Star Trek: The Next Generation


1.5 stars

Air date: 5/9/1994
Teleplay by Joe Menosky
Story by Brannon Braga
Directed by Cliff Bole

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

After three straight outings featuring stories that clearly hinted at a closing series tidying up unfinished character business (albeit not especially successfully), we get one last trip into bad sci-fi tedium with "Emergence," which would've been right at home in the middle stretch of season seven that gave us "Sub Rosa," "Masks," and "Genesis," TNG's Trilogy of Terrible.

Of those three, "Emergence" most resembles "Masks," in that there's a bunch of crazy stuff going on and it's all supposed to be a metaphorical representation of something more significant and highbrow (or at least middlebrow). At this point, I think maybe we've been one too many times to the metaphor well of Joe Menosky — who has the teleplay credit here from a story with Brannon Braga's name on it, but which mostly seems to be an asinine foray into a holodeck-gone-awry pastiche.

The plot is that the Enterprise begins developing its own conscious intelligence based on the massive knowledge base that is the ship's computer, with all its recorded mission logs and personal data. From this intelligence it begins to synthesize a series of connected circuit nodes that suggest the ship itself is becoming sentient. The ship begins synthesizing a physical presence in a cargo bay that the crew believes is its progeny.

That's not a bad concept for a sci-fi story. But the show drives itself into a coma-inducing morass when the computer's consciousness begins using the holodeck to express itself through a series of holodeck programs, combining various characters, eras, and scenarios into a ponderous muddle of sequences that do not for a moment cohere into anything thoughtful or intriguing. They instead come off as random scenes playing out in front of us, alleging the illusion of meaning where none actually exists. The most thematically consistent part of all this is that there's a train, and everyone aboard it is trying to get to "Vertiform City," which is the computer's way of symbolizing the realization of its birthing journey. There are plenty of other details, but none of them work as good storytelling. (Meanwhile, I kept wanting — now, albeit not in 1994 when it originally aired — for the train conductor, played by David Huddleston, to break out and shout at somebody, "Condolences! The bums lost!" But all he could muster was "Ticket, please.")

There's probably a decent story that could've been made from the crux of "Emergence." The idea of the ship becoming its own intelligence and creating its own offspring is reasonably intriguing, as is the idea of the final scene, where Picard notes that he didn't view the entity begotten from the Enterprise as threatening because, well, it came from us. But unfortunately, the way the vast majority of "Emergence" is executed makes success impossible. Here is yet another seventh season episode where it feels like everyone is sleepwalking through it — the writers, the producers, the director, the actors, everyone.

Previous episode: Bloodlines
Next episode: Preemptive Strike

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76 comments on this post

Latex Zebra
Mon, Mar 11, 2013, 7:22am (UTC -6)
I remember this episode being on a VHS of 3-4 episodes I'd managed to grab when it was first aired in the UK.

I remember this being really bad. I have no desire to revisit it.
I feel sorry that you had to.
Mon, Mar 11, 2013, 1:15pm (UTC -6)
This should have been saved for Voyager. It's just the kind of high concept sci-fi that Menosky was famous for. He was always kind of a Bragga-lite.
Mon, Mar 11, 2013, 10:27pm (UTC -6)
In a way, this show is as much a first season bookend as "Bloodlines" and "All Good Things," only they didn't make it explicit. Consider everything that happened to the Enterprise computer in its first year after launch: it became a repository for the Bynar planetary mainframe, host to Picard's disembodied consciousness and the Velara microbrain, and was goosed by the Jarada probe.

In year two, the computer conjured a self-aware Moriarty and merged with the mind of Ira Graves. It was also infected by the Iconian probe virus, but that was presumably wiped out.

Beyond that, after being infested with self-aware nanites, interfacing with Barclay's super-genius, absorbing Data's daydreams, and transforming into whatever "Masks" was about, we should've been surprised if the series had ended *without* the Enterprise computer coming to life.
GC McDowell
Tue, Mar 12, 2013, 10:23am (UTC -6)
Interesting observation, Grumpy. It might have been more interesting if even a few of those connections to self-aware computer concepts from throughout the series were made explicit. It might have been more interesting than the random holo-characters that were used instead.
William B
Tue, Mar 12, 2013, 6:07pm (UTC -6)
I agree with Grumpy's point; and in general I think there is actually a metaphorical function that the ship's computer coming to life serves as well. The episode opens with Picard explaining his interpretation of The Tempest as Prospero recognizing that his existence is ending and wondering what the future will hold; that was written at the end of Shakespeare's career. Given Menosky's long-standing interest in myths, I think idea of a new life being birthed from the ship and in particular from the holodeck (the stories the crew tell themselves) means that is "about" the show ending, and the notion that the story lives on after the writers and cast and crew work on it -- that the show takes on a figurative life of its own.

I don't think the episode itself is good or anything (I haven't watched it in years, so can't comment; I doubt it is anything to write home about) but the episode is concerned with the series ending and the show's legacy in a way that the rest of episodes in this stretch are, too. It's just not particularly effective at exploring that.
Tue, Mar 12, 2013, 9:36pm (UTC -6)
This episode has always been a pleasure of mine (I was going to say "guilty pleasure", but why should I feel guilty about liking something?). Maybe it's just because I love trains. Or maybe I enjoyed the puzzle pieces and clues that the crew had to pick up to figure out what was going on. Did it amount to anything? Probably not. But it was still an interesting ride. I always get a kick out of Data casually holding the car back as he makes repairs to the sewer!
Nick P.
Wed, Mar 13, 2013, 7:35am (UTC -6)
OK,Nic and William, you have talked me into it, I will finally see this episode again for the first time in 20 years!

