Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Next Generation 2x7 "Unnatural Selection"

rating: **

Memory Alpha summary

via CBS
"Number One, we need to make Dr. Pulaski
even less likable.  Suggestions?"
"That's easy.  Make her even more old."
"Make it so."
Like "The Deadly Years" before it and other episodes later, all with clever excuses as to why the trope is being used again (such as an alien screwing with Dr. Bashir in the Deep Space Nine effort "Distant Voices," or simply having a look at what the characters look like in the future, most cleverly executed, because they actually recast him, with Jake Sisko in "The Visitor" from the aforementioned series), "Unnatural Selection" as a title translates to "premature aging."  

It is better than "Too Short a Season" from a season earlier (which features the rare but not unheard-of de-aging trick, also seen in the animated series entry "The Counter-Clock Incident"), so there's that.  (Next Generation loved old-age make-up so much it was actually featured twice more, "Man of the People" and "All Good Things...," and another that doesn't quite go that far, "Future Imperfect."  Yeah.  To its credit, after "Too Short," it really couldn't be done worse.)  

And the crux of the story is poor Dr. Pulaski being the only main character stuck rapid-aging.  It's somewhat sad, because this counts as her big shot at doing something medical-related, being her only spotlight episode, and it ends up not being particularly flattering, says nothing about her, and...wait, is this the reason no one talks about Dr. Pulaski?  Other than, y'know, as that attempt to duplicate McCoy?  Except she really wasn't.  She was a terrific shot in the arm for the series, and I'll always argue that it would have been better to acknowledge that she existed.  But her relationship with Data would always be problematic.  McCoy and Spock they weren't.  Pulaski just didn't get Data.  The fact that she was not prominently featured in "Measure of a Man" is telling.

Anyway, the character the episode does serve well is O'Brien.  This is actually the first time he really emerges as someone notable, rather than merely the guy who keeps showing up, which is to say when he stops being someone like Kyle from the original series and quite literally makes a name for himself (seriously, even though O'Brien debuted in the first episode of the series, "Encounter at Farpoint," "Unnatural Selection" is when he gets a name).  

Which is to say, if you want to watch this episode for any particular reason, it's probably for O'Brien's sake.

four quarter analysis
franchise * series * essential * character

notable guest-stars:
Diana Muldaur
Colm Meaney

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