A particularly pompous scientist (Ken Jenkins) is aboard the Enterprise to view a once-in-a-lifetime event: the explosion of a star. But even as he's preparing to complete what has been his life's work, the ship's computers begin to go glitch-crazy. More problematic, the computer itself records no instance of failure or malfunction. The problem, as it turns out, is that Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) has been conducting a school experiment involving microscopic robots called nanites. Two nanites have escaped into the computer--and have evolved in a way that allows them to reproduce and run amok in the computer system, threatening not only the scientific mission but the safety of the Enterprise itself.
It's an intriguing episode, one that uses its plot to debate the nature of life as it applies to sentient mechanical beings. In this case, not only are the nanites capable of reproducing but also learning and evolving; when the scientist suggests killing all the nanites to save his project, the nanites themselves gang up and retaliate. On the other hand, the whole episode keeps building to moments of tension and suspense that simply fade away, rather than reaching cathartic release. And a subplot, involving Crusher's mother Beverly (Gates McFadden) and her mother-hen impulses toward her growing son, reveals yet again how stiff an actress she is and why she wasn't missed during her absence for the second season. --Marshall FineFrom the Back Cover:
Dr. Paul Stubbs (Ken Jenkins), an eminent scientist, has beamed aboard the Enterpriseto study the rare explosion of a star in the Kavis Alpha Sector. As the crew readies Stubbs' equipment, the Enterprise is suddenly drawn into the path of the stellar matter. The ship is restored to normal, but the computer system, which reports no malfunction, fails to stabilize.
As Picard (Patrick Stewart) warns Stubbs that his study may have to be aborted, Wesley (Wil Wheaton) concludes that a genetics experiment he was conducting engendered the computer breakdown. Wesley's experiment allowed several nanites-tiny robots small enough to enter living cells-to interact and escape to the main computer. Unless the nanites are stopped, they will shut down the Enterprise and destroy the crew's life-support system.
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