Star Trek: The Next Generation



Air date: 3/21/1994
Written by Brannon Braga
Directed by Gates McFadden

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

There's a saying in screenwriting that goes something like, "There are no bad plots, only bad executions." I beg to differ. "Genesis" is a bad plot. It's also a bad execution, but I hold that nothing could have saved a story so fundamentally flawed.

Of course, that all depends on what you can abide in your definition of Star Trek as science fiction. I can abide plenty of impossible Trekkian staples, like warp speed, time travel, or the transporter. What I cannot abide is Fun With DNA [TM] when it goes as far as "Genesis" does (or the even more unwatchable "Threshold" on Voyager, to which "Genesis" seems to have served as Brannon Braga's warm-up act). "Genesis" tells the story of how the entire crew is inflicted with a condition that starts rewriting their DNA and "de-evolving" them into more primitive forms of life. Riker becomes a Neanderthal. Barclay becomes some sortuva spider/humanoid thingy. Troi grows gills and turns into a half-woman, half-amphibian. Worf turns into a violent monster that terrorizes the ship. And so on.

The thing about Fun With DNA is that it can do anything the plot wants, so nothing that happens means anything, because it can all be undone with the wave of a hand: You don't need to see his identification. The concept of "de-evolving" (was the word "devolving" deemed too far over the audience's head?) is so silly that I rejected it outright. But then the way everything is fixed with a magical potion just makes you want to wash your hands of the entire episode, since clearly the writers were happy to do the same. In any plausible notion of this story, the changes to your DNA should simply kill you. In "Genesis" it allows the writers to explore their inner monster movie. A bad monster movie.

The first act, when the crew starts to go nuts, is actually kind of entertaining in its zaniness. Everyone starts acting strangely and bouncing off the walls. Riker turns suddenly stupid. Troi takes a bath with her clothes on. Barclay is weird — okay, weirder than usual. Worf is non-communicative and aggressive, and then sprays Crusher in the face with venom, which is actually kind of amusingly horrifying as she goes thrashing about excessively.

Picard and Data, who were away when this happened, return to find the ship is now a funhouse of mutations. This is where things turn tedious, as we find out who has changed into what and then must figure out a way to magically reverse the effects. (Naturally, there's no shortage of technobabble.) Picard, now being exposed, finds he too is "de-evolving," which for him has the initial side effect of making him a coward, which is admittedly sort of fun to see Patrick Stewart play. Meanwhile, Spot has transformed into a lizard. Why a lizard? Probably because it was easy to get a lizard and film it, and then claim it was Spot.

So, yes, this is obviously terrible. Much of the action centers on the fact that Worf is now a monster who believes Troi is his mate (hey, it's another example of Worf/Troi Will They or Won't They as filtered through unreal sci-fi machinations!) and then goes chasing Picard through the corridors after being lured away from doing unspeakable things to the helpless Troi-fish. Ah, the ignominy of being Klingon Guy Worf: When you get your DNA mutation episode, you're the first choice for the monster who eats the town.

When looking at the stretch of episodes from "Homeward" through "Genesis" ("Lower Decks" aside, of course), it's not hard to make a case for this cumulatively being the nadir of TNG. Granted, I'd rather watch this than season one, because the characters and production are more honed. But season seven should know better.

Previous episode: Eye of the Beholder
Next episode: Journey's End

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75 comments on this review

Ian Whitcombe
Tue, Dec 4, 2012, 10:20pm (UTC -5)
I must note that you gave this episode an approx. 2.5 star rating on SOS (somewhere between 5.5 - 6.5), I would have loved to have read that review, but certainly the one-star rating shows that you have come to your senses.
Tue, Dec 4, 2012, 11:21pm (UTC -5)
No Stars, for me. Worse than "Shades of Grey" by a country mile.

While "Shades of Grey" can be partially excused because of the Writer's Strike during the time of season 2, what's the excuse here? The plot is something a 12 year old would cook up. ("And the crew of the Enterprise, like, turned into monsters and it was totally cool!")

In "Identity Crisis", the transformation into another species (and back) is treated with some dramatic gravity. While as you point out is scientifically preposterous, there's verisimilitude at work here, because in the end, we see a tired still partially mutated, Geordi recovering in sickbay after a close call of completely losing his human identity.

In contrast, we have Troi and Dr. Crusher (who's face is perfectly fine from the venom!) yukking it up about Mr. Barclay. Never mind, the horrors that have been going on on the ship with people being killed (like the dead crewman found on the bridge). EVERYTHING'S BACK TO NORMAL. Dr. Crusher doesn't even stop to reflect that it was her screw-up that caused the whole situation. But, when you're the director of the episode, you can gloss over a few things!
Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 12:03am (UTC -5)
"Genesis" is a guilty pleasure of mine. I recognize that it's terrible on all sorts of levels but I watched it for the first time in years about a month ago and was wildly entertained. It's certainly far more watchable than "Threshold", which used a similar concept.
Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 12:57am (UTC -5)
I loved this episode when it aired and I was 8 years old. Not so much as an adult. Though I always have a soft spot for disaster type scenarios where the ship is eerily abanoned with random mayhem abound.
Latex Zebra
Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 3:43am (UTC -5)
Dimitris Kiminas
Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 5:33am (UTC -5)
Whot? Only one star? This groundbreaking episode can be de-evolved as follows:

One Million Years BC (alas, without Raquel Welch) meets Aliens, with a touch of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Little Mermaid thrown in for added immersion! :)
Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 8:40am (UTC -5)
Jammer, why does the reset button bother you here but not in "Eye of the Beholder"?

