(written from a Production point of view)
Something is luring a former away team back to the planet they once investigated five years ago – an away team that La Forge was a part of.
In the observation lounge, Jean-Luc Picard, William Riker, Geordi La Forge, and Susanna Leijten are viewing a sensor log from an investigation Leijten and La Forge were part of five years ago, while attached to the USS Victory. They were investigating the disappearance of 49 colonists from the Tarchannen III outpost. The other members of the Victory away team, Brevelle, Mendez, and Hickman, have now deserted their posts without any warning. A Federation supply ship has spotted Hickman's stolen shuttle and it is heading back to Tarchannen III. Leijten and La Forge are the only two remaining members of the Victory away team not to have disappeared.
- "Captain's log, stardate 44664.5. We've set a course to intercept Lieutenant Hickman's stolen shuttlecraft, and hopefully to discover the whereabouts of the other missing officers."
La Forge and Leijten go to Ten Forward to reminisce about their days on the Victory and catch up with events, such as Leijten discussing on how she almost married Paul Bogrow, a man she could barely stand. Helmsman Graham reports that they have entered the Tarchannen system, where the crew finds the shuttle. Worf hails the shuttle but Hickman doesn't respond. The shuttle approaches the planet too fast and burns up in the atmosphere. Sensors detect two more shuttlecraft on the surface, but no life signs. Picard orders an away team to investigate.
On the surface, the away team discovers the shuttle Cousteau, which Mendez stole from the USS Aries. While La Forge checks out the shuttle, Leijten finds strange footprints in the sand, and she moves toward them for a closer look. Worf tells Riker he has a feeling they are being watched. La Forge returns with chilling evidence: a torn Starfleet uniform.
La Forge notices that Leijten is missing. The other members of the team spread out to look for her. When La Forge follows some footsteps in the sand, he finds her staring blankly into the darkness. She claims she can feel the missing crew's presence. She starts to shake violently, screaming, as La Forge calls up a medical emergency beam-out.
Leijten wakes up in a bed in sickbay. Dr. Beverly Crusher reports that her blood chemistry is off and that she's had a histamine response to something she can't identify. Leijten feels compelled to return to the surface but Crusher orders her to stay on the Enterprise until she can find out what is wrong. Leijten protests, but Picard confirms the order.
Leijten and La Forge are walking in the corridor when Leijten's hands start to tremble. She expresses the fear that whatever is happening to the away team members is happening to her.
On the bridge, Data examines evidence collected from the survey. He has found some alien cells that don't belong to any known Tarchanen lifeform. While Data attempts to find a match for the cells and footprints, La Forge and Leijten decide to go through the mission log to see if there is any commonality they missed that would make the crew return to Tarchanen III to be abducted.
As they examine the logs, Leijten becomes agitated and demands to go back to the surface. As she leaves, she begins to shake uncontrollably and collapses as La Forge and Lt. Wallace rush over to help. La Forge notices a strange blue growth pattern on the back of her neck and that her fingers have grown together.
Leijten is in sickbay with the lights dark, as she has developed an extreme sensitivity to light. The strange growth patterns now cover most of her body. La Forge comes to visit and comfort her. Crusher discovers that Leijten's cells have now changed to match the alien cells found on the surface. Crusher theorizes that the missing crew were not abducted, but transformed into a different species. Crusher informs La Forge that he will most likely be next and that he should stay in sickbay. He insists that he needs to work on the investigation and leaves, recommending that the computer monitor him.
He returns to engineering and begins to thoroughly examine the logs again. He runs several scans on the data, but nothing comes up. Data arrives to ask about his progress and if he can help, but La Forge is exasperated and says he just needs to go over it again.
Meanwhile, Leijten's body makes more drastic changes. Alyssa Ogawa shows Crusher that her body can simulate light in a radiant reaction. Furthermore, her body temperature dropped drastically, despite the T-cell inhibitors. Crusher tries to scan her, but the readings are faint. She orders a full genetic analysis.
La Forge then notices a slight shadow on the visual log that he cannot identify. He tells the computer to create a holoprogram based on the sensor log data. As he goes to the holodeck he notices that his hand has begun to tremble as well.
In the holodeck, La Forge uses the computer to remove people and their shadows from the simulation until only the strange shadow is left. He then uses vector analysis to determine the location of the object causing the shadow. He is shocked to discover a Human-sized invisible shape. He then slumps down in pain. The same physical changes that Leijten experienced are starting to happen in his body.
