Apr 17 2012 3:00pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Night Terrors”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Night Terrors“Night Terrors”
Written by Shari Goodhartz and Pamela Douglas and Jeri Taylor
Directed by Les Landau
Season 4, Episode 17
Production episode 40274-191
Original air date: March 18, 1991
Stardate: 44631.2

Captain’s Log: The U.S.S. Brittain has been missing for about a month. The Enterprise finds it adrift in a binary star system. Life sign readings are inconclusive, likewise Troi’s empathic senses — there’s life, but she’s not sure what it is.

Riker beams over with Data, Worf, Crusher, and Troi. They find the bridge crew all dead at their posts — it looks like they were murdered — and a Betazoid hiding in a corridor just off the bridge, catatonic. He’s Andrus Hagan, a scientific advisor, and he’s the only survivor. Some were found barricaded in their quarters stockpiling weapons, others were obviously killed in combat in the corridors.

Crusher takes the bodies back to the Enterprise, where her autopsies reveal that they were all perfectly healthy, but they all killed each other. Captain Zaheva’s last log entry indicates paranoia, possibly schizophrenia and/or sleep deprivation. She speaks of having had her first officer killed after he sabotaged the engines.

La Forge and Data can get the Brittain’s engines running again, but it doesn’t work. After four days with no answers, Picard orders La Forge to get the Brittain ready for towing. The ensign who accompanies La Forge hears voices on the ship, but La Forge doesn’t hear anything.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Night Terrors

Troi has a nightmare that sees her floating unconvincingly in a weird cloudy field with a voice saying incomprehensible things. O’Brien has a fight with Keiko, then goes to Ten-Forward where Gillespie tells him about weird things happening on the ship, like people seeing ghosts. Picard hears the door chime ring half a dozen times with nobody there, to the point where when it does ring for real, he ignores it, forcing Troi and Crusher to knock on the door. They report that there are odd behaviors all over the ship.

Another six days pass with the Enterprise immobile. Data eventually determines that they are trapped in a Tyken’s Rift, a phenomenon that drains energy. Tyken got out of it by using a massive explosion, but nothing on the Enterprise can create an explosion that big, especially with power levels reduced. What’s worse, Tyken reported nothing like what happened on the Brittain or is happening now on the Enterprise.

Picard and Riker confess to each other that they’ve both been snappish and irritable, and had odd senses of paranoia. Picard orders Riker to take a nap, try to get some rest in the hopes of one or both of them managing to maintain control. Riker returns to his cabin and imagines snakes in his bed.

After hallucinating the turbolift crushing him, Picard confides in Data — the only one who seems unaffected — that he will be relying on the android a lot. (He also reminisces about his grandfather deteriorating from what sounds like dementia.)

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Night Terrors

Crusher, after imagining the bodies of the Brittain crew are all sitting upright, realizes that nobody on the ship has been having dreams — except for Troi, who’s been having nightmares. Examination of the brain tissue of some of the Brittain crew as well as that of a random sampling of Enterprise crew, reveals a chemical imbalance that is blocking everyone’s REM sleep. They’re not dreaming, and it’s causing all the symptoms they’re experiencing.

They try channeling power through the deflector dish, but the rift just absorbs the energy. Worf suddenly leaves the bridge. Troi follows to just barely stop him from killing himself.

Data takes over as acting captain, as Picard and Riker are no longer able to function. Troi has been continuing to sit with Hagan, and she realizes that his seemingly random babbling is very similar to the images and words she’s heard in her nightmares.

Troi theorizes that there is another ship trapped in the rift, and that they’re communicating telepathically — first with Hagan, now with Troi. But their telepathy is interfering with the REM sleep of other humanoids. Troi wants to use directed dreaming, a therapeutic technique she’s used on people with nightmares, to send a message back during her dreams.

