Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Unnatural Selection"

2 stars

Air date: 1/30/1989
Written by John Mason & Mike Gray
Directed by Paul Lynch

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

In another episode of TNG to feature a deadly disease and the Enterprise warping in to the rescue (a reliable Trek cliché not avoided in the first two seasons of TNG, to be sure), Dr. Pulaski attempts to find a cure to a disease that is causing rapid aging on a Federation space station that's perhaps too ironically named Darwin Station. (The disease has already killed the crew of an entire starship.)

In terms of character, I did appreciate the way the story establishes Pulaski as a strong-willed personality willing to go to the mat for her point of view and for her patients, even if she must risk herself. She stands up to Picard and argues the merits, even if it means Picard doesn't get to finish a sentence. Picard, always the final authority, but ever the diplomat and patient listener, calls her on her penchant for interrupting without making a big deal about it.

Pulaski's medical safeguards fail, and in attempting to find the cure in the station's genetically engineered children, she ends up infected herself. (The children are actually the cause of the disease because of their genetically manipulated immune systems, which create the disease without being susceptible to it.)

I find it very hard to be moved by an episode like "Unnatural Selection," mainly because the episode is too mired in procedure and arbitrary pseudoscientific details rather than characters or plot. Also, diseases that make people prematurely old are not very interesting. In terms of its sci-fi procedural approach, I suppose it's worth noting that the episode makes sense for most of the way and the pieces fit together to make a workable puzzle — that is, until the end, where the transporter is used to magically restore Pulaski's DNA (and cure the rest of the station's residents). This is a perfect example of the tech solving the plot arbitrarily rather than any sort of legitimate dramatic payoff. But then that's often the problem with tech medical shows like these.

Previous episode: The Schizoid Man
Next episode: A Matter of Honor

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57 comments on this review

Jay
Mon, Jun 11, 2012, 4:40pm (UTC -5)
This episode really stands out like a sore thumb when you consider what we learn in "Doctor Bashir, I Presume?"
Chris
Sat, Dec 15, 2012, 2:46pm (UTC -5)
Just about every other episode we've seen, an away team would have beamed aboard in this kind of situation. It's a little too convenient that the one time they instead decide to take over control of the other ship's viewscreen is the one time that sending an away team would have been disastrous.
Rikko
Tue, Jan 22, 2013, 7:14pm (UTC -5)
While I'd say the episode is not that good, at least it was important for the sole reason that Pulaski was the star. This was her first time as the main character (sort of), and she's proving to be a much more interesting and strong-willed character than Dr Crusher.

From what you are saying, Jammer, it seems Pulaski is like a bad copy of TOS's doctor, but since I haven't seen it yet, she's original enough for me :P
mike
Sun, Mar 3, 2013, 9:49pm (UTC -5)
The first two seasons of TNG were plagued with clumsy dialog and derivative stories, this episode being a prime example of both. This story was a rip off of The Deadly Years from TOS. Diana Muldaur being a veteran of the TOS years played her role as Dr. Pulaski with more ease and naturalness than the others she couldn't carry it off NY herself. This is an episode I never watch.
William B
Tue, Mar 26, 2013, 10:34pm (UTC -5)
I think this episode works if we view it as the "Muldaur, Stewart, Spiner & Meany" hour. Diana Muldaur is consistently great (and underrated) as Pulaski and this is the one episode which gives her a starring turn. The episode takes seriously her relationship with Picard, furthers her relationship with Data (which is the one area in which she has been developed earlier in the season), reveals her as a woman of courage and compassion with some elements of foolishness -- a full person. This is also the episode where O'Brien steps up from the background to become a character with a significant presence -- being at the staff meeting and helping to save the day and everything.

This all is very much of the good. Additionally, the plot mechanics have some merit, and I like that the children themselves are shown to be innocent (i.e. not malicious) despite the fact that they are the accidental cause of the disease. While the episode does give an impression of being a "There Are Things We Are Not Meant To Know" story, there is some nuance in Pulaski suggesting that scientific breakthroughs *are* thought to be worthwhile, and that it may well be that history will look upon this breakthrough as a positive thing; it's *her* responsibility to look back and log the victims in the wake. That helps a bit, though it's ultimately a very familiar story and not a particularly interesting iteration of it.

Too much of this episode is techy in a way that saps the life out of the story. The ending in particular is so far abstracted from "the human element" (which Pulaski had said Picard lacked) that it's hard to care. I love how Picard says "we've lost her" or something and then O'Brien says "No, wait!" and then with no explanation she (eventually) comes back. Even within the episode's tenuous reality there is no reason she should go back to her normal age, as well.