Otherwise, I agree. This was just a terrible, off-the-rails episode. When Trek goes with a goofy sci-fi idea, it usually is at least consistent within itself in that episode. But the random ways in which the crew "de-evolves" is just so dumb. Why is Riker a Neanderthal and Barclay a spider?

As for season 7 versus season 1 ...

Sure, the production qualities were much better in 1994 than they were in 1987. Sure, Wesley is largely absent from season 7. Sure, TNG doesn't feel like bad TOS in season 7. Actually, it feels like bad Voyager!

Season 1 at least had some freshness to it. Season 7 is so slow and pondering (outside of Parallels, the Pegasus, Preemptive Strike, Lower Decks and the finale). And it's equally ridiculous at its low points. Is 'Genesis' worse than 'Code of Honor'? Is 'The Last Outpost' less inspired than 'Thine Own Self'?

I think I'd take season 1 over season 7. In addition to the freshness of the new characters I feel like by 1993, Berman/Braga et. al should have known better than to put out drek like "Genesis."
Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 1:27pm (UTC -5)
I do hate episodes with the reset button. This was 2.5 stars.
Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 3:45pm (UTC -5)
@Paul: I think the issue with the reset button here is that all the characters act and feel perfectly normal after having starring roles in a very bad horror movie. In "Eye", at least "it was all a dream" so if nothing had any consequence, it makes sense internally. Not so much here. To take another example, "The Inner Light" was all a "dream" for Picard alone, but the impact stands.
Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 4:21pm (UTC -5)
@Josh: Sure, that makes sense. I just hate the reset button pretty much universally.
Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 5:29pm (UTC -5)
This is a guilty pleasure of mine. The plot is ridiculous but I enjoyed the devolving none-the-less and the worf monster.
Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 6:07pm (UTC -5)
@Paul, there are definitely degrees of "reset button." "Eye of the Beholder" was more or less plausible, since it all took place in Troi's mind. But "Genesis" is so far beyond suspension of disbelief that I just can't do it. It's not even close. The storyline is so beyond belief that I have no choice but to declare it BS. The final scene basically mocks the very notion that any of the preceding 44 minutes happened.
Fri, Dec 7, 2012, 3:43pm (UTC -5)
Dr. Crusher was dispatched from the action decisively...and melodramatically (with a hilarity chaser) so she could free to direct the bulk of the episode.

The reset button doesn't bother me nearly as much as the umpteenth iteration of some variation of "fortunately someone(s) was offship (or immune, or exempted) so they could save us", i. e. "Timescape", "Macrocosm", "Workforce", "The Game", "Civil Defense", "Children Of Time", "One", "Bliss", "Killing Game", "Clues", "Doctors Orders", etc.
Fri, Dec 7, 2012, 4:11pm (UTC -5)
I always crack up at Worf's "caviar...for lunch?!?" comment.
Fri, Dec 7, 2012, 8:12pm (UTC -5)
Whenever I see this episode, I alternate between wanting to yell "that's not how DNA works!" at the TV screen, and actually enjoying the silliness of it all.
Sat, Dec 8, 2012, 9:14pm (UTC -5)
Yes, it's bad--but at least it's funny. Riker being stupid always cracks me up, and the Worfmonster actually scares me. And Beverly gets sprayed in the face--oh joy!
John the younger
Wed, Dec 12, 2012, 9:44am (UTC -5)
I agree that funny-bad is better than dull-bad.

So I'd give this 1-star instead of zero.
Thu, Dec 13, 2012, 4:50am (UTC -5)
The script is completely and utterly awful, but I like McFadden's direction and the cinematography a lot. This one has nice ambiance, which of course can't redeem such a fundamentally flawed concept.
Sun, Dec 16, 2012, 2:23am (UTC -5)
What scares me most about this episode is that it actually got made. The pitch was made, the story outline was submitted and approved, the script was written, the make-up guys worked over the holidays, the episode was shot, edited, and aired.

If all that can happen, well we are all doomed.
Latex Zebra
Mon, Dec 31, 2012, 9:30am (UTC -5)
Will we get the last TNG reviews before midnight tonight?

Can Jammer do it?

Tue, Jan 1, 2013, 1:44pm (UTC -5)
"Meanwhile, Spot has transformed into a lizard. Why a lizard? Probably because it was easy to get a lizard and film it, and then claim it was Spot."

Best line of the review. That is all.
Thu, Jan 17, 2013, 12:35am (UTC -5)
What if no pregnant humanoids were on-board the Enterprise? End of the show?
Sat, Jan 26, 2013, 10:35pm (UTC -5)
@ Ken...