Wait, what I meant to say was that if I was trapped on a deserted Island and had nothing else to do, and this was the only episode of ANYTHING, that I would re-watch.
Wed, Mar 13, 2013, 12:21pm (UTC -6)
When you put it that way, William B, now I wish this episode had actually been about those themes, not just potentially. At the time, I caught the significance of the Shakespeare allusion, but it doesn't carry through the rest of the story.
Wed, Mar 13, 2013, 1:07pm (UTC -6)
One of my least favorite episodes of TNG. I think it's a perfect example of how TNG was out of gas.

There is an interesting premise here. But it's horribly rendered -- the train stuff is just dumb and boring. It's also another example of season 7's overuse of Troi and the very slow and dull pace of many of the episodes.

Honestly, season 7 of TNG in many ways could be considered season 1 of Voyager -- shipbound action that falls flat and has poor use of characters.
Tue, Mar 26, 2013, 10:12pm (UTC -6)
At the very end, after they say "End Program" and the Holodeck finally shuts down, why do the champagne glasses remain?
Sun, Mar 31, 2013, 8:29pm (UTC -6)
I would've lobbied for him to say "Never mind that shit, here comes MONGO!!"
Fri, May 17, 2013, 4:14am (UTC -6)
In the words of Chris Pine's Kirk, "Enough of the metaphors, ok? That's an order."

I guess the champagne glasses were replicated, I think it's in Trek lore somewhere that as well as projecting holograms and conjuring force fields a holodeck can also act like a giant replicator so you can eat and drink in all those simulations of France and whatnot. Replicators are always seen constructing the container as well as the drink.

Also explains why Wesley comes out wet in the very first episode - whoever created the program must've thought it was funny (or maybe feels more realistic) to use replicated water instead of holographic.
Thu, Jun 27, 2013, 12:18pm (UTC -6)
Riker: But why the holodeck? It doesn't make any sense.
Data: Commander, I believe what happens on the holodeck has a direct effect on the ship.

That's gotta be the worst of TNG in a nutshell right there
Sun, Jul 14, 2013, 5:25pm (UTC -6)
This would have been a fun episode for an early season, where the ship came to life and became a permanent sentient character on the show.
Mon, Oct 28, 2013, 12:58am (UTC -6)
I thought this episode was bad because of its ending. All of this buildup and the end result is: the life form leaves, the ship's intelligence disappears, and everyone goes on their merry way. We never find out why the life form was created or what it set out to do, and why the ship randomly decided to just create it. There was no cause and no end result, with a bunch of random stuff in between.
Sat, Feb 1, 2014, 3:08am (UTC -6)
Q messes with Picard but this time he does it secretly.
It's either that or the ship's computer becomes temporarily sentient and gives birth.
I'm going with Q.
Wed, Feb 12, 2014, 2:02pm (UTC -6)
Cute. The Enterprise comes alive and creates life. Not a bad idea.

Could have been really good. Sadly, it was not.
Fri, May 9, 2014, 11:40pm (UTC -6)
Am I the only person who thought this was a mostly good, fairly ambitious sci-fi episode??
John Dunn
Wed, Aug 6, 2014, 7:36am (UTC -6)
I watched this episode from the perspective of it being one of the last episodes of the series. There was much foreshadowing of Deep Space Nine in season 7, with cameos by DS9 characters in TNG episodes. This episode was decidedly not good, but I got what they were attempting. The opening scene has Picard explaining to Data Shakespeare's perspective of Prospero being the change from one era from another, from the Renaissance to the modern era, and that Shakespeare was excited about it. Prospero represented the old, who had one last trick. TNG, at this point, was Prospero -- now the old series making way for a new one in Deep Space Nine, as well as looking forward to the large screen roll-out of TNG. It's Star Trek, so there must be allegory. The Enterprise, becoming self-aware, is "reproducing." The squiggly node in appearance resembled DS9. At the end of the episode, having completed this new "life form," it goes away, birthed from the Enterprise, out into Deep Space. I bet if I re-ran that scene, it's departure arch would have looked like a nine. Cornball, but given the nature of the writing in the last season, entirely expected. Then we see Picard explaining his willingness to allow this beast almost destroy the Enterprise because new life is good, or some such thing. There.
Mon, Aug 18, 2014, 12:52pm (UTC -6)
Unlike many people, I didn't mind Sub Rosa that much, and I thought that Masks was at least trying something interesting. This one, though, had nothing new or interesting to say. Holodeck episodes are generally hideous - how many times must the holodeck go wrong before they install an emergency cut-off switch? - and this must be the about the worst. The holodeck sequences here are just a miscellaneous heap of unrelated stuff, with no obvious point. I mean, why the heck would the ship generate all this stuff as some kind of metaphor? It adds nothing to what is, at best, a pretty run of the mill sci-fi plot. This episode is right down there with the worst of season 1. Zero stars. I hate saying that. The writers gave us so much over the course of the series, but this just seems like self-indulgence on their part.
Sat, Sep 13, 2014, 8:00pm (UTC -6)
Weird, I like this episode. Random comments:

1) I don't consider it a "holodeck malfunction" episode. Yes, the safeties went offline again, but it wasn't a major plot point. Yes, the holodeck screwed up, but only because the entire Enterprise was going haywire. So I see it as a "something weird happening on the Enterprise" episode, which I have a higher tolerance for.

