"Genesis"

Season Seven, Episode 19
Written by Brannon Braga
Directed by Gates McFadden
Main Cast:
Patrick Stewart as Capt Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes as Cmdr William Riker
LeVar Burton as Lt Cmdr Geordi LaForge
Michael Dorn as Lt Worf
Gates McFadden as Dr Beverly Crusher
Marina Sirtis as Counsellor Deanna Troi
Brent Spiner as Lt Cmdr Data
 

Guest Cast:
Dwight Schultz as Lt Reg Barclay
Patti Yasutake as Nurse Alyssa Ogawa
Carlo Ferro as Ensign Dern
Majel Barrett as Computer Voice
 

Synopsis:
 
Picard and Data take a shuttle to retrieve a wayward torpedo that veered off course during a battle drill. Meanwhile, Dr Crusher treats Lt Barclay for a flu virus, injecting him with a synthetic T-cell to help compensate for a dormant gene in his immune system. However, the T-cell activates more than one dormant gene and soon becomes air-borne, spreading across the ship like a virus, causing the crew to undergo bizarre transformations. Picard and Data return to find the Enterprise adrift in space with the computer non-functional. They are startled to find the crew have devolved into numerous creatures, from apes and fish to spiders and, in Worf's case, a deadly proto-Klingon creature. As Picard distracts the rampaging Worf with a trail of Troi's pheromones, Data works on a cure for the virus and successfully restores the crew to their normal state.


Review:

This episode has to be seen to be believed. While Riker's brain starts shrinking, Worf becomes a belching, nest-building lout who gives the fishy Troi a love bite before turning into a giant Klingon skunk and spraying Crusher with his venom. And that's just the start of it.

Genesis is a marvellous, riotously funny Star Trek parody...except it's not a parody, it's an episode and as such we're expected to take it seriously. Well, I'm sorry, but no-can-do. In terms of sheer, unbridled stupidity, Genesis is right up there with Spock's Brain and Threshold. In fact, on the basis of this episode, had I been Rick Berman, I'd have not only refused Brannon Braga a place on the Voyager writing staff but had him immediately escorted from the building. Oh, the warning signs are all here -- indeed, this episode could well be Braga's dress rehearsal for Threshold.

On the bright side, Gates McFadden does an impressive job behind the camera -- all the more so considering this is her directorial debut. Meanwhile, Michael Westmore's makeup department have a field day creating all manner of weird creatures -- particularly memorable is the Barclay-spider hybrid. Between that, McFadden's capable directing and some particularly atmospheric lighting, Genesis is certainly a visually-impressive episode. But no matter how great the production, it simply can't salvage such an abysmal script. The whole thing is based on a totally idiotic premise -- that a virus activates latent DNA in the crew causing them to devolve, or "de-evolve" as Data puts it (heavens, Braga couldn't even get the damned word right!). I simply can't watch this episode without a permanent cringe on my face.
 
At one point, Data earnestly tells Picard "I believe you will also de-evolve into an earlier form of primate, possibly similar to a lemur or pygmy marmoset." How Brent Spiner managed to keep a straight face is beyond me. A constant source of amazement was how any of the actors were able to take this seriously. Not that they weren't entirely blameless themselves, for I found a number of the performances particularly dubious. For example you need look no farther than Marina Sirtis, who is hysterically funny as the amphibious Troi-fish. Even the usually-excellent Patrick Stewart was on poor form. You can almost tell what he's thinking as he races about spraying Troi's pheromones across the ship -- "my careeeer, what'll this do to my careeeer?!!" It's actually rather perversely fun watching Genesis -- it's laughable in every sense of the word.

The icing on the cake is a ridiculously inept anti-climax which -- thanks to a quick Captain's Log entry -- instantly resets the whole scenario, returning everything to normal in the blink of an eye. Have the crew suffered any ill-effects from the horrific experience? Hell no, everyone's joking about it! After all, it's just another day at the office. And what about the damage to the ship? What damage?

Have you ever tried to convince a non-fan that Star Trek is actually an intelligent, sophisticated series? Prepare to eat those very words, for this kind of thing is a sheer embarrassment. You want to know the really scary part? The guy responsible for this dreck is the guy who's creating the next Star Trek series.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.
 

Rating: 2

Note: I've gone back to amend my rating of Sub Rosa. Frankly I'm not sure what's worse -- erotic ghosts or devolved baboons on the rampage. Oh, the joys of Star Trek. :-{


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