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Conspiracy (episode)

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(written from a Production point of view)
"Conspiracy"
TNG, Episode 1x25
Production number: 40271-125
First aired: 9 May 1988
24th of 176 produced in TNG
24th of 176 released in TNG
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 176 released in TNG Remastered  
129th of 728 released in all
Remmick aftermath
Teleplay By
Tracy Tormé

Story By
Robert Sabaroff

Directed By
Cliff Bole
41775.5-41780.2. (2364)
Arc: Alien neural parasites infiltrate Starfleet Command (2 of 2)  
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After Captain Picard receives a dark warning from an old friend, the Enterprise returns to Earth to stop an alien invasion from taking over Starfleet Command.

Summary

Walker Keel
Walker Keel's clandestine communiqué

While en route to Pacifica, Jean-Luc Picard receives a code 47 emergency message from Walker Keel, an old friend who is captain of the USS Horatio. Keel asks Picard for a secret rendezvous on the abandoned mining colony on Dytallix B. Picard meets with Walker and two other captains, Tryla Scott and Rixx, who, after confirming Picard's identity with a series of questions about his past, tell him about their suspicions of a conspiracy of some sort reaching up to the highest levels of Starfleet Command. Picard looks into the matter, having Data review Starfleet directives of the past six months. While Data is reviewing the records, the USS Enterprise-D encounters the debris of Keel's ship.

In light of Keel's death, Picard tells Riker about the suspicions Keel voiced. During their conversation, Data enters and tells them what he has found: during the past six months there has been a great deal of "uncustomary reshuffling of personnel – usually in the command areas," and the new officers have had a great deal of contact with the highest levels of command. Data hypothesizes that the reorganizations are an attempt by a hostile force or individual to control important sectors of Federation territory. Faced with this information, the Enterprise returns to Earth.

StarfleetCommand2364
Nothing to worry about, we're all fine here

Upon entering orbit, the Enterprise is contacted by three admirals from Starfleet Command, requesting an explanation for their return. Picard states that he would prefer a discussion of that sort occur in private; the three admirals convene for a moment, then invite Picard and Riker to dinner at Starfleet Headquarters for the discussion to take place. Rear Admiral Quinn says that he will not be able to attend the dinner, but that he would like to see the Enterprise again. Just before he beams up, he looks at a scorpion-like creature he has in a case.

When Quinn is on board the Enterprise, he bluffs his way through references to old times, and states that his earlier perception of a threat to the Federation was merely a metaphor for the "tumultuous process" of assimilating new races into the Federation. Picard realizes that Admiral Quinn is an impostor of some sort and tells Riker to observe Quinn closely and have Dr. Crusher give him a medical examination under false pretenses; after Riker reaches his conclusions, he is to join Picard on Earth. Picard then beams down and meets with Rear Admiral Savar and Vice Admiral Aaron, as well as Dexter Remmick.

Neural parasite quinn
A scan of the parasite attached to Quinn

On the ship in the guest quarters, Quinn offers to show Riker the creature and tells him about it. It was discovered by a Starfleet survey team on an uncharted planet, and Quinn refers to it as "a superior form of life". When Riker says he'll get his science officer, Quinn grabs his arm very strongly, saying the creature will only like Riker. After a brief scuffle, in which Quinn displays amazing strength, Riker is knocked unconscious. When security arrives, Quinn says that Riker slipped and hit his head, and then announces his departure. When Worf and La Forge try to detain him, he throws La Forge out into the hallway, his body knocking down the door, and similarly beats Worf before being repeatedly phasered with increasingly powerful stun settings into unconsciousness by Dr. Crusher. In sickbay, Crusher's scans show that Quinn really is Quinn, but she discovers a bizarre appendage sticking out of the back of his neck.

On Earth, the two admirals try to subtly persuade Picard that there is in fact no conspiracy. Dinner is announced, so Picard takes a moment to contact Riker. Crusher answers on Riker's communicator, as Riker is unconscious. Crusher informs Picard that a parasitic creature of some sort has taken control of Quinn and all his brain functions. The spike at the back of Quinn's neck appears to be a gill, which is a helpful indicator of those who have been taken over by one of the creatures. Crusher states her doubts about removing the creature, believing it would kill Quinn. She instructs Picard to set his phaser to kill rather than stun, which has little effect on the creature or its host; Picard, however, believing that no one beams down to Starfleet Headquarters armed, has no phaser with him at all.

Eating worms
Worms - it's what's for dinner

Picard goes in to dinner. The dish being served is a bowl filled with mealworms. Picard is disgusted, and realizes that everyone at the dinner has been infiltrated by the aliens. He gets up to leave, and runs into Riker. Riker has also apparently been taken over by the creature: he has a gill in his neck. So, too, has Captain Scott. The "conspirators" announce that they have known of Picard's intentions the whole time. They talk of their plan to infiltrate the Enterprise. Riker moves to eat, but instead he pulls out a Type 1 phaser and shoots the dining security guard. When Captain Scott draws her phaser at Riker, Picard grabs at her arm and throws off her aim, allowing Riker to shoot her as well. However, Admiral Savar begins to subdue Riker with a Vulcan neck pinch.