In sickbay, Crusher and Ogawa have found a parasite in Leijten's thymus which is transforming her body. Not like a normal parasite, it's using Leijten's immune system to propagate genetic changes to match its own. They have to act quickly, while there is still DNA intact, to help reverse the damage. Martinez comes to assist in the procedure.
Dr. Crusher operates on Leijten and removes the parasite in time. She begins to return to normal. She tries to find La Forge, but he has disappeared. The computer reveals the last location of La Forge and Picard sends Worf, Riker and a security detail to the holodeck. When they arrive they see the shadowy image that he saw, and Worf discovers a grisly scene: La Forge's torn uniform and his VISOR. Riker steps back as he gazes at the eerie image, thinking that this is what the chief engineer has become. In the transporter room an invisible shape attacks Hedrick, the transporter operator, overrides the transporter lock out and beams to the surface. During the beam-out, the image of what La Forge has transformed into, appears for the moment before the transport is complete.
With less than an hour left before the transformation is complete, Data develops a method to detect the aliens using ultraviolet light from an emergency beacon, while Hedrick finds the transport location and Riker and Worf prepare their search method. Meanwhile, Leijten has come around, the changes in her hands and body reversed. She wants to find La Forge, and tells Crusher that the process was actually a method of reproduction, a metamorphosis; they multiply by infecting humanoids with the parasite. She also says she has to go with them to look for La Forge, as they won't be able to find him without her.
Crusher, Leijten, Riker, Worf, and Data beam down to the surface. They find the nearly transformed La Forge, along with the fully transformed creatures that were once Brevelle and Mendez. The latter two flee, but Leijten was able to talk with La Forge, breaking into the conflict between his Humanity and the metamorphosis trying to win control. Breaking through the fear, he reached out and grabbed Leijten's hand and the two embraced, allowing Crusher to beam both of them to sickbay.
On the Enterprise, Crusher is able to save La Forge, but sadly it's far too late to save Brevelle and Mendez. Based on his own experience, he reports that the creatures are unintelligent: operating entirely on instinct. He turns to Leijten and notes that he would not be able to recognize her voice in a matter of minutes. Picard decides that the inhabitants of Tarchannen III should be isolated. He orders warning beacons placed around the planet and on the surface to warn others of the aliens there. La Forge thanks Leijten for her assistance in helping to find him. He remarks that while he was transformed, he had no idea who Leijten was but somehow he both believed and trusted her. "Must have been because of all the good advice I used to give you", she says.
"Forty-nine people gone."
"And five years later, the away team that was investigating their disappearances have started to disappear themselves."
"Geordi and I are the only two left."
- - Leijten and Riker, discussing the mysterious disappearance of former officers from the Victory
"Well, Suz… what do you think?"
"I don't know, but I'm not ashamed to tell you… I'm a little scared, you know?"
- - La Forge and Leijten, on their former crewmates disappearances
"Well, if anyone's gonna figure this out, it'll be the "Leijten and La Forge Show", right? We always were a good team."
"(raising his glass) A hell of a team."
- - Leijten and La Forge
"You're worried about Geordi, aren't you?"
"I am an android; it is not possible for–"
(Crusher interrupts) "… you to feel anxiety."
"Starfleet personnel have vanished. Others may be at risk. We must do the best we can to find out why. However, I am… strongly motivated to solve this mystery."
- - Dr. Crusher and Data - file info
"Computer, remove La Forge."
- - La Forge, while in the holodeck
"I've come back, Geordi. Let me take you back too."
- - Leijten, trying to persuade a completely transformed La Forge to return to the Enterprise
"You know, down there, I… I didn't know who you were and yet… somehow, I believed you. I trusted you."
"Must have been because of all the good advice I used to give you."
- - La Forge, after being returned to normal talks to Leijten
- Final draft script: 11 January 1991 
- Filmed: 16 January 1991 – 25 January 1991
- Premiere airdate: 25 March 1991
- First UK airdate: 19 October 1994
Story and script
- The original spec script submitted by Timothy DeHaas involved two non-regular crew members undergoing the transformation. Michael Piller recalled, "It was a very tough script to solve…It was very heavy on point of view and stylistic devices we didn't want to do." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 218)
- Brannon Braga was assigned to rewrite the script after completing work with Ronald D. Moore on "Reunion". Braga noted that he had wanted to do a story for La Forge because he liked LeVar Burton as an actor, and felt that the character was not given enough screen time. (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 197)
- Early versions of the script had a romantic relationship between La Forge and Leijten, but the writers felt that the engineer deserved "a break" from failed romances after "Booby Trap" and "Galaxy's Child". (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., p. 159)
- Braga's first draft was much more horrific, with many more aliens on the surface. In this version, La Forge was not transformed. However, to make the show work, Braga felt it was necessary to include La Forge in the change and reduce the terror to a "restrained and psychoanalytical" level. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., p. 159)
- The scene where La Forge uses the holodeck to investigate the away team recording was a homage by Braga to the film Blowup. He remembered, "Michael [Piller] and Jeri [Taylor] really liked that idea." (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 197)
- "Identity Crisis" was filmed between Wednesday 16 January 1991 and Friday 25 January 1991 on Paramount Stage 8, 9, and 16.
