By Mia Timpano

Because Star Trek: TNG is the greatest franchise, not just of Star Trek, but of anything whatsoever of all time, it’s easy to forget just how many episodes of this series actually blow.

Let’s take a random example: the episode “Lonely Among Us”. It’s a typical day on the Enterprise when they pass through some gas and pick up a sentient being, which becomes trapped in the ship’s circuitry, and somehow breaks down the ship’s helm. When the sentient being leaves the helm’s console, the helm completely recovers power, leaving Wesley to ask LaForge, “Hey, what gives with the helm recovering power for no reason whatsoever?” To which LaForge says, “Yeah, whatever.” Hmm, thank you Chief Engineer Brain Squad, remind me to ask you nothing ever again.

The sentient being then enters Picard, so Picard is possessed (hmm, that old nugget, when is he not), so he redirects the ship back to the gaseous cloud, because the sentient being wants to return to its gas home. When the crew starts to complain, Picard electrocutes them so they’re all temporarily dead, convenient, then Picard beams himself into the cloud, somehow turning himself into a gas on the way. Then the crew regains consciousness, and Deanna says, “Oh, yeah, Picard is fine, he separated from the sentient being.” He separated? Wow, that was convenient.

So Frakes shrugs and says, “Well, let’s go home,” when someone else says, “Hang about, check out this big P being spelt out in LEDs on the helm’s console.” “P?” Frakes says. “P for Picard?” No, P for Poo. Yes, of course, P for Picard, you idiot! Good to know you’re in command of a vehicle that can destroy worlds.

So now everyone wonders how they can release Picard’s gas, when Deanna says, “Hey, maybe he remembers that the transporter stored his DNA and he’ll go and meet us back there?” I don’t know, Deanna. Would Gas Picard remember a thing like that? On the one hand, he’s able to spell out his name in annoying places, but on the other, what’s the memory span of gas?

So they run to the transporter room and hit the button that says “reconstruct Picard into a human being now”, and the process is instantly successful. Then Tasha Yar comes in and says the aliens from the B-plot are still fighting. Then Picard says to Frakes, “Actually, I think I will have that rest now!” What? Okay, you just resolved nothing, other than “Picard has naptime”, which satisfies no narrative requirements of this episode whatsoever.

The thing that probably struck me most about that episode was how little I cared whether Picard lived, died or lived on as a gas in space. “Lonely Among Us” is obviously not the worst episode of Next Gen, but it comes pretty fucking close. No. That particular fetid egg would come six seasons later in the form of a Beverly-heavy episode known as “Sub Rosa” (Latin, trans: “under the rose”).

The episode opens with Beverly Crusher’s grandmother’s funeral, taking place on a random M-class planet, which happens to be a reconstruction of Scotland, circa ye olde. At the funeral, Beverly notices a bad actor lurking around the coffin; he throws a rose on Old Lady Crusher’s death box and walks away.

Meanwhile Picard is doing what he usually does — ineffectual bullshit. This time he is chatting with an old man alien who explains why the planet is a reconstruction of Scotland. “People wanted it to be the real Scotland, so we transported whatever shit we could find from the actual Scotland and dumped it here.” If people wanted the “real Scotland”, why wouldn’t they, I don’t know, go to Scotland? But no, I forget, you destroyed it in order to create this theme-planet, congratulations.

So Beverly wanders around the old lady’s home when generic Scottish idiot blasts through the door and screams, “Bah bah! You have to destroy the candle!” Beverly, apparently taking no interest in ways to save her life, runs away, taking the old lady’s diary back to the Enterprise. Then Beverly runs into Picard and tells him that, according to the diary, Old Lady Crusher had a “lover”. Picard, his attention apparently piqued by the old woman’s sex life, discusses Old Lady Crusher’s “libido” until Beverly leaves him to stand alone in the corridor musing about old lady sex. News flash, Picard, you are in command of a war vessel, this isn’t the time to daydream about sex with the elderly and make everybody sick, you are so useless, I preferred you as a gas.

Back to the episode: we watch Beverly sleep while a voice says “Beverlyyyyyyy!” Beverly then tells Deanna that she had an explicit sex dream. Wow, that’s interesting, I thought you ran the surgery, apparently that can wait for bullshit like this. When Deanna pushes for details, Beverly says, “Well, I did fall asleep reading a particularly erotic entry in my grandmother’s journal!” Really? I assumed a mental image like that would make you throw up, Beverly, but no, apparently you actually enjoy conjuring mental pictures of your own family nude and mating, interesting, thank you, that’s knowledge I really want to bank.

So Beverly, now obsessed with the voice, discovers that it belongs to a ghost called “Ronin”. When Ronin takes corporeal form, we discover that yes, he is indeed the same bad actor from the funeral, and that not only did he plough the old lady’s meat tray, but he has in fact been ploughing all the Crusher women for the last thousand years. “I live in the flame,” Ronin says. Yes, I see. And the puffy shirt you wear, does that live in the flame too? Tell me this, Ronin, how have you been laundering a puffy shirt for the past thousand years? “In the flame”? In the little washer and dryer “in the flame”?

So anyway, Beverly is so in love with Ronin at this point, she resigns her post as ship’s surgeon (hmm, big loss) so that she can move in with Ronin on Scotland The Planet, at which point Picard comes after her and says, “So show me this guy, since he’s so awesome.” Ronin gets extremely pissed by this, so turns into a bolt of lightning and electrocutes Picard. Picard plays dead for a while (wow, I take it back, he does have a skill), then some other stuff happens that I forget, but no doubt contained the same level of bullshit as the rest of this episode, and then we somehow reach the point where the only way to solve the “Ronin” mystery is by exhuming Old Lady Crusher’s corpse. Do they have permission to do so? They check with the old man alien, he tells them to go for it!

So LaForge and someone else are whistling away, digging up the rotting corpse, when Ronin, still in his bolt of lightning form, blasts himself into the old lady’s fetid remains and makes her arms fly out, shooting bolts of electricity into LaForge and the other guy, leaving them temporarily dead. BTW: since when is LaForge in charge of digging up corpses, seriously? Surely the Chief Engineer is needed, oh, I don’t know, somewhere on the vessel, maybe near, I don’t know, the engine — but no, sorry, I forgot, when you need someone to exhume a corpse in a hurry, you can always lose the Chief Engineer. Hey, LaForge, can you scrub my toilet?

So anyway, then the old lady’s head swivels on its axis and says, “Beverlyyyy! It’s me, your grandma!” Then Beverly suddenly gets a clue and says, “No, you’re Ronin, and you’re a parasite alien who requires a plasma conduit, i.e. this candle, in order to stay alive!” Okay, that fundamental information was delivered extremely quickly and came out of nowhere whatsoever. Then Ronin resumes his corporeal form, and tries to fly off (oh, he can fly now, why fucking not) so Beverly phasers the candle (i.e. his conduit), he dies, the end.

Why does this episode even exist? Apart from the fact that it features Star Trek cast members, it bears no actual resemblance to Star Trek. Star Trek is a big show. It asks big questions: what it is to be human, what it is to be moral, what is reality, what is the universe, what is an alien, who am I, who are you — not what happens when stupid Scottish ghosts nail old women. Obviously someone needs to carry the blame for this episode, and before you go wagging your fingers at Frakes (who receives this episode’s directorial credit), I would counsel you to consider who is credited as the episode’s “source material” author. That’s right, Jeanna F. Gallo AKA Anne Rice, who I don’t actually hate, but does serve to explain why this episode of Star Trek plays out nothing like an episode of Star Trek.

This article can be found snugly tucked away in issue 2.1.