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Recap / Star Trek: The Next Generation S2E22 "Shades of Gray"

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Riker is forced to relive old episodes to kill a parasite. Some of them are even good ones!

Original air date: July 17, 1989

When Geordi and Riker are performing a geological survey of an unknown planet, Riker gets scratched by something and has to sit down. Geordi insists that he return to the ship to check himself out, reasoning that no one knows the dangers this planet contains. Sure enough, the transporter identifies a foreign biological agent inside Riker's body. Soon his whole leg goes dead, and he's diagnosed with an alien infection that's attached to his nerves.

Pulaski tries everything she can think of, but nothing seems to work. The infection spreads, and Riker loses consciousness. If Pulaski doesn't find some solution, he'll be dead in an hour. With Troi by her side, Pulaski puts Riker into a machine that stimulates the memory centers of his brain. Riker relives events from, well, the last two seasons. That's right. It's a Clip Show!


Riker relives a random assortment of memories until Pulaski decides to see if focusing on certain memories will have an effect one way or the other. Riker relives all of his erotic adventures through the last year or two, but the positive emotions just make the infection spread faster. Pulaski and Troi deduce that triggering negative emotions will have the opposite effect. They proceed to really bum Riker out with all of the violence and tragedy we've seen over the last two years.

It works! The infection fades away, and Riker wakes up feeling tired but fine. Picard insists that Riker stick around for some additional tests, joking that they need to establish that he still knows who he is. Riker counters that he knows exactly who he is: Captain Jean-Luc Picard. The captain plays along, announcing that he and Data are admirals, but Data doesn't get it and says that Picard has no authority to promote him. Oh, Data! Everyone laughs, and, for better or worse, that's the end of Season Two.


Tropes in this episode:

  • Bottle Episode: This was supposed to be a bottle episode, taking place mostly in Sick Bay, though the episode did call for a new set to be built, the jungle planet.
  • Clip Show: The only example of such in the entire Star Trek franchise. It was so appallingly received that whenever Paramount tried to pressure the show's producers into making another one to save some money, they were able to quickly shut the discussion down by pointing to this episode as proof of why it was a bad idea.
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending: The episode (and season) end on everyone laughing at Data.
  • Identity Amnesia: Played with—Pulaski notes there may be some memory loss, and asks Riker who he is as Picard and Data walk in. Riker smirks and says he knows perfectly well who he is—he's Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the U.S.S. Enterprise.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: Why are the first officer and chief engineer performing a geological survey instead of, say, some geologists?