113 – The Masterpiece Society

Grade: B

The Masterpiece Society (1992) on IMDb


The Enterprise discovers a human colony on what was thought to be an uninhabited planet. The colonists are part of a genetically-engineered society, and they think of themselves as perfect. But there is a massive stellar fragment on a collision course with the planet, and all the colonists will die if the Enterprise can’t find a way to save them.


This episode is not really one of my favorites, but when I watched it this time, I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. Marina Sirtis plays a big role in this episode, and she actually does very well here. In all honesty, I think this could be the best work (or at least one of her best) that she has ever done in this franchise. As you’ll know by now, I’m not usually a big fan of her acting, but she really does a great job here. Her best scene is when she admits to Captain Picard that she has made a mistake in her interactions with Conor on the planet. It’s about time they didn’t write her character to be an emotional train wreck.

The rest of the acting is also very good, and I thought the characters were well-developed. I think we’re supposed to see the colonists as conceited, short-sighted and narrow-minded. Obviously, they’re technologically challenged, and yet they see no problems in themselves. Quite frankly, I didn’t care if the Enterprise could help them or not – most of these guys are just not likeable. So in that sense, the episode wasn’t quite as effective as it could have been. Still, it’s a better episode than most in this series.

The script is a bit weak in some places, and some things are discussed far too much for the viewer to get the point. For example, in one scene, LaForge thinks about his visor’s technology and then realizes they can do something similar with the ship’s deflector dish. We already realize the irony of a blind man helping to save a colony of genetically-enhanced humans who would not have allowed him to be born in the first place had his parents been a part of this colony. The fact that he brings this up in the first place is bad enough. But he does it in advance, by saying “if this works….” Of course, we know it’s going to work. It has to. Otherwise, the irony would have been wasted. Besides, it’s Star Trek and everything always gets resolved.

One other weakness in the storyline is when Conor and Troi discuss their relationship right near the end of the episode. Again, we already know how ironic it is that this man who is genetically perfect falls in love with a woman who is not. We really don’t need to hear this from him, and it makes him look arrogant and conceited. And nobody likes someone like that. Besides, he really lays it on thick when he mentions this.

But one thing really bothers me about this episode – and the same is actually true of so many Star Trek episodes – the story spends so much effort building a relationship between a guest character and a main character, and when it all ends, we have yet another example of a relationship that doesn’t work. Neither side wants to compromise to make the new relationship work. I realize they probably don’t want to make a recurring character if they don’t have to. But the problem is that since this is how it ends almost every single time, we feel manipulated. Honestly, I didn’t want to see Troi leave the Enterprise and stay there, but I wish we could have seen this Administrator join the Enterprise as a Federation diplomat or an ambassador or something. At least that would have been unexpected.

Of course, the scientist who works with Geordi decides to leave the planet and go onto the Enterprise with them. But of course we never hear of this character ever again, so I guess that’s to be expected. Speaking of which, when they’re discussing if it’s possible to remove people from the planet who want to go, I totally agree with Geordi – they have no legal reason to force them to stay.

And it’s stupid (and predictable) that they’re going to bring up the Prime Directive again, even though it doesn’t apply at all in this case. These are Federation citizens and they’re not pre-warp. Riker and Picard argue about this at the end of the episode. Picard would not win the legal debate here, even though he may have ethical reasons to believe the way he does. In general, it bothers me how often in Star Trek we hear about the Prime Directive. In theory, every single episode could be a violation of the PD. After all, aren’t they supposed to be seeking out new life and civilizations? How can they do that without violating the PD? Maybe we should just leave this argument out of this episode.

There are a few other reasons why I can’t rate this one any higher than a B, but it’s mostly storyline and scripting. There are some great points to this episode, but it could have been a bit better if they had just left some things unsaid. Not everything has to be spelled out for us to understand the point.

Of Note

This is one of the few episodes in which Counselor Troi has a romantic interest.

Also, one of the colonists at the end of the episode asks Picard if he would live in a “ship in a bottle” when he would prefer to be out exploring the stars. This brought to mind the episode called “Ship in a Bottle” where hologram character Dr. Moriarty asks for the freedom to explore the stars. In that case, it was impossible for Picard to give him that, so they had to find a way to give him what he asked for, without actually doing it. In Masterpiece Society, Picard has to make the same choice but this time with actual people who really do have free will.

Finally, the actor who plays Aaron Conor also played the main Romulan character in “The Enemy.” Remember his character also asks LaForge in disbelief “and your parents let you live?” when he finds out Geordi was born blind.