Star Trek: The Next Generation


3 stars.

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

Review Text

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

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

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

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

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

Previous episode: The Masterpiece Society
Next episode: Power Play

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114 comments on this post

    I really liked the character bits in this one, but I just couldn't get into the swiss-cheese plot (Get it?). If MacDuff could add himself to the crew manifest, why not make himself Captain?

    I always wondered why the evil aliens didn't just make MacDuff the Captain instead of only second in command.

    Seems like that would have made his mission a lot easier.

    Between this episode and "The Game," Enterprise only got hijacked twice this season, compared to three times in Season 4 (though each time in "Brothers," "Clues," and "The Nth Degree," it was by themselves).

    This episode is a personal favourite of mine, for all the character interactions.

    I agree with your 3 stars jammer. It was not a very good episode but it was a descent and rather smart science fiction story.

    I love this episode.

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

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

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

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

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

    Perhaps I am just digging too deeply, something I accuse other of when it comes to Trek.

    I believe the title of the episode, Conundrum, was created knowing that people would view this as a fun episode at the same time asking themselves why an episode with such huge plot holes was fun.

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

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

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

    With all that power couldn't MacDuff just kill everyone on the ship by causing brain hemorrhages rather than erasing their memories? Then just take the ship and fight off his obviously inferior enemy! - but Worf was in command! Riker was an awesome manwhore! The Enterprise fired phasers from its phaser banks again and not the photon launcher! Fun!

    This was really memorable for me when I first saw it. So much so that it practically haunted me and it was about 7 years before I saw it again. I had to find out the name of it after reading every page of the Nitpickers Guide!

    Second viewing, saw through many of the plot holes and was a little jaded. I think it is still good fun, if totally ridiculous. Why does all TV (especially Sci Fi) need to stand up to reason though, it's supposed to be escapism.

    Honestly, this season seriously makes me question how much I love TNG...this episode is memorable for some real goofiness, but really it's all pretty stupid. The premise of exploring peoples' core natures and how they are affected when robbed of knowledge or memory is a very good one (See VOY's "Workforce"), but this ep. is so tecky and insignificant, not to mention littered with excess, it's impossible to take seriously. People who accuse VOY of plagiarising TNG forget that many of TNG's plots failed to make good use of its ideas.

    Just thought I would comment to address the whole "why didn't they make MacDuff the Captain" issue... I figure it was because they knew the crew would find a way to reverse the effect. They had to put MacDuff in a position to volunteer for the procedure and debunk it - he couldn't volunteer as Captain, he'd be expected to delegate. Which is of course how it played out. (So maybe it's hindsight is 20/20?)

    I don't know if this is really three star material, simply because the characters slip back into their archetypes so quickly and smoothly. I suppose that is the point of this episode, but the crew should have stayed slightly off-character and distrustful for much longer to effectively sell the (ludicrous) memory loss.

    "People who accuse VOY of plagiarising TNG forget that many of TNG's plots failed to make good use of its ideas."
    By that logic, what about DS9's "Dramatis Personae"? Everyone slipped back into their old selves after that episode despite the fact that they came within inches of killing each other.
    DS9 was also initially supposed to be about Bajor entering the Federation. It was only when the ratings weren't as high as Paramount thought they should be that Ira & co. introduced the Dominion, which were really the Borg with the fries supersized.
    TNG had no more missed opportunities than the other series.


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

    I didn't mean to imply TNG had more missed opportunities than the other series at all, just that this one had a lot of fertile soil which it didn't make use of (incidentally, "Dramatis Personæ" was a complete failure of an episode).

    Although this episode was amusing overall, I was disgusted with Riker's treatment of Troi in particular. Okay, he can't resist Ro's charms (such as they are) but right after he finds out that he and Troi likely have a serious relationship (engaged, wedded? in love at least), no sooner does Troi leave the room than he once again succumbs to Ro! Pretty disgusting, I say, not funny!

    @Stef: I don't think the director cared about 'blowing' MacDuff's cover; though you hadn't seen Trek in 3 years, the episode was created for an audience that ought to have known as soon as MacDuff showed up that he wasn't part of the (main) crew as he was acting. I suspect they never intended to hide him has the culprit.

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

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

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

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

    I can only give this one two stars on the high side.

    Not sure if it's because I find Michelle Forbes very unpleasant to look at generally, but Ro's behavior here was so over the top it made my flesh crawl.

    First episode in a while that I've really enjoyed from this series, the stories had been a bit plodding to me before this. I enjoyed the intrigue, and thought it was a good hour of TV. I'm normally quite cynical, but for some reason I didn't think 'why wasn't he captain' etc, I just went along with it, and would therefore go along with 3 stars, maybe even 3.5!

    Shockingly bad. Plot holes/contrivances and corniness. Riker's whoring is painful. I remember it being half decent having first watched it as a teen. How time has ravaged it. 1 star is pretty generous.

    I knew MacDuff shouldn't be there but my mind just kinda went, hey another extra who's gonna die by the end!

    I just wanted to say I definitely liked this episode. Seeing Picard working a workstation like he was just another crewman was a lot of fun. Having Riker get his "desserts" at the final scene of the show was fun too. Having Data as a bartender wasn't too bad too. This episode is one of my favorite of this season.

    Am i the only one who noticed the the starbase/ship that they were going to attack looked A LOT like the ship in episode where Ensign Crusher is sentenced to death for breaking some rules on a primitive planet in season 1?

    @Shak: Yeah, they reused the same studio model:

    Scroll to 'Sets and Props'

    One day the TNG writers sat around asking,"How can we get a rocking romance between Riker and Ro?" After all Riker has to have a romp with every prominent female on the ship. The 'host body' thing was already done with the doctor.
    Wrier 1, "Hey, let's have some alien race be so technologically advanced that they can override the Enterprise shields and computer, wipe every memory, including a positronic brain. We'll say they need the ships weaponry to destroy their enemy."
    Wrier 2, "You mean they can come up with this super memory wiping technology; it won't work on their enemy but it will work on someone more advanced than their enemy; and yet they can't make a photon torpedo."
    Wrier 1, "Lets not lose focus now, we are talking Riker and Ro here."

    I just got through watching this episode. I agree with Jammer that 3 stars is an approprite rating for this episode. I agree that this episode got off to a rocky start with the alien disguised a MacDuffin wiping the memory of the crew but still need them to help him fight his enemies. In fact, the MacDuffin alien and the aliens like him probably could wipe out Starfleet, the Romulans, the Klingons, and the other alpha quadrant species in about 10 minutes using that mind wiping device that they used.

    The rest of the episode is plausible to me. I especially liked how the crew acted after they had their memory wiped. Including Worf taking command and Picard acting like a regular crewman, and Riker being with Troi and Ro in doing their business. I also like how the crew at least think about their decision too before acting as Jammer said.

    How cool were the FX shots of the Enterprise zapping the fleet of fighter craft?

    The most unbelievable aspect to me, was the idea that Troi, with every aspect of her character presented to date, was capable of besting anyone at
    chess, let alone Data.

