Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Geordi Goes Blue: "Identity Crisis" Is Cool!

The Good: Excellent special effects, Interesting science fiction phenomenon, Decent acting
The Bad: Moments of slow plot, Nonsensical development of characters and plot
The Basics: In a well-acted outing, Geordi undergoes a transformation that could cause him to leave the Enterprise.

One of the traditions in the Star Trek universe is to have a whipping boy. In Star Trek, Chekov was the poor boy who was beaten up. In "Spectre Of The Gun," he is killed, in "The Day Of The Dove," he is driven insane, in Star Trek The Motion Picture his hands are burned and so on. On Star Trek The Next Generation, that whipping boy is Geordi LaForge. By this point in the series, he has been beaten up by an old man, hung upside down in crystals, been tormented by a holographic character he created, knocked unconscious several times, been thrown around by a turbolift, fallen in love with a hologram, been lost with a Romulan, and struck out with every woman he dates. In "Identity Crisis," Geordi is beaten down in a new way.

"Identity Crisis" finds Geordi reunited with a former comrade of his. Susanna Leijten and LaForge were inseparable when they served together five years ago. Now, LaForge and Leijten are reunited as the only two members of an Away Team to Tarchannen III to not go berserk or disappear. Leijten comes aboard the Enterprise as every other human who visited Tarchannen III is lost. Together, LaForge and Leijten investigate their friends' disappearances. Unfortunately, Leijten soon begins to become xenophobic and her body begins to undergo a transformation. Susanna begins to become invisible as Dr. Crusher works furiously to determine why and LaForge investigates clues to answer the question "how?"

The real strength of "Identity Crisis" is in the special effects. Every few episodes, LaForge gets his butt kicked, so how they do it becomes rather important and has the ability to be done with style. In "Identity Crisis" they do it well. The process of Geordi's transformation is a remarkable feat of make-up and light effects. The thing he becomes is quite intriguing, which is probably why the image appears on trading cards and there's an action figure of the transformed LaForge.

What doesn't work is the ultimate premise. What causes LaForge and the others to transform is something that is interesting, but it makes little sense that everyone misses it for so long. Add to that the way Geordi discovers that the original Away Team was contaminated seems a bit of a stretch. Once the first two people disappeared, it seems unrealistic to believe that those investigating the disappearances would not catch the things Geordi does.

And that's a stretch as far as the characters go as well. Susanna seems much more likely a choice than, frankly, a blind man, to make the leap that Geordi does. Moreover, her paranoia and fear seems to combine with her determination and it seems strange that she doesn't figure it out. Of course, the show would have been shorter that way.

But the scientific aspects of the show actually save the episode from mediocrity. The idea of a parasite like the one on Tarchannen III, while implausible that it would be missed for so long, is a good idea. How it makes everything happen works on a scientific level and it is intriguing, all the effects of it.

"Identity Crisis" is one of the best Geordi episodes for non-fans. Everything one needs to know is contained in the episode and it's an intriguing biological mystery that can hold the attention of anyone, regardless of whether or not they are a fan of the series. Certainly an underdone idea in science fiction, this is a basically good idea with weak moments that come up only when one actually bothers to think about it.

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


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

© 2011, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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