Picard then grabs Captain Scott's phaser and uses it to take down Savar. Admiral Aaron flees the dining room, and Picard and Riker pursue and shoot him in the hallway after he returns fire. The admiral falls to the ground, and the parasite infesting him crawls out of his mouth and goes under a nearby door. They follow it to find Remmick sitting in a chair. He turns to look at it, unconcerned; Riker goes to shoot it, but Picard stops him, as the creature crawls up Remmick and enters his mouth. He swallows it, and it begins moving around in his neck. "We mean you no harm", he says as he stands, his neck noisily bulging in and out. "We seek peaceful coexistence".

Alien parasite mother
The mother parasite is exposed

Picard and Riker open fire with their phasers, knocking Remmick back into the chair. Riker aims higher and destroys Remmick's head, the outer layer of skin vaporizing and the rest exploding. Remmick's chest cavity begins to dissolve and a large creature breaks through with several blood soaked parasites trickling behind. Disgusted, Picard opens fire again with Riker following suit, both phasers continuing until the creature is vaporized, leaving a decapitated smoldering mess that was once Lieutenant Commander Remmick.

Back aboard the Enterprise, Picard notes in his log that with the death of the "mother creature" inside of Remmick, the remaining parasites died while Riker reveals that Dr. Crusher had simulated the gill on the back of his neck in order to fool everyone, including Picard. As the Enterprise moves on into space, Data theorizes that Remmick had been transmitting a homing beacon before he died and that should the parasites receive it, they would know where to find Earth.

Memorable quotes

"One can... swim in moonlight?"

- Data


"How about you, Mr. Worf?"
"[grimaces and shakes his head] Swimming is too much like... bathing."

- Deanna Troi and Worf, regarding past experiences of moonlight swims


"It won't like your science officer. It DOES LIKE YOU! Vitamins... they do wonders for the body."

- Quinn


"Friendship must dare to risk, Counselor, or it isn't friendship."

- Picard, on risking his career to follow up on Walker Keel's conspiracy theory


"Apologies, Captain. We had to be sure you were really you."

- Rixx, after lowering his phaser at Picard


"I'm glad, Jean-Luc. I'm glad you're still one of us. Tell Beverly I... I said "hello"."

- Walker Keel


"Captain, you must set your phaser on kill. Stun has little effect."
"Doctor, one does not beam down to Starfleet Headquarters armed."

- Dr. Crusher and Picard


"If I could see, I'd be seeing stars."

- La Forge, after regaining consciousness from being thrown through a door


"You didn't really think we were in the dark about our intentions, did you?"
"Patience is one of our virtues, Captain. We didn't go after you; we allowed you to come after us."
"More dramatic that way, don't you think?"
"Yes. The one thing both races share is a love of theater, and you've put on a fine show."

- Aaron, Savar and Tryla Scott


"You don't understand. We mean you no harm. We seek peaceful co-existence!"

- Remmick

Background information

Script and story

Conspiracy (Andrew Probert)
An Andrew Probert concept art for the ending scene
Curry with Remmick model
Dan Curry with the model
  • Writer Tracy Tormé, adapting a story by Robert Sabaroff to The Next Generation, had hoped to make "Conspiracy" a commentary on the Iran/Contra Affair, but this potentially controversial notion was nixed. A plot by Starfleet officers out to undermine the Prime Directive (already introduced six episodes before in "Coming of Age"), turned out to be the result of an infestation of alien insects, not part of Tormé's original approach.
  • The original version of the script did not feature alien parasites; the conspiracy in question was simply a military coup within Starfleet. Gene Roddenberry vehemently opposed such an idea, since he believed Starfleet would never stoop to such methods; there was just no way Tormé could get away with suggesting that the Federation was anything less than a perfect government. Thus the alien angle was introduced at his insistence. (DS9 later featured a similar plot, however, in the two-part episodes "Homefront" and "Paradise Lost".)
  • Indeed, the whole idea of the episode, its violence, and its unresolved ending caused quite a stir, but Robert Justman, Rick Berman, and Rob Lewin backed Tormé against the objections of Maurice Hurley, and the show stood pretty much as he had intended it, with the topical references subtly shoved under the carpet. Things did not go so well for writer Tormé in the future; he was left with the feeling that, as far as creative freedom for writers, the second half of Star Trek: The Next Generation's second season was the best part of the series as a whole.
  • Although the episode closed on a suspenseful note, no resolution has yet been seen.
  • "Conspiracy" started as the original story with the title "The Assassins". (Creating the Next Generation: The Conception and Creation of a Phenomenon, p.61)

Production

  • The opening credits to this episode include Denise Crosby's character, Natasha Yar. Yar was killed off and didn't appear regularly after "Skin of Evil".
  • Jonathan Frakes states that during the dinner scene, grub worms did "cross" his lips. [X]wbm

