Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Sub Rosa”

“Sub Rosa”
Written by Jeri Taylor and Brannon Braga
Directed by Jonthan Frakes
Season 7, Episode 14
Production episode 40276-266
Original air date: January 31, 1994
Stardate: unknown

Captain’s Log: We open on the funeral of Crusher’s grandmother Felisa Howard. Crusher is delivering a eulogy; Troi and Picard are alongside her. They’re all in dress uniforms, while everyone around them is in some manner of formal Scottish wear (sporrans and kilts and such). One person puts a camellia, her favorite flower, on the grave as he walks off, giving Crusher a significant look.

Picard talks with Governor Maturin, who gave the benediction at the funeral, asking if the Enterprise will stay a few days longer to look over their equipment. Caldos is an old colony, one of the earliest terraforming projects, designed to look like the Scottish highlands (each building’s cornerstone comes from Scotland) even though the inhabitants are not all Scottish—indeed, Maturin isn’t even human.

Crusher, accompanied by Troi, goes to Felisa’s house to go through stuff. After a bit, Troi leaves her alone to go through heirlooms and books—including Felisa’s journal. Wrapping herself in a blanket, Crusher goes upstairs—but comes back down when someone enters unannounced and tries to steal Felisa’s candleholder. The man is Ned Quint, he claims to have been the caretaker for Felisa’s house, though Crusher has no idea who he is, nor why he insists on using such an awful comedy Scottish accent. He insists on getting rid of the candle holder—which Crusher was going to take with her to the Enterprise—because it’s brought nothing but trouble.

Data and La Forge go over the colony’s systems, and La Forge finds a fluctuation in the weather control systems. There’s a storm building, which shouldn’t be happening at this time of year.

Crusher talks to Picard about what she read in Felisa’s journal. Apparently the century-old woman had a lover in his 30s named Ronin. He’s all over the journal, but she never mentioned him in her letters to Crusher—who suspects that the lover is the guy who threw the flower on Felisa’s grave.

That night, Crusher falls asleep having read the journals, and while she dozes, the candle lights on its own. Her nightgown comes off her shoulder, someone whispers her name—and then she wakes up. As she tells Troi later in Ten-Forward, she dreamt that there was a presence in her cabin, and felt a caress on her shoulder. It was a physical, erotic dream, which Troi figures was due to her reading Felisa’s very explicit descriptions of her young lover. Crusher wonders if she’ll have more dreams tonight, and Troi recommends reading two chapters of the diary before bed, just to be sure.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Sub Rosa

Later, Crusher beams down to put flowers on Felisa’s grave. The storm everyone was worried about is brewing. Quint is at the grave, and Crusher apologizes for their fight—the journal explained how important he was to Felisa. She also asks if he’ll stay on as caretaker, but he refuses. He’ll never set foot in that house again (except, apparently, to commit larceny) as he claims it’s haunted. He urges Crusher not to light the candle and not to set foot in the house, or they’ll be burying another Howard. He also blames the alleged ghost for the storm.

Just as Quint leaves, the storm gets nasty, despite the efforts of the Enterprise to fix the weather control. While La Forge activates a power transfer from the ship to weather control to boost their ability to get the storm under control, a soaking-wet Crusher goes back to her grandmother’s house to find the place covered in camellias.

A mirror rattles, Crusher straightens it, then sees a reflection of the man from the graveyard—but when she turns around (after dropping the mirror), there’s nobody there. But there is a voice, claiming to have visited her in the night, though Crusher insists it was a dream.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Sub Rosa

Then Crusher has what can only be described as an orgasm. The voice identifies himself as Ronin, Felisa’s young lover, and explains that he’s been around as a ghost since the 1600s in Scotland, apparently spending all that time having ectoplasmic sex with Crusher’s female ancestors. Ronin moved to Caldos with the family. Crusher has a few more orgasms as they talk.

The next morning, Troi goes to Crusher’s quarters to see if she’s going to mok’bara class, and Troi instantly recognizes Crusher’s “she just got laid” glow. Crusher admits that she met Ronin, though she leaves out the part about him being incorporeal.

