*** (3 stars out of 5)
Before Jean Lorring ever set foot in Sue Dibney's brain, this episode was what I meant when I referenced 'Identity Crisis'.
Five years ago, before 'Encounter at Farpoint', Ensign Geordi La Forge was part of an away team from the U.S.S. Victory which investigated the disappearance of 49 people on Tarchannen III.
Now, Geordi's former colleagues Brevelle, Mendez, & Hickman have deserted their posts and families to return there.
Commander Susanna Leijten, La Forge's 'big sister' and advisor on women, is the only other person from that mission. (Nice job on the women, by the way- has Geordi EVER succeeded with one?)
As before, ripped uniforms are found, and three-toed footprints. Suz has an attack of defensive paranoia, La Forge is forced to drag her to Dr. Crusher.
Suz is testy during the review of the logs, repeatedly insisting on a return to the planet. In rapid fits, she grows a tracing of blue veins, weird cat eyes, and fused fingers. Eventually her skin gets mimetic, chameleonic, and she starts glowing like a black light poster.
Geordi uses the holodeck to investigate Brevelle's head-mounted video record. What a fantastic device! Was this the only one they ever made? Why does no one ever use these on away missions before or since? You'd be surprised how often a camcorder might come in handy later. Such as right now, when Geordi notices a shadow that belongs to no one. Instead of Peter Pan, it's a hunched and menacing invisible figure!
Abruptly, Geordi becomes a menacing invisible figure, clubbing Hendrick at the transporter and fleeing the ship. Poor Hendrick. Same thing happened to his identical cousin and shipmate Ramos from security a couple years back in 'Heart of Glory'.
Crusher breaks out the needle-studded 'Shades of Grey' brain machine for no reason and then surgically removes the tiny viral creche hiding for the last half-decade inside Leijten's chest.
With Data's Geordi-finder and Suz's calming voice, the terrified half-transformed La Forge Lizard is restored to humanity.
Picard puts up 'Keep Out' signs, but for some it's too late. Brevelle and Mendez are incurable- they will live out their days as instinctual beings with no language.
I hope at least the sex is good- oh, wait, they reproduce by making aliens inhale a viral creche, and nobody's ever gonna come here any more. Bummer. I guess they'll just have to smoke weed and watch each other glow...
"Identity Crisis" by da Haas and Brannon Braga is damn chilling. I watched it once with an elderly great uncle who carried on a shouted monologue at the startling images. Dementia, I now suppose, although he may simply have been an early adopter of the Massively Single Player Role Playing Game.
I think I've always been more terrified of losing my mind than of physical deterioration. Both, of course, would be the worst of all. As with the wicked boys in 'Pinocchio' who turn into donkeys, I find this concept terrifying.
And speaking of terrifying, why don't you peruse the musings of Bookmonkey? He's a delight to read and his affection for ALL tales macabre and fantastic (rather than a single myopic sub-sub-genre like 'Star Trek') should provide you with plentiful options for your reading and viewing pleasure. He has paid me nothing for this endorsement, but I hope if I ever degenerate into some hideous, mute, shuffling reptilian monster I hope he'll drag me to Dr. Crusher. Needle-studded brain machine and all.