I do appreciate the Pulaski material though. Even the ending has some resonance for her character (of having to face her fear by being transported). I think maybe on the low end of 2.5 stars for me.
William B
Tue, Mar 26, 2013, 10:37pm (UTC -5)
Re: "Doctor Bashir, I Presume?", I suppose a fanwank one could give is that these are, as the woman says, not actually genetically engineered humans but genetically *created*. That sounds like it'd be way worse in general, but it might be that genetic engineering was banned in general because of issues about modifying existing humans or developing humans rather than creating them out of new cloth. I don't know if I find that convincing, but ultimately some continuity problems are inevitable and it's hard for me to get too hung up on it. And to the extent that I should, it'd be "Doctor Bashir, I Presume?" and not this episode that'd be at fault.
Jay
Wed, Jul 17, 2013, 1:45pm (UTC -5)
Well the main argument the admiral made in "...Presume?" was the risk of another Khan. Surely these humans, whether altered or conjured, would fit that fear.
SkepticalMI
Mon, Sep 16, 2013, 9:32am (UTC -5)
Very weak episode. There was way too much telling and not enough showing when it came to Pulaski's character. Was there ever any indication that Pulaski had such a huge respect for Picard? That Picard did not trust her completely when it comes to medical decisions? None. In fact, the conflict with Picard seemed forced for some strange reason. I'm really not sure what the point of it was.

The final solution ended up being way too techy as well. Not to mention guaranteeing the use of transporters for immortality. Somehow I doubt the writers considered that. Or any other ethical issues involved with the genetic engineering.

And a boring episode in general.
xaaos
Mon, Oct 6, 2014, 8:47am (UTC -5)
A rather boring episode. But still, imagine Dr Crusher playing in it, what a disaster would it be.

Pulaski > Crusher! It's a shame the producers brought back Dr. Crusher.
Robert
Mon, Oct 6, 2014, 8:58am (UTC -5)
"But still, imagine Dr Crusher playing in it, what a disaster would it be."

I can't imagine that, there would be no episode. She'd have followed procedure and not gotten infected :P

My point is that Pulaski is different than Crusher. I can't imagine Pulaski in "Attached", "Ethics" or "The High Ground" either, but I think they were all excellent episodes.

I guess I'm in the minority that liked both of them. I would have liked a S6 or S7 Pulaski guest appearance.
Domi
Sun, Oct 12, 2014, 10:39pm (UTC -5)
Call me crazy but I actually like this one, although my opinion might be different if I had watched TOS first.

I would like to address some alleged plot holes and allege my own as well. First, someone noted that it was a little too convenient that no one boarded the Lantree as would normally be expected--they exercised an abundance of caution before there was a reason to believe such was necessary. But is it really true that the Lantree crew could pass the disease to other people? The way the disease is explained, it would see that one would have to come into contact with the genetically engineered children in order to contract disease, as the children's immune systems emit antibodies that change human DNA. I don't see anything in that explanation that a victim could then pass on the same disease to another.

Also why did Data beam up, thus abandoning the shuttlecraft at Darwin Station? Furthermore, why did they beam the child off the shuttle and back to the station, only to take the shuttle there anyway? Pulaski was already exposed, although I suppose that one could make the argument that the longer one is contact with the children, the quicker the illness progresses, thus they wanted to get rid of him ASAP.

Finally, it always irritates me a little when Star Trek invents was of avoiding having characters speak (because he's telephatic, of course) so that they don't have to pay for an "actor".
$G
Fri, Dec 12, 2014, 3:56pm (UTC -5)
I'm not going to write what I think of this one because William B pretty much said it for me a year and a half ago.

Though there is one thing I want to point out: I really like the last scene of this episode when the Enterprise destroys the Lantree. It treats the deaths of these non-characters with respect. Instead of just kicking off the story and never being brought up again ("The Arsenal of Freedom" I'm looking at you) the mystery of the dead Lantree crew comes full circle and our characters get a moment to honour their unfortunate colleagues. It's a notable and welcome detail in an episode that otherwise appears to have just solved its own central mystery because there were only 5 minutes left in the hour.
Diamond Dave
Sun, Aug 23, 2015, 3:56pm (UTC -5)
Dr Pulaski steps into the limelight. Her spiky relationship with Picard and ambiguous relationship with Data are developing nicely - and it's to the episode's credit that a character who is convinced of the rightness of her position is actually proved wrong for once. It's the overturning of the expected - the children actually being the cause of the disease - that elevates this from the norm.

That said, it is a very slow burn episode, and while it's welcome to see Chief O'Brien also stepping up, the techno babble baggage this development brings with it is distracting. 2.5 stars.
Kiamau
Wed, Sep 23, 2015, 10:40pm (UTC -5)
nice to see extra O'Brien time
redbear
Wed, Nov 11, 2015, 5:34pm (UTC -5)
Well, interesting difference between the treatment of the medical base infected with the ageing bug, and the starship infected with the same bug..

