Star Trek: The Next Generation 30th Anniversary Blogging: "11001001" (February 1, 1988)
The Enterprise D. arrives at Starbase 74 for a routine computer upgrade. Performing the upgrade is a team of diminutive aliens known as "Bynars" from the planet Bynaus. Over time, the Bynars have grown so "interconnected" with computers and computer language that their "thought patterns" have become almost binary in nature.
In a nice bit of characterization, the extroverted Riker seems at loose ends without his usual crew mates to pal around with, and so spends the first portion of the episode attempting to stave off boredom by visiting Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) in sickbay, watching Data (Brent Spiner) and La Forge (Levar Burton) paint in the conference room, and conversing with Worf (Michael Dorn) and Yar (Denise Crosby) about a competitive game called Paresi Squares.
In fact, Minuet seems responsive and intelligent in a way that no computer simulation ever has. She seems to possess life itself; sentience.
When Picard notes that "some relationships just can't work," Riker responds that, nonetheless, Minuet shall be "difficult to forget."
This focus makes the story stand out fro the typical "holodeck malfunction" story, and makes for a great early episode of this series.
And that's just how the human heart works.
Once more, this idea carries tremendous relevance in our culture today, especially as some extremists seek to punish homosexuals for wanting what their hearts want. But, like Riker, that's how they are wired. It isn't a choice. By expressing this idea clearly, Star Trek paved the way for tolerance and compassion about such relationships. Ultimately, this idea went further in Star Trek than "11001001," but this episode lays the groundwork for the idea that holograms are people too, and also the notion that the human heart cannot, necessarily, choose who to love or not to love.
His comment about Minuet being difficult to forget thus transmits as not some angst-ridden, shallow admission of personal pain, but as pure statement of fact. As such, it resonates powerfully, and I commend Frakes and director Lynch for resisting the urge to make more out of the episode's valedictory moment. It speaks volumes as it stands.
Would they have considered the Borg brethren? Would they have felt they could have changed the nature of the Borg...for the better? And how would the Federation feel with a kind of proto-Borg culture like the Bynars within their borders? In all, not revisiting the Bynars seems like a lost opportunity.
About my only quibble with the episode is - as usual - the writing of the Picard character. Here, he spends the first half of the episode thanking profusely his crew for a job well done, complimenting them over very, very little.
I suppose his pervasive good cheer was an attempt to soften the stern character, but it plays as strange; like Picard has taken some brand of mood-altering drug like Prozac. Suddenly the good captain is spouting "thank yous" and "well dones" repeatedly, as if in some kind of euphoric state.
Later in the episode, Picard also reveals his total lack of awareness of others, when he horns in on Riker and Minuet and just...won't...stop...talking. Can't he see that they would like to be, you know, alone? Eventually he realizes it, but only after quite a while. Again, I'm not criticizing the dignified Patrick Stewart, only the writing of his character.
"The Inner Light" is an episode that accomplishes the same thing for Picard (and it's one of my personal favorites), but "11001001" is an early segment of The Next Generation that really hits on all thrusters.
Next week: "Too Short a Season."