logic, I did love seeing Data pop up from behind the bar. The script also shows how even if the writers were out of logical ideas, they still understood their characters well enough to make some good scenes. I really like Worf's 'arc' in this one. I think I'd give it a solid 2.5 stars.
Kahryl
Mon, Sep 8, 2014, 12:00pm (UTC -5)
The chess scene makes sense to me. It would be simple for Data to restrict his processors to x calculations per second. Playing chess at his full power against anyone would be completely pointless.

He was no doubt playing at "super easy" setting with Troi.
Andrew
Sat, Oct 18, 2014, 9:46am (UTC -5)
The plot wasn't convincing ("MacDuff" should have tried a smaller ship without so many civilians and without such a weapons advantage) and some of the actors (especially Sirtis) at times felt tired but there was still a lot of fun, especially amnesic Data, conflicted Picard and the Riker/Ro romance.
xaaos
Mon, Dec 1, 2014, 6:28pm (UTC -5)
"On Voyager, every little technobabble inconsistency bothers me because it's a terrible, terrible show. "

Ofc this is your subjective opinion. :) Imo, VOY is a great show with great characters, neat concept and a lot of outstanding episodes. Subjective opinion aswell. xD
phaedon
Sat, Dec 20, 2014, 4:01pm (UTC -5)
You know, it's 2014 and I'm watching TNG again and this time, I feel like I'm watching it for the first time. I read the reviews here and sometimes I decide to skip an episode based on a poor rating.

But I've decided to take a stand on "Conundrum" of all episodes. It really has sunk in how much resentment there is towards TNG both in the reviews and some of the comments. I think that this is exactly the type of episode that makes or breaks you as a TNG fan - whether you can see past the episodic nature of the show, and even the "plotholes," to enjoy how the writers mix things up for the characters.

Quite frankly, it's episodes like this that drive home what the show is all about - it's not just "Best of Both Worlds" with a bunch of crap stuffed around it. It really does a disservice to the memory of the show to focus so overwhelmingly on the "plausibility" of the episode, which is so overwhelmingly outweighed by other, more character-driven, considerations in this episode - namely, nobody, including Data, knows who they are, or what their stations are. Their skills intact - but their identities unknown. The Prime Directive lurking underneath for Picard, and the alien mistaking Worf for a bloodthirsty Klingon - his parents are human, after all. Riker - who finally gets unleashed as a bit of a lady's man - sort of gets his ass handed to him at the end.

There is of course absolutely no discussion of this in "the review" - simply focusing on the absurdity of the alien. I have to say it's tremendously disappointing. And it reads mostly strongly in these trivial episodes, like someone who didn't really like TNG is just sloughing through it.



navamske
Sat, Dec 20, 2014, 9:04pm (UTC -5)
I think a great dramatic storytelling device is when the audience has information that the main characters don't have, which is one of the reasons I like this episode, despite its obvious flaws. Another example was that early "Enterprise" episode in which the crew of the NX-01 had dealings with the Romulans (the one in which Reed gets impaled through the leg) but didn't actually see them.
msw188
Sun, Dec 21, 2014, 11:35am (UTC -5)
In response to phaedon, I don't think your claim about 'resentment' towards TNG is warranted. The review here gives 3/4 stars, which looks pretty strong to me. The sentence " "Conundrum" is entertaining enough for me to forgive its unlikelihood" is followed by two whole paragraphs about how the episode successfully plays with the characters despite the ridiculous premise.

