Symbiosis (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
|Star Trek: The Next Generation episode|
|Episode no.||Season 1
|Directed by||Win Phelps|
|Story by||Robert Lewin|
|Featured music||Dennis McCarthy|
|Cinematography by||Edward R. Brown|
|Original air date||April 18, 1988|
|List of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes|
"Symbiosis" is the twenty-second episode of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation. It first aired on April 18, 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 crew of the Starfleet starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) tries to mediate a trade dispute between two co-dependent neighbouring planets regarding medical supplies which turn out to be drugs.
The episode was written after executive producer Maurice Hurley worked on Miami Vice, which he credited for resulting in a narcotic 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). "Symbiosis" marked the final filmed appearance of Denise Crosby as Tasha Yar until her return in "Yesterday's Enterprise". The episode received mixed reviews with criticism directed at the subject matter and the unsubtle nature of the presentation.
The Enterprise attempts to rescue the freighter Sanction, which is trapped in a star's magnetic field. 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. Each pair start to fight over the ownership of the barrel, and they 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 a medicine for a plague on the planet Ornara. The medicine is produced on the planet Brekka, whose entire economy has become centered on producing and refining the drug. The Ornarans are the only ones with the means of space travel but their ships were all built long ago and are beginning to fail due to use and lack of maintenance and they no longer know how to repair them. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) offers to return them each to their homeworlds and provide replacement parts for their freighters. The Brekkan pair of Sobi and Langor argue that they retain ownership as the items the Ornarans offered in payment were lost on board the freighter. T'Jon and Roma are suffering from the effects of the plague, and are sent to sickbay where Dr. Beverley Crusher (Gates McFadden) can find no reason for the effects. The Brekkans offer two doses of the medicine for their immediate needs. Langor explains that the entire technology of Brekka is devoted to producing the medicine for Ornara. After T'Jon and Romas take their doses, Dr. Crusher realises that the medicine is actually a narcotic, and the plague was cured long ago. Because of the addictive nature of the medicine, Brekka continued to supply it to Ornara. Picard warns that they cannot intervene due to the Prime Directive. He and Dr. Crusher later question the Brekkans alone, and suspect that they know well of the nature of the medicine.
The Enterprise arrives at Ornara, and Sobi and Langor have agreed to provide the medicine to the Ornarans for later payment. However, Picard announces that as the Prime Directive prevent him from interfering in the deal, it also prevents him from providing replacement parts for the freighters. T'Jon and Romas are furious at the decision as it means that the trade between Ornara and Brekka will stop because the ships can no longer make the journeys 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, this will be an opportunity for both races to advance in their own ways.
The episode was influenced by co-executive producer Maurice Hurley's recent work on Miami Vice, and was intended to have the Enterprise come across a drug deal in progress. Hurley was also responsible for the insertion of a "Just Say No" style drugs speech by Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) to Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton), which came over the objections from the cast.
Guest stars in this episode included two who had previously appeared in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), as Sobi and T'Jon were played by Judson Scott and Merritt Butrick respectively. Butrick had also appeared in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock; on both occasions he portrayed David Marcus, the son of Captain James T. Kirk. Butrick died of AIDS less than a year after filming this episode.
Director Win Phelps recalled that there was numerous continuity issues throughout filming, with character motivations changing from one scene to the next. Because of changes to the script, the actors were often acting scenes that they had not seen the script for before the first take. "Symbiosis" was filmed after "Skin of Evil", which featured the death of Tasha Yar; this was the final filmed appearance of Denise Crosby as Yar until she reappeared in "Yesterday's Enterprise" due to a change in the timeline. Towards the end of the episode, as Picard and Crusher leave the cargo bay, Crosby can be seen waving goodbye to the camera behind them. LeVar Burton later used behind the scenes footage from this episode in a feature on his show Reading Rainbow.
"Symbiosis" first aired in broadcast syndication within the United States on April 18, 1988. Several reviewers re-watched the episode after the end of the series. Zack Handlen reviewed the episode for The A.V. Club in May 2010. He felt that the drug use allegory could have been better refined, but praised the performance of Patrick Stewart and gave the episode an overall grade of a B. Keith DeCandido watched the episode for Tor.com, and described it as the least subtle "message" based episode since The Original Series episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield". He criticised the electricity based powers of the two alien species, saying that they didn't add anything to the plot. He gave the episode a score of four out of ten.
James Hunt of the website Den of Geek said that "This is one of those episodes which exemplify all that is awful about Star Trek in general. I'm not talking about season one's dubious production values (which, to be fair, are considerably more even than they were when the series began) but about the episode's very fabric." Michelle Erica Green for TrekNation thought that the episode could have been better if the guest cast was up to a better quality. However, she felt that the episode fell foul of several TNG season one writing errors, such as Deanna Troi's statements breaking any mounting tension and the crew failing to do such quite simple steps such as separating feuding aliens and William Riker being held hostage for the second time in successive episodes.
Home media release
The first home media release of "Symbiosis" was on VHS cassette, appearing on May 26, 1993 in the United States and Canada. The episode was later included on the Star Trek: The Next Generation season one DVD box set, released in March 2002, and then released as part of the season one Blu-ray set on July 24, 2012.
- Nemecek (2003): p. 55
- Gross; Altman (1993): p. 166
- Nemecek (2003): p. 56
- DeCandido, Keith (July 21, 2011). "Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Symbiosis”". Tor.com. Retrieved March 17, 2013.
- "Win Phelps - Creator of Symbiosis". The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine 19: 28–29. June 1992.
- Handlen, Zack (May 21, 2010). ""Arsenal Of Freedom"/"Symbiosis"/"Skin Of Evil"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved March 17, 2013.
- Hunt, James (March 8, 2013). "Revisiting Star Trek TNG: Symbiosis". Den of Geek. Retrieved March 17, 2013.
- Green, Michelle Erica (August 31, 2007). "Symbiosis". TrekNation. Retrieved March 17, 2013.
- "Star Trek - The Next Generation, Episode 23: Symbiosis (VHS)". Tower Video. Retrieved March 17, 2013.
- Periguard, Mark A (March 24, 2002). "'Life as a House' rests on shaky foundation". The Boston Herald. Retrieved October 13, 2012. (subscription required)
- Shaffer, RL (April 30, 2012). "Star Trek: The Next Generation Beams to Blu-ray". IGN. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
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- "Symbiosis" at the Internet Movie Database
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