Episode of the Week: 2x11 "Contagion"

Discussion in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' started by Jeyl, Apr 8, 2013.

  1. Jeyl

    Jeyl Commodore Commodore

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    "Contagion"
    Memory Alpha Entry
    Chakoteya Transcript

    I admit that even though I loved Star Trek: The Next Generation when I was very young, I only remember seeing 10, maybe 15 episodes at most throughout it's entire seven year run. Quite odd considering the episodes and re-runs were readily available. I bring this up because one of the earliest episodes I can remember watching was "Contagion". I was maybe five or six at the time watching it with my folks and thinking how cool it was that there were two Enterprises in one episode..... than it just spontaneously blew up.

    After watching it on the Season Two BluRay set, I find myself feeling very troubled watching the scenes with Picard talking to Captain Varley on the Yamato, I kept thinking to myself "When is it going to blow? When is it going to blow?". Than I realized that this scene was more intense than I actually remembered. When Worf says theres a build up of energy in the engineering section and Picard tries desperately to inform Varley about it, you can barely make out Varley sitting in his chair totally unaware about what's going on in his own ship. I kept saying "Beam them out, now! NOW!" but it was too late.

    The Yamato being destroyed I still think is one of the more darker moments in TNG especially when you watch it knowing that everyone onboard the ship is going to die. A Galaxy Class Starship is a pretty important ship and not all that common. I've got to give the episode a lot of credit for having this actually mean something to the characters, including Wesley of all people. Despite Gene Roddenberry's insistence that we don't mourn the dead, having Wesley talk to Picard about it is probably one of the best uses of Wesley's character in the series so far. We finally get to see something about him that he's not prepared for, and he doesn't simply brush it aside like it's nothing. Even Picard almost says something important about the concept of humanity not being moved by the loss of even a single life. I guess Gene was on vacation when this episode was made.

    This episode also introduced us to the barely touched upon Iconian civilization. The idea of a very advanced race who could travel anywhere in the galaxy by merely stepping through a portal was quite interesting. Why did this advance civilization just die out when they had so much at their disposal to survive? Could an alien race we've seen in other series like DS9 and Voyager be descendants of the Iconians? I'll always miss that story potential.

    This also marks the second major appearance of the Romulans and thankfully it's not in a terrible episode. While Sub Commander Taris plays the typical bad guy who doesn't have any real power, she does come off as an intimidating foe who you'd be thankful was forced into these circumstances. It always baffles me as to why the show creators thought that Taris died in this episode when we clearly see her Warbird regain power and leave the planet's orbit in the end. It's one of those many "Did they even watch the episode?" fumbles that we will be getting a lot of later in the series.

    Parts involving the Enterprise malfunctioning and continuing to get worse was also handled well, though I think Geordi's struggle in the turbo lift comes off more comedic than scary.

    If there's one major complaint I have towards this episode, it's Picard's behavior in dealing with the Romulans in the end. Picard pretty much decides to leave the system and let the Romulans die.

    Wow. Picard, the main hero of the show was perfectly willing to let every single Romulan on that Warbird die. Just like that. Riker actually has to circumvent Picard's orders just to give the Romulans a chance to survive. This is the same guy who in the very next season will be begging Worf to save the life of a dying Romulan who openly said he would rather die than get help from Worf.

    Conclusion: A very well put together episode that has some very well done moments of tension and suspense that you normally don't get out Star Trek. Characters actually feel more like characters rather than caricatures, and Wesley is actually relatable for once.

    Iconinc Trait: This is the first time we see Picard ordering his famous hot Earl Grey tea from the replicator. Unfortunately even though it's the first time he does so, the replicator gives him a plant instead. Quite an appropriate moment since even though Picard is turning into the Picard we know from the later seasons, he's not there yet.

    STINGER:
    [​IMG]
     
  2. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    It's not a given, but it's a probable outcome nevertheless - we were told that things flickering on and off and on again is a lead-in to a fatal kaboom...

    In any case, the second Carolyn Seymour character might have been weakened had she been an old acquaintance of Picard: there would have been an extra plot complication had she had a personal reason to actually trust Picard, indeed owe her life to him. That'd pretty much ruin the part where her very logical intent is to blow him out of the sky without warning! "Taris being dead" was probably just something of an excuse for an already done deal of writing a purely adversarial character.

