The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: 11001001

When the Enterprise stops by Starbase 74 for a computer upgrade, the crew takes some time to kick back whilst the Bynars, alien computer specialists, work on the ship. But when the Bynars fake a magnetic containment failure in order to hijack the ship, Picard and Riker are the only two people left aboard to thwart the takeover.

When I first watched this episode some two decades ago, I knew just enough about bits, bytes and binary to feel like I knew what was going on. Returning to it as I do with far more computer knowledge, I wonder how I let them get away with such technobabble. This is a fairly standard mash up of “ship gets stolen with alarming ease” and “let’s nip down to the holodeck for a bit”. There’s a bit of jeopardy, but nothing that can’t be solved with a bit of password guessing (or, if Picard and Riker are to be believed, filename guessing). It’s a happy ending for the Bynars, but not so much for Riker, who fails to get his rocks off with a charming new hologram before she gets reprogrammed to be far more simplistic than before. I bet she’s still fully functional, Riker – go for it!

Why is it so easy to steal the Enterprise?

  • When the Enterprise was being evacuated, why did no one think to take the Bynars with them? Did they get overlooked because they weren’t on the crew roster? Who’s chief evacuation officer?
  • For that matter, given that Bynars were being allowed full access to the computer of the Federation’s flagship, were they not properly vetted beforehand? And shouldn’t they have been escorted everywhere?
  • I don’t really get how the Enterprise computer could not know the filename of the Bynaus memory dump – would it have taken too long to check ‘recently used files’ and find it? They didn’t need to parse the data, just scp it back to the Bynaus computer, after all.
  • Given that the Bynars are so dependent on their master computer, why didn’t they have backups already? Why wait until just before a disaster to start thinking about making a backup? Back up your data, people! On the galactic cloud computing service if necessary.
  • I wish the Bynars spoke and worked in hex instead of binary.

Other points of note

  • This is the first mention of parrises squares, a competitive game played by two teams of four. Although we never actually see it being played (to my recollection), it is not only popular, but also quite dangerous – in upcoming episodes we will see people get injured from playing, and it can even be fatal.
  • Picard and Riker are both needed to confirm the ship’s autodestruct, and then to disarm it. Disarming the self-destruct can only take place on the bridge. This is in contrast with the Enterprise-E in First Contact, where Picard and two senior officers (Crusher and Worf) must input authorisation codes to enable the self-destruct. I wonder if Wesley’s Picard voice mimicker would be able to arm the self-destruct mechanism?
  • A note from the previous episode – even though the Enterprise left it until the last minute to go and help out at the Romulan Neutral Zone, they still head out at a lesiruely warp six, instead of the maximum warp Data said they would need to get there in time.
  • Data takes up painting in this episode, supervised by Geordi.
  • Picard mentions recent problems with the holodeck, perhaps referring back the The Big Goodbye. The pending computer upgrade was mentioned a couple of episodes ago.
  • Bynars are the first agender alien species we might, defying Kirk’s claim that male and female are universal constants. They live and work as bonded pairs, finishing each other’s sentences and sharing each other’s thoughts by computer link.

Summary – 11001001: Binarilicious.

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