    A lot of the problems with this episode have been well covered, but I have to agree with Moegreen. That chess scene was very poorly written. I know this is "space chess", but are we to believe that Troi counters a classic well known chess move by moving 1 piece once and Data and apparently the entire "space chess" world were unable to come up with this? And this somehow demonstrates the superiority of human intuition? Two words for this scene - clumsy and awful.

    Agree that the chess scene is dumb. So Troi can spank Data at chess but Data can hold a grand master at strategema to a draw.

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

    3/4 is still a fair mark though.

    How much I can suspend my disbelief depends on the entertainment value of what I'm watching. In episodes like this one and The Next Phase, I'm enjoying myself enough that I can merrily skip along plot holes big enough to fall through without a second thought. When I don't like the characters and the episode, on the other hand, everything bothers me. I mind that Tasha's half-Romulan daughter is identical to her, but I don't mind that the transporter can turn people into children. It bugs me that the holodeck goes on forever, but I only think about it in certain episodes. It's the same with the ridiculous idea of having children on board. I can't say I stopped to think about it once during The Best of Both Worlds. On Voyager, every little technobabble inconsistency bothers me because it's a terrible, terrible show. (as far as I'm concerned, TOS, TNG, and DS9 are the only ones that even count as Star Trek)

    Entertaining but thoroughly ridiculous and badly written in large part. Not 3 stars unless you don't care about good writing.

    Just finished watching this one.

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

    This is one of those episodes that gives me enough fun with the characters that I don't mind the ridiculous plot that much. The first big hole that I thought of was how could Crusher not realize the dude wasn't human when he went in for the treatment. Regardless of the logic, I did love seeing Data pop up from behind the bar. The script also shows how even if the writers were out of logical ideas, they still understood their characters well enough to make some good scenes. I really like Worf's 'arc' in this one. I think I'd give it a solid 2.5 stars.

    The chess scene makes sense to me. It would be simple for Data to restrict his processors to x calculations per second. Playing chess at his full power against anyone would be completely pointless.

    He was no doubt playing at "super easy" setting with Troi.

    The plot wasn't convincing ("MacDuff" should have tried a smaller ship without so many civilians and without such a weapons advantage) and some of the actors (especially Sirtis) at times felt tired but there was still a lot of fun, especially amnesic Data, conflicted Picard and the Riker/Ro romance.

    "On Voyager, every little technobabble inconsistency bothers me because it's a terrible, terrible show. "

    Ofc this is your subjective opinion. :) Imo, VOY is a great show with great characters, neat concept and a lot of outstanding episodes. Subjective opinion aswell. xD

    You know, it's 2014 and I'm watching TNG again and this time, I feel like I'm watching it for the first time. I read the reviews here and sometimes I decide to skip an episode based on a poor rating.

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

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

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

    I think a great dramatic storytelling device is when the audience has information that the main characters don't have, which is one of the reasons I like this episode, despite its obvious flaws. Another example was that early "Enterprise" episode in which the crew of the NX-01 had dealings with the Romulans (the one in which Reed gets impaled through the leg) but didn't actually see them.

    In response to phaedon, I don't think your claim about 'resentment' towards TNG is warranted. The review here gives 3/4 stars, which looks pretty strong to me. The sentence " "Conundrum" is entertaining enough for me to forgive its unlikelihood" is followed by two whole paragraphs about how the episode successfully plays with the characters despite the ridiculous premise.

    In response to Navamske, I often tend to like this sort of narrative device too if it doesn't come up too often. It works especially well in little self-contained bits like this episode. One thing that always bothers me though is the opposite arrangement - 'point of view' protagonists having knowledge that is withheld from the viewer. See my comments on Defector. I've complained about this in some other things as well.

    This reminded me of the episode Tabula Rasa from S6 of Buffy which blows this episode out of the water.

    I didn't like this episode 1-1/2 stars. This is similar to "The Game" (which I loved) where aliens use a cunning tactic to take over the enterprise. This episode seems so much less plausible, and this may just be as another reviewer suggested that watchers are more forgiving if they are enjoying the episode. Big issues for me is that Data seems like he should have to have been disabled rather than have his memory selectively wiped and the whole selectively wiping on the ship memory and all people of several different species all with a 3 minute blue light.
    I didn't find it very fun either. An exception Riker and Ro was a highlight. Made me think if Ro didn't have such a bad reputation, Riker might fancy her.
    As for McDuff making himself captain, possibly the least issue I had with it.

    This is an entertaining episode, but it does have a couple of plot holes.

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

    Regarding the weapons technology being so far behind their obvious other technological advances: This is possible, but EXTREMELY unlikely. Indeed, Will Riker himself comments on the disparity in technology at the end of the episode, and Picard state both sides in the war had equal weapons technology.

    Richard, those rationalizations might work, indeed.

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

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

    And as others have mentioned (and a problem with The Game too), it seems the writers often forget that many species are present on the Enterprise. It calls for "magic" technology to be able to remotely and precisely erase the differently-stored memories of: the computer, Data, and how many species... 3 just on the bridge, plus Guinan (conspicuosly absent), Mott the barber, and surely a handful of others at any particular time.

    "Conundrum" is an episode that on first viewing is enjoyable enough (if only for the zaniness of seeing the characters in such a unique situation) but upon further inspection doesn't quite hold up.

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

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

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

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


    No one here has commented on the principle motive in this episode. If you are focussing on plotholes don't watch sci-fi. This episode is about the morality of not following orders. The choice that Piccard makes is not a hard one, when looking at the evidence, given the inferiority of the enemy. But few in the real world, have made that choice. If you have the lives of 15000 people in your hands, then you always have a choice about whether you follow an order, even when your own life or career is at risk.

    OK, front and centre, the plot makes no sense whatsoever, and the episode makes a few strange choices (Troi beating Data?). But I suppose it is merely a cipher for the high concept.

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

    The visual effects take a real notch up here - I see for which it won an Emmy. The shot of the Enterprise engaging the sentry fighters is a classic. 2.5 stars.

    By the way, I have other posts on this site as Corey, but there have been a few posts from a different Corey, so am posting as Corey R from now on.

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

    Take away the position assessment algorithm, or give it less inaccurate one, and humans absolutely could (and did, before this algorithm was perfected) defeat computers.

    @Corey R - The possibility never occurred to me, and I'm not sure my brain wants to spend a lot of time contemplating it... but I suppose it's a lot like the time Riker asked him to turn off his internal chronometer with regards to watching the pot boil.

    I just figured macduff didn't make himself captain because he knew he didn't really 100% know how to operate the ship, or didn't know how to fudge all the voice authorization and such that would be necessary for him contact as captain.

    Anyways good thing they didn't run into a romulan ship and end the entire series.

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

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

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

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

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

    Kudos to GregT for explaining why McDuff chose not to make himself Captain. If McDuff had been the Captain, he never would have been allowed to volunteer for the memory restoration procedure.

