Written by Lee Sheldon
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 4, Episode 5
Production episode 40274-179
Original air date: October 22, 1990
Captain’s Log: Crusher welcomes Dr. Dalen Quaice aboard when the ship docks at Starbase 133. He’s retiring following the death of his wife, and the Enterprise is ferrying him back to his homeworld on Kenda II. Quaice waxes philosophical about growing old, particularly the fact that all the people you know are gone, and you never appreciated them while they were there.
With that in mind, Crusher heads to engineering, where Wes is doing an experiment with the warp field. There’s a visible burst of light — which Wes says should not have happened — but everything seems fine. The Enterprise leaves the starbase, but Wes notices that his mother is no longer there.
The next day, Crusher goes to meet Quaice in his guest quarters to have breakfast — but he’s not on board. She reports it to Worf, as she’s worried that he’s injured, but a search turns up nothing. To make matters worse, Data can find no record of Quaice serving at the starbase — even though he’s been assigned there for six years — nor a record of him in Starfleet. Neither Worf nor Picard have any recollection of Crusher’s passenger request, even though she filed it weeks earlier, and O’Brien doesn’t remember transporting Quaice aboard.
Crusher examines O’Brien, and while doing so pages Doctors Hill and Selar — but there’s no record of them, no indication that they ever served on the Enterprise, and the nurses and relatives of the doctors have no memory of them.
Wes and La Forge look back at Wes’s earlier experiment, which was with Kozinski’s warp field equations. They tried to create a static warp bubble, but the bubble burst. They hypothesize that Quaice might have been caught in the bubble when it burst, though Picard pokes a hole in it by pointing out that Quaice wasn’t in engineering.
Crusher returns to sickbay only to find her entire staff is missing. She goes to the bridge to report this, only to be informed that she never had a staff, nor would she need one with only 230 people on board the ship. Crusher is, needless to say, shocked, since the ship should have a thousand people.
At this point, Crusher is worried that something’s wrong with her, and she agrees to talk to Troi. Picard, however, is willing to believe that someone has sabotaged the ship, and he agrees to head back to Starbase 133.
When Crusher goes back to sickbay, a giant vortex appears and tries to suck the doctor into it before it closes. La Forge sends a team to investigate, but they find no indication that there was ever a vortex there. Data also indicates that the entire crew is accounted for — all 114 of them, which makes Crusher even more anxious.
Wes’s experiment is the only thing that Crusher thinks could explain all this, but he hasn’t been able to figure out how. He’s also talked to Kozinski, who is equally in the dark. He sent a message to Kozinski’s assistant, the Traveler from Tau Alpha C, but there’s been no reply. Wes and Crusher leave engineering together, but she winds up in the corridor alone. She goes to the bridge, only to find that it’s just her and Picard. The captain blithely says that they’ve never needed a crew, and it’s just been the two of them roaming this gigunda starship alone. Crusher loses it, saying that the crew deserves better than to be forgotten like this — and then Picard disappears, leaving Crusher alone.
After she swears never to forget any of them, the vortex returns. We follow through the vortex to find Wes and La Forge on the other side in the engine room. The two vortices were attempts to rescue Crusher that failed. Wes is convinced they’ve lost her forever —
— but then the Traveler appears with a bit of optimism. Crusher, he says, created a reality when she was trapped within the warp bubble out of her own thoughts. Because it’s her reality, she has to be the one to escape it. The Traveler can help Wes create a new gateway through which she can come home — but she has to walk through it.
Back in the warp bubble, Crusher, now alone on the Enterprise, decides to apply diagnostic methodology. She asks the computer for the full ship’s roster — it’s just her. She then asks what the Enterprise’s mission is, and then asks if she’s qualified to perform that mission all by herself — which the computer can’t answer. (“That information is not available.”)
She orders the ship to Tau Alpha C, since the Traveler seems to be her only hope. But after she orders the course change, nothing happens, and when she repeats her instruction, the computer informs her that no such planet exists. Neither does Starbase 133, and when she activates the viewscreen, she finds an energy field, 705 meters in diameter, surrounding the ship. Hypothesizing that, if there’s nothing wrong with her, there might be something wrong with the universe, she asks the computer what the nature of the universe. “The universe is a spheroid region, 705 meters in diameter.”
Back in reality, the Enterprise returns to Starbase 133 to the same position they occupied when the warp bubble was formed. When they arrive at the spot, the Traveler realizes that the bubble is collapsing.
In the bubble, Crusher asks for a visual representation of the universe — and it looks just like Wes’s warp bubble. She realizes that she’s the one who was trapped. The bubble is also collapsing to a size smaller than that of the ship, and the Enterprise is slowly being destroyed.
