Star Trek TNG: Lazy Writing Part 1 – Allegiance
We are 4 seasons in and at least twice now, there has been an episode where Picard or Tiker gets taken somehow by an alien being with amazing technology – of which we never see anything about again. While I get that Star Trek has always relied on the galaxy is big-montra, I feel that too many times it has lead to very lazy and poor writing. Not only do I want to point it out, I would also like to see if there are ways to re-write or re-visit elements of this storyline to integrate it better into the ST universe. And maybe use it for an RPG adventure seed.
The first episode in question is Allegiance – where Picard is kidnapped by a strange obelisk looking thing (see below). My first questions revolve around the obvious – how did it get there, how did it avoid all security measure the Enterprise has in place – shields, sensors, etc. While I am not seeking plot holes, this does bug me a lot when they have something so powerful that Federation technology is insignificant against it. It reminds me of The Corbomite Maneuver TOS episode – super powerful beings that has magic-like technology with no explanation.
I am aware of the old adage from Arthur C Clarke – “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” But I think that leads to really lazy writing. If aliens with that kind of tech existed, I would think they would me more involved in the Federation and all that goes on in known space. Not all advanced technology aliens are extinct or on the verge of extinction. Babylon 5 did this better. These advanced races would have a legacy in the galaxy much like the Roman Empire, they would not just fade away.
So this man-sized obelisk thing that comes in, scan and then transports Picard somewhere. So the basic function is a sampling probe. It scans the person and then makes the decision whether it is a good sample or not based on the alien controller’s criteria and then transports the sample. It approached Picard when he was asleep so it had the intelligence to know when the best time to approach the target. It also has super stealth technology as it passed through Federation technology, as I mentioned before.
The other gimmick of the show is that Picard is replaced by a doppelganger – a doppelganger that can pass as a human even after a full medical examination. Eventually this doppelganger was revealed to be an alien with apparent shape change abilities that involved an energetic flash. Energetic shape-changing? Psychically powered? Can’t they transition themselves from matter to energy and back to matter at will? I don’t know. More on that later because this power just did not make sense.
The real Picard is transported to a cell where eventually there are three other aliens – a Bolian, a Mizarian and later a Chalnoth. The Bolian is a Star Fleet cadet. After the plot happens, the cadet is revealed to be not just one alien but three in one. Why does that one turn to three and the other only one? There needs to be some kind of explanation for this, in my mind.
Have these aliens ascended to a point that they can bounce between energy and matter, giving them the ability to change from one being to another? If so, why did the one being need 3. That being was in an observatory position in the cell with the other aliens – observing the other aliens reactions to authority. So perhaps they needed three to make proper scientific conclusions. From a TV episode writing point of view, I see this as lazy writing but with some thought, one can see ways to explain it.
Another aspect of this episode that I really liked was the alien design. They were incredible looking despite how poorly they were presented and thought out. They were never named but had no understanding for why Picard or the others did not appreciate being collected up and placed in a lab like rats. It’s the writers cute little way to show how alien they were.
I wish we could see more of these aliens and explore their disconnection with the Federation.
RPG Plot Idea: Could they be once part of the First Federations (The Corbomite Maneuver)? Could they have isolated themselves so much after the collapse of the First Federation that only now they are reaching out and seeing what is out there. Why were they so obsessed with “authority” and how other aliens took it? Were they analyzing it based on some past experience? Were they trying to see if some tyrant or evil empire had returned or perhaps they were the evil empire?