Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 1, Episode 16
Original Air Date: February 1, 1988
The Enterprise is in dock for repairs and a quartet of Bynars are brought aboard for the job, essentially overhauling the ship's computer system. First, the Bynars - a species evolved to better interact with computers - trick the crew into abandoning the ship, except for Riker and Picard who are lured into a Holodeck fantasy. Then they take the ship to their home world which requires a tech reboot from the Enterprise computer or the entire race will die - an understandably desperate mission.
"11001001" (201 in binary, in case you're wondering; I was) is definitely a highlight. In fact, many point to it as the first season's best. I'm not convinced of that yet but one can definitely sense more secure footing here. The Bynars are cool, one of the more interesting alien race ideas for the franchise. There's some excellent Riker development with some nice moments for Picard as well. Most importantly, the story is tight - uncomplicated, flows nicely and the nagging questions are answered succinctly.
Q: Why didn't the Bynars simply ask for help rather than hijacking a ship?
A: The answer might have been "No."
Q: Why did the Bynars keep Riker and Picard aboard while kicking everyone else off?
A: They knew they might die en route and they needed someone to execute the reboot just in case.
It's a good storytelling lesson: often the most satisfying solution to a problem is the simplest one. In the end, the Bynars turn themselves in, aware of their guilt but without regret for the choice made. It's easy for the crew, and the viewer, to forgive them. This was also a favorite episode among cast and crew, a nice change from the many clunkers that came before. Trust me, as someone who has directed a lot of plays, there is no substitute for investment in material.
As noted above, "11001001" is a great Riker story. The holodeck fantasy is a lure designed for him. Snatching Picard was an unexpected bonus. The scene is a New Orleans Bourbon Street jazz club. This is where we first learn Riker is a stellar trombonist. And, of course, there's a woman: Minuet, designed to suit Riker's fantasy parameters. She's not only beautiful but also dynamically conversational in multiple languages, equally at ease with Riker in English and Picard in French. Both our heroes are easily hooked.
Minuet and Riker have a telling exchange...
R: I'm going to have to leave for a while to see to my duties.
M: Your work's very important to you.
R: It is me. It's what I am.
More than anything else to this point, we have seen that duty and responsibility are Riker's drivers. If the previous episode, "Angel One,"
provides any long-term value, it's the revelation that he is not a live-and-die-by-the-regulations military man. There is a deeper moral code that supersedes. However, women are his weakness.
Meanwhile, Picard is exposed once again as a romantic of a different nature. Hard to believe a space traveler would be a sucker for further fantasy but both this story and "The Big Goodbye"
betray his fascination with the holodeck and the many escapist possibilities it provides. He is less captivated than Riker by Minuet's beauty, more so by her ability to engage. There's also a wonderful moment in the opening scene when Picard congratulates everyone on the bridge for a job well done. Always an important theme for the series: the Enterprise is a great place to work.
Carolyn McCormick (Minuet) was born September 19, 1959 in Midland, Texas. She was an academic superstar: valedictorian of her high school class and graduating with honors from Williams. She also has a master's degree from the American Conservatory Theater.
She's had an extensive career on both stage and screen. Her biggest role was as Dr. Elizabeth Olivet, a recurring character on Law & Order
, logging 96 episodes in the original and spin-off series. She's been successful in voice acting as well, most notably as the audiobook narrator for the Hunger Games