Fear of change, of the unknown and of the dark. They are all human standards and can even be observed in lesser species. When all three things begin threatening members of an away team, things can only get…interesting. Originally airing on March 25, 1991, this is Identity Crisis.
Stardate 44664.5: Identity Crisis
Past members of an away team who once served on the USS Victory are randomly deserting their posts and returning to the location of the away mission where the entire population had vanished years before. Only two members of the Away Team remain and one of those members is Geordi LaForge.
After receiving a briefing from Susanna Leijten, a former crew member of the USS Victory, LaForge and the Enterprise pursue one of the former Away Team members who have deserted their posts and returned to the site of a past Away Mission on Tarchannen III. Upon arrival at the planet they witness the destruction of the shuttle craft containing Paul Hickman.
Lead by Riker, an away team beams down to investigate the other shuttles that have been detected only to find strange footprints and noises on the dark planet. They find the uniforms of the defectors but not the missing crew. Leijten wanders off and begins to act strangely, attacking Geordi on the planet when he attempts to assist her. He beams her up to sickbay where Crusher tells them that she had a histamine response to something from the planet. Leijten isn’t dealing with it well but keeps pushing forward. Before long she begins insisting that she be allowed to return to the planets surface. Not long after, she begins to transform into something…else.
Crusher and Picard are concerned that Geordi will be next but he insists that he be allowed to continue his investigation. They agree to allow him his search for a cause but are concerned with potential changes. Agreeing to their guidelines, he continues his search but keeps running into roadblocks. No matter how hard he tries, he can not find the solution to the changes. Just as he is about to give up he discovers an anomalous shadow in the video of the away mission. Using the holodeck as a guide, he simultates the original away mission to determine who or what made the shadow. He soon finds that there was another being on the planet with them but, as he makes his discovery, he begins to exhibit signs of the change.
Meanwhile, Crusher and Nurse Ogawa discover a parasite in Leijten’s Thymus they realize that they are onto something. This parasite transforms the host’s DNA into its own in order to reproduce and, it seems, that the members of the Away Team were infected upon their visit. Crusher is able to save Leijten but soon discovers that LaForge has turned into one of the beings.
Xeno-LaForge escapes the ship and goes to the surface of the planet. The Enterprise can not find him due to his new chameleon like abilities. Explaining that they are not parasitic but indeed a complete life form of their own, Leijten insists that she helps to find Laforge as she is now the only person who can locate the crewmen on the planet.
They find Georgi and Leijten talks him into returning with her to the ship. Geordi’s mutation is reversed but sadly it is too late for the other members of the away team. They have been completely transformed and Picard orders warning beacons to prevent others from facing the same fate.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
This one is pretty cool. Like the last one, it has a bit of a horror element to it with the disappearing crewmembers. Something is changing them and it is slowly taking out a select group of people who were on the planet during the past away mission. When things finally become clear as to what is happening it it becomes a race to save one of the crew.
This is very much a Geordi episode, not only with him as the primary subject but also as the core character. We really get a sense of Geordi’s loneliness on board as he wants to find someone who cares for him. When Leijten arrives it rekindles some old feelings but Geordi doesn’t recognize that Susanna likes him as well. Even in the end, he is oblivious to this and it is really sad for both of them as they both seem to be destined to be alone. Susanna Leijten goes beyond that of a concerned creman when she attempts to save Geordi and in that moment they could have developed more than a friendship. Unfortunately, as we have gotten to see from Geordi, he can’t see what is right in front of his VISOR.
Overall this is a great character piece for LaForge and Levar Burton is fantastic. He is a character that you tend to root for no matter how many times he fails in his pursuit of romance. You also get a good sense of Geordi’s career as it shows him prior to being on the Enterprise, establishing him as more than just a member of the current crew.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
We get more of Nurse Ogawa as she works with Crusher to find a cure for Geordi and the away team. Ogawa becomes a bit of a mainstay as the series progresses and this kind of thing really makes the ship seem so much larger than just the main bridge crew.
We never see or hear from Susanna Leijten again despite her obvious feelings for Geordi. I would have loved a follow up to their story. I would like to think they stayed in touch and she eventually found someone as well.
In the footage of the away mission we see the uniforms and equipment are from around the first and second season style, matching up nicely to the continuity. I love how they keep these things in mind for these shows.
We never learn what the creature LaForge is turning into is called and it is never referenced again.
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Late To The Game 1/4/2020 (Originally published 7/30/2018)
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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