very Short Treks’ “Worst Contact” in Review
I will admit to not having watched a lot of these very Short Treks. I’ve come across a few and, depending on my mood, they’re good for a quick laugh, but I don’t seek them out. I’d rather catch an episode of TNG (on endless repeat for me). So, when I was asked to review this particular installment, I was pleasantly surprised to see it starred Crusher and Riker – voiced by Gates McFadden and Jonathan Frakes.
The gist of this one: Riker and Crusher make first contact with a species that has (just a minute ago) finally perfected warp drive. They beam down to give them the exciting news: “You are advanced enough to join the Federation of Planets!” This particular species has some customs that are, shall we say, a bit unsavory by Federation standards. “Picking our nose is a sign of respect!”
If very Short Treks are meant to be a satirical, irreverent nanobyte of Trek, this one takes that to a new level — and a very low level at that — relying on gags that would have even the most discerning six-year-old rolling over laughing. It’s a bold move by the writers to incorporate both boogers and smelly fish in a single few-minutes episode!
But the thing is, I watched it two times over and laughed both times. It was ridiculously silly, but it was silly in a way that’s meant specifically for fans, so it feels like a little gift. They rely on canon up to a point, and that drives the silliness home.
Every fan knows that first contact with a new species is a revered and important cornerstone of the Federation. Starfleet officers take it seriously, and it’s considered a great honor to participate. There’s protocol involved! They wear dress uniforms! So, to have them beam down only to basically be grossed out to the point that Riker actually phasers their warp drive rather than usher these aliens into the fold is pretty genius.
But, even after all that, the thing that really stuck in my mind from this episode: At one point, Crusher turns to say something to Riker and refers to him as “Bill” instead of “Will” which, again, is a little easter egg, for fans of the series who undoubtedly remember when Deanna referred to him the same way in an early episode.
I have a feeling I’m going to seek out more very Short Treks.