199. Identity Crisis
FORMULA: A Matter of Perspective + The Man Trap + This Side of Paradise + some cool UV rays
WHY WE LIKE IT: Cool invisibility effects and black light make-ups. An interesting use of the holodeck.
WHY WE DON'T: The plot is nonsense.
REVIEW: A Geordi story based in MEDICAL technobabble? Yes indeed! TNG seems to have trouble doing mysteries properly, and it's really because they hinge on technobabble solutions. Just as with Dr. Apgar's death was by an automated particle beam's hand in A Matter of Perspective, the crew of the Aries disappears by virtue of a strange virus. The audience can't participate in the mystery's solving because it's all too technical and, face it, arbitrary. This is a shift from TOS which had better mysteries (The Conscience of the King, Court-Martial) because they were based on human motivations.
And the technobabble is fairly nonsensical here. A species that reproduces by changing the DNA of another into its own? That seems entirely too dependent on other humanoids coming to planet Tarchannen, doesn't it? You also have to accept that DNA can be spontaneously rewritten (giving you magical mittens in less than a second), and that Susanna can magically know everything about their biology after being returned to normal. Or even that Geordi would refuse Data's help on a scientific inquiry.
Despite it all, Identity Crisis possibly stands as the best Geordi episode of all time (sad as that is to say). His characterization is still stuck on being unlucky in love, as shown in an on-point conversation between him and his "big sister" Susanna. Is it me, or is there an awkward moment there when it looks like Geordi is trying to muster enough courage to hit on her? He's so pathetic, I think it would be totally keeping in character for him to have had a big crush on his "big sister". Hey, at least she hugs him while he's naked, right?
The simulated "crime scene" in the holodeck provides a creepy moment, though it would have been a whole lot more chilling if they'd dispensed with all the computer screen investigation beforehand. Note that we never see away teams being filmed elsewhere. Not much for the other regulars to do, though they get small moments. Data strongly motivated to solve the mystery, Crusher bringing this admission out of him (for some reason I really like the moment where she drinks water, something real and human in an otherwise technological story), Picard allowing Geordi not to sit it out.
And that invisibility effect is pretty cool (Predator, call your lawyer).
LESSON: Ultraviolet isn't just for funky dance parties!
REWATCHABILITY - Medium: The human elements are watchable, though you have to suffer through [TECHNOBABBLE] altogether too much. And if another failed romance for Geordi, at least things are left unsaid.