Unnatural Selection (ST:TNG Rewatch Season 2, Episode 7)

Rewatching Star Trek: The Next Generation after a 20-year break.

Tension mounts between Captain Picard and Dr. Pulaski as the Enterprise encounters a rapid-aging disease.

I rather liked how Picard, who just last week quoted part of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, is in his ready room reading a book when Troi reminds him he wanted to see her. When he closes the book, he uses his finger as a bookmark — a nice little detail suggesting he’s comfortable with this archaic medium.

On the bridge, we get the usual pattern of a garbled audio distress call that provides just enough information to get the plot going.

The encounter with the Lantree seemed padded. Instead of beaming over a landing party, as they have done countless times before, the Enterprise takes the unusual precaution of first taking over the distressed ship by remote control, then turning on the bridge view screen. Seeing the bridge crew has died of old age apparently negates the need for a boarding party, which robs us of the tensely-scored scenes where the actors call the ship to narrate that they are waving handheld props around a greeble-filled soundstage and reacting intensely to various science-fictiony things.

Given that this episode involves a mysterious disease, it would have made storytelling sense for Dr. Pulaski to have been on that landing party. But as it happens, the solution to the medical mystery requires using the transporter, and a plot twist hinges on Pulaski never having used the Enterprise transporters before . (In retrospect, this is also obviously why Pulaski didn’t beam down with the away team in last week’s “The Schizoid Man.”)

This episode puts Troi to good use. She helps us see that Picard and Pulaski rub each other the wrong way because they are very much alike, and we also get glimpses of friendship between the only two female leads.

We see Pulaski settling into a good working relationship with Data, and even softening a bit when she realizes he is concerned for her.

I ended up forgiving the awkwardness of the techno-plot, because the people-plot made me care about Picard’s opinion of Pulaski. After Pulaski initially unsettles Picard by arguing with him, Picard ups the ante by unexpectedly agreeing with her, which is perfectly in keeping with various other Picard maneuvers that we’ve seen him deploy. After the climax there are smiles and hugs at the reunion, and we know Picard’s worries about Pulaski have been resolved.

Other notable bits:

  • LaForge sensibly suggests using a shuttlecraft as a mobile isolation lab (something that would have solved a plot complication in Angel One).
  • We get our first good look at a full-sized shuttle, inside and out, and some nice new views of the Enterprise in the background as the shuttle moves about.
  • Transporter Chief O’Brien gets a name and job title in this episode, and even gets to sit in on a conference with the senior staff.