Star Trek: The Next Generation
Air date: 3/25/1991
Teleplay by Brannon Braga
Story by Timothy De Haas
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Geordi's close friend — sort of like his big sister — Susanna Leijten (Maryann Plunkett) comes aboard to report that the other officers of an away mission they all had been on several years earlier have recently gone missing. The Enterprise tracks a shuttle from one of the missing crewmen to the original mission's planet. They find no trace of the missing crewman, but Susanna, and then Geordi, begin having strange medical symptoms that draw them to the planet. It turns out they were both afflicted, on that years-ago mission, by an alien influence that is now rewriting their DNA. When Susanna starts transforming into an alien, Crusher must race to find a way to stop it before Susanna and Geordi are both lost.
"Identity Crisis" is a tolerable hodgepodge of stories. It's a merging of various familiar devices including (1) Starfleet officers who have gone missing, (2) an old close friend we've never heard of before, (3) a medical mystery, (4) an alien parasite, (5) a holodeck investigation, and (6) Fun With DNA™. Actually, this might be the best Fun With DNA episode on record, since Fun With DNA generally makes me want to retch. Brannon Braga apparently decided that if "Identity Crisis" was the starting point then "Threshold" was the logical extension, but I digress.
The most interesting scenes involve Geordi on the holodeck trying to put together clues from a video recording of the original mission. Hey, look! There's a shadow from someone who isn't there! What is that? Before long, Geordi has become an invisible alien himself, and goes careening through the ship with the aid of his own personal biological cloaking device, like the alien in Predator.
The first half of the story does a pretty good job of creating a sense of mystery about what's going on, as Susanna slowly, psychologically melts down. And the second half of the show — which focuses on the close friendship between Geordi and Susanna as they try to save each other — works emotionally, even as the science goes off the deep end (transforming people into aliens and back without killing them and in such a way that even their hair looks the same, etc.). I can't recommend "Identity Crisis," but there are things about it that work in spite of itself.
Previous episode: Night Terrors
Next episode: The Nth Degree
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41 comments on this post
Mon, Nov 19, 2012, 7:03pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jun 10, 2013, 7:26am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jul 4, 2013, 1:26pm (UTC -5)
As with "Night Terrors," nothing in this episode seems to be specific to the characters in this show. That isn't so terrible; much of the show is about exploring interesting concepts (morally, scientifically etc.) rather than about exploring the main cast, though I think the best episodes work on both levels. The Fun With DNA [TM Jammer] stuff doesn't seem to me to be all that interesting or meaningful -- it's not really based in actual science, and there doesn't seem to be any deeper metaphor or anything about the human condition otherwise. It *is* a decent mystery, and that works in the episode's favour. And that mystery aspect is the thing that makes it at least passable as a La Forge story, since the "Blow-Up" inspired scenes of Geordi piecing together what happened give a decent sense of the process of the engineering mind at work, as well as revealing something about Geordi, who prefers to be working on a problem even when he is the problem.
The episode's other conceit is that this is a story about something from the past of Geordi and other away team members coming back for them five years later; it's something creepy and primal, I think, and the basis for a lot of horror stories, that there is some Event somewhere buried in someone's past that can come toward them at any time. (DS9's "The Darkness and the Light" does well with this concept.) But nothing that Geordi or the others did matters to this, so the emotional resonance is still only barely there. The episode does push the Geordi/Susanna friendship, and there is a natural chemistry between the two in an early scene which makes Susanna's ability to reach Geordi later on believable...but really, should the emotional lynchpin of an episode be a relationship between Geordi and a character who had never been mentioned before and never will be again? There's a nice scene where Crusher intuits Data is "worried" and Data denies it, and another where Data goes to talk to Geordi, and I couldn't help notice a shot of Data looking on as Susanna found Geordi again; the Data-Geordi friendship is more fundamental to the show, and I wonder if they could have played up that angle in having Geordi return to his human roots. Or not.
I couldn't help but notice that mutated Geordi seemed to have working eyes, with pupils and everything. I guess when the DNA [tech] which Crusher uses to magically reverse the process took effect, it restored Geordi's eyes to their non-functioning position, because...what, is his blindness genetic? Which does not really seem to square with "All Good Things"/Insurrection, but whatever.
I agree with Jammer that the episode sort of works in spite of itself, but I think if "Night Terrors" is a high 2.5 star show, this is probably a high 2 star show for me.
Sat, Jun 21, 2014, 11:23pm (UTC -5)
However, the ending where Leijten appeals to the residual humanity in La Forge-turned-into-blue-meanie didn't really work for me. I would have preferred a straightforward "Phasers on stun! (ZAP!) One to beam up."
