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TNG 1-22

TNG 1x22
"Symbiosis"

Original airdate: 4/18/1988
Rewatch date: 8/4/2011


The Enterprise is forced to mediate an interplanetary drug deal.

Spoiler-free notes:

I wish we could hear more announcements from the captain explaining things to the entire ship, like we do at the start of the episode.

"Captain, how long have you been in command of this freighter?" "Seven years, with 26 trips to Brekka." "And you don't know how to align a controller coil?" "It's never come up." That first conversation between Picard and T'Jon, with T'Jon's stoner incompetence and Picard's complete exasperation, is priceless.

There's two Star Trek II alumni among the guest cast.

I do like how Yar thinks like a security officer. She comes across a new type of humanoid with electric eel powers and the first thing she thinks about is how you disarm or defend against them.

How come Crusher is so absolutely convinced that the Ornarans can't die from withdrawal symptoms? These people, assuming they live normal lifespans, are born addicted to felicium, since it's been going on for 200 years. Withdrawal from that would inevitably wreak all kinds of havoc on their system. Dr. Crusher is just treating them like simple junkies, which doesn't make any sense under the circumstances. If they could simply stop taking the drug and be fine after a few days, you'd think they would have figured that out by now.

Some people on the ship seem to think this is one of those "very special" episodes meant to preach to the young folk about the evils of drug addiction. Yar even gives a speech to Wesley about why people start to take drugs (because "drugs can make you feel good"). None of that heavy-handed morality makes sense, though, in the context of this particular situation, because the Ornarans didn't start taking the drug to "feel good"; they started taking it to cure a goddamn plague that was killing them all. On top of that, they apparently don't understand the nature of addiction. The Ornarans are complete and utter victims here--they never made a mistake--and yet, if this were one of those "very special" episodes, they'd be the people who's mistake we would be learning from. What's the moral here? If your entire race is dying off because of a lethal plague and the only known cure is extremely addictive, you should let your entire race die off rather than become a bunch of junkies?

The Prime Directive is finally starting to get a little clearer, but I'm still confused as to why Picard was able to intervene in the first place.

I like that the ending of this episode is emotionally ambiguous. It's one of those stories that would be interesting to revisit, just to see how it all ends up. I'm not just talking about the Ornaran's drug addiction or the inevitable withdrawal. With so many resources on the line and the potential for some pretty bitter revelations, I imagine this star system would eventually be home to a nasty, nasty war.

Overall, though this episode gets muddled by typical 1980's TV moralizing, "Symbiosis" is a good step forward for the show. We've already seen a few ethical dilemmas in TNG ("Justice," for example), but none of them are settled in such a satisfying and logical way.



Spoiler section:

The solar event would be the perfect opportunity to be in Ten Forward. Alas, that hasn't even been mentioned yet.

The Ornarans and Brekkians look an awful lot like Bajorans.





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