Sets and props

Mother parasite prop
The "mother" parasite prop

Cast and characters

Music

Continuity

  • This episode marks the first appearance of a Bolian.
Unnamed Tellarites TNG
Two unnamed Tellarites
  • The exterior footage of Starfleet Headquarters was recycled from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home; as such, this episode is the only time Tellarites appear on TNG. They are wearing robes originally worn by Kazarites in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
  • When Data is commenting on the orders he has just read, the computer interrupts him by saying "Thank you, sir. I comprehend." This is the only time in all of Star Trek when a Federation computer speaks in the first-person narrative ("I"). The non-canon reference work Star Trek: The Next Generation Officer's Manual explains this by stating that the Enterprise computer was one of the most advanced ever constructed and was in fact self-aware. It is also one of the only times the computer has expressed "frustration" with its user, more often the frustration is the other way around.
  • Amongst the logs reviewed by Data, the "Great Bird of the Galaxy" can briefly be seen.
  • This is the last appearance of the Starfleet Admiral's uniform which was seen through the first season of The Next Generation. The uniform, notable for its "triangle pip" insignia, was replaced in Season Two by an interim uniform which used the more familiar "boxed pip" insignia. By season three, the admiral's uniform was changed again to become the standard which was used for the rest of the series.
The Explored Galaxy
Alpha and Beta Quadrant star chart seen behind Remmick
  • A star chart featured in this episode, on the wall behind Remmick's chair, was created by the art department and shows several dozen planets and star systems mentioned in TOS and TAS. The star chart was re-used in many more TNG episodes and recently appeared in the pilot episode of the Doctor Who spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures in the eponymous main character's attic.
  • This is the first episode of the series to feature Earth.
  • The Vulcan nerve pinch is used in this episode, however unlike TOS, a person doesn't fall unconscious after the pinch but grimaces in pain. It's possible, however, that the parasite controlling Savar may not have been performing the neck pinch properly.
  • "The Drumhead" would later establish that Admiral Norah Satie had been instrumental in uncovering the parasite conspiracy.

Awards

  • This episode won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Makeup for a Series.

Reception

  • On its first airing in the UK on 20th March 1991, the BBC cut several minutes of footage from the episode (most notably the death of Remmick). In addition, Space, Canada's science fiction network, precedes this episode with a viewer discretion warning, the only The Next Generation episode to receive this.
  • A mission report by Will Murray for this episode was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine Vol. 5, pp. 64-66.

Video and DVD releases

Natasha Yar's face is obscured by shadow on the video sleeve, reflecting her death in the previous volume.

Apocrypha

  • The neural parasites have thus far never reappeared on-screen, but have been shown in a comic book taking control of a spacefaring species called the "Onglaatu" in a DC TNG story entitled "The Broken Moon!".
  • The parasites have also returned in Pocket Books' new DS9 series of novels, first in The Lives of Dax, in which Audrid Dax and Christopher Pike discover that the parasites are closely related to the Trill. The last book in the Mission: Gamma series then picks this up, leading into the novel Unity in which it is revealed that the Trill symbionts and the neural parasites have been fighting a long secret war, with several species worth of hosts and governments as their weapons against each other. The parasites' latest gambit has been the continued fervor for Bajor to join the Federation; for unknown reasons this would represent a great victory to their secret plan.
  • This story arc is completed in the novel Unjoined by Andy Mangels and Michael A. Martin, in which the parasites are revealed to actually be genetically modified Trill symbionts, created on the remote Trill colony of Kurl. A deadly plague had been killing symbionts, and the experiments were intended to develop a cure. However, the experiment failed, and the symbionts so affected became violent and xenophobic - the parasites - and swore revenge on Trill society for this disaster.

Links and references

Starring

Also starring

Guest stars

Guest-stars

Uncredited co-stars

Stunt doubles

Stand-ins

References

2364; admiral; adrenal glands; Altairian Conference; Ambassador-class; Andonian tea; blue gill; Bolians; captain; code 47; Crusher, Jack; Delaplane; Dytallix Mining Company; Earth; frigate; governor; heavy cruiser; holodeck; homing beacon; Horatio, USS; Luna; Karapleedeez, Onna; Keel, Anne; Keel, Melissa; McKinney; Milky Way Galaxy; Mira Antliae; Mira Antliae V ("Dytallix B"); neural parasite; Neural Parasites Planet; orbital shuttle; Outer Rim; Pacifica; rear admiral; Relva VII; Renegade, USS; Sector 63; senility; Sipe, Ryan; Sol; Sol sector; Starbase 12; Starfleet Command; Starfleet Headquarters; surveyor; swimming; Tau Ceti III; unnamed LCARS file starships; Unnamed Federation space stations; Thomas Paine, USS; vitamin; voice print identification

Library Computer References

Log entries

External links


Previous episode:
"We'll Always Have Paris"
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 1
Next episode:
"The Neutral Zone"
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