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Lunch » Tags » Tv Shows » Reviews » Star Trek - The Next Generation, Episode 37: Contagion » User review

Two major logical flaws make it weak

  • Jan 1, 2005
The most striking feature of this episode is how much advancement there has been in the operations of computers in the last four hundred years. Ironically, this is demonstrated by massive system failures on the Enterprise, the U. S. S. Yamato and Data. It starts with the Enterprise entering the Neutral Zone to aid the U. S. S. Yamato, which is undergoing a systemic failure of its computer systems. The captain of the Yamato tells Picard that he has found the home world of the Iconians, a species relegated to mythology, but purported to possess a technology far superior to that of the Federation.
Suddenly, the Yamato explodes, killing all hands. A Romulan ship arrives and demands to know what the Enterprise is doing there. Picard informs them that he will leave only after he has determined the cause of the Yamato's destruction. After an investigation, the Enterprise crew learns that the Yamato was scanned by an alien device and it appears that the device was Iconian. They also learn that the destruction of the Yamato was caused by an internal failure and not by the Romulans. Picard then assumes the mission of the Yamato and heads towards the supposed Iconian home world. As they travel to the planet, the Enterprise starts experiencing systemic computer failure.
Geordi learns that the problems are due to an extremely sophisticated computer program that is attempting to rewrite the Enterprise software. The Yamato was infected by the probe and the Enterprise was infected when it downloaded data from the Yamato. They arrive at the Iconian world to find it lifeless, having been heavily bombarded from space. Since he has studied the Iconians for years, Picard leads an away team down to the surface and they discover some Iconian machinery still functioning. Using common root words of other languages, Data is able to partially decipher the instructions and open a portal to other locations. However, his translation is incomplete and he is also infected with the program. Worf takes Data back to the Enterprise and Picard stays behind to try to destroy the Iconian equipment. Once he gets back to the Enterprise, Data "dies" as the program completely infests his programming.
However, shortly after that he springs back to life, as his systems performed a complete shutdown and then rebooted from protected memory. This gives Geordi the solution to the Enterprise failures and he is able to purge the system. The Romulan ship has arrived at the planet and is making threats against the Enterprise. However, since their systems are also infected, they cannot carry them out. Right before their ship explodes due to the self-destruct mechanism engaging, the Enterprise crew informs them of the reboot from protected memory solution. At the end of the episode, both ships majestically leave planetary orbit.
While I enjoyed the playing out of the story, there are some incredible and nearly fatal logical holes in it. The first is how simple the solution to the rogue computer program was. Rebooting a system is a solution to system problems that nearly every computer user is familiar with. Because no one seemed to think of it, I assumed that it was not possible for the Enterprise computers to be rebooted from protected memory. Therefore, when Geordi finally stumbled onto the solution, after a bit of overblown cluelessness, I was astonished. Any network manager worthy of the title would have thought of and executed that solution hours before. The only possible explanation for this is that the Enterprise computer systems are so stable and self-correcting that there is never a need to consider a reboot.
The second major logical hole occurs at the end. While Picard manages to destroy some of the Iconian installation, they do not examine the site to determine if it is completely destroyed. Since the whole purpose of the Federation incursion into the Neutral Zone was to prevent the Romulans from acquiring Iconian technology, Picard would not simply leave. Furthermore, the Romulans had accessed the Yamato logs, so they would have known about the Iconian technology. After repairing their computer systems, the Enterprise and Romulans would have engaged in a scramble to either acquire any remaining technology or destroy it so that the other side did not get it.
These two flaws are serious and cannot be overlooked. This is a good story only if you can effectively ignore them.

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Charles Ashbacher ()
Ranked #78
Charlie Ashbacher is a compulsive reader and writer about many subjects. His prime areas of expertise are in mathematics and computers where he has taught every course in the mathematics and computer … more
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There's trouble in the Neutral Zone. Following a distress signal, theEnterprisefinds the USSYamatostranded due to a systems failure, with the Romulans nearby. Even before the opening credits roll the starship explodes, killing everybody on board. Turns out the captain of theYamatohad been searching for Iconia, a planet legendary for its technological advances, and whose technology would be incredibly dangerous if it were to fall into the wrong (read: Romulan) hands. Then the computer virus that destroyed theYamatostarts to infect theEnterprise, and the Romulans show up and start threatening them. To make matters worse, Data himself becomes infected. A good yarn--and as the Internet continues to expand, stories like this one about computer viruses will become increasingly relevant.--Andy Spletzer
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Studio: Paramount

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