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Recap / Star Trek: The Next Generation S3E25 "Transfigurations"

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"I see the light!"

Original air date: June 4, 1990

In Ten-Forward, Geordi is still pining for Christy Henshaw. Worf tries to give him a pep talk, but when Christy approaches him, Geordi becomes tongue-tied and gives up. He's spared more embarrassment when he's called upon to beam down with an away team to examine a crashed escape pod on an unknown planet. On the surface, the team finds a sole survivor clinging to life. When Crusher links Geordi's brain waves to the survivor, Geordi gets a jolt of something mysterious before they all beam to sick bay.

Crusher calls her new patient John Doe and works to stabilize him. Despite being on the verge of death, his body's amazing regenerative powers allow him to quickly recover and wake up, but he's got amnesia and cannot provide any details about his identity, species, or homeworld. As Crusher nurses him back to health, he and the doctor form quite a close connection.

Meanwhile, Geordi has a new spring in his step. He quickly puts the moves on Christy Henshaw and begins a romantic relationship with her. But Geordi isn't the only crew member to get help from John. When O'Brien visits sick bay with a dislocated shoulder, John lays his hand on the afflicted arm and heals him with a burst of energy. John also begins to remember that he was on an important journey before his accident. However, as he gains strength, he becomes increasingly afflicted with flashes of pain related to his cellular regeneration. He also becomes increasingly agitated about the prospect of returning to wherever he came from.

Picard and Data make a guess at John's homeworld and head toward it. Soon, they identify that an unfamiliar ship is heading toward them on an intercept course at speeds that even the Enterprise can't match. When John hears this, he freaks out and tries to escape on a shuttlecraft. Worf tries to intervene, but John unintentionally fires a burst of energy that knocks Worf over a rail, breaking his neck. However, John heals Worf back to perfect health. Picard demands to know why John doesn't want to return to his homeworld, but John still doesn't know.

The intercepting ship finally reaches the Enterprise and reveal themselves to be Zalkonians. The commander, Sunad, brusquely demands John's return as a fugitive sentenced to death and refuses to provide any further details. Picard balks at handing over their guest to be executed without knowing more. As the crew mull their options, Geordi finally admits that his newfound confidence must have something to do with what John did to him, but John says that whatever Geordi feels was inside of him all along.

Picard politely requests more information from the Zalkonians before turning John over. Sunad reveals only that John is a disruptive influence on his homeworld, but that does little to quell Picard's misgivings. Sunad loses patience and activates a weapon that starts asphyxiating everyone on board the Enterprise. John, who is unaffected, heals the ship's entire crew and then goes to the bridge to confront Sunad.

John teleports Sunad aboard the Enterprise's bridge and accuses him of trying to stop the next phase in their species' evolution. John and his fellow fugitives are transforming into Energy Beings, but Sunad and his ilk have been killing everyone before they can transform to maintain their power. John completes the transformation and becomes a being of pure golden light. He lets Sunad go, but promises to return to Zalkon to help everyone who wishes to follow in his footsteps. Before leaving, he shares a tender moment of farewell with Crusher and then flies away.

Tropes in this episode include:

  • Amnesiac God: Downplayed. John Doe isn't quite a god, but he is about to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence and doesn't remember anything about it.
  • An Arm and a Leg: When first discovered, John Doe's horrible injuries include the complete loss of his left arm, though it's hard to notice. Though she never explicitly says so, Crusher presumably reattaches it after stabilizing him. (She does make a comment about keeping his arm in stasis until he's stable enough for surgery.)
  • Artistic License – Medicine: O'Brien's dislocated shoulder is healed with a touch, and the only thing we see happen is a brief glow of yellow light. But healing a dislocated shoulder would require physically moving bones back into alignment, so O'Brien's shoulder should have moved.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: What everyone of John Doe's species is destined to do. He's just the first to do so successfully— because his species' authorities have been killing others showing signs of the metamorphosis, out of fear.
  • But Now I Must Go: "John" has to leave Crusher and the Enterprise in order to spread the truth about the transmutation to other Zalkonians.
  • Call-Back: Geordi is still courting Christy Henshaw. Or at least trying to. Curiously, this time his problem is being too shy, while in the previous episode he came on too strong. She also now seems to be practically begging for his attention, whereas in the previous episode she turned him down.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Like Ensign Gomez, Christy Henshaw disappears after her second appearance. At least Geordi actually gets to have a relationship with this love interest.
  • Cool Starship: The Federation has never heard of the Zalkonians, but they're actually more advanced than the Federation. The Zalkonians' ship is faster than the Enterprise and has a loadout comparable to the Federation's flagship. It also has some sort of mysterious weapon that can asphyxiate an enemy ship's crew and sidesteps the need to even fight.
  • Curbstomp Battle: The Zalkonians' ship is said to be comparable to the Enterprise, making Picard leery of a confrontation but not averse to rattling his saber if necessary. However, when the Zalkonians decide to attack, they simply asphyxiate every single person aboard the ship, defeating the Federation's flagship without firing a shot.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Worf coaches Geordi in romance Klingon-style, which is quite different from how humans interact.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Between Dr. Crusher's characterization of her relationship with John Doe as "almost spiritual," and Sunad's accusations against Doe of being a "disruptive influence" on Zalkonian society, Doe and his fellows are strongly suggestive of a persecuted religion. Oh, did we mention John's Healing Hands? And after becoming an Energy Being, John Doe even announces his intention to return to Zalkon to spread the Good News, now that Sunad and the other authorities can no longer kill him for speaking out.
  • Energy Beings: When John Doe Ascends to a Higher Plane of Existence, he first takes the form of a glowing orange humanoid, then transforms further into a ball of orange light.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Wesley hints that it might be happening between Dr. Crusher and John Doe.
  • Headdesk: Geordi, after another failed attempt at flirting with Christy.
  • Healing Factor: John Doe's recovery is very fast, but there is a reason for that, namely having something to do with the episode title.
  • Healing Hands: John Doe has the power to heal grievous injuries, even those which would otherwise be fatal.
  • Holding Your Shoulder Means Injury: The first instance of O'Brien dislocating his shoulder while holo-kayaking.
  • Identity Amnesia: 'John Doe' can't remember who he is, where he was going, or even what happened to cause his crash. He recovers bits and pieces over the next several weeks, but it's only in the last few minutes of the episode that he finally remembers who he is and what brought him to the crash site.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Worf tells Geordi that he must let Christy see "the fire in his eyes." He tells this to a man whose eyes are completely covered by a VISOR at all times.
  • Interspecies Friendship: "John" and Crusher start one over the month he spends in Sick Bay. There are hints that their feelings go further than that.
  • No Name Given: John Doe's real name is never revealed. He only remembers who he is in the final act, and his name never comes up.
  • Power Incontinence: At points, John Doe's power goes beyond his control, including one burst of energy that critically wounds Worf. Thanks to Doe's Healing Hands, though, Worf survives.
  • Resist the Beast: As "John"'s transformation progresses, he has to force down the energy coursing through his body, lest he start blasting things. Worf briefly dies due to his control slipping.
  • Teleportation: As an Energy Being, "John" has the power to teleport Sunad back onto his ship.
  • Time Skip: A month goes by in the middle of the episode while John Doe is recuperating and the romance between Geordi and Christy flourishes.
  • Windmill Crusader: Sunad and the other Zalkonian authorities, who consider John Doe and his comrades a threat simply because they're evolving into Energy Beings.
  • The Worf Effect: Worf gets thrown over a rail by John's Power Incontinence, showing just how powerful it is.