    One point I'm surprised nobody mentioned: Troi beating Data at chess in the first scene.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Lastly, and I hate to agree, Troi beating Data at "wedding cake chess" was insipid. I'm actually a Troi fan and feel compelled, usually, to defend her (and Sirtis, given the thankless job of being buxom and emotionally vulnerable while at the same time the second most powerful member of the crew), on this occasion, frakking way. Chess grandmasters (if we are proceeding - as the episode encourages us - to think of the game, essentially, as chess) are not possessed of some vastly superior OR especially intuitive mind. They do not "think 6 moves ahead", or use emotional intelligence to intuit a winning strategy. They instead hold tens of thousands of experientially-memorized "position maps" of the board, and subconsciously overlay those configurtions onto their current game. Data's capacity for this would be so far beyond Troi as to make any such contest, I think, an utter farce.

    I love that this site still exists; thank you Jammer!

    Here are my answers to the 2 big plot holes:

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

    2) Why didn't he make himself the captain? Because he hasn't got the foggiest clue how to run the ship. Everyone else retained their skills and technical knowledge, so he had to put himself in a place where he could get away not spouting technobabble about the ship's capabilities or how to do anything, but he could command most of the people who did (and advise anyone he couldn't command).

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

    @Michal Wallis

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

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

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

    So yes, you need to buy into the idea that the Federation flagship can be taken over by a species with low-tech weaponry. But that's only because they have presumably high-tech devices in areas the Federation does not yet understand.

    This episode is the epitome of comfort TV. It's so competently made that it doesn't really matter that it's a bottle show or that that the story isn't exactly pushing the envelope. It most definitely deserves three stars because it gets from point A to point B effortlessly and we can just sit back and enjoy these great characters interact with each other and their situation. A lot of people have commented "why didn't the MacDuff just make himself Captain?" that's a legitimate question but in the end who cares? On a side note
    , I always liked that music when the Sutteran ship is on the viewer. It's kind of a mysterious cue but it fits the mood perfectly.

    I don't at all feel the ending tried to shame Riker or portray him as scum either for having casual sex or being disloyal to Troi; instead Ro acknowledges she enjoyed the relationship, despite being surprised by it, but feels it can't continue now and Troi, while not pleased with his behavior, at least the casualness of it, considers it acceptable.
    I especially liked the ending on a rewatch because I had misremembered it, I thought it ended like "The Naked Now" with a character declaring "It never happened!," that would be the more expected conclusion and the reactions we instead got were a lot of fun.

    God bless the commenters for this episode.

    All but one who observed that the episode had "plot holes," nonetheless found the episode to be entertaining. As someone correctly stated, "how much I can suspend my disbelief depends upon the entertainment value of what I am watching." This observation holds true not just for Star Trek, but for life in general :-) If we find something to be amusing, we're more likely to pay attention to it, even perhaps against our better judgment.

    Some people, though, have yet to board the amusement train, and one must respect their views. Indeed, I suppose that the person who upbraided the episode for its plot holes also has a quite valid and powerful philosophy, to wit:

    "Shockingly bad. Plot holes/contrivances and corniness.......How time has ravaged it. 1 star is pretty generous."

    "I just.... love scanning for plot holes. Plot holes.,,, You tiny little plot holes.... You precious little plot holes... Where...are...YOU?" ..........

    Anyone else notice that thanks to this episode, Riker has now slept with Troi, Crusher & Ro..... along with multiple other planetary dignitaries and lower ranking crew members..... and I'm pretty sure that in a few episodes time he sleeps with someone from a culture that doesn't even have a concept of sex or gender :-)

    Daniel B says: "2) Why didn't he make himself the captain? Because he hasn't got the foggiest clue how to run the ship. Everyone else retained their skills and technical knowledge, so he had to put himself in a place where he could get away not spouting technobabble about the ship's capabilities or how to do anything, but he could command most of the people who did (and advise anyone he couldn't command). "

    He knew how to arm and fire the weapons.

    He must know how the computer works too, or his people must, since their magic memory ray worked on it too.

    And it's not like he made himself cook. He's second in command of the ship. He's going to have to know as much about starship operations as the captain anyway.

    Yeah, I guess I don't understand the final scene either. I don't think Riker really needs catastrophic memory loss as an excuse to mack on some chick --- just a few episodes ago he was on Risa doing hookers and blow, or at least the 24th century equivalent thereof, and Troi didn't care --- but he has it here, so .... what am I missing?

    Mentally I file this one next to
    "Disaster" - in that neither one of them makes a damn bit of sense but who cares because the characters and the dialog are such fun!

    Ro and Riker have been butting heads since her arrival episode. Given their personalities. - he's a womanizer; she's all pent-up angst and rebellion - It's totally believable to me that they'd tear each other's clothes off after two shots of vodka or a little amnesia... or pretty much any excuse at all. So that was pretty satisfying. Kinda wish they'd stayed frenemies with benefits from time to time... But I guess that would be a little too edgy for a family show?

    Part of the epiaode's fun was my own persistent puzzlement over who the heck was that McDuff guy anyway? When it was over and the plot was revealed, I called myself a moron for not figuring it out in two seconds.

    Luke, the Riker/Troi/Ro problem has nothing to do with gendered double standards. It'd be equally perturbing if a female knowingly pulled a 'Riker', in this context.

    Over-exaggeration suggests that you believe your point is not supported by the actual facts, and you over-exaggerate when you say: "[Riker] finds out that [he] might, maybe, possibly have had some slight romantic interest in some other [woman] at some ill-defined point in the past."

    That is WAY more tentative than the reality the show presented. The seriousness of Riker/Troi's relationship is underscored in front of both of them, post-memory-loss. The emotional memory of their relationship is literally the only memory that was retained by anyone on the ship (indicating significance), and Riker himself brought up the book with the "All My Love" inscription.

    Riker understood perfectly well that whatever was between him and Troi was somehow serious. And he chose to keep flirting with Troi to her face, while snogging Ro as soon as Troi was out of the room. No one blames Ro for pursuing Riker, because she didn't know what he knew. The point isn't "Casual sex is wrong"; it's "Don't lead on two people at once, and especially don't have casual sex with one person when you're pretty sure you're more deeply emotionally involved with another."

    Anyway, they gave him only a very *light* chastening, at the end. And he mostly chastened himself, by his obvious awareness that he was the one in a position to feel embarrassed. Neither lady actually gave him much crap about it. But we're perfectly within our rights as the audience to feel a little grossed out when Riker flips from showing Troi the "All My Love" book to: "She's out of the room! Come here, dear Ro-- let's fiddle again."

    The only aspect that I find ridiculous is that Troi would even come close to beating Data at chess.

    Having re-watched this episode, it's pretty clear to me that the only logical explanation of how the Sutterans took over the Enterprise was that this was a carefully planned, well-orchestrated black op on the part of Sutteran intelligence. Consider the way that MacDuff was alone on his ship - no crew, no support, just one man in one ship which intercepts the Enterprise and then destroys itself immediately after taking control.