For that matter, (and a much more often abused plot gimmick), what if no one was conveniently offship to come back and save the rest of the crew?
Thu, Mar 7, 2013, 7:38am (UTC -5)
Any chance we'll ever get those last six episodes?
Fri, Mar 8, 2013, 1:50pm (UTC -5)
C'mon jammer! U can do it! Been viewing your site for almost 10years and I always come back. I won't ever give up on you!
Fri, Mar 8, 2013, 3:11pm (UTC -5)
Yes, I will complete the reviews. Please venture over to my blog ( for details on my hiatus.
Sun, Mar 10, 2013, 5:25am (UTC -5)
So, you'll take care of thing??
Wed, Mar 13, 2013, 10:31pm (UTC -5)
"Genesis" allowed is not -- is episode forbidden!
Fri, May 17, 2013, 3:59am (UTC -5)
"Riker turns suddenly stupid"

7 seasons does not constitute "sudden" or "turning" :)

Sorry, cheap shot.

TNG season 7 had some really cringe-worthy weird stuff, you wondered sometimes if the writers just completely lost the plot, were on drugs, or just deciding "it's the last season, let's just be silly". The correctly-rated Sub Rosa and Masks come to mind for sure. And Phantasms, which I guess is a matter of taste, but I just found the whole thing creepy and weird.

At least the finale was good :)
Sat, Aug 3, 2013, 2:37pm (UTC -5)
Did anyone else notice cromagnon Riker flipping off Picard and Data when dragging his hand down the fish bowl in the Picard's office? Lol
Thu, Aug 22, 2013, 11:45am (UTC -5)
Jammer: "The first act, when the crew starts to go nuts, is actually kind of entertaining in its zaniness. Everyone starts acting strangely and bouncing off the walls ... Worf is non-communicative and aggressive..."

So how is that any different from his normal self? :p
Wed, Oct 16, 2013, 8:02am (UTC -5)
Where was Alexander during all this?

I know, of all the plot holes to point out, I picked that one :)
William B
Tue, Oct 29, 2013, 1:23am (UTC -5)
This and "Masks" (and "Sub Rosa") are so out-there that I'm not even sure if these really are TNG episodes in a meaningful sense. You know, "The Game" in season five is an episode that I like in spite of myself, because I find the Wesley/Robin romance charming and some of the material exciting, but it relies on a plot premise that makes the entire ship look ludicrously unsafe and makes everyone (besides Wesley and Robin and maybe Data) look incompetent and stupid. "Rascals" I don't like all that much, but it is an episode that plays better when you drop the pretense that anything in that episode is supposed to make plot sense. "Sub Rosa" is pretty godawful in every way, because the story is supposed to be about Beverly in some way, but with "Masks" and "Genesis," I almost feel as if the episodes are in their own pocket universes. "Masks" follows Joe Menosky's obsession with archetypes to a bitter, illogical end. And "Genesis," which seems inspired by David Cronenberg's "The Fly," is actually a little similar. On display is Braga's obsession with the tenuous hold people have on their own identities and the way people have impulses that they can't entirely control or understand, which can overwhelm them entirely (see also "The Game," or "Identity Crisis," or "Phantasms," as well as classics like "Frame of Mind" and "Projections").

Put aside the "scientific" explanation here. What is happening? The crew is "de-evolving" (ick). But the way they are devolving is only ostensibly along species lines. The characters devolve in ways that fit the individual characters. And maybe this episode is best understood as characters devolving into their archetypes in purest form. Picard, Riker, Deanna, Worf and Barclay are fairly complex individuals. But in this episode we see them move into a state that reflects a single element of their character in purest form. Only Picard, because he's the hero of the story and because he comes in late, is able to fend it off. In TV-Tropes terms, this episode is an exercise in "Flanderization," in which a single trait of the character becomes totally overwhelming to all other traits; but I think it can also be read a) as a commentary on the prototypical versions of these character types in their most primitive form (from a fictional writing standpoint), and b) as, I guess, a way of showing the danger when a core trait of some of the characters takes over and becomes dominant.

- Riker is one of the least scientifically/intellectually-minded characters in the cast (a bit above Troi and Worf, but below Picard, Data, Beverly and Geordi). He's ruled sometimes by his passions rather than his intellect. He is the guy who, when making time with a pretty girl, rolls over onto a cactus. This is *before* a virus makes him artificially stupid. So Riker is a combination of many traits, but there is a little frat boy in him, which devolves back to the standard dumb-jock trope, which continues devolving to basically Fred Flintstone, which devolves back to total caveman.

- Deanna is very emotion-driven already, sensual and highly pain-conscious, hyperaware of her surroundings. And pretty fussy. I feel like there is something of a fussy blue-blooded aesthete in who Troi turns into -- caviar for lunch, belief that she should change her surroundings entirely for her comfort and no one else's -- but I think the character type is something a little different, but which I can't quite identify. I think I know: it's something like The Princess and the Pea, a royal whose sensitivity comes across in their total inability to be comfortable in their less-than-ideal surroundings. In story, she turns into a cold-blooded creature whose body temperature cannot be kept high without changing their entire environment.

- Barclay is a very nervous guy who is also a hard worker, once he gets his mind set on something. So he becomes a hyperactive panicky spider. Why a spider? Uh. Well, I do see how there is something buglike about the rapidity of his movements.

