The Chase is Just Not A Good Enough Episode

If you don’t know it by name, “The Chase” is the episode of The Next Generation where they reveal why most of the aliens in Star Trek look just like humans with funny ears or whatever.

I haven’t rewatched the episode before making this post (if I can’t bother to check for typos when I do these, I’m certainly not adding homework) but I have seen the episode probably about five times in my life, so I know the gist. The Enterprise is one of a group of competing ships who go on a rollicking adventure around investigating the DNA of various alien cultures to find clues to some great treasure. The find it and it all comes to a head with all the groups meeting at the final place, they turn the stone and look beneath it, “Peace On Earth” was all it said. Or whatever.

The gotcha moment of the episode is the humans and the Klingons and Cardassians and Romulans all being embarrassed when an old alien pops up and is like “I’m from the species that seeded all your planets and I’m happy you found this because it means you all worked together” but actually they hadn’t. It’s supposed to be a lesson about how, deep down we’re all the same or some baloney. I don’t like that lesson. Even beyond Star Trek, we shouldn’t use “we’re all the same” as a reason to get alone, because large or small, we have differences and the lesson that paints our similarities as the thing that connects us implies that our differences are actually bad. That’s not good. We should celebrate our differences. Star Trek especially is supposed to value Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. Instead we get this episode as an excuse to not make aliens look different. Is that better?

But furthermore, evolution just doesn’t work like that! Even if life was seeded onto the planet Earth millions of years ago (something I believe is contradicted by “All Good Things” anyway), it does not follow that that microbial life would then evolve to humanoid form because that is the form that seeded the planet. Evolution is not the process of life going “forward” in a march toward humanoid form. Evolution just goes every which way finding whatever works. Even if we assume the progenitors encoded their DNA with instructions so that it was closer to intelligent design than actual evolution, what happens when life becomes humanoid? Does it just stop? Does it act as if it has reached the pinnacle? What about all the rest of the life on Earth? Do ants just keep evolving until they become humanoid? And dogs and bats and whales? Are they all on the path to humanoid form? Is Bojack Horseman the future of the Star Trek universe?

“The Chase” is a decent but dumb episode of TNG that proves something proved by other episodes: Star Trek writers don’t understand evolution. And those other episodes are even worse. I’m sure I’ll get to them at some point.

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