- For a single frame (at approximately 17:08 on a Region 1 DVD and 16:27 on Region 2 DVD), a graphic displaying the Star Trek: The Next Generation logo can be seen on a computer readout in engineering.
- Regarding the use of ultraviolet effects in the episode David Livingston recalled,
- "We were talking about how we're going to make these guys glow and Peter Lauritson says to me, 'Why don't we try ultraviolet?' I said because we had done a test the year before. I almost dismissed it, but then pulled out the tape and looked at it and said this stuff is great. [I] went to Michael Westmore and Bob Blackman and said we want to do this, and they designed these suits and we painted them with u/v and put these contact lenses into this woman's eyes that glowed. It was fabulous and we got Mark and Brian to walk around in these suits. LeVar looked fabulous.
- "We used heavy blue light for the set lighting, and it's different lighting than you see elsewhere, because all of the source coming from behind the camera is blue light. That's a decision we made and it should look harsh, and unrealistic and not well lit because it's not lit from one single blue source. It's basically a beacon shining out. It looked different than anything else and that was intentional. What I was surprised at was how powerful the u/v reflected back, and MTV is using it a lot now. I liked our use because it was integrated into the story. We used it to make it work dramatically rather than doing it as an effect. To me, that was a major accomplishment. We didn't do it to just be glitzy, we did it because it tied in dramatically with the story." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 218)
- It took four make-up artists six hours to apply the full Tarchannen III species make-up to LeVar Burton. According to Michael Westmore, it was the longest make-up ever done on The Next Generation. ("Departmental Briefing, Year Four: Make Up", TNG Season 4 DVD special feature)
- In the scenes set in the year 2362, crewmembers of the USS Victory are correctly seen wearing the old Season 1 and 2 Starfleet uniforms (La Forge wearing command red again) and using the early "dustbuster" type 2 phaser. La Forge additionally wears an older version of his VISOR.
- Although the past scenes are set in 2362, the stardate given starts with "40", which would imply 2363.
- The command of the USS Aries was previously offered to Riker upon the retirement of her captain, as seen in "The Icarus Factor".
- When Crusher is ready to operate on Leijten, Martinez is seen to place a neural stimulator over her head, like the one prominently used on Riker in "Shades of Gray".
- Other species that propagate by infusing other species with their DNA and transforming them include the Taresians, Kobali and Loque'eque.
Cast and characters
- Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi) does not appear in this episode.
- This episode features some rather unusual guest stars, with then-reigning Miss Universe Mona Grudt as Ensign Graham and LA disc jockeys Brian Phelps and Mark Thompson as two of the Tarchannen III aliens. Phelps and Thompson filmed their scenes on Wednesday 23 January 1991 on Paramount Stage 16 and interviewed cast members Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, and Michael Dorn for their radio talk show The Mark & Brian Show. The call sheet features the scheduled times for the interviews.
- Michael Piller remarked, "It was a very complicated, complex production that the director did a terrific job on. It had scenes within scenes and I was very happy with the show. It may not have been one of the best scripts we wrote, but it's a great example of how those guys in production can really turn out a helluva product." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 218)
- Winrich Kolbe recalled, "That was an interesting show and a lot of [work]. First of all, LeVar Burton is a hell of an actor and it's a lot of fun working with him, even though I'm sure there was a lot of pain and agony on his part going into that suit. Technically speaking we didn't make things any easier for him because we had to light everything with black light. So we're kind of restricted camerawise to do what we wanted to do because of all of those tremendous black light units. It was a hell of a set, but a technical nightmare. But everybody seems to be happy about it." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 218)
- A mission report for this episode by Patrick Daniel O'Neill was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 16, pp. 54-56.
- This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Makeup for a Series.
