In the TNG episode "Genesis", Riker's devolution leaves him with a brain that is "much smaller" than its original mass and/or volume. Yet, when the crew re-evolves into their previous genetic selves, his memories, cognition, and personality are all perfectly intact.

Is this just a sloppy story, or am I missing something about the plot resolution?

Clarification: I do realize that intelligence is not directly a function of brain size. I'm just wondering how his memories and previous sense of "self" could remain intact after such drastic transformations of his brain.

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    I'm afraid this is not one of my favourite episodes. Every time I watch it (and "Masks", two episodes earlier in the season), I think to myself, "They're definitely running out of good ideas. I'm happy they decided to quite while they were ahead!"
    – Praxis
    Jan 22, 2015 at 2:31
  • I agree with Praxis - this episode was even worse than the TOS one with the women who stole Spock's brain (at least that one had a certain narm charm .
    – Joe L.
    Jan 22, 2015 at 3:25
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    Out of universe, brain size is more closely related to body size than intelligence. Elephants have much larger brains than humans, for example. And Neanderthals had larger brains than humans.
    – Izkata
    Jan 22, 2015 at 6:01
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    It's not like Riker was the brains of the operation to start with
    – Gaius
    Jan 22, 2015 at 12:26

1 Answer 1


The entire episode concept was flawed. Riker devolved into something that is not even in human evolutionary history (Neanderthal was a parallel species with humans). So keeping this in mind, and putting it to once side, the answer is simple. Bones waved a salt shaker Crusher performed neurosurgery on him, once he re-evolved.

It should be noted that this episode has some of the weakest science of the entire franchise. It is not even based on out of date science we now think is silly... its based on made up science that the writers pulled out of their ... and never fact checked. Since the episode poses an illogical question, it is straining to pose a logical answer.

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    Genetic evidence published in 2014 suggests that Neanderthals contributed to the DNA of anatomically modern humans, probably through interbreeding between 50,000 to 60,000 years ago with a population of anatomically modern humans. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neanderthal_genome_project Jan 22, 2015 at 15:12
  • Interesting. But 2014 is not 1994, so the writers just screwed that one up.
    – Tritium21
    Jan 22, 2015 at 15:14
  • I know was a fluke on their part but though it was worth a mention. Jan 22, 2015 at 15:15
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    It was never stated that Riker was turning into a Neanderthal--in fact, since Neanderthal brains were slightly larger in volume than modern humans', this wouldn't make sense. More likely it was something like Homo Erectus or Australopithecus. But there was a similar type of evolutionary error in the episode, namely Barclay turning into a spider--mammals didn't evolve from arthropods!
    – Hypnosifl
    Jan 22, 2015 at 15:30

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