Interesting how the starship only took 1 shot to completely distroy it, but in space battles they seem quite stronger than that. wouldn't a salvage operation have been better. those star ships must be quite valuable and use a lot of resources. And what about personal property ? They had found the cause, it can be filtered with transporter buffers, they could have made another bug to destroy the ageing bug... Just seems like a silly way to end the episode.
Ashton Withers
Wed, Nov 11, 2015, 6:02pm (UTC -5)
I totally agree with redbear.
Blowing up the ship was totally unnecessary.
It turns into a dumb dramatic effect when you think about it.
Jason R.
Wed, Dec 23, 2015, 6:01am (UTC -5)
The childrens' proactive immune systems have to be one of the dumbest scifi concepts ever. How pray tell, was this immune system *supposed* to work, if everything had gone according to plan, hmm? The children walk into a jungle, for instance. Then what? Their immune cells leave their bodies and systematically annihilate every microscopic organism that might pose a threat to them, like some kind of biological weapon?

It's just idiotic in its premise.

But agreed that Pulaski is vastly vastly superior to Crusher.
Dave
Sun, Feb 21, 2016, 9:13pm (UTC -5)
Hm......
So, if someone has an incurable disease you just have to run them through the transporter using some 'pre disease" DNA samples.

Seems like that would have come in handy many times throughout the series. Too bad they forgot about it.
Kyle
Wed, Aug 3, 2016, 9:48pm (UTC -5)
Seems to me that O'Brien cured aging as an incidental benefit.
Franco
Thu, Aug 18, 2016, 12:14pm (UTC -5)
As I mentioned in previous posts, this episode is another proof that Pulaski could have been a great character if she stayed in the show also in further seasons; Muldaur's performance is very high and her growing relationship with members of Enterprise (in particular with Picard, Data and Troi) could have added a nice touch in other seasons and many occasions to laugh for their dialogues. With all respect, Gates McFadden's Crusher is too much flat as character compared to Pulaski.
Adam C
Wed, Nov 23, 2016, 3:13pm (UTC -5)
It just occurred to me that the Lantree quarantine beacon would be like a dinner bell for the Ferengi. They could have tried to salvage the ship or scavenge from its contents, potentially proliferating the disease despite Our Heroes’ best efforts. Would have made for an interesting (if grim) sequel.

Also, the more interesting and path would have been to leave Pulaski to die, presenting a true cost of her folly. One supposes they might have done just that, had the episode fallen near the end of the season.
borusa
Wed, Mar 8, 2017, 3:48pm (UTC -5)
So another very poor episode despite the (largely botched) attempt to establish Pulaski as a dedicated blaa blaa-zzzzz -sorry ,nodded off again.
Huge subsequent retro continuity problems with a federation colony genetically engineering homo superiors contrary to later established express canon proscriptions against such things.
Picard ought to have been sent to arrest the colony staff and confine the dangerous kids to deep cold seven along with the augments who ,presumably, remain popsicles.
But the main failings are in the lack of credibility in the story and the idiotic reliance on technobabble which became such a feature of this whole show's run.
It works , once, in a comedy like Red Dwarf or as an affectionate in-joke in Dr Who but the exchange between Colm and Brent in the transporter room was just plain silly.

2 stars is a bit generous
Ant
Fri, Mar 17, 2017, 12:01pm (UTC -5)
Deserves an extra star due to it being the episode Chief O'Brien come of age.
Linda
Mon, Mar 27, 2017, 12:23am (UTC -5)
The kid is telepathetic, but Pulaski's, who's not, can hear his thoughts? Yeah, I don't think it works that way. And O'Brien is included in the senior staff meeting, just so he can come up with the transporter idea. Despite it flaws, this episode is still better than some of season one's episodes.
Rahul
Tue, May 2, 2017, 2:28pm (UTC -5)
I didn't mind this episode - obviously another take on "The Deadly Years" from the original Trek. I liked the exposition of Dr. Pulaski's character - I like her strong will but also how Picard deals with her when she feels she's a little outside the boundaries. There probably wasn't enough exposition of Pulaski/Picard - but the writers kept true to their treatment of the Pulaski/Data relationship - he's basically just a machine to Pulaski.
Lots of technobabble though and the solution to reversing Pulaski's aging is thrown together quickly - and of course it works.
The story itself is quite basic and unoriginal with a technobabble solution but I quite liked Pulaski/Picard in this one and appreciate her character development and presence on the Enterprise.
For me 2.5/4 stars.
Alex
Sun, Aug 27, 2017, 1:20am (UTC -5)
I don't understand. Why would the Federation allow these scientists to potentially create another band of supermen(like Khan)? Surely they learned their lesson from the Eugenics Wars?

