The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: Lonely Among Us

Whilst transporting two warring species, the Anticans and the Selay, to neutral ground on planet Parliament, the Enterprise comes into contact with an energy cloud and unwittingly takes on board an energy life form. Whilst jumping from life crewmember to computer and back again, the energy being begins to learn more about humanity – but what will happen when it melds with Captain Picard?

I’m ambivalent about this episode. In many ways, it’s entirely forgettable – there’s a slow-burning energy being story alongside a somewhat pointless “ferrying warring species” B-story that doesn’t really amount to much. What it does manage to achieve, however, is to inject a bit more life into Picard – we get to see his love of exploration and his passion for the unknown. Of course, it’s all then wrapped up in a bit of a silly ending, but you can’t have everything at this early stage.

The future – what a wonderful world

  • This episode marks the first time we hear about the replicators; they are described as technology similar to the transporter which enables the production of matter from energy. As yet, we don’t know their limits (and even after many episodes we never really will), but for now we know that they can produce something which, molecule for molecule, is the same as meat, but that did not require the slaughter of an animal. The Antican delegates, on the other hand, insist on bringing along live animals to slaughter for their meals.
  • Even though replicators are now acknowledged, there still appears to be a chef on board. What do they do – design meals for the replicators to create? Research the menus of various restaurants, past and present?
  • Despite its size, the initial plan is to house the Anticans and Selay a mere hundred metres apart on the ship. As always, there also doesn’t seem to be anything stopping them from having free run of the ship.
  • After Picard is turned to energy, his consciousness not only remains alive, but is able to upload itself to the ship’s computers, where it then recombines with his physical pattern data in the transporter buffer, allowing his rematerialisation. If you think this makes little sense, then you’re not the only one. If this is just Picard’s physical pattern data, then what would happen if it was rematerialised without his consciousness? Would it still be Picard, or an empty shell? Could that still be done in order to create a second Picard if the first one had beamed down to a planet instead of into space (yes, I know we have Tom Riker still to come)? If the consciousness came from Picard-in-the-circuits, why was his memory reset to just before he beamed himself into space? Also, since Picard doesn’t remember any of this, and the senior crew seem to want to keep quiet about it, is everyone going to spend the next seven years never mentioning this one incident to the captain?
  • This week’s engineering expert – for one week only – is Assistant Chief Engineer Singh. Presumably he’s head of the night shift, or in charge whilst Argyle and MacDougal are on holiday. Or perhaps Picard fires his chief engineers on a regular basis for gross incompetence.
  • Wesley is not only still hanging onto those cable knit jumpers despite having become an acting ensign, but he remains stubbornly insistent that he is beyond needing school and basically knows everything.
  • Yar is basically dismissed and ignored when she tries to report on the difficulties of having the Anticans and Selay coexisting on the same ship. Also, why does a security officer have to handle communications and hailing frequencies? Is Uhura’s speciality basically gone now?

Summary – Lonely Among Us: A forgettable episode that could have ditched the B-story and worked up a more interesting main plot.

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