    MacDuff had to have known where the Enterprise was going to be; this did not seem like a random encounter. Also consider that Data is literally the first crewman disabled by the Sutteran weapon, even before Troi or anyone else is affected - which suggests the Sutterans were using a two-phase weapon, the first to disable Data and the second to disable the rest of the crew. They must have known about Data, and much like the plot in The Game, completing their mission required them to deal with Data at the outset.

    My assumption watching this episode is that while the Federation may not have been familiar with species in this part of the Galaxy, the Sutterans were well aware of the Federation and had studied its patterns and may even have obtained inside information on its technology and the design of its starships.

    Could the Sutteran military have defeated the Enterprise in a normal military engagement? No. But with careful planning and maybe a little inside intelligence about where and when the Enterprise was going to be, and the element of surprise, it stands to reason that a carefully executed "heist" (on par with Voyager's plan to steal a transwarp coil from a Borg Sphere in Dark Frontier) could have succeeded.

    MacDuff was pulling Section 31 stuff with this episode. He was probably the Sutteran equivalent of Garek or Sloan.

    Riker mentions why-did-Mac-Duff-need-Enterprise-with-all-his-power. So at least the writers acknowledged the huge plot hole. Picard comes up with some unmemorable, lame response like 'well, they still couldn't defeat'... so writers did not fill it. Isn't it fun to imagine that maybe Section 31 was behind all the stuff that happened to the Enterprise crew - The Game, Conundrum, etc. - just to discredit the crew because they don't like the way Picard operates and consider the Enterprise a threat to Section 31's agenda? After a while, it's the only thing that might make sense behind all these episodes.

    Data and Troi's chess game and her comment about intuition was obviously a callback to Kirk and Spock's chess games in TOS where Kirk apparently baffled Spock with his humaness or whatever. Maybe 3-D space chess is different than normal chess and really does require more than just logic and knowledge of the game to win, they're still claiming it does in this series so who knows. The point was that we got to see Data make a pretty cool drink for her and got to see them hanging out (maybe I'm in the minority but I do enjoy watching the characters interact as friends while off duty, that's one of the reasons I liked Pulaski so much, she integrated so well (that and Crusher always looks blitzed out of her mind)).

    I agree with Diana and Andrew. There isn't any sort of implication that Riker is being shamed for what he was doing. Also, wow - way to interpret this innocent B-plot as some sort of big, evil, feminist propaganda. It was intended to be light fluff, something for the audience to enjoy, nothing more. There's a similarly-themed episode on DS9 called Fascination, where the entire crew starts acting out on their latent attractions. Incidentally it was also received very badly here.

    The basic premise of this episode was to recontextualise the crew in an unusual situation, and suggest what might happen to the main cast if the reset button was hit, literally. In this case there was some sleeping around, which probably happened a lot anyway, just not on screen. More importantly though was the fact that, for all their memory loss, the crew was able to retain its Starfleet training and Federation principle of not firing upon a technologically inferior and practically defenceless species, and of giving a potentially deadly situation the benefit of their doubt rather than going in, all guns blazing.

    I didn't think the episode was calling Riker out as morally wrong, just as being in a really awkward situation.

    "The shot of the Enterprise engaging the sentry fighters is a classic."

    YES! That was beautiful.

    And I always use that for Star Wars vs Star Trek argument. If the USS Enterprise faced a swarm of TIE fighters then this shot shows what would happen to the fighters.

    The best delivered line of the episode:

    "It's psychologically valid."

    Love it.

    An interesting but not very good episode -- the premise is totally implausible. That some alien can just appear on the ship, wipe out computer memory as well as human memories of hundreds of people, but then can't come up with a weapon to destroy a helpless station...hard to excuse this. I don't think this is great sci-fi.

    Now that I've just seen this episode, I'm trying to think: When did MacDuff appear? Was it just after being scanned by the alien ship in the teaser? Or maybe he was there the whole time.

    The best part of this episode is how the crew reacts to losing their memory: Worf taking control is great. Picard, as expected, is the wisest one. Ro, RIker, Troi were fun to watch.

    The crew's instincts, however, are always there and we get the firing phasers at the MacDuff scene in the end and finally Crusher restores the memories. Neat and tidy. But I thought it was clever of MacDuff to be the first to volunteer for Crusher's procedure and after his negative reaction, discourages other crew members from going through it.

    2 stars for "Conundrum" -- the episode was about the Enterprise in a conundrum but suspicion had to start from the first moment for the viewer with who the hell is this new commander dude? He seemed to be playing nice but his war-like intentions were growing. Sort of a decent plot with a ton of implausibility, but a good episode for watching the main crew members trying to figure things out.

    2.5 stars. Kind of a so-so episode. It starts out being intriguing but the reveal was lackluster. They could have also jettisoned the whole Riker/Ro tryst since it added nothing and just wasn’t that interesting. Plus the episode basically spent most of the hour recapping the characters which the audience knew extremely well so nothing new came from any of that

    I was surprised by MacDuff because I originally didn’t catch that he wasn’t onboard the ship prior to the beam striking the crew. I had just assumed he was a guest star officer the show periodically inserted.

    Overall though episode felt routine and mechanical. There were definitely much better episodes this season and this definitely doesn’t rank with the best sff mystery TNG episodes

    Fun episode. If you had any fun to begin with, then all the plot hole crap can be easily explained away in a number of ways. The tech disparity, for example, is one of those things where you could imagine a society emphasizing neurology and computer technology at the expense of weaponry for a very long time, then suddenly war were declared, you get the Sutterans.

    The only exception to this would be Troi becoming a chess savant, but they clearly did this because it put Data and Troi in ten forward and they needed to give them something mildly competitive to do, something which resulted in Data making a drink and becoming a bartender.

    I'll allow it, even though it's preposterous. Maybe I just have a huge tolerance for plot holes, but I just don't care to deconstruct an episode I'm watching to look for them. I agree with the rating.

    Please note: I am writing this before reading any comments, so excuse me if I repeat something someone else said.

    I do like this episode, but the real Conundrum is how Troi can beat Data in chess!!!

    That aside, if these aliens can wipe minds and penetrate shields, do they really need the Enterprise to fight their battles? Just wipe their opponent's minds!

    @TH I agree!

    @Jay Again, I agree! No offence to Michelle Forbes, but I've always seen her as quite ugly! I have some idea that sometimes my tastes vary from the norm though. *(actually, I don't really see any of the regulars (Troi, Guinan, Tasha, Crusher) as particularly attractive.

    I seriously see MacDuff as the Mule from Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. Even without physical (technological) powers, he can just twist minds (or make them forget) and turn his enemies against themselves. For instance, they could believe that they just signed a treaty with his race, and are going to destroy their weapons! But as Shawn Davis said, the rest of the episode is so interesting and fun, that I will forgive this and still enjoy the show

    @Moegreen & JJ I just read your comment(s). As a high school chess coach myself, that plot hole bothers me more than anything else about this episode! Poker, yes, chess no!