Data hopes to combine efforts with the other ship in the hopes that they can collaborate on creating an explosion that they can’t create individually. He is going through an inventory of elements on the Enterprise, but Troi says this is too complex. However one of the images is of a hydrogen atom — an electron orbiting a proton — and Troi realizes that one of the nonsense phrases from her dream, “one moon circling,” might be their way of describing a hydrogen atom. If they’re thinking the same thing, they may be trying to communicate what it is they need. The Enterprise can easily send out a stream of hydrogen.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Night Terrors

That seems to do the trick, as the other ship is able to use the hydrogen to create the necessary explosion, freeing all three ships. (Well, two ships, since we don’t see the Brittain for some reason.) Data then sets course for a starbase and orders everyone to bed, with no mention made of the Brittain, nor of trying to communicate further with these aliens who are, among other things, responsible for the deaths of 34 people on the Brittain.

Can’t we Just Reverse the Polarity?: Keiko lets loose with an impressive stream of botanical technobabble when she’s describing her day to O’Brien.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi is the only person on the ship who dreams, finding herself constantly in the world’s most unconvincing special effect, floating in a cloudy area while having aliens say cryptic things to her. But she does figure it out eventually, thus saving everyone’s bacon (with help from Data).

If I Only Had a Brain…: Data’s presence is the only thing that keeps the ship going, as he does not sleep or dream. (At least not yet...)

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf has an elaborate altar set up to help him kill himself. One gets the feeling that he got it ready as things were growing worse, and finally decided to take his own life when the deflector-dish trick didn’t work. He believes he is no longer a warrior, that he’s not strong enough to face what they’re fighting.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Night Terrors

In the Driver’s Seat: Ensign Rager returns until she forgets how to input coordinates, at which point she’s replaced by Ensign Lin.

Syntheholics Anonymous: When Gillespie starts rabble rousing in Ten-Forward, Guinan tries to calm him to no avail. Eventually, he starts a bar brawl, which Guinan cuts short by firing a really big gun into the ceiling. “That was setting number one. Anyone wanna see setting number two?”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Night Terrors

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: In an interesting foreshadowing of things to come, Troi offers her hand to Worf when she walks him out of his quarters following his abortive suicide attempt.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Night Terrors

I Believe I Said That: “Sir, as my final duty as acting captain, I order you to bed.”

Data, sending Picard to bed without his supper.

Welcome Aboard: John Vickery plays the first of three roles on Trek, and the only one where he doesn’t have a prosthetic forehead. He’ll be back in the recurring role of Rusot in the end-of-the-Dominion-War story arc on Deep Space Nine, and play a Klingon lawyer in Enterprise’s “Judgment.” He has one of the best voices ever, though this episode doesn’t make nearly enough use of it.

Duke Moosekian is only worth mentioning for his name. He was born Shaun Duke Moosekian, and most of the time he’s credited as Shaun Duke, which is a much more boring name. He played Gillespie, who was mainly there to show how the rest of the crew was reacting.

Trivial Matters: Apparently Marina Sirtis has a fear of heights, so the terror on her face when she was floating in a harness in the dream sequences was genuine.

The trick of channeling power through the deflector dish is the same one they tried against the Borg in “The Best of Both Worlds.” It didn’t work this time, either.

REM sleep is usually pronounced as a word, not an abbreviation, but aside from one line from Troi, everyone said “are-ee-em sleep,” making it sound like everyone was going to bed while listening to the band for which Michael Stipe is the lead singer.

Make it So: “Eyes in the dark — one moon circles.” This is a relentlessly mediocre episode. Points for getting the science right — lack of REM sleep would have these very effects — though it also requires two time jumps to make it convincing. The Enterprise spends ten days in the rift before they even figure out what it is, which strains credulity given what we’ve seen Starfleet sensors accomplish before. But it takes that long for the cumulative effect of lack of REM sleep to be noticeable, so it needed to be that long for the plot to work.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Night Terrors

For an episode with “terrors” in the title, it’s nowhere near as suspenseful as it should be. The promise of the teaser — the crew of the Brittain all killed violently — is never really followed up on. Aside from the abortive bar brawl, and O’Brien’s rather cruel treatment of Keiko, the only effects we see are the bridge crew all acting hazy. There’s very little sign of the violence that hit the Brittain, which drains the suspense from the episode. There’s not enough of a sense of urgency. The episode has similarities to “The Tholian Web” from the original series, but that episode had much more of a sense of danger, not just from the crew going crazy (seen via Chekov’s breakdown), but from the Tholians.