- Worf, the character, is at least a little alien, representing the integration of a dangerous, even animal, maybe even monstrous presence into a human(oid) person. He is wild, and some of the genealogy of Worf's conception actually includes monsters that have a tiny bit of humanity. Since he becomes a Klingon animal of some sort, there isn't even any need to or attempt to identify him with a human animal; he is entirely a monster of the imagination. The way the plot works out -- Worf is a ferocious monster who is eventually lured and defeated by his love of a woman -- has the rough contours of King Kong/Beauty and the Beast type stories, and I think he's that specific kind of monster here.

- Last but not least, Picard. Picard, we know, is an intellectual, and seeks peaceful resolutions to conflicts. He is mind-over-matter. The full, three-dimensional Picard combines this intellectual side with an indomitable will and physical strength & resourcefulness. But Picard turning into a coward makes me think back to the Picard who kept surrendering in season one, and how that might be viewed. His devolution turns him into a nervous, meek nerd, who is sure someone is going to come steal his lunch money any minute. Hence a lemur -- an early primate who, as Data says, was preyed upon constantly. And so this early primate, using Data's interpretation, was smart but weak. Picard is the hero of the episode because he overcomes the limitations of his character type by bringing forth aspects of his actual character -- he is turned into a coward, but he somehow finds a way to build up the courage to face down the monster.

Notably, Geordi is kind of an everyman and so it's not really as easy to take core out-of-the-ordinary traits of his and blow them up, because he is not all that out of the ordinary. (They didn't even try to have Geordi act unusual in the first few acts of the episode, when he had several scenes playing opposite Barclay and Riker.) Presumably one could find a way, if one were so inclined. Beverly's being taken out of the picture is because of Gates McFadden's direction.

So, what is the point of all this? Well, um.... Generously, one could say that with the show coming to a close there is some interest in breaking the characters down into some of the influences on them, perhaps to give us a better idea to recognize both what they bring to the show (Riker's simple pleasures, Worf's ferocity, Troi's sensitivity, Picard's intellectualism) and how they, as real three-dimensional characters, are nowhere near the devolved versions. Ungenerously, one could say there is no point, and that while it may be fun to see Riker become Homer Simpson for a little while, it turns out not to be enough fun to justify putting forth a story that makes no sense and is not sufficiently entertaining to justify its excesses. I lean more toward the latter, but hey, I had fun writing this, so that at least is worth something. Probably if I had to give it a rating as a TNG episode in continuity with the series, I'd go with Jammer's -- 1 star, yeah, mostly for the mild entertainment of the first act or two where people start acting strangely before the story (yep) devolves into total nonsense. If I were to evaluate it as a different kind of show, about character archetypes, more commentary on the series than an episode in its own right, I might look on it a little more kindly, though probably only a little.
William B
Tue, Oct 29, 2013, 10:17pm (UTC -5)
Actually, watching this ep made me decide to revisit David Cronenberg's "The Fly" to see the story done (more or less) right. The science is still junk, but it's different, I think, to accept junk science as the premise in a story that takes place in its own world, rather than in a story (Trek) which has fairly established rules. And it follows the story through to its more natural conclusion. Anyway, I am pretty convinced that Barclay's transformation is an allusion to Seth Brundle's into a fly-man, since the transformation similarly involves the transformation into a hyperactive and eventually malevolent creature. Gates McFadden is not Cronenberg, though it's hard to imagine how someone could be in their directorial debut on a one-week schedule and with a weak script.
Sun, Nov 24, 2013, 6:29am (UTC -5)
Season 7 of TNG feels very much like a blueprint for Voyager's entire run. Self-contained stories, ridiculously bad science, minor character based episodes that really go nowhere.
Mon, Dec 2, 2013, 7:10pm (UTC -5)
For some reason I find Riker's grumpy eye-rolling reaction to Worf's torpedo masturbating at the beginning to be hilarious. Guilty pleasure episode.
Thu, Jan 30, 2014, 6:09pm (UTC -5)
"Hey Worf, you appear to have a venom sac. Open your mouth while I stand in front of you. Say ahhh...arrrrrrrrrrrrrr!" lol
Someone found an old stash of lsd and the writers had a blast.
Wed, Feb 5, 2014, 10:40am (UTC -5)
William B, I think you have given this episode far more thought then it deserves, probably more thought than Braga gave himself. I believe his only intention in writing this was to make a B-movie creature feature in a TNG setting. So we get 40 minutes of lame setup followed by 5 minutes of lame monster chase through the corridors. Even if you disregard the scientific aspect, it makes no sense from a character perspective either - if something like this COULD happen to you, it would no doubt be a very traumatizing experience.
William B
Wed, Feb 5, 2014, 12:17pm (UTC -5)
@Nic, believe me, I agree on the episode's quality. Ultimately, sometimes it's fun for me to see if there is something else I can make out of trash. I suspect that there is something of what I mentioned going on in Braga's thought process somewhere on some level -- the choices of which "animals" each main character become do seem to have something to do with who they are -- but I don't think there's any evidence he thought it through in any coherent way. Theorizing on one way to salvage something from the episode is just for "fun" (quotes because I acknowledge that my sense of fun is not necessarily universal).
Sun, Feb 9, 2014, 4:33pm (UTC -5)
Well. Masks, Sub Rosa and Genesis - could it get any worse?? What were they thinking? I hope I've made it through the really terrible episodes of TNG season 7 by now.

