Episode

256

Masks

What do Masaka, Ihat, an old man, and a frightened child have in common? Many things. They are all a part of some ancient, unknown pantheon. They are all taking over Data’s brain. And each is caught in an eternal dance that could lead to destruction for the Enterprise. Where is Korgano when you need him? And can Picard’s Korgano imitation fool the imitation Masaka? Find out when Mission Log tries on Masks.

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Discussion

  • Dave Taylor

    Yikes. What a mess of an episode. The acting by Spiner could have been good, but was sooo silly.

    And amazingly what would take decades of scientific, archaeological research only took Picard 15 minutes

  • CmdrR

    In his defense, Spiner said they gave him basically no time to prep a shuttle-load of characters. Things there are no defense for: There once was an ancient culture of bronze-age people who somehow had the tech to build a giant library in space, bury it in a comet, and give it morphing abilities to piss-off some lucky passer-by… but, they couldn’t figure out how to aim it, so they just let it wander infinity for 87 million years. Well done, ancient culture.

  • CmdrR

    Ken: “…but, maybe there’s a message that I missed. John, messages?”
    John: “…uuuhhh mm”
    Ken: “OK.”
    BEST COMMENT EVER!!!

  • This is the episode of TNG that I like the least. I actually hate it. It drags with boring, nonsensical dialog. The story is just stupid and based on a ridiculous premise. I just can’t find anything to like in this one. I cringed while rewatching it.

    Data, while a great character, is so easily hacked and full of backdoor exploits. Unbelievable that he is allowed to have a command position on a starship. Shouldn’t he be on some sort of software patch program like every other device?

    The superhuman robot who can completely take over the ship has gone mad with some sort of alien multiple-personality disorder?!?! Eh, let’s just confine him to quarters. Sigh!

    Picard talks Musaka into thinking its bed time, and it’s Ctrl+Z and all of damage or modifications to the Enterprise are suddenly undone. Why does an alien smart relic want to program some unsuspecting alien into a mythical sun god to begin with? This story is so stupid it causes pain behind my eye sockets.

    And the prologue was so long and dull, I was expecting the end credits instead of the opening theme. I haven’t listened to the final 20 minutes of the podcast yet, but I just hate this episode. Nothing good here.

    Sorry to be so negative. I do love Star Trek, but this one…

    • Matthew Burns

      I always think of teatime treat, Moussaka (The mexican dish) when watching this!

    • Dave Taylor

      Agree. How many times do we need to see Data being hacked

      • Yeah, we had a backdoor used by Seung (sp?)
        He was taken over by Dr. Graves.
        I think that the Holodeck has accidentally installed junkware on him a time or two.
        Lore used an exploit to pwn him.
        Picard has hacked him a time or two I think.
        Aliens have rooted him on more than one occasion. Some criminals, some crystalline alien critters, the worshippers of Musakka this week,

        Geeze, he’s as bad as Equifax.

        • Soong-, yeah well by any normal standards Data would have been kicked out or destroyed. Starfleet would develop “You are possessed” scanning technology…

        • Dave Taylor

          It is pretty bad, but as is often the case, all is forgiven.

          • Muthsarah

            *All is forgotten.

    • this is a steaming turd. If I didn’t use my Simpsons Comic Book Guy “Worst Episode Ever” meme already on “Sub Rosa”, I would be using it here…horrible episode.

    • Vaporize Data already….

    • Make some neutronium shackles already!!!

  • Pete2174

    Shame the comet wasn’t Frehley’s Comet…

    Seriously, well done guys. I don’t envy you having to do the last few s7 episodes. Most of them are utter rubbish.

    • Matthew Burns

      I thought Emergence was quite good, and Preemptive Strike.

      • Pete2174

        I guess there’s a few half decent stories left but for the main they mostly pretty bad.

        • Matthew Burns

          At least most of us can agree that we all look forward to the All Good Things…. retrospective!

          • Pete2174

            Amen to that. Even though it’s bittersweet at the thought of no more televisual TNG.

      • ugh…I disliked “Emergence” as well….imo we know the reason “Descent” was S7 season premiere was to let us know which way the show was going…arrggh, so many misfires!

  • Really, the correct ELO song to work into this would’ve been Mr. Blue Sky, since it has its own symbolic cycle of sun chasing moon:

    “Mr. Blue, you did it right
    But soon comes Mr. Night
    Creepin’ over
    Now his hand is on your shoulder
    Never mind
    I’ll remember you this
    I’ll remember you this way…”

    …possibly better than the episode itself.

    I know this episode has pacing problems, there’s a lot left unexplained (such as what kind of strange magic would cause the Enterprise’s fixtures and fittings to turn to stone) and it’s a talky bottle show done on the cheap to make up for earlier, costlier episodes that went over budget, but there’s just something compelling about the mythology that’s introduced. There may not be a lot of substance, but I really dig the atmosphere that the episode creates. And yes, hold on tight, I know there are no secret messages here.

    I also see some strong connections to Menosky’s earlier episode, Darmok. Masks deals with metaphors too, but they’re metaphors to explain natural forces, rather than literary metaphors. Menosky really had something stuck in his head…metaphorically speaking, of course.

    Good thing Alexander wasn’t trying to sculpt a bird, though. The trained eye would take one look and realize…that bluebird is dead.

    And now… Masaka needs a nap. It’d be crazy if they named a later Star Trek series after a whole ELO album, wouldn’t it?