Remembering that the Traveler used thought to form warp fields, she realizes that her own thoughts formed this little universe — and she was thinking about Quaice’s words to her about losing everyone she knew, which is why everyone was disappearing.
The Traveler and Wes open another vortex — and both of them phase out in much the same way the Traveler did the last time he was on board. In the bubble, Crusher jumps through, and makes it safely home — and is assured by Picard that there are 1014 people on board, including her guest, Dr. Quaice.
Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: The warp bubble is formed by thought, and so Crusher’s thoughts upon creating it helped shape it. In order to build a bridge to the bubble, the Traveler says that Wes must think beyond traditional mathematics, beyond the numbers. Apparently this involves closing his eyes while working the engineering console.
Thank You, Counselor Obvious: The warp bubble version of Troi helps Crusher be convinced that she’s not crazy, and also points out that she’s acting in the best interests of the ship and the crew with her concerns.
There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: After Worf disappears from the warp bubble, Crusher’s attempt to remind everyone who he is is hilarious. “The big guy who never smiles?” Blank stares. “The Klingon!”
The Boy!?: Wes is trying to create a static warp bubble using Kozinsi’s equations and nearly gets his Mom killed. Of course, these are the same equations that were dismissed as “nonsense” when we met Kozinski, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that it didn’t work so hot. The Traveler generously gives Wes all the credit for rescuing Crusher in the end, and indeed the effort nearly kills him.
No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: For the second time, Crusher starts to tell Picard something important, only to have him disappear on her. This officially cements Crusher’s wanting to tell Picard something important before being interrupted as a running gag.
I Believe I Said That: “We will start with the assumption that I am not crazy. If I am, it won’t matter one way or another.”
Crusher starting her examination of what’s wrong.
Welcome Aboard: Eric Menyuk returns as the Traveler, and is as opaque as ever. (Menyuk was one of the finalists for the role of Data, and both here and in his last appearance in “Where No One Has Gone Before,” you can see how well he would have done with the role.) Bill Erwin acts very much like a tired old widower in his brief appearance as Quaice.
Trivial Matters: This story was originally meant to be the “sci-fi” plot in “Family,” but it was carved out into its own episode.
Gates McFadden, a dancer and choreographer, did all her own stunts in this episode. Shortly after filming, she discovered that she was pregnant.
This episode is a sequel of sorts to “Where No One Has Gone Before,” what with Wes using the equations from that episode, mentions of Kozinski, and the return of the Traveler. The Traveler will be back for a third appearance in “Journey’s End” in the seventh season, and one can view the three episodes as a trilogy of sorts chronicling Wes’s mental advancement.
In a deleted scene, Crusher spoke to Cara Hill, the wife of the missing Dr. Hill, who has no memory of her husband. This episode also has another mention of Dr. Selar, who appeared in “The Schizoid Man.”
This is the only writing credit for Lee Sheldon, whose tenure as a producer on the show was short-lived.
Make it So: “Maybe there’s something wrong with the universe.” A fun little episode that gives Gates McFadden a rare chance to be front and center, and she makes the best of it. Her growing frustration plays beautifully against the confusion of the rest of the crew, who all make great straight men for her hysteria. (I especially adore Sir Patrick Stewart shrugging and saying that they’ve never needed a crew as the two of them stand alone on a bridge obviously designed to have at least ten people in it at any given time.) So does the ship’s computer, done with Majel Barrett’s usual aplomb.
The mystery is handled well, as the viewer is just as confused as Crusher, and then Bole does excellent work transitioning through the second vortex to the echoing voices of Wes and La Forge followed by the shadowed form of Wes frantically operating a console, and the viewer has the “aha!” moment when it all makes sense.
It’s also nice to see the Traveler again, as Menyuk’s ethereal presence is always welcome, plus there’s nothing wrong with a call-back to one of the absolute high points of the show’s first season.
Neither a great episode nor a bad one, this is a nice solid entry in the series.
Warp factor rating: 6
Keith R.A. DeCandido will be a guest at Lunacon 2012 in Rye Brook, New York in the middle of March and at I-Con 31 (along with Star Trek actors Nana Visitor, Daphne Ashbrook, Casey Biggs, and J.G. Hertzler, and fellow Trek novelists Peter David, Robert Greenberger,Glenn Hauman, John Peel, and Aaron Rosenberg) in Stony Book, New York at the end of March. You should come see him. You should also go to his web site, as it is from there that you can a) order his latest books, b) go to his blog, his Facebook, and his Twitter, and c) check out the various podcasts he’s involved with: Dead Kitchen Radio, The Chronic Rift, and the Parsec Award-winning HG World.