    Agreed on all the bits relevant to the episode at hand, though. I guess the concept of rebooting contaminated computers could have been handled a bit less clumsily, though. It would have been perfectly okay for the characters to sarcastically comment on the impossibility of treating a giant starship like an ancient personal computer, only to discover through Data's resurrection that there was a <technobabble> way to do it after all.

    Good pacing here. And this seems to be the first and only TNG take on the TOS trope where another starship captain stumbles onto a big thing that the hero captain then has to sort out. That is, TNG was full of damsel-in-distress starships - but none that would have been standing equal to the hero ship, with an equally heroic skipper and crew, and on the verge of achieving great things, until fate intervened (say, as with the Constellation and Intrepid of TOS). TNG guest skippers other than Varley were mere cannon fodder, which is a definite step down from the ambitious maniacs of TOS.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  3. Marsden

    Marsden Commodore Commodore

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    The USS Yamato, the ultimate red shirt ship.

    I really hated how what was left of the saucer seemed to head right for Enterprise and basically smushed against their shields. eww.
     
  4. jimbotron

    jimbotron Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    After Picard was beamed over, all he knew was that the Enterprise appeared to be fixed, and that the Romulan ship was about to explode in close proximity to the Enterprise. He didn't know that the computer virus was easily removed by restarting the computer, and that the Romulan ship was salvageable.

    When a large ship is about to explode, typically the Enterprise gets the hell out of dodge. Riker had all the information however, and was able to step in.
     
  5. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Also, evacuating the crew of a hostile vessel must be an incredibly complex operation. Even though Picard had just witnessed that transporters worked for him, he should have had no reason to think that they would work for the Romulans, for the required time, at the required efficiency; even in ideal conditions, the task might be flat out impossible (compare with the timetable in "11001001").

    Plus, let's not forget that Picard's motivations for keeping his Romulan captive alive in "The Enemy" were not altruistic. The Romulan was being held as a pawn, and his death would have made Picard look bad in addition to costing him his one ace in the sleeve, the potential and potent threat of him being able to interrogate a confession out of the captive. Picard really isn't the sort of a skipper to turn the other cheek.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  6. Jon1701

    Jon1701 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The Iconians did pop up again (sort of) in the DS9 episode To The Death.

    Well, at least their gateways did.

    I agree, I'm suprised they never revisited them properly to find out who they were though.
     
  7. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Great, great episode.
     
  8. Jeyl

    Jeyl Commodore Commodore

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    Which begs the question why Riker didn't give the Romulans this information earlier since everyone had concluded that letting this alien computer virus run amok will inevitably destroy the ship?
     
  9. Forbin

    Forbin Admiral Admiral

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    One of my favorite moments in the series: "Not, I think, today, Commander..." and the look on her face as he beams out.
     
  10. Mott the barber

    Mott the barber Commodore Commodore

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    Definitely in my TNG top 10-15. I never get tired of watching it and it most definitely has one of the top teasers of any TNG (the destruction, the piercing music, and then the Romulans). Just watched a clip of it on youtube and it gives me the chills every time.
     
  11. Captrek

    Captrek Vice Admiral Admiral

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    This episode kind of feels like TOS. I can imagine Shatner, Nimoy and Kelly in this story. Actually, between The Paradise Syndrome and All Our Yesterdays, they did do a lot of this story.
     
  12. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    When it first aired, I thought it was above average compared to what had come before. I had been hoping for a series that was good enough that such an episode would be at most only average, but TNG wouldn't mature into that show until next season.

    I found the trope of destroying, or otherwise getting rid of, the super-advanced technology before it could upset the status quo to be already tiresome by this point in the series.

    Still, it was progress.
     
  13. inflatabledalek

    inflatabledalek Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I really like this one, I'm no computer expert but I suspect the logic of the "turn everything off, turn it on again" ending doesn't stand up to real world scrutiny, but the episode rockets along at such a pace it doesn't really matter.

    Indeed, compared to a lot of TNG this episode really does pack a lot of plot and ideas in at a fast pace, you go from a mystery about an exploding ship to a lost alien civilisation through the posturing against the Romulans and the Enterprise starting to break down. You could quite easily do an entire episode about each of those ideas (and I think just about each one of them would) but here they're just a part of a surprisingly dense action story.
     