    @ Sean Hagins,

    "As a high school chess coach myself, that plot hole bothers me more than anything else about this episode! Poker, yes, chess no!"

    Yes, this point is beyond preposterous. Maybe one of the writers saw the odd TOS episode and idly thought "well, if Kirk can beat Spock, then..." But alas no, Kirk being able to do that is a *plot point*. Here it's a plot hole; more like a sinkhole.

    And I actually don't even believe that she should be able to beat Data at poker either. Frankly programming him for optimal poker performance shouldn't be all that hard. Experts have advanced algorithms for how to set up false patterns of bidding and behavior so that their bluffs can't be tracked, and Data could easily randomize it for real. The one irritating thing about frankly all fictional poker representations is the idea that somehow your facial control (poker face) is equivalent to your skill level. Most of it is hard number crunching and falsifying likely holdings based on what the others know. Data should be crushing the others in poker, although I'm willing to accept that Riker is a bone fide expert and knows how to fool Data's systems somehow.

    It's entirely possible that Troi made a bunch of wild and amateur moves that wouldn't be picked up by Data's 3D chess algorithms (assuming he has them). I've seen pros get beat by amateurs in games of skill many times that way. It's why beginner's luck is a phenomenon.

    A buddy of mine played on the Chess Club in High School and he was a state champion, yet I watched him get soundly beaten by a ten year old he'd been teaching the game to (for only a couple of weeks).

    It was pretty funny because my buddy would say "are you sure you want to do that?" (trying to coach on unwise moves) and his nephew said "yes, I have a plan". My friend didn't hold back either, he's a rather ruthless player who prefers being on the offensive.

    So yes, my buddy isn't Data and his 10 year old nephew isn't Troi, but sometimes, unconventional "risky" novice moves can open up attacks traditional players wouldn't expect.

    Also, I'd imagine that 3D Chess has many more opportunities to checkmate than normal chess. Surely that would make it much harder to plan a sound defense.

    This is another one those episodes where the enemy really hasn't thought their cunning plan through very well.

    After being attacked and manipulated into war with the Lysians, how is the Federation going to respond to the Satarrans? Quickie war? Blockade? Nothing good would come out of it. If the Federation began some sort of peace talks or friendship with the Lysians, the Satarrans still lose.

    El Salvador attacking a US Naval vessel and manipulating the crew into a war with Panama ends very badly for El Salvador if the plan fails.

    The biggest plot hole of the episode... Troi beating Data at chess! Seriously.

    The set-up was really weak as others have discussed and distracts from the episode. Yet watching them react to an amnesia-induced reset was very interesting.

    I think this would have worked a lot better another one of Q's tests.

    I enjoyed Erich Anderson's guest appearance.

    Dave in MN: I just had to sit back in awe at your ridiculous post.

    You actually create a false equivalency (a massive one), admit in the same post that it is, in fact, a false equivalency... and yet this is your argument that Troi beating Data at chess is plausible? Really?

    I have a more plausible explanation:

    When this episode was made, chess computers could not challenge Grand Masters. It seemed like it might be a long time before they could. The writers were short sighted and thought what they were writing was realistic.

    No. It was stupid. A good sci-fi writer would have factored in advances in computing. And data is not just a computer - he is a sentient AI.

    Troi isn't beating Data. Not ever.

    So why didn't the alien race that took over the ship just buy a photon torpedo launcher from a ferengi trader and blow up the enemy installation themselves instead?

    I cannot believe this merits 3 stars,Jammer-cliche was piled upon cliche.
    Troi beats data at chess as Kirk beats Spock at chess, the crew is once again taken over ,possessed,subborned in an excessively convoluted and unstable plot-Riker gets his leg over everyone in sight.
    Oh and Picard ,admittedly having allowed his mind to be taken over, destroys a crew of innocents which is put right with a mere apology?-I don't think so.

    Never mind the plot holes-this was not fun.

    This episode confirms my biggest criticism of TNG. The crew lose their personalities entirely, yet any discernible differences are hard to pick out. I almost wish the episode's closing log had noted that although personalities had been restored, they realized there wasn't much missing in the first place other than ranks, affiliations and a few staple quirks. During the final "battle" sequence I had to remind myself that these people weren't their usual selves. If I had tuned in at this point, I'd question the plot and who they were attacking, but certainly wouldn't imagine they had lost their personalities. I would have loved to see Picard revert to his grumpy Farpoint persona, for example, but alas. They do say space is actually a shade of beige, right?

    Jamie, while you can argue that the execution was not done well, I think the fact that they WERE their usual selves was the point. It's easy to make a "what you are in the shadows" storyline where people, stripped of the pressures of society or whatever, become completely different than their public persona. Normal upstanding members of society becoming depraved sadists or hedonists, socially demanding moral pillars showing their hypocrisy, whatever. It may be entertaining to see the devil inside, the dual personalities, but it's a cynical view of humanity. And if there's one thing TNG was against, it's a cynical view of humanity.

    I think the "message" of this episode was that, what these cast members are in the shadows is exactly what they are in the light. The memory erasure bit is a scifi approach to removing societal pressures that allows it to fit into this show. But it's the same thing. Picard, Riker, et al aren't in Starfleet to make money, or to satisfy their parents, or to gain power over others, or whatever. They are there because they believe in the principles of the Federation. And they don't believe in the principles of the Federation because it's convenient or because everyone else does, they do because they firmly feel they are right deep within their souls.

    The amnesia ray didn't remove their skills, and it didn't remove their core personalities. And their core personalities are to use those skills "for the betterment of mankind", or at least the ship in this case. So Crusher realizes she's a doctor, realizes she still has plenty of medical knowledge, and so goes to work finding a cure. LaForge uses his engineering skill to make the ship go, Worf uses his tactical knowledge to man his post, etc. If they still have their deep commitment to duty, and still have their skills, why wouldn't they?

    But in order to show this "message", the show had to devote most of the runtime (other than the perfunctory mystery elements) to the conundrum at hand. Because Picard et al believe so strongly in the principles of the Federation, they would not obey an order contrary to those principles. So the show had to set that up, that - as far as they could tell - everything about their organization said they needed to destroy this space station. But everything about themselves said that that was wrong. The show HAD to make the destruction of the space station as the easy, obvious answer. That way, the decision to not destroy it would show true courage, not only on Picard's part but also for the rest of the crew to not go along with MacDuff's mutiny.

    Now, I realize that what you wrote isn't necessarily the same as what I'm talking. I know you're not necessarily talking about the crew getting completely different, cynical personalities and all, but still. Like I said, they needed to focuses on the similarities and place the conundrum front and center in order to get to the theme of the episode across. And that just didn't leave enough time for focusing on shifting personalities on minor manners, which seems to be what you wanted. My guess is that the writers/director/producers decided that the fluff during the amnesia section of the show - Worf assuming command, Data as a bartender - would be more amusing and entertaining to the viewers than other personality changes during the conundrum section of the show, and so focused on that instead.