Stupid episode all around.
Cosmic
Wed, Nov 15, 2017, 6:16pm (UTC -5)
Currently in the middle of a TNG rewatch and I just watched this one again the other night. Now I remember disliking it when I first saw it 10-12 years ago, but you know what, it was OK. TNG has done far worse in it's time, especially in the early seasons.

I enjoyed the focus on Pulaski (a character that I hated when I was younger, but kind of appreciate now) and her clashes with Picard. Even after these past couple episodes, he still doesn't have a handle on this new CMO replacement, which was a nice touch.

And it's probably the DS9 fan in me, but I loved that this was the first episode to fully feature O'Brien. Not only do they finally give him an actual rank, but he gets his name and a part of the story in this episode. It's about damn time.

Yes, the episode's solution where the transporter is treated like a magical DNA fixing device is a bit irksome, but it's not that egregious in the grand scheme of things.

A generous 2.5 stars from me. It's certainly better than the cringeworthy "Deadly Years".
Peter G.
Fri, Jan 5, 2018, 2:08pm (UTC -5)
I was going to skip over this one and not make a comment, but then something just occurred to me when reading Jammer's review: the symptom of growing old quickly being boring, and what it means. I realize that what they were going for was to show that when you create homo superior the humans from before will immediately look obsolete and geriatric in comparison. The ageing process was meant, I think, to show how weak and irrelevant homo sapiens are in contrast to what could be created with genetic modification.

I find it hard to believe this script got past the Trek censors or what have you, because you'd think a show about genetically created humans would automatically revert to being about the Eugenics Wars (you knew I'd trot out the Eugenics Wars, didn't you) and Khan. And yet due to the greatest deus ex machina in the episode, this isn't even mentioned, and worse, the dialogue in the epilogue seems to look on these children with awe and appreciation, noting that we may be looking at the future of the human race. And this is said without rue or concern! I really have no idea what the writers were thinking of, or what the producers thought they were putting the Trek name on.

Morally, this is a ghastly episode. Jason R's comment above speaks right to the issue: we are meant to see these children as superior to us on the grounds that their communication doesn't require our silly language, and that their immune system is designed to kill inferior life. How much of a leap of logic does it take to infer from this an ending not dissimilar from I, Robot? In the end, perhaps 'inferior life' would come to include all of us. In fact, in the episode that's exactly what happens, and it's not 'by accident' but exactly what they were designed to do: to wipe out everything that isn't them. Some master race - it's around a million times worse than making a Khan. The epitaph at the end is simply ludicrous.
Sarjenka's Little Brother
Sat, Feb 3, 2018, 3:41pm (UTC -5)
It's lonely being Sarjenka's Little Brother. I think I'm the only person in all of Trekdom to like this episode.

I like aging/de-aging themes. I find them "fascinating." And gosh, the moment of honor for the fallen vessel just gets to me. Very solemn.

It did strike me as odd that the doctor on the planet never once considered that the children might be the source of the problem, but then in 2018, we have full evidence of many people's ability to see only what they want to see. And I do agree the crew was a little too impressed -- this experiment seemed awfully close to Eugenics work during the Khan period.
Peter Swinkels
Thu, Mar 15, 2018, 10:33am (UTC -5)
Hi,

Just finished reading your review, and mostly agree. A disease causing old age uninteresting? Everyone has their opinion let’s imagine such a disease to be real for a moment: you suddenly feel the first symptoms - intense pain caused by arthritis and it dawns upon you that you have only days left to live! While rapidly becoming old and decrepit. Still boring? Terrifying would be more like it or rather depressing at the very least.

Okay, enough about the disease, the tech solution felt a bit contrived to me as well. However, plausibly depicting hypothetical technology convincingly and believing it could possibly exist some day probably isn’t very easy. As to real and current technology and how it is being used - find some video’s on Youtube or somewhere else about real attempt to predict the future. Would the people who made them believe you if you told them how far they missed the mark in several of their predictions?

Yes, this only an old sci-fi show and it very unlikely the actual future will be anything like as being depicted in Star Trek. But still...

Hmmm, am I reviewing the reviews now?

Love your site.
Peter Swinkels
Thu, Mar 15, 2018, 10:42am (UTC -5)
Browsed through the comments, and yes dr. Pulaski dying would be have been more dramatic.

A few more additions to my previous comment:
1. That “uninteresting” disease cost the lives of everyone on an entire starship. Think about that one. And it and all the deceased aboard it had to be destroyed.
2. Unsure what to make of those children and their telepathy and telekenisis. Aren’t there real life experiments that intend to make “telepathy” a reality?

Uh oh, just thought of the Borg...
JerJer
Tue, May 22, 2018, 2:19pm (UTC -5)
What stupid ridiculousness.