And then in the end, the Enterprise just flies off, apparently leaving the Brittain behind, with no attempt made to communicate with the aliens. If nothing else, they should perhaps have been told that their attempts at communication resulted in the death of 34 people. For that matter, what happened to poor Hagan after they left the rift? Did he recover?

Plus, Troi floating in space is quite possibly the lamest special effect in TNG’s entire run.

Jonathan Frakes once described this episode as a “yawner,” and that’s as good a word as any. Unfortunate that an episode about sleep disorder mostly just puts the viewer to sleep.


Warp factor rating: 3

Keith R.A. DeCandido reminds everyone that it’s the nominating period for the Parsec Awards. You should totally go to their web site and nominate the podcasts he’s involved with: The Chronic Rift, The Dome, HG World, and, of course, Dead Kitchen Radio: The Keith R.A. DeCandido Podcast.

Chris Hawks
1. SaltManZ
The only thing I had remembered from this episode was the communication between ships using the hydrogen pictogram, which I always thought was pretty cool.
Mike S.
2. Mike S.
3? You are a kind and generous soul, Keith.

I think this is my least favorite episode of the fourth season. This moves along way too slowly to keep my interest. Maybe we, as the viewer, was supposed to be experiencing what the crew was? No thanks. I'd rather watch the show, not live it.

The one good part was Guinan bringing out the ray gun.
Mike S.
3. KarenB
I thought the spelling of the ship's name ("Brittain") was unlikely unless it was named after a person, so I did some research. The Wikipedia page for the episode says the ship's name is "Brattain," with the footnote reading:
^ The name on the studio model was incorrectly spelled "Brittain" on the ship's hull. (The Star Trek Encyclopedia).
j p
4. sps49
All that antimatter on bard, and we need to use hydrogen to make a big explosion?
Mike S.
5. skylatron
Unfortunate that an episode about sleep disorder mostly just puts the viewer to sleep.
And it does, every single time I watch it. I literally cannot make it through this episode without going to sleep. When I think of one episode that I loathe in the series, this is the only episode I can come up with. Troi flying through the green mist is burned into my brain. I would have given it a 0.
Neil Sood
6. RanchoUnicorno
I think the 3 is fair. 1 point for having a beginning and an ending, 1 point for Guinan's gun, and 1 for....I got to see Discovery circle us for about 30 min today. 3 points from me, 2 points from everybody else.

Is it just me, though, or does it seem like a lot of plots hinge on the fact that Data is an android and thus not subject to the frailty of humans (and other biological species)?
Mike S.
7. don3comp
Not TNG's finest hour, certainly, but I would bump it up a point or two for, like "Darmok," having aliens that communicate in a way that's sort of, ya know, alien (that is, besides Betazoid voice-overs and Vulcan head rubs).

Additional Trivial Matters:

John Vickery also played Scar in the original Broadway cast of "The Lion King."

The crew would suffer mass sleep disorder again in season 6's "Schisms."

Marina Sirtis didn't find the Troi-Worf romance very plausible, positing in an interview that the writers "had watched "Beauty and the Beast once too many times."
Mike S.
8. Jeff R.
Rancho@6: This was such a useful plot device that they used it again and again, with Odo and the Holodock taking the 'sufficiently inhuman to be unaffected' position. (With occasional support from Phlox and the Vulcans)
David Stumme
9. grenadier
Vickery also showed up on Babylon 5, again in forehead makeup, as the Minbari warrior, Neroon.
Mike S.
10. StrongDreams
I can't recall ever finding the Troi character credible. Sirtis' trademarked expression of pained constipation just didn't convey that she was empathic or even useful. Tam Elbrun and even Lwaxanna, as annoying as she was, were far more credible as empaths with a touch of alien-ness. The only moment in the series that redeems Troi's existence is when Capt. Jelico orders her to stuff herself into a standard uniform.
Keith DeCandido
11. krad
StrongDreams: I wouldn't go that far. She had her moments, most notably in "Skin of Evil" and "The Bonding."

