The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: Unnatural Selection

When the Enterprise encounters a starship whose crew have all died of premature, accelerated ageing, they trace its path back to a scientific research station that is suffering from the same condition. Determined to help them prove that their genetically enhanced children are safe and immune from the condition, Dr Pulaski decides to perform her own examination, only to find herself also suffering from accelerated ageing. Can the Enterprise crew find a cure from this condition before Dr Pulaski and everyone on the research station also succumb to old age?

Remember when the crew of the original Enterprise suffered from accelerated ageing and had to find a cure before it was too late? Well, this is TNG’s take on the same idea, which means more precautions, more technology, and a massive amount of technobabble to save the day. It’s presumably meant to be an exploration of Dr Pulaski’s character, but since she’s already established herself as so dislikeable, there’s not much to do except get upset that narrative convention won’t allow Picard and the Enterprise to just leave her in quarantine on the research station until her untimely demise.

Life aboard the Enterprise

  • One from the last episode, in which the Enterprise does a high-speed long distance transport, briefly dropping out of warp in order to beam down the away team before heading off again. Firstly, why bother with this when they could just send a shuttlecraft the rest of the way? Secondly, Troi claims it felt like she was in the wall for a moment, to which Worf replies that she was. What? How does this make any sense? If she could feel she was in the wall, then presumably she would be sufficiently materialised to be dead, for one thing. For another, why would that even happen? I bet Worf was just winding Troi up – he’s onto how little she really knows about Starfleet procedures.
  • Since she’s meant to be a female McCoy of sorts, in this episode we learn that Pulaski dislikes using the transporter and has never used it since joining the Enterprise crew. Also, she asked to transfer to the Enterprise once there was a vacancy available – I bet her former crewmates were delighted.
  • The genetically enhanced children have an accelerated maturation rate, and are both telepathic and telekinetic, abilities we’ve seen in humans from time to time, and which we know the human race (of Star Trek) has a latent capability for. They also have a super aggressive immune system which makes them dangerous to normal humans. It’s unclear how the children were bred to be so amazing, especially as we learn in DS9 that various genetic procedures on infants are prohibited.
  • O’Brien gets his chance to shine in this episode, as he rattles off a long string of technobabble which essentially amounts to “put the twisty thing in the shiny thing together with Pulaski’s DNA, and we can fix her”. I’m not even going to try to make sense of it, although it’s probably not much different to what was done to restore Picard in Lonely Among Us.
  • In this episode we see Picard remotely taking over another ship using a special Starfleet captain password, allowing the Enterprise crew to observe the bridge of the other ship. If Picard can do this, why isn’t it used every time they encounter a derelict or suspect Starfleet ship, instead of always risking away teams?
  • Other convenient but never seen again features are marker beacons to help the Enterprise crew find their way back to the Lantree, and a quarantine warning telling anyone who approaches the ship not to board it. Why has no one ever used a quarantine beacon before?
  • The children’s clothing is so hideous that it marks the exact moment when I despaired of the fashion of the 24th century. Why does everyone wear pyjamas?
  • Pulaski is basically mean to Data until she needs him, at which point she starts being nice to him – it’s Rudolph the Reindeer syndrome all over again!

Summary – Unnatural Selection: We were so close to getting rid of Pulaski. So close!

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