One thing they missed: what about the other Enterprise personnel who beamed down? Shouldn't they have been screened for the parasite afterward? Just one mention in the captain's log would have sufficed, but otherwise it seems like a pretty big thing to miss.
Good, but not great episode. 3/4
Fri, Sep 26, 2014, 1:09am (UTC -5)
I think the episode launched into mystery adventure too quickly, without enough pre-knowledge orienting us to the characters in question and their previous mission. The holodeck investigation is surprisingly creepy - I think discovering the mysterious shadow and slowly leading us to look at its source is done at excellent pace - suspense done very well. Kind of like an accidental scary scene, though the final computer projection of the invisible figure is a little bit of a let down, though a realistic one.
I appreciated how the final dialogue between Geordi and Susannah suggest he only trusted her because of their special, trusting relationship from old times. Says something of instinct to trust.
Also enjoyed the little humor of Data replying so succinctly about his work taking two minutes to finish. I found that humorous, at least. And another excellent episode showing off Data's supposed objectivity and our own projection onto him of concern for a friend. Does he worry in some way about Geordi? I read in Jammer's old school paper analysis of Trek how the writers liked to make us think that Data cared more than he said, but carefully kept him in line with his objectivity. Feels satisfying to not know for certain, and it's fun to try to adopt pure logic from Data's point of view.
So again - could it have been possible to intercept that shuttle in the beginning by warping to it for a brief time?
Mon, Jan 19, 2015, 8:38am (UTC -5)
The mystery surrounding the vanished Starfleet members was interesting enough to keep me guessing until the end. The scenes with the holodeck investigation were thrilling and genuinely creepy and provided some insight into Geordie's problem solving methodology as an engineer. I always like these episodes which revolve around a problem and the crew's attempts to solve it with fact-finding and logic. It was also nice to see a little more about Geordie's private life, and Susanna immediately shooting down his remark about how we liked the bachelor's life too much was really funny, considering his prior "success" with women.
Sadly, what could have been a great episode was impaired by the stupid genetics plot device. I don't expect Star Trek to deliver much real science, but my willingness to suspend disbelief stops where a person's genetic outfit being completely changed twice in the course of a few days without them suffering any harm whatsoever.
Fri, Jul 17, 2015, 2:39am (UTC -5)
The whole relationship between Leijten and LaForge, which is supposed to provide the emotional core of the episode, drags everything down. LaForge, who has consistently been portrayed as having absolutely no success in building close, non-working relationship with women, now suddenly has a female friend who is so close to him that they might as well be lovers? And they've been this close for years? And they have excellent chemistry with each other? Um, no. You can't have LaForge be so inept with women and yet have him in such an intimate relationship with one. Seriously, Leijten and LaForge are so close that the only thing that's missing from their relationship is actual physical intimacy. If they had instead had the character be LaForge's actual sister instead of a quasi-sister figure, it would have worked. I simply can't buy their friendship. Why is LaForge wasting his time looking for other women and falling in love with holodeck characters when he has this amazing woman in his life?! And on a more meta-level, it really bothers me that the writers put LaForge through the ringer with women only to now put an unbelievably beautiful woman, both on the inside as well as the outside, in his life and only make them friends. Were they trying to piss all over nerds? Because that's what it seems like what they were doing with the LaForge character.
As for the science of the episode - yes, it does strain the suspension of disbelief, but it still works for me. I don't watch Star Trek for a science lesson; I watch it to be entertained. Maybe it's because I'm not a scientist myself, but it takes a LOT of scientific silliness for me to take issue with it - "Threshold" being an obvious example. "Identity Crisis," while scientifically silly, manages to be entertaining, but only just.
Thu, Sep 17, 2015, 4:27pm (UTC -5)
So despite the interesting premise, we reach a frankly risible conclusion as Leijten appeals to the remaining shred of humanity in Geordi to bring him bank from the brink. The UV reflecting unitard costumes don't help either. Didn't speak to me, this one. 2 stars.
Fri, Jun 24, 2016, 1:44am (UTC -5)
Tue, Nov 1, 2016, 8:22am (UTC -5)
Fri, Nov 11, 2016, 9:55am (UTC -5)
I also can't forgive the fact that if something is weird with starfleet personnel after wandering around on a planet, you don't BEAM ANOTHER TEAM DOWN to create a third batch of victims! At least give them isolation suits Picard!