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Mike S.
12. StrongDreams
OK, I guess she has a few moments as a credible character. Mainly I don't find her credible as an empath or as someone with an alien upbringing. And the pained look she always uses just turns me off.
Mike S.
13. Christopher L. Bennett
Yes, a mediocre episode, but what really bugs me is the climax. Hydrogen is the most common non-dark-matter substance in the universe, by a huge margin. I can't believe a) that it would've taken Data and Troi so long to realize they had it aboard (you'd think it would've been the first entry in the inventory, since it is element #1) and b) that the aliens didn't have any of their own. It's even stupider than the "out of deuterium" plot device in Voyager: "Demon."
Mike S.
14. Alyssa T.
Agree with everything mentioned (pretty crap ep, Guinan's gun is a bright spot, etc.). I think the biggest travesty was the total wastage of a great ghost-shippy-esque setup. Which, now that I think of it, is a big bugaboo I had with "The Naked Now." Let's take something chilling and freaky and eeriely lonesome (a drifting ship of dead bodies) and turn it into an extremely boring and not-scary episode (or in the case of "The Naked Now," an extremely stupid and not-scary episode).

I don't think they ever learned how to write for Troi. Not saying Sirtis is Laurence Olivier, but I think the potential for her character was consistently squandered.

"Are-ee-em" -- HA! I noticed that too! Night swimming...
Keith DeCandido
15. krad
Oh come on, Christopher, what about the entire concept of the Kazons having a water shortage? That's much dumber. (Oort clouds! Comets!)

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Mike S.
16. Christopher L. Bennett
@15: Agreed, the idea of a spacefaring race having a water shortage is almost as silly as the explanation for Ocampa being devoid of rain, i.e. the claim that it lacked "nucleogenic particles" in its atmosphere. First off, "nucleogenic" would refer to an isotope resulting from a nuclear reaction; I think they were misusing the term to refer to condensation nuclei, the atmospheric particles around which clouds and raindrops form. Second, those nuclei tend to be made of dust, clay, soot, salt, etc., so there's no way a dry desert planet's atmosphere is going to be devoid of such particles for long -- even if some magical process eliminated them all, wind erosion would replenish the supply pretty dang quickly.

But being out of hydrogen is still even dumber than being out of water.
Mike S.
17. StrongDreams
Maybe they didn't know what color it should be.
Mike S.
18. RobinM
This is a STNG episode I have only seen twice. The second time I watched I looked at John Vickery and went Hey That's Neroon but he still doesn't do much here. So I guess Guinan's gun is still the best part, and even though Troi gets to do something; this is really boring episode 3 works.
Keith DeCandido
19. krad
MikeS: With my usual caveat that the warp factor ratings are the least important part, gobby gobby gobby, I gave it a 3 because the episode ultimately was inoffensive -- it wasn't actively awful, just dull -- and they got extra points for getting the science right, an increasingly problematic thing for Trek as it went on (culminating in the "science? wuzzat?" of the Abrams film).

