Conundrum (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 5, Episode 14) You Get Amnesia! And YOU Get Amnesia! EVERYONE Gets Amnesia!!!

Rewatching ST:TNG

The Enterprise-D crew finds itself the victim of an amnesia scenario devised by desperate, shadowy figures known as “TV script writers,” who actually give Riker a line complaining about the feeble infodump that shows up in the denouement.

Plot necessity provides this week’s baddies with the power to erase all the personal memories of everyone on the ship (including the android Data), and also the ability to erase computer records of all personal logs, and anything else that could possibly contextualize the military mission the Enterprise seems to be carrying out.

The same baddies also insert a false computer record that conjures up a new first officer named Macduff, who incites mind-wiped Worf’s warrior instincts against mind-wiped Picard’s default mode of philosophical introspection.

If these aliens are capable of instantly wiping memories from all the different life forms we’ve seen as members of the crew, and altering computer records with this level of specificity, why did they bother embedding their agent as the second in command? Why not invent an *Admiral* Macduff, and alter the computer records to demote Captain “I do not fire on defenseless people” to the ship’s assistant steward?

The “mind-wiped-by-aliens” premise gets a face-palm for the sheer magnitude of the lampshading and hand-waving that tries to justify the “EVERYONE Gets Amnesia!!!” sticky note that someone jotted down during a caffeine-fueled brainstorming session in the writers’ room.

An unusually pensive and chill Data ponders whether he comes from a civilization of artificial life forms, or whether he is alone in the universe. Crusher and LaForge get plenty of screen time letting their technical skills (unaffected by the memory-wipe) advance the nuts and bolts of the plot, but that’s about it for them.

As a Trek fan, I’ve already accepted the transporter, inertial dampeners, universal translators, and artificial gravity (that never, ever fails, no matter how badly damaged a ship gets), so it’s really not too much extra to ask a fan to accept that aliens with advanced mind-wipe and computer-hacking technology would have a military that (according to the dialogue) a single photon torpedo would destroy.

Even though the after-the-fact justification is rocky, the biotech morality play is a solid premise. But this episode takes too-long breaks from the high-concept philosophizing in order to show us a character-based bedroom farce, in which an aw-shucks Riker accepts Troi’s good-girl-next-door emotional outreach just as readily as he accepts Rebel Ro’s sexual advances.

After working so hard to suspend my disbelief on the promise of a good story, I felt cheated by a final scene that, instead of showing us Picard dealing with the fatal consequences of his actions, presents a sit-com-worthy confrontation in Ten Forward, as a chummy Troi and Ro fail the Bechtel test while looking judgmentally in Riker’s direction. (Insert “sad trombones” music cue.)