Star Trek: The Next Generation
Air date: 10/28/1991
Teleplay by Brannon Braga
Story by Susan Sackett & Fred Bronson and Brannon Braga
Directed by Corey Allen
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Here's a competent but sometimes hokey little adventure yarn, in which the 24th-century equivalent of an uber-popular and hopelessly trivial cell phone game (an Internet video parody that substituted Angry Birds footage for the Disc-in-Cone game was on to something) becomes the avenue through which the Enterprise (and apparently all of Starfleet) nearly becomes the victim of an alien takeover plot. If only visiting Starfleet Academy cadet Wesley Crusher and his plucky love interest Ensign Robin Lefler (Ashley Judd) hadn't stood in their way!
The game at the center of "The Game" is something Riker brings back from Risa. It's really easy to win ("It practically plays itself," one brainwashed player says), and when you do, you are given a heroin-like high of a reward, leading you to become addicted and wanting more more more, I tell ya. Eventually, the game is playing you, because you are turned into a puppet of the Nameless Aliens' plot, and will do whatever they tell you to.
The problem I have with "The Game" is the same problem I have with many Wesley-oriented stories, and I'll phrase it in the form of a question: Why is it that everyone else aboard the Enterprise is so easily taken in by this ploy while Wesley friggin' Crusher is the only one to ask even a handful of simple questions and spend the three lousy minutes to hook the game up to the computer and run some simple tests to see if it's, y'know, potentially harmful? When the rest of the crew has to look incompetent in order to give Wesley a reason to save the day, I am forced to release a lengthy sigh. I also wasn't sure exactly what level of awareness the brainwashed crew members had while under the influence of Disc-in-Cone. They sure seem normal (except, of course, when they don't).
It's too bad, because if you grant the episode it's implausible premise, the story execution mostly works. Wesley and Robin work well together as clue-chasers and problems-solvers in the vintage TNG tradition, the story is nicely paced, and I enjoyed the way the walls slowly closed in on Wesley at the end (until ultimately, crew members are holding him down, prying open his eyelids, and forcing the game upon him). Wesley is saved by what I'd be tempted to call a "Data ex machina" if not for the fact that it's clearly established beforehand — by the ever-clever Wesley himself, of course.