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Mike S.
20. Phonos
So no-one is going to mention the dodgy arse shot from the dream sequences (i.e. the first photo)? My wife walked in during that scene - her comment was "that's an unfortunate angle..."
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
21. Lisamarie
I think I might have given it better than a 3 - I definitely liked this episode better than I have liked others. I enjoyed the setup and the mystery and trying to guess what the cryptic dream phrase meat, but I did think there were quite a few plot holes and loose ends, as others have mentioned (the Brittain, dealing with the alien species, etc) - I was actually a bit skeptical that they would use the phrase 'one moon circling' to describe Hydrogen, and I also think it's a bit of a leap that their message meant they needede hydrogen so they could detonate it. Don't they have a word for atom or 'Hydrogen' for that matter? I think that kind of falls under my general disbelief regarding the Universal Translator conventions. Either everybody can communicate perfectly, or they have to resort to cryptic stuff like this, as the plot demands.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
22. Lisamarie
Oh, and for some reason, the creepy voice in the dream kept reminding me of Lord of the Rings when you put on the Ring and hear Sauron's voice, haha.

And, @Phonos - I actually immediately thought of this post:

Except that I don't THINK they were purposefully trying to be tittilating, but then again, I could be overly optimistic.
Keith DeCandido
23. krad
Lisamarie: I had no problem with their term for hydrogen translating into "one moon circling." Not every language has the same ways of describing things as English, after all. Indeed, that was more realistic than it would've been to be just a straight-up translation.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Chin Bawambi
24. bawambi
Several problems with this episode as mentioned above but my main problem with it is the Dr. Jack from Lost scenario (if its not a trope it should be). This is where a "leader" is ALWAYS wrong with any decision but when the episode requires their decision making to be perfect it is pitch-perfect. LOL! 3 is about right.
Mike S.
25. don3comp
@12 StrongDreams: I thought you'd enjoy this tidbit: Entertainment Weekly ran a just-for-fun comparison between TNG and Love Boat, and found that both Julie, the cruise director in LB and Troi in TNG were "sexy, but annoying."

I heard Marina Sirtis speak at a convention in 1992, and I think she knew that there were problems with her character. She enjoyed episodes like "Power Play" that let her be "mean for a week," and those like "The Child" and "The Loss" that featured Troi more prominently. She said that during a scene in one episode, where she concedes to another character that "you might have just as easily been right," she was actually thinking " Nyah, nyah, nyah!" Gates McFadden, too, often complained about the number of times that Crusher could have been stronger than she was portrayed in scripts. That is one of the issues both actors took to Jeri Taylor when she took a leadership role in the series.
Mike S.
26. Alyssa T.
I know lots of people find her irritating, but I always really liked Lwaxana episodes because she made everyone uncomfortable and it forced the characters to behave in ways that were a little different from their usual tropes. Particularly added a little complexity to Troi, who was always mortified and on edge when she was around; a nice change from the perma-serenity.
Evan Langlinais
27. Skwid
Apparently I'm the only person in the universe who was bothered by the idea that "an electron is like a moon" is an archaic artifact of our earliest attempts at understanding atomic structures and not even remotely likely to be a universal conception of atomic structure.
Mike S.
28. Philippe13
@Skwid, I completely agree. Even 15 years they taught us the evolution of the representation of atoms and electrons (starting with plum pudding, etc.) so I thought this was mightily strange. However, if the aliens needed hydrogen, the most abundant non-dark matter available as others pointed out, then maybe this conception fits them. It certainly doesn’t work with 24th century federation science though (come on Data!) lol

@Lisamarie: These pictures are awesome! I'm so glad you linked to them!
Bob Weld
29. WaitingShadows
@20 Yes I will mention it. My roommate and I used to watch this episode and comment that because of the harness, Troi has one of the biggest space-wedgies in the history of science fiction (television & movies).

