Weekly Trek – July 18-24, 2016

Up until Star Trek: Deep Space Nine developed a continuing storyline that involved season-long and series-long arc, the episodes of the various Star Trek television series were self-contained in nature with little continuity between them.  When a story thread did extend past a single episode, it was usually in a two-parter that was resolved the following week or, in the case of the cliffhanger season finales Star Trek: The Next Generation began producing with “The Best of Both Worlds Part 1” at the end of its third season, in the following season’s premiere episode.

In one case, though, Star Trek: The Next Generation introduced a plotline and a potentially-formidable new adversary only to never speak of it again.  Near the end of TNG’s first season in May 1988, the series aired an episode called “Conspiracy” based on a plot idea from show (and overall Star Trek) creator Gene Roddenberry and written by Tracy Torme’. 

In the episode, Captain Keel, a colleague of Captain Jean-Luc Picard contacts him to warn him of a possible conspiracy inside Starfleet Command.  Soon after giving delivering the warning, Captain Keel is killed when his ship is mysteriously destroyed.  Picard has Commander Data investigate Keel’s claims, and, after Data confirms that Command has been issuing strange orders, Picard takes the USS Enterprise to Earth. 

Once there, Picard and crew discover that several Starfleet admirals have been taken over by an alien parasite that completely controls them.  One disgusting dinner and several phaser blasts later, Picard and his First Officer, Commander William Riker, are able track down and destroy the mother creature, which was hiding in another officer, killing all of its baby parasites.

But before it died, the mother creature sent a signal out into space.

Dun DUN DUNNNNNNNN!

And then we never heard from them again.

It was a bit anti-climactic.  I don’t know why the TNG writers never decided to follow-up on the storyline.  If I had to guess, I’d say it was probably because the Borg took the role of threatening antagonist, complete with the ability to control people via assimilation.  Whatever the reason, the show left it alone.  In 2003, the DS9 novel Unity finally picked up the plot again.  If you’re really curious to know more about the parasites, that book has your answers.

“Conspiracy” did lead to a fun moment for me at a Star Trek convention held the summer after the episode aired.  Majel Barrett (Christine Chapel, Lwaxana Troi, the voice of the Federation computers, and Gene Roddenberry’s wife) was a guest at the convention and was taking questions from the audience about TNG.  Someone asked her about the violence level in “Conspiracy,” particularly in regard to “blowing up a body” (Which is what Picard and Riker had to do to destroy the mother creature.).  Barrett then responded, “Blow up a body?  I don’t remember us blowing up a body?  Did we blow up a body?”  She was just so matter-of-fact about it as though blowing up a body was at the same level as leaving the living room light on.  I was amused.

One other note about the episode: the writer, Tracy Torme’ is the son of singer and frequent Night Court guest star, Mel Torme’.

- Alan Decker

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