Unfortunately, the power transfer beam is having the opposite effect. Instead of the Enterprise helping Caldos’s weather get under control, the ship’s environmental controls are wonky. A fog rolls onto the bridge, Ten-Forward’s temperature drops below freezing, and deck 13 loses gravity. Data can’t terminate the transfer beam thanks to a feedback loop. He and La Forge beam down to try to fix it at the weather station, where they find Quint performing sabotage. He tries to shut down the power grid for the station by ripping things out, and gets a plasma shock for his trouble. Quint is killed, but Crusher’s examination reveals that the plasma shock wasn’t what killed him.

Crusher sends the body back to the Enterprise, instructing the nurse to have Dr. Selar perform further examinations, so she can run back to the house and have more sex with Ronin—and also talk about Quint. Unwilling to discuss that, Ronin takes physical form—which he can’t do for very long and which is a great effort—in order to distract her and get her to light the candle, so he can stay with her. He disappears, promising to be with her always, and never actually answering any questions about Quint.

Beaming back to the ship, Crusher locks her cabin door and lights the candle, then starts acting like a junkie waiting for a fix, wondering where the heck he is. Then Ronin materializes and they have more sex, involving him turning into green smoke and enveloping her. It’s sufficiently awesome that Crusher resigns her commission and beams down to Caldos, ostensibly to take over Felisa’s job as healer, but truly to take over Felisa’s hobby of constant sex with Ronin.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Sub Rosa

Picard is livid, but can’t really do anything about it, though he does want to at least meet this Ronin that has convinced his CMO to bugger off. (In more ways than one.) Meanwhile, Data and La Forge have tracked the anaphasic energy that’s causing all the problems (it’s both in the power transfer beam and on Quint’s body) to the graveyard.

Crusher and Ronin have some more green-smoke sex, and then Picard knocks on the door, wanting to meet Ronin. Crusher—whose eyes have turned the same deep green as her grandmother’s—tries to get rid of him, but then Ronin walks down the stairs.

As they talk, and Ronin avoids answering any of the simple questions Picard asks him, like how long has he been on the colony, Data contacts Picard and identifies the source of the energy as Felisa Howard’s grave. Ronin is adamant that Picard not exhume her body, but the captain tells Data to get permission from the governor. Ronin insists he’ll petition the governor to refuse, but Picard doesn’t think that Maturin will even know who he is—and Ronin proves it by dematerializing. Picard then tries to get Crusher to leave, and is hit with a shock of green electricity. Crusher moves to treat him, but Ronin’s voice urges her to stop them from exhuming the body. Ultimately, Crusher’s oath as a doctor outweighs her desire for hot sex, and she stays to treat Picard while Ronin goes to stop Data and La Forge.

Transporters make the exhumation process remarkably orderly. Data and La Forge open the grave to find the anaphasic energy in Felisa’s corpse. Said corpse then sits up and shocks La Forge and Data with the same green energy—just as Crusher, who has saved Picard, runs into the graveyard and tells Ronin to stop. Ronin then leaves Felisa’s body and rematerializes. However, Ronin’s pleas for them to be together don’t take into account just how much of a turn-off animating the corpse of your lover’s grandmother is. Crusher uses La Forge’s phaser to destroy first the candle, and then Ronin himself, thus saving her from a horrible life of constant orgasms.

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: Anaphasic energy is unstable, but organic matter helps stabilize it. One of Crusher’s ancestors had a body chemistry that was compatible with the anaphasic energy creature that took on the name Ronin, and he used that woman and her descendents to stay stable in exchange for incredible sex.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Sub Rosa

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi gives what probably would be good advice to Crusher about the dangers of two grieving people getting involved if Ronin were an actual lover as opposed to a horny immortal energy creature. Troi also tells Crusher that she can’t hide anything from the counselor, even though Crusher successfully hides the fact that Ronin is incorporeal from her.