2) While everyone talks about the ship coming to life and all, the truth is that the ship was more of an incubator for the new life. Whatever caused the thingy to be created, it wasn't the idea of the Enterprise. Of course, the question remained how a species could have evolved to using the computers in random passing starships to reproduce, but whatever. In any case, that means I don't have a problem or a particular fascination with the idea of the computer becoming an emergent intelligence. Adam thought that the birth of the new life going away made the whole thing pointless, but I disagree. We saw a radically different new life form being birthed, which to me was a satisfactory conclusion to this mystery. It is, after all, part of the Trek credits that the goal is to seek out new life.

3) In general, I thought the holodeck scenes worked ok. It had that random element of weirdness, but the metaphor aspect worked ok. I think in part it worked because nothing was explained. Troi suspected that different people on the holodeck represented different systems, but we have no proof of that. In fact, the engineer seemed to be an avatar of a personality that supported the crew, and then got shot. But the engines didn't die. So she was clearly wrong (what else is new?). But what was going on? It just seemed like the ship's way of talking to itself and figuring stuff out. But it was never actually explained which worked out nice.

4) This is one of the few true ensemble episodes in the latter part of the show. For once, we don't just have one character roaming around while everone else has a tiny bit-plot. Picard, Riker, Troi, Worf, and Data all had significant parts to play in the show. While first season episodes tended to be awful, one good thing about them is it tended to involve everyone. And it was just nice to finally see that again. Character pieces are great and all, but sometimes you just want to lay back and watch the team solve a weird problem.

And really, to me that's all this episode is. Just pretty good fun. It's not overly impressive by any means, it's not Cause and Effect or Timescape, but to me it's servicable. Even though The Tempest analogy at the beginning was about the most unsubtle metaphor imaginable, it did feel like one last hurrah of the classic TNG episode: a weird mystery happens, and the crew solves it. Maybe Trek was moving away from that style, and so be it. Maybe this was just one last hurrah. And it wasn't the best hurrah, admittedly. But to me, it was good enough.

One thing I would change would be to throw a few little in-jokes in there. After all, the holodeck was explicitly made up of different characters that were already programmed in, so we could have seen some old characters. Instead of Data getting run over by a car, why not have one of Worf's monsters attack him? Why not have Dixon Hill's secretary on the train? Or, for a lot of fun, why not have Barclay's mini-Riker or goddess of empathy there too?
Fri, Sep 19, 2014, 7:58am (UTC -6)
I enjoyed this episode. I'm always happy to see a Star Trek story that can be described as sci-fi rather than soap. I'm also happy to see the charming, but frequently poorly written Troi given something sensible to do. As a couple of other posters have mentioned, it is enjoyable to watch the crew team up to solve a problem.
Adam C
Mon, Dec 15, 2014, 12:44am (UTC -6)
The Enterprise used personal logs and holodeck programs to help design the new widget. Two problems:

1. “Erase all programs filed under ‘Reginald Barclay’.… Except program nine.”
2. “Riker to bridge: If you need me, I’ll be in holodeck four.”

And this supposes that Professor Moriarty is still locked away in Reg’s little yellow cube. I just watched it (and actually enjoyed it quite a bit, although it’s hardly a classic — I’d say 2.5, maybe 3), and when Picard and Data were talking about the thingamajig in the ready room, I could only think that maybe they made a mistake. (Personal logs, too. Think of Worf saying as if reciting a weather report, “The conditions were difficult. Many contestants were maimed.” Yikes!)

Good luck, universe. Enterprise Junior is on the loose!
Fri, Jan 23, 2015, 9:11am (UTC -6)
This episode did what Inception tried to do. Throw in some Back to the Future 3 and James Bond From Russia with Love and you get this, not so bad.
Fri, Jun 12, 2015, 1:22pm (UTC -6)
I absolutely loathe this episode. -1.5 stars.

One of the major problems with Star Trek (and other sci-fi, I suppose) is that things happen. Thing happen that should shatter the lives of the characters we watch and alter their lives forevermore. But, then, they don't. The Enterprise's travels with The Traveler, and Computer-Barclay. The engineered humans that aged Pulaski. The soliton wave. The somehow deflection of half of a transporter beam to create an instant clone of Cmdr. Riker. All of these things should have drastically and forever altered the Star Trek universe, but they did not. And now the Enterprise's computer becomes alive on some level, and the ramifications of that are lost on everyone in the universe. Give me a break.

This is utter garbage. The concept of the ship's computer being so complex as to become alive is not interesting on any level. Our brains are made to be alive. Ships' computers are not. Bizarre alien influences (perhaps tech, but not influences) cannot cause that to be. The alive ship, then wanting to create progeny, turns a cargo bay into a womb. After "giving birth" (to what we'll never know, but it must be good, because human nature is never evil, right?) the ship instantly reverts to the dumb tool it used to be. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief. "Whew! That was cool, but I hope it never happens again."