    Thus, the only personality change was Ro/Riker. Because that one made sense. Ro's aloofness is due primarily to the accident/court martial in her past, probably more so than her life as a refugee (although that helps). There's hints elsewhere (Rascals, Preemptive Strike) that she wants to belong, wants to be part of a community, and so it makes sense that she would be more outgoing here. And Riker's animosity toward her is 100% due to her past. With neither one knowing about it, it's not too surprising that he might be attracted to her. So it was a good "B" plot, and a good use of Ro's character. Since her personality is the one most heavily defined by a single event in her past (Tapestry notwithstanding...), and a relatively recent event in her past (so one that hasn't had time to become, for lack of a better phrase, ingrained into her soul), she was a good choice to have the most obvious personality change. And since Riker was the one most notably negative toward her early on, it makes sense to have him be the one to change his view of her.

    Would the episode have been better if there were more subtle personality changes after the computer told them who they were? Perhaps. Like I said, the execution of the idea is certainly arguable (although I think it is a good but not great episode). But all changes would need to still serve the central theme that these are still the same people deep down. And it may be that the writers felt that subtle personality changes would detract from the theme.

    "My guess is that the writers/director/producers decided that the fluff during the amnesia section of the show - Worf assuming command, Data as a bartender - would be more amusing and entertaining to the viewers than other personality changes during the conundrum section of the show, and so focused on that instead."

    I'll add that these do show something real about Worf and Data's personalities, albeit in a funny way. Worf comes from aristocracy, has very strong beliefs, and this seems to have made its way into how he sees himself. Normally we look at Worf's need to restrain himself in terms of Worf's need to restrain himself from violence, but his need to restrain himself from an egoistic assumption that he is superior to those around him is something that this episode also shows. Of course Worf's background is part of his *memory*, but I guess what I'm getting at is what whatever core personality traits remained are still going to depend on early experiences, even if they can't remember them, and Worf was raised, for his first few years, as the heir to one of the most noble houses in the self-satisfied (though to some extent internally crumbling) Klingon Empire. His respect for Starfleet values and "human"/Federation humility is also a part of his personality, and nurtured by the Rozhenkos, but I can see how not recalling this would give him an inflated view of himself. Anyway Worf's respect for hierarchical tradition is pretty drilled into him, even though he often goes against it for what he believes is right.

    Data is in a sense the opposite -- he basically has no egotism, at least none in the way we usually think of it (as relating to career). This isn't to say that he sees himself as worthless, but he sees bartending as just as valid a possible job as anything else he could be doing, because not only does he not have *that* strong a sense of the usefulness of hierarchies besides a certain rational understanding thereof, but he tends to admire human social interactions, interpersonal stuff, etc. -- he would find a bartender just as valuable a position as captain, I think. That mixing drinks itself seems below the limits of his skill level is in a way even a commentary on how almost all his regular duties are far below his skill level -- it's mostly the interpersonal stuff he struggles with on a daily basis, and the work is only really challenging when they encounter some new exceptional situation (which does happen frequently, but not always). Data's position on the bartender not being beneath him also sits with the show's optimism -- after all, Guinan is in a sense totally overqualified for "bartender" in and of itself, but she has made that niche totally her own because of her superhuman talent for interpersonal insight.

    I agree this is a good-not-great episode but I think these character details, while not revolutionary, generally add up to a satisfying hour, along with the central "told to go shoot a stranger" moral dilemma. I like that there's relatively little *drama* about Worf's mistaking himself for being in command, and that he quickly steps aside once the truth is revealed.

    - Troi is a chess master
    - Data has to make an ice cream sundae "as only he can"
    - Ro is back

    All that cr*p, and the opening credits haven't even rolled...hating the episode within 3 minutes.

    This episode has always been a favorite if mine, probability since I first saw it as a kid and didn’t notice the plot holes.

    I liked that one cheeky writer managed to get his thoughts about the episode in through Riker’s comments to Picard in one of the ending scenes: “With all the power that McDuff had to alter our brain chemistry and manipulate the computers, it’s hard to believe that he needed the Enterprise.”

    I also always found it a little weird that they didn’t express more concern/guilt about destroying an innocent ship of 53 people. I know they can’t realky be blamed, but it would still be human nature to feel some guilt.

    I guess this one was good for what happens when the crew doesn't remember their rank. Seeing Worf show leadership wasn't surprising. He has a narrow viewpoint (I think he would agree he is about honour and battle) and is forceful in trying to achieve that even with an unknown and only potential adversary. So I guess 7 for that

    But the fact that MacDuff has such technology but his homeworld has limited weapons seems unlikely. It would have been better had he stolen the ship and memory sweeping technology from some Ferengis.

    @Skeptical I like your analysis on Ro and Riker. I also thought the portrayal of Ro as a character is refreshing change from the other female characters now that Pulaski is gone. We have Troi and Crusher. Weak.

    It was funny at the end when Riker approaches Ro and Troi and starts to do his "aw shucks" routine and Ro puts him in his place: in situations like they just went through people do things that they always wanted to do. She has no shame about it unlike how many female characters are portrayed (think of Troi grovelling to the captain in Masterpiece about the fact she had sex). Riker is left being faced with having to think about his actions. "I`m confused" he says to Troi...ha ha ha!! GOLD

    Gotta do the end first: think this, one of the comical XENA eps when Xena was laughing about some antic....HO HO HO AHH HAH etc., don't remember which one it was......that is what you should all do when viewing Ro and Riker in one another's clutches even though they actually hate each other. I truly enjoyed that and even more so when they found out what they did during their idiocy moments. Once again, it was due to the way they disliked each other.

    No way that Troi would ever be capable of beating Data at chess or any other game or whatever. That is malarky.

    As for Guinan, I believe Whoopi Goldberg had already left TNG. Not sure of that but I am not going to look it up.

    SOOOO. McDuff is just a duff/crap, If he had so much ability to rip our guys apart AND disable Data too, why could he have not build viable ships and weapons and go kill off the Lysian's in the first place, hmmmmmmmm? The Lysian's were not bothering him or his people?, it was him alone desiring to be a Klingon and Romulon rolled into one to always be at war and destroy. He had a Hitler complex.

    TROI AND RIKER HAVE NOT BEEN A LIVE-IN COUPLE FOR EONS. At the time when they would up on the Enterprise they did not have a desire to return to the "lover" state. Would any one of you people go back to a relationship that ended 5 to 10 years ago? If you DID it would prove that you are still a child. It would be unwise as you are a different person today........

    Without naming each thing, it is clear that these people were left with selective memories and that makes no sense at all. It can only be done if a person is conscience of what he or she is thinking of doing.

    Error correction. Troi and Riker......when they WOUND up on Enterprise.....

    "TROI AND RIKER HAVE NOT BEEN A LIVE-IN COUPLE FOR EONS. At the time when they would up on the Enterprise they did not have a desire to return to the "lover" state. Would any one of you people go back to a relationship that ended 5 to 10 years ago?"