Sat, Feb 4, 2017, 5:22pm (UTC -5)
Tue, May 30, 2017, 8:57pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jun 12, 2017, 2:06pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Aug 8, 2017, 3:51pm (UTC -5)
I didn't buy in to the supposed close friendship between Geordi and Susanna. Clearly the both cared for each other and were able to help each other when needed but it didn't do anything for me. Surely the ending could have had Data or Riker calling to Geordi as they are also very good friends.
There is a decent mystery to be solved here and I liked how the Enterprise crew went about it as well as Geordi figuring it out in the holodeck -- although that scene went on a bit too long. It also isn't clear to me: did other members of the landing party (Riker, Worf etc.) potentially pick up the parasite or what did Geordi, Susanna etc. do years ago to get the parasite?
"Identity Crisis" gets 2 stars for me. Not a really compelling story, somewhat contrived, dubious medi-babble but it did show some good problem solving.
Wed, Aug 16, 2017, 6:07am (UTC -5)
You might argue that Geordi would have to be blind NOT to be attracted to Susanna, but that would be pretty insensitive in the circumstances.
Sun, Apr 15, 2018, 3:22pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Apr 25, 2018, 4:02pm (UTC -5)
I think I would hand back my tricorder if all it takes to identify the aliens is UV lights and my scanner cannot detect them.
Sat, Jun 30, 2018, 8:58pm (UTC -5)
-- The atmosphere they created on the planet.
-- The friendship with Geordi and Susannah.
-- The metamorphosis into the other creatures was pretty interesting.
In the end, it's very middle-ish Trek.
Thu, Jul 19, 2018, 7:16am (UTC -5)
And of course the one and only woman in an away team of 5 would be Geordi's friend, the guy with terrible luck with women...cue the awkward romantic vibes.
The Fun With DNA is putting the episode heavy on the FICTION part of Science Fiction.
Mon, Oct 1, 2018, 12:58pm (UTC -5)
The reason that Miss Universe only has competitors from Earth in it is because every living being in the universe lives on Earth. Aliens, like everything on Star Trek, are just fiction. It is bizarre to me how so many people on this website cannot seem to grasp that Star Trek is just a television programmec none of this actually happened or ever will happen, it is possible to enjoy a television programme without having a delusion that it is real.
Mon, Nov 12, 2018, 11:33pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jan 9, 2019, 6:30pm (UTC -5)
I definitely found this episode creepy when I fist saw it years ago. These days, less so. Whether that is because of higher definition, being older, or somthing else I don't know.
Wed, Jan 9, 2019, 8:01pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Mar 29, 2019, 8:58pm (UTC -5)
The sequence in which Geordi, on the holodeck, pieces together the mystery, is great. It's evocative of Antonioni's "Blow Up" and De Palma's "Blow Out", both of which see "detectives" methodically piecing together photographs and audio files and stumbling upon horrific discoveries. Here the technology is updated to a holodeck.
The episode's "hidden in plain sight" aliens are also a pretty neat idea. If any Trek episode deserves a remake, under a better, tighter script, it's this one. You can do a lot of cool stuff with this material.
Wed, Apr 10, 2019, 9:21am (UTC -5)
I have always loved this episode. I think it is a combination of the spooky atmosphere on the planet and the mystery Geordi solves with the shadows.
There were some gaps of course: why would Leijtin see the footprints and go off on her own. Why were they not searching in pairs, how did the away team not get infected, why not shut down the holodeck program when searching for La Forge, why not implant something into La Forge when they were worried about him transforming and taking off.
but all of these are no matter when you have the spooky atmosphere, the wonderful nighttime sandy scenery on the planet - like a summer evening at a beach cottage or tropical vacation- and the mystery to solve like CSI with the video
I only gave it 8.5 because this was more of a personal fave
Sat, Apr 4, 2020, 4:22am (UTC -5)
Sun, Jul 5, 2020, 4:20pm (UTC -5)
There's a scene where Data is assembling some improbable device, and he does it much like a human would, announcing that it will take two minutes. But in at least one other episode (in the first series I think) he's able to perform manual tasks at extreme speed.
When Riker and the others arrive on the Holodeck (it's always Holodeck 3, why?) Riker orders a search. Why not just end the program to clear all the scenery out of the way?
Anyway - a good one.
Fri, Sep 11, 2020, 5:07pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Dec 4, 2020, 8:44am (UTC -5)
Wow. Calm down, man. David was clearly joking about Miss Universe. Your antipathy is unwarranted.
(Plus, you have no idea if there are beings on other planets out there. Will we ever see them? Will there ever be anything like Star Trek for real? Probably not, but calm down and let us have our fun.)
