The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: Symbiosis

When the Enterprise answers a distress call from a freighter in a decaying orbit, they are surprised to find that the crew are more concerned about their cargo than themselves. The survivors are actually from neighbouring planets – the Brekkians, who claim that the cargo is a cure for a plague affecting their entire population, and the Ornarans, who own the medicine and want payment for it. As the Enterprise tries to mediate between the two parties, it becomes clear that the medicine has long since cured the plague, but that the Brekkians remain enslaved by its narcotic effects.

I’ve talked about Star Trek’s morality plays before, and usually with praise for sci-fi as a medium in which to explore contemporary issues. This episode, however, takes it too far, resulting in what feels like a preachy “kids, don’t do drugs” story, complete with golden boy Wesley Crusher wondering why anyone would want to take drugs in the first place. Yar makes enough of a case for why people get addicted to make you wonder if she didn’t use something back in the day to blot out the horrors of living on a planet filled with rape gangs – no wonder she had to go, the druggie! Picard’s final solution to the dilemma of wanting to put a stop to things but having his hands tied by the Prime Directive is quite elegant, although it’s a far cry from what Kirk would have done. Kirk and McCoy would have put a stop to the drug dealing with their own hands, and gods damn the consequences!

Kids, don’t do drugs – you have the holodeck

  • Now that the brain has been fully charted, I bet there are all sorts of ways of achieving a high in the 24th century without inducing any of those nasty side effects. When you combine this with the ability to fulfil any sexual fantasy via the medium of the holodeck, it’s amazing anyone gets any work done. Then again, 24th century humans do have a more evolved sensibility than we do.
  • Apparently it is possible and even beneficial to interlink the Enterprise’s transporter system with that of the sending or receiving vessel. This has never been mentioned before, and is not a technique that is used again. It seems risky as it must involve hooking up two computer systems that a) weren’t designed to speak to each other (unless there’s a special galactic protocol that all ship’s computers must obey and b) may not even be friendly – viruses ahoy!
  • Decontamination during transport is apparently handled by the ‘biofilters’. Given how many unwanted diseases and such survive the transporter, they are amazingly ineffective. And if they were effective, they would probably be equally deadly – what if they interpreted an alien’s vital gut flora as a deadly toxin, for example?

Summary – Symbiosis: And I’m all strung out on felicium, on the outskirts of town.

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