Star Trek: The Next Generation (1988): S01E25 – Conspiracy


Introduction

“Conspiracy” is the twenty-fifth and penultimate episode of the first season of the syndicated American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, originally aired on 09 May 1988, in the United States.

The premise was conceived by the show’s creator Gene Roddenberry in a single sentence overview titled “The Assassins”, being expanded into a thirty-page story by Robert Sabaroff. From this, the teleplay was produced by Tracy Tormé and the episode directed by Cliff Bole.

Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. Following a meeting with a fellow captain, the strange behaviour of high-ranking officers leads Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the crew of the Enterprise to uncover a conspiracy of senior Starfleet officers possessed by parasitic aliens who are preparing to invade the United Federation of Planets.

Numerous make-up effects were created by make-up supervisor Michael Westmore, including an exploding head using raw meat. There were concerns by producers that some of the effects were too graphic, but after a viewing by a staff member’s son, they decided to broadcast it uncut. The episode has subsequently been included in some best episode lists of the series, and won one of three Primetime Emmy Awards for The Next Generation’s first season. Controversial when originally broadcast, it was initially banned from broadcast in the United Kingdom, and required a warning before airing in Canada.

Outline

While the Enterprise is en route to Pacifica on a scientific mission, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) receives a highly confidential message from an old friend, Captain Walker Keel (Jonathan Farwell) of the USS Horatio. Keel refuses to discuss his concerns, even though the frequency he is using is supposed to be a secure channel, and insists on a face-to-face meeting.

Once they arrive at Dytallix B for this secret meeting, the crew discover the Horatio and two other Federation ships already present. Picard beams alone to the surface and is met by Captain Keel and the other captains. Keel reports strange orders from Starfleet headquarters and what he implies are suspicious deaths of Starfleet officers, and expresses concern of a conspiracy. Picard refuses to accept this without proof, but Keel warns him to remain wary. When the captain returns to the Enterprise, he is challenged by Counsellor Troi (Marina Sirtis) about keeping his contact with Keel secret. Picard is sceptical about the conspiracy, but says that he trusts his old friend completely. The Enterprise resumes its previous journey.

Picard has Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) review all orders issued by Starfleet Command in the past six months. While the ship is still on its way to Pacifica, a disturbance is detected in nearby space. Upon investigating this, the Enterprise discovers a mass of debris that surely must be the shattered remains of the Horatio. Data completes his study and finds several strange orders from the senior levels of Starfleet. Picard informs his senior staff of the conspiracy theory, and orders the Enterprise to Earth.

As it approaches Earth, the Enterprise receives no response from Starfleet Command. Eventually, a transmission is received from a trio of Starfleet admirals: Savar (Henry Darrow), Arron (Ray Reinhardt) and Quinn (Ward Costello), an old friend of Picard’s who recently made an inspection of the Enterprise (in “Coming of Age”).

They are surprised by the Enterprise’s presence, but invite Captain Picard and Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) to dinner. Quinn requests to beam aboard the Enterprise for a tour. Captain Picard recalls being warned by Quinn about some kind of threat to Starfleet when the admiral was last aboard. Upon Quinn’s arrival, Picard discusses matters with him and Quinn seems strangely evasive; Picard comes to believe that he is an impostor, or under some sort of alien influence. After warning Riker of his concerns and asking him to watch Quinn, the captain beams down to Starfleet headquarters to attend the dinner.

On arrival, Picard is greeted by the other two Admirals who are accompanied by Quinn’s assistant, Lt. Commander Remmick (Robert Schenkkan). Meanwhile, Riker visits Quinn’s quarters on the Enterprise and questions him about what he has in the small box he brought with him. Quinn tells Riker of a superior life form within the box. Riker attempts to leave but Quinn throws Riker across the room. A security team arrives to subdue Quinn, who is able to withstand a great amount of phaser-fire before he collapses.

The ship’s chief medical officer, Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden), finds a small protrusion on the back of his neck. She discovers that a bug-like parasite has wrapped its tendrils around the stem of Quinn’s brain and is controlling him. Dr. Crusher warns Picard of this incident when he contacts the ship in private. He is advised that the infected person can only be stopped by a phaser set to ‘kill’: the captain points out that he is unarmed. He then has no choice but to go in to dinner with his three superiors.

A bowl of living larvae is served at the meal, to Picard’s disgust. He attempts to leave, only to find Riker blocking his way. The commander appears to be controlled by the parasite Quinn brought to the Enterprise. When the others see a prosthetic protrusion on the back of Riker’s neck, he is accepted as one of them and allowed to dine. They reveal that the parasites are seeking to take over Starfleet, using humanoids as hosts. When he is about to put a handful of the larvae in his mouth, Riker suddenly produces a phaser and fires on one of the Admirals. Picard picks up a fallen weapon and the two Enterprise officers subdue the infected, causing parasites to leave the hosts and flee. One of the parasites scurries under a closed door and Picard and Riker follow it. They find Remmick ingesting the parasite to join several others inside him. Picard and Riker fire upon Remmick, destroying his body but freeing a giant parasite; the two continue to fire until it is destroyed.

Later, Dr. Crusher reports that the other parasites, including the one inside Quinn, have shriveled up and died, as they were unable to survive without the mother-creature that had been inhabiting Remmick. As they help to settle matters with Starfleet headquarters, they find that before Remmick was killed, he had sent a signal to a distant quadrant of the galaxy. The signal is thought to be a homing beacon.

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Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Cliff Bole.
  • Writer(s): Robert Sabaroff.
  • Release Date: 09 May 1988.
  • Running Time: 50 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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