The visual effects department for Star Trek: The Next Generation didn’t have all the bells and whistles shows like Discovery have now. But what it did have was some incredibly talented geniuses who could pull a rabbit out of a hat and make a piece of paper look like diamonds on screen. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but, at any rate, Dan Curry, who was the visual effects supervisor, and his crew often came up with creative ways to make simple things look like more than they were. One of those times came about on the 25th episode of the first season of TNG.
The episode, Conspiracy, revolves around a conspiracy at Starfleet where high-ranking officers are possessed by parasitic aliens who are intent on taking over the Federation. One of the officers, Lt. Remmick, carries a giant parasite inside him which is unknown until Picard and Riker see him ingesting a parasite. They fire their phasers at him, and his head explodes. To create the effect, an old mold of a head was packed with raw meat and secured to the head of a dummy. Then the special-effects crew added explosives, and the head was detonated, spraying raw meat everywhere.
The dummy’s body had been packed with cotton candy, plastic parasites, and water spritzers. A hand puppet was used for the mother alien who came out of Merrick’s chest. The spritzers soaked the cotton candy, creating a sticky mess which the alien emerged from only to be disintegrated by phaser fire, a process Dan Curry details in his book Star Trek—The Artistry of Dan Curry.
The use of the raw meat is understandable when you need a head to explode, but whoever came up with the idea of using cotton candy deserves an A+. And here is one more scene in TNG I’ll never be able to look at the same way.