ST:TNG Treadmill Review #3: Unnatural Selection

Unnatural Selection
Season 2 Episode 7
Original airdate: January 28, 1989

Netflix Synopsis

The Enterprise receives a distress signal from the USS Lantree. When they arrive, they find everyone aboard the Lantree dead from old age.

My Brief Review

Another classic episode, albeit a slightly unoriginal one, with echoes of the scientific-hubris-on-a-remote-research-station-gone-wrong vibe of The Wrath of Khan. But there are definitely worse ideas you could copy.

This episode feels painfully relevant at the moment, as it revolves around a mysterious virus that is rapidly killing people, and children seem to be asymptomatic carriers. As it happens, the disease is caused by these genetically engineered superhumans’ aggressive immune systems.

It’s a unique episode in that it involves the potential death of a main character, that feels like it actually could happen, since it’s the newly introduced Dr. Pulaski, and we in the audience didn’t know for sure how long she’d be around. But she is saved by another classic (and logically questionable) Star Trek plot device — transporter manipulation! Chief O’Brien modifies the transporter to alter an infected (and severely aged) Dr. Pulaski’s DNA as she’s transported, and of course it works.

I’ve never liked that (ab)use of the transporter technology, partly because it raises questions about the nature of the device in a way the show never properly addresses.

And there’s something else that troubles me at the end of this episode: Enterprise returns to the quarantined USS Lantree, its crew all dead of “natural causes” (old age), and completely obliterates it, with a single photon torpedo. Doesn’t it concern the crew at all to be racing around the universe at warp speed inside what this shows is little more than a powder keg? I mean, early in the episode Picard uses a special code to take remote control of the Lantree so he can turn on the bridge viewscreen. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for him to do that again, to initiate the ship’s own auto-destruct? (I suspect the real answer to that question comes down to the episode’s runtime.)

Despite these quibbles though, this is a truly excellent episode.

Memorable Moment

Chief O’Brien gets into some serious Star Trek pseudo-scientific gibberish when he’s explaining his idea about fixing Dr. Pulaski’s altered DNA in the transporter. It was so good, I took screenshots of the captions so I could get it exactly right here:

O’Brien: Well, I’d have to get into the bio-filter bus and patch in a molecular matrix reader. That’s no problem. But the waveform modulator will be overloaded without the regeneration limiter in the first stage circuit.

Data: Hmm, interesting. However, theoretically…

Picard: Data.

Data: Yes, sir.

Picard: Can you do the modifications?

O’Brien: I think so, sir.

Picard: Then make it so.

Crew Rando

There aren’t any crew randos who are prominent enough to actually have their names spoken in this episode, but there’s an unnamed crewman assisting O’Brien in the transporter room whose haircut is so similar to Data’s that in one shot, where we just see him from behind, in shadows, I was convinced for a moment he was Data… except he was in the process of beaming Data back to the ship.

Distance Rating: 6K

IMDb score: 6.5/10