Recap / Star Trek: The Next Generation S1 E24 "Conspiracy"

Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Episode: Season 1, Episode 24
Title: "Conspiracy"
Previous: "We'll Always Have Paris"
Next: "The Neutral Zone"
Recapper: Synjo Deonecros

The Enterprise is on its way to Pacifica, a water world (no relation to the Kevin Costner movie of the same name) for some much-needed R&R... a good precaution, considering the crew seems so out of it, they respond to an order for warp 6 with going to full impulse.

However, a priority call to Picard interrupts the mission, as it's Picard's old friend, Captain Walker Keel, on the line. He demands for the ship to detour to an abandoned mining planet for a secret meeting. Picard is confused but curious, and humors him. Upon arriving at the planet and beaming down, Picard is confronted by not just Keel, but two other captains, who try to Bluff the Impostor to make sure Picard is really Picard before telling them of their concerns of a subversion in the Federation. The evidence is both vague and disturbing: mysterious disappearances and deaths in the ranks, bizarre orders and personnel shuffles, among other things. Picard doesn't buy it, but agrees to keep his eyes open for anything unusual that would corroborate their stories, assigning Data to look over Starfleet's recent activities upon returning to the ship as a precaution before heading back on course to Pacifica.

Unfortunately, the conspiracy decided to make its presence known shortly thereafter; the Enterprise comes across the destroyed wreckage of Keel's ship, and through his research, Data is able to confirm many of the odd occurrences Picard was told of, leading everyone to assume the worst: secret invasion. Since anal Skrulls wouldn't be invented for several years, Picard decides to head to Starfleet Headquarters to figure out just what the hell is going on. Once there, Picard and Riker meet with a trio of admirals, all of whom seem to be acting very strangely. Things get weirder when we learn that one of them is Admiral Quinn, who, in a previous episode ("Coming of Age"), started the rumors of the conspiracy, but now insists he was only speaking metaphorically about acquiring new members of the Federation. While Riker is still not convinced, Picard is, and orders him to keep an eye on this admiral while he goes on a tour of the Enterprise.

Once on board, Quinn introduces Riker to a familiar-looking brain slug, batting him around like a rag doll when he refuses to become one with the thing. When Worf and Geordi fail to stop him, Quinn is eventually subdued by Dr. Crusher, and an investigation reveals a similar brain slug within him. Apparently, these are the things that are trying to subvert the Federation, and as Picard soon learns, they've made their way into the highest levels of Starfleet. Fortunately, Riker recovers enough from his beating to pull off a successful fake-out to rescue Picard from assimilation, and together, they face off against the mother alien, possessing Quinn's second-in-command, Commander Dexter Remmick, who defiantly insists they only wanted "peaceful coexistence". The episode ends on a Red Herring Twist, with a homing signal being sent out to the Delta Quadrant, meant to be the prelude to the Borg, but ultimately being left hanging as an The End... Or Is It? cliffhanger, never to be followed up upon. (Except in the Star Trek Novel Verse, anyway.)

This episode contains examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: The series never followed up on the final cliffhanger in this episode—at least not straight: The Borg were originally going to be the follow-up to this episode and be an insect-like race, but that was too expensive.
  • Alien Lunch: The slug-controlled people eat live maggots.
  • Arc Number: Picard gets a message code 47 in the teaser; the number is repeated four times within a three minute period.
  • Badass Grandpa: The slug turns Admiral Quinn into this, as he beats the crap out of Riker, throws Geordi through a door, and Worf over a table, supposedly by inducing an adrenaline surge.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Doctor Crusher just happens to have a phaser on hand to deal with Admiral Quinn, who has already taken down Riker, Geordi, and Worf.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Dr. Crusher comes along just in time.
  • Body Horror: Good God, the mother-alien hiding underneath Remmick. And before that, we "get" to see Remmick's head explode. This is not your average TNG episode.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Everyone affected by the slugs.
  • Deadpan Snarker: When Worf asks if he's all right, Geordi replies that if he could see, he'd be seeing stars.
  • Fake Defector: Riker fakes being infected by the slugs so he can get into the conference room and help Picard. It fools everybody, Picard included.
  • Gorn: The death and destruction of Remmick and the mother parasite inside him was very controversial when it first aired. The BBC cut several minutes of footage when first airing this episode in the United Kingdom, notably this part, and Canada's Space network preceded the episode with a viewer discretion warning, the only episode of The Next Generation to receive one. The episode did win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Makeup for a Series, though.
  • Hates Baths: Worf's dislike of bathing extends to swimming of all sorts.
  • Keystone Army: The parasites are unable to survive after the mother parasite is destroyed.
  • Literal-Minded: Data, as usual, regarding the experience of swimming in a real ocean vs. one on the holodeck.
    Troi: Have you ever been for a real moonlight swim?
    Data: One can swim in moonlight?
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Shortly after Keel meets with Picard, his ship is found destroyed. When Picard asks, one of the mind-controlled Admirals says it was caused by "an implosion", and blames Keel's incompetence for the accident (after Picard has spent the whole episode talking up Captain Keel as one of Starfleet's best).
  • Orphaned Punchline: After the opening First Officer's Log, we pick up the end of a humorous anecdote Geordi is telling to Data. Data responds by explaining the joke and giving a rather creepy laugh.
  • Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: Neither Worf nor Riker succeed in causing any damage to the possessed Quinn.
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand: Data uses this analogy when describing the clandestine orders he discovered.
  • Shout-Out: Someone in the scriptwriting team of the series seems to be a big fan of Albedo: Erma Felna EDF, a furry comic, as two members of Starfleet (whose names appears in the Command Order) are named Itzak Arrat and Toki. In Albedo, Arrat is also a spaceship captain and Toki is the main heroine's best friend (who happens to be female).
  • Spotting the Thread: Picard's admiral buddy Quinn tells him and Riker that his mental fatigue was due to "difficulty assimilating other races into the Federation". It's treated as a Wham Line, triggering "Something is dreadfully wrong" music and Picard telling Riker that Quinn is Not Himself. Note that this is before the Borg gave "assimilate" such an ominous connotation.
  • Squick: Picard's In-Universe reaction to everyone eating live maggots for dinner.
  • Stun Guns: Averted—Crusher tells Picard that stun settings do nothing, and that he has to set his phaser to "kill".
  • Surprisingly Good Foreign Language: Perhaps Jonathan Farwell (Walker Keel) is not really fluent in French, but his pronounciation of "Jean-Luc" is correct, au contraire to many actors on this show.
  • Thinking Out Loud: Data discovers a new human idiosyncrasy.
  • Tidally Locked Planet: Dytallix B was a world inhabited only by the Dytallix Mining Company. Due to the temperature extremes on either face of the planet, the company placed its facilities in the twilight region.
  • Trust Password: Keel tests Picard about their shared history, as apparently those who are infected by the parasites can't access personal memories.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Other than Quinn, it's not made clear if the other people the parasites infected survived.
    • We've never found out what happened with the signal Remmick sent.
  • The Worf Effect: The possessed Admiral Quinn easily hurls Worf over a table.

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