I should mention that I would give this episode a slightly higher rating, but I admit that's a personal bias. Growing up, my grandmother was paranoid schizophrenic, so the fear and realism of approaching insanity made this a decent episode for me. I think most of the characters portrayed it pretty well, and it always was a middling episode for me (but I do understand why it is rated so low, it doesn't exactly have a wide appeal).
Mike S.
30. Christopher L. Bennett
On the complaints about the "translation" of "Eyes in the dark, one moon circles," keep in mind that it wasn't an actual transmission in words, it was a telepathic contact that Troi experienced while in a dream state. So that phrase Troi perceived was her subconscious mind's interpretation of the raw concepts the aliens sent her, more symbolic than literal. "Eyes in the dark" and "one moon circles" were her brain's dream-analogies for the image of the hydrogen atom that the aliens sent her.
Mike S.
31. General Vagueness
This is one of my favorite episodes, I was surprised to see this disdain for it, but I guess I shouldn't have given how slowly it moves. I think even given that, though, people are still underrating it. This one is all about the building tension, the creeping dread of nothing in particular-- the unknown is supposed to be more scary than the known, and this episode is one of the few things that makes that make sense to me, the horrifying sense of losing your ability to be reasonable, and losing touch with reality. I'm also kind of surprised no one mentioned the music, I really think it does a good job of accentuating the creepiness.
Justin Devlin
32. EnsignJayburd
Not only did Frakes describe this episode as a "yawner," but he also said the Troi dream effects were "shitty." An understatement, actually.

@31, yes, it gets points for being a good concept, but it's the execution that stinks. Royally.
Mike S.
33. Because
Actually, Troi said "rem" rather than "arr-ee-em" once too. In fact, she did it first. I know. Because we just watched this, and it was driving me CRAZY the whole time, and when Troi pronounced it correctly I shouted at the screen that this was maybe the *one time* that they should listen to her.

So it was pronounced correctly twice in the episode. And the fact that they actually got the science right on that one brought me immensely more joy than it apparently did you. But the pronunciation also sent far more burrowing insects into my medulla oblongata, so I guess we're even.
34. jlpsquared
@21, lisamarie,

"I was actually a bit skeptical that they would use the phrase 'one moon circling' to describe Hydrogen,"

I suspect that that was because that was not the message the alieans actually sent. The actually sent "HYDROGEN", but I always took that as Trois' brain interpreting the Hydrogen message the best it could.

Wow, are people harsh. I am going to disagree with everyone and say this is one of my favourites! The ending was lackluster, but I loved the spooky setup. the scene with Crusher in sickbay is one of those scenes that will be forever etched in my memory. Plus, the science was mostly right. Obviously the aliens had hydrogen, but perhaps the aliens simply had no method for projecting it into the right spot of a tykens rift? Do you?

And again, I always go back to liking the straight sci-fi stories, like this one. If this was a book by Arthur C. Clarke, I would totally read it, and probably love it. And I suspect most here would too.
Mike S.
35. Ashcom
This is the first episode, while rewatching, that I had absolutely no recollection of. Probably because it is so unmemorable. A great shame that John Vickery is so wasted. My immediate thought was also, "oh, Neroon, fantastic" because he is so compelling in that role that it is his performance that made Elite Neroon one of the most memorable recurring characters on B5. Here he just stares and babbles incoherently.
Mike S.
36. Kyle A.
This is definitely an instance where I wasn't that enthralled with the episode, but I liked the score. Kudos to Ron Jones once again!!!
Mike S.
37. ScottM
Wow, I completely disagree with this assessment. I did question why they couldn't use the Brattain's warp core to destroy the anomaly, and yes, the Troi FX were cheesy (it was TV in the early '90s, after all), but other than that I absolutely loved the episode. Everything fit. I thought there was plenty of suspense (we essentially had two mysteries, which made perfect sense alone and together), and the sense of danger was there, as we watched the crew members rapidly deteriorate. They were still over a week away from what happened on the Brattain, but they were already at the tipping point. They had very little time left while they could still think straight enough to come up with a solution to the problem.

