The Masterpiece Society
|Star Trek: The Next Generation episode|
The Enterprise crew tries to save "The Masterpiece Society".
|Episode no.||Season 5
|Directed by||Winrich Kolbe|
|Teleplay by||Adam Belanoff
|Story by||James Kahn
|Featured music||Jay Chattaway
Chopin's Fourth Prelude in E Minor
|Original air date||February 10, 1992|
Picard is frustrated when Aaron, the leader of a human colony on Moab IV, resists the Enterprise's efforts to save his planet from impact of an approaching fragment of a stellar core. Because the inhabitants of the colony have been genetically engineered to constitute a "perfect" society, Aaron refuses to allow them to evacuate- nor is he happy about the "corruption" factor involved in allowing Picard's crew to mix with his society as they work together to prevent the disaster. Complicating matters is Aaron's attraction to Counselor Troi, and another colonist's desire to leave her manufactured utopia.
In this episode, while the crew of the USS Enterprise saves an isolated genetically engineered society from immediate destruction, the cultural contamination resulting from their interaction may still ultimately doom the colony.
The Enterprise has been assigned to the Moab sector to track a stellar core fragment from a disintegrated Neutron star.
The planet Moab IV, very near to the fragment’s projected path, is inhabited by humans and is now in danger. Picard's communications go unheeded until he explains the danger. Only then does the leader Aaron Conor (John Snyder) reply. Conor states that he doesn't want the colony evacuated, but that the Enterprise can plead its case.
Conor explains to the away team that his people have been genetically engineered with selective breeding over seven generations in the pursuit of perfection. The founders of the colony intended to create people without flaws who would live in a "Masterpiece Society." Conor’s people, including Martin Benbeck (Ron Canada), believe that their colony is so perfectly balanced and tuned that all the accomplishments resulting from following the guiding principles they have lived by for over 200 years would be jeopardized if they evacuated.
Accepting this, the away team decides to investigate alternative solutions to the problem. Enterprise Chief Engineer Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge is introduced to Hannah Bates (Dey Young), a scientist. Deanna Troi takes a tour with Conor.
Hannah shows Geordi an idea she was working on for a multi-phase tractor beam. The two theorize that by using her idea along with the Federation’s technology and the immense output of the matter/antimatter reaction warp core which powers the ship's warp drive propulsion system, it might be possible to modify the ship’s tractor beam, enabling the Enterprise to alter the course of the fragment. Conor reluctantly allows Hannah to go to the ship; this is the first time a colonist has left.
Troi states many colonists are willing to risk staying behind. Picard asks Troi to help Conor see the reality of what could happen to the colonists and their society if they choose to stay.
In doing so, Troi develops a further attraction to Conor and has a romantic encounter. She later considers it a mistake and says they should not meet again.
Aboard the Enterprise, Geordi and Hannah have no luck with their research, as moving a massive object on such a scale has never been attempted before. Geordi finally realizes that a compression routine similar to the technology used in his VISOR can break the energy pulses down enough so that the emitter elements of the tractor beam will not burn out. He reflects on the irony of the fact that technology from a blind man’s visual prosthetic device – a man seen as disabled who would have been terminated as a fertilized cell in the genetically engineered colony – supplies the answer which saves the society. After several days of work the two are successful in developing the enhanced tractor beam, but unfortunately it won’t be able to change the fragment’s course enough to save the colony. However, Geordi and Hannah report to Picard that also augmenting the biosphere’s structure with portable shield generators supplied by the Enterprise should reinforce it enough to withstand the gravitational effects. When told of the plan, Conor resists the further contamination of his society with 50 engineers from the Enterprise to set up and maintain the generators, but ultimately he decides to allow it.
After very nearly losing all life support on the Enterprise the core fragment is deflected 1.21 degrees, barely the amount needed, and the fragment passes without incident.
Soon after, the last of the Federation engineering teams leave for the Enterprise, and Conor congratulates Geordi and Hannah. This proves premature though, when an alarm goes off indicating a breach in the biosphere. After examining her instruments, Hannah reports that the reinforcement wasn’t adequate and the biosphere has cracked, adding that the colony is going to have to be evacuated after all. Geordi’s VISOR fails to pick up what she claims to have detected however, and she is forced to admit she fabricated the whole thing because she has decided she wishes to leave. She tells Geordi she has struggled with the realization that the outside world has progressed very rapidly while her supposedly superior genetically engineered society has lagged behind. She requests asylum aboard the Enterprise and to leave Moab.
While he knows that due to the finely tuned nature of the engineered society it may be destroyed, Picard decides that, although he can warn the dissenters of the consequences of their actions if they choose to leave, he must ultimately extend asylum to those who request it, as to do otherwise would be to suppress the human right of free will. Troi accompanies the captain down to the planet to discuss this with Conor, although she feels obligated to inform Picard of her mistaken liaison.
Ultimately, despite Conor's pleas, Hannah and 22 other colonists decide to leave with the Enterprise.
As the Enterprise breaks orbit, Picard reflects with First Officer Commander William Riker on how this affair is a clear example of the necessity of the Prime Directive; the intervention of the Federation to save the colonists may have, in the end, proved just as dangerous to the colony as any core fragment could ever have been.
- Star Trek The Next Generation DVD set, volume 5, disc 4, selection 1.
- The Masterpiece Society at the Internet Movie Database
- "The Masterpiece Society" at TV.com
- The Masterpiece Society at Memory Alpha (a Star Trek wiki)
- The Masterpiece Society at StarTrek.com