Fri, Dec 4, 2020, 9:00am (UTC -5)
Thu, Mar 25, 2021, 2:28pm (UTC -5)
I thought the ultraviolet aliens were impressively done, and the moment where ultraviolet Geordi's by now very alien hand reaches out trustingly to take Leijten's (and the subsequent reassuring hug) was surprisingly moving and well played.
It was also nice to see a character such as Leijten who was introduced without simply being killed off to advance the plot as is otherwise typically the case. I rather liked her and Geordi's friendship, and it's always a plus to see regular crew before they became regular crew.
That said, as much as I enjoy computer- and holodeck-based extrapolation scenes, the visual recording on which past events (and thus the entire plot) hinged seemed somewhat implausible.
I also found it frankly absurd that no physical attempt was made to prevent the shuttle from breaking up. The Enterprise had a full minute to act in which it could have manoeuvred closer to lock on with a tractor beam or use the transporter but instead the clock ticks down (in real time) with Picard saying stop or I'll ask you to stop again. Very odd.
Fri, Jun 4, 2021, 7:54pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Jul 8, 2021, 3:37pm (UTC -5)
In fact, it is an unusual Geordi-centric episode that wasn't annoying or sappy, or annoyingly sappy. Levar Burton for once did a very nice job carrying it and reacting authentically to what he was encountering. I liked the relationship between Susannah and Geordi, and to get a bit of a decent backstory on Geordi.
I don't have a problem with the genetic mutations reversing themselves once the parasite is removed because of the immutable law of the episodic format where everything must return to the way it was.
I agree that it defies logic to send an away team -- apparently unprotected -- to the surface of a planet where everyone who goes there turns into an alien. I guess the justification would be that at that point they had identified the source and could presumably scan everyone for the parasite and destroy it. But in general, the lack of protection when beaming to a planet's surface is a constant head-scratcher in Star Trek, as is the computer's failure to immediately detect when anyone on board has randomly disappeared (a la Geordi here). Shouldn't the computer always automatically know these things and alert the crew?
The use of the holodeck to solve the mystery was effective and eerie. A concept revisited in Schisms, which is a personal favorite. I also liked the Enterprise's sensors being useless for the entire episode.
On the negative side, I don't really understand how this species can realistically avoid extinction as the number of available hosts would necessarily dwindle down to zero. I'd also have liked some sort of explanation as to how the parasite gets produced in the first place.
@O'Brien, agree that it was bizarre that they didn't just end the program on the Holodeck.
Overall, an engaging mystery episode that kept my attention. 3/4.
Sat, Sep 4, 2021, 3:21am (UTC -5)
There are a few plot holes…
1. Why is there a crew member standing there with a camera and spotlight recording everything, which is never usually a feature of away missions?
2. Riker and Worf also beamed down and are presumably affected. Would it have taken even 10 seconds for Crusher to say “…and I have examined them for any trace of the parasite and removed it”?
I also notice how many of the crew perform the Picard Manoeuvre - Riker and Geordi to name two! Could they not have subtly redesigned the uniforms to prevent it? Hahaha.
3 stars - the ending with Susanna reaching out to the altered Geordi was very affecting and one of the best such scenes in TNG.
Wed, Feb 9, 2022, 5:35pm (UTC -5)
Why wasn't someone assigned to be with Geordi constantly after Susanna became affected, especially considering he's Chief Engineer and refuses to be confined to sickbay?
Well, ok, that last part is the same regular dimension...
Wed, Feb 9, 2022, 5:37pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Jul 26, 2022, 4:22pm (UTC -5)
After Geordi went through all that work figuring out what the shadow was it turned out to be completely irrelevant to the story. Figuring out that there was a hidden figure casting the shadow had nothing to do with the outcome, it was just filler.
How does removing the parasite reverse all the changes done to their bodies? Even their hair instantly grew back. Star Trek DNA magic always makes for the dumbest episodes.
Tue, Dec 20, 2022, 9:08pm (UTC -5)
I hate how they write off people who arent in the main cast...at least Kirk wold pause a moment when someone friggin DIED....and those new day-glo aliens had families waiting for them back on Earth!
Well..they are alien GITD's now..lets move on!
And yeah..technically I guess its against the Prime Directive to leave warning bouys.. ..IF the alien monsters didnt have NATIVE victims they could life-rape.
Fri, Dec 30, 2022, 10:32am (UTC -5)
Sat, Mar 11, 2023, 2:58pm (UTC -5)
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