Anyway, I completely disagree with a rating of 3. I give it a solid 8.
Mike S.
38. Ellis K.
All right, that does it. You people need to sit down and actually watch these things again, and not go by memory or abide by the opinions of the rewatcher. This is one of the strongest stretches of one of the strongest seasons of TNG. Wesley is gone, the cast have settled into their characters, the writers have learned what works from three previous seasons, and they haven't yet run out of good ideas. I just watched this episode for the first time in over a decade, and thoroughly enjoyed it--it's an easy seven or eight. Easy. If you LOVE this show--and it deserves love--then you've gotta average a good bit over five once you get past season one, and to give this episode a three is absolutely ridiculous. Top ten of all time? No. Solid entry in a very good run of episodes? WITHOUT DOUBT.
Bridget McGovern
39. BMcGovern
@38: Comment slightly edited to keep things civil--feel free to disagree with Keith or other commenters, but don't make it personal. Thanks.
Mike S.
40. David Sim
I've always had a liking for Night Terrors; I will always watch it when I know its going to be on. Maybe because I like stories that examine dreams and what meanings they contain; in fact with some of the weird, surreal imagery this is a story not that far away from the works of someone like Wes Craven or David Lynch.

There is a genuine spookiness to much of the episode, especially when the power begins to fade and the sets begin to darken, and its helped immeasurably by the atypical, creepy theme music. Some scenes are way out there like the turbolift caving in on Picard, or the eerie sight of the Brittain crew sitting up in the morgue.

And there's a real sense of impending doom; you do believe for a time that the Enterprise crew are not going to get out of this one, which makes it all the more satisfying with the explosion at the end and the lights on the Bridge come back on to full strength, and I always feel a great sense of triumph and relief that they're out of danger. No, I like Night Terrors a lot, so there.
Mike S.
41. Kellia
Ok, commenting into the aether here, as I doubt anyone checks this anymore, but I've absolutely loved reading this blog and the comments (my boyfriend and I are currently going through the series for the first time...and I've found there currently aren't a lot of people who really want to have this kind of in-depth conversation about TNG). For this episode, though, I really, really disagree with the rating, and I just have to say, even if I'm the only one that hears, that I thought this episode was really solid.

1) Troi actually DOES things that are both in character and extremely helpful--for once, you can understand why she belongs on the bridge. She singlehandedly, and believably, saves Worf because she's able to sense his breakdown and because she has the training to effectively talk him down. She works in tandem with Dr. Crusher to figure out what's going on, as the doctor and psychologist should, and she's able to catch onto the way an alien culture might view/communicate a hydrogen atom. This is why she's on this ship.

2) The answer to the mystery is just great, and almost as interesting as the mystery itself (which is really hard to do in mystery plots). The plot reminded me of some of the best elements of a great Doctor Who episode--the mystery is intriguing and scary with nods to the supernatural (the twin moons appearing to be eyes; Worf's conviction that there's something watching him), and just when you think everything's gone off the deep end (such as in the great scene with Crusher and the bodies), there's an answer that actually makes sense and that is caused by a variety of factors working together instead of by some mysterious space entity or a few minutes of technobabble. It would certainly make sense for another alien ship to be trapped in the rift, and it also makes sense that the method of communication the aliens are using could be confusing and even dangerous to the crew. You'd honestly think complete miscommunications like this would be only too likely in such a situation. "One moon circling" is just great, and it makes it seem like the aliens are trying to do exactly what Deanna recommended the Enterprise do--communicate a single idea in the simplest possible form.

3) Personally, I found the slow, creeping suspense of the episode quite effective. The time lapse not only made the problems due to a lack of REM sleep more believable, but it also increased the tension--being becalmed in space like that, even with sleep, would be frightening. I loved the subtle changes in hair and makeup that made everyone look like they were worn down and kind of losing it (and on a side note, I was supremely happy that Picard had the good sense to make Data acting captain). There were some cheesy effects--this is Star Trek, after all--but the only ones that I found so bad that they took me out of the episode were Deanna's dream and Picard's moment in the turbolift. Yes, the episode certainly could've been a lot scarier (and yes, the failure to tow or even mention the Brittain at the end is a pretty bad oversight), but I don't think its failures in the terror department make it a bad episode. (Nor do I think it would've made much sense for Picard to hang around near the rift afterward to attempt to communicate with the aliens and blame them for the death of the other crew. The aliens were clearly not trying to make the Brittania crew homicidal, they were just trying to get the heck out of there--who knows how long they had been stranded. It could've been years, perhaps.) Generally good acting, good character development (the story about Picard's grandfather was a nice touch, and they brought the Worf thing in just when I was starting to wonder how the heck Worf was dealing with everything so well--loved that he turned suicidal instead of having a stereotypical Klingon SMASH scene), and a really well-executed mystery plot.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
42. Lisamarie
I check!

