[ <-- | CREDITS | PROMO | PRESS | QUOTES | REVIEWS | --> ]
Edited Length: 44:58
U.S. Airdate: May 22, 1994
Nielsen Rating/Rank: [11.3/2]
David Huddleston: [Conductor]
Vinny Argiro: [Hitman]
Thomas Kopache: [Engineer]
Arlee Reed: [Hayseed]
Consulting Producer: Peter Lauritson
Co-Producer: Wendy Neuss
Co-Producer: Brannon Braga
Producer: Ronald D. Moore
Line Producer: Merri D. Howard
Supervising Producer: David Livingston
Executive Producer: Jeri Taylor
Executive Producer: Michael Piller
Teleplay By: Joe Menosky
Story By: Brannon Braga
Directed By: Cliff Bole
Executive Producer: Rick Berman
Executive Story Editor: René Echevarria
Story Editor: Naren Shankar
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Data's practice as Prospero in "The Tempest" is interrupted when a holodeck version of the Orient Express roars through his program, nearly causing Picard serious injury. The holodecks are shut down as a safety precaution, and Picard talks to Beverly about the Express, as it's her program. Bev says that she's not interested in the train for its own sake, but more for the experience: "you never know who you'll meet on the Orient Express."
Meanwhile, a survey gets underway for new colony sites, but is going poorly. Picard decides to try a new sector - but suddenly, the ship goes into warp without any order being given, and cannot be shut down. However, just as Geordi prepares to do an emergency shutdown of the warp core, the engines close down themselves. All are mystified, and the situation only gets stranger when they discover that a "theta-flux distortion", normally undetectable, was building up on the ship to lethal proportions, and that had the ship not gone into warp when it did, the ship would have blown to bits less than two seconds later.
Geordi and Data investigate in a Jeffries tube, trying to figure out how this seeming coincidence occurred. The only theory Data can come up with is that the sensors picked up the threat and triggered a safety feature, but Geordi objects that there's no link between the sensors and the engines. However, there is now - when they open up a panel, they find an exotic-looking circuit node that interconnects many systems, those two included. What's more, it has a forcefield protecting it - and later investigations reveal that there are nodes like it all over the ship.
As much of the circuitry intersects in the holodeck, Riker, Data, and Worf head there to try to disconnect the nodes before they endanger the ship. They find the holodeck activated (despite Data's earlier action) and several programs running. They enter, and find themselves on board the Orient Express, complete with a wide assortment of characters from other programs.
Data tries to access the holodeck systems, but is stopped by the conductor, recently arrived and demanding to see the trio's tickets. While they stall, the engineer rushes in and tells everyone to leave Data and company alone: "they're only trying to help!" However, the conductor tells him to go back to the engine, and when the engineer protests that everyone is hijacking the train, a gangster shoots him in the back. The conductor then pulls a cord, turning the train - and simultaneously, the ship goes into warp again, this time with no chance of shutdown. "Now we're on the right track," says the conductor confidently, and orders Data and company off the train. As the holodeck safeties are off-line, they leave with all deliberate speed.
Returning to engineering, Data notices that the nodes have expanded their influence, now connecting most of the ship's systems independently of the main computer - and he also notes that the structure of the system forming bears an apt resemblance to a primitive neural network. From this, he deduces that the Enterprise is somehow forming an intelligence of its own! Although the concept of an "emergent property" (something greater than the sum of its parts) lets them justify the possibility, no one knows exactly what this intelligence might want. However, the key to understanding it seems to be in the holodeck, the consciousness's "imagination". Troi goes in to gather information, taking Data and Worf along.
While Data attempts to gain access to the circuitry once more, Troi talks to the gangster, who now holds a brick he took from the dead engineer. He tells her that he has to get the brick to Keystone City, "where everything begins." The conductor again enters and again orders the crew off at the next stop - Keystone City. The gangster gets off the train as well, and Troi and Worf follow him while Data tries to access the circuits through a manhole in the city street, triggering a cab that tries to run him down in the process. The gangster proceeds to a brick wall with one brick missing, and puts the brick in, telling Troi and Worf that he is "layin' the foundation." At that moment, a power surge kicks in in a cargo bay - and when Geordi goes to investigate, he finds an object in the process of forming.
Data, literally holding the cab at bay, proceeds to depolarize the circuits he has gained access to, but the ship and holodeck begin shaking, dropping bricks down on Troi in the process. Data stops, and the situation stabilizes. The trio then leave the holodeck to compare notes with those outside.
When everyone meets, Troi cites the themes of creation she witnessed (the brick, a puzzle being put together, and so forth), and Geordi points out that the object in the bay is being made atom by atom. Troi believes that the characters on the holodeck are not fully aware of what they are, and as such cannot be reasoned with. Picard suggests playing the scenario through their way, and allows Troi to go back into the holodeck.
The same trio as before boards the train, and this time answers the conductor by displaying three tickets to Vertiform City (the train's eventual destination). What's more, when the conductor mentions engine trouble, they volunteer to have Worf help in the engine room, which he does. Meanwhile, a passenger tells Troi that Vertiform City has a restaurant with unlimited and good food.
The Enterprise reaches a white dwarf star (at a much faster speed than before, thanks to Worf's coal-shoveling skills) and begins extracting vertion particles from it via tractor beam. The object in the bay begins growing very quickly and becoming more complex - but then, suddenly, the star runs completely out of vertions, and the object begins to have difficulty maintaining its energy output. The conductor is shocked: "We've been on the wrong track all along!", he cries, as he pulls the emergency brake...
The brake not only derails the train, but also causes a shipwide shutdown on the Enterprise. As Geordi tells Picard that the object was beginning to emit energy in ways that would suggest it's a lifeform, the systems come back up - but Geordi says that without more vertions soon, the lifeform will die. The train heads to New Vertiform City, moving the ship at warp 9. All well and good, but the ship has deactivated life support to funnel more energy into propulsion - and within two hours, the oxygen supply will run out.
As Geordi works on a way to generate vertion particles, Data and company convince the conductor and passengers that they know a shorter route to New Vertiform City, and they allow Data access to the engine room. He brings the ship to a nearby nebula, which Geordi then detonates with a modified torpedo to produce vast amounts of vertions. The train passengers celebrate their arrival at New Vertiform City, the nodes deactivate all over the ship (deactivating the Express as well), and the lifeform, complete at last, leaves the ship on its merry way. Everything is restored, and Picard explains to Data that he took the risk of letting the ship complete its task because if the intelligence created was built out of their experiences with it, he trusted it would behave as honorably as they do.
Technical design, graphic design, interactive features, HTML & CGI programming by Andrew Tong. || All materials Copyright © 1987-1995 by their respective authors. || Document created: January 28, 1995 || Last Modified: July 12, 1999