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 46, May 1992
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 4.6, 6 August 2001
- As part of the TNG Season 4 DVD collection
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Worf
- Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
- Rachen Assapiomonwait as Nelson
- Majel Barrett as USS Enterprise-D computer voice
- Karen Baxter as operations division ensign
- Thomas J. Booth as operations division officer
- Michael Braveheart as Martinez
- Nyra Crenshaw as operations division officer
- Denise Deuschle as science division officer
- Di Santis as Mendez
- Keith Gearhart as science division officer
- Greg Kishi as operations division officer
- Mark Lentry as civilian
- Lorine Mendell as Diana Giddings
- Michael Moorehead as civilian
- Terry Noel as operations division officer
- Randy Pflug as humanoid shape
- Brian Phelps as Tarchannen III alien
- Joyce Robinson as Gates
- Talbot as Ten Forward waitress
- Mark Thompson as Tarchannen III alien
- Paul Tompkins as Anthony Brevelle
- Uchizono as civilian
- Guy Vardaman as Darien Wallace
- Natalie Wood as Bailey
- Unknown actress as civilian woman
Stand-ins and photo doubles
- Brett – stand-in for LeVar Burton
- Jenkins – photo double for LeVar Burton
- Jill – stand-in for Maryann Plunkett
- Nora Leonhardt – stand-in for Maryann Plunkett
- Tim McCormack – stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Lorine Mendell – stand-in for Gates McFadden, Mona Grudt & Maryann Plunkett
- Nettenstrom – photo double for Maryann Plunkett
- Richard Sarstedt – stand-in for Jonathan Frakes & Paul Tompkins
- Dennis Tracy – stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- Guy Vardaman – stand-in for Brent Spiner
- James Washington – stand-in for Michael Dorn
2362; "a lot of"; abduction; absorption spectrum; acceleration; advice; advisor; air; alien; Alien samples; "all right"; altitude; android; anomaly; answer; anxiety; apology; Aries, USS; arrival; "at best"; "at least"; "at risk"; atmosphere; atmospheric interface; audio analysis; away team; bachelor; bearing; bioscan; blanket; blood analysis; blood chemistry; blood pressure; body temperature; Bogrow, Paul; brain; Brevelle's shuttle; brother; building; cc; cell wall integrity; chameleon; "come on"; computer; course; Cousteau; cross reference; data; day; day watch; degree; desertion; devotion; disappearance; distance; DNA; dozen; EM scan; emergency beacon; emitter module; error; evidence; eye; family man; "fan out"; Federation; Federation supply ship; field of view; footprint; foreign body; friend; Galaxy, USS; gene; genetic analysis; genetic instruction; "go ahead"; hail; hand; "hell of a"; Hickman's family; histamine; "hold on"; holodeck 3; holographic simulation; host; hour; Human; hundred; "I don't know"; idea; immune system; impulse power; "in a hurry"; "in the first place"; "in the meantime"; infrared sensor; instinct; interferometric frequency; intruder; investigation; ionizing radiation; ionosphere; kayolane; kilometer; life sign; light; long range sensor; Malaya IV; marriage; medical database; medical emergency; medical tricorder; metamorphosis; meter; microscopic examination; micro-seismic disturbance; mimetic ability; mission; mission record; mucous membrane; mustache; NCC-70637 shuttlecraft; number one; object; "oh God"; "on course"; "on foot"; outpost; palm beacon; parameter; parasite; parasitic infection; percent; perimeter; phaser; photosensitivity; pitch angle; plant; "point of view"; power supply; priority one; probability; proximity detector; question; radius; rate of acceleration; rate of approach; rate of change; report; reproduction; research; result; sand; sandstorm; second; security lockout; sedative; sensitivity; sensor array; shadow; shape; shuttlepod; skin (skin cell); "sort of"; species; spectrographic analysis; speed; square kilometer; Starbase 112; Starfleet record; Starfleet uniform; "stay way"; subspace; subspace channel; subspace projection; surface (ground); surgery; survey; symptom; T-cell stimulator; "take a break"; Tarchannen star; Tarchannen III; Tarchannen III species; Tarchannen system; thermosphere; threat; thymus; time index; tissue analysis; "too much"; tractor beam; trajectory; transformation; transport coordinates; transporter cycle; transporter range; Transporter Room 6; tricorder; turbolift; Type 7 shuttlecraft; Type 15 shuttlepod; ultraviolet light; "up and running"; vector analysis; vehicle track; velocity; "very well"; Victory, USS; viral crèche; VISOR; visual range; visual record; visual recording device; visual spectrum; voice; volunteering; "wait a minute"; wall; warning beacons; week; wind; "with flying colors"; witness; z-particle
- "Identity Crisis" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Identity Crisis" at Wikipedia
- "Identity Crisis" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Identity Crisis" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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"The Nth Degree"