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Go Back   The Trek BBS > Star Trek TV Series > The Next Generation

The Next Generation All Good Things come to an end...but not here.

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Old October 15 2014, 02:27 AM   #1
WalkerBait
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TNG Rewatch: 5x13 - "The Masterpiece Society"



The Enterprise is following a massive stellar core fragment as it approaches a planet where they discover the planet is inhabited by human beings, a colony that is unknown to Picard and the Federation.

It's made-up of the offspring from group of humans who left Earth centuries ago in order to set-up a perfect society, particularly through genetic manipulation of offspring. The colony's leader at first is convinced that the colony's biosphere will survive the passing of the core fragment but is informed by Picard and Geordi that the fragment will cause earthquakes that are stronger than the resilience of the biosphere.

The leader, reluctantly and at the protest of the Constitutional Originalist of the colony whose job it is to make sure that the actions the colony takes are within the aims of their founders, allows a small away team from the Enterprise in order to discuss a way to save the colony. The leader is against evacuation as it'd be devastating to their society.

Working with the colony's lead scientist, Hannah, Geordi thinks they can find a way to move the fragment using the ship's tractor beam but Hannah must come on board the Enterprise in order to work out the plan. Again, the leader is reluctant but allows her to go.

Over the next couple of days Hannah and Geordi develop a way to use the tractor-beam to move the core fragment by using technology similar to his VISOR (admiring the irony of this working given Geordi wouldn't have been allowed to be born in Hannah's society) and Troi grows closer to the planet's leader.

The tractor beam is modified and series of crewmen reinforce the biosphere allowing the core fragment to be moved and the colony remains unharmed. But in the wake of the events of the previous few days Hannah and other colonists grow more and more curious about life outside their biosphere and request to leave with the Enterprise, something that would devastate the society that stays behind.

Being humans, Picard is unable to turn down their requests for asylumn and eventually the colony leader allows Hannah and the others to leave, even though the damage to their society could have repercussions that'll take generations to repair.

Overall this isn't too bad of an episode, but some parts of it are sort of painful or silly to watch. Mostly the "B-Plot" dealing with the relationship between Troi and the colony leader. It just feels needlessly tacked on and heavy. Particularly painful is Troi's confession to Picard in the turbolift that she had a romantic encounter with the colony leader.

There's nothing inherently wrong with what Troi does in this episode, there's plenty of episodes in the series where Riker gets romantically involved with an alien female, Picard does it a couple of times and Kirk in TOS made himself a meme legend in his randy ways with alien females.

So I'm not too sure why Troi is so quick to flip-out about and confess her actions to Picard in the turbolift. Okay, maybe it's better protocol for her to do so, but it still seems out of place. Has Riker ever had to apologize to Picard for rubbing uglies with an alien female they were dealing with?

The confession scene in the turbolift is just very, very awkward. I usually do not have as much of a problem with Troi as others do, and don't have any problems with Marina Sirtis' acting but the turbolift conversation is just odd. I don't know if it's the acting, the confined space of the turbolift set forcing hard close-ups of Troi and Picard or what, but it's just an odd conversation between then. And, again, I'm not sure it's called for. The romantic encounter between Troi and the colony leader may have been inappropriate but we know that stuff like this happens quite often in Starfleet. So I'm not sure it's called for.

I really like the interaction between Geordi and the colony's chief engineer/researcher, Hannah. Particularly a scene where Geordi removes his VISOR and they come up with the plan to modify the tractor-beam. It is a nice bit of irony, and perhaps make sense, that the technology that makes Geordi's VISOR possible is what helps saves the colony. It reminds me of in "The Enemy" where Geordi has a similar encounter with a Romulan -who says a blind child would be terminated on Romulous- and the technology in his VISOR is able to save them both. Though, I think that little plot-line works better in that episode than it does here.

There's perhaps some message in this episode dealing with "designer babies" and what problems could arise from that or what moral and ethical questions it raises.

The one thing I don't think this episode quite sells is the reason why leaving the colony or colonists leaving would be so damaging to their society. The leader speaks as if they can't so much as leave this planet as their society is as integrated with it as they are each other. Which.... okay? So, they're *that* genetically and emotionally tied to their concrete pillars and trees? The aspect of the other persons also serving a meaningful role is also strained. I don't think it's sold very well how critical these people need to stay on *this* planet and how the removal of persons would be devastating to their society beyond their being gaps in their workforce.

This is another episode where the tech-geek in me sort of squees upon finding out how "powerful" 24th century technology is purported to be given that it can move a chunk of star-matter many millions of times heavier than the ship. (Though we could really get into physics nitpicking that nudging the fragment to start moving in one direction would cause it to continue moving in that different direction.)

There's a nice scene in the episode where a young colonist is performing a piano recital and the music he is playing provides a nice back-ground music for a Troi and the leader's romantic walk and look out the colony windows.

