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The Masterpiece Society

(Star Trek - The Next Generation episode production code 213)
  • story by Adam Belanoff & James Kahn
  • teleplay by Adam Belanoff and Michael Piller
  • directed by Winrich Kolbe
  • music by Jay Chattaway

The Masterpiece Society

As this story plays out, one begins to wonder why it takes our crew until the very last scene to mention the Prime Directive. Riker says it shouldn't apply, because today's colony is human. Picard isn't so sure, because in the Prime Directive lies the fall-back Starfleet template for respecting the colony's wishes.... if this divided colony is at all congruent in knowing its own wishes.

The story has some bigger fundamental problems. First and foremost is the ridiculous idea that genes are responsible for individual personality, choice of vocation, place in society, etc., etc. This is in fact a fantasy based on 20th century limitations in understanding humanity. A colony established in the 22nd century and attempting to run on this premise for 200 years would likely be a complete unbalanced disaster long before the Enterprise comes to visit. This eats into the story's believability big time. I laugh. And besides, what kind of society is perfect by existing in a bubble, with no chance for growth, and no way of dealing with external issues?

Secondly, this colony that supposedly controls breeding to a very careful extent proves the exact opposite. Why wouldn't Aaron Connor already be in a relationship with someone genetically chosen for him, long before he meets Troi? This aspect is completely ignored in the story, and would go a long way into making the colony feel populated with 3-dimensional characters. As it stands, the Enterprise once more ends up visiting a collection of 2-dimension people that all seem far too "wet" in their idealism and perfection, a problem that crops up all too often on this show, and even the ninth feature film "Insurrection" feels at times like it is struggling to avoid falling into the same trap.

So once again, here we have the Prime Directive trying to protect lack of growth and lack of human learning. It's useless here. If this were reality, it would be far more obvious than this genetic fantasy can make out.

It is bizarre that, in the final scene, the story seems to be trying to make a case that perhaps it should apply even to human colonies. Lots. It's time to chuck the damn thing.

Picard's actual behaviour in dealing with the colony is in fact good though, and fair in balancing their divided wishes. I don't mind his introspection at the end, but I think he should finish with more pride and less doubt.

This Next Generation Season Five story is available on DVD and Blu-ray:

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season Five (1991-1992):

Features 26 episodes @ 45 minutes each, including both parts of "Unification".
Click on the Amazon symbol for the desired disc format and location nearest you for more information:

DVD Canada

7-disc DVD set

DVD Canada


DVD Extras include:

  • Mission Overview: Year Five
  • Production & Visual Effects
  • Memorable Missions: Year Five
  • A Tribute to Gene Roddenberry
  • "Intergalactic Guest Stars" clip
  • "Alien Speak" alien writings and speech
Blu-ray U.S.

NEW for
Nov. 19, 2013.
Blu-ray Canada

NEW for
Nov. 19, 2013.
Blu-ray U.K.

NEW for
Nov. 18, 2013.

Blu-ray features add:

  • 4 Audio Commentaries:
    • "Cause and Effect" by writer Brannon Braga and moderator Seth MacFarlane.
    • "The First Duty" by writers Ronald D. Moore and
      Naren Shankar.
    • "I, Borg" by writer René Echevarria and scenic/graphic artists Mike and Denise Okuda.
    • "The Inner Light" by co-writer Morgan Gendel and the Okudas.
  • Two-part documentary "Requiem: A Remembrance of ST:TNG" (HD, 59 min. total) with 1981 interview clips of the late Gene Roddenberry, plus Patrick Stewart (Picard), Jonathan Frakes (Riker), Marina Sirtis (Troi), Michael Dorn (Worf), writers Moore, Braga, and Shankar, and executive producer Rick Berman.
  • In Conversation: The Music of ST:TNG (HD, 65 min.) with composers Ron Jones, Dennis McCarthy, and Jay Chattaway, and host Jeff Bond.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD)
  • Gag Reel (HD)
  • Episodic Promos
  • plus, all featurettes from the DVD version.

Article & reviews written by Martin Izsak. Comments are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

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Read our next Star Trek review: Ethics

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