    Isn't that the point, though? They don't have any memories of their past relationship but obviously are still attracted to each other on a physical and social level that transcends memory. I'm not sure if you're married, but I'd like to think that if my wife and I ever lost our memories we'd still make a connection with each other somehow. It's at least plausible, if not likely.

    @ Cinnamon,

    Troi and Riker broke up because he had career ambitions, not because they didn't like each other. They still like each other, and there's probably a lot more respect than there was the first time around. Not sure why this strikes you as weird. Fate saw fit to put them on the same ship as each other, and after that they had to pretty much keep each other at bay for professional reasons (like Picard and Crusher). But it doesn't mean there wasn't still something there.

    Incidentally, have you ever dated someone from a telepathic species? The term "Imzadi" has some connotations that probably refer to having shared someone's inmost thoughts and feelings. "We're different people now" wouldn't mean to a Betazoid what it means to you, and their relationship had at least some of that in it.

    I thought it was realistic and an ahead of it's time feminist statement that Ro was sexually harassing Riker. Women get horny. and it was great to see her being so aggressive to get what she wanted

    Another very good one, I thought. It makes no sense that MacDuff doesn't make himself an admiral. But other than that I think it's a pretty coherent episode. I must admit that I didn't think the crew reacted "naturally" to suddenly being without memory, but the camera work when they do is nicely unsettling.

    Worf's self-appointed spell in command is a lovely touch. Ensign Ro improves any episode she appears in (though why - given she's an ensign, does she appear so prominently in the manifest?)

    It's hard to accept that a culture that's apparently so backward, technologically, to the Federation - despite being an extremly warlike race, they have only weak and underdeveloped weaponry - could so easily overcome the crew and its computer systems.

    I laughed when the crew manifest came up and the computer wrote the text to the screen like a teletype. A mid '80s home computer could fill a screen with information retrieved from a floppy drive a lot faster than that. That's one of my sci-fi pet hates. Computers of the future always display information one letter at a time.

    Kirk would have ended that war. I can't buy that Deanna would beat Data at 3D chess. Or anyone, really.

    Good one! I hadn't seen it before and the mystery and suspense held up throughout.

    The premise is ridiculous, but it’s absolutely marvelous as the character piece it was intended to be.

    Chess, Troi beats Data—

    Probably Data has a difficulty setting, right? Every chess program I’ve ever used over the last 40 years had one, including the Atari 2600 cartridge.

    Otherwise, he would handily clobber just about everyone, except perhaps people like the Stratagema guy.

    This episode, while well-shot, well-acted, and mostly a great premise that plays out well, has always reminded me of a certain line from The Simpsons:

    Chief Wiggum: "Hey I crack cases all the time. Like the case of the symphony conductor who murdered his star cellist."
    Lou: "That was an episode of Columbo, chief. They show you who the bad guy is at the beginning of each one."
    Chief Wiggum: "Yeah but you have to remember."

    It's really prrrrretty obvious to the viewer that McDuff is "laying it on" a little thick. It can be kind of a bringdown to the episode, in fact, because it may be a mystery to the *crew* thanks to the technobabbly explanation, but it's really not at all mysterious to us who the bad actor is, just why exactly they're doing it.

    This is a very fun episode, which is also well-acted by the principals and has a few tricks up its sleeve. These points alone merit at least three stars because the whole idea is to enjoy the ride (cf. Phaedon's comment above).

    There is genuine sexual tension between Riker and Troi, and even between Riker and Ro. There is Worf saying, "I am decorated as well," showing off his mighty baldric in response to Picard's comparatively puny 4 stars, which is one of Worf's great lines of any episode. There's the "patient in a bathing suit" line from Dr. Crusher's patient. There's Data the bartender. And there are some surprises in the actual plot, such as Picard ordering the destruction of that first nearly-defenseless starship, and even Worf backing up the captain at the end.)

    There are plot holes and seeming illogicalities, but there are at least plausible explanations for everything, unlike, say, Dr. Crusher -- Dr. Crusher! -- volunteering to fly a shuttle directly into a star in Suspicions. It is plausible that a species could have extremely advanced mind/memory control/shapeshifting capabilities but not the technology to develop super-advanced weaponry (the Dune series has a lot of this type of thing). It is plausible that the species would believe that avoiding detection would be easier as a first officer than a captain.

    (I will admit that it is a bit much that the alien species could have remotely programmed McDuff's photo and biographical information directly into the ship's computer, but it doesn't ruin the episode for me.)

    What comes closest to the edge is Troi seemingly beating Data at chess. But if you watch it closely, it's Data -- not Troi -- who "discovers" the seven move checkmate. He gives up before Troi actually needs to execute it. There's no indication that Troi herself knew anything about it (her saying "We'll see about that" is how any novice responds to a know-it-all). Watch how quickly she puts back the pieces! I think she saw the opportunity to make a point about intuition and took it, then got off the subject as quickly as possible and on to Samarian Sunsets.

    The most absurdly ridiculous plot, with a mysterious new character on the Bridge right from the start so we know the “who” behind everything. Yet I love it! As Jammer says, with sci-fi you often have to suspend your disbelief and just go with the flow.

    I love how the crew acted completely themselves despite not knowing who they were - especially Worf, Riker, Picard, and Troi. The final scene between Riker, Ro, and Troi , after Riker’s behaviour with both women, then the restoration of their missing memories, was hilarious.

    Oh, and the music was good too! A strong 3 stars.

    I noticed the new helm wasn’t in this. Last week’s credits gave her name as just Ensign. Perhaps that’s the character’s actual name? In which case she is Ensign Ensign, like Major Major in Catch 22. (She should change her name to Commander so she gets promoted - they couldn’t have Ensign Commander!

    I like this episode, especially Worf's obnoxious assumption that he must be in command. After all , since he has the biggest metal sash, he must be in charge. Picard only has those four puny collar pips . They must be boy scout merit pips for signalling or archery.....nothing more.

    The subplot with the romantic triangle formed by Ensign Ro, Riker and Troi is fun. However, Kieran McDuff is pretty gross,...perfect the unctuous agent provocateur goading the others forward in the surprise attack.

    It seems to me that the alien Sutterans did not make Kieran McDuff captain (let alone admiral) of the Enterprise, was to get the blame directed against true members of the Federation, and escape from culpability themselves.

    Almost as ludicrous as Troi beating Data at chess is the sequence of moves shown. Data moves a piece that looks like a rook and places it right next to Troi's king, saying "check". Troi then moves a completely different piece (a queen or bishop?), forcing mate in 7 moves. But the rook is still right next to her king, so presumably she's still in check and her move is therefore illegal. You could explain this away by saying "but this is 3D chess, the rules are different", but to me this whole scene smacks of writer/director ignorance.

    1. There's no way anyone on the Enterprise could beat my phone at chess, let alone Data.
    2. The moves shown are nonsensical.
    3. Chess is not "a game of intuition".