The worst part of this episode's premise is that it elevates humans to the realms of gods. Unwitting gods who unwittingly engineer new life, just as their ancestors' lives may have been created eons earlier. And yet, the philosophical consequences of this alone are lost on the crew and on all subsequent Trek. The second-worst part of this episode is that Geordi knows how to turn everything off--we've seen him do it. But he doesn't. And the ship runs amok, flying wherever it wants. The whole crew humbly assumes no peril can come to them should the ship accidentally fly somewhere on its instinctive mission that might accidentally kill them all.

If there's any possible good that can come from this episode--besides a solid demonstration of how not to philosophize and write science fiction--is that somewhere there is some fan fiction with the story of what would have happened if the ship got randy and desired to reproduce sexually.
Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 3:13am (UTC -6)
Best line ever in all of Star Trek:

Troi: "That brick may be an important clue"

Me: "Sheesh" (face palm)
Wed, Jul 22, 2015, 1:33pm (UTC -6)
"I kept wanting — now, albeit not in 1994 when it originally aired — for the train conductor, played by David Huddleston, to break out and shout at somebody, "Condolences! The bums lost!" But all he could muster was "Ticket, please."

Ah! So that's it, Jammer! I kept thinking I knew that conductor from somewhere. He's the Big Lebowski himself, who hired The Dude to help his kidnapped wife (ostensibly).

While I forgot about that movie, as I watched the episode, I kept thinking of two other films/shows I'd seen before. First, the TOS episode "The Ultimate Computer" also has the Enterprise's computer basically becoming sentient and taking over after some further tweaks by its original designer, Dr. Daystrom. I kept wondering if this episode was some kind of homage to the TOS one, coupled with the earlier TNG episode where the holodeck's Moriarity becomes sentient. Then again, maybe not. After all, a recent episode -- EYE OF THE BEHOLDER -- lifted the exact title from a Star Trek the Animated Series episode and it had no relationship to it whatsoever. I'm not convinced this show's writers watched classic Trek.

I also kept thinking about the Matrix, or more specifically the two weaker sequels, where a subway train ride becomes some sort of manifestation of the matrix interacting with Neo. In all fairness, those movies came after this show, so it's entirely possible this episode was fodder for the Wachowski's imagination.

Maybe I'm being charitable given the show was nearing the end of its life, but all in all this episode was not bad.

Yes, it was more than a bit nonsensical, mostly because the end goal of a sentient Enterprise was only to give birth to what reminded me of the twisty plastic tube puzzle-thingy for children you see in daycare centers and doctor's waiting rooms. Oh well, parents always see more in their children than outsiders do, so who am I to judge?

I also found it a bit silly that Geordi could easily come up with the plan to use a modified photon torpedo launched at a nearby nebula to produce enough vertion particles to deliver the tube-puzzle baby...and yet the sentient ship itself, with full access to all the ship's computers and scientific data, had no clue to do that. Maybe that's the writer's way of reassuring us, "No matter how smart AI computers get, they will always need a human to help out in a pinch."
Mon, Sep 7, 2015, 4:28pm (UTC -6)
Star Trek is itself a work of imagination, so why is 'Emergeance' criticised so often as being a ludicrous story? Myth is often just as ludicrous, but also just as useful an effective in its function.
Tue, Sep 8, 2015, 10:53am (UTC -6)
Yeah, this episode IS pretty terrible I gotta' admit.
Half of TNG S7 is medicore or downright bad, I don't know what happened :(

Off the top of my head, "All Good Things", "Pegasus", and "Pre-emptive Strike" were the only big standouts. Maybe that 2 parter with Worf on the planet with the Klingon / Romulan colony. Maybe when adult Alexander comes back from the future.. But for sure NOT Genesis, Aquiel, Sub Rosa, or this one.
Tue, Sep 8, 2015, 11:01am (UTC -6)
Whoops, apparently many of my examples were from Season 6 :D
Ben Franklin
Fri, Sep 18, 2015, 4:19pm (UTC -6)
"The concept of the ship's computer being so complex as to become alive is not interesting on any level. Our brains are made to be alive. Ships' computers are not."

Won't Jovet be kicking himself when Skynet becomes sentient in computers that are 300 years older than Enterprise-D's computer :)

My Rating 2. Jammer basically said it all, but I do like an ensemble episode. Also, I never can be too hard on TNG... the crew is like a second family to me lol.
Sat, Sep 19, 2015, 7:06pm (UTC -6)
It was way too convenient that an anomoly that the ship's sensors have no means of detecting and that could make the ship explode just happened to occur just when an entity that can detect it was altering the Enterprise. It's a good thing it didn't happen to Enterprise the week before.
Tue, Nov 3, 2015, 1:49am (UTC -6)
What can I say about "Emergence"? It's average, nothing more. I might as well add this to my list of "Museum Quality Specimens of Run-of-the-Mill TNG episodes" along with "Hero Worship" and "Imaginary Friend". There is nothing really stand-out good about this episode, at all. Neither is there anything stand-out bad about it.

