Shades of Gray (Star Trek: The Next Generation)Star Trek: TNG episode "Shades of Gray"
Riker suffers from a deadly poison in "Shades of Gray". Episode no. 48 Prod. code 148 Airdate July 17, 1989Writer(s)Maurice Hurley
Hans BeimlerDirectorRobert BowmanGuest star(s) Colm MeaneyYear 2365 Stardate42976.1 Episode chronologyPrevious "Peak Performance" Next "Evolution"
"Shades of Gray" is the last episode of the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
During a routine geological survey on Surata IV, Commander William Riker is accidentally struck by a sharp thorn growing on a vine plant. The away team immediately beams back to the U.S.S. Enterprise-D, where Doctor Katherine Pulaski finds out that the thorn has released a deadly virus into Riker's body. Within a matter of hours, the virus will reach Riker's brain, killing him.
To try to save Riker's life, Pulaski puts him into a machine that will artificially stimulate his brain neurons, keeping them active and resisting the virus. This causes Riker to dream of his past adventures aboard the Enterprise-D.
Riker's first dreams are of reasonably neutral occasions, such as his first meeting with Lieutenant Commander Data (see Encounter at Farpoint). He soon moves on to more passionate and even erotic dreams, such as meeting the cheerful young Edo women on Rubicon III (see Justice), the matriarch Beata on Angel One (see Angel One), or the computer-generated holodeck woman Minuet (see 11001001).
However, while pleasing to Riker's mind, the passionate dreams only worsen Riker's condition, as the virus feeds on the positive endorphins his brain is creating. Pulaski and Counselor Deanna Troi therefore agree to try to make the machine evoke negative dreams instead. Thus Riker dreams of Lieutenant Tasha Yar's death (see Skin of Evil), or the apparent death of Deanna Troi's child (see The Child).
This has the desired effect, as the negative endorphins drive the virus away, but the endorphins are not strong enough. As a last resort, Pulaski uses the machine to evoke dreams of raw, primitive feelings of fear and survival. Thus Riker dreams of fighting the tar creature Armus (see Skin of Evil), the fake Admiral Gregory Quinn (see Conspiracy), or the Klingon officer Klag on board the warship Pagh (see A Matter of Honor).
Seeing that the raw emotions work best, Pulaski intensifies the dreams to come at a more rapid pace. This finally kills the virus and Riker recovers.
Shades of Gray is a clip show as the bulk of this episode is composed of footage from previous TNG episodes. In a writer's strike-shortened second season, the producers needed one more episode so they quickly drafted and filmed a story that would allow for Riker to simply "remember" past events. As the only clip show in the series (or any Star Trek series, unless one counts The Menagerie) it is typically ill-regarded by fans, even considered by many to be the worst episode in the series' seven-year run.
This episode also marks the last appearance of Doctor Katherine "Kate" Pulaski, and the only episode to feature all the regular cast members
- Shades of Gray article at Memory Alpha, a Star Trek wiki
- Shades of Gray (Star Trek: The Next Generation) at StarTrek.com