    These kind of scenes usually serve as some kind of metaphorical link with something that's about to happen in the episode, but I'm struggling to see how that applies here. Is the Lysian/Satarran war a game of chess, and MacDuff's memory trick supposed to be an unexpected genius "intuitive" move? That doesn't really work for me in the same way as, for example, Data learning to bluff in poker, then applying the skills in real life later.

    Putting these nerdy points side, I agree with others - this is a fun episode as long as you can get over the gaping plot holes.

    The metaphor is about the importance of intuition (though the chess game is a bad example). Even with their identities suppressed, the crew just knows that this "war" is wrong. Except Worf. He's the "ploys and gambits" guy just doing what he's told by the fake orders.

    @ Jeffrey Jakucyk,

    "The metaphor is about the importance of intuition"

    Hm, I don't know about that. I don't personally think there really is a metaphor here, just a plot puzzle they need to solve. Picard knows something is wrong because the scenario as it's playing out is completely illogical: a so-called mortal enemy whose technology is so far inferior to theirs that they could not possibly pose a threat. In fact given the nature of the fake orders and the seriousness of the situation, it takes quite a lot of proof to get Picard to toss aside the 'mission'. If the stakes had been a bit lower he would probably have already figured it out just from their initial enemy encounter. So I don't really think they needed intuition to solve this, just the most basic application of reasoning. Mostly I think it's just a fun romp letting our crew have some interesting interactions.

    Uuuuuuuuuuh, this is a great one! Loved every minute of it!

    I didn't like the 5-second resolution at the end. They should've dispensed with the Riker romancing every tail on the ship angle and instead given us more (much more) of the whole story.

    I've alway found this episode a fun watch, which is all I need it to be.

    Three thoughts on the episode: (I only skimmed the other comments, so my apologies if I missed where someone else already made these points more clearly.)

    1) Kudos to @Jeffrey Jakucyk for getting what the "Troi beats Data at chess" scene is all about, and why it's in the episode at all. It's not just a bit of filler. It's a metaphorical synopsis of the point of the entire episode: When choosing a course of action, mere "data" (pun intended) is insufficient, if it is not accompanied by healthy awareness of gut feelings. That kind of gut knowledge is power. Troi, as the empathic counselor, of the entire population of the Enterprise, epitomizes the "aware of gut feelings" approach. Data not only epitomizes but is even named for the rigidly logical, data-based approach. The writers not only wanted but needed to show Data losing to Troi, because that was THE POINT. I suspect that the scene would not have appeared in the episode at all if they had really been thinking of chess as a game in which "feelings" have nothing to do with victory. In fairness to them, they were writing before there were algorithms that could consistently beat chess masters. They may have thought that this was not just a measure of how limited-but-subject-to-improvement coding was at the time, but a sign that there is a qualitatively different facet of the game that computers would never be capable of performing.

    2) McDuff sure was lucky that none of the command crew noticed that there were children onboard, which would have raised the question of why they would be on a battleship during a war.

    3) I think what people are missing about the Ro-Troi-Riker interaction is that in their state of amnesia, the two women were kept from communicating with each other (and thus recognizing that they were both being played Riker) by their jealousy toward each other, and in the last scene, they have joined forces so that he can't play them against each other anymore. This, too, is a metaphor for the episode's whole point: Knowledge is power, and lack of awareness is vulnerability. It is not a coincidence that Troi is in both the opening and closing scenes that sum up "the point." It's a classic "inclusio," or "bookend structure."

    A lot of fun if you don't think about the gaping plot holes too deeply. Biggest pet peeve is the lack of remorse over murdering innocent people, even if it was performed under mind control. The pot pie space baby's mom and crystalline entity both received the kind of consideration one would expect from a crew who values all life.

    The chess scene was ridiculous. Ships counselor just so happens to beat a supercomputer android in 3-DIMENSIONAL CHESS, with an 8 move checkmate? Chess is not intuition, and there's no way an android capable of billions (trillions as clarified in measure of a man) of calculations per second is going to fall for an 7-8 move forced checkmate (when stockfish on your phone nowadays can instantly see a mate in 15). The whole premise of the entire ships senior staff just so happening to be chess grandmasters (in that weird 3d split board version and not even regular chess to boot) is ludicrous. I'm a 1600-1700 rated player and God what I would give to play against these characters. .

    The chess scene was ridiculous but at the time the episode was made the best chess grandmasters could still beat computer programs. Even assuming that it's still silly that Troi, who AFAIK was never presented as some sort of expert chess player, could beat Data. Today the best chess programs can beat every human and centuries from now that would be even more true.

    I enjoyed this episode and I agree with the 3 star rating. It's entertaining and interesting but less so if you focus on all the gaping plot holes.

    As for why the Satarrans didn't use their advanced memory wiping / computer wiping & rewriting technology on the Lysians, the assumption is that these two alien species had similar levels of technology in this area and could protect themselves from that sort of attack which the Federation could not.

    This brings up an unaddressed issue. The Federation perhaps would not, but I imagine the Ferengi/Klingons/Romulans/etc. would love to trade advanced weaponry to the Lysians or Satarrans in exchange for their memory wiping technology.

    That's not what I mean. I meant it's absurd how almost all the main characters are so good at chess that they can calculate 6-8 move checkmates in 3 dimensions. Let alone beat a 24th century computer at the game. The people who beat chess computers in real life were former world champions or top chess priorities (and those computers eventually defeated them when they were improved). Even if they didn't beat data or spock or whatever, just the fact that counselor troi, Geordi, or Riker can casually calculate a 3d forced checkmate that many moves long as if they are experts is absurd. Like is mastering chess an academy requirement or something? BTW I came to add another point I noticed (wasn't just randomly checking replies months later on this episode). At the beginning, they mention holodeck program (or something to that effect).."C47". That also just so happened to be the processor that was affected in one of the episodes where data was hooked up to the ships computer, C47.(can't remember which one, maybe "Masks" or "Quality of Life" or "Phantasms", don't remember). This is not the only time an exact number like that was repeated in star trek. That energy ribbon in the movie where the guy was destroying stars to alter its path so it would come to him..etc, supposedly traveled through the galaxy once every 39.1 years...39.1 also just so happened to be the exact temperature of a borg ship as stated in the other movie. I wonder if they do this deliberately to see if viewers and star trek geeks notice, hard to believe multiple exact repetitions of the same letters and numbers is just a coincidence..what are the odds? Especially when there were only a few star trek movies made (at least the c47 there were hundreds of episodes where something like that could be repeated). Just wanted to add that little OCD question in lol.

    *chess prodigy*, not "priorities" lol

    I just looked up about the 47 thing and I was right. That number is referenced over 60 times and appears to be deliberate. So it wasn't just an obsessed geek thing lol! In fact even in this same episode there were 47 "centripods Lysian ships" programmed to defend the central command. I found a list online that shows all the times 47 was mentioned, and I even realized more examples that weren't listed. Such as in "the game" when a woman in the turbolift says to wesley "I'm on level 47". Turns out one of the script writers deliberately snuck in 47 as many times as he could!

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