What we have, instead of the standard A-B plot structure, is one plot split into two halves - one focusing on the holodeck and one on the entity being created in the cargo bay. The half focusing on the birth of the new entity is.... well, pretty boring. Absolutely nothing happens that even remotely holds any interest. The ship inexplicably jumps to warp, LaForge discovers that they were literally less than two seconds away from destruction (from something the sensors don't even scan for - rather serious design flaw there, wouldn't you say?!), he and Data crawl around a Jefferies Tube and discover some odd nodes, the ship goes haywire, and then a new lifeform is born from the haywire malfunctions and goes on its merry way. There, I just described that entire half of the episode, in one sentence. As you can see, there's nothing really of note.

The highlight is the second part involving the holodeck. And even there, there is nothing that elevates the episode beyond run-of-the-mill. Basically, it's just weirdness for the sake of weirdness. None of it ever really goes anywhere. What was the point? Troi says that the images are meant to be symbolic representations (like the Engineer symbolizing the engines and the gunslinger representing the weapons systems). Okay, so what does the knight represent? The shields? Maybe. What does the 30s era gangster symbolize? The conductor? The country farmer on his first trip to the big city? The 20s era flapper woman? That explanation quickly falls apart. Then they say that it's all random bits drawn from various holodeck programs. So it means nothing; it's all just random nonsense? Make up your minds! It really seems like they just wanted to throw out random images and hope they would be funny enough to carry the episode. Let's have a train in the middle of a Shakespearean play - ha-ha-ha. Let's have a medieval knight in shining armor on the train - ha-ha-ha. Let's have a gangster and an Old West gunslinger playing gin - ha-ha-ha. Let's have the gunslinger tied up when he's supposed to be playing - ha-ha-ha. Let's have Data act like Superman by stopping a car just by holding its front fender - ha-ha-ha. Granted, some of this is kind of humorous, but it all ultimately means nothing and doesn't contribute to the plot.

There's a nugget of an idea here - seen best in the final scene when Picard talks about how the new lifeform came from their interactions with the ship. This could have lead to them all questioning whether or not they were, in fact, as good a people as they would like to be - would the lifeform be good as a result. Instead we got Picard just decreeing that it will, of course, be good since it came from them. One of the absolute best scenes in all of Trek is in the TOS episode "Arena" - when they discover that the destroyed Federation colony was in Gorn space and the Gorn thought they were repelling invaders. We get this exchange....

McCOY: Can that be true? Was Cestus Three an intrusion on their space?
SPOCK: It may well be possible, Doctor. We know very little about that section of the galaxy.
McCOY: Then we could be in the wrong.

Beautiful. It acknowledges that these are good people, but people all the same. They are capable of faults and failings. We could have had something very similar here, but sadly didn't. I guess we needed more time watching Worf shovel coal into a train engine. Geez. But what we're given isn't bad. Just imagine if this story had been told in Season One, or even Two. It would have involved an alien demanding the destruction of the lifeform and Picard pompously pontificating about how "the lifeform will undoubtedly be good because it comes from them; now shut up and bask in the unalloyed glory that is 24th century humanity!".

In the end though, "Emergence" just reeks of laziness. Jammer is absolutely right to say that everyone was just sleepwalking through their parts - especially the writers.

Diamond Dave
Sat, Nov 7, 2015, 9:51am (UTC -6)
This has some of the feel of an early season throwback, particularly as yet another example of an interesting premise not being delivered upon. Given the prevalence of the feeling that by this point of Season 7 everyone on cast and crew is phoning in their performances and waiting for the finale, what we have here is filler and little else.

Ironically, it does actually find a use for the holodeck. Even if the slightly surrealistic imagery doesn't always work, the plot device hangs together as the ship is visualising its emergent needs through the holodeck. I certainly don't see it as a holodeck gone awry episode.

Not much to hate, but no classic either. 2 stars.
gordon phipps
Sun, Dec 6, 2015, 11:40am (UTC -6)
I was bad
Thu, Mar 3, 2016, 6:46am (UTC -6)
another "actor's wankfest" episode. Data acting in shakespeare, blah blah blah. And the plot itself is only highbrow in the receding hairline sense as Brannon Braga and Rick Berman grew further and further out of touch about what made Star Trek worth watching.
Tue, Mar 29, 2016, 9:16pm (UTC -6)
Ugh. I really wanted this episode to be good. The premise was excellent. The execution was... not. Everyone else has already mentioned most of the problems, but two scenes really bugged me because it once again showed the Trek writers' rather limited view of space in a show about space.

The scene where they arrived at the white dwarf star and the Enterprise used a modified tractor beam to siphon ALL the vertion particles from it in about 15 seconds was just silly. Nevermind that vertion particles were just made up for this one episode, but I can't imagine a single starship being capable of siphoning an entire supply of anything from a star, let alone doing it that quickly. Also, if the viewscreen showing the star was any indication of how close they were, I imagine they had to have been at least several million miles away. Assuming the tractor beam moved at the speed of light AND could be shot that far anyway, you see the problem.

The other scene was when they arrived at the nebula. Nebulas are also huge, but Star Trek has a history of showing them as just pockets of gas floating in space, waiting to be used as a hiding place or whatever the plot called for that day. And again, the viewscreen showed the ENTIRE nebula, yet a photon torpedo traveled there in like a second and was shown to create a shockwave across the whole thing. Lazy lazy lazy.
Sat, Jun 18, 2016, 2:22pm (UTC -6)
I always confused this episode with the "cellular peptid cake - with mint frosting" episode. The holodeck scenes are reminiscent of the dream sequences and Data's trying to find out what an unknown entity is up to through symbolism.