I'd hate to think what someone new to Trek would think of it if their introduction to it was any of those three episodes. At least Spock's brain has the excuse of being made in the 1960s. But this is 1990s TV?? Doesn't look like it. Terrible.
Fri, Feb 28, 2014, 8:14am (UTC -5)
Fun episode with a creative premise. Originally Braga was going to turn the entire crew into Barclay's (that would have been epic!). Worf was the star of the show and from his table-side manners with Troi, to his lost torpedo to his primeval Klingon form, he was terrific. I much prefer this klingon to his typical domesticated self. Not exactly a top tier episode but a good one with good energy, pacing and creativity.

As for the reset button complaint...I don't think this is valid. Trek is about abstraction and if you lose the ability to reset, you have to take the abstractions literally and they cease to be abstractions. You then significantly narrow the canvas by which you can tell stories and things would become much more boring, simple and slow if TNG were a literal show. You would morph it from a science fiction show to a space soap opera about petty character squabbles.
Fri, Mar 21, 2014, 9:54pm (UTC -5)
You know what would have made this episode better? It would have been better if the virus caused the entire crew to transform into the band "Genesis"... that is, Genesis after Peter Gabriel left...

THAT's how bad this episode is...
Wed, Apr 2, 2014, 1:04pm (UTC -5)
This episode sums up some of the morons that write for Trek... imagine making an episode where you completely throw out the laws of biology and physics, and rationality. Just so you can have a monster story.

And who thought that would be a good idea? Who allowed it?
Sun, Apr 13, 2014, 2:48am (UTC -5)
Disagreeing with the general consensus, I must say that I liked this episode. Yes, it was completely implausible from a plot standpoint (yeah, sudden mutations to the DNA would have killed everyone), but I tend to give episodes with way-out-there plots the benefit of the doubt as long as they are entertaining (i.e. don't involve characters turning into lizards and making lizard babies). Doctor Who has done crazier things than "Genesis" did. And I kind of enjoyed the technobabble this time. (Granted, my major is in bioengineering so DNA/genetics stuff is like second nature to me.)

All in all, it was fun to watch. It felt like a throwback to "Cure-The-Disease" style TOS episodes. I enjoyed the heck out of watching the transformations progress, especially Riker's - I found that one the funniest. I could tell the actors must have had a lot of fun playing their "transformed" roles. Would have liked to see Crusher's transformation - maybe an Irish Setter?
Thu, Apr 17, 2014, 9:48am (UTC -5)
am i the only one that liked this episode?
Tue, Jun 3, 2014, 9:33am (UTC -5)
Sun, Jul 6, 2014, 11:57pm (UTC -5)
Oh, I think everyone is crazy. This is a really good episode. Maybe I'm just overcome by nostalgia, but I find it funny and interesting and one of the better episodes of season 7.

I think the de-evolving/devolving criticism is silly. Devolve is nowadays primarily used to mean something else - so if they used devolve they'd have to put in a sentence explaining what they were talking about.
Mon, Jul 14, 2014, 7:25am (UTC -5)
For an atheist, Brannon Braga has a very poor understanding of evolution.
Tue, Jul 15, 2014, 8:10pm (UTC -5)
I agree with the people who recognize this episode for the guilty pleasure it is. Everything about it is patently ludicrous, but it's hard for me not to like an episode where Data tells Picard that he's eventually going to turn into a pygmy marmoset. I wonder how the hell Brent Spiner was able to keep a straight face with that one. This episode is a B-quality monster movie set on the Enterprise, and taken at that level it's fun.
Thu, Sep 4, 2014, 8:24pm (UTC -5)
*Raises hand* Count me in as part of the guilty pleasure crowd. Actually, the B-horror movie part of the episode was rather boring, but the first half, with the crew slowly turning into the animals, was pretty fun. Watching the actors playing around with their new characterizations was worth the horrible science and nonsensical chase scenes. Seriously, who doesn't love to see Riker's stupidity skyrocket? That was great! And Michael Dorn got to go above and beyond his usual Worf-ness. While Troi's manifestation didn't offer much fun, it was still enjoyable seeing her playing off of Worf in 10-Forward. And there were even some minor touches too, like Ogawa getting up from the conference table by leaning on it with her knuckles...

But Dwight Schultz as the manic, frantic Spider-Barclay took the cellular peptide cake. The way he was leaning over everyone, contorting himself into odd poses, and rushing to and fro was just completely awesome. He stole every scene he was in.

Another nice scene I liked was Data and Barclay in Data's quarters. I think this is the first time we saw the two of them alone (wasn't Picard always there in Ship in a Bottle?). And, in a pleasant surprise, Barclay was not his usual stuttering, anxious self. Which makes some sense. This is yet another testament to one of Data's key personality traits: his perpetual, unfailing politeness and patience. We've seen it melt the iciness of other characters, including Pulaski and the crazy Dr from Silicon Avatar. And so it makes sense that Barclay would be at ease with Data. His anxiety is caused by the fear of what other people think about him, and fear of embarrassment regarding something he would say. But Data is never impatient or insulting or insensitive to another's feelings. So naturally Barclay would be ok with him. It's somewhat surprising that Barclay hadn't sought him out earlier. Although, then again, not seeking people out is a trademark of his type of anxiety.