In response to Navamske, I often tend to like this sort of narrative device too if it doesn't come up too often. It works especially well in little self-contained bits like this episode. One thing that always bothers me though is the opposite arrangement - 'point of view' protagonists having knowledge that is withheld from the viewer. See my comments on Defector. I've complained about this in some other things as well.
Piraxis
Sat, Mar 14, 2015, 11:20pm (UTC -5)
This reminded me of the episode Tabula Rasa from S6 of Buffy which blows this episode out of the water.
Troy
Mon, Jul 6, 2015, 1:28pm (UTC -5)
I didn't like this episode 1-1/2 stars. This is similar to "The Game" (which I loved) where aliens use a cunning tactic to take over the enterprise. This episode seems so much less plausible, and this may just be as another reviewer suggested that watchers are more forgiving if they are enjoying the episode. Big issues for me is that Data seems like he should have to have been disabled rather than have his memory selectively wiped and the whole selectively wiping on the ship memory and all people of several different species all with a 3 minute blue light.
I didn't find it very fun either. An exception Riker and Ro was a highlight. Made me think if Ro didn't have such a bad reputation, Riker might fancy her.
As for McDuff making himself captain, possibly the least issue I had with it.
Richard
Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 7:00pm (UTC -5)
This is an entertaining episode, but it does have a couple of plot holes.

I have also wondered why McDuff did not make himself captain. I can think of two possible answers. One, maybe he felt it would be difficult to impersonate the commanding officer of a starship, and felt he could more easily impersonate the role of first officer. Two, when Dr. Crusher attempts to bring back the crew's memories, he volunteers to be the "guinea pig", and of course the experiment failed. Maybe he felt the captain would not have been allowed to be the 1st test subject.

Regarding the weapons technology being so far behind their obvious other technological advances: This is possible, but EXTREMELY unlikely. Indeed, Will Riker himself comments on the disparity in technology at the end of the episode, and Picard state both sides in the war had equal weapons technology.
legrate
Sat, Aug 1, 2015, 2:09am (UTC -5)
Richard, those rationalizations might work, indeed.

I thought msw188 hit one of the larger plot holes - Crusher performing a complex medical procedure on MacDuff without noticing he wasn't human. Similarly, Troi did share a room with MacDuff, but she also picked up nothing - either a strange inability to read him, or an ability to read a mind buzzing with deception.

While we're at it, how did MacDuff get on the Enterprise at all? They did have shields up, even if they didn't block the scan, one would hope they'd block any sort of transport. Not that they ever do, admittedly. And... sigh... must the Enterprise always meet strangers with its shields down? Starfleet had already ordered against this stupidity back in Kirk's day, and it just gets more and more ridiculous. This is a galaxy where a first strike can (and often does) cripple an unshielded ship, where transporters can (and do) whisk critical people away (why not beam off the whole bridge crew?)... puttering around with shields up should be a sign of trustworthiness, as it means you're not insane.

And as others have mentioned (and a problem with The Game too), it seems the writers often forget that many species are present on the Enterprise. It calls for "magic" technology to be able to remotely and precisely erase the differently-stored memories of: the computer, Data, and how many species... 3 just on the bridge, plus Guinan (conspicuosly absent), Mott the barber, and surely a handful of others at any particular time.
Luke
Wed, Aug 12, 2015, 9:31am (UTC -5)
"Conundrum" is an episode that on first viewing is enjoyable enough (if only for the zaniness of seeing the characters in such a unique situation) but upon further inspection doesn't quite hold up.

The problem is the huge number of plot-holes. 1.) Why doesn't MacDuff make himself the captain? 2.) Why did he pick a ship with so many people on it - that means there are vastly more chances for his plan to be revealed - instead of a smaller ship he could more easily control? 3.) How did he honestly think these people wouldn't be off-put by the way they VASTLY outmatch the Lysians? 4.) Why, when the Lysian destroyer is said to be so inferior to the Enterprise, does it manage to do any damage during its attack? 5.) How did Crusher miss the fact that MacDuff isn't Human during her medical procedure? 6.) Most importantly - why wasn't MacDuff using his mind-altering weapon on the Lysians? It's said that the Lysians and the Satarrans have equal weapons technologies, but so what? The Satarrans obviously have an advantage that they could use against the Lysians. Just use the device on countless enemy ships and have them turn against their own. It would take more time, but it would be simpler than trying to get outsiders to do the job for you.

