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

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Old December 25 2012, 10:15 PM   #1
Trek or Treat!
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Episode of the Week: Symbiosis

Merry Christmas! Under the tree this morning we find our weekly episode Symbiosis, featuring TWOK alumni Merritt Butrick and Judson Scott.

It's an unusual episode in that it doesn't feature any direct threat to the Enterprise or its crew. There have been two other such episodes so far, Angel One and Too Short a Season, and they both suck. This one is much better. It's a mystery with a surprising answer leading to a real moral dilemma for Picard and an intelligent resolution.

The episode makes effective use of the Prime Directive. I think the franchise in general suffers from a lack of clarity of the meaning, purpose, or consequences of the Prime Directive, but the way it's depicted in this episode makes sense.

My perspective on the episode has changed over the last 25 years. When I first saw it, I was about the same age as Wesley. Everything I knew about drugs came from things like this episode so, like Wesley, I didn't understand how people knowing what we do can get themselves into such situations. 25 years later, I'm an adult with PTSD, an unhappy life, and substance abuse habits born of desperation to dull the pain.

This is Denise Crosby's penultimate episode as a regular, and I think her improvement over the course of the season has been remarkable. Early on she was absolutely terrible. She's still no Meryl Streep and I won't miss her, but she's gotten the point where she's no longer an embarrassment.

Pet peeve moment:
PICARD: Romas, are you and T'Jon carrying this plague?
ROMAS: Yes. Every Ornaran does.
PICARD: Then you may have brought it aboard this ship. Was there a medical scan when they transported?
RIKER: Unverified. The solar flares could have caused a malfunction in the biofilter.
PICARD: Med Alert. Medical emergency. Doctor Crusher to the observation lounge at once.
If you're concerned that these people may be carrying a plague that is dangerous to humans, exposing Dr. Crusher to it is the most self-destructive thing you can possibly do. Where are the quarrantine procedures?

Fanwank challenge: How does the whole planet's population go two centuries without discovering the truth of the situation?
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Old December 26 2012, 01:02 AM   #2
inflatabledalek
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Re: Episode of the Week: Symbiosis

I really like Picard's solution, probably the most sensible use of the Prime Directive in any Trek series, he makes the usual obstacle in the way of dealing with a problem the solution. Pretty neat.

Not much else pushed my buttons though, despite the infamous OTT nature of Tasha's speech it's generally a competently made but dull episode where it's really hard to give a toss about any of the guest characters.

After a recent run of good form Will Wheaton is really off this week as well, but with some of the lines he's got lumbered with that's pretty understandable.

The other real low point is Doctor Crusher. Yes she's a doctor, yes she cares about all life, but constantly harassing the Captain in a not even particularly well argued way (it's mainly just her pouting and going "But Jean-Luc you can't do that!") is not only annoying but makes you wonder if she fell asleep in the middle of the whole swearing to uphold the Prime Directive thing.

She's knows Picard is in a difficult situation as he can't break the rules. She also knows he's a smart, capable and moral man who will do everything he can to work round them. Which, amazingly, he does in the end. After all their years of friendship she should have known she didn't have to do the full on patronising for him to ultimately take action. After raising her points once and in a straightforward fashion there should have been trust.

Frankly, the episode would have been much better if she'd been the one on space dope.
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Old December 26 2012, 03:54 AM   #3
Jeyl
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Re: Episode of the Week: Symbiosis

While the conclusion made in this episode is indeed a logical one, I wouldn't have used the Prime Directive as the absolute reason why the Enterprise shouldn't have involved themselves anymore than they did. I would have just used common sense. We helped you with your ship and cargo, but we will not tolerate being deceived into helping you with your drug business. Simple and reasonable.

I also don't like how Picard's reasoning basically amounts to "You'll have to take my word for it.".

Picard: "History has proved again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference may be, the results are invariably disastrous."

Example please..... I'm willing to put up with one of your history lessons if it relates to our current situation..... You seem to be dead set on this point Picard.... No, I'm not going to just take your word for it. You violated the Prime Directive once already in this season and the only disaster that came from that was the perfectly good opportunity to legally kill Wesley.
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Old December 26 2012, 04:34 AM   #4
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Re: Episode of the Week: Symbiosis

inflatabledalek wrote: View Post
After all their years of friendship she should have known she didn't have to do the full on patronising for him to ultimately take action.
How well did they know each other before Farpoint? I know Picard was good friends with Jack Crusher, but he had only met Wesley once so it's not like he was part of the family.
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Old January 5 2013, 09:36 AM   #5
MikeS
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Re: Episode of the Week: Symbiosis

A suprisingly enjoyable episode that I had somehow decided was one of the bad ones. Yar's speech isn't nearly as preachy as I remember, she says that drugs feel good and are an escape from reality and then moralises about them - a balanced and factually correct speech. Picard's solution was obvious, some of the best solutions usually are.