Of course, Barclay's ease with Data only works when the two of them are alone. Data may be unfailingly polite, but he also has a tendency to say the wrong thing. And with everyone else around, that could cause serious embarrassment for Barclay. So even though the two were in the same scenes before, its ok that we never see this side of Barclay before.

But besides the obvious problems with the episode, I did want to point out a few other silly parts.

- Why was Alyssa Ogawa delivering the medical report to the senior staff? She's just a nurse. What happened to the perpetually off-screen Dr. Selar? I would imagine if Crusher is incapacitated, then Selar would be in charge. Oh well...

- Why did Picard and Data bother to bring Troi to sickbay?

- How many crewmembers died during this event? We know at least one did. And no one seemed to care afterwards...
Mon, Feb 23, 2015, 9:19pm (UTC -5)
Good grief, people, stop taking episodes like this so damn seriously! The plot was a bit ludicrous, I agree, but it was a rather entertaining episode. I really don't care how DNA works, it's not like transporters will ever be a viable technology, so give it rest already... 2.5 stars
Wed, Feb 25, 2015, 1:38pm (UTC -5)
What you are asking me and others to do, Shannon, is shut off our brains and accept bad writing. Criticizing people for having higher standards is plain stupid. And no, I won't stop "taking it so damn seriously". Doing that means we are in for more lamely written episodes.

Some of us want more than that, even if you don't.
Thu, Feb 26, 2015, 9:14am (UTC -5)
This episode is hilarious, suspenseful, and awesome. Love it. Guilty pleasure for sure. I'm cool with having bad writing in a few episode if it means we get fun stuff with the TNG cast such as episodes like Genesis and Masks. There are 7 seasons of serious episodes, a few fun ones is a nice change.
Dave in NC
Thu, Feb 26, 2015, 9:42am (UTC -5)
Every problem people have with this episode could have been resolved by saying they were genetic MUTATIONS, not evolutionary throwbacks. It's a lot easier to enjoy if you just pretend that's the actual plot.

Oh, and Gates McFadden did a GREAT job directing this episode. Lots of interesting camera angles and the atmospheric mood of dread is well-developed.

My only complaint is the Barclay spider surprise in Engineering has gotten me single every time. :)

*** 3 stars
Mon, Jul 20, 2015, 12:43pm (UTC -5)
Jammer, I have to disagree that warp drive is an "impossible" Star Trek staple. I believe the mathematics of warp travel have already been worked out. Yes, we're far from the technology to develop an actual warp drive propulsion system, but it's theoretically possible in the future. I would hazard to say that if you could travel back to the early 18th-century and show them a lot of our everyday technology, they'd be equally dumbfounded as we are by warp drive and transporters. (I'll grant you the time travel skepticism, though.)

Star Trek is fundamentally a show about SCIENCE. Science fiction is by definition fiction that builds upon science or at least speculations about future science. In that, it is fundamentally different from fantasy. This episode was almost pure fantasy, unfortunately.

I can't help wondering if this episode was the one that gave birth to the internet meme of Picard's face palm. I'm sure that Stewart (and most of the rest of the cast) must have face palmed when he read this script. How this script ever got approved is beyond me, unless the show was suddenly re-targeted for kindergarten-aged audiences. Watching it felt like I watching a bad episode of Scooby-Doo, except at least that show had the sense to show how seemingly supernatural occurrences were pulled off with costumes and hidden projectors. Here, we find out it's all pulled off by DNA. (And the DNA virus would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for that meddling Data.)

So Riker devolves into an early hominid...OK. So what is the DNA-based explanation for a cat being descended from an iguana? And why is Lt. Barclay, who has previously been established as a human from Earth, descended from a spider-like creature? Also, it is beyond ridiculous when Data tells Picard he can expect to devolve into something like a lemur or a pygmy marmoset. First, those two are not all that alike. Second, both are a lot smaller than a human, which would necessitate the the law of conversation of mass to be violated if Picard were to shrink down to the size of a creature only a fraction of his current size. What is Data's reasoning for Picard, who was exposed to the virus much later than Riker, to evolve to an earlier stage of evolution that Riker? Finally, given how utterly bizarre the other transformations, how does Data know Picard's devolution won't have him end up resembling a parakeet or a pterodactyl?

It is always sad when a beloved show "jumps the shark" and is run into the ground by its writers and producers.
Wed, Aug 26, 2015, 5:23pm (UTC -5)
Good lord, I came here after talking to a friend about the worst Trek episodes and looking what this one was called. We were *both* dead sure that this was a Season One episode. I mean, come on!!!
Sat, Sep 19, 2015, 5:07pm (UTC -5)
As someone mentioned above, it's hard to believe that there wasn't considerable loss of life from this, particularly among the Enterprise's children.
Tue, Sep 29, 2015, 8:33pm (UTC -5)
this a great episode fun to watch well directed !! I enjoy watching it the suspense is interesting. I am surprised by the hate for this.
Sat, Oct 17, 2015, 11:05am (UTC -5)
It's interesting how changes in real modern science contradict the future scientists of the 24th century. In the teaser Crusher mentions that Barkley has 100,000 genes, whereas today it's only thought that humans only have around 20,000 to 25,000 genes.