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Ronin keeps going on about how he loves Crusher, but she never says she loves him back—she’s obviously just in it for the orgasms.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Sub Rosa

I Believe I Said That: “There appears to be a condensed suspension of water vapor approximately one degree Celsius.”

“Fog?”

“It just sort of rolled in on us, sir.”

Data providing details, Picard summing it up, and Riker unable to resist the obvious rejoinder.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Sub Rosa

Welcome Aboard: Longtime Canadian genre heartthrob Duncan Regehr—the villain in Wizards and Warriors, and who has played Count Dracula, Errol Flynn, and Zorro—plays Ronin. He’ll come back for a recurring role on Deep Space Nine as Kira’s former resistance cell leader and eventual First Minister of Bajor, Shakaar Edon. Michael Keenan plays Maturin; he’ll be back twice on DS9 as Patrick, one of the “Jack Pack” of genetically enhanced weirdos, and in Voyager’s “Heroes and Villains” as Hrothgar. A couple of veteran character actors round out the cast, with Shay Duffin as Quint and Ellen Albertini Dow as Felisa.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Sub Rosa

Trivial Matters: As with last week, we get to meet a family member mentioned in the first season and not seen until now, in this case the grandmother Crusher mentioned to Picard in “The Arsenal of Freedom.” Crusher alludes to the influence Felisa had on her decision to become a doctor in her eulogy, which included the experiences on the Arvada II colony mentioned in that episode, which were dramatized in Michael Jan Friedman’s novel Death in Winter.

Writers Taylor and Braga considered the episode an homage to The Innocents, a film that was an adaptation of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw. To that end, the characters of Ned Quint and Jessel Howard were call-backs to the characters of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel in that film.

Felisa Howard was named after Braga’s grandmother, who had died shortly before the episode was written.

Make it So: “Dinna light that candle and dinna go into that hoose.” First of all, I gotta tell you that I was truly stunned to realize that this was an episode that was a) written entirely by staff writers (though it was loosely based on a teleplay sent in by a freelancer), and b) was directed by one of TNG’s two best directors in Frakes. I just assumed it was an all-freelancer one, with one of the B-list directors.

And yeah, it’s pretty horrible, but I found myself not hating it as much as I thought I would. I think the main reason for that is Gates McFadden, who spends the entire episode completely taking the entire notion of hot green smoke sex seriously. McFadden’s performance is subtle and nuanced, far more so than the script really deserves, and she totally sells it.

Of course, all McFadden’s efforts do is make the episode somewhat watchable, especially since none of the other actors seem interested in investing the same effort. Shay Duffin manages the impressive feat of supplanting James Doohan at the top of the Worst Scottish Accent In Star Trek list, Michael Keenen sleepwalks through his part, conveying none of the passion for the Highlands that the script insists he has, and the less said about Duncan Regehr’s don’t-hate-me-because-I’m-beautiful turn as Ronin, the better.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Sub Rosa

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Sub Rosa

The script also has an annoying refusal to come out and say what it’s actually about, especially since Ronin starts in with “I love you” pretty much from jump. (Honestly, that makes Ronin come across a lot more like Dug from Up: “I just met you, but I love you!”) But love has nothing to do with this story, it’s entirely about sex, and the script’s refusal to come out and say that is maddening, especially with Gates McFadden doing her best impersonation of Meg Ryan in Katz’s Deli.

Ultimately, this episode is probably as good as the one in which Crusher has green-smoke sex with a ghost possibly could have been.

 

Warp factor rating: 3


Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at MystiCon 2013 this weekend, starting with “A Break the Silence Event” at the Roanoke City Main Library Thursday the 21st of February, along with Strange Aeons Productions and Devo Spice. Then from Friday 22nd to Sunday the 24th, he’ll be an author guest at the convention itself. Other guests: Peter Davison, Orson Scott Card, Larry Elmore, Bella Morte, Rich Sigfrit, Tom Angleberger, Steve Long, and Mike Pederson, among many others. Keith’s schedule is here.

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