But, leaving all that aside, "Conundrum" is still a pleasant enough diversion to be an average outing. What ultimately drags it down, however, is the final scene with Riker, Ro and Troi in Ten Forward. "An amusingly played final scene"? Really, Jammer? Well, to each their own, but I have to firmly disagree with that. This scene was not amusing at all; it was awful! Riker is a little confused? Well, so am I. What exactly was being said here? That Riker is scum for enjoying casual sex? It seems to me that both Ro and Troi also enjoy casual sex. It was, after all, Ro who aggressively pursued Riker here. Why is she let off the hook while Riker is racked over the coals? Is it because he "should" have known that his relationship with Troi was important? Well, given the fact that his memory had been wiped I find that hard to swallow. Even given the scene where he and Troi discover the book she gave him, that proves nothing. They obviously know they aren't married since they have separate quarters. No, apparently Riker's past relationship with Troi should trump everything, even through a memory block, because Troi still has feeling for him that transcend that memory block. "Well, if you're still confused tomorrow, you know where my office is."? Oh, well counselor, are you going to talk about how just last episode ("The Masterpiece Society") you, without the excuse of a memory block, threw away all those feelings for Riker that he's supposed to remain loyal to come what may and had sex with the colony's leader? Hypocrisy, thy name is Deanna Troi!

But seriously, let's reverse the genders here and see what happens. Riker aggressively pursues Ro. Ro gladly gives into the pursuit and enjoys herself. Ro then finds out that she might, maybe, possibly have had some slight romantic interest in some other man at some ill-defined point in the past. Once everyone's memories are restored, Riker and this other man confront Ro in Ten Forward and all but excuse her of being a whore who should be ashamed of herself. See the problem here? But, as presented, it's okay because.... why? Because Ro and Troi have vaginas? Whereas Riker has a penis so is therefore obviously in the wrong? *vomit*

It's a shame this coda was tacked onto the episode because without it "Conundrum" would be an enjoyable, if ultimately flawed, episode.

3/10
Julian
Sat, Sep 12, 2015, 5:52pm (UTC -5)
No one here has commented on the principle motive in this episode. If you are focussing on plotholes don't watch sci-fi. This episode is about the morality of not following orders. The choice that Piccard makes is not a hard one, when looking at the evidence, given the inferiority of the enemy. But few in the real world, have made that choice. If you have the lives of 15000 people in your hands, then you always have a choice about whether you follow an order, even when your own life or career is at risk.
Diamond Dave
Fri, Sep 25, 2015, 3:37pm (UTC -5)
OK, front and centre, the plot makes no sense whatsoever, and the episode makes a few strange choices (Troi beating Data?). But I suppose it is merely a cipher for the high concept.

Judged in those terms, this actually works quite acceptably. Mixing up the established characters always throws up some interesting permutations, such as Worf's assumption of command. It's not that the characters are acting out-of-character, but playing more exaggerated versions of themselves. So Picard becomes "the diplomat" and Riker "the horn dog" - and I enjoyed the Ro/Riker relationship.

The visual effects take a real notch up here - I see for which it won an Emmy. The shot of the Enterprise engaging the sentry fighters is a classic. 2.5 stars.
Corey R
Wed, Feb 3, 2016, 11:43am (UTC -5)
By the way, I have other posts on this site as Corey, but there have been a few posts from a different Corey, so am posting as Corey R from now on.

Just wanted to mention about the Chess Scene with Data and Troi. It's possible that Data just learned the rules, read a few articles on it, and that's it. He may not have a time-tested chess program in his software - after all, if he did that, then HE wouldn't be playing, but a program some else wrote. If so, then being able to calculate large number of possibilities is NOT an insurmountable edge against a human. The reason is modern chess software is not strong against humans because it can see many positions. Instead it's strong because modern chess program use a heavily researched/tested algorithm to accurately assess positions. Thus, a chess PC program is tough because it sees many positions AND assesses the positions accurately.