Were these races ever revisited in Trek lit? An entire planet going cold-turkey would make one hell of a horror story.
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Old January 8 2013, 12:47 AM   #6
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Re: Episode of the Week: Symbiosis

Jeyl wrote: View Post
While the conclusion made in this episode is indeed a logical one, I wouldn't have used the Prime Directive as the absolute reason why the Enterprise shouldn't have involved themselves anymore than they did. I would have just used common sense. We helped you with your ship and cargo, but we will not tolerate being deceived into helping you with your drug business. Simple and reasonable.

I also don't like how Picard's reasoning basically amounts to "You'll have to take my word for it.".

Picard: "History has proved again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference may be, the results are invariably disastrous."

Example please..... I'm willing to put up with one of your history lessons if it relates to our current situation..... You seem to be dead set on this point Picard.... No, I'm not going to just take your word for it. You violated the Prime Directive once already in this season and the only disaster that came from that was the perfectly good opportunity to legally kill Wesley.
Well said.

and those bitching about Bev's reactions to Picard's decision and her 'sleeping through prime directive classes', well, McCoy did the same stuff, as did Pulaski. Sorry, but I find her reactions far more believable, especially when you see what the people on that world are going through.

I also see a hidden message about this story, showing one group of people exploiting another by giving them a 'cure', but the cure is worse than the so-called disease and addictive....at the risk of a few angry/smart alec comments, I see some well deserved pot shots thrown at big pharmaceutical.
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Old January 8 2013, 01:05 AM   #7
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Re: Episode of the Week: Symbiosis

The Castellan wrote: View Post
I also see a hidden message about this story, showing one group of people exploiting another by giving them a 'cure', but the cure is worse than the so-called disease and addictive....at the risk of a few angry/smart alec comments, I see some well deserved pot shots thrown at big pharmaceutical.
Not angry or a smart alec, but in this case, Castellan, I disagree, one hundred percent.

This is a story about the drug pushers exploiting the users, manipulating them into self-destructive behavior by withholding extremely important information about the illness and the nature of the drug. Big Pharmaceutical sells drugs that have been clinically tested, approved by the FDA, and prescribed by qualified doctors whose only interest is the health of the patient. It’s not remotely similar.

The closest real-world analog would probably be alternative medicine quack remedies.

Once upon a time, tobacco was advertised as healthy, despite the tobacco companies knowing of the actual adverse effects and suppressing their own internal studies while continuing to mislead the public. That would also be a good analogy but a rather dated one.
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Old January 8 2013, 07:21 AM   #8
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Re: Episode of the Week: Symbiosis

Captrek wrote: View Post
The Castellan wrote: View Post
I also see a hidden message about this story, showing one group of people exploiting another by giving them a 'cure', but the cure is worse than the so-called disease and addictive....at the risk of a few angry/smart alec comments, I see some well deserved pot shots thrown at big pharmaceutical.
Not angry or a smart alec, but in this case, Castellan, I disagree, one hundred percent.

This is a story about the drug pushers exploiting the users, manipulating them into self-destructive behavior by withholding extremely important information about the illness and the nature of the drug. Big Pharmaceutical sells drugs that have been clinically tested, approved by the FDA, and prescribed by qualified doctors whose only interest is the health of the patient. It’s not remotely similar.

The closest real-world analog would probably be alternative medicine quack remedies.

Once upon a time, tobacco was advertised as healthy, despite the tobacco companies knowing of the actual adverse effects and suppressing their own internal studies while continuing to mislead the public. That would also be a good analogy but a rather dated one.
Wow, seems like Trek nerds don't like anything alternative whatsoever when it comes to really anything, only supporting the mainstream. :b org::bor g:

Well, look at it this way....Viox, Phen Phen, Avandia, Prozak. Despite saying they re just fine and safe.....I doubt that, otherwise we'd not have so many lawsuits....in fact, my own dad was on Avandia, he went from a straight foreward thinking man to EXACTLY like Sarek in the TNG where he was going crazy....not to mention dad did say he was getting really addicted to the stuff. I highly doubt big pharma really cares about fighting illnesses, epsecially since a sick population is one that's making big pharma money....it's all about the money. A big profit corporation or a government agency.....none of which I myself would call honest or honorable....it's all about money. I see the makers of that drug in this episode just like that.....a half-assed 'cure' that only treats symptoms and not any causes, and the makers know this and that it's all just a sham, and making the other guys pay arms and legs for it, and making the guys hopelessly addicted so they keep buying it, even allowing that particular shipment to be free, to make themselves look like they are nice guys, and to make sure sales still go on.