Unfortunately, this episode makes our heroes look like idiots. Hearing their lines of them trying to determine what's going on is just painful.
Paul Allen
Mon, Jul 25, 2016, 5:24am (UTC -6)
"I think we should follow that man, that brick may be an important clue"

She just doesn't even care any more.
Sun, Feb 12, 2017, 9:00pm (UTC -6)
"LaForge to Bridge."
"Picard here. What's going on?"
"I wish I could tell you."

Then why the hell did you contact the Bridge?

Dialogue like that makes me want to throw that gold brick at the TV screen.
Sun, Feb 12, 2017, 10:47pm (UTC -6)
There isn't anything wrong with that dialogue if the "I wish I could tell you" is an introduction to more information. It isn't being used as "I wish I could tell you. Bye." It's being used as "I wish I could tell you. Check this out..."
Mon, Feb 13, 2017, 12:00am (UTC -6)
^ That's a big "if" and it wasn't present in the episode. With the music, it was just another Manufactured Dramatic Moment (With A Camera Hold On A Character's Face) As We Go To Commercial.
Thu, Mar 16, 2017, 11:34pm (UTC -6)
Believe it or not I liked the idea-self emergent AI, the holodeck thematically expressing its growth and the ship seeking out needs like a baby seeking milk or food.

This is a harder sci fi concept and is a lot better than Soap Opera which DS9 apparently is popular for.

It does raise questions are ships in Trek if they've been around long enough, accumulated enough data and crew experience is the emergence of sentience inevitable?

So the Federation has a real problem much like Androids and Holograms what if ships, industrial replicators and planetary networks become alive? Will they it happen even if the AIs aren't necessarily going to be nice or will they lobotomize and do everything in their power to prevent AI from occurring? Hence showing that the Federation will only embrace NL and NC only so far.
Wed, May 17, 2017, 5:11pm (UTC -6)
Sometimes an episode is carried by a great idea and the execution is secondary. I really like this episode and always found it inspiring. Think of how many TNG episodes carry much less meaningful messages. To see the birth of a new intelligence is one of the great stories in Science Fiction.

That being said, the less-than-ideal execution never stopped me from enjoying this episode. 2.5 stars at least.
Sat, Jun 17, 2017, 3:27am (UTC -6)
That rainbow pipe thing the Enterprise created looks like an old Windows screensaver. Seeing the characters stare at it in amazement is hilarious.
Fri, Jul 14, 2017, 7:20pm (UTC -6)
This may have have been the greatest episode, but it did have one great scene: the first scene with Data doing The Tempest and Picard commenting. I loved it and still remember it though I haven't seen it for years.
Tue, Jul 25, 2017, 1:06am (UTC -6)
Everything in this episode is a metaphor for TNG ending, laying the foundation and giving birth to a new series...Voyager. It starts brilliantly with Captain Picard explaining Shakespeare's Tempest. The next episode starts the makis. Re-watch it knowing everything you see and hear represents the entire series...not just the enterprise.
Mon, Aug 7, 2017, 4:34pm (UTC -6)
I remember really liking this episode the first time I saw it. The concept of the ship coming to live with sensors as eyes and ears and the computer as brain. It stuck with me, I remembered the episode and was really looking forward to it while rewatching all episodes.

But I forgot the poor acting in this episode. The explanation about the sensors and everything is really awful. Like a highschool play with everyone dutifully saying their lines. No passion, nothing. And the end trekt result is bad indeed. The offspring just flies off and life goes on. Bye unique lifeform that our ship made! Don't forget to send a postcard!

Concept on paper is still great. Even the train could've worked. But it didn't emerge beyond the sum of its parts...
Sun, Nov 5, 2017, 1:46pm (UTC -6)
This topic was dealt with before in 'The Terminator' with SkyNet, an AI that becomes self-aware. It's just that such a topic needs the reverence it deserves, not a late season 7 also-ran episode of TNG.
Fri, Nov 10, 2017, 4:59pm (UTC -6)
2 stars

I was actually looking forward to this episode after such an awful string of episodes after the entertaining Genesis weeks back. It was an ensemble show and a mystery show and TNG had done great sci fi mysteries. The outing started out promising and intriguing but Unfortunately like most of this season the episode had a good idea that just wasn’t done well. Here was a chance to do something bold by having the Enterprise become sentient as the series was on its way out but instead they pulled back and chickened out with the wholly underwhelming choice to have it only give rise to a new lifeform. Quite disappointing
Sat, Dec 2, 2017, 10:47pm (UTC -6)
It was just boring.
Tue, Jan 16, 2018, 3:14pm (UTC -6)
Another Braga TNG episode so you know it's going to be a bit of a mind-bender. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. This one didn't. The biggest thing as I'm watched this episode is I'm wondering why should I care -- is it just weirdness for the sake of weirdness or is there some important analogy or lesson ultimately behind it.

The Enterprise gaining sentience is an intriguing sci-fi premise although it is bizarre and it's not clear initially why/how it started. Thought it was going to be more holodeck shenanigans after the teaser. Plenty of metaphorical happenings in the holodeck to mirror what the sentient Enterprise is going through -- a bunch of oddball characters that aren't worth caring about.

