By Jon Sung
As a Starfleet officer, you've got to be ready to deal with anything out of the ordinary; as Captain Kathryn Janeway herself would put it, "Weird is part of the job." Nobody on any Federation starship would be better prepared to back that statement up than the medical staff in sickbay, who end up dealing with more than their share of mysteries one way or another. The Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE hereby salutes those unsung heroes of Starfleet with the top five weirdest afflictions thus far encountered by the boys and girls in blue:
Dr. Paul Manheim does a C+ job at best explaining just what's wrong with him (Star Trek: The Next Generation s01e24, "We'll Always Have Paris")
Manheim's Interdimensional Malady
In what might be best described as a stern metaphysical warning against tampering with the underlying structure of the universe, Dr. Paul Manheim got some essential part of himself trapped between dimensions while running experiments on time and gravity. The convulsions, hallucinations, and general systemic havoc just don't seem worth the trouble, especially given that it's fatal and the only existing treatment is to repair the interdimensional rift that causes it -- better hope you have a science-savvy android handy.
"If I could talk, I'd tell you what a strange day you're all about to have" (Star Trek: The Next Generation s02e13, "Time Squared")
Post-Traumatic Time Vortex Catastrophe Syndrome
It turns out there's a kind of time travel nobody wants to try: the one where your ship encounters a hungry funnel in space that blows it up, throwing you six hours into the past and turning your entire being into an "opposite day" version of itself. Stimulants act as life-threatening sedatives, and your mind has so much trouble interacting with your body that you can't even get a word out until you're dangerously close to repeating your earlier doom. Maybe do as Captain Jean-Luc Picard did and have your "past" self put "present" you out of your misery.
Fall unconscious a youthful commander, wake up a grizzled captain, and you might have a similar look on your own face (Star Trek: The Next Generation s04e08, "Future Imperfect")
Who wants to catch a disease that can lie dormant in your brain for years before suddenly flaring up, putting you in a coma and wiping all your memories back to the point of infection? Just ask Commander William Riker, although he might have quite a story to tell you.
In which Counselor Troi is finally happy with the temperature and humidity settings in her quarters (Star Trek: The Next Generation s07e19, "Genesis")
Barclay's Protomorphosis Syndrome
If you're unlucky enough to be shipmates with a hypochondriac who demands inoculation against things as harmless as the Urodelan flu, warn the doctor on duty against solutions that involve a synthetic T-cell injection. Otherwise, you might end up dodging crewmates who've had their DNA devolved to become anything from a spider-person to a frog-woman to a hulking, angry crab-beast.
To be fair, Cardassian user interfaces aren't super intuitive even without the aphasia (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine s01e05, "Babel")
Bajoran Aphasia Virus
What's worse: to not be understood by anyone when you speak, or to not be able to understand anyone else? "Why not both" is the answer Bajoran Resistance bioweapons engineer Dekon Elig came up with when he designed a viral agent to confound and ultimately wipe out the Cardassians running what eventually became Deep Space 9. You'd find yourself wandering the promenade with your language centers completely scrambled, telling people to "Salt way link" before your autonomic nervous system shut down completely, which is way less fun than it sounds.
There are, of course, plenty more weird contagions, disorders, and general ailments out there to be found, but these are our top five. What are yours?
Jon Sung is a contributing writer for XPRIZE and copywriting gun-for-hire to startups and ventures all over the San Francisco Bay area. When not wrangling words for business or pleasure, he serves as the captain of the USS Loma Prieta, the hardest-partying Star Trek fan club in San Francisco.