Take away the position assessment algorithm, or give it less inaccurate one, and humans absolutely could (and did, before this algorithm was perfected) defeat computers.
Robert
Wed, Feb 3, 2016, 12:51pm (UTC -5)
@Corey R - The possibility never occurred to me, and I'm not sure my brain wants to spend a lot of time contemplating it... but I suppose it's a lot like the time Riker asked him to turn off his internal chronometer with regards to watching the pot boil.
Jc
Thu, Feb 4, 2016, 10:55pm (UTC -5)
I just figured macduff didn't make himself captain because he knew he didn't really 100% know how to operate the ship, or didn't know how to fudge all the voice authorization and such that would be necessary for him contact as captain.

Anyways good thing they didn't run into a romulan ship and end the entire series.
Jason R.
Thu, Feb 25, 2016, 6:45am (UTC -5)
"Keep in mind that ONE photon torpedo would destroy the enemy base; which was guarded by a handful of completely overmatched ships. Why wouldn’t MacDuff’s people just brainwipe their enemy?! Then just destroy the ship while everyone is trying to figure out who the heck they are. A species with this kind of power would, I believe, be a much bigger factor in the universe than they seem to be (along the same lines as the aliens from The Game who could seemingly brainwash anyone they wanted to)."

I think the intention of the episode was to suggest that the Sutterans and their enemies were basically similar and probably both possessed some funky memory altering technology. Presumably the other guys were well aware of the Sutterans' tricks and would not have been vulnerable to them.

The episode further suggests that while advanced in some respects (the memory altering technology) they were had extremely crude weapons, about 100 years behind anything possessed by the Federation.

But here's where the episode drops the ball: at the very beginning the Enterprise is probed by the alien ship. If the alien ship disabled the Enterprise while its shields were down, that would be one thing. But Picard gives the order to raise shields and the Sutteran scanner penetrates the Enterprise's shields!! So Federation weapons technology is 100 years ahead of these races but the Sutterans can punch through the shields of a Galaxy class starship?

Kind of an unforced error on that point if you ask me.

Kudos to GregT for explaining why McDuff chose not to make himself Captain. If McDuff had been the Captain, he never would have been allowed to volunteer for the memory restoration procedure.
Jason R.
Thu, Feb 25, 2016, 6:54am (UTC -5)
One point I'm surprised nobody mentioned: Troi beating Data at chess in the first scene.

I can accept aliens with primitive weapons overpowering the Enterprise and taking over the ship. I can even accept them erasing the entire crew's memories (including Data's!) and selectively rewriting the entire computer.

But there is no way that Troi beats Data in chess. Never. Ever.

I am going to be charitable and assume that the bet was just for Troi to last more than five moves against Data or something like that, and even that strains credulity.

SFKeepay
Sun, Mar 6, 2016, 8:43pm (UTC -5)
This 3-star episode was good fun, with its "reveal shots" (Data pops up from behind the bar like that girl on Hee Haw ["Empty Arms Hotel!] and Picard spins around in his chair at the helm - suprise!) , the uninhibited Riker hooking up with the un-restrained Ro culminating in the 10-Forward three-way, Worf taking command, etc.

Incidentally, Jammer's comment on that last point highlights Picards' flawless handling of Worf's embarrassment - acknowledge it, put the issue in context, normalize, show respect/understanding, and move on (Bravo Patrick Stewart, yet again - I wonder if there was another actor on American television at the time who could have pulled that off so convincingly or with such skill and grace? )

The concerns about plausibility and plot holes are, I'd like to suggest, are (1) greatly overblown (2) readily addressed and (3) beside the point. For instance, kudos to GregT for the observation that McDuff perhaps eschewed making himself captain so that he could subvert medical interventions. Others' explanations above about his technical ability or knowledge of command codes are at least plausible. And I would add that if he had been captain, his ability to monitor and manipulate would have been severely curtailed. The "mission" would have been top-down; misgivings might have become mutiny if the main voice in favor of slaughtering the "enemy" was also at the top of the power structure...I can easily imagine the crew coming together conspiratorily to question the surety of a genocidal captian; not so if the push comes sideways as it is portrayed.

