“The Masterpiece Society” – TNG 5X13

The Enterprise-D is following a drifting stellar core fragment when they realize it’s going to pass very near by the planet Moab IV. As they near the area they detect a colony of humans on the surface, though they’d expected the planet to be uninhabited.

They try hailing the planet using old frequencies and warn them that the core fragment could wipe out their whole colony. Reluctantly, their leader Aaron Conor replies.

He says they don’t “wish to interact with outsiders” but given the danger to the colony he’ll allow a small away team to beam down. Riker, Troi and Geordi go and get a mini-tour from Conor and a guy named Martin, who really doesn’t want them there.

Aaron talks with the away team

Conor explains they cannot evacuate because they are a genetically-engineered society. Every part of their environment under the dome is planned and has been for two centuries. Martin is particularly concerned about anyone interfering with that because he fills the role of interpreter of their ancestors’/creators’ wishes.

Martin argues with selective breeding, they have already evolved past the Enterprise crew, though apparently not in terms of being less douchey:

Martin: We have immeasurably extended the potential of humanity, physically, psychologically. We have evolved beyond, beyond

La Forge: Beyond us.

Martin: Frankly, yes. No one in this society would be blind, for example. No offence intended.

La Forge: I can see you just fine, sir.

Conor takes them to meet Hannah Bates, one of their top theoretical physicists. Geordi stays to work with her, Riker returns to the ship, and Troi goes for a flirty walk with Aaron Conor, because that’s just what you do when you might have to evacuate a planet in the next day or two.

Troi smiles at Aaron

Back in the lab, Hannah comes up with an incredible theory about using power from the ship to push the core fragment away from the planet. She has to go back to the Enterprise to work on it and there’s an argument with Martin, who says letting her leave would be against the express wishes of their founders. Conor lets her go, over Martin’s objections. 

After they get back to the ship, Troi meets with Captain Picard, who is seriously grumpy about what the colony’s founders have done.

Troi: You don’t approve of genetic engineering.

Picard: It was a bad idea whose time is long past.

Troi: They seem to have made it succeed.

Picard: They’ve given away their humanity with this genetic manipulation. Many of the qualities that they breed out, the uncertainty, the self-discovery, the unknown, those are many of the qualities that make life worth living. Well, at least to me. I wouldn’t want to live knowing that my future was written, that my boundaries had been already set, would you? 

Picard brings up Conor and Troi responds all starry-eyed, in the tone of voice I use when mooning over David Tennant. Picard doesn’t seem to think much of it but asks her to work with Conor to make sure he comes to the right decision (to evacuate the planet).

The next scene in Engineering is great. You have a super-smart woman scientist and Geordi, who’s still upset by what he saw on the planet. 

Hannah Bates in Engineering with Geordi

I’m glad he doesn’t let it go after the first interaction. Instead, he speaks his truth.

La Forge: I guess if I had been conceived on your world, I wouldn’t even be here now, would I? […] No, I’d’ve been terminated as a fertilised cell.

Hannah: It was the wish of our founders that no one had to suffer a life with disabilities.

La Forge: Who gave them the right to decide whether or not I should be here? Whether or not I might have something to contribute?

Hannah obviously hears what he’s saying but doesn’t know quite what to do. She asks to see how his VISOR works and as he explains it, an idea comes to him to use the same technology to solve their puzzle.

Geordi talks to Hannah

La Forge: Oh, that’s perfect[…] If the answer to all of this is in a visor created for a blind man who never would have existed in your society. No offence intended.

I was really enjoying the episode to this point, but it goes slowly, inexorably downhill from here, starting with the next scene of Troi and Conor watching a kid’s piano concert, because just what you do when you might have to evacuate a planet in the next day or two.

They slip away and Troi tries to gently persuade him that their society can be rebuilt on another planet. Conor doubts this, but he does have one big thing making him want to leave: he has the hots for Troi.

He kisses her and she initially resists. The second time she says, “This is wrong.”

“Terribly wrong,” he agrees. But this is apparently the closest we get to talking dirty to someone on Star Trek, so soon they are sucking face.

Troi and Conor kiss

The next morning he finds her out in the plaza, playing the piano and looking glum. She says she’s going back to the ship because it’s the right thing to do.

“I could fall in love with you so easily, but we both know the end of that story, don’t we? How would Martin feel about introducing half-Betazoid DNA into the genetic balance?” says Troi.

Me: “Whoa there! Counsellor, you slept together once! No one was talking kids yet.” 

But anywho, as she says she has to go, Hannah and Geordi beam down and tell them they need to bring down 50 more crew to construct the necessary shield generators for their plan.

Hannah talks to Troi and Conor

Next there’s a long scene in Engineering where Hannah and Geordi come close to killing everyone on the ship while executing their mad scientist-y plan. But they do succeed and then, surprisingly to me, the episode doesn’t end. I thought maybe Hannah would go back and convince the people on the planet they had to be less judgy about “perfection”, but instead she tries to fake that the plan didn’t work, in order to force them all to evacuate.

Geordi’s VISOR can see that there isn’t really a crack in the biosphere, as she was claiming. She admits that seeing the new technology on the ship made her question how advanced her society really was. Geordi suggests maybe it’s harder for humankind to advance when they have all their needs planned for already.

He goes back to the ship and, in the briefing room, the senior staff debate whether they can allow people like Hannah to come with them. Picard says he and Troi will go down and talk to Conor.

In the turbolift, Troi feels compelled to confess to Picard that she got lucky with Conor. She’s flustered and nearly in tears.

Troi confesses to Picard in the turbolift

Troi: Captain, I have to tell you something, and it isn’t easy for me because I’ve used very poor judgement. Actually, I’ve acted quite unprofessionally.

Picard: Counsellor, what is it you’re saying? Take a deep breath.

Troi: Conor and I have had a relationship. 

Picard: I see.

Troi: It should never have happened. I knew there was concern about outside influences and I should have been more careful.

Picard is grave but concedes it was a human mistake and it’s ok because they’re broken up now.

To this scene I say, “Really?” I mean, it was inappropriate but it didn’t seem that bad. And why does no one else on the crew hold themselves to Troi’s standard of oversharing relationship info with the Captain? Think of all the potential turbolift confession scenes we’ve been cheated out of! Just with Riker’s indiscretions alone you could fill a whole episode!

But I digress. The episode is, finally, almost over. Picard tells Conor he’ll advise the colonists to think long and hard about it, but will ultimately take whoever wants to leave. 

Hannah confronts Aaron

Hannah and a group of others refuse to wait, saying it will only prolong their misery to stay trapped in this “ship in a bottle”. 

Before the Enterprise leaves, Troi and Conor have another little walk and he’s sappier than a bottle of maple syrup. He tells her he’s in love with her and always will be.

The show ends with Picard and Riker musing about whether what they ended up doing to the planet was as bad as just letting it get hit by the star fragment in the first place. I’m sure Conor’s heart feels that way.

What We Learned From This Episode:

  • All you have to do is spend one night with a woman and by the next morning she’ll be planning your future family together
  • Geordi is not about to take any shit from eugenicists
  • Somehow Troi sleeping with one guy inappropriately is worse than all the women Riker has slept with inappropriately over the years

Bechdel-Wallace Test: Pass. Near the end, Troi asks Hannah to go for a walk with her while Picard and Conor talk.

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