Thursday, December 2, 2010

"10010011" Bionic Aliens Of The Week Menace The Universe!

The Good: Good plot, Good acting, Interesting character development
The Bad: Suspension of disbelief, One trick
The Basics: A fair episode of Star Trek The Next Generation, "11001001" tells the story of a computer dependent society and its attempts to survive.

"11001001" is both a binary code and the name of this episode of Star Trek The Next Generation. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the episode is the title. 11001001 is a binary code that, as all titles ought, make the viewer consider what it means in the episode. A title ought to be indicative of the work. “11001001” refers to a code that pops up near the very end of the episode and the importance of it is something that ought not to be revealed in this review, lest it ruin the surprise near the end of the piece.

The Enterprise is having computer upgrades done by an alien species called the Bynars. They are a race that works in pairs and seems to have a knack with computers to the point that they speak in the computer language binary. They speak incredibly quickly and as they begin the computer upgrades, the Enterprise crew goes aboard a starbase that the ship is docked at. It's the first chance the crew has a chance to leave en masse. However, while most of the crew is off gallivanting, Riker uses some of his down time to visit the holodeck, which is also being upgraded by the Bynars. Picard visits him on the holodeck where they meet Minuet, a woman in a New Orleans bar. Minuet chats up the captain and Riker and while they are on the holodeck isolated from the rest of the ship, the warp core malfunctions. The ship is evacuated and the moment it is clear of the starbase, it suddenly fixes itself and begins to head off for the Bynars planet at great speed.

So, it becomes obvious that the Bynars - being the only random element in the episode - are to blame, not only because they are the only ones apparently left on the Enterprise outside of Riker and Picard (who are still in the holodeck), but because it becomes clear the Enterprise is headed for the home planet of the Bynars.

The episode is a simple episode, but it has a pretty good idea. What happens when the one thing a planet needs is no longer working? What lengths will the people of that planet go to? That's the philosophical dilemma of the week in this episode.

Eventually, the first season of Star Trek The Next Generation (much of the series, in fact) seeks to present questions about humanity while cloaking them in alien garb. The question truly being asked is "what lengths will humanity go to when that which we critically depend on becomes damaged?" It uses the Enterprise crew as narrators and the Bynars, in this instance, represent humanity.

The episode succeeds in asking a good question and phrasing the response fairly well. However, with the amount of detail and characterization given to the Bynars, it's a bit disappointing that we never see them again. That is, the episode lays out so much information about their species and culture that it seems awkward that they only show up the one time.

The acting is good, especially as the main characters react to the situations they find themselves in. Jonathan Frakes plays Riker convincingly in a situation that seems to be a bit silly for his character. But Riker plays him well. Patrick Stewart does fine as Picard, as usual. On the plus side for Stewart, the character of Picard unwinds in a very realistic way. He's still smart and perceptive and when he realizes Minuet's place in the scheme of things, he acts quite natural.

What doesn't work terribly well is the simplicity of the plot and the believability of the circumstances. That no one figures out what the Bynars are up to is disturbing, especially when Data is in charge of the Enterprise. One would think like would represent like. The episode comes across as an attempt to stretch one simple idea into a full hour program.

It's an episode that is very accessible to anyone and it has a good little philosophical question with a good answer.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete First Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the debut season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek episodes, film and DVD set reviews, please check out my index page!

© 2010, 2008, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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