It's all about money and control. To those who have it, it's better than sex.
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Old January 8 2013, 08:34 AM   #9
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Re: Episode of the Week: Symbiosis

You know, I never thought of that. It is true, a lot of people are prescribed addictive drugs because they have incentive to do so by the drug company. I've heard people say it's easier to quit heroin cold turkey than SSRIs. I have family members who were inundated with SSRIs for years and, while it made them feel better in the short term, only made them chemically dependent in the long term.

I have a brother who spent a year barely able to get out of his bed to take a shower in the morning, all while on SSRIs. Now he's 27, lives at home and has no resume. And oh, my uncle. He has chronic back pain. Terrible pain he lived with for years. One time he was hospitalized and they cleansed all the drugs from his system and a lot of the pain he lived with for years disappeared.

I don't think that's what the writers had in mind, but it certainly applies. He trusted the people who prescribed the drug.

I always thought Symbiosis was one of the better episodes of first season, though not one of the most exciting. I like the application of the prime directive. Picard does what is necessary and does not interfere.
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Old January 8 2013, 01:09 PM   #10
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Re: Episode of the Week: Symbiosis

What I like about Symbiosis is that it actually treats the subject matter with a good degree of maturity. It doesn't simply color in the lines with "good guys and bad guys", but instead explores the whys and wherefores of how supply and demand works. The episode is also an effective analogy of, say, commercialisation. The consumers don't know that they 'need' something until the suppliers convince them that they just can't live without it.

The second half of TNG's first season really did see a marked improvement in the quality of the stories being told.
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Old January 8 2013, 06:28 PM   #11
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Re: Episode of the Week: Symbiosis

Agreed. I never cared for it before, but now this actually seems like one of the better-written episodes of the season. And the fact these aliens now look for all the world like a couple of meth addicts makes it seem even darker and edgier-- and makes the alien "dealers" seem like one of the most evil and cruel of the entire series.

And I for one LOVE Beverly's role in the episode. It's awesome seeing her piece together the truth, and her growing frustration with Picard and the Prime Directive is completely understandable. The suffering just those two addicts were going through was hard enough to watch, but to imagine that happening on a planetary scale...
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Old January 8 2013, 09:30 PM   #12
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Re: Episode of the Week: Symbiosis

I liked this episode. In fact, with the exception of The Neutral Zone, I thought the last 1/3 of the season was strong. There was a noticeable improvement starting with Coming of Age and through Conspiracy. Almost all of the stinkers were in the first half of the season.

Judson Scott finally gets billing in a Star Trek production.

Was this the episode where Tasha explains drug addiction to Wesley? That was way too ham-fisted.
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Old January 8 2013, 09:41 PM   #13
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Re: Episode of the Week: Symbiosis

jimbotron wrote: View Post
Was this the episode where Tasha explains drug addiction to Wesley? That was way too ham-fisted.
That you're asking this question, I'm guessing you've not recently watched it on the new HD release? If not, I suggest you do. I too remembered that scene as being "ham-fisted". Upon my re-watch last week I realised that it was my memory and not the speech that was at fault. It is a perfectly correct speech highlighting the pro's and con's of using drugs for pleasure.
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Old January 8 2013, 10:16 PM   #14
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Re: Episode of the Week: Symbiosis

^ Agreed. The show could definitely be pretty corny and ham-fisted in the first season, but this is one time when the writing was actually good.

If there's anything that seems a bit silly about the scene, it's Wesley's complete naivety about drugs and addiction. But considering the more "evolved" 24th century they live in, that attitude is probably understandable.
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Old January 9 2013, 02:56 AM   #15
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Re: Episode of the Week: Symbiosis

Captrek wrote: View Post
How does the whole planet's population go two centuries without discovering the truth of the situation?
The entire Brekkian population was dedicated to making the Ornarans not discover it. Because Brekka's economy depended on it. That gave them one hell of an incentive.
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