  14. jimbotron

    jimbotron Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    For fixing the Enterprise, it made sense. They effectively wiped the hard drive and reverted back to a factory install using the restore partition, much like you would do to a PC that's full of malware.

    Now for Data? He keeps a backup of himself in himself that will automatically take over when he "dies". That's less convincing.
     
  15. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I can't see how that could ever work with a starship. For one thing, you can't shut down the computers even for a split second, or everybody will die. If you do it in safe stages, it will take much longer than shown - plus, the program will be fighting you every step of the way.

    For another, there shouldn't be such a thing as a clean boot disk - the invasive program was shown to be capable of penetrating physical firewalls (it jumped through Data's hand into Data), so there would be no place aboard the ship that would be safe from the program's attack. Every device, from the humblest PADD to the most vital sections of the central computer, would be contaminated - and so would all of their backups, because the program would make no difference between "primary" and "backup", "important" and "unimportant" in its vicious attack.

    Of course, the program wasn't necessarily malware; Picard speculated it was a benevolent contact program that just happened to be overenthusiastic about its job. But that is even worse, as the program wouldn't behave like a predictable destructive intruder, only attacking tactically viable targets etc. Rather, it would rampage through the ship until it had shaken hands with the last cabin-vacuuming robot and fire-extinguishing subroutine...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  16. JessDD

    JessDD Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    I really just noticed this was quite a dramatic episode, from the music to the dialogue.


    It's almost corny looking back at it now.
     
  17. t_smitts

    t_smitts Captain Captain

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    Actually, I'm pretty sure the Yamato's saucer did NOT impact the Enterprise's shields. We saw how the bridge shook when a piece of debris hit them. I think it's safe to say that if the MUCH LARGER saucer had hit them, we would've noticed.

    IIRC, the episode states that the Iconian homeworld have been devastated millennia ago by orbit bombardment. (Wonder who did that, BTW? The Promelians? The Menthar? The Tkon?) However it's implied that at least some of them used their gateway to escape to other worlds where they integrated themselves into society.

    We never got a clear indication of what that gateway can really do. If an enemy fleet attacked them, could they teleport a couple of grenades into the hostile ships' engine rooms?

    Ultimately, though, it would open up too big a can of words for future episodes to give anyone that kind of power, so, as with "To the Death", the only way for it to end is with the gateway being destroyed.

    As for why it was never followed up, well not to long after "To the Death", we had the premiere of another popular sci-fi series with a similar premise.

    One last observation, I wonder if the destruction of the Yamato, plus the numerous civilians who surely died at Wolf 359, caused Starfleet to get it in its head that having a bunch of families and kids on starships is generally a bad idea.
     
  18. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Given the events in some of the episode, perhaps Starfleet thought that having a bunch of families and kids on planets was generally a bad idea.

    Spouses and children are likely safer on a ship, than in a city if there is shooting going on.

    And there was no good reason for the families to be taken into combat at wolf359, they should have been loaded into lifeboats and ejected into space light years short of the combat area. The ships had to travel to the combat area, it wasn't some kind of surprise.

    But for all we know, only the Saratoga's Captain was so stupid as to have not done this.

    :)
     
  19. MikeS

    MikeS Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    A couple of classic lines in this one;

    Pulaski; "It's a time honored way of practicing medicine with your heart, and your head, and your hands."

    Riker; "If it should become necessary to fight, could you arrange to find me some rocks to throw at them?"
    "Fate: Protects fools, little children, and ships named Enterprise."

    A couple of posts have made mention of the fact that the "reboot to factory settings" wasn't very accurate. This episode was made in 1989. As far as I can recall I was still using DOS in school at the time and there was no such thing as a "factory reset". I'm no technology expert, but shouldn't we be giving this episode credit for inventing, or at least inspiring, the factory reset?

    Also, for people saying that they would like to explore more of the Iconion gateways, there was a seven book series about them; http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Star_Trek:_Gateways
     
  20. Captrek

    Captrek Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The Iconians and the Gateways, from what little we know of them, are basically the same as the Ancients and the Stargates. (TNG was first.) Now you have 350+ episodes to explore the gateways.