Use a sample of someone's DNA to revert them back to an earlier form of themselves. WHATEVER!
mephyve
Tue, May 22, 2018, 7:16pm (UTC -5)
Remember those old Spiderman comics when A unt May was always having a heart attack? They used that so often I started hoping the old bat would finally croak. After all, they had no problem offing the beautiful Gwen Stacey. Thing is, I liked Aunt May which is more than I can say about Pulaski. That being the case, I was ready to say good riddance to the character. TNG finally came to their senses, I hoped, and were bringing back Gates McFadden. But no such luck. Obviously the intended drama of this episode was .lost on me.
minus 100 stars for this turd
wolfstar
Tue, Oct 23, 2018, 3:56pm (UTC -5)
1.5 stars - a strange mess that doesn't really fit in the Star Trek universe, though Diana Muldaur is fine and the gradually applied aging makeup is really good for the period. (Janeway's at the end of 11:59, made a decade later, was way worse.) The story doesn't withstand any logical scrutiny, and neither does the idea that Federation scientists are engineering a new race of humans to replace us and that this is supposed to be a good thing. This may have been way before Doctor Bashir, I Presume? and the Augments trilogy, but it was still post-Space Seed and TWOK.
Burger
Thu, Feb 21, 2019, 1:04am (UTC -5)
Nice shot of the shuttle landing on the planet, & Muldaur is a better actor than all the others combined - no wonder they had to get rid of her. Everything else about the episode is just bleeeh, clearly knocked up on the back of a postage stamp. Final dialogue - Riker: Set course & speed for such-&-such. Wesley: Course & speed laid in Sir. Uhmm - any chance of specifying *what* speed? Dumb.
Meister
Tue, Mar 5, 2019, 10:23pm (UTC -5)
ugh this episode wins the prize for technobabble.

I did like the premise that enhanced immune systems could proactively change the virus.

Pulaski and Picard both showed poor judgement.

I never understood the statement that there is no conflict in the Trek Universe. Isn't the Picard/Pulaski friction conflict?

5/10
Trent
Sat, Mar 23, 2019, 10:22pm (UTC -5)
I feel this is an underrated episode, and one which has aged well.

It opens with an excellent set of sequences, the Enterprise coming across an abandoned Federation starship and then tapping into its bridge cameras. Hauntingly, we learn, the ship's entire crew has died of old age.

We then get some good Pulaski scenes - her friction with Picard is excellent, and far more interesting than the graceful but underused Crusher - before the episode launches into its main plot: wacky TOS-esque scientists have created "improved humans" which have "transcended humanity" and whose "immune system" "causes humans to become old". The metaphor is obvious: new technologies or species invariably leave earlier iterations feeling ancient and irrelevant.

Many above have complained about the technobabble used to "solve the episode's problem", but it didn't seem far-fetched to me. Using a transporter to "reboot" a subject by replacing certain molecules, seems like something the Federation would have developed ages ago.

Regardless, this is a pleasantly grim, low-key and dour episode, and Riker gives one of his best performances here. Look how low-key he plays his part in this episode, his voice always below a whisper.

It's a shame the episode's second message - that even the old and outmoded can fight back against nature - prevents Pulaski and the scientists dying in the episode's final act. Not that I want Pulaski to die (she's a neat character), but witnessing her agonizingly dying on a secluded shuttle while the Enterprise crew watches helplessly on, sounds powerful in a dark and twisted and poetically tragic way.
William B
Sun, Mar 24, 2019, 7:24am (UTC -5)
@Trent, I think some of the criticisms of the episode are centered on franchise continuity issues. The de-aging transporter should be usable in future eps and isn't, and the humans doing genetic engineering seems to violate the sacred no genetic engineering eugenics wars message. However, this episode does seem to come from a looser, more TOS period of the show in terms of interepisode plot continuity.

I forget how well it actually plays, but I recall the episode also has a Proto-X-Files vibe, including Pulaski's Scully-esque report over the ship's destruction at the end.
Trent
Mon, Mar 25, 2019, 10:55pm (UTC -5)
William said: "but I recall the episode also has a Proto-X-Files vibe, including Pulaski's Scully-esque report over the ship's destruction at the end."

I thought precisely the same thing when I watched the episode a few days ago. It felt like a season 1 X-files "Scully report".
Springy
Fri, Aug 23, 2019, 12:34am (UTC -5)
A great episode. Stewart and Muldaur make the ep. Spiner is good too.

More stuff about life and death - the nature of life, natural evolution, unnatural evolution, Darwin.

"No life forms present," says the transporter engineer to O'Brien, as he looks over Data, who is materializing in the transporter, having been disinfected by it. No life forms present, he declares, starting right at Data.

My favorite lines: PICARD: Will she be normal again?" DATA: "As normal as ever, sir."

Excessive use of the word normal, throughout the script.

That is one miraculous transporter. The technobabble in this ep is woven Iike a tapestry. It is positively mesmerizing.

