48 – Shades of Gray

Grade: F

Shades of Gray (1989) on IMDb


Commander Riker takes a team down to a planet and promptly becomes infected with a parasite that moves into his brain. Dr. Pulaski and Counselor Troi discover that the only way to eliminate the parasite is to force Riker’s brain to remember specific traumatic experiences in his past. These are shown on screen.


This episode is your typical clip show style, where there are several flashback scenes to earlier episodes. I’ve never liked this in any TV show that I’ve ever watched. It seems to happen when the producers don’t know what else to do, but they need one more episode to fill out the season.

In some ways, I think they were afraid nobody was watching this series, so they thought they should catch everyone up on what has happened in the first two seasons. Then they just picked out a whole bunch of scenes and stitched them together to make a 45 minute TV show. Just seems pointless to me, but maybe they wanted to make sure everyone knew everything about the first two years.

I ranked this lower than Encounter at Farpoint because by this time in the series, they really should have known better. The pilot episode was really awful, that’s true. But this was the end of the second season, and I think the lack of quality and originality of this particular episode really sticks out like a sore thumb. Personally, I think somewhere in the middle of the second season is where the series started to get on track and away from all the silliness and nonsense of the first year and a half. Then, by the third season, it really started to hit its stride. But this episode in the middle of all of that just really looks bad. It really is too bad that they ended the second season with such a half-hearted effort. But the series survived anyway, so what do I know?

Apparently, the writers’ strike in this season is to blame for the lameness of this episode. Well, whatever the cause, it’s still very bad and a waste of time to watch.

Of Note

Several of Riker’s love interests show up in this episode: 1) Counselor Troi, 2) Minuet – the holodeck character that the Binars created, 3) Mistress Beatta from the female-dominated planet, and 4) the woman from Up the Long Ladder.