The main criticism appears to be the implausibility of this episode. However, Science fiction should still be treated and regarded as fiction. How many episodes are resolved with the deus ex machina known as technobabble? The Star Trek setting allows for alien species to interbreed with each other, which is equally as absurd as the premise of this episode. To criticize this episode for its absurd premise misses the point.

All that said, this was pretty boring to watch. It felt like 40 minutes of set up for a 3 minute chase sequence.
Sat, Oct 24, 2015, 8:52pm (UTC -5)
I love this episode; I'm watching it now. It's hilarious. Love it when Troi leaves the bridge to go take a bath and turn into a frog. Love it when Caveman Riker gives Picard the finger. Love Spot the iguana.
Thu, Oct 29, 2015, 11:33pm (UTC -5)
So "Genesis"....

Well, the writing is bad. The science is abysmal (you know it has to be awful when I, the non-science guy - the one who is more forgiving than most of bad science, am pointing that out). The use of Worf as the monster-of-the-week is pathetically cliched. The ease and speed with which Data solves the problem is ludicrous. The fact that the entire incident is basically hand-waved away at the end sets the stage for numerous VOY episodes. But, despite all that (and it's a lot!) I'll be damned if "Genesis" doesn't have a certain charm.

So, count this as another guilty pleasure of mine. However, unlike "Masks", which I straight up legitimately enjoy, this one more closely fits the bill as a "guilty pleasure". I can admit that it makes next to no sense either story- or character-wise. The science is laughable even for me (especially since we get yet another Trek episode that fundamentally fails to understand the concept of evolution - it doesn't happen within individuals, people!). But, this episode is firmly (with a few exceptions) in the "so-bad-it's-good" category for me. I guess that makes it my "Spock's Brain" of TNG.

I guess it all boils to down to what Jammer says - it "all depends on what you can abide in your definition of Star Trek as science fiction." Well, I can abide a lot because (I've said this before and I'll say it again) I don't watch Trek for a science lesson. I watch Trek to be entertained. And "Genesis" manages to do that despite all of its dreck, though in undoubtedly unintentional ways.

Let's compare this with VOY: "Threshold", since Jammer himself made the comparison. "Genesis" is nowhere near as bad as "Threshold". While I'm not a stickler for scientific accuracy, there are some episodes that cross the line into unforgivable territory for me. "Threshold" is one such episode. ("Elogium", with its totally nonsensical Ocampan mating cycle nonsense, is another.) However, even when the science is that bad (and make no mistake - I am saying that "Genesis" falls into that category), I'm still willing to forgive if the episode has other enjoyable elements. While the only, I repeat - the only, thing that "Threshold" had even remotely going for it was Robert Duncan McNeill acting his heart out, "Genesis" does have some redeeming aspects. The "so-bad-it's-good" campiness being one and the others being the rather enjoyable atmosphere and Patrick Stewart's performance.

Most people here seem to be of the opinion that the lead-up to Picard and Data's return, where the crew slowly goes crazy, is the enjoyable part while the B-movie set-up afterwards is tedious. Count me a the reverse of that. The lead-up was rather tedious, but once Picard and Data return to the ship I found the B-movie elements (with the two walking around dark corridors, stumbling across the mutants, the general feeling of unease, etc.) pleasant enough for what they were. And Patrick Stewart, unlike McNeill in "Threshold" does manage to elevate the nonsense somewhat. McNeill failed but God bless the man, he gave it his all! Stewart playing a coward is, as Jammer points out, an enjoyable thing to watch even if it makes no sense in the grander scheme of things.

Ugh, I'm all of the map with this one. Suffice it to say, "Genesis" has it's absolutely dreadful elements but it also has some surprising enjoyable ones. So, while I'm probably going to leave a lot of people scratching their heads again, just like I did with "Masks", I can't justify giving this a score lower than....

Fri, Oct 30, 2015, 10:12am (UTC -5)
Yay! I have kindred spirits who have this episode as a guilty pleasure too :P
Diamond Dave
Sat, Nov 7, 2015, 5:22am (UTC -5)
TNG does body horror, who'd ever thought you'd see that? Count me among those who don't hate it. Remarkably the plot itself maintains an internal consistency, and it's never boring. There are a couple of genuine shocks - Crusher being sprayed with venom being a spectacular highlight - and the slightly disappointing fact we never see Picard entirely de-evolve into a lemur. But his heightened fear is a nice characterisation.