Pulaski is a great character. Wish we could have kept her longer.

Good one. Light on the plot, but very well done.
HackFarlane
Fri, Aug 23, 2019, 9:49am (UTC -5)
I am also one of the voices on this board that actually prefers Dr. Pulaski over Dr. Crusher. She and Picard had a great dynamic, and I really love, unabashedly, what they did with Pulaski and Worf, after Worf got "the Klingon measles" in an episode near the end of the second season.

"Unnatural Selection" was a great vehicle for Pulaski and for Diana Muldaur. We got to see Pulaski's foibles and stubbornness but also her warmth for humanity. She even apologizes to Data while she's on the shuttle with him, which I thought was a nice little touch of dialogue. I think everyone involved really made an effort to create a well-rounded character in Dr. Pulaski, and I would have liked to see more of her.

As for the continuity issues raised in this episode, specifically in regards to, "How could the Federation allow Darwin Station to experiment like this, considering what happened with Khan and the Eugenic Wars," I will simply chalk it up to this episode taking place in an alternate universe where the Eugenics Wars never happened, and there never was a Khan Noonien Singh.

Also, I can't explain why, but I cracked up at the arrogant, snotty Dr. Kingsley who oozed contempt and snapped at Picard through the viewscreen. She's exactly the type of haughty, vicious scientist-with-a-God-complex that would run a station and experiments like this. It was a nice touch that she knew who Pulaski was, because of that "Linear Models of Viral Propagation" paper that Pulaski wrote.

I'm conflicted on the transporter solution at the end. In its favor, we really don't know how the science behind it works, because, frankly, it's preposterous. But as it is, I can wrap my head around a system that converts matter into energy, and then recreates the matter after traveling through subspace to another location, being able to reform "another version" of the subject by superimposing a trace pattern. (I'm not sure if that even made any sense, but it's no harder to believe than warp drive. ) I can even forgive this can-of-worms being ignored in future episodes and movies because it was shown to be incredibly risky--they almost lost Pulaski, so it doesn't strike me as something that anyone would want to risk attempting again. And besides, if this episode took place in an alternate timeline, there are plenty of parallel universes where it never happened, so it wouldn't be brought up in a future show as a solution anyway.

However, I do understand the criticisms that the solution was an overly-simple, ridiculous deus-ex-machina and that they could have come up with something more inventive.

Also, it seems to me that they should have heard of space suits or even simpler Haz-Mat suits, but I know--Paramount budgets. I also think the message of the episode was simplistic and obvious. But I do like how it showcased the Picard/Pulaski dynamic; Muldaur and Stewart were both marvelous.
Jason R.
Sun, Jan 5, 2020, 4:52pm (UTC -5)
I didn't dislike this episode the way I expected from the review or the way most Trek fans seem to remember it. In fact, for me it wasn't just watchable, but quite good - a solid 3 stars.

I found the mystery interesting including the explanation good (notwithstanding the continuity issue), the character work on Pulawski and even her chemistry with Data excellent. Even the technical solution, while crazy in its implications in the larger scheme (so the transporter is a fountain of youth?!) was perfectly logical given the premise of the disease and the underlying technology of the transporter. It is not the episode's fault for extrapolating the transporter's potential to its logical conclusion.

I continue to find myself impressed with the Pulawski character and incredulous that anyone could have been happy to see her replaced with Crusher. Here we have the first strong, intelligent, interesting regular female character in Trek history and people wanted her gone? All because of a few awkward attempts to draw a parallel with McCoy with a few throw away references to her hating the transporter? I mean yes, the parallels are there, but hardly more so than those between, say, Spock and Data - and no one hated Data! I am almost ready to call sexism on this one. Bring back the red headed pretty nebbish to replace the overly willful older woman with an actual personality.

It is seriously bugging me imagining what the show would have been like with another keystone character and a woman to boot - what a crying crying shame that it had to happen the way it did.
Sen-Sors
Sun, Jan 5, 2020, 6:42pm (UTC -5)
Jason R, totally with you on Team Pulaski. Never understood the hate this character gets. "She was mean to Data! Yes she got over it and it was character-building, but this is TNG; I want my female characters sedate and underwritten!"
Skeptical
Mon, Jan 6, 2020, 5:10pm (UTC -5)
Sorry Jason and Sen-Sors, but I must disagree. Calling anyone who disagrees with your opinion as sexist isn't fair. There are plenty of other reasons to have a negative opinion on Pulaski and/or a more positive opinion on Crusher.

- It wasn't JUST her antagonism towards Data that put people off; the very first impression of her is disrespecting Picard by ignoring protocol when she came on board the ship. So she starts off antagonistic towards BOTH of the beloved Trek characters. And while the Data bit may just be an attempt at cloning McCoy, the second was just uncalled for. She's a senior professional, she should REALLY know better than to blow off the captain like that. It's not a good look.

