Star Trek: The Next Generation S3E01 “Evolution”

In my continuing uh, journey, through TNG I’ve decided to skip to the season that everyone seems to agree is when the show really starts to come together . I heard that the first episode of season 3 isn’t that great, but I’m starting there anyways. Onwards to “Evolution”, originally aired September 25th, 1989!

What happens:

Picard and the gang are tasked with traveling to a binary star on the eve of it’s once-every-196-years stellar explosion or something so that a scientist can launch a probe and get valuable nerd data. The scientist is one Dr. Stubbs, who HOLY SHIT IT’S DR. KELSO FROM SCRUBS!


So yeah, Dr. Kelso (Ken Jenkins) is super invested in his probe thing, and is understandably pissed when weird computer malfunctions force Picard to scrub (hehe) the initial launch and places the whole experiment in jeopardy. As the malfunctions get more frequent and bizarre (random John Phillip Sousa tunes and the like), the crew sets out to find the source of their woes.

Turns out that everything was Wesley Crusher’s fault. While pulling an all-nighter, Wesley’s school project, “Can I Get Nanites to Evolve at a Dangerously Fast Pace?”, escapes through the microscopic barn door he left open and begin rooting around in the Enterprise‘s computer system. When he finally fesses up, everyone debates whether the nanites have gained intelligence, which would making exterminating them against Federation law. Picard is of the opinion that the nanites should be studied and communicated with, if possible. Dr. Kelso just wants to kill the damn things so he can do his science project. After being overruled by Picard, Dr. Kelso grabs his gamma radiation gun and takes matters into his own hands.


While this kills around half of the nanites, the remainder begin messing with the Enterprise‘s life support, before getting delicious revenge on Dr. Kelso.


Dr. Kelso survives and apologizes for his actions after communications are established with the nanites. Peace is made, and the nanites are given a planet to grow and prosper. Dr. Kelso then launches his probe and all is well. Roll credits!

What I thought:

Compared to the first episode I review, the series premiere “Encounter at Farpoint I & II” this episode is high art. While “Farpoint” and some cool stuff and good acting (particularly between John de Lancie and Patrick Stewart) it was mostly an overstuffed mess. By contrast, “Evolution” is way more focused.

However, it’s kinda bland overall. I’m not sure how new it was back in 1989, but the whole nano machines gaining sentience plot has been done to death at this point. In fact the most unique part of this plot is how there really doesn’t seem to be any downside to the nanites gaining sentience. They just mess around with the ship a bit and get their own planet out of the deal. The potentially terrifying implications of letting a rapidly evolving machine race do it’s own thing are left unexplored, sadly. Additionally, I wasn’t really feeling the B-plot where Dr. Crusher worries about Wesley not having the normal teenager experience. I just don’t caaaaare.

On the plus side, Dr. Stubbs/Kelso is  a kind of interesting character. He’s an asshole, but it’s pretty clearly shown that he is really more of a pitiable and ambitious figure, having been held up as a great intellect since childhood, and is more or less stuck playing the role of a great scientist. This in contrast to Jenkin’s more openly misanthropic Dr. Kelso.

dr kelso

In any case, I’m actually looking forward to the next couple of episodes. Expect some reviews in the future!

Stray Thoughts:

-Apparently this was the first episode where the main cast wore new uniforms made of breathable wool, rather than spandex, which was apparently very uncomfortable.

-There were some deleted scenes from this episode which haven’t been included on any of the home media releases:


…I don’t think we missed much.

-At one point Dr. Stubbs mentions that baseball was driven out by a desire for “faster” games. I assume he means Blernsball.