But I agree with Julian, broadly speaking at least, who pointed out above that there is greater substance to be found here in addressing the huge, evergreen, nuanced and important issue of following immoral orders, or even more broadly, the morality of killing in general.

Actually, writing this has just prompted me to wonder if a larger problem with the episode was tone, not plausibility or plot holes. Maybe it should have more directly and forcefully explored the immoral orders topic; maybe it was too cute and distracted to give proper weight to such a weighty issue...was it a romp, a cautionary tale, an exploration of (as several above suggest) the nature of personality? Maybe the problem was trying to be all of the above?

Luke, props for pointing out the double standard...I'm not absolutely sure whether you're right that if Ro had been a guy, many opinions would be different....but it is defintely plausible. Thanks for raising the point.

Lastly, and I hate to agree, Troi beating Data at "wedding cake chess" was insipid. I'm actually a Troi fan and feel compelled, usually, to defend her (and Sirtis, given the thankless job of being buxom and emotionally vulnerable while at the same time the second most powerful member of the crew), on this occasion, well...no frakking way. Chess grandmasters (if we are proceeding - as the episode encourages us - to think of the game, essentially, as chess) are not possessed of some vastly superior OR especially intuitive mind. They do not "think 6 moves ahead", or use emotional intelligence to intuit a winning strategy. They instead hold tens of thousands of experientially-memorized "position maps" of the board, and subconsciously overlay those configurtions onto their current game. Data's capacity for this would be so far beyond Troi as to make any such contest, I think, an utter farce.

I love that this site still exists; thank you Jammer!
Daniel B
Mon, May 2, 2016, 12:53am (UTC -5)
Here are my answers to the 2 big plot holes:

1) Why could MacDuff and his species have even needed the Enterprise? Maybe their mental beam technology was way advanced, but their conventional weapons were crap, or maybe their enemies found a way to block the memory beam (which the Federation probably could too, but they'd never encountered it before), or maybe they just have a much smaller population and industrial base and so are badly outnumbered despite superior tech.

2) Why didn't he make himself the captain? Because he hasn't got the foggiest clue how to run the ship. Everyone else retained their skills and technical knowledge, so he had to put himself in a place where he could get away not spouting technobabble about the ship's capabilities or how to do anything, but he could command most of the people who did (and advise anyone he couldn't command).
Michal Wallis
Tue, May 24, 2016, 10:32am (UTC -5)
Absurd episode. MacDuff's race can easily defeat the mighty flagship of Starfleet but is unable to take down a tenth rate adversary.
Chrome
Tue, May 24, 2016, 11:11am (UTC -5)
@Michal Wallis

"Absurd episode. MacDuff's race can easily defeat the mighty flagship of Starfleet but is unable to take down a tenth rate adversary."

Not necessarily absurd. We assume that technology should develop in a certain manner and at a certain rate. Indeed, players of Sid Meier's Civilization know that eventually everyone gets the same science no matter what path they take.

However, *alien* species should work differently. You can have this really fancy mental wipe device but still have really lousy impulse engines and rocket-based weaponry. Fans of the Foundation Series know this theory well, as one of the big concept's in Asimov's novel is that one Foundation specializes in physical sciences while the other specializes in mentalics. If either side is caught off guard, they are vulnerable.

So yes, you need to buy into the idea that the Federation flagship can be taken over by a species with low-tech weaponry. But that's only because they have presumably high-tech devices in areas the Federation does not yet understand.
Luka
Wed, Jul 13, 2016, 11:34pm (UTC -5)
This episode is the epitome of comfort TV. It's so competently made that it doesn't really matter that it's a bottle show or that that the story isn't exactly pushing the envelope. It most definitely deserves three stars because it gets from point A to point B effortlessly and we can just sit back and enjoy these great characters interact with each other and their situation. A lot of people have commented "why didn't the MacDuff just make himself Captain?" that's a legitimate question but in the end who cares? On a side note
, I always liked that music when the Sutteran ship is on the viewer. It's kind of a mysterious cue but it fits the mood perfectly.

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