- Likewise, there was a bit of "try-hard"ness to the way the writers tried to push her character. There seemed to be a lot of pushing her to extremes on both ends. She's a luddite who hates transporters. But she's also the only person who can save Picard's life! She's antagonistic to Data. But she loves Klingon tea ceremonies! She was never really given a shot to just naturally blend in. You can say she has a strong personality, but it was more like the creators were forcing her to the front every chance they could get. It's like Wesley Part II. A genius kid could have been a good character, and in Seasons 3-5 he is a pretty good character, but the overt Mary-Sueness of his Season 1 basically killed any chance of making him likable. It's not quite the same with Pulaski, but it's still pretty in-your-face. (I think Ezri suffered from a similar situation as well)

- To piggyback on that, she only had one season. It sometimes takes time to settle in and become a natural character. Heck, Season 1 Picard is downright unpleasant, and obviously his character improved tremendously. Yes, some characters can hit the ground running like Ro, but maybe if Pulaski had stayed on she could have mellowed more, and more people would like her. But we'll never know.

- Crusher played a unique role in all of Trek, being the only main character that was also a mother. Trek has been outright hostile to family life at times (practically every main character is at odds with their family), but TNG was, in part, supposed to show that families and Starfleet could co-exist. Having a positive family unit in the main cast is a good idea. Or do you think motherhood isn't an important attribute? NOW who's the sexist one? =)

- And not character-related, but Diane Muldaur's voice is kinda grating. Sorry, but TV is an audio and visual medium, and these things are still important, no matter how much we might like to consider ourselves intelligent critics and say it's irrelevant. How often do people say they could sit and listen to Patrick Stewart read the phone book? Well, this is the opposite of that. And yes, Stewart's voice IS a legitimately positive aspect to Picard's character, so Muldaur's voice can be a negative aspect. And no, this isn't sexist either. I would say Auberjenois' voice did give me a negative impression of Odo as well (a minor one, of course... there are many other problems I had with his character).

So no, it's not fair to just call it sexist. Besides, it's a ridiculous claim to begin with. You do realize that women like watching handsome guys too, right? Are they being sexist if a hot guy is replaced by an ugly one?
Jason R.
Mon, Jan 6, 2020, 5:41pm (UTC -5)
Well Skeptical I did only say I was *almost* ready to call sexism on it - ha.
Chrome
Mon, Jan 6, 2020, 5:54pm (UTC -5)
I honestly don't mind Pulaski and actually prefer her over Muldaur's roles on TOS. But yeah, it's the writing team's fault for making Pulaski unnecessarily ornery in seemingly random situations. The reason why the Kirk-Spock-Bones dynamic works so well is that all the characters have something the others lack and they really learn and grow together. Pulaski gives Data flack which is fine per se, but where are the scenes where Data outshines Pulaski?

While it's not completely coherent, there is a good arc throughout season two where Pulaski goes from hating Data to really becoming one of his biggest fans. That's the part of Pulaski that worked and maybe if she stuck around the audience would've warmed to her.

Skeptical wrote:
"She's a luddite who hates transporters. But she's also the only person who can save Picard's life!"

Yeah, that's more of the bad writing I'm talking about which isn't really Muldaur's fault but still hurt her character. Why is Pulaski more talented than a special starbase that Picard chose specifically for heart treatment? Does Pulaski know the Traveler too? ;-)
Skeptical
Mon, Jan 6, 2020, 6:16pm (UTC -5)
Don't worry Jason, it was only a half-serious callout on my part. But it does seem like the trend recently is that everyone should love Pulaski or at least respect the character (while, of course, the trend back in the day is that everyone should hate Pulaski). The truth is in the middle. She's not an overly atrocious character, but the character is flawed, and with only one season (and a shortened one at that), there just wasn't enough time for those flaws to be smoothed over.

As an aside, I'm not as much of a fan of the Kirk-Spock-Bones dynamic as its legendary status might suggest. There were way too many times that Bones was being contrarian just for contrarian's sake, and it hurt his character. He was fine in serious scenes with Kirk, and he was fine in lighthearted back-and-forths with Spock, but in the serious scenes with Spock he often looked just dumb (I think it was Gamesters of Triskelion where it just got too annoying for me). It hurt his character there too. So trying to ape Bones leaves a double-negative impression for me; one for being unoriginal and one for Bones himself sometimes being a weak character.
Sen-Sors
Mon, Jan 6, 2020, 7:10pm (UTC -5)
Skeptical, I should clarify that I do not believe that people who don't like Pulaski do so because they are sexist. My comment was meant more as a jab at the writing of TNG as a whole, and how Pulaski was a stark contrast to characters like Crusher and Troi.