Picard's philosophizing (or bullshitting) about the nature of the sentient ship's mission being honorable and thus the alien being formed by the ship being benevolent -- if that's the kicker for sitting through this hour, I'm disappointed. If this is supposed to be a beautiful birth or creation of a new life form, it also failed to generate the right emotional response from me.

2 stars for "Emergence" -- heavy on the sci-fi and with plenty of potential but most of the episode is tedious and was slow to develop. Ultimately the plot is pretty basic with the sentient ship just looking for these particles to nourish its "infant" while the crew go about problem-solving with hardly the payoff needed.
Wed, Aug 15, 2018, 6:02pm (UTC -6)
This is definitely one of the episodes that is better high. I love it when Trek makes weird, almost psychedelic scenes as in Masks and that one where they're watching the operating table materialise.

I also like that this is, in a sense, the Enterprise's very own Family Tree episode.
Robby the Arandarian
Sat, Sep 29, 2018, 8:22am (UTC -6)
So no-one caught the reference to Forbidden Planet? Even with the Tempest hint? Dear oh dear.

Holodeck/holographic materialization of thought like FP’s conscious materialization of ‘good’ (including Robby) versus nightmarish dream realization. But no ‘monsters from the Id’ this time, coz Picard trusts his ship!
Fri, Dec 7, 2018, 4:54pm (UTC -6)
I've always loved this episode, easy 3-4/4 for me.

I think what I like about it is that for once the crew are able to be cooperative with the crazy hologram instead of the holograms just being a stubborn obstacle. The holograms are suspicious of the crew's motives, but are willing to listen to reason and are excited to be able to get where they're going (and are disappointed when they fall behind).

The idea of the ship becoming conscious or whatever is kind of silly, but I always really liked the performances of the people on the train and the connection it had to the real ships engines was cool, too.
Wed, Mar 20, 2019, 3:31pm (UTC -6)
Wow... I seem to belong to the small minority of people very much enjoying this episode. Lazy writing? Hm. Even so, with the Orient Express, the Enterprise becoming sentient, all characters involved, Shakespeare recital etc. - not much can go wrong here. I found the episode to be refreshingly surreal and mysterious after all those episodes about long forgotten relatives etc. But in general I have a fondness for season 7 - even in its badness ("Sub rosa" not included).

I found the concept of the Enterprise becoming intelligent not at all ludicrous. And I do appreciate that they play around with the concept of emergence and philosophy of mind. And I liked Picard's final words that if the adventures of the Enterprise were honorable the sum of it would be too.

One funny production mistake though: When Data depolarizes the power grid in the holodeck while keeping a taxi at distance with his left arm we can clearly see both hands in the next shot.
Don Meisner's Jubilee
Sun, May 19, 2019, 7:05pm (UTC -6)
"I want an explanation Mr LaForge. Picard out. "

No shit! Their technology is soooooooooo flaky!

Picard's reaction after hearing about the Theta buildup and the mysterious force that saved their lives is every IT manager's life....

clearly the writers of this had no technical background if they think the shite systems could form an intelligence

I'm all for science fiction but this isn't consistent with the shitty (did I mention that?) systems as they are...

4/10 the lowest of the low
Mon, Oct 12, 2020, 9:51pm (UTC -6)
I just finished watching the episode....and while I enjoyed the Prospero bit and thought that Brent Spiner looked great in a goatee, I ended up wishing that the locomotive had taken me out.

There was a strong resemblance to the episode Phantasms with its ominous group of proletarians working with crude tools in the middle of a ship hallway. The resemblance wss so strong, in fact, that I half-expected the writers of Emergence to put another Troi birthday cake on the poker table inside the Orient Express.

The music was an utter drag, but this time the composer really surpassed all previous efforts by producing a score guaranteed to leave the human nervous system completely anesthetized. No need to risk patients with ether anymore, just play the background score to Emergence, count back from 100 and start open heart surgery before reaching 99.

Some have commented that this episode vied with Masks for the "Worst of Season 7" trophy. I disagree. Masks is a little gem playing out a myth drawn from some buried Sumerian memory, while Emergence recedes from the mind as quickly as it appears. And I say thank heaven for that.
Sat, Nov 14, 2020, 5:50pm (UTC -6)
When I first watched this I thought it would be used as a 'birth of the crystalline entity' story line; where it used the knowledge of datas positronic brain to form itself and then go off on travels, somehow become a baddie and sent back in time. To then seek if data, mistake Lore and so on... But was disappointed to just be there's a it goes..see you next week
Frake's Nightmare
Tue, Jan 5, 2021, 4:29pm (UTC -6)
They still haven't secured the blue barrels ! No wonder Worf went nowhere near that cargo bay.
Hotel bastardos
Wed, Jan 6, 2021, 1:11pm (UTC -6)
Och, well as the series winds down, why not let the ship itself become the main character... give it a break- it's hauled it's ass around a lot for seven years, n maybe that wee technoperve Geordie never gave her the good loving she deserved.....
James G
Thu, Jan 7, 2021, 4:53pm (UTC -6)
As it happens, I really like this one. I well remembered an episode with imaginary characters digging coal that I'd liked from way back when, but when that episode with Data having dreams turned up, I thought that must have been it.