Please do comment if something else strikes you...I certainly relate to finding a reread/rewatch too late and feeling like you missed out on the fun ;) But my husband and I went through the series more or less with the rewatch (we caught up partway through) and it was my first time too!
Keith DeCandido
43. krad
I check too, and I'm always grateful to see that people are still reading these rewatches years later. :)

And your points are good ones, but I stand by what I wrote. And you should stand by what you wrote -- that's what makes horse races.....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Mike S.
44. Kellia
Thanks for the response--really happy to know you're still reading comments! I'll definitely chime in as we continue watching. Might even go back and comment on Menage a Troi, which, heaven help me, I actually liked.
Mike S.
45. Nick Wingfield
I’ve been working through the entire series. Never saw it at the time. Good fun!

Personally I think 3 is a bit harsh for this episode. I’d give it 5 or 6. Thought the science solution was quite original.

Reading these posts, I’m surprised how many people seem to dislike Troi. Admittedly Marina Sirtis isn’t the world’s greatest actor - but she’s head and shoulders better than Gates McFadden - whom everyone seems to like. To me, Gates McFadden always acts as if she’s been denied REM sleep for months on end. Everything she says is delivered with the same startled robotic expression that would be unconvincing on an android. Perhaps it’s just me?

And one more thing. Did anyone else spot a continuity error?
When the bodies in the morgue all sit up, the camera zooms in on Dr Crusher who closes her eyes and says “Go Away”. When she re-opens her eyes all the bodies are supposed to be lying down again. Except they are not. Because the cameraman didn’t zoom in close enough. So when she opens her eyes in close-up we can see that the body on the left is still sat upright.
Edward Chinevere
46. Drawde

It's one of my all-time favorites for several reasons, and I'm glad that some commentors came in toward the end of this chain to make some of my points for me. I love the camp of this episode. I can't tell you how many times I've quoted "Eyes. In the dark. One moon circles." - it's just totally classic.

As for the ending, the whole not going back for the abandoned ship or making contact with the aliens situation - I think it's actually pretty awesome that they don't. The whole ship is out of commission - our heroes are spent and completely destroyed by ten days without sleep. Data is taking them to a starbase post-haste because he knows that they are vulnerable and in no shape to do anything besides go unconscious. Rarely have we ever truly seen them so completely defeated.

This is even cooler because it was an accident. The telepaths on the other side of the rift never meant to hurt- or kill- anybody. I second the opinion of everyone who mentioned this as a refreshing nod to how hard it would actually be to communicate - or even exist in the same room as - an alien species (really, now, I'm sure a lot of their exhalations would be poisonous, or something).

The one beef I have with the episode, and no it's not the special effects which I didn't think were that bad, was already mentioned- hydrogen. Really? You don't have hydrogen? I just googled it - and apparently about 73% of the mass of the observable universe is hydrogen.

P.S. - @Kellia, we are of the same mind. Regarding your feelings toward "Menage a Troi," see my notes on "Manhunt," in which I proclaim that I would watch "Lwaxana in Space."
Mike S.
47. SethC
The pace of this episode was so slow it overran by I think nine minutes and had to be cut. Says it all. The 4th season had some of the best episodes of "Star Trek," period. This isn't one of them. Mostly I remember the eerie score as tension theortically ratched up. Premise: Excellent. Execution: Meh.
MaGnUs von Tesla
48. lordmagnusen
I too find this episode to be a yawner. However, Kellia and drawder, you can count me in on the Lwaxanna fan club.

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