As for Pulaski being unprofessional and disrespecting Picard, eh. Whatever. I still find that sort of character more entertaining than a Dr. Crusher; mother or no, there's just not a lot going on there character-wise unless she's getting it on with a ghost.

I do agree with your sentiments on Bones, and how TOS would occasionally turn him into a bug-eyed dumbass to make Spock look better in comparison.
Jason R.
Mon, Jan 6, 2020, 8:00pm (UTC -5)
The thing about Pulaski is that her antagonism towards Data is mostly exaggerated in fans' minds. Her arc in season 2 is basically one of learning respect and admiration of Data. Look at episodes like Elementary Dear Data and especially Peak Performance where she's practically his biggest fan by the end. Mulder and Spiner just have great chemistry together. Her scenes with Worf, though few and far between, are also good. In fact, her chemistry with every member of the main cast is dynamite.

My whole thesis here, aside from sexism of course, is that she was simply a victim of timing and the way TV was watched back then. Many of us, especially as kids, only got to watch the show piecemeal because religiously catching every episode was not feasible especially in the first two shakedown seasons when the show had yet to hit its stride.

By the time the show got really good and established (end of Season 3) most of our experience was with Crusher - she was the doctor at the beginning and at the end. Hell, she was the doctor of Best of Both Worlds - end of story. It didn't matter if she was any good. And to the extent there was Pulaski, she was kind of this anomaly in our heads - like oh she's that doctor from when the show was still kind of weird and alien and still not quite right.

I know that's how it was for me. Pulaski was the new Coke of STNG. Season 3 set the standard for TNG in my mind and many others' minds and Pulaski didn't belong.

But it didn't occur to me until recently how much better so many episodes could have been with another tentpole character. Oh well, we will never know.
Chrome
Mon, Jan 6, 2020, 8:57pm (UTC -5)
"The thing about Pulaski is that her antagonism towards Data is mostly exaggerated in fans' minds."

I'd say the exaggeration is more by the writer's hands than by the fan's minds. I mean their first conversation alone has Pulaski stubbornly mispronouncing Data's name and then poking fun at him when he calls her out on it. That really doesn't do much to endear us to Pulaski.
P'kard
Wed, Jan 29, 2020, 12:13am (UTC -5)
Awful episode. Mulder was an awful actor. Head shaking like a bobblehead is NOT a good way to "act emphatic" and the WRITING was even worse. it's like the writers never watched any of the movies and had never heard the phrase "eugenics wars" in trek canon!
Gerontius
Sun, Apr 19, 2020, 8:41pm (UTC -5)
A strange comment by Jammer saying a disease which kills people by making them age at decades within a couple of says was a boring idea. It's a chilling concept. As in this time of Coronavirus any story about killer viruses feels especially close to home. We could do with some transporter magic right now...

I don't get the hostility to Pulaski. I was glad in this episode she had a chance to step up. The way the season shows her developing respect and liking for data more than justifies showing us the initial disdain, as something for her to get over. And Picard at this stage of the series really needed a bit of disrespect to counter his initial tendency towards stuffiness.
CptnQuirk
Thu, Jun 18, 2020, 8:29pm (UTC -5)
Why did they leave the shuttle on the planet and why did they blow up the Lantree? Those inanimate objects would not have been anymore dangerous than Data. The transporter would not have filtered out the antibodies on him if they were present.

The bodies on the Lantree could have been beamed into space and the ship recovered. What a waste!
SS Elim
Sun, Aug 23, 2020, 8:53pm (UTC -5)
Even an episode this pedestrian could not stand in the way of O'Brien making a name for himself... literally!
P'kard
Sun, Aug 23, 2020, 11:22pm (UTC -5)
Another rewatch with my mother. Still deeply hating Pulaski but i noticed a few other things. The way Worf freaks out screaming "it's a trick!" Was hilarious. Classic early worf
P'kard
Sun, Aug 23, 2020, 11:23pm (UTC -5)
Another rewatch with my mother. Still deeply hating Pulaski but i noticed a few other things. The way Worf freaks out screaming "it's a trick!" Was hilarious. Classic early Worf being a comically poor "warrior" lmao
Polaris
Wed, Sep 9, 2020, 12:00pm (UTC -5)
I really liked Pulaski and I think it’s a real shame that the cast and audience rallied for Dr Crusher to come back.

Pulaski was more assertive than Crusher (a trait that, in women, makes some folks uncomfortable) and kinda mean to Data, but her response to Data is actually very real and worth exploring. He is the only being of his kind in Starfleet and certainly many people would be ambivalent at best about treating him like a human. You can see her change throughout the season, it’s really too bad we couldn’t get more.

Anyway I agree this episode was silly (eugenics are ok now? And they never exposed these kids to disease before?) but I like it for Muldaur and Stewart.

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