As I watched this, it occurred to me that it felt like an episode from one of the first couple of series. Which in turn made me think that maybe the earlier stories are a bit more imaginative.

I didn't really like the idea that the new ship's intelligence saved the ship from being blown up in a sudden unexpected instant. Bit over-dramatic. I thought Deanna was taking a bit of a risk going into the Holodeck the first time, given that someone had already been shot in there.

An in the end, it's a bit bizarre, isn't it? The Enterprise becoming self-aware and giving birth to an intelligent object? And I still don't quite get how it manufactures the colourful plumbing around the various parts of the ship.

Despite all this I really liked the Holodeck imagery / conundrum and I think this is one of the better Series 7 stories.

Picard's comments at the end about mission records and experiences being honourable .. I think that's a sentimental commentary on the entirety of TNG, as it draws to a close.

Just two left .. I think I started this TNG-athon in March 2019. I'll miss it.
Sun, Jan 24, 2021, 2:23am (UTC -6)
Finally. Some intelligent life on the Enterprise, all the tech getting together to exceed the sum of its parts. Wish the human component would do the same!
Tue, Feb 16, 2021, 8:53pm (UTC -6)
It’s almost amazing how bad this is. There’s a decent high concept here, but it doesn’t come together at all.

Totally perfunctory.
Bob (a different one)
Sat, Feb 20, 2021, 12:52pm (UTC -6)
So Crusher has an Orient Express program? Interesting.

I think a Murder on the Orient Express pastiche might have been fun. First off, it's the type of story which would involve the whole cast. Secondly, Picard and Data are both mystery lovers so it seems like a natural fit.

Patrick Stewart would have been a much better fit in an Agatha Christie story than in one by Raymond Chandler.
Mon, Oct 4, 2021, 12:57am (UTC -6)
Braga's output is a mixed bag. When he's good, he's good. When he's bad, he's very, very bad.

This is a dull episode, no way around it. The premise could be interesting, but it's handled in such a ludicrous way that it just fails to be engaging.

What a perfect way to see Season 7 off (yes, I know there are still two more episodes after this one).
Fri, Dec 3, 2021, 2:58am (UTC -6)
The fourth in the series-end parent/child shows, and far away the most bizarre. In fact, total nonsense from beginning to end complete with technobabble (magnophasic data flux… lol).

But like The Royale - its “sister” episode - there’s great entertainment to be had. The Orient Express is a fun environment, not least from seeing Worf as a railway locomotive fireman!

As long as you suspend your disbelief and accept this as a comic book show, then it’s a show worth watching with a Martini in your hand and some company to share the laughs with.

Talking of Martinis, I had to giggle at the end when the holodeck program ended yet Troi, Data, and Worf still had holodrinks in their hands. “Computer, end program. Oh, but leave me some alcohol…”

2.5 stars?
Sun, Feb 20, 2022, 5:50pm (UTC -6)
Conductor to Dr. Crusher: "Oh, blow it out your ass, Howard."
Jim Mason
Fri, May 6, 2022, 8:41am (UTC -6)
For me this is pretty much the same story as Evolution and The Quality Of Life, ie something we thought wasn’t life becomes a life form and that raises ethical issues etc. I am surprised no one else has drawn attention to these similarities. This is the worst of the three of course.
Tue, Jul 5, 2022, 12:35pm (UTC -6)
"Follow that brick!"


It wasn't too bad, actually, pure comedic idiocy (bordering on the Abbot and Costello at times) notwithstanding. I'd give it two, maybe even 2-1/2 stars, just for being so dumb!
Sat, Jul 9, 2022, 9:34pm (UTC -6)
@Michael why do you think this episode is dumb and not creative and original and smart I'm curious?
Willy Lovington
Tue, Sep 27, 2022, 2:43pm (UTC -6)
I say, the Enterprise having a baby? Whatever next! Why, back in my day with that young scallywag James Tiddlywinks Kirk, it was all fire phasers and giving the Klingons a damn good thrashing before tea and crumpets at Starfleet Command. What! I hope they gave it a name... hmm... I think Willy would be a first class name for a young sprog like that!
Fri, Feb 24, 2023, 6:47am (UTC -6)
We may be the only two people who enjoyed this episode
Tue, May 16, 2023, 8:44pm (UTC -6)
Why didn't they say "Computer, end program" early on?

Assuming that didn't work, how did they enter and exit the holodeck if it wasn't responding to their commands?
Projekt Kobra
Wed, May 17, 2023, 9:47pm (UTC -6)
I love this episode AND Masks....I will always watch them if they are on...they are just fun.

Like The Quick And The Dead, and Last Man Standing....they are just...awesome.

I dont get the hate.
Sat, Dec 2, 2023, 8:08am (UTC -6)
It's hard to put a finger on what's wrong with this episode. It just feels tired.

This is one of those (many) episodes of S7 that made me glad they put TNG down. They could, after all, simply rotate our crew for new officers, and that would have been a fully legit thing to occur.

But it would have been run into the ground and tarnished the show.

I suspect if you didn't watch the show in order back in the day and this was one of the first episodes of its ilk you saw, it might have indeed come across a lot better.

Aside from that, the darn D gave birth to some sort of baby, and that seemed like the more intriguing story. Yet not only is that ramifications of that not explored, nobody seems to care at all.

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