|Star Trek: The Next Generation episode|
|Episode no.||Season 2|
|Directed by||Paul Lynch|
|Featured music||Ron Jones|
|Cinematography by||Edward R. Brown|
|Original air date||January 30, 1989|
"Unnatural Selection" is the seventh episode of the second season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, the 33rd episode of TNG. It was first broadcast on January 30, 1989. It is written by John Mason and Mike Gray, and directed by Paul Lynch.
Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, the Enterprise encounters a Starfleet supply ship where everyone has died from rapid aging. They must find the cause before scientists on a research colony suffer the same fate. The episode received a 1989 Emmy award nomination for hair styling.
The Federation starship Enterprise, under the command of Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), receives a distress call from the USS Lantree and finds it adrift. The Enterprise taps into the Lantree's viewer and finds that the crew appear to have died from old age, even though many were as young as the Enterprise crew. The only evidence of any medical problems was a harmless case of Thelusian flu in one of the ship's officers. They discover that the Lantree's last port-of-call was the Darwin Genetic Research Station on Gagarin IV. Captain Picard orders a quarantine warning broadcast to be set on the Lantree and orders the Enterprise to Gagarin IV. As they near the planet, they receive another distress call from the station's researchers, all of whom have started a rapid onset of geriatric phenomena they believe is tied to the Lantree.
When the Enterprise arrives in orbit, the research team's leader pleads to have the station's genetically engineered children brought aboard, asserting that they are safe, as they have been in isolation from the rest of the station. Picard is concerned with exposing the Enterprise to the same phenomenon that is affecting the station but allows his Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pulaski (Diana Muldaur) to have one of the children beamed aboard encased in styrolite which shields the rest of the ship from possible contamination. The child is brought to sick bay and Dr. Pulaski finds the child, a male teenager, to be near perfection, describing him as the "next step in human evolution". She convinces Picard to allow her to take a shuttle away from the Enterprise, so that she can examine the child outside of the styrolite without exposing the rest of the crew and recruits Commander Data (Brent Spiner) as pilot, who as an android is be immune to infection. When she removes the protective material, the boy awakens and telepathically communicates with her. She is suddenly struck by joint pain and recognizes that she has become affected with the same condition as the Lantree and station crew and orders Data to pilot the shuttle to the research station.
Dr. Pulaski continues to research the cause of the syndrome at the station. She learns that the children have been genetically engineered with highly aggressive immune systems that fight pathogens by genetically altering them – not just in the children's bodies but in their environment as well. Recalling the Lantree officer with Thelusian flu, Dr. Pulaski postulates that the children's immune systems' reaction to the virus has created airborne antibodies that are attacking everything else, altering the DNA of normal humanoids to cause them to age rapidly and die. With this information, the crew of the Enterprise determine that the transporters can remove the antibodies and re-code an infected individual's DNA to normal but only with a previous bio-pattern of that individual and they do not have one for Dr. Pulaski due to her avoidance of transporter technology. The crew finds samples of Pulaski's hair in her quarters and using it as a template is able to restore her to full health. The Enterprise uses the same procedure to restore the station's staff, noting that the children will never be able to live with other humans and then returns to the contaminated Lantree to destroy the ill-fated vessel.
Hair styling was done by Richard Sabre.
Den of Geek's James Hunt wrote: "There are bits of this which are interesting – the mystery of what caused the disease, the exploration of the character work between Picard and Pulaski" but was critical of the ending and recommended viewers skip the episode.
- "Space Seed" – first season episode of the original series
- "The Omega Glory (A Starship is infected with a deadly Virus) second season episode of the original series
- "Doctor Bashir, I Presume?" – fifth season Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode, which mentions the Federation's long-standing prohibition against human genetic engineering
- Heath, K. M.; Carlisle, A. S. (2020). The Voyages of Star Trek: A Space-time Continuum. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 189. ISBN 978-1-5381-3697-3.
- Reeves-Stevens, Judith; Reeves-Stevens, Garfield (1997). The Continuing Mission: A Tenth Anniversary Tribute. Pocket Books/Star Trek. p. 77. ISBN 978-0-671-87429-2.
- Nemecek, Larry (September 25, 2012). The Next Generation Companion: Star Trek The Next Generation. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4711-0679-8.
- Cinefex. D. Shay. 1989. p. 21.
- Zack Handlen (2011). "Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Unnatural Selection"/"Matter Of Honor"/"The Measure Of A Man"". The A.V. Club.
- DeCandido, Keith R. A. (September 5, 2011). "Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: "Unnatural Selection"". Tor.com. Retrieved January 28, 2022.
- James Hunt (June 7, 2013). "Revisiting Star Trek TNG: Unnatural Selection". Den of Geek. Retrieved January 28, 2022.
- Star Trek The Next Generation DVD set, volume 2, disc 2, selection 3