The Good: Character, Acting, Plot, Mood
The Bad: Special effects, I suppose
The Basics: An amazing episode that reveals an alien infestation at the highest levels of StarFleet, "Conspiracy" is a real winner.
When I rated "Coming of Age" (click here for that review!), I acknowledged that it is, in truth, the first part of a Star Trek The Next Generation two-parter. "Conspiracy" is the second part and what a part it is! It's worth the wait.
"Conspiracy" finds Picard rerouted to the distant planet Dytalix B where an old friend has summoned him for a secret meeting. Once there, Picard finds an old friend who informs him that while the Enterprise has been out on the Outer Rim, there has been a series of suspicious personnel changes at StarFleet Command. Picard leaves the meeting, refusing to be involved with a conspiracy that is based on so little firm information. However, shortly after leaving the planet, the Enterprise comes across a destroyed starship and Picard quickly realizes it was his friend's ship.
Compelled now to believe his deceased comrade, Picard takes the Enterprise to Earth while assigning Data to compile all information on changes in StarFleet in the recent past. Once at Earth, Data deduces something has invaded and Picard meets his friend, Admiral Quinn, who seems somehow off. After Picard beams down, Quinn beats the crap out of several senior officers and when subdued, Dr. Crusher discovers the truth. The episode goes to an amazing climax.
The real crime in "Conspiracy" is that it was never followed up on. The end is dark, ominous and creepy and no one ever wrote an episode that continued the pure menace that this episode began. The only other real detraction is the special effects, though I personally think they're fine. That is, Star Trek The Next Generation was not employing sophisticated computer special effects, so the real villain of "Conspiracy" is a claymation piece. A lot of people have a problem with that. I personally think that it's wonderful; the dated effects work fine and, in the final analysis, the episode is not about the little creatures, it's about the characters.
"Conspiracy," however, tells a great story. This is the first real flawless use of the full Star Trek The Next Generation ensemble cast. The characters who appear are intelligent and reasonable. This episode is the cure to the whole "philosopher kings in space" syndrome that much of the first season suffers from. Moreover, it's a perfectly self-contained, action packed episode that all people who like a good story can and will appreciate.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard finds himself caught between the ideals he holds so important - like exploring the galaxy and protecting the principles of the Federation - with the reality that not every force in the galaxy follows that same set of values. Picard and Riker make a difficult choice to defeat the enemy that seems unwilling to work out a compromise.
Finally, "Conspiracy" is a powerhouse of acting. It's somewhat silly to say that, but the truth is, the premise of an aged admiral beating up the Enterprise officers is a bit farfetched. However, all of the actors pull it off, making the whole sequence seem believable.
Gates McFadden is given a decent role as Dr. Crusher in this outing and she exhibits a level of strength in the role that she has not in past episodes. Here, McFadden plays Crusher as strong, professional and cunning.
This is one of the few first season episodes that has Captain Picard leaving the Enterprise and actor Patrick Stewart seems to enjoy the chance to get out and literally stretch his legs. Here, he takes on a more physical role than in prior episodes and he makes us believe Picard is capable of such things.
This episode has a great pace and a tight sense of mood and the mood is menace. It's very rewatchable and it's worth seeing, even if you're not a fan of Star Trek The Next Generation.
[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 episode, movie and DVD boxed set reviews, visit my index page where the franchise is laid out well!
© 2010, 2007, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.