Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Razor Decision on "Transfigurations!"

The Good: Good acting, Interesting enough plot, Decent effects
The Bad: Nothing superlative about the episode, Quickly becomes obvious
The Basics: In an episode that simply presents itself and does not advance anything, the fans of the series find nothing extraordinary.

Occasionally, there comes a product that is right on the verge of recommending or not recommending and I have what I call a razor decision that I make. On one occasion, it came down to the flipping of a coin. I suppose my addendum comment to any review I write with the words "Razor Decision" in the title might be "fine for a rainy day when you have nothing else at all to do and have watched/listened/etc. to everything in the house and want something new." "Transfigurations," ultimately, falls into that category.

"Transfigurations" tells the story of John Doe, an alien life form rescued from a shuttle wreckage on a distant planet. Dr. Crusher saves his life with the help of Geordi LaForge. Later, John awakens and has no memory of his past and he begins to demonstrate acts of increasing power: healing a shoulder wound, raising the dead, helping Geordi score a date. Dr. Crusher shows genuine affection for him and when his people come to take him back to their homeworld, John reacts badly. In the process, it becomes clear that he is not ordinary and his transformation is something extraordinary.

Biologically, "Transfigurations" is a mess. The premise of the episode hinges on our belief that John Doe's species is going through a period of evolution whereby the main populace remains unaffected, but certain "freaks" are all making thousands of years worth of evolutionary changes from matter to energy in the process of weeks. I don't buy it and I doubt many other people would; it's entertaining, but ultimately impractical with even the minimal amount of intellect applied to it.

The biological improbability is balanced by the humanistic charm the episode possesses. Dr. Crusher feels like a doctor here, doing medical things and displaying obvious compassion. It's a treat to see. Add to that that there is something very organic about her relationship with John Doe. And Geordi gets a date to fill some of the episode's slower moments.

There are a lot of slow moments in this outing and perhaps that's why I ended up so ambivalent toward it; it feels continually like it is waiting to begin, and we wait and wait for it to get interesting, but it feels perpetually like a teaser for something better.

That's not to say the episode is truly bad. It's not. The acting is competent. Gates McFadden gives a particularly memorable (mostly for how different it was from how she usually plays her) performance as Dr. Crusher. Similarly, Levar Burton is allowed to spread his acting wings as LaForge in a supporting role.

But the episode hinges on minor character twists. For a change, Geordi is not the one the one thoroughly abused. Geordi is the Chekov of Star Trek The Next Generation, the role that is the unfortunate whipping boy wherein the character has bad things happen to him. In "Transfigurations," it's not Geordi who gets killed for a change. Geordi gets a date. But that confidence John gives him is gone by the end of the episode and we're back with Geordi. Yippee.

In the end, this is an episode very close to call. It's main problem is that it's nothing extraordinary. It's an "alien of the week" show that has nothing inherently wrong with it, just that we've seen so many of them by this point. Probably better and more intriguing for someone who is not a fan of Star Trek The Next Generation than someone who is. It would certainly seem newer to someone who didn't see this type of thing regularly.

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


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2008, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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  1. Pretty good review. This is a "bottle episode," I guess they were saving money for what came next week.

  2. Thanks for the comment! I guess they were!