Star Trek: The Next Generation (1988): S01E22 – Symbiosis


Introduction

“Symbiosis” is the twenty-second episode of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation. It first aired on 18 April 1988, in broadcast syndication.

The teleplay was written by Robert Lewin, Richard Manning, and Hans Beimler, based on a story by Lewin, and the episode was directed by Win Phelps.

Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, Picard tries to mediate a trade dispute between two neighboring planets, one of which is the sole supplier of a drug to treat the other’s apparently fatal disease.

The episode was written after executive producer Maurice Hurley worked on Miami Vice, which he credited for resulting in the drug trade theme in the episode. The guest cast included Judson Scott and Merritt Butrick who had both appeared in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). The episode received mixed reviews with criticism directed at the subject matter and the unsubtle nature of the presentation.

Outline

The Enterprise attempts to rescue the freighter Sanction, which has been disabled by a star’s magnetic field and is about to collide with a planet. An agreement is reached to transport over the crew of the freighter, but they surprisingly send over a cargo barrel first. The Enterprise crew attempts to transport the freighter’s crew, but is only successful in recovering four of them before their ship is destroyed. Two, T’Jon (Merritt Butrick) and Romas (Richard Lineback), are scruffy and unshaven, while the other two, Sobi (Judson Scott) and Langor (Kimberly Farr), are groomed and well dressed. They all show relief that the barrel made it over, and little remorse for the lost ship and crewmen. Both groups start to fight over the ownership of the barrel and are escorted to the observation lounge under guard.

The two pairs come from different planets within the same system. It is explained that the barrel contains felicium, a medicine for a plague which is ravaging the planet Ornara. Felicium is produced on the planet Brekka, but the Ornarans are the only race in the system with the means of space travel; however, the two remaining Ornaran ships were all built long ago and are beginning to fail due to overuse and lack of maintenance – and the Ornarans no longer know how to repair them. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) offers to return them each to Ornara and provide replacement parts for the remaining freighters. The Brekkans, Sobi and Langor, argue that they retain ownership of the Felicium, as the items the Ornarans offered in payment were lost on board the freighter. T’Jon and Romas, of Ornara, are suffering from the effects of the plague, and are sent to sickbay where Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) can find no reason for their symptoms.

In a gesture of goodwill following the demand of compassion from Crusher, the Brekkans offer two doses of Felicium for T’Jon and Romas’s immediate needs. Langor explains that the entire Brekkan economy and industry is devoted to producing the medicine for Ornara, whose inhabitants provide Brekka with the necessities of daily life in return. After T’Jon and Romas take their doses, Dr. Crusher realises that Felicium is actually a highly addictive narcotic, and the plague itself was cured long before, so the symptoms believed to be attributed to the plague are actually withdrawal symptoms. Crusher wants to offer assistance to aid the Ornarans in breaking free of their addiction, but Picard warns that the Federation cannot intervene due to the Prime Directive. He and Dr. Crusher later question the Brekkans alone and confirm that the Brekkans know the truth regarding the plague being eradicated, and the addictive nature of the medicine, and are consciously exploiting the Ornarans because Brekka’s economy would collapse if the Ornarans no longer needed felicium.

The Enterprise arrives at Ornara, and Sobi and Langor have agreed to provide the felicium to the Ornarans for later payment. However, Picard announces that as the Prime Directive prevents him from interfering in the transactions between the two planets, it also prevents him from providing any replacement parts for the ageing freighters. T’Jon and Romas are furious at the decision as it means that the trade between Ornara and Brekka will stop because the freighters can no longer make the trips without the parts. After the four are transported off the Enterprise, Picard confides to Dr. Crusher that while the Ornarans may suffer from withdrawal symptoms in the short term, this will be an opportunity for both races to advance in their own ways.

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Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Win Phelps.
  • Writer(s): Robert Lewin.
  • Release Date: 11 April 1988.
  • Running Time: 50 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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