Friday, May 29, 2020

Star Trek: Contagion

Episode: "Contagion"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 2, Episode 11
Original Air Date: March 20, 1989

Image result for contagion tng
via Wikipedia

Captain Picard gets a call from an old friend, Donald Varley (Thalmus Rasulala), captain of the Yamato, the Enterprise's sister ship.  A fellow archaeology enthusiast, Varley had been investigating a world rumored to be the home of the legendary Iconians.  Two problems: the planet is inconveniently located in the neutral zone, the Yamoto's trespassing drawing the attention of the Romulans, and the ship seems to have picked up a tech virus in the process.  The virus destroys the Yamato as the Enterprise bridge crew looks on in horror.  Now the same condition has infected the Enterprise.

The story idea came from Beth Woods who was an IT tech at the Star Trek offices at the time.  Some of the ideas used are ones we've seen before.  The ship being attacked by an abandoned planet is reminiscent of "Arsenal of Freedom."  The portal room on the Iconian world is not entirely unlike the one we saw in TOS's "All Our Yesterdays," the penultimate episode of the originals.  A quick side note: the latter is an installment I think about a lot.  I didn't initially include it on my top 10 list but in hindsight, I might - certainly top 15.  It's such a great Spock story.

Food Note

This episode marks the first time Picard orders his trademark "Tea, Earl Gray, hot" from the replicator, though the machine messes up the order.

Acting Notes

Image result for thalmus rasulala
via Good Times Wiki

Thalmus Rasulala was born Jack Crowder, November 15, 1939 in Miami.  He graduated from the University of Redlands in California.  He had a long career on both stage and screen.  In 1967, he played the role of Cornelius Hackl in an all-black cast of Hello, Dolly!, a production which also featured Pearl Bailey and Cab Calloway.

On the big screen, his biggest starring roles were in blaxploitation films of the early '70s: Cool Breeze, Blacula and Willie Dynamite.  He also has an assistant director credit for The Slams.  On television, he was in the original cast for One Life to Live, then had guest roles on numerous major shows in the '70s and '80s.  TNG was not his first gig with Levar Burton.  Both were in Roots, Rasulala playing the part of Omoro Kinte, father of Kunta Kinte, Burton's character.

Thalmus Rasulala passed away on October 9, 1991 from a heart attack.


  1. It took them that long to work the tea in?
    I wonder whose idea it was.

    1. Actually, I think the bigger question is how it became such a big deal. On its own, it's a fairly innocuous line.

      As is so often the case with Stewart, much of the magic is in the delivery.

    2. That's true.
      It got picked up on quick, though.
      I had friends in high school who said it all the time.

    3. No doubt. Simple words but people get the reference right away.

  2. The Romulans slowly working their way into the regular TNG narrative...! Otherwise a fairly anonymous episode.

    Thanks for the tea trivia!

    1. I like the Romulans though I don't feel the Romulan stories in TNG pack quite the same punch that they do in TOS - only two in the originals, and they're two of the best in the whole run.

  3. Interesting note that the shows borrowed from each other. Warm the tea pot first you silly replicator.

  4. I really liked this episode. I would have loved to see them develop the Iconia story line further. I'm big into science fiction involving ancient, more advanced species.