Thursday, April 18, 2013

TNG: The Game

I was pretty little when Rachel Leigh Cook broke an egg into a hot frying pan and proclaimed, "This is your brain on drugs." I was an elementary schooler when the (scientifically documented to be ineffective) DARE program was at its peak. I was told to "Just Say No" by everyone from Nancy Regan to Punky Brewster but I didn't care about any of it. Even as a kid, it all seemed patronizing and preachy. None of these things were going to keep me from trying drugs.

The thing is, I never tried drugs. It's not like I never had an opportunity either. I grew up with artist parents and their artist friends who threw hazy artist parties. I went to an inner-city middle school where cops lead drug dogs around on leashes to sniff lockers on a daily basis. I spent all of high school in Kentucky where both pot and meth are booming industries--the cops literally burned big piles of confiscated marijuana in the field behind the high school. Still, I wasn't ever even tempted and I never really put together why that might be.

Then, yesterday, I re-watched "The Game." You may remember this episode as the one in which Wesley Crusher and Ashley Judd (the ship's smartest teenagers) save the day when Up-For-Anything-Riker brings an addictive, mind-controlling game back to the Enterprise. I've only seen this one a few times but each time I watch it, it brings back the totally creeped out feeling I got in my first viewing. From the icky "pleasure" face everyone's going around making to the weird way they're all crazily pushing the game on other crew members, to their complete loss of control, this episode totally weirds me out. Especially this lady:

Here's a close-up in case you weren't already skeeved out enough.

Anyway, I'm not saying that Star Trek kept me off drugs. What I am saying is that, in a culture where adults are constantly talking directly (down) to kids about what they should and shouldn't do, sometimes all it takes to get kids thinking about bigger issues is a simple episode of something they already love, dealing with something in a legit (not after-school special) way. 

I read that Braga's original intention with this episode was to make a statement about today's kids (I say those words in my old man voice) being addicted to video games but my childhood brain saw the totally stoned look on everyone's face and jumped straight to a drug analogy. I've been creeped out by this one ever since. I never had to "Just say no" or think about my precious egg yolk brain in a pan but somewhere, in the back of my mind, I remembered this episode and internalized it. 

Now off to the Xbox; I need to level up.


  1. I never knew Braga's original intent was a commentary on the growth of gaming amongst teens. I always thought this episodes was about drugs. Creepy, mind-altering, all-consuming drugs.

    I too was a child of the DARE program - t-shirts, public officials, songs, and cheers all to keep me from drugs. It never told me WHY I shouldn't do them though or what would happen if I did. This episode and the frying egg PSA were much more effective.

  2. When I first watched this back in the day, I totally got the addict/video game thing- but it wasn't until rewatching later on that I picked up on all the thinly-veiled sexual gratification. There's one scene where Beverly is downright orgasmic! And Troi and her chocolate- oh boy. That whole part sort of went right past me back during the first run. While this is certainly not a stellar episode for me, it does have a sort of kitschy appeal, mostly due to the super-teens. And "Lefler's Laws".

  3. I wonder, had this episode been conceived with today's visual effects, if they would have designed the game to be a little more compelling than spiraled cones, swallowing balls. (that sounds filthy. lol) I always thought it looked like one helluva boring game, therefore it MUST have felt good.

    Little did we know that decades after this episode, most of advanced society would be addicted to handheld devices.

  4. This is my least favorite TNG episode, clip episode notwithstanding. Like you, I live my life drug-free, but I always felt that the drug prevention programs pushed this "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" drug-user scenario. When I said no to drugs, the person offering it just shrugged and said "More for me." They didn't chase me to the ends of the earth trying to shove a joint into my mouth. So yeah, I felt this episode hit hard (and they were trying to make a statement about video games? Yeah right.)

    I also find it hard to believe that any one plays video games in TNG. I mean they have a holodeck! You want to do something about the dangers of addictive behavior and/or video gaming? Hell, as a kid I probably would have locked myself in that thing until I was dragged out kicking and screaming.

    My final complaint in this episode is Riker endangering the ship in his nonstop quest for action. Riker's contributions to the Enterprise tended to be minimal- if he wasn't the center of the episode, he just didn't do much. And I never liked it when Riker hooked up with alien babes to begin with, because even if he wasn't cheating on Deanna, it FELT like he was. But in this episode, his little one-night stand puts the whole ship at risk, and no one calls him out on it. Keep it in your pants, Number One! -Larry


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