On the down side the plot overall is, as I have seen it described elsewhere, "dumber than a box of hammers". But as a high concept piece at least it's fun - unlike, say, "Masks". And, whatever else you might think about this episode, you have to say that the make-up department excel themselves. 2.5 stars.
Sat, Nov 21, 2015, 7:21pm (UTC -5)
I saw this episode when it first aired in the 90s and promptly promised I would never watch it again. To this day I have kept that promise. It's too horrible to watch even for laughs. There's nothing funny about an episode that so insults a loyal audience with such a pointless story.
Wed, Mar 2, 2016, 9:19pm (UTC -5)
Every time they said "de-evolve" I cringed. Writers should have a far better command of language than that.
Greg Q
Wed, Apr 6, 2016, 1:52am (UTC -5)
I'd like to set the reset button to a time when I never saw this episode.
Greg Q
Thu, Apr 7, 2016, 12:41am (UTC -5)
"Star Trek is fundamentally a show about science,"
I have to disagree. Star Trek is an outer-space adventure show that creates new and frequently preposterous science to propel its stories and develop its characters and plot lines, very rarely does it introduce any original scientific material or ideas. Not to say it's never original and/or successful in its execution of the stories themselves, if it weren't I wouldn't be such a fan. To say it's a show about science is like saying The Walking Dead is a show about viruses.
Mon, Apr 25, 2016, 9:53pm (UTC -5)
I thoroughly enjoy this episode. Thanks to these reviews, I have some adulthood clarity to refine my criticism, so I agree with what Jammer et. al. have said, especially how this was Voyager's blueprint season (thanks to Braga, that ass-clown).

But the TNG characters are so much better than in VOY! So with a silly episode like this, it feels earned. I suppose that makes it a mere guilty pleasure, but I'm still laughing at the fun moments watching it today, like lizard-Spot's pink collar! Adorable. And how Picard flips out when Arachinald Barclay jumps at him, the same exact way I freaked that time a cockroach flew at me. Hilarious!

Three cheers for totally impractical palm-held flashlights! Hey Starfleet, the 20th century called; they said, "Use handles, dummies!"

It occurs to me that the "1,011 life forms" aboard have nothing to eat and probably no replicator skills anymore. What happens when you let a thousand zoo animals mingle? — How many crewmen did Worf eat alone?

And speaking of eating: sorry, kittens, no milk from Spotted Liz means rapid dying.

But, those are the only two problems I have with this episode, haha.
Fri, May 6, 2016, 11:51am (UTC -5)
The only possible explanation I can come up with, for why Barclay turned into a half spider is that somewhere down the family tree one of his ancestors was some kind of Spider alien. Otherwise I really liked this episode.
Thu, Jun 23, 2016, 1:28am (UTC -5)
Me watching and thinking "Monty Python could do this right" is never a good sign. And that's what I thought the first time I saw this one. That or "I bet if I had finished a couple of doobies this would make sense."
Thu, Jun 23, 2016, 1:45pm (UTC -5)
Even if you accept the premise at face value, I have trouble understanding why - if what's happening is a sort of rapid evolution in reverse - any of the human crew would devolve into anything *but* some sort of apelike primate. I can give them some leeway with Troi and Worf, in that I don't think we've ever been told much about how Betazoids and Klingons evolved, but Barclay becoming a spider and Spot a lizard? That's absurd pseudoscience even by the standards of absurd pseudoscience.
Fri, Jul 1, 2016, 1:06am (UTC -5)
Flying Squirrel I agree with you about the nonsensicalness of having different humans de-evolve (which is a better usage than devolve because that word has come to represent situations in modern vernacular, not the opposite of evolve) into different species that have no correlation with their own.

But I have to say, this episode always entertained me because it didn't try to take itself too seriously. Clearly it was a polarizing episode among us fanboys because of the lack of even feasible science, but it was damn fun. Masks was when the show jumped the shark, but I think it came back down to just plain fun in this one. And yes, it's fundamentally better than "Threshold's" finale.

Fri, Jul 1, 2016, 1:13am (UTC -5)
Also the teaser where Data refers to his being an expectant parent as analogous to human parents expecting theirs is adorable!
Fri, Jul 1, 2016, 2:50pm (UTC -5)
I actually watched the first half of this on Netflix out of curiosity after the discussion here. At some point Data says something to the effect that people have excess or unused DNA that accounts for why they turn into species that aren't part of human evolutionary history. Obviously the whole "fun with DNA" concept is silly in the first place, but I don't know enough to say whether Data's explanation makes sense in context or not.

I don't disagree that the episode is OK as just goofy fun, though a few parts aside from the bogus science seemed especially sloppy:

1) Data commenting that Troi is "no longer human" - but she's only half-human in the first place, and Data of all crew members should not make a mistake like that out of absent-mindedness.

2) I think at one point they discovered corrosion in a Jefferies tube that was supposedly from Worf spewing acidic venom, but this was before Worf lost it and attacked Troi. Did he just go wandering through a Jefferies tube for fun or something?

3) The whole thing might have been brought under control much more quickly if Ogawa, who wasn't suffering major symptoms, had thought to stay with Riker, who was, while he sends the message to Starfleet. (At least, the implication seemed to be that he never sent it because of his deteriorating intelligence.) For that matter, I'm surprised that Starfleet doesn't program its ships' computers to send some sort of automated distress signal if a ship is damaged or adrift and no input is received from the crew.
Paul Allen
Thu, Jul 21, 2016, 12:52pm (UTC -5)
Far better than the previous 2 episodes at least...

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