Enlightenment > Star Trek > TNG
TNG 7-17

TNG 7x17
"Masks"

Original airdate: 2/21/1994
Rewatch date: 12/31/2012


While scanning a rogue comet, the Enterprise is slowly transformed by an ancient alien probe and Data's psyche is invaded by multiple personalities.

Spoiler-free notes:

The kid at the beginning, Eric, was last seen in "Liaisons."

So they are getting alien information uploaded into their computer from the comet, and their first thought is to use their phasers on it? How do they know there aren't aliens living in there?

"What does it feel like when a person is losing his mind?" One of my all time favorite creepy lines.

"Ihat" totally gives away the metaphor when he says, "Stop the sun from climbing the sky, hmm?"

Brent Spiner deserves a lot of credit for his acting in this episode. It's even more impressive when you learn that he barely had any time to prepare. Coming up with five new and different personas and learning how to switch between them quickly and frequently is a tough challenge for any actor, even with months to rehearse it, but Spiner had to do it in a matter of days. That's some hard work.

"Like the sun and the moon, only one of them can be in ascendance at any one time." Look, Troi, I don't know how it works on Betazed, but on Earth, the sun and moon are often in the sky at the same time.

I can respect this episode for unashamedly going full throttle into crazy town. This story is out there, man. However, it is still, beneath all the wild fantasy, grounded in a real world theme that can be understood by looking at the opening scene. Troi is teaching children (and Data) to use their imaginations while building things out of clay, to adhere to the abstract rather than the realistic. The entire narrative goes from there, building on the abstract ways ancient cultures attempt to understand the universe around them. Everything is symbol, metaphor, and abstract representation, which is a reflective way of commenting on the nature of storytelling. Data's multiple personalities and Picard's role as Korgano are the actors, the alien transformations of the ship are the stage, and the drama is an allegory for the changing of night to day and back to night again. This is, then, a story about stories, an episode that is an allegory for the show itself, and that's going pretty friggin deep down the rabbit hole. It's awesome.

Number of episodes in which a crewmember is subverted by an alien lifeforce: 30.





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