    • Ya know, Mr Blue Sky really has a tendency to get stuck in my brain. So, thanks.

      • I’m happy to help anytime. Also strongly recommend Parthenon Huxley’s cover version from the all-ELO cover album “My Homemade Spaceship”.

    • I think one thing I can appreciate about “Masks” is that sometimes, there would have to be encounter in space that make no sense, get no resolution and remain a mystery. Dealing w the “Darmok” Tamarians was an example of how sometimes, we won’t know what the hell is going on….. but the execution of “Masks” is just abysmal.

  • gizmochimp

    Awful episode. Of TNG, not Mission Log, to be clear. You guys did a good job.

  • Matthew Burns

    I never hated this one like a lot of fans seem to hate it. What is so terribly bad about it? It is a high concept episode. Spiner was great with the different voices, the ‘timid’ one is the best!

    Far worse episodes of TNG than this for me!

    • Dave Taylor

      The concept of split personality Data is fascinating and Spiner tries hard but it just does not work.

    • John Anderton

      I think Jason said it best:

      “Why does an alien smart relic want to program some unsuspecting alien into a mythical sun god to begin with?”

      And the resolution of this mess is that Picard just puts Data to sleep with some speech about whatever?

      This is really a high school play based on some Aztec relics from science class.

      Not to mention there is no character development, no action, and despite the interesting looking stones – no real visual design or effects.

    • Only “Sub Rosa” is worse. All other crappy S1 episodes have growing pains as an excuse…sigh…oh well the end is near…

      • Well, Sub Rosa had a certain something that this episode lacked, and groundskeeper Willy.

  • John Anderton

    This episode is boring, sure, and lacking suspense, character development, action, visual design (except the stones looked cool). It seems highly contrived – a mystery solved in an instant for no reason for a problem that should never have existed.

    But worse than Sub Rosa or Dark Page or Cost of Living or other Lwaxana episodes? I think these episodes are still safe.

  • Jk Yamamoto

    “Masaka” is a Japanese phrase that can be translated as “no way” or “you can’t be serious,” so for me it was kind of funny to hear them say that over and over. Also, “saru” means “monkey” in Japanese, so I wonder how they will handle that when they show “Discovery” in Japan. You’d think they would have checked, or maybe they did and it’s some kind of inside joke.

    • The nature of Saru was irrepressible!

      Nah, just doesn’t work.

  • Durakken

    So in a rare event I decided to watch the episode after listening… The message or rather the concept is given at the beginning by Troi to that kid and Data during the art class. It’s a high concept meta commentary on story telling and art (which is further implied by the title of Masks). You don’t have to be accurate, its nice to be so, but the point is to get you to think of what the creator wants you to think. In other words, the whole plot is giving you impressions of the civilization rather than showing you it to tell you what they’re like and what has happened.

    We can take from it quite a bit about their world. It’s ritualistic for example. It concerns itself with cyclical time rather than linear time. The planet is probably a desert planet and they likely live underground. Ehot is psychopomp and likely arose from a comet or or fast moving further out planet with a weird orbit which says all sorts of things. Korgano is said to be gone which tells us they’re moon which likely allows for travel over land and better crop yields has been destroyed or flown away.

    So Does it have a message? yup. Does that message hold up?
    Yup. Was it well executed? No not really. The problem is that it is a high concept trying to tell you about itself while getting lost in example so you don’t get the impression of what they’re telling you, but you do see a way to do it. The what they are telling you is just a “bonk bonk on the head” thing right at the beginning rather than at the end which is a problem because you’re just looking at that as a set up rather than a spot for “here’s the message” and similarly they don’t repeat the message at the end so you’re left with a “ok…what was that about?” because you aren’t understanding what is going on because you’re not looking for it.

    ————-

    Oh also the inversion of the masculine/feminine roles and the sun meaning death is really interesting. I’d have to look into the Sky God sex inversion to understand that better to get what that implies, but the death thing can only be the case if the sun is deadly which implies a desert world. Never really thought of that one but its a cool inversion that as far as I know doesn’t appear anywhere else. It’s completely unique to Star Trek Lore, but it should appear in a number of other cultures in Sci-fi given the popularity of desert worlds. This is also pretty firmly established by what ehot says about Masaka and what she does. I think it would have been pretty cool to meet this civilization just because it would be so alien to us just based on that alone.

  • Burstingfoam

    Put me in the minority on this one. Again.

    When I first watched this I must admit the whole thing left me
    cold and confused, but on subsequent viewings I’ve come to love it. In that regard, for those who get this reference, it’s a bit like the Doctor Who story ‘Warriors’ Gate’. I gather that the concept was a bit of a labour of love for Joe Menosky, and it is the whole high-concept feel that carries it through for me. I freely admit, I understand why people don’t care for the final product, and I agree with Mr Ken that this is one that might have benefitted from being a two part story to follow up the ideas rather than just running out of steam, but I’d sooner have an episode that aims high and falls short than yet another interminable episode about Worf’s honour.

    Worst episode of TNG? Not even close.

    • Masks has more atmosphere than a lot of TNG episodes do, even if that atmosphere isn’t spent on a story that makes straightforward literal sense. But that atmosphere is a huge part of this episode’s appeal for me.

    • Matthew Burns

      Brent Spiner did good in this one I think. The different personalities came off well and clear.

      I always think of one of my favourite meals ‘Moussaka’ when watching this too! Weird I know!