the story: Alien assume control of Troi, Data, and O'Brien, and attempt to free the rest of their colleagues from their prison on a remote planet.
similar to: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
my thoughts: The best thing to be taken away from this episode, I think, is Marina Sirtis's commanding performance as the possessed Troi, a far more confident poise than she been allowed to take previously. It's later built on by "Face of the Enemy" and Captain Jellico's famous edict that she dress like everyone else, which finally breaks the sexual overtones that dominated her for years thanks to her ever-present cleavage and reliance on emotions (regardless of her role as ship's councilor).
Other than that, it's a pretty standard possession episode, a franchise trope to be sure, from Kirk's experiences in "Turnabout Intruder" to Enterprise's "Observer Effect." More interesting is the penal colony the crew turns out to have discovered, aping The Final Frontier's revelation that "God" is there on Sybok's world for similar reasons.
(I hate the name "Bryce Shumar," by the way. Just hate it. It's the name of the Starfleet captain the lead villain claims to be. The last name is already unusual enough. But pairing it with an equally unusual first name just makes the whole thing sound horribly artificial, and terrible. But it doesn't ruin the episode for me. Probably should. But it doesn't.)
Anyway, aside from all that, there's Ensign Ro being used in a fairly routine capacity again. I guess it's fine, because that was kind of the point of "Ensign Ro" to begin with, and the majority of her appearances are Ro being, basically, just another member of the crew (again, Voyager haters, Ro is a far more flagrant offender of character integrity than anyone in Janeway's crew). Well, besides her, there's O'Brien being a part of the possessed party, just so he can menace Keiko. I mean, literally, that's all he's there to do. Data, meanwhile, is there to add muscle. There's an inconsistency to how easy it is to do this sort of thing to him. One minute ("The Schizoid Man") it's incredibly easy, the next ("Silicon Avatar") it's incredibly hard, because his positronic net can easily handle multiple personalities...Add in "Masks" and...
So this is an episode you can enjoy much more if you don't think about some of its limitations, because on the whole it's really not that bad. In a very strong season otherwise, it's obviously filler, but it could be worse.
(Glowing endorsement: "It could be worse!")
criteria analysis: franchise -
Michelle Forbes (Ro Laren)
Colm Meaney (O'Brien)
Rosalind Chao (Keiko)