Genetic Engineering, Rapid Aging and Stubborn Doctors seem to be a trend for the Star Trek Universe. From the Original Series on, these tropes have been used in various forms. This one just happens to have all three. Originally Airing on January 30, 1989, this is Unnatural Selection.
Stardate 42494.8: Unnatural Selection
The Enterprise in in route to rendezvous with a Medical Courier when they receive a distress call from the Starship Lantree. Meanwhile Picard begins his assessment of their new Chief Medical Officer Doctor Katherine Pulaski.
After receiving a weak transmission from the USS Lantree, the Enterprise hurried to see what their distress is only to find the entire crew have died of old age.
Listening to their logs they find that the entire crew have come in contact with some sort of virus that aged them to the point of death. The only clue is that the first officer had been treated for Thelusian Flu and the ship had last made contact with Darwin Station, a genetics lab.
The Enterprise quarantines the Lantree and head for Darwin Station to hopefully prevent a widespread epidemic. Upon arrival they discover that the station is in lock-down and they are experiencing the same problem that killed the crew of the Lantree.
Doctor Kingsley, the head doctor of Darwin Station, begs Picard for them to beam aboard one of their children who they claim to have not been affected by the illness. Pulaski finds a way to beam one aboard in a manner that will not be a threat to the Enterprise. When they beam up the 12 year old child encased in a compound called styrolite, a fully grown man appears instead. They soon discover that this ‘adult’ is indeed a twelve year old child but genetically enhanced to grow quicker and be nearly fully resistant to illness or disease.
Pulaski insists that they free this child for further study but Picard refuses stating that it is too much of a risk. Pulaski proposes that she use a shuttlecraft to quarantine the child with her on board and, after much debate, Picard reluctantly approves the request. She, with Data at the helm, leave the ship aboard the shuttle.
Chief O’Brien transports the boy aboard the shuttle where, once freed, she discovers that the child is telepathic. After eighteen minutes in contact with the child, Pulaski suddenly starts to show signs of the aging disease. It turns out that the children themselves are carriers of the illness. Since they are already under quarantine, Pulaski and Data head to Darwin Station to learn more about the situation.
Aboard the Enterprise, O’Brien comes up with a potential solution to save Pulaski. They can use the Transporter Trace to restore her to a previous state. Although not meant to be used in such a manner, it is still a possible solution. The only problem is that Pulaski, much like Doctor McCoy in the original series, isn’t fond of the Transporter and hasn’t used it on the Enterprise at this point. Picard requests the transporter trace from her previous ship, but they have already deleted it.
On Darwin Station, Pulaski learns that the children are the cause of the disease as their immune system seeks out and attacks things that may harm them. The antibody that does this infects humans and causes them to age rapidly. It turns out that the children are genetic experiments that were created in the Darwin Station Lab.
Using Pulaski’s DNA the Enterprise use a special beaming therapy devised by Chief O’Brien in order to save her. They restore her to herself and in doing so discover a cure for the scientists on Darwin Station.
The Enterprise returns to the USS Lantree and destroys the ship in order to prevent further outbreak.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
It not a bad one. This is the first time we have a real opportunity to get to know Katherine Pulaski. She is very much a hardheaded Doctor and, unlike Beverly Crusher, is not easy to get along with. She is very resistant to the transporter and has fears that she have her ‘atoms spread throughout the galaxy’. We also learn in this one that Katherine Pulaski specifically requested her transfer aboard the Enterprise in order to work with Picard. This revelation is a surprise to Picard.
The episode itself is a pretty good story and we really get a chance to know Pulaski better in this one. She isn’t likable still but it is nice to see her get a chance to come into her own this early on. While we don’t have to like her, she is the new Doctor and we have to accept that for now…
The episode also really showcases Chief O’brien and it is truly the start of his character’s growth in the series. His presence and input in Pulaski’s ‘transporter cure’ was vital to the rescue of the Doctor.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
We learn that Katherine Pulaski is a published author of some note. One of the Scientists from Darwin Station notes that they are familiar with her work.
The Children being genetic experiments is addressed but not so the illegality of this project. According to future episodes, genetic engineering is illegal in the Federation and has been for some time. So, the scientists should have been taken into custody as soon as they were saved.
The USS Lantree is a Miranda Class starship like the USS Reliant from Wrath of Khan. This appears to be one of the oldest ship designs in the fleet and is now being used as a transport vessel.
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Late To The Game 6/9/2019 (Originally published 3/14/2018)
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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