114 – Conundrum

Grade: B

Conundrum (1992) on IMDb


Captain Picard and crew are investigating some signals that could indicate intelligent life. Counselor Troi defeats Data in 3D Chess, another officer in a bathing suit is in sickbay being treated for an injury, and Ensign Ro and Commander Riker are having an argument in a turbolift. Suddenly the Enterprise encounters a strange scanning signal that erases everyone’s memories, and a new officer is on the Bridge.


Conundrum is a fine episode, but it just has too many plot holes to be considered one of the best. It is certainly a fun episode to watch and it’s one that I would be happy to see many times. But if these plot holes had been fixed, it could have very easily been one of the best.

So what are the plot holes here? Well, there are a number of them. I don’t really want to list them all, because there just isn’t enough room. Besides, I really did like the episode, and I don’t want to ruin your experience with it. But there are two glaring holes that should have been explained.

First, why can’t Deanna Troi tell that Commander MacDuff is lying? And why can’t she tell that he’s a non-human alien? Both of those are skills that she’s had in other episodes before, and even in this one, she talks about having an ability that others don’t. So why was she so shocked like everyone else when they found out the truth about MacDuff? But maybe this can be explained away. Troi may not have realized that she knew she could tell he was lying. Or something like that.

Second, you have to wonder how Commander MacDuff had the technical expertise to sabotage the Enterprise, erase everyone’s memories, and reprogram Commander Data’s brain. And since this happened in just about 5 seconds or less, they must have planned it all in advance. How could they have known how to do this?

And there are even bigger questions. If they had all this ability, why would they need the Enterprise? Why didn’t MacDuff make himself an Admiral so he would out-rank Picard? Couldn’t they have made the Lysians forget that they’re at war? Probably the worst part of this plot hole is that Riker himself brings this up at the end of the episode when he’s talking to Captain Picard. So we’ve just seen the entire show, and we’ve all enjoyed it, and yet for some reason, the writer took the risk of ruining the entire episode by reminding us that the whole story was based on an enormous plot hole. If the episode weren’t so enjoyable to watch, there would almost be nothing left to redeem it.

But enough of that. Let’s get to what this episode did well.

First of all, it’s a very fun episode to watch, and also very enjoyable. It’s fun to see how every character reacts to the memory loss thing, and in some ways, I wish it had lasted a little longer before they found out their names and positions on the ship. It was funny to see Worf bossing Picard around, and who can forget Data behind the bar in Ten Forward?

Second, Commander MacDuff was a very good character. Note how he can’t help smiling to himself when things are going according to plan. Like when Picard asks him to set a course for the Lysian Central Command. Or right after they find the first alien ship, MacDuff walks back to the tactical station and gets the phasers ready – as if he doesn’t trust Worf to do his job. Or maybe he just wants to make sure they destroy the alien ship. Later, he volunteers to see if he can get his memory back, but then pretends to have convulsions during the procedure. I also thought there were two very good scenes in this episode: 1) when Picard talks to MacDuff and tells him of his reservations with this war and their purpose, and 2) MacDuff’s meeting with Worf right after that. Note how MacDuff also says “come” just like Picard would when people ring the doorbell. But if I had one complaint about this, it’s that sometimes the camera zooms in on his face a little too much and a little too long. I would have preferred a more subtle approach.

Third, it has a pretty funny ending when Riker meets Troi and Ro in Ten Forward. It’s about time Riker has to take some heat for his extracurricular activities. But speaking of Riker, this episode definitely exemplifies his reputation. I couldn’t help but notice the two scenes of Riker’s romantic encounters with Ro were immediately preceeded by two scenes where he found out that Troi probably has romantic feelings toward him as well. Hmm. I think the prudent thing to do would be to wait until his memory is restored before proceeding with Ensign Ro. But not Will Riker. He ignores the fact that Troi could be his fiancĂ©e and jumps right into the arms of Ro.

So the ending is definitely deserved – and actually pretty funny too. I just wonder why Troi sticks by him for so long. Oh, I know, it’s supposed to be dramatic and we’re supposed to be asking if each episode is finally the one where they get married. Personally, I find it annoying to see a strong female character like Troi wait around for some jerk like Riker to finally come to his senses. But that really has nothing to do with this episode in particular – just a general complaint.

Finally, I thought it was really interesting to find out Data’s theories about his own origin. There could be multiple theories, but he only settles on two – either he comes from a race of androids, or he’s completely unique. I wonder why these are the only two options he can accept. Isn’t it also just as possible that there are a few of him running around in the galaxy? Oh well.

This is a pretty good episode that could really have been great. But just don’t think about it too much and you’ll enjoy it a lot more.

Of Note

Do you recognize the Lysian Central Command space station? It is actually the same prop used in the episode “Justice”. Re-using models is a good way to some money. They’ve re-used the same matte paintings to represent dozens of different planets, so why not us the same props? Actually, I think this prop may have appeared in multiple episodes.

Liz Vassey, of CSI: Las Vegas fame, plays the role of the patient in a bathing suit in this episode, but I hardly recognized her. Years later, in the CSI episode called “A Space Oddity,” she appeared as a crazed fan of a 1960s Sci-fi TV series. It was obviously meant to spoof the original Star Trek series.