All and all, not too bad of an episode and I think the quest-cast does a good job. The plot has some weak spots in it but overall it's not too bad of an episode. It could have been much improved by removing the "angst" with Troi's relationship with the colony leader being made into such an issue but it leads to a good speech from Picard, so sort-of worth it, I guess.
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Old October 15 2014, 09:59 PM   #2
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Re: TNG Rewatch: 5x13 - "The Masterpiece Society"

I think part of it was that it would force roles to be filled by people who were not genetically designed and trained to fill them. And it would set the precedent for people unhappy with their genetically designed role to go off and do whatever they want instead, which would cause the institution to lose its power. Anybody else who is a poet and doesn't like being a poet can say "SHE got to leave, why can't I?" They'd lose the entire certainty of their way of life and have to learn from scratch how to personally adapt to different roles.
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Old October 17 2014, 07:11 PM   #3
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Re: TNG Rewatch: 5x13 - "The Masterpiece Society"

Though we could really get into physics nitpicking that nudging the fragment to start moving in one direction would cause it to continue moving in that different direction.
Why is this a nitpick? The dialogue made it clear that a deflection of 1.2 degrees was needed; they barely achieved that, and then the fragment continued on that course and sped past at a sufficient distance. Once they stopped pushing, the deflection stopped increasing: at constant sideways speed, the angle would remain constant.

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Old October 18 2014, 01:25 AM   #4
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Re: TNG Rewatch: 5x13 - "The Masterpiece Society"

It's not a memorable episode, but for some reason I've always liked it. I liked the interactions between Geordi and the engineer and I didn't find Troi annoying here like I did in past episodes. It was just one of those average Season 5 episodes that I didn't hate, which happened a lot during this season.
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Old October 18 2014, 05:49 PM   #5
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Re: TNG Rewatch: 5x13 - "The Masterpiece Society"

As to how balanced their society was, I got that it was literally like staffing a department. "We need five chemists, two biologists, two poets," and whatever else. What would naturally happen is that less ideal people would fill those roles. It's awfully rigid, yes, and while I think the episode sold this part of it well enough for me, I would have preferred more about that as opposed to the romance subplot.

I like this episode, but somehow I just feel that something is missing when you consider that it's dealing with eugenics and xenophobia (heavy issues, to say the least). I guess it doesn't automatically have to be dystopian, and it's not really dystopian at all, so maybe it works as a fresh take on the issue by not making it some kind of oppressive nightmare, but I definitely agree that the Troi / politician subplot is a drag on the plot.

Last edited by Memory Alpha; October 18 2014 at 06:08 PM.
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Old October 26 2014, 11:29 PM   #6
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Re: TNG Rewatch: 5x13 - "The Masterpiece Society"

The Masterpiece Society. One of the episodes I never watched before I started collecting the BluRay sets. As one of the new episodes I've had the privilege of watching, this stood out to be one of the worst. I just can't stop laughing at the concept of superior beings who brag about how awesome they are.
CONOR: Genetically engineered. Our ancestors came from Earth to develop a perfect society. They believed that through controlled procreation, they could create people without flaws and those people would build a paradise.

MARTIN: We have immeasurably extended the potential of humanity, physically, psychologically. We have evolved beyond, beyond
LAFORGE: Beyond us.
MARTIN: Frankly, yes.
That's setting expectations pretty high, isn't it? I'm sure that a society of superior humans such as these bozos could handle any problem that's thrown at them, right?
MARTIN: It would be suicide to evacuate. It would destroy everything we've worked for two centuries to accomplish.

CONOR: We don't just live here, we're a part of our environment. it is part of us. Every plant life, every microscopic lifeform is part of a master design. We cannot separate ourselves from it without irreparably altering who and what we are.

MARTIN: Your presence here has already begun to affect the entire balance of our society.


What? How do you justify calling yourselves superior yet claim that your entire society is so fragile that simply being in close proximity with inferior outsiders will bring disrupt everything? And leaving the planet will cause "irreparable alteration"? Yeah, that's called 'change'. Unless you really, really don't like a change in scenery, this argument makes no sense. Evolution, the thing that Maritn claims they're so far ahead of us on, is just a complex form of change. How can these people be realistic of the las thing they expect to happen is change?
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Old October 26 2014, 11:40 PM   #7
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Re: TNG Rewatch: 5x13 - "The Masterpiece Society"

I've only watched it once, and that was the night it premiered. One of the most boring episodes of the series for me. For all their bragging, the inhabitants seemed like boring stiffs.
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Old October 27 2014, 09:42 PM   #8
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Re: TNG Rewatch: 5x13 - "The Masterpiece Society"

Dr. Sevrin wrote: View Post
For all their bragging, the inhabitants seemed like boring stiffs.
I agree, which is one reason why I think the show was a bit of a missed opportunity when you consider what the topic is. It was about city hall's concerns over staffing problems, basically. For me, it gets interesting toward the end, though. It overall falls flat, which is ironic since the 5th season produced some really provocative material, like "The Outcast."
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Old October 28 2014, 02:01 PM   #9
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Re: TNG Rewatch: 5x13 - "The Masterpiece Society"

Haven't seen it in years, but recall being very disappointed with it. Just dull.
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Old October 30 2014, 12:26 AM   #10
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Re: TNG Rewatch: 5x13 - "The Masterpiece Society"

Ron Canada's overacting in the background when the leader guy is talking to the Enterprise on the viewscreen is a hoot.
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Old Yesterday, 11:33 PM   #11
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Re: TNG Rewatch: 5x13 - "The Masterpiece Society"

Reminds